May-June 2013 | On My Mind

Words from the publisher

Recently I got a phone call from a frantic school-owner friend looking for advice. She had started a business selling dancewear to her students and the community, and she was panicking because she was still losing money after four years. She told me how she had worked so hard to make the business a success. And then she said, “I can’t stand the thought of failure.” She was worried about what her family or friends would think of her if she couldn’t pull it off.

She explained that the dancewear shop had a large inventory, a rental space separate from the school, and two employees. She was concerned about her employees losing their jobs if she closed the store. Because of her loyalty to them she couldn’t give herself any credit for spending the last four years working and worrying.

Never did my friend mention what this business was doing for her. Never did she say she loved the business. Never did she say anything positive about it. Yet she couldn’t let go because of what people might say or because she didn’t want to let anyone down.

As we discussed her options, she calmed down. When the conversation ended, she thanked me over and over for helping her. But she was the one who had come up with a solution; all she needed was someone to ask the right questions to help her figure it out. And most important was her decision to take care of herself and her needs without worrying about what others would think.

The day after that conversation, after almost 20 years in the same office, I had to tackle cleaning the attic to prepare for a move. I found some cool memorabilia and pictures from my American Dance Awards days all the way through the launch of Project Motivate and Dance Studio Life. It felt great to look back to see how far my company has come.

One of the toughest jobs was sorting through boxes of paperwork that included two decades of tax returns. I found papers from the New England Ballet Festival, a side business I had launched that was a competition for ballet schools only. That event lasted two years before two or three other national ballet competitions were doing a better job, so I stopped producing the event.

I had another company called The Rhinestone Dancer, a short-lived business that sold rhinestones to dancers and teachers. Another business was The Dance Teacher Store, which was profitable but not worth the time for my employees or me.

There were more, but you get the point. Each time I let one of those businesses go, I felt insecure because I couldn’t make them work. Yet I always knew it was time to move on.

Today I can confidently say that each of those failures led to something better, and if I had not learned from the experiences I would not have the knowledge I do today. Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing, nor do I worry about what others think, because I know what is right for me.

Now here’s the happy ending for my dance-teacher friend: she moved her store into her school, where it is now making a profit. And her school is growing because she’s not focused on making her dancewear store a success.