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Commentary: The Business

Cathy Fleck: Letting Go of the Handlebars

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Holding back and letting your heirs decide the future
of “your” store is one of the toughest acts in business.


Building our jewelry store from scratch into a multi-million-dollar operation was like raising a child. I dreamed of the day when it would be time for me to let go and watch all our hard work, dedication and love become an independent member of society apart from us. I never dreamed that it would be the most difficult thing that I would ever encounter.

A year ago, my stepson purchased our jewelry store. At 30, he is more together than many of the folks I know. He walks among my peers as an equal. They sing his praises and proclaim how lucky we are that we have such a competent heir to the throne.

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Yes, we are proud and beam with delight when we see all the maturity and business savvy.

I truly thought this transition would be so seamless. How was I to know that the first time I let him take off into my familiar neighborhood that I would become this worrisome, paranoid, stressed-to-the-hilt parent? I promised myself many years ago that I wouldn’t become that first generation. You know the one. I’ve sat in many a team clinic and roundtable where the second generation moaned and bitched about how the first generation never tried anything new, never listened and refused to let go of the old ways. No way was I going to be that store owner.

Well, sometimes the truth smacks you in the face. Mind you, I am progressive. I do try new things. But, somehow, the Control Freak Gene crept into my pool.

&#8220Coach, don’t take over.
Bite your tongue. Don’t

wait until after your reign
is over and then hang
on for dear life. &#8221

Thank God that I have friends who reminded me that it’s OK to let him experience not only the successes but the failures — and that this was my plan from the start.

As I window-shopped each aisle of the Centurion Jewelry Show in February, I was accosted by salesmen aggressively trying to point my attention to their jewelry. When the words, “I have absolutely no buying or decision-making power” came out of my mouth, the grip was released, and I was free to peruse at my leisure. Wow! I have to admit, that was awesome … though a tad weird. This was the first show that I truly was able to sift through the bull. Actually look through the trays. Take the time to visit new vendors.

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By the end of the show, I had not looked at one item the kiddo bought. I couldn’t. I had to trust. A few of the salesmen made it a point to tell me how impressed they were with my kid’s professionalism and pre-show preparation. One even told me that Michael was a tougher sell than I was.

Many of my friends are approaching this time in their career as well. If I had any advice to give, I’d say to start training the new team now before your transition. Teach them before you relinquish your crown.

Have them make decisions and be just the observer. It’s a different dynamic when you still have the last say-so. Coach, don’t take over. Bite your tongue. Don’t wait until after your reign is over and then hang on for dear life. Sometimes you just need to let go of the back of the bike and let them take off down the street.

Cathy Fleck is the former co-owner of Occasions Fine Jewelry in Midland, TX..

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