Three Business Lessons from my Accident

July 17, 2017 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments


This is my first Monday Morning Wake-Up since June 12th.

I’ve been writing my weekly Monday Morning Wake-Up (MMWU) non-stop for over ten years.

It’s a responsibility that I take seriously because leading and growing a successful salon/spa in these tumultuously changing times is tough … even for the most experienced leaders. And I take pride in doing my part to help you get there.

However, on Wednesday, June 7th, at 5:30pm, my life and world was turned upside down.

I am an avid cyclist. I left the office around 3:00pm to do a 20-mile training ride in preparation for my tenth MS Cape Cod Getaway Ride. I was looking forward to leading Team Strategies on the 150-mile ride from Boston to Provincetown that was coming up on June 24-25.

I was four miles from home on a main road that I’ve ridden hundreds of times, and I know every crack and bump on it.

Next thing I knew, paramedics were loading me into an ambulance.

I was brought to Yale New Haven Hospital. Two rounds X-Rays and Cat Scans revealed that I had multiple fractures in my left hip socket, three fractured ribs and a crushed upper sternum. The pain was excruciating.

On June 13th, I had surgery to repair my left hip socket, which involved installing a plate and ten screws.

On June 27th, I was transported home to a hospital bed, with my very own walker. I had explicit instructions not to put weight on my left leg until mid-August.

This unplanned nightmare was far from over.

But what about my company … Strategies?

I, too, am a small business owner. I love my company, my team and our clients. To me, my company embodies all that I am as an entrepreneur, employer, educator, business coach and author.

The instant I collided with that vehicle, my company was on its own. My world was confined to a hospital bed, pain meds and just making it through another day.

I’ve spent my career teaching salon and spa owners leadership, financial literacy, systems, and of course, the Team-Based Pay business model. To me, the single most important business disciplines we teach at Strategies are team culture, shared responsibility and extreme transparency. Everybody plays … everybody wins. And it’s because we also live by those traits here at Strategies that the company was able to keep moving forward in my absence.

Here are three No-Compromise Leadership lessons that Strategies lives by, and are essential for all salon/spa owners to know, understand and live every day in their own companies:

LESSON ONE: I’ve said it before … I’m saying it again … “You are NOT your company

All owners have an ego. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have the courage and self-confidence to start a business and put everything on the line.

  • If my ego was so big that everything in my company had to be all about me, Strategies would have floundered in my absence.
  • If I couldn’t let go of the controls and truly share leadership and operational responsibilities, Strategies would have floundered in my absence.
  • If I couldn’t trust my leadership team members, employees and coaches to step up, make the best decisions and deliver the best results possible, Strategies would have floundered in my absence.

Strategies is going to turn 24 this September. From day one, my goal was to create a company that created growth opportunities for its team members and coaches. To create a company that is sustainable and capable of growing far beyond my time on this earth.

I am proud of, and grateful for, the entire Strategies team seamlessly adjusting to my forced absence. It is a testament to the strength of our culture, the discipline of our systems, and our unrelenting No-Compromise commitment to practice what we teach and coach.

LESSON TWO: Turn profit into cash

Believe me, I know what it’s like to have a major pile of bills and barely any cash to pay them. Financial stress is the worst, especially when it gets out of control and to the point where you can no longer hide it from employees, landlords, vendors and others.

  • If we didn’t practice the exact same Cash-Flow Planning/Budgeting system we teach our coaching clients, Strategies would have floundered in my absence.
  • If we didn’t relentlessly build our cash reserves to the point where it would take a major and sustained disruption in cash flow to put a strain on them, Strategies would have floundered in my absence.
  • If the entire Strategies team was not trained in financial literacy, Strategies would have floundered in my absence.

If you hate the numbers side of business, can’t thoroughly read and understand your company’s financial reports, and live out of your operating checking account, your company is a disaster waiting to happen.

Not once in the six weeks I have been unable to work did I worry or stress about money. All the years of hard work on financial literacy, accountability and discipline paid off big time for my company and me in the aftermath of being hit and seriously injured by a vehicle.

Profit doesn’t happen by accident. Cash reserves don’t accumulate on their own. Got it?

LESSON THREE: Preparing for the worst means keeping your business physically, mentally and financially fit every day.

I lost count of the times that my doctors and nurses told me that my level of physical fitness from cycling is the key to a fast recovery. Had I been an overweight and sedentary 67-year old, I know I would still be in the nursing rehabilitation facility learning how to get out of bed and walk with crutches.

  • Just like human beings, a physically, mentally and financially fit business will quickly recover from a setback.
  • Just like human beings, getting physically, mentally and financially fit is a cumulative process that happens over time. It’s the relentless commitment of the leader to ensure that the business “works out” at the level of intensity required for fitness gains to occur.
  • Ignoring your company’s physical, mental and financial fitness until a crisis occurs is totally irresponsible and disrespectful to your company, its employees and its customers.

I’ve seen enough failed attempts by owners trying to get their out-of-shape companies through a major crisis to know the odds are against you.

If there is any one positive to come out of this nightmare, it is that the true measure of success is about how many lives you improve, businesses you strengthen, and visions you bring to life. Financial Reports and critical numbers are nothing more than scorecards. That’s what we teach and live at Strategies. That’s what I’m most proud of.

Here’s my challenge to you: Take a serious and unfiltered look at the physical, mental and financial fitness of your salon/spa company. Then ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Could your company survive without your personal involvement for two to six months?
  2. Is your culture strong enough that your leadership team and employees will instantly step up and do whatever it takes to ensure the integrity of your company?
  3. Do you have the necessary financial controls and sufficient cash reserves to weather a major setback?

If you answered “No” … or even a questionable “Maybe” … to any of the preceding questions, it’s time to rethink your approach to business.

I can tell you from personal experience, it’s better to invest the time, energy and resources to create a rock-solid culture and business structure now … and avoid the stress of having your business struggle in your absence.


Categories: Leadership , Monday Morning Wake-Up

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