Six Years, Many Lessons

This month marks ERG’s Sixth Year Anniversary.  OK, Six Years.  Not five, not ten, it’s just six.  Right?  I suppose so.  But this anniversary comes in a year that has been wrought with challenges, changes, and much introspection.  I am not the same woman that I was six years ago, I have certainly grown and changed, along with my business.  I have learned more than I ever imagined, about so many different things.

So I put forth to you, The Six Most Important Things That I Have Learned As A Business Owner:

  1. Your business is your Baby.  You will remember each and every milestone that your Baby has reached.  Treasure them, reflect on them, learn from them.  And never be ashamed to share those milestones with the ones that matter.
  2. Owning a business, and having children, a husband, a home, and an extended family is a delicate balance.  I may never find the right balance, to keep everything in check, but it is something that I try to achieve every day.  I do better some days, and other days are an epic fail.  I don’t beat myself up, I simply vow to do better during the next hour, the next morning, the next week.
  3. Anytime my family and I get into the car, no matter where we are ultimately headed (even Key West), the car will make a stop at The Store.  Just ask my kids, my husband.  They will give you an earful.  What do I need there?  Why stop all of the time?  Sometimes to get a coffee, sometimes to use the facilities.  Sometimes to see what work got left undone.  Remember, it’s my Baby.  I gotta check in on it.  Frequently.
  4. No matter how good your taste is, or how universally appealing you think it is, you will pick dud products.  They will fill a clearance rack.  You will wonder why no one found the beauty or the value in your picks.  Then you will give it away, just so that you don’t need to be reminded of your shortcomings.
  5. Owning a store in the town where you grew up becomes a reunion at times.  It is a wonderful vehicle by which to reconnect.  I have seen high school teachers, elementary school friends, women who trained with my mother-in-law (she was a nurse), and ladies who worked retail with both my grandmothers.  Making these connections makes my heart soar, and I think that this is really one of the top reasons that I love the store so much.
  6. You will form friendships with customers.  You will share life moments with them (it is a gift shop, after all).  You will experience marriage, divorce, birth, illness and loss with them.  You will laugh with them, you will hug them.  You will realize that at times, this place, these four walls, are more than just The Store.  They are a safe harbor.  A peaceful landing.
  7. Did I say Six Most Important Things?  Yeah, well number seven is Flexibility.  In a small business, nothing is set in stone, and it should not be.  You open at ten, but someone needs a box of candy at 9:15?  We open the door.  No gift wrap on clearance items?  But I am seeing my friend in ten minutes.  Let’s wrap it up.  Life is full of compromise.  The sooner we all embrace that, and have more flexibility, the better off we will all be.
  8. You will need to find a mentor, a confidant.  Sometimes more than one.  No one can do it alone.  Trust in these people.  They are often speaking from experience.  Learn from them.
  9. You need to surround yourself with good people, who have your best interests at heart.
  10. Your staff will become more than just your staff.  They will become your friends, your family.  You will spend more hours with them then you will with your own family at times.  You will watch their kids grow, their parents fail, you will dry tears, and laugh uncontrollably.  And you will mourn for the ones that are no longer with you.

These six years have brought me to places that I never dreamed.  I thank you all for playing a role in my journey, and I hope that you will continue along with me for years to come.  Thank you for simply being you!

This Anniversary is dedicated to Matt.  He was our colleague, our friend, our family, our brother, our son.  And he will be forever missed.  Thank you for always believing in me.

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Matthew Rompre,
Always in my heart and mind

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