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Random success stories and thoughts for these crazy times

I was in San Francisco recently to lead a Strategies Incubator. Attendees at the intense four-day seminar for the beauty industry ranged from independent contractors seeking a business model that offers structure and growth, to larger companies trying to figure out how to get their payroll and finances under control - and how to create a no-compromise company. During the Incubator, I received the following e-mail from Lisa Cochran, owner of The Studio in Hattiesburg, MS. The timing and the message couldn’t have been better.

“Last year, the thought of ever having $10,000 in cash reserves seemed like an unattainable goal. Today, I hit that goal. My company now has a cushion of $10,000 in our cash reserves account. For me, I finally have that ‘I sleep better at night’ money. I know you always meet owners that are stuck in that ‘How will I ever get out of this mess?’ thinking. Well, I am a living success story of a business that fought its way out of the ‘fiery pits of financial hell.’ I used the knowledge and tools that Strategies gave me. As always, I am forever grateful for you and Strategies.”

Tony Gordon, owner of the Gordon Salons & Spas in suburban Chicago, IL, came to Strategies a few years ago on a quest to turn his company’s ability to generate revenue into bottom-line profit. He took his three locations from commission to Strategies’ Team-Based Pay system, which works for any business. It took a lot of hard work and making tough decisions to achieve his goal. Last week, Tony sent me the following note:

“Our salons were Top 200 for many years with double digit growth, but not until I got involved with Strategies did I discover how to really take our salons to a profitable level.”

Team-Based Pay gets everyone working together toward common goals – it just makes sense. Unfortunately, it’s not the rule in the beauty industry – and it keeps salons and spas from being profitable.

Joe Coulson, owner of Joey’s Hair Systems in Waterbury, CT, just wrote me about his frustration with schools teaching future employees how to build followings in successful salons so they can take “their” clients with them when opening their own business – the opposite of team building. He also expressed frustration seeing his fellow business owners close because they won’t open up to new thinking and systems.

“It is so sad that 98% of the businesses in our area are commission or booth rental, and one of the biggest just failed and closed a few months ago because their commission system drained it dry. While I watched the demise of this company for the past eight years, I turned my world and company around with Strategies. I tried to bring the owner of this company to meet with you, but he refused.”

If you have a minute, go to Joey’s website ( and click on the red box titled “For Professionals.” You’ll read something I wrote way back in 1997 - and it’s even more appropriate in these crazy times. It’s also part of the opening segment of every Strategies Incubator.

Lastly, I want to share some powerful thoughts that came from Chris Murphy, a Certified Strategies Coach, and co-owner of two Maximum FX Salons in Austin, TX. Chris’ powerful words were in response to the growing number of businesses that are struggling through this recession.

“It's pretty scary out there. We're all being forced to make some pretty tough decisions in our companies. It's tough when we have to consider things such as sending people home early, potentially cutting back on staffing, coming up with new (and oftentimes uncomfortable) ways to drive sales, canceling contracts and subscriptions to programs we don't use, and the list goes on and on. But that's just what we have to do. It's what we signed up for when we decided to become a business owner. It always surprises me when owners think they can continue to run their companies the same way they did two years ago and hope everything will be fine. And then they go into shock when things go south and they wonder why this is happening to them. Everyone is feeling the pinch all the way up the supply chain. The smart ones are making the necessary changes in order to survive. Let's hope that our customers are practicing what we teach. As you would say, Neil, now is the time to make sure that your systems are turned on, and the dials are turned way up!”

Does Strategies have all the answers? I wish we did, because I’d be a rich and happy man. What I do know is that most businesses that are struggling right now and wishing things would get better are suffering from internal compromise. Compromise in the form of fear to act and make tough decisions. Compromise for leaders to hold themselves and their teams accountable.

I know this is already a long Monday Morning Wake-Up, but I want to close with this short story. Last week, I did a private No-Compromise Leadership class for Pat and Bobbi Heaney, owners of Mango in Richmond, VA. They run a first-class business. They have systems for everything. They hold themselves and their team members accountable. They stick to the budget. And their revenues for January and February are ahead of last year - and last year was their best year ever. It’s leadership, folks. It’s no-compromise leadership. If it needs to be done - get it done.

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Please share your thoughts with me about today’s Monday Morning Wake-Up. Click the Comment button above.

Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO of Strategies and author of No-Compromise Leadership

Pass this e-mail on to your business colleagues, managers and friends. They’ll appreciate it.


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