steve duross - craftsman. artisan. entrepreneur. musings on running and growing a small business

once again finding my voice

changing your life doesn't begin with a wish or a dream. it begins with the choices you make. almost two years ago i upended our entire work life to create some things that had yet to exist. what a pain in the ass that turned out to be.

once upon a time.. i started out with nothing. then i made something really wonderful. then something else. soon after, things went a wee bit haywire but we pulled it together, and now we are marching on. in the reckoning of the last few years some people got left behind. some stayed. i've spent months soul searching for answers, trying to figure out what it was that i did to make things turn out the way they did. and then one day i woke up, said f#ck that shit and put it all behind me. what works works. what doesn't has to change. it's a fundamental principle of running a small business. and so we must all move on.

in this blog i have previously defined my idea of success. not all of the people with whom i work share my point of view. but the people with whom i partner must. recently sarah read a book on the boys of '36. she shared the story of the rowing team who beat all odds to win the olympic gold in berlin 1936. the team rowed in sync. period. they didn't piss and moan about the way the cox was calling the stroke. they weren't little bitches because the man setting the rhythm was not doing it right. he did his job the way he knew and in the end, it was perfection. what all winners know for sure is that when the moment presents itself, you pull out the stops and go full force regardless of the consequences. deciding is freedom. indecision is torture.

i recently heard very sad news floating around about two business partners (who are also life partners) and how their personal lives are falling apart. i know how difficult it can be to sustain a relationship when business partners are romantic partners. or in my case, ex-romantic partners. in almost every situation, without fail, the brokered "friendship" falls apart and they truly part. depending upon who is telling the story, it comes out with various riffs on a theme. i could tell you such a story about duross & langel. but i won't. because whenever a friendship dies, it's just plain sad.

speaking of duross & langel (the store, not the people), our world is an ever changing landscape. the last few years have left us panting, and while we forgot for a little bit why we were involved in the work we do. the drama within the house took up so much of the energy. drama with production, drama with growth or a lack thereof, drama with the salon and the stylists and me and natasha learning how to share. drama with sarah not being full time on the floor anymore, and yoga and endings and coming back down to run the store again. james and steve drama. culture clash, time wasting, ill-fitting bullshit that every business has to deal with on some level but not when it threatens to undermine the business itself. that was yesterday. that is behind us. now we can focus on price point, selection, creating deals that rotate throughout the line. we can focus once again on how we contribute to the community, how we show up, how we give back. what we want from our daily lives.

money is like air. without it you cannot survive. thriving means we have to make money. period. we cannot waste one single dollar. producing high quality natural hand made products is not cheap. but it has to be affordable for those who want it. it has to be attractive to people who are on a budget. a great lesson i've learned from all this is that i personally have to change my relationship to money. to budget. i also had to ask myself how it would feel if i took the pole out of my ass about everyone doing everything exactly the way i want all the time? i trust i'll work it out soon enough. but i also trust cory and sarah to be honest with me. and to have some balls.

for anyone who thinks owning your own business is a ticket to the good life, think again. some people do it well. some not so much. many will have you believe through social media that it's all a great big whirlwind adventure. i'm guilty of that. "looking prosperous" has always been the rule. "nobody wants to know about the negative stuff" is what i hear from nearly everyone. well, the negative stuff is boring but so are most of the fancy events i attend. i'd rather be home with take out and a movie. yet like everyone else, i am striving for relevance in the marketplace. and seriously. sadly. most small businesses cannot sustain. that means people give up because the business sucks up all of your time, energy and money. and that's fair. because anything worth having is going to cost you something big. either you like the rhythm and roll of the coaster or you step off. the image most people hold of anything is rarely on target with the reality. 

so where do we go from here? the salon is doing well. price is a fairly average ticket, and while i appreciate discount sites like groupon, we are moving past that particular model. we don't want people who are moving from chair to chair for the cheapest price. we want to build relationships that last longer than a haircut. the joe grooming lounge (my new barber shop) is working up a head of steam and new people are coming on board. i get to cut most days and i love the connection it gives me to my clients. it is what i dreamed of when reconstituting the salon a few years ago. this was my goal. check out for more info.

as someone once said "if you're serious about changing your life, you'll find a way. if not, you'll find an excuse". the future? who the hell knows for sure? but my attitude is this: if you want to kick ass, lift your foot. once again i will be spending much of my time back up in the production studio making many of our hand made products. i'll be in the store, in the salon and yes, of course, cutting hair in the men's grooming lounge. everything i'll be doing is a bit of what i love best. all of it. and it doesn't matter if we are the most popular place on the planet or just a part of the philadelphia tapestry. what matters most is that we can fulfill our dearest desire to enjoy our work, to sustain the enterprise, and to build wonderful lives of purpose.