This is hard to talk about. But I am here to tell you all the things I have learned that have helped me get to where I am, and to share my mistakes with you so hopefully you don’t make them too.
A lot of you know my estate sale story, and my surprising (to me) skyrocket path to success. I moved to California in 2010. I am from the east coast, born and raised. Never in a million years did I think I would ever live in California. How did I get here? Well, my husband landed what was a dream job for him with a great company and we agreed to move. Not to Los Angeles, or San Diego, or Silicon Valley. We moved to a small town near Mojave, California. Because he works at an airport in a tiny town where they blow things up. Sometimes on purpose and sometimes accidentally.
We planned to stay for 3-5 years. That was 6 years ago and counting.
I was pregnant with my first daughter and I was going to stay at home with her. After a cross-country move to a completely new area where I had no family or friends - when the baby was about 4 months old, I really needed something else to fill my calendar. I opened Expert Estates and had my first two estate sales booked in no time. My business plan called for holding about 1 sale per month, which I thought was optimistic since I had no contacts or connections. But in our first year we did 13 sales, and now we often have 8 weeks in a row with a sale, sometimes two sales, each weekend.
I was planning to stay home with my kids (I now have three daughters) but here I was making bank. Wow. I was buying things for our house, maxing out my retirement plan, putting money into my kid’s college savings plans, taking trips to see my family in New Jersey and Florida, paying for a fancy new iPhone. It may sound odd, but I had never had one before and would have had a hard time justifying one as a stay at home mom with one income for our family of …gulp … five.
Just about two and a half years ago, I opened my store in Tehachapi. Which I love. It is 2,200 square feet of fun. I can take on estates that can’t be held in someone’s home by bringing their property to the store to sell, I sell Country Chic Chalk and Mineral Paint, I host painting workshops, I can take in consignments, I sell things online, and I am always thinking of new things I can do at the store.
I contracted to lease the store right after I had gotten payout on my best estate sale at that time, a $60,000 job. That was a tremendous success and I could not believe it. I had more money than I knew what to do with. So I talked to my husband about my idea of opening the store.
He hated the idea. I mean really, hated it. We fought over it. We still do sometimes even though I think we are both trying really hard not to.
When I made the plans to open, I was pregnant with our second daughter, and I was working way more than we had planned. But I loved the work. Remember we said when we moved that I was going to stay home with our kids. I didn’t want strangers to raise them, it was our job to do it. We would make sacrifices (like no fancy phones) so we could have our kids at home with a parent, full time.
Well things don’t always go how you plan, right? I had all kinds of justifications and arguments for opening the store. My husband is an INTJ and I am an INFJ. Whenever I made money, I wanted to do something with it and when I ran out of personal things, I thought I should reinvest in my business.
I know that to get him to agree to something I have to present my case with logic and reason. So I prepared my list of items that I could lobby him with to support me.
My business was growing and if I didn’t expand fast enough to keep up with demand, that would be a mistake. Businesses can fail when they grow too fast, but also when they grow too slowly.
We have an awesome nanny, that I pay for with my business money, she is seriously amazing, so there is nothing wrong with me not being with the kids 100% of the time.
In fact, me not being with them all the time, makes me a better mom. I need a break sometimes, I am not the supermom I had thought I would be when I was planning to stay home. It’s ok, really.
I could work more in my own town and not take on as many jobs out of the area with a store. So that would actually let me stay home more … if I just opened the store.
I presented all my points to him. And he still didn’t want me to open the store. He wanted me to just enjoy the success I had and even to scale things back a little, not be stressed and go back to the way I did things in my first year. In my first year, I took on one sale each month, and then I pretty much just spent family time the rest of the month. I took lots of vacations to visit my family back home. My customers even joked, “She does a sale, she takes a trip. Does a sale, takes a trip. Must be nice.”
But I was ambitious. I was doing well and wanted to do even better. When the logic list didn’t work, I just bullied my husband. I am ashamed to admit it. He is the best guy, the love of my life. And I was mad. Really mad.
I told him he didn’t support me. I pulled the moving-to-the-desert card on him. After all I moved here to the desert and left all of my family and friends and a career I had loved on the east coast for him, so he could have his dream job. And what was I getting? Why wouldn’t he say “yes” to what I wanted now?
Of course he loves me and wants me to be happy, and so with all of this, I forced him into “agreeing” with my plan. I knew he didn’t really want to. But he did anyway. It has been a huge source of conflict. Every time we are together and the phone rings with a question about the store, he is reminded that my attention is not on my family. He feels they are not my top priority, even though they are. I know they are, I just didn’t prove it. I ignored what my partner wanted and went ahead anyway.
I steamrolled my husband to grow my business faster than he wanted me to.
And that is my biggest business mistake. I have learned from it that I have to work with my family and grown at a pace that makes sense for all of us. At a pace we can all handle, not just me. I am not the only one affected by my business and how I lead it.
I told myself that my work life balance would be better when I opened the store, but that was wrong. I have had to scale back the store hours so that I can maintain the focus I need to on my growing kids and my amazing, loving, husband.
So my hardest lesson to share with you is this: don’t let ambition interfere with your family. Put your family first. If your spouse or significant other doesn’t want you to do something for your business and you want it, take some time and think about it long and hard. I am not saying to obey everything your partner wants you to do. I am saying to really consider carefully which things you move ahead with and only do it if you are sure that your family life is not going to be harmed. Do no harm to your family with your business. Zero harm. As small business owners, our businesses are here to support our families, not to hurt our relationships.
I learned a lot about business from this.
- I learned to better balance my family and to make sure I think each morning about what my family needs before anything else. (Right now my husband is coping with some back pain, he is scheduled to see a specialist in three weeks, I have been calling the specialist every single day trying to get his appointment moved up. Before I would have given up or told him that he needed to make those calls.)
- I learned how to listen to what people who love me think.
- I learned to build a stronger family.
- I learned how to salvage a plan that went wrong so that it works.
- I learned to pivot.
- To keep in mind that not everything comes out magically the way I think it will. This helps me, I literally envision alternate scenarios and imagine how I will deal with the worst of them before I decide on a new project.
All things I use in my business and life everyday.