PEMBROKE, Mass. — Everything I’ve written over the years has suggested ways or strategies to improve your Laundromat business. What I’m really talking about in this column, month after month, is living a purposeful life. The purposeful life. I like the phrase. It evokes motivation, striving, a desire for a better life, ambition. All the characteristics that are positive aspects of the American psychology.
In your case, you are running a business. You want it to be the best business it can be. You want it to run smoothly. You want 100 customers to come in every day and leave pleased. You want your staffers to arrive ready for another day’s challenges. You want your community to know your store and to think of it as an integral town resource.
So, you attend to business, day after day. You respond to all e-mails, because you believe a good owner is accessible. You’re always doing research, because you know that good decisions come from doing your homework. You’re attentive to detail, because you know that success or failure can be found there.
You solve customer problems right away because you know that bad word of mouth loses accounts. You pay your bills on time because you know that having good credit is necessary, should you decide to expand. Even more importantly, it makes you a good person in the industry. You are on time for appointments, because others depend on your promptness.
You do all this willingly, even though it exacts a personal toll, in stress, in pressure, in time away from family and personal interests, because you are purposeful.
AT ITS CENTER
The core of the purposeful life is confidence and enthusiasm. Confidence is the belief in yourself, that you can rise to the challenge, and that your effort will pay off. It’s an invisible force of knowing yourself, your limits, your abilities, and your level of stress. Confidence is situational. You wouldn’t be confident in a hospital surgery theater facing a heart transplant patient, but you are confident in a Laundromat, because that is your livelihood.
Enthusiasm is the energy and appetite for work. You are enthusiastic because you have chosen this field, and you know you can make a living at it. Also, you know that, minus enthusiasm, you don’t have much of an appetite for challenge. So you keep kindling this enthusiasm, revving up for the daily challenge. You keep yourself focused, motivated, and driven to improve.
MORE THAN BUSINESS
The purposeful life is more than just the business. It’s your entire life. You strive to make your family comfortable. You and your spouse are partners in life, and so you work hard to maintain a solid relationship. Children are extensions of their parents, and so you try to strike a balance between understanding them and prodding them to do their best.
You also are a body, and if you eat too much, avoid exercise or take up bad habits, the body will become an albatross rather than an integral part of your being. So you must take care of yourself, toning your body with exercise, feeding it a balanced diet, and living a life of moderation.
You also must take care of your soul. Nourish it. Work hard, and play hard. Keep it in balance. Whatever your passion—theater, symphony, concerts, cooking, model-making, jogging, mountain climbing, acting, poker playing, socializing—carve out time for these activities.
Take a part in a play. Bowl on Wednesday nights. Attend a breakfast date with old friends every other Friday. Set aside an hour for reading every night. Go to hear musicians play on Saturday night. Attend church on Sunday morning. Have a family dinner on Sunday afternoon. All this diverse activity goes into feeding the purposeful life.
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK
What happens if your life doesn’t feel purposeful? If you don’t have the energy, ambition and motivation to take on the daily battles? In other words, what if you lose it? Yes, it happens to all of us.
Spend a full day in bed. Give yourself that break. Indulge yourself. The next morning, rise to attend to business and don’t look back. In other words, you have that day to feel sorry for yourself for whatever reason: business isn’t going as well as it should, the second-in-command must be replaced, a large account has just left, the spouse isn’t being friendly, the children seem to dwell in worlds of their own. The next day, wake up determined to solve each situation.
One key is to tell yourself stories. Stories are what feed our purposefulness. I’m doing the best you can. These are tough business times. I’ve worked out of the doldrums before. Use these slogans to refresh your spirit.
One of my business acquaintances says, when he gets down, “It’s only life.” That sentiment gets him to realize that what is going on isn’t important, but his life is. Another friend uses the phrase, “This too shall pass,” and that is what gets him back on track.
Still another individual I know writes down on paper the names of three people he knows, and underneath, he states their situations. One must take care of his wife who has Alzheimer’s. Another has been coping with several bouts of brain cancer. A third has such a severe drinking problem that he’s lost his family and career. My friend reasons his burden is nothing compared to these people, so he won’t complain.
Whatever it takes. Give yourself one day to feel sorry for yourself, and then push on with renewed vigor. If the vigor isn’t there, go through the motions until it returns. The British have a different way of saying the same thing: Have a stiff upper lip. In other words, just do it.
The purposeful life is not abstract concept. It’s a concrete way to live. It’s the way to achieve your goals and get over your disappointments. Finally, it’s the way to build a successful Laundromat business.