My Ten 70th Birthday Morsels of Wisdom

February 2, 2020 | By Neil Ducoff | 7 Comments

I was born on February 2, 1950. For me, Groundhog’s Day has always been the best day ever.

As kids, we dream about the future and all the possibilities that life offers. I remember how I would think about where I’d be and what I’d be doing in the year 2000. I couldn’t help but think, “Holy crap, I’ll be 50 years old by then.” As a kid, 50 seemed light years away.

Today, when I think back to my 50th birthday, it just doesn’t feel that long ago. Heck, it’s only been two decades.

Turning 70, I can’t help but reflect on my life and my work. As a life-long business owner, I know all too well that life and business are almost inseparable.

So much so, that I want to share my TEN No-Compromise Leadership 70th birthday morsels of wisdom with you:

  1. Tomorrow arrives faster than you think: It’s so easy for owners to get stuck in the same routine, dealing with the same stuff every day. It’s impossible to see and plan your immediate future when your line of sight is today. KEY: If you don’t continually plan, and modify that plan as you progress, you’ll be using bow and arrow strategies in a business reality that’s moving at light speed.
  2. Know when to push hard and when to ease up: I may be 70 years old, but I plan to ride 3,000 miles this year. To achieve that, I do a lot of interval training. Push hard for a few minutes then ease up and recuperate. You do the same to succeed in business. KEY: Your 12-month plan should include four to six hard efforts lasting two weeks to one month. Each effort should have specific team goals and objectives. At the end of the effort, ease up to recuperate and evaluate. Over time, your company and your team will see measurable improvement. And it does wonders for your culture.
  3. Going it alone sucks: Yup, the industry definitely has a big “independent” movement going on. However, the human body only has two hands and those two hands can only do and achieve so much. Building a salon/spa company is something entirely different. The dynamics and growth opportunities are drastically multiplied. KEY: I could not have built Strategies by myself. It took teamwork, structure, systems and accountability. I could have made some decent money by myself, speaking and coaching, but where would I be now if I didn’t build a company? At 70, I’d still be busting my ass on the road, racking up airline miles, and hotel reward points. After 40 years of being on the road, I had enough. I built a company that allows me to live a comfortable lifestyle. I rarely travel for business anymore — and I’m good with that.
  4. Believe in yourself and fully commit to your dream: I’m proud of my life’s work and where I am now. But it wasn’t always easy. I had some dreams that turned into nightmares. I know what it’s like to be stressed out emotionally and financially. (That’s one reason why Strategies coaches owners on financial discipline.) KEY: Believing in yourself means getting up if you’re knocked down. It means keeping your ego in check. It means pushing yourself in ways that build self-confidence. More importantly, it means being fully committed to your dream and doing the work necessary to achieve it. Lastly, every hard-earned lesson prepares you for the bigger lessons to come. There is only one word that embodies success. That word is tenacity.

  5. You don’t live on your company’s timeline: Strategies is a young 26 year old. I’m 70. My company is focused on expansion and growth. I’m focused on a few important projects, working four days a week, taking time to enjoy our home, and riding my bike. KEY: By design, my company can far outlive me. Too many owners make the fatal mistake of building companies that depend not only on their presence, but the service revenue their hands generate. When a company runs on the same timeline as its owner, it will grow old with the owner.
  6. Lead smarter and delegate as much as you can: My two favorite leadership quotes are from Jack Stack, author of The Great Game of Business. 1. “With every pair of hands, you get a free brain.” 2. “If you’re working on something today that will affect your business in the next 30 days, you’re working on the wrong stuff.” KEY: If you make all of your company’s business decisions, your brain is getting a workout while your employees brains wait for instructions. If your days are so busy fighting fires, giving orders or servicing clients, you and your business are in an unsustainable situation. I am blessed to be surrounded by an amazing team that is empowered to make the best decisions for my company. I pay attention. I ask questions. I offer guidance. I never touch or take over anything a team member is working on.
  7. Your financials tell the truth about your leadership: Being busy doesn’t mean your company is making money and the bills are getting paid. After 50 years in the salon/spa industry, I am still amazed by how many owners either don’t look at their Profit & Loss Statement and Balance Sheet, or don’t have a clue how to read them. Likewise, I’m amazed how many owners are trying to run their companies by looking at their checking account balance online. KEY: Your Profit & Loss Statement and Balance Sheet tell the truth about how you lead, make decisions and manage cash flow. With QuickBooks, online bill paying and bank account access, there is ZERO reason why your financials are not current. There is no reason why you can’t run a set of financial reports once a week (like Strategies has done for 26 years), or at the end of the month. Lastly, building and living a monthly Cash-Flow Plan to project revenues and budget expenses is a discipline every owner must master. Want help building your Cash-Flow Plan? We can help.
  8. If you want to have fun, play to win: Every month has a revenue goal. Is every employee in your company playing his or her best game to hit that goal? Or, are employees playing to hit their own goal and could care less if the company hits its goal? Lastly, how many employees in your company don’t have a clue what the company goal is and why it matters? Forgive me, but the way so many owners talk about teamwork while little if any teamwork actually occurs is disheartening. The concept of teamwork in the salon/spa industry is grossly misunderstood. KEY: In sports, in business, and in life, the purpose of a team is to play to win. It’s the collective energy of a group of like-minded people working hard for a common cause or goal. Teams require leadership. Leaders create a sense of urgency with the monthly goal as the target. Hit the goal — the team wins. Miss the goal, the team shares responsibility and works to get better. The harder the team plays, the more it can celebrate wins. Wins are fun.
  9. The truth about finding personal and business balance: The truth is that finding balance between personal and business has preconditions. You’re not going to find balance if your salon/spa is struggling. Why? Because your company needs your undivided attention to fix the problems and lead it back to health. Sorry, personal needs to wait. KEY: Everything it takes for a business to be stable, profitable and successful is the only path to finding balance. Simply put, finding personal and business balance is something owners earn. Balance is a reward for doing the work. The only danger is finding too much balance and getting too comfortable that the business drifts into trouble.
  10. Work on projects that continue to feed your passion: I have a few projects that I focus on at Strategies. One is writing this weekly blog. The other is overseeing our proprietary online coaching portal called, the Command Center. I work directly with Bill Kuehnle, our full-time programmer, to add features, find bugs, and to ensure we deliver the best coaching experience possible. KEY: I work more behind the scenes to allow my team to be front and center. I want my team and coaches to be responsible and accountable for growing the company. I’m a healthy and strong 70 year old that was smart enough to empower others so I can enjoy the rewards I worked so hard to earn.

Here’s my challenge to you: If you’re a salon/spa owner, take a seriously hard look at where your company is today.

Then think about how your company needs to be structured and how it needs to perform when it’s time for you to wind down and take time to enjoy life beyond work.

It doesn’t matter what your ultimate plan is for your company, it must be healthy, systemized, profitable and sustainable.

That’s the only way your company will fetch a selling price worthy of the years of hard work.

That’s the only way it can be passed down to family members or offer ownership opportunities to key employees.

A sick, worn out and tired business isn’t worth much to anyone.

If my ten morsels of wisdom struck a chord with you. It’s time for a coaching call with Strategies.

Categories: Leadership

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  1. Well said Neil. When I was young, an older mentor of mine once told me, “I know what it is like to be young, to be middle aged and old. You only know what it is like to be young, so listen to the voice of experience”. Keep on, keeping on.

  2. Happy Happy Birthday!!! Thank you for continuing to be an amazing leader and sharing your valuable insights with all of us! When I grow up, I want to be just like you! Hello to everyone! ❤️

  3. Great post, Neil! Words of experience, indeed. Thank you for your commitment to healthy teams and healthy businesses. The salon industry is healthier with your years of work and contribution. Happiest of of birthdays!

  4. Another great one Neil! So proud of you. Like you those years fly by so fast these are such great words of wisdom, so glad I listened and learned from you and honestly continue to personally learn from your wisdom. Happy Birthday my mentor, leader and friend. Thank you!


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