After a morning of talks in the main hall of the Salon Owner’s Summit, attendees split off into smaller groups for their chosen workshops. The convention centre buzzes as energised hair and beauty professionals from all over the world mingle, navigating the halls. Derek Anthony and Jill Ruone stand at the front of their classroom, welcoming the learners who have made their way in.
“How many of you want to build an amazing culture in 2023?” Derek says to the group, now all seated, kicking off the workshop. Hands go up around the room. “Awesome,” he replies, pleased with the enthusiasm. “So you are in the right space then.”
Jill and Derek begin by introducing themselves. Derek has been a hairstylist for 21 years, based out of New York. He has owned his 10-chair salon for 11 years, where he still takes appointments 3 days a week. Jill is from Minneapolis, Minnesota and is also a hairstylist by trade, although she has taken on several roles in her long career, from salon manager to salon owner to certified business coach. About 6 months into owning his salon, Derek realised he was “winging it” and that he “didn’t know what he didn’t know,” so he hired Jill as his business coach. He and Jill’s paths crisscrossed for the next few years, overlapping when he became a business coach too. And in 2020, when the world seemed to grind to a halt, the pair finally decided to join forces officially.
Looking for a way to support salon and spa owners in crisis, they formed Culture Curators, their joint coaching business, around the kitchen table.
They knew from the beginning that culture had to be an essential component of their coaching brand. Both are passionate that building a solid team culture is essential to leading any salon or spa to success. To illustrate this, Jill opens up to the group about how she learned this lesson the hard way.
“By a show of hands, how many of you can say, honestly, that you have lost over a million dollars in service sales instantly?”
Confused faces look back at Jill, but no one raises their hands. “I’m in a lonely club, all by myself, right?” In 2002, Jill owned a salon that had just hit $1 million in annual service sales–a milestone she had focused on reaching fiercely and, unfortunately, narrow-mindedly. One week, as she was preparing for a month-long family visit abroad, she started receiving strange calls from clients enquiring about a “new location.” Days before getting on the plane, she realised that her salon team of 20 staff had secretly rented a space across town, migrating clients and were planning on “locking her out” of the business a few days after she left.
She stayed home to save her business. This trying time forced her to take a hard look at herself and examine her failures as a business owner. However, Jill grew from the experience and when she and Derek were defining their curriculum as Culture Curators, their acronym for C.U.L.T.U.R.E. was informed by the things Jill wished she would have known ten years ago before her staff had felt the need to resort to such drastic measures.
“If you put the number first, before the people and before the brand, you have it twisted and backwards. But if you put people first, and yourself and your personal growth first and you really commit to that, the numbers follow.”Derek Anthony
The Culture Curators C.U.L.T.U.R.E wheel is made up of:
- Training and Development
- Ur (Your) Personal Growth
“The scariest and most dangerous thing a business owner can say is ‘but we’ve always done it that way”, Derek remarks on the theme of evolution. “So, are you ready, today, to commit to some action? “ With that, he gives the audience a task: to rate themselves on each of the seven points in C.U.L.T.U.R.E from one to ten and mark a position on each spoke of the wheel accordingly. After a few minutes, he unveils the second part of the task: connect the dots. This exercise gives participants a lasting visual of how balanced their business is.
“If this was a soccer ball, how efficiently would you be able to use it?” Jill asks the audience.
Then she gives them another assignment: pair up with someone in the room they don’t know and discuss.
- Share your top two strengths with your partner
- What is it about each of these that made you rate them the highest?
- What piece of guidance can you share with your partner to help them elevate that area in their culture?
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. The greatest leadership is by example. You must do, act, say and be the person you want your team to be. Leadership is a visual thing. You cannot take others on a journey with an unknown destination.”John Maxwell
For their final subject, Jill and Derek hone in on leadership.
To develop themselves as leaders, business owners must all face certain difficult predicaments, like relinquishing some control to develop others. However, according to Derek and Jill, “when you develop people and empower them to lead:
- Their territories expand and so do yours
- It gives you something you can only get by developing others.
- It gives you back TIME
- You are freed up to do more important things, most importantly thinking, envisioning and strategising.
Jill and Derek then asked the group to consider what responsibilities they are currently handling that another team member could do 80% as well.
Try this out yourself!
- Write down 5 things in your business that you could give to someone else
- Write down three action steps you need to take to hand over that responsibility (i.e document the steps involved in doing the task)
- Extra Credit: Time-stamp these 5 things with a handover date to keep yourself accountable
As the Culture Curators explain, the challenge in the delegation process is that it won’t be perfect. Business owners need to ask themselves when things break down, am I equipped and prepared? They recommend taking 24 hours to process the situation. Jill and Derek also share what they call their “Leadership Candour Checklist,” which leaders can consult before they initiate a difficult conversation with a team member.
“Everything rises and falls with leadership”John Maxwell
The Culture Curators Leadership Candour Checklist
- Have I invested enough in this relationship to be candid with them?
- Do I truly value them as people?
- Am I sure this is their issue and not mine? Am I sure I’m not just speaking up because I feel threatened?
- Is the issue more important than the relationship?
- Does this conversation clearly serve their interest and not just mine?
- Am I willing to invest time and energy to help them change?
- Am I willing to show them how to do something, not just say what’s wrong?
- Am I willing and able to set clear, specific expectations?
Recruiting and retaining staff is one of the most-cited challenges for salon and spa owners today. Staff expectations are changing. It’s no longer about working at the salon with the most impressive technical reputation or even making the most money. Staff want career growth with a sense of purpose, meaningful goals, healthy workplace culture and autonomy. And as an owner or manager, having the right leadership mindset and well-practised communication skills are an invaluable foundation for navigating this.
So what do you think? Will you be trying out any of the Culture Curator ethos? Let us know in the comments.
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