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Business Lessons From My Pops & A Little Family History

Photo by Michael Gilman

I grew up in the professional beauty industry, so launching a men's grooming concept wasn't a huge stretch when I decided to spread my entrepreneurial wings around 1999.  You see, my grandfather was a great entrepreneur and quite a character and started a company called Davidson Beauty Supply around 1920 or so.  There's actually a great story about how he started his business and I think I have it somewhat right???  Here goes...

A friend of Harry's (my Grandfather -- we called him "Boss") asked if he wanted to help sell some permanent wave rods to salons.  These were the rods hair stylists would place in women's hair when giving them perms (a service that would give their hair volume and curls).  Harry said sure and went about trying to sell his wares to local salons, but as he soon realized, most of the stylists had no idea how to perform a permanent wave service.  So, armed with zero styling or barbering knowledge, but with a ton of common and business sense, Harry decided to learn how to give a perm by practicing on anyone who would give him a shot.  Once "perfected," he went back to these salons and offered to give them a class on perms, with the promise they would buy the rods and perm solutions from him.  He did this over and over again, eventually buying out his friend.  From there, he started to pick up new professional beauty lines and distribute them from his Washington, DC office to salons all around the DC-area. Business boomed.

Many years later my father, Ken, joined the business and really catapulted it to a new level.  They picked up, partnered and helped explode brands like Redken, Paul Mitchell, Matrix, Aveda, TIGI and many, many more.  They covered a territory of states up and down the east coast and built a business the right way, with respect for their employees, partners and vendors.  That business was sold in the year 2000 as consolidation in the Professional Distribution business reached an all-time high.  Ken, or KG as he's referred too, decided to take it easy for awhile, but has never really been able to shake being involved in business in some way, shape or form.

To that end, he's been a great sounding board for me and is THE BOARD MEMBER of Grooming Lounge's companies. Great businessman, guy and father -- the total package.  And one of the ways he continually adds value to me and my business is by imparting wisdom from his more than 35 years building an uber successful enterprise.  In fact, below is the memo he sends me at least 6-7 times a year to make certain I'm keeping things on the up and up.  I try to follow his suggestions, as these tips are pretty universal to any organization.  The best part are the stories behind each point, which I'll explain further in a later blog.


Lessons Learned: 35 Years of Growing A Business

  1. Fairness, honesty, respect for employees and customers
  2. You can't compete on price alone
  3. Even adults don't do their homework - business is doing your homework
  4. Everything is important
  5. Products are sold - they do not appear on their own
  6. Stand next to your customer - their success is your success
  7. Distinguish your business
  8. No one cares quite as much as you care
  9. Write it down
  10. Take calculated risks - have good luck 
  11. You never know what door will open 
  12. A good reputation is everything
  13. Jealousy is a dangerous business ingredient 
  14. With every adversity there is a seed of equivalent benefit 
  15. Refuse to be a guinea pig 
  16. Use the best consultants and professionals you can afford 
  17. The bank is not your friend 
  18. Do it now - do it now - do it now 
  19. Always be professional - never burn a bridge 
  20. Do what is best for the most for the longest period of time 


This article was written and appeared on Grooming Lounge and our Founder, Mike Gilman, were quoted a lot, so we borrowed the article. Giving them credit -- hope it's OK.

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