Most of the risks I’ve taken have ended in failure. Three broken bones, a handful of ugly scars and a trail of wrecked cars are testimony to the physical risks. Some of my failures didn’t leave physical scars, but I sure remember them well. For example, I bought several â€œsure thingâ€ stocks. Turns out the only sure thing I know about investing in the stock market is that I generally sell stocks for less than I paid.
That said, as I think back over my life I’m realizing that the successes I have had all came from taking a risk. For example, I took a chance by getting married at a very young age, and found a life partner I’ve been able to rely on as a source of happiness and comfort. At work, I took a chance on buying an abandoned warehouse six miles from our store in Kidron, and secured impossibly cheap space for almost unlimited future growth.
So, while taking risks may lead to painful failure, it seems like a fact that taking chances is the only path to success.
I’ve spent my whole working life at Lehman’s, so my work is one place where I can especially see the effects of risk taking. Lehman’s wouldn’t even exist if my Dad hadn’t taken the risk of trying to establish the second hardware store in a very small town. My sister took a chance by leaving her successful career as a key executive in a multi-national corporation to come and handle our marketing. Without her help, we probably would have failed years ago, because this is the fate many other family owned hardware stores have faced. And, dozens of friends have loaned Lehman’s their time and talents to share in whatever success we’ve had.
Two of those people are Emily Fielitz and Jean Boen. They â€œbet the ranchâ€, giving up secure jobs in this down economy to start Juxtapose, a company that specializes in retail store design. We hired Juxtapose to help redesign our store. It was a great move on our part because they are very talented. But, the biggest payoff for me personally has been the fun of watching them work.
The first thing that struck me is that they are very young. Or, perhaps just that I’m very old! (I can remember Emily, who I’ve known the longest, in grade school.) Her energy and â€œlight up the worldâ€ smile stood out then just like it does now.
In fact, Emily and Jean both have that hard to define â€œZING!â€ that makes them a joy to work with. This starts with a strong sense of self-confidence and an understanding of their abilities that allows them to speak knowledgeably and with authority even when they are working with people who have far more experience. I like working with people who have the guts to speak up, because what they have to say is usually something important. I want to hear it.
It’s more than just self-confidence, though. â€œZING!â€ also encompasses a good bit of self-depreciating humor and a willingness to admit when you’re wrong. I have found that having the ability to laugh at your own mistakes is critically important if you want people to share their opinions with you. And, one reason that Juxtapose is doing such a good job with our store redesign is that Emily and Jean are constantly seeking the opinions of each other, of our employees and, frankly, most anyone they can lasso into their world of possibilities.
There is a final and essential ingredient of â€œZING!â€ That is talent. And, Jean and Emily have it in spades. Like any good business partnership their abilities are very complimentary.
Jean is constantly looking for new ideas and finding ways to improve how things work. She likes to create marketing experiments and then test them. She has that unique ability of being able to draw together a bunch of seemingly unrelated facts, such as how aisles are laid out, the way displays are arranged, and, most important, how well our customers like what we’ve done. Then, she draws all the information together and uses it to build an overall plan. Her ability to identify patterns and systems means she can understand the possibilities.
Emily is the bubbly one. She is never in one place for very long, flitting from thing to thing in a way that constantly keeps me on my toes. She is warm, enthusiastic and full of imagination. When the world is saying, â€œTurn clockwise,â€ she will be that lone creative spark plug who insists that going counter clockwise will result in something amazing. Interestingly enough, it usually does!
In an email to me, Jean said, â€œEmily and I do have two very different approaches to each project we tackle. I think we work well together because we understand the importance of not always agreeing. We respect the different backgrounds and training that we’ve had individually which when combined, create a well-rounded end result. Hence the name of our business…Juxtapose: To place together, side by side, especially for contrast or comparison.â€
Emily and Jean took a chance on starting their business, Juxtapose, at a time when their target audience, retail stores, is reeling from the double whammy of a tough economy and impossible credit. Despite the economy, though, they succeeded in convincing me (a guy who is known for being a conservative tightwad) to hire them. And, based on their work, I’m confident they will be very, very successful.
Galen Lehman, President, Lehman’s
Click here to join
me on Facebook!
PS â€“ Want to see their work? Please stop down and visit our store. They completely remodeled our woodstove display. We think you’ll enjoy browsing there, home to North America’s largest display of woodstoves.