I love fall. Favorite season of the year but something about fall makes me reflective, weepy and inspired; weird combo, I know, but it’s my truth. It could be that salon life starts to slow down enough to finally process the days in my rearview. Or maybe it truly is the changing seasons mirroring my own shedding process.
The past month I’ve been thinking a lot about failure. My failures in particular. The timing of celebrating a 10 year success in one business while launching a new business will do that to a girl. I’m going to talk backwards and start by telling you what my hours of ruminating on the topic of failure have taught me. I’m a much kinder and more empathetic person because of the hardships and decisions that led me into a real life obstacle course of hard knocks and then into the throes of utter failure. I wouldn’t change any of it.
Dream Big Then Take Your Hits
I’ve never actually openly discussed one of my biggest failures to date but here goes! You see, when I opened my salon, I had big dreams of franchising it someday and for that reason, two years into opening my first salon, I opened my second location. It was a beautiful space in the heart of Old Town Fort Collins. I was high on entrepreneurship and enjoying the challenges that came with growing a new business, but two years after opening, I really started to redefine success.
I had always enjoyed knowing all of our clients’ names and stories, but when splitting my time between two locations, the faces became unfamiliar. I was spending less and less time connecting with clients and doing services and more time locked in an office shuffling paperwork. My anxiety was creating chest pains, sleepless nights, and I had lost my joy and love for the industry. Behind the scenes, my husband and I were brokenhearted over our ongoing infertility. I knew something had to change. The problem was I didn’t make the change that was needed and for the next six months I operated as a frantic, overbearing, and reactive business owner; that energy trickled down through my organization until one day I lost four employees in a matter of hours.
For that six month period, I knew that I needed to close that location, not because it was failing financially, but because at that time in my life, I was not equipped to run an operation with that kind of growth while focusing on growing a family, too. Losing important people on my team was an absolute gut punch, but the truth is it forced my hand to make a decision that changed my life forever. I was so worried that by closing I would never be able to hold my head high in my town, that people would call me a failure or, even worse, that my other salon would suffer. The first two did happen, but the team that was left standing rallied around me and we finished out our year above goals. Some of those girls are still on my team today almost four years later.
Fail Hard, Grow Strong
It was the first time in my life I had really faced failure and it sucked. I had no other choice but to get back up and keep going. In fact, two weeks after the closure, I grabbed my best gal pal and ran to the mountains to summit Mount Quandary, one of Colorado’s 14ers. It was just the symbolic ritual I needed to prove that if I just put one foot in front of the other I would get to where I needed to go. Every day got a little bit better and I began to get acclimated to that thing called work/life balance. Clients were happy to see me again and I was happy to see them. Day by day my joy and love for my business returned and that was when a leader was born!
This isn’t the only time I’ve felt failure, but to date it’s the one that has impacted me the most. Being forced to eat a big slice of humble pie shaped me into a softer, kinder, and more understanding person and I love that! As I step out on this new Dame + Heart adventure, I am aware that there will be hard knocks ahead. I’m working hard to remember the lessons I’ve learned along the way and I’m sharing them here in case they might help you too!
Here are my best practices for turning a failure into a success:
- Do not put stock into what others think about you! I spent so much time and energy worried about what others would say or think. My Dad finally said to me, “Susan, people open and close businesses every day. In a year no one will even remember this closure.” He was right! The only person’s opinion that mattered was the one I had about myself. I have always been my worst critic, but when I gave myself permission to be an imperfect human, it was the most freeing gesture towards myself.
- If you truly want to learn from your mistakes you have to own them. For a period of time I played the blame game. Blaming others and then myself for the closure. When I stopped blaming and started to own up to my mistakes, then I was able to see how I needed to do things differently in the future. Today my focus is on being a great leader to my team and while numbers and financials are important, I put more value on our company’s mission to provide the best service possible; I also want to make sure our culture encourages having fun in the process.
- Define success and be okay with it changing throughout life! I personally call bull honky on the saying that “you can have it all.” I believe it’s misleading. You CAN have it all, but it’s going to come with sacrifices and you have to be okay with that. Success was never a dollar amount to me, but it was a number. I thought the more locations I had the more successful I would feel. The truth is the more locations I had the more problems I had to manage which meant less time for a personal life. My life had become all work and no play and that certainly didn’t feel like success to me.
- Let joy be your compass! Whatever hardship you might be facing, try to find joy. If you can find the one thing that gives you joy and go do that thing I promise it will help you reconnect again. For me it was climbing a mountain. Standing on top of Quandary above tree line on a Monday at noon reminded me that there was so much life that I had been missing out on while I was working my 80 hour work weeks. That girl who moved to Colorado in pursuit of all the outdoor adventures was still in there and she was screaming to get out of the office grind, go run around, and get lost in the woods!
Whether it’s a breakup, missed job promotion, or parenting hurdle that you are trying to work through, I encourage you to keep on keeping on. These tough times in life are when the growth in us is happening! We have to show up so that we can grow up! Do you have a sweet tip for turning failure into success?! I'd love to hear from you so comment below!