Over the past couple of years, podcasts have become the new norm for me, because they give an in-depth look into some questions I never knew to ask.  They provide business strategy, the latest entrepreneurial trends and, most importantly, they allow you to mull over what’s happening in your company with a twist on the business as usual concept.

This latest podcast was on perception.  If perception is a way of regarding, understanding or interpreting something, the first step is to determine what you want to learn.  What about your store gives you that “I wonder if my customers or employees see what I do”?  It can be a tough question to get the nerve up to ask.  After the doors of Absolutely Her closed, I had that fleeting thought, but swept it aside because that chapter was done.

But listening to this topic recently about an owner’s take on her business, I sent a text to my former Junior Assistant Manager (JAM, for short) about Absolutely Her.  I fired off some questions:  why did AH work?  what made AH what it was to so many?   what exactly was “it”?  Sending these was the second step, doing the research.

Would these answers change my own thoughts as to what I believed Absolutely Her was?  Maybe.  But knowing the answers could also bring a bit of clarity and more closure, because at times, I can teeter between melancholy and plain sad.  Basically, I wanted to know if what I set out to create 8 years prior was, in fact, truth from another’s perspective.

You see, I had absolutely horrible thoughts on what resale stores were about before I had the dream of owning my own.  Based on a prior experience from one I’d been in years earlier, my impression was all consignment stores were disorganized, smelled pretty bad and customer service really didn’t matter because I had been left alone to wander through a jumbled mess of stained and outdated clothing.  ONE VISIT to ONE STORE and I had the whole industry pegged. 

A morning talk show changed my mind about 5 years after that visit when it had a segment about consignment.  The store was pretty and organized with trendy clothes.  No mess.  No chaos.  Just calm.  That’s when the idea was launched for my own.  My interpretation took on a completely different feeling and the thoughts started racing.  Because here’s the deal, by removing those negative ideas and beliefs, I was able to have a clearer picture of what could help succeed in running a store.  And have the positivity to move forward in the midst of moments that I wasn’t sure about. 

I asked those questions of my JAM and when the texts came back, the third step was made pretty clear.  I analyzed what she wrote and I learned my random scribblings in a notebook from 2011 regarding what I wanted in a store were incredibly similar to how she answered. “You created an atmosphere for everyone in the building to be themselves and a lot of times that led to everyone being raw.  We were honest and real people. We had fun!  We bonded as co-workers.  The greatest days were when the ladies that walked in the door knew they could have as much fun as the women behind the counter.” 

It was interesting to me because in her answers, she never mentioned the inventory because that was secondary. Obviously, what we took in and sold played a huge role in owning a profitable store, but the positive energy is what propelled Absolutely Her to the next level.

Asking the right questions can be powerful enough to make you stop in your tracks when the answers are spoken.  Just like the discussion of perception in the podcast I’d been listening to, I heard another interview about an attorney and his colleague.  A reporter had stopped them after they won their case defending a man accused in a high-profile situation.  They had been appointed as defense counsel, so it was never about money, but it was about staying the course and not giving up.  First the reporter asked the co-counsel how he felt when the case was over and his client was free.  He replied that it felt like PTSD due to the amount of stress and workload that had been placed on him.  Pretty normal, I thought.  But when the other attorney, the head counsel in the case, was asked the exact same question, his reply was “It was the best 21 months of my life”.  Same exact situation.  Completely opposite perception.   

Your understanding and your actions right now could define your version of 2020.  You get the choice.  You don’t have to be the leader of the pack, but it’s important to show up.  Choose to keep that gladiator sword in your hands and continue to fight for you and your shop and do the best that you possibly can, with what you know today.  Go through the process to learn, research and analyze what your store is about, what your core principles are and how you interpret these times.  Because to look back and say that these were the best months of your life, for whatever reason, would be a telling story of who you are and what you believe. 

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