Successful Indie Says "Steal" Your Way to the Top
I love traveling for many reasons, but lately, the main one is the interesting and friendly people I've sat next to on airplanes. Last month, I met Amri Johnson (Twitter: @amrijohnson), an author I hope to have on Indie Business Radio soon. Yesterday, on the flight from San Francisco after The Nova Studio's Business Boot Camp, I met E. Gary Smith. E. Gary, age 57, is a native Atlantian who now makes his home in the San Francisco bay area.
The first thing I noticed about E. Gary is that he was holding a book by Michael Gerber, a well known small business success guru. The first thing he noticed about me is that I was holding a book my Mark LeBlanc, a well known small business success guru. We struck up a conversation, and what do you know? E. Gary allowed me to snap a photo of him (sorry guys, he wouldn't go for the video), and he agreed to let me interview him about his journey as a successful Indie Business owner.
dM: Tell me about your business
For 20 years, I have owned Menalto Cleaners in Menlo Park, California. It's a neighborhood business; I live right around the corner. I have a few employees who manage the business for me. I also maintain accounts with local department stores and luxury hotels to launder the clothing of customers and guests.
I purchased the business 20 years ago for a song and worked hard to make it a success. Today, the business is very profitable and debt free, and it allows me to pursue many interests including launching a new business.
dM: Tell me about your new business
My new business is Tete Cuvee, which is French for Top of the Line. Tete Cuvee will officially launch in February 2010, and will offer the highest quality custom formal wear for men. I am the designer of the line. I am also the financial backer.
I am traveling to Europe in a few months for a fabric shopping mission. While I will import fabric, I am proud that every article of custom clothing will be designed and handmade by me and a small staff right here in the US.
dM: Why a clothing line?
Because I think it's important for men to be tailored and well groomed. Not everyone agrees. For example, my sister was trained to take care of her nails and to use a nail buffer to buff them to a high and healthy shine. I didn't learn this easy and inexpensive grooming tip until a few years ago! Men want to look good too, and my clothing line is designed for the man who takes care of himself and is impeccably groomed.
I love clothes and I take care of myself. I have enjoyed two manicures within the past week and I make sure I am well dressed even in casual settings. I plan to stay at the Four Seasons Hotel while I'm in Atlanta settling my father's estate. This will be important to me since a death in the family is always challenging and I plan to treat myself well while I am going through the process.
dM: Tell me more about how you take care of yourself
Well, fitness is a huge part of my life. I generally go to bed before 10:00pm. I get up without an alarm at about 4:00am. I am out with my running parter by 5:00am. I run about 6 times a week, and go to the gym throughout the week for weight lifting. I try to work specific areas of my body to stay strong. I enjoy socializing with guys at the gym, many of whom are my informal workout partners. Having partners holds me accountable and makes fitness fun.
Our bodies were meant to be moved. I believe that exercise and a healthy body are two of the keys to success in life and in business.
dM: Based on your two decades as a successful business owner, what is one of your best success tips?
My mother always told me: "Steal with your eyes." I have used this advice throughout my business career and I think it is a major part of the reason I have been so successful.
There is no reason why a person cannot be successful in business, so long as they steal with their eyes. This does not mean that you take other people's work and represent it as your own. What is means is that you remember that you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Just watch what others do.
Study the habits, characteristics, websites, marketing materials, etc., of people with businesses like you envision yours one day being. Then, simply do what they do. Put your own spin on it of course, but the bottom line is that you use your eyes to watch and then you "steal" what works, make it your own and put it to work for you. Steal with your eyes.
What did you steal today?
This is NOT about becoming a thief and infringing on others' intellectual property rights. Neither I nor E. Gary condone such activity. "Stealing with your eyes" is about watching what other people do, filtering it through your sense of style and business goals, and then repeating it with your own spin. One of the things I have "stolen with my eyes" is listing "Related Posts" at the end of each my blog posts. This makes it easy for readers who like the current post to stick around and enjoy others. Several bloggers do this, but I specifically remember "stealing" it from Brian Clarke.
So think about it, what did you steal today. Share it in the comments section below. Maybe it will help someone else.
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