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Lessons on Business Leadership: Emily Graduates to Entrepreneur

Aug 13, 2018

Emily entered the bank for what she was sure would be the last time ever. 

She rarely went to the bank unless she had problems with her accounts. This time was different. This time, Emily was making the final payment on a loan she had taken out 10-years ago for her greenhouse and shop building. 

Emily owned a successful flower-shop and greenhouse. She managed to get contracts to supply her local grocery stores and a few other flower shops with flowers; plus she had a growing local delivery business that was taking off. Ten years ago, she took out a loan for $500,000 to purchase the land and building that eventually became Emily's Flowers. She wrote out her check for $6,607.54 and headed to the teller window with a great big smile on her face.

She announced to the bank teller, "This is my final payment, I am so happy!"

The teller looked a little confused, "Can you tell me the account that you are paying on, Ma'am?"

Emily handed the teller the last slip from her loan book, "That's it."

A man from the back of the bank stood up. He thought that he recognized Emily's voice. 

It was Peter Sandoval.

Ten years ago, Peter was the loan officer who had approved Emily's loan. He had visited Emily a few times over the years when Emily needed to ask for leniency on repayment of her loan. Peter was now the manager of the local bank branch. He walked to the front of the bank where Emily was and Emily recognized him immediately.

Emily laughed, "Pete, you don't have to worry about any more loan payments. This is my last one!"

Pete smiled, "That's wonderful, Emily. I have heard only great things about Emily's Flowers. You must be doing great in your business. I wonder, do you have time to chat after you are done with your business with our teller?"

"I get it, Pete.... You want me to borrow more money. Don't you?"

Pete knew that Emily was half-joking, "If you need to borrow some money, we'd be glad to lend it to you. I'd like to talk to you about something else."

"Sure, I'd love to chat with you."

After Emily had made her final payment, the teller instructed her that the bank would be mailing her a lien release that documented that her loan was paid in full and she would no longer owe anything to the bank. Emily then followed the teller as she led her back to Peter's office in the back of the bank.

Peter welcomed Emily and closed the door behind her as she entered his office.

Emily started, "So, what do you want to chat about, Pete?"

Peter responded, "Emily, I'm so proud of the work that you have done with Emily's Flowers.  You have become an amazing business woman.  I was curious what plans you have in the works now that you have paid off your loan for your facility?"

Emily smiled, "I plan on making an extra $6,607.54 in profit each month."

Peter laughed, "That's true for sure.  I'm talking about your plans for Emily's Flowers.  You are a relatively young woman who has achieved a high level of success with your flower business. What are your plans for your future?"

Emily now looked a little confused, "Look, Peter, if you think I'm going to borrow more money to build another flower shop, you're crazy. I just paid this one off and am going to enjoy the profits without having this debt hanging over me."

"I'm not asking to loan you more money.  I believe you have created something very special with Emily's Flowers.  I was wondering how you could duplicate your local success in other cities?"

"Oh. I guess I hadn't really thought of that."

Ten years ago, Emily thought that she would create an amazing flower shopping experience across the country with her flower business. But now she was tired.  She had created her success. Her shop was essentially running itself.

Her shop manager, Marcia, was completely running the shop and Emily was ready to enjoy not having to work on a daily basis or worrying about making payments on her shop loan. The fact that the loan was paid off meant that Emily could not afford to retire because this extra $6,607.54 would be going directly into her checking account, instead of paying the bank.

If Emily were to grow Emily's Flowers, she would have to start the debt cycle all over again; and for what? She would have more debt, have to find another Marcia, and the new location may not be as successful. Then she would risk all she had achieved.  No... it was time to stop and rest. She knew that. She could live just fine off of her newly found $80,000 per year.

Peter could see the consternation on Emily's face and offered, "Look, Emily. I think this is an important decision; and I don't want to convince you have anything. I just think you have a great business; and it would be awesome if you could grow it outside of our local town."

Emily responded, "Pete, I've worked so hard to pay off this loan; and I just want to take a break for a bit."

"I understand.  I want to give you the contact information of a Business Coach.  Everyone calls him Coach Russ. I think he would be a great resource for you to talk through your fears about growing."

"Okay, Pete. But I don't think Coach Russ will change my mind."

"I think that Russ may help you see a different perspective on growth; and it's a free initial consultation, so I think it is definitely worth your time to give him a call."

Emily and Peter shook hands as they parted ways.

A week went by before Emily called the number that she had been given by her banker, Peter. She knew Russ would be available because Coach Russ had her schedule a free consultation with his online scheduling system.

Russ answered, "Hello, Emily."

Emily thought, 'Darn Caller ID!', "Hi Russ... or did you want me to call you Coach Russ."

Russ laughed, "Please call me Russ. Pete told me about your situation. But I'd prefer to hear from you about what types of thoughts and feelings you have about growing your business."

Emily felt like she was at a little bit of a disadvantage. She was talking to some highfalutin business guy; and all she wanted was to take life easy. Emily responded, "Look, Russ, I'm calling you as a favor to Pete. I'm not sure how you will convince me that growing my business is a good thing."

"Emily, I don't want to convince you of anything. Most business owners call me because they are stuck on something or are having difficulty making it to the next level of their business. If you are happy where you're at, there is probably nothing I can do for you."

At this point, Emily felt a little relieved and disappointed at the same time. On one hand, she felt like she wouldn't have to defend her position of simply taking life easy. On the other, she felt like, maybe I want to grow my business... don't give up on me. "I've just worked so hard to get to where I am, that I want to enjoy not having a bank loan payment."

"Like I said, Emily. You don't need to convince me. I have been where you are. I know how hard it is to grow a business; and I respect your desire to take it easy. Let me ask you. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you want to grow your business from where it is currently? One means that you are going to coast; and 10 means that you desperately want to take your business to the next level."

Emily loved the idea of a scale. This way she didn't need to commit one way or the other. Emily responded, "Three!" Emily thought, 'This should send the message loud and clear that I don't want to grow.'

Russ asked, "What inside you prevented you from picking a two?"

Emily was shocked, "A three is pretty low. What's the difference?"

"That's what I asked you?"

Emily seemed a little exasperated, "Okay. I guess, at one time I really wanted to create a nationwide flower business. But after ten years of stressing out building payments, I've decided that my peace of mind is more important. That's why my answer was not quite a 1 or 2... but a 3 is still pretty low."

"Yes, a three is pretty low. The reason for my question was to try to uncover the real reason that you got into your business in the first place. I also want to get to know what makes Emily tick; and what will ultimately make you happy as a business owner."

"Are you saying that I'm not following my dreams, if I don't work a little hard to make my company grow?"

"It really doesn't matter what I think. I do want to lay out three scenarios for you. The first is that you decide to leave things the way they are, but your business declines in revenue and eventually, you lose the profit that you thought you would have forever; and then need to go back to work in your flower shop. The second is that your flower shop continues to do as well as it is doing now; and some day you decide to sell your shop to someone who takes it over and gives you a little bump in your income, but you stop your monthly profit payments. The third scenario is that you decide to document your store's success and franchise your store to other flower shop owners who want to run an Emily's Flower shop."


Russ interrupted, "I don't want your answer now. I want you to think about this question over the next month. If you want the first option, I probably can't help you much. If you want either the second or the third option, I would be glad to help you get there."

Emily took Russ's advice. She waited over the next month. She barely showed up at her flower shop and spent most of the time catching up with her kids. She took long walks and thought a lot about her three scenarios. She rather doubted that scenario #1 was even a possibility; and so she was only really considering #2 or #3. Russ had told her that if she wanted to do #2 or #3, that he could help.

At the end of her month, Emily booked a paid session with Russ to discuss options #2 or #3.

When the phone rang this time, Emily was not startled by Russ's, "Hello, Emily."

"I've been thinking a lot about these scenarios, and I don't think that option #1 is a possibility. So, it's down to #2 or #3."

Russ responded, "First of all, I think it's important to understand the reality of option #1. If a large flower conglomerate feels like they want a piece of your market, they can set up shop and put a lot of pressure on your status quo... which will ultimately erode profits that you pay yourself. Right?"

Emily felt her heart skip a beat. She always thought that coasting had no risk. She thought that if she decided to do nothing, profits would always be there for her until she decided to sell her shop. She then remembered how local stores that had been successful for decades and then closed as soon as Walmart moved into their town.

Emily responded, "Okay... I guess you're right. I'm not sure what option I want to pursue. All I'm sure about is that I liked taking a month away from work and spending time with my kids."

"Spending time with your children is important; and it sounds like that is a core value for you. How do you think that Options #2 or #3 will impact that value you have?"

"I think, if I grow my business, I will never see my children again because I will be even more busy than I was when I started my first business?"

"That's a normal reaction. A business owner who is working so hard to grow their first business, thinks they need to work even harder to continue to grow the business. However, if you do it right, you can spend more time with your kids and grow your business. What do you say?"

"I say I don't believe you. If you saw me when we first started the flower shop, I was working non-stop. How would it be any different by opening new stores now?"

"There are four key stages in a business owner's life cycle, Emily. The first stage is technician. In the technician stage, the business owner is doing all of the work. They have to wear several different hats because they can't afford to hire help to run their business. In the second stage, the business owner becomes a manager. In the manager stage, the business owner hires people to do the work, and they merely form a high-performing team to do the work for the business.  In the third stage of business, the business owner becomes a visionary and looks at ways to duplicate or increase the product lines of the business to grow their current business model exponentially.  In the fourth stage of business, the business owner is usually looking to cash out in some way by selling their business."

Emily was writing down everything Russ said and asked, "It sounds like I'm in the investor stage of business. All I want is my $80,000 share of profits on a yearly basis.... and then sell the company some day. Right?"

Russ responded, "You could certainly do that, Emily. However, I believe that you are currently deciding if you want to transition from the manager phase to the entrepreneur phase.  Your shop is basically running on auto-pilot. Marcia has assumed your management duties and the decision you are facing is whether or not you want to duplicate the success you have created in your local town to multiple towns. If you decide this expansion is what you want, you will enter the entrepreneur phase of business."

"It sounds like this phase is optional. If all businesses grow through 4-phases, how can I skip from manager to investor?"

"Great question. Any business owner can either quit or cash out at any one of these four phases. If you want your business to grow to the 'next level', you need to change your thinking as a business owner."

"What?  If I've been successful so far, why would I want to change?"

"The same thinking and skills that got you to the level you're at will not be the same skills and thinking that get you to the next level. If you decide that franchising or duplicating your flower shop is right for you, you'll need to better understand finance, franchising agreements, selling stock to fund your growth, and all sorts of skills that you didn't have before. From a mindset perspective, you will need to understand how to hold your store managers or franchise owners accountable for financial success and consistent quality to protect your brand. Does that make sense?"

"I suppose it does. I just don't know if I am up for learning new things to grow my business. Won't this take time away from my kids?"

"I really don't want to try to convince you of any specific direction, Emily. However, at one point, you had a dream to create a national flower business... what happened to the Emily that had that dream?"

"I guess that Emily got a dose of reality and is just tired, now."

"I understand.  You have worked hard and reach a milestone in your dream; and now you feel like you lack the energy to take your business to the next level. Right?"


"If you could somehow magically find the energy to grow; and you didn't have to sacrifice one minute with your children, what would your decision be about the three options we discussed?"

Emily laughed, "Not sure how any of that could happen, but I would pick option #3.  No question."

"That's what I thought. Emily, we tend to get burned out by acting and thinking in ways that may help us in the moment; but tend to wear us out over time. I believe that is what has happened to you in your flower business. You have heaped the burdens and stresses of running the flower shop on your shoulders and feel that your dream is a type of prison; and you want to be free. If you work with me; I believe we can achieve the freedom and success that you truly desire. What do you say?"

Emily thought about it. Now that she had paid off the loan on her shop; she could afford to pay for a few sessions with Russ.

Emily responded, "I'll give you two months of weekly sessions to prove to me that you can help me find a solution to growing my business and spending time with my kids.  If you can't do it in that time, then I'm going to settle for option #1."

Russ offered, "What about six months with two sessions per week? I usually will never take on a new client for less than six months; and I feel like weekly sessions may be excessive for the work we will need to accomplish."

"Sure.  You've got yourself a deal."

Over the next six months, Emily worked with Russ and found that her life had become an interesting balance of lots of time with her kids and engaging her mind in a completely different type of business leadership. 

Marcia continued to run things at the local store while Emily worked on documenting processes and procedures to create a solid operations manual that would become the foundation for a franchise. Emily hired a franchise expert to help her create a flower shop franchise that incorporated everything Emily's operations manual.

Within a year, Emily had the foundation constructed to launch her franchise called Anyone's Flowers. Her idea was ground-breaking. Each franchise would bear the name of the owner of that franchise. If the owner was Frank, the shop would be called Frank's Flowers and be trademarked under Anyone's Flowers. If the owner was Jane, the franchise would be called Jane's Flowers.

By the second year, there were twelve franchises up and running. Because each owner paid Emily a franchise fee, Emily didn't have to borrow money to launch her franchise. There were times when money was a little tight, but for the most part, Anyone's Flowers didn't require debt to get off the ground. 

Each franchise owner was responsible to borrow the money or pay for flower shop buildings in their region, so Emily wasn't getting into more debt. With the franchise fees and revenues being earned by her franchisees, Emily was able to hire administrators to help new franchisees get their stores launched successfully. Marcia was promoted to become one of Emily's best franchisee consultants and coaches.

It was the start of the third year of Anyone's Flowers franchise, when Emily called Russ for what would be her final coaching session.

As usual, Russ answered the phone, "Hello, Emily!"

There was a pause on the other end of the line.  Russ could hear Emily's breathing; but no words were spoken.

"Emily, is everything alright?"

Then it was apparent that Emily was sobbing and tried to talk through her tears, "I j-just w-want to s-say... thank you."

Russ could feel himself getting a little emotional, "You're quite welcome, Emily.  But, really, you've done the work."

Emily had composed herself, "I know... but I would have never tried to do what I did over the last three years, had it not been for you. When I first talked to you, I would have been so content to take my small yearly paycheck and never work again. And, I would have always regretted not growing my business when I had the chance."

Russ had to pause, because now tears were filling his eyes, "It makes me feel great to hear you say that, Emily.  I'm glad that I could play some part in helping you make the most authentic decision you could make."

Anyone's Flowers went on to become a wild success; and Emily did cash out in year ten of the franchise to the tune of $10.0 Million.

About Jeff Schuster

As a business coach and 30-year business veteran, I help my business owner clients change their mindset in a way that allows them the freedom and profitability they’ve always hoped for, but never thought possible. If you’d like to develop a successful business mindset, I offer online training along with individual and group coaching sessions.


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