By Stephen Bean | Feb 13, 2012
Every Sunday, I work as a volunteer in the emergency department of a major hospital in the Detroit area.
This particular hospital happens to have an extraordinary gift shop. One of the best features of this shop is its amazing collection of unique, wonderfully written greeting cards. I like to stop in there from time to time and browse through the latest cards, as I find many of them to be very motivational and educational. I am always amazed at how the messages they carry can apply to the world of marketing and small-business ownership, as well as being appropriate gifts for patients in the hospital. I suppose when things are fundamentally right they have multiple and diverse applications.
That said, I have compiled a list of my top 10 favorite greeting cards from the hospital gift shop and have added the lessons I believe laundry owners can learn from them:
“This is your world. Shape it or someone else will.”
For many of us, owning our business is our world. It often defines us. Therefore, the marketing lesson is that we must shape or position our business so that it has unique selling features and stands out. If we don’t, another laundry owner likely will.
“Be truthful, gentle and fearless.”
Successful laundry owners seem to have these qualities. They are truthful in their advertising. They treat customers and vendors with respect and empathy. And they go forward and remain dedicated and optimistic each day, regardless of how challenging things become. Be one of them.
“With every rising of the sun, think of your life as just begun.”
So, you had a bad day – maybe even a bad week or month. Owning a business is not all fun and games. The important message here is that most events are mutually exclusive in that one bad day does not necessarily mean that the next day will be bad. Every day offers a new set of opportunities. No matter what… fight on.
“Anyone can be cool, but awesome takes practice.”
Being truly unique not only takes practice, but also creativity and effort. Not many self-service laundries are really, truly awesome. I suggest you study those that are and mimic them. Additionally, study those non-laundry businesses that are regarded as awesome and mimic them, too. For example, check out Zappos.com, Amazon.com and Apple.com just for starters.
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
Being comfortable is inversely related to achieving growth. We, as humans, love being comfortable, and we do everything possible to stay that way. Conversely, real growth occurs only when we are able to deal effectively with discomfort and ambiguity and, in fact, actually seek it out. Few of us are able to really do this, which is why relatively few of us achieve big things. We read about those who do, such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and others.
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
Creativity is the basis for unusual success. Curiosity creates creativity. So get real curious, step out of the box and develop your own special uniqueness. Singers have to do this all the time to become successful. What distinguishes one singer from another is their uniqueness. Many people can sing a song. Sing yours in a totally unique way, and you can become a star.
“If you are going through tough times, keep going.”
Yeah, I know that’s a difficult thing to do. We usually need constant positive reinforcement to maintain our motivation. However, sometimes we must just accept very small doses of reinforcement to achieve a greater goal. If you run into trouble and you quit, it is definitely over. But, if you stay in the game no matter what the degree of difficulty, you have a reasonable chance of success. Football fields are 100 yards in length. Don’t quit at the five-yard line. No matter what, fight on into the end zone.
“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?”
I often hear people say, “I’m just too old for this,” and it destroys their motivation. I suggest you ignore your age completely. Don’t place artificial correlations between your age and your goals. Pretend that the date on your birth certificate is one big mistake. That will increase your energy level more than a Venti Espresso Frappuccino from Starbucks. My wife’s grandmother lived to be 100 years young. She retired at age 85 from her full time job. She had hip replacement surgery at age 97 and when the surgeon asked her for the name of her personal physician she replied, “I haven’t been to a doctor in 50 years.” Remarkable woman.
“Peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”
The playing field is never level, and you will wait a long time to ever see it so. And, if you do see it, I suggest you stare at it and remember it because it won’t last long. It’s a chance happening at best. Life is difficult, and once you accept that fact, it won’t be so difficult because you won’t expect otherwise. Self-discipline is the key to getting you through the noise, trouble and hard work. Be willing to compromise when necessary. As Glen Campbell sings, “There’s been a load of compromisin’ on the road to my horizon.”
“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”
I firmly believe that fear of failure holds more people back than any other fear. Many of us business owners spend more time and energy analyzing the potential effects of failure than figuring out how to succeed. Lawyers make a living using this human tendency; they refer to them as “contingencies.” They’re in nearly every legal document from leases to wills. The concept is what happens if this happens. That’s why reading leases and wills is so tedious. Focus on the finish line and not whether there will be some highly-unlikely-to-occur obstacles on the track.
Well, there you have it. I have always felt that the people who write greeting cards are some of the best psychologists on the planet. They truly understand what makes people tick. Their messages often have universal applicability, beyond simply “Happy 50th” or something of that nature. Greeting card writers may be our modern day philosophers.
The truth is that I actually have 11 favorites, not just 10. But these types of articles always seem to use multiples of two to make their point. Who am I to go against the grain?
However, as a bonus, here is my 11th and – I must admit – personal favorite:
“To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”
This can apply to a loyal, long-time employee who depends on you to run your business properly so that his or her livelihood can be preserved, or perhaps to your wife or husband or child. Think about how important that simple, rarely verbalized statement is. Accepting and truly understanding it will likely change your view of your world and make you a calmer, softer and more caring person.
And, in the final analysis, isn’t that what truly matters?