Helping Out in My Mom's Hair Salon Taught Me the Secret to Resilience, Even When Declaring Bankruptcy
I grew up watching my mom run a small business, and I carry the lessons I learned from her to this day.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sweeping up all the tiny bits of hair that my mom insisted had to be cleaned up between every customer. Sometimes it was brown, sometimes gray, occasionally blonde. I had done this countless times. My mom smiled at me and told me I was doing good. Then she went back to making sure the drawer was right on the money — to the exact penny.
I still remember how I glowed on the inside when she told me how well I was doing.
My mom worked hard every day to make sure we had a good life. She was the best possible example. And even though decades have gone by, the lessons I learned while growing up and helping out in her salon continue to inform my decisions as an entrepreneur. Here are nine lessons about running a business I learned from my mother.
There will be obstacles, but you can overcome them
Being in business isn’t always easy. Sometimes it requires a lot of hustle and some quick thinking. And sometimes business requires you to reorganize and start again.
I remember when my mom would lose an occasional client to a competitor. Or how she made sure that people knew how to get to us when there was construction on our road. Or how she pinched pennies during economic downturns.
Related: Why I Helped My Mom Launch a Startup
All of this helped prepare me for when I had to deal with my business taking such a negative turn that I had to declare bankruptcy. That’s a life experience I never thought I'd have.
But it taught me a ton, and my mom’s example of overcoming obstacles helped me to face it and rebuild stronger.
You don't have to do everything all at once
This is an important lesson and one that can keep you from getting completely overwhelmed. My mom was so good at making every moment count. Often that meant cleaning up between clients or making sure that meals were prepped in advance so that we’d have good food to eat when we got home.
I rely heavily on this principle. If I have a few moments of downtime I’ll work on straightening my work area or getting a quick phone call in. The key here is knowing what my important projects are and making sure that I have the right kind of space to move them forward and am working in steps to get them to where they need to go.
Really listen to your customers
Because my mom owned a salon she would often work when her customers were available. That meant evenings and weekends. She also listened carefully to what her customers said and made sure she delivered to the very best of her ability.
I learned from her how to really listen to people and hear how they need to be served. This has helped me tremendously in my business.
When you really listen to the feedback your customer gives you (and try to get to what they REALLY want) you will give yourself a serious competitive edge.
Get out of the house
This can be a HUGE challenge for those of us who run businesses out of our house or work remotely.
One of the reasons my mom loved running the salon is because she could “get out of the house.” And I don’t blame her.
As someone who works from home, I learned early on that getting out of the house to work out, go out to eat, or just for a walk is hugely important and I work hard to make sure that’s part of my regular routine. It helps me be far more productive than if I just sat at my desk and stare at a screen all day.
Make time for things you enjoy
It is safe to say that my mom worked really hard. She also took the time to get the most out of life. I don’t know many people who enjoy living quite so much. One of the reasons that she enjoyed life so much is because she made sure to take the time to do things she loved.
When you own your own business it’s very easy to be “all business, all the time.” But that’s not really healthy. It can destroy your productivity. And it can make you pretty miserable.
I love to go to restaurants. I enjoy working out. And I love having an occasional cigar with a glass of whiskey. Doing these things helps me to recharge when it’s time to get back to work.
When you are off work, be off work
I have to admit, this is something that my mom probably did better than me. But I do try and follow her example. When I was growing up my mom made sure that when she was done with work she was spending time with us and not doing work stuff.
It’s super easy – especially now with computers and cell phones – to let work completely overwhelm your life. I find that I have to set aside time, turn off notifications, and be fully around for the people I love during my downtime. But by doing that I strengthen my relationships and am able to be more present when I’m working.
Guard the time you are working
Many times when you work for yourself or run your own business people get the impression that your work time is also your free time. It’s up to you to make sure that work time is actually work time.
When my mom ran the salon, she would always be friendly and say hi to neighbors and acquaintances when they stopped by. But she didn’t sit around all day and chat. She had a job to do and she was going to get that job done!
I learned from her how to make work time count and that makes a huge difference for me.
A good work ethic still counts
There are LOTS of popular books on the market that give you the impression that you don’t have to work hard when you are running a business. That’s absolute nonsense. A work ethic is key – especially when you are doing the boring parts of your business that aren’t very glamorous.
I watched my mom open those salon doors day after day whether she felt like it or not and learned that a lot of success in life comes from just showing up on a regular basis and doing your best.
Make sure you put your focus where it counts
Showing up is important, but it’s not the only thing. In the salon business, most owners make their money from color services. And my mom’s salon wasn’t any different. So she would focus on booking as many color services as possible.
You want to define your highest margin product or service and make sure that you are putting as much focus there as you can. Your business will have a higher ROI and be less of a struggle if you do.
Thanks, mom for being an amazing example. I owe you a ton!