Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Shoe Polish, Cancer, and Business Secrets

I was polishing my shoes yesterday and I realized this is something a lot of people don’t do any more. It seems more common to just keep wearing them down, getting rid of old shoes and buying new ones. It suddenly struck me that this is also shows up in our business attitudes.

You see, I learned to polish shoes from my father. Dad is currently fighting a cancer that statistically he is unlikely to survive and so I think of him a lot. Every Saturday afternoon he’d collect our best shoes in order to make sure they were well-polished for church on Sunday. Usually he listened to the radio while sitting there with the family footwear spread before him. It always surprised me how happy he seemed while doing this funny task.

He had a special kit with a rack to hold the shoe he was working on. All the different colors of polish, rags, and brushes fit inside this contraption. I can’t even count the times I watched him take our battered shoes and turn them into something shiny and proud. Eventually, I wanted to learn.

Today, I’m incredibly glad I did. Four years ago a bought a pair of Frey boot-clogs after wanting them for at least 5 years and probably even longer. I love those boots. The tread is barely worn after all this time, but the leather needed some attention. I also worked on a pair of shockingly-comfortable pumps I bought last summer. Finding cute, comfortable heels is a trick! So when I find them, they are really valuable to me.

And in today’s market, I don’t want to just wear them out and have to replace them. I definitely want them to last. Not to mention I love both pair of shoes I worked on yesterday.

Polishing those shoes let me realize how often I teach clients to really see and use what they already have, who they really are to improve their business. I feel sad and frustrated when I see people desperately trying to make business ideas that are a complete mismatch for their core values and reality.

The number one reasons businesses fail is that people choose the wrong business. This is a greater problem even beyond the common-quoted fact that businesses fail for lack of money. And you know what’s even tougher? To have an idea, product, or service that is true to your core, but you’re attempting to realize that gift through a business structure and style that isn’t as good as match.

I had the privilege to talk to a great, inspiring man about 2 weeks ago. He has amazing, new, powerful products to bring to the world. And when we met, he was stuck in figuring out how to create the manufacturing process for his first product. At one point in the conversation, I just asked him to stop for a minute.

Not once did he describe how his dream was to run a business from R & D to delivery. His dream is to have the product and present it to people. He’s a dynamic spokesperson WITH ideas—and he even has clients who want his products waiting, waiting, impatiently waiting.

One of the results of this conversation was helping him experience permission and desire to structure his business in a way that fulfills him! It didn’t have to look like a traditional product launch…and in reality this guy doesn’t have time for that as he already has 3 more products designed and ready to prototype. With more coming unless I miss my guess.

So we come back to polishing shoes. Nine times out of ten I find my already clients have exactly what they need: they simply don’t know how to frame or re-frame what they’ve got in a way that works for them and is marketable. Too often the “good stuff” gets pushed aside or thrown out. When all that’s really needed is some time to discover the goodies tucked in a closet because someone thought it looked a little worn. Once this idea or thing is re-purposed, polished and put to work again, the gap is filled.

Are you ready to find out what things in your business have been set aside that could be pillars of power and success? Then let’s talk!

And if you’ve got some scruffy shoes around, consider getting out that tub of polish and an old rag. You might be surprised how much you enjoy the process.

Wishing you Success & Heart,

Heidi Sue Roth

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