Phorest FM Episode 195: Stefanie Fox On Leadership & What Staff Want From Their Salon

When running a business, the need to drive both performance and business often comes with thinking that dangling a carrot or motivating somebody to do something is the way we're going to get there fastest. Yet when you look at human psychology, and you understand what makes people feel both interested and capable of doing something different, it requires that they work hand-in-hand with someone that's going to help them. In this episode, we look at the differences between leadership & motivation, dive into Stefanie Fox's recent research on staff's wants and needs, and discuss what responsibilities a great leader has in today's industry & workforce changing landscape.


Stefanie Fox

Stefanie Fox is a motivational speaker and generational leadership expert who has spent 15 years building teams and educating leaders on the changes in today’s workforce. She believes that the idea that the “leader has all of the answers” is old thinking and that speaking directly to beauty industry talent is the only way to move forward and build teams that thrive.

Founder of Talent Match, a recruitment and team building agency that specializes in the beauty industry workforce, her work is rooted in research, where she surveys today’s talent to understand what they want and then acts as the liaison between salon owners and salon talent to discuss and navigate hard conversations. Stefanie is also the founder of Canvas Salon and Skin Bar, a 5-times recipient of the Top 200 Salons in America award for its work culture and customer satisfaction. She sold the business in 2020 to focus exclusively on her research, educational offerings, and the Talent Match technology platform.

She lives in Columbus, Ohio and is a board member for the National Association of Women Business Owners, where she leads a committee that facilitates mastermind experiences. She also gives her time as a mentor with the Young Entrepreneurs Academy helping kids 18 and younger start businesses.


Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Last week, we continued the thought-starter conversation on Instagram Live, and we got some fantastic engagement. If you aren’t able to tune in live, or you just haven’t had the chance to catch up on it, you definitely should. You head over to @phorestsalonsoftware on Instagram, in the IGTV section of our profile, and you can catch all the past Lives we’ve done around these thought-starter conversations. Like we said, our aim is to keep these going, and we’d love for you to request to join the Live. We’ll have you share your thoughts, your stories on the thought-starter question. Again, this week, towards the end of the episode, we’ll draw another card.

Killian Vigna: Yeah. We actually had one salon asking us through the Live, how she could improve communication with her team. I think she was struggling to grasp if she was getting honest feedback from her team while they were closed. Understandably, when you’re not in the salon, you don’t have that face-to-face engagement it’s hard to kind of take what people say. It’s like when you send someone a WhatsApp or an email, how I send it is perceived completely different or could be perceived completely different. Myself and Zoé did give… We attempted to give feedback from a non-management point of view, but I actually think this is the perfect episode to provide that answer.

The "aha" moment [01:45]

Stefanie Fox: When I did a deeper dive into the research, like, what do you mean by friends? Because a significant portion of them said, they want their leader to be their friend and give them feedback. It’s really about relationship. If you go back to what I said about an oath, we take this oath to show people the gap. That’s where the feedback has to come in, but you’re never going to have any of that received well if you don’t have a preexisting relationship with somebody, because then they don’t think you care. As leaders, we have to seek that level of relationship, where we do all the things we would do to build a great relationship with anyone else in a professional sphere, of course, so that we can follow through with our oath of helping them grow.

Connection is the basis for emotional stability and safety. Again, if we’re going to be somebody helping somebody else grow, and we know that means there’s going to be difficult conversations at times, we have to have emotional safety. Connection is what allows us to be hopeful.

Introducing Stefanie Fox [02:42]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: On the show with us today, a motivational speaker and generational leadership expert who has spent 15 years building teams and educating leaders on the changes in today’s workforce. Stefanie Fox is the founder of Talent Match, a board member for The National Association of Women Business Owners, and more recently joined Phorest at its Uplift! virtual event for an inspiring and timely talk titled, Being a Great Leader, which people thought very highly of.

Killian Vigna: Stef, welcome back to Phorest FM! It’s always a pleasure to speak with you. I think this is your second episode and we’re catching you pretty much fresh off the press from our recent Uplift! event. Welcome!

Stefanie Fox: Thank you! I’m excited to be here again.

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: So good to have you.

Killian Vigna: Yeah. No, absolutely. Yeah.

The difference between leadership & motivation [03:25]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Stef, you’ve always been keen on research, and for people who don’t know this, now you know, obviously, but like we said in the episode’s intro, you’ve spent 15 years building teams, educating leaders on the changes in today’s workforce. At the minute, you believe we’re in an age of leading, not motivating, which I think a lot of people kind of go back to a lot — motivation, right? What makes you believe that? And can you explain the differences you see in both?

Stefanie Fox: Yeah, in the place the world is in today, which the best word I use for all of it is just heavy. Not that it always feels heavy, but really this last year has had so many periods of heaviness. I think the natural thought when you are running a business is coming from a place of desperation to drive performance and drive business. We think that dangling a carrot or motivating somebody to do something is the way we’re going to get there fastest, but when you actually look at human psychology, and you understand what makes people feel both interested and capable of doing something different, it requires that they are hand in hand with someone that’s gonna help them.

That’s leading. Motivating is this incentive, it’s a reward, it’s an end game, but leading is like, someone is holding your hand, they’re walking you through, they’re showing you how. When you go back to that heavy place that we’re kind of all living in, we’re ebb and flowing through, we need people right now. We need to feel like somebody is holding our hand and helping us. There’s so many questions in the salon space. Are our clients going to come back? Are new clients going to come in? Would they rather come to a big business with a bunch of stylists or would they rather go to a small space with a suite?

There’s so many unknowns right now that we need that leader around us that is hand in hand with us, connecting on that emotional level, and not just trying to incentivize performance through some kind of dangling carrot, because it doesn’t last. It doesn’t make you feel good, especially if you fail. If you don’t hit the goal and don’t win whatever the reward was, you just feel not great.

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Yeah.

Killian Vigna: Yeah. I feel like motivation is kind of like a quick win, like, “Oh, I’ve got to motivate myself to get out of bed on a Monday,” or “I’ve got to motivate myself to do this work.” It’s not sustainable. It doesn’t seem like it’s long-lasting. Then I feel like you have a harder crash then if you fail at it?

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Yeah. I’ve also actually heard quite often like motivation doesn’t get you to where you want to be. Some days you won’t be motivated at all, like some days it’s going to be harder to just get out of bed. You need to be dedicated to that goal instead of just motivated. You will get some spurs of motivation obviously, but it won’t always be that easy.

Killian Vigna: I think it was Shane Parrish, someone that we’ve regularly referenced on this show. He was relating it to almost like a dopamine hit. Motivation is like trying to find your next dopamine hit, where you’re just constantly like, I need that next win, I need that next win. Sometimes, you feel like you’re chasing something that’s not there or that’s never going to come to fruition. It can actually be kind of dangerous in the end, yeah.

Stefanie Fox: Yeah, as you said, you feel so much worse if whatever was motivating you doesn’t get you to the actual goal you had in your mind. It’s just like, ugh, and then you just feel defeated. Again, I’m like, we’re in such a heavy place anyway mentally with what’s going on with a global pandemic and, in the US, political unrest, and this all uncertainty. It’s like, wow, we need to feel like there’s some essence of hope in front of us. If someone’s there with us on this journey, we can do this.

Killian Vigna: How do you then define leadership? You mentioned there a few times, we need someone to almost reach out and take us by the hand. Is it like a parent coming along and guiding a child? What does that actually entail?

Stefanie Fox: Yeah, I think of it more like friend to friend. We’re not really… Years ago, we debunked that hierarchy system of leadership, where it was like, it doesn’t work for there to be a person at the top that’s like in charge. It does work from the perspective that they need to guide direction, but they need to be collaborative in that. I think that you’ve got to be like friend and friend. Then for me, leadership is this idea that you take this oath that you’re going to help somebody get to their next best place.

That means you have to care about them, you have to care about the next best place they’re going to, and you also probably have to have knowledge of how they’re going to get there. Then the most critical element and where the hand-in-hand comes into play is you see what they’re doing and you know what could be done differently to get to the next place, and you have to have the conversation. We shy away from that conversation because it feels like we’re going to hurt somebody’s feelings, or we’re going to feel personally uncomfortable.

Then you’ve just failed your oath. You’re the person they trust to help them get to the next level, and you’re afraid of it.

Killian Vigna: So, it’s not necessarily like letting the child put their hand on the hob and burn themselves to then learn.

Stefanie Fox: Yeah, it’s definitely not through necessarily injuring yourself! I sometimes feel like, with my toddler, it’s like… I’m like, “Well if you spill the milk with no lid on it, you’re going to learn. It spills.” It’s not always like that. But at the same time, that’s a great… You could watch them fail, so to speak, and then go back and revisit the gap. Like, “here’s what I saw you do,” or “here’s what I heard you say, let’s try this,” and that’s a great teaching moment.

What staff want from their salon, survey results [08:50]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: In the past year or so, you’ve been working on Talent Match quite a bit. As part of that work, you surveyed approximately, what was it? 20,000 stylists?

Stefanie Fox: Yeah, 20,000.

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Was it in the US specifically?

Stefanie Fox: It was, yeah. It was a mix of stylists and students.

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: On what they were looking for in their careers really. I think you have some pretty surprising findings to share with us today. What kind of struck you as odd, or surprising, or just really relevant to 2021?

Stefanie Fox: Yeah. Well, I mean, first, we talk… My research for the last four years has shown that salon owners think their number one problem is finding staff. Then number two, which used to be number one, is keeping them. I just wanted to go straight to the source, and say like, what do you want? I was just like, I’m going to ask the workforce, instead of a bunch of salon owners trying to brainstorm, like what we think is going to attract and retain talent. Let’s just ask them, “What do you want from us? What’s it going to take to get you in our business and to keep you in our business?”

I think a few data points that just quite honestly blew my mind. There’s a perception in the salon community that we are losing to rental, that if you have an employee-based salon, rental is your biggest competitor. I even as a salon owner would say, I felt at times that that is a truth, but this data debunked that a bit. First of all, 69% of the respondents said they want to go to an employee-based business after they graduate, or in that first part of their career.

Some salon owners might think, well, “Duh, they want me to build their clientele, they want education.” Maybe that’s a no brainer. The second part was 71% of the 69% said, “But I want to rent eventually.” That’s like all of our worst nightmares. I mean, that’s what keeps us up at night. We’re going to build you, you’re going to be finally making money and not costing us money, and then you’re going to leave us.

Killian Vigna: And take your book.

Stefanie Fox: Take your whole book of business, right? Dreadful, so stressful. What was amazing though, so those numbers kind of logically make sense, what’s amazing is that 89% of the 71% who said they wanted to leave eventually actually said they would stay if the salon could meet all of their needs, and that is a significant portion of our workforce. That’s like, “Hey, if you would give me what I think I need and want, I wouldn’t go anywhere.” I’m like, wow. What do you want?

Killian Vigna: Money, I reckon, yeah?

Stefanie Fox: What’s interesting then, okay, so that question dialed down into, what are the top things that you need and want? The first, like the number one thing, was flexibility. Number two was autonomy or a sense of autonomy, and number three was money. Money only actually made up 23% of that pool. That’s amazing. We can [crosstalk 00:12:01].

Killian Vigna: It is, yeah, because instantly you always think of a higher salary, more money commission. Yeah, yeah. That was-

Stefanie Fox: Yeah, it’s not the driver.

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: I wonder if COVID had a huge impact on the flexibility and autonomy part of that.

Stefanie Fox: Well, you know what? I think, one of the benefits of COVID, if there is one, is that salon owners were forced into flexibility and that’s been a real place of resistance for a lot of salon owners. They think stylists have to work these certain number of days or hours a week, or you can never not work Saturdays, or you won’t be successful, or you need three evenings a week. Like there’s this kind of mentality in the beauty space around what’s required to become successful, and so we’re kind of forced… Like when now we have less occupancy we’re allowed, hours are restricted.

If we can do that for COVID, we can come up with a long-term solution for flexibility. If we can solve that being their top need, awesome. That’s one step into keeping that 89%.

Survey demographics explained [13:00]

Killian Vigna: Yeah. Stef, I’m really interested in digging a little deeper into this. You surveyed 20,000 people. The last time we had you on the show, we discussed Millennials and enticing them into the workplace. Were these the same sort of demographics that you were interviewing, or sorry, surveying, or were there a lot older? Was it like, yeah, the more Millennial generation that you were surveying to get these results?

Stefanie Fox: Yeah, it’s actually a mix. It was not just Millennials, but it was a big chunk of Millennials because that’s a large portion of the workforce. This survey was made up of 47% Gen Z, 33% Millennial, 15% Gen X, and 5% Boomers.

Killian Vigna: That’s actually really impressive to say that that’s just everyone in general. It’s not this whole Millennial or Gen Z thing that wants more work-life balance. It’s actually everyone now. That’s just the general workforce. How do we make that happen?

Stefanie Fox: Yeah, exactly. I mean, it’s like, we have to stop being frustrated by it and seeing it as a thing that we can’t do and just decide we’re going to find a solution. I just think as the world moves forward and as people get more used to things being different.

It’s just like Uber, right? We would never get in a car with a stranger, and now we do, and it doesn’t matter what age you are. You accept that that’s a thing. The world’s just so open and so transparent, and things move so fast that we cannot apply that logic to our workforce.

They’re consumers, they’re out there consuming all different ways on-demand, instantaneous, and we have to be thinking about like, what does that mean for our industry? Why does our workforce then show up how they do? We really can’t be surprised.

What teams want from their salon [14:48]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Yeah. If autonomy, flexibility, and money, and I know I didn’t put them in the right order there, but if those were the top three needs for individuals, was there anything different in terms of what a collective group, say a salon team, would need? Because I’d imagine that would differ a little bit more. Maybe you want more education, maybe you want more… Like certain different things.

Stefanie Fox: Yeah, across the board, the reason why people said they picked salons, the number one reason was the team, and I thought, that was fascinating because… First, they say they want a team that feels like a family, like — top priority. Then the number one reason they actually pick the location they work in is for the team. But we’re in this interesting time where it’s really hard to understand anything about a team before you actually join the business. When you interview at a salon, I mean, if you shadow, you might have an hour for you to be around the team.

My thinking is they must be going off of like a gut check, right? In that hour, did I feel like the team was the type of people I want to be around, but there’s nothing actually tangible there that helps them determine that that’s a good fit. But other things that they said that they really cared about were, of course, education, and access to education. There’s a whole variety of what they want there. Old school thinking would have been it’s this one or two-year program.

Now, it comes all the way down to some people say, like, “I don’t want to go through a formal program. I want to take the education on the things that I say I want to learn, and that’s it.” Then, of course, there’s still a lot of people who want a formal program, whether it’s six months. Most people wanted three months or less for education that was formal.

Then the way they want education. Do they want it one-on-one? Do they want to in-person or online? Virtual was actually one of the lowest selections for education. I think it would be interesting to revisit in my 2021 survey, like how has that shifted because of COVID? Now that virtual has become a reality, no matter what you do with your life like you’re on Zoom.

Leadership was another key piece. The number one reason they pick you is your team. The number one reason they leave you is the leader. That’s interesting. I think it just speaks to like, they form this bond with the team, but they think of them as friends, and they’re willing to continue that friendship without working with them, but they’re not going to hang around if a leader is not great.

Attracting top talent by telling our culture story [17:14]

Killian Vigna: That’s actually a really interesting point about the desire, the crave to have a relationship with your team, which your boss. I’m going to park that one just for a second, or maybe Zoé can ask that next because one thing you mentioned and I wanted to dig into it was about how do you know if a salon is the right fit for you?

When you’re crawling from salon to salon, looking to apply or hand your CV in, when I look at how we look for jobs, it’s easy to go to a corporate website. You’ve got the “About Us” page, you’ve got the LinkedIn. It’s really easy to find out who the company is, the type of people who work there, the culture, and the values. Is that something, in your opinion, that salons offer or are they kind of lacking that to actually attract top talent at the moment?

Stefanie Fox: Yeah, I think it’s the number one opportunity in the beauty space right now, is to be better at telling our culture story. Knowing that that’s the number one problem salon owners say they have is recruiting talent. Go to the independent suite world, that world… The big players are doing this phenomenal job of telling a story of exactly what they offer, and it’s tapping directly into the hearts and minds of the stylist. So, they’re telling the narrative of you can work for yourself, own your own business, make the most money.

All the things that relate to the reasons they say they leave us, these large brands are like blasting out there that they can have. It’s this tangible, I can achieve this and have this. Whereas you look at the beauty industry on the other side of it, and it’s significantly made up of small business owners, who have like one to five locations, don’t have really their head solidly around how to market to a future team member. Some of them… Many of them are just getting their head around marketing to consumers with all of the different outlets we have to use.

What I encourage, based on the research I’ve done is that we have to be layering in that culture element. Like, who are we? What do we value? What’s the best thing about our team? If you were going to brag about your team, what would you say? That needs to be layered directly into your outbound marketing on every front that someone would look you up. The same way we think about making a marketing plan for how we’re going to tell the story to a consumer of why we’re their best salon to pick, we need to be telling that story to all the future employees.

If it’s just 10% of your marketing message, like every 10th Instagram posts, do something about your team. Great, start somewhere, because look at our… Like, our whole workforce is online. They go straight to your Instagram, they go straight to your website, they go straight to reviews, and they read about you. Give them what you want them to know, that’s what I think about, because they get it everywhere else.

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: It’s true, yeah.

Killian Vigna: It’s true, absolutely. Yep.

What "being a friend" and a leader really means [20:00]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: 100%. I’ll bring it back then to what Killian parked, the idea, yeah, for the friendship. It’s interesting because you mentioned it at the very start with leadership, where people are wanting to have that nearly like friend to friend relationship. Still, for salon owners, I suppose many of them, it might feel really awkward to act as a friend towards their teams. What does that mean essentially to be like a friend to them? How do you shift into that?

Stefanie Fox: Yeah. I think we get awkward because we try so hard to be casual because we don’t necessarily know how to manage the emotion that comes with giving people feedback on how to do a better job because your natural instinct is to think like they’re going to be offended, or they’re going to think I don’t like them. There’s a ton of narratives, but ultimately —

Killian Vigna: We crave to be liked.

Stefanie Fox: Yeah, on both sides, right? Like, we don’t want to make anybody mad. Friendship, I bucket that word, and when I did a deeper dive in the research, like, what do you mean by friends? Because a significant portion of them said, they want their leader to be their friend and give them feedback. It’s really about relationship. If you go back to what I said about an oath, we take this oath to show people the gap. That’s where the feedback has to come in, but you’re never going to have any of that received well if you don’t have a preexisting relationship with somebody.

Because then they don’t think you care. It’s like… If we think about anybody in our life that loves us, like our best friend, if your best friend came to you and they gave you a real hard truth, you would listen because you know they love you, and you know, as hard as that truth is to hear and whatever emotion it evokes, it is said with good intention. As leaders, we have to seek that level of relationship, where we do all the things we would do to build a great relationship with anyone else in a professional sphere, of course, so that we can follow through with our oath of helping them grow, and that they actually want to hear the feedback.

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Yeah, so it’s not at all about knowing everything about your staff’s life, but more just about building that foundation of a strong relationship.

Stefanie Fox: Exactly. It’s like, do they trust you? Do you trust them? Do they respect you? Do you respect them? Can you communicate with each other, both ways? Is there some level of connection? You actually enjoy that person? I always, for me the barometer like, if I had an employee that I just felt, I didn’t like, which was rare, but I can think of two occasions [crosstalk 00:22:35] existed. There was just something internal with me that just was like, I’m not showing up as the best leader, and when I dug into that, if I genuinely disliked this person for some reason or another, I can’t lead them. I’m not doing them any kind of service because I can not have a relationship with them, and that means they can’t be part of my team because that ruins my oath of like, my heart is I want to help people grow. I can’t help you grow if I don’t have that preexisting relationship with you. I think we have to work really hard on that. It’s an essential element.

Killian Vigna: It sounds really harsh that they can’t be proud of your team. Had the person done anything to give you a reason for that? Was there any balance there? Because I feel like the colleague, I’m going to assume they weren’t given it their all here, and you were just like, “Nah, I think we got to go into this.”

Stefanie Fox: Yeah (laughs). Ultimately, it comes back to that value alignment, which connects to culture, and this is that story tell. The better we get at telling our story, what we value, what’s critically important in our business, why we do the things we do, all the things that would help people understand us, that’s going to help us attract like-minded people. For me, the two times in my eight years of business that I had people that just I’m like, this is not going to work, there was a value misalignment, and it felt like it was substantial enough that it was going to disrupt both my ability to serve them well and then their ability to grow in my business.

Out of my desire to serve them well, I can’t not help them grow, so we have to part ways, because this is not going to work.

Killian Vigna: I’m glad it’s only ever happened twice in your life. Sounds a bit cutthroat.

Stefanie Fox: No (laughs)! Although my team would be… I always, and I would tell any leader that’s struggling here to do this. I teach people, straight up from the interview process, like we are a heavily feedback oriented team, and feedback goes all ways. You can give it to me, I’m going to give it to you. I’m going to ask people for feedback about you. You can ask for feedback about me. It’s just this very open, transparent space. So, they kind of start hearing that narrative from the get-go, and then when we’re working together, it’s no shock when I walk into the break room and say to my team, “Okay, what do you think about the new person? Like, how’s it going?”

Sometimes they’re like, “Well, should we tell you? Because are you going to be having a really hard conversation with them?” And they want to protect this person from the fact that I would… I will always have the conversation. I do it professionally and lovingly, but nobody likes having a hard conversation when they’re giving hard feedback. They’d like self-protect and also protect their team. Like, “Well, we don’t want to have you go talk to them about how they’re not doing shop duties yet.” I’m like, “Well, then you better talk to them!”

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: But… that’s what helps you grow!

Stefanie Fox: Exactly (laughs)!

Building a strong & healthy relationship with your salon team [25:19]

Killian Vigna: Stefanie, do you have any process in place then for putting yourself into the shoes of the BFF that they’ve never actually met before without actually being the BFF? How do you kind of fill that void that they’re looking for, but still maintain a professional presence?

Stefanie Fox: For me, again, it goes back to that interview process. In my interview process, I’m the fourth step, and that is, we have coffee. For me, I was fortunate that there was a coffee shop, just a few doors down from the business, but even if it meant meeting somebody offsite, I think just not being in the salon, sitting down and having coffee, I want to know you. I want to know what’s going on in your life. Not necessarily so I can be your best friend, but so that I can know what you care about and what happens in your day-to-day. Then for me, I had Tuesday mornings, always in my calendar blocked off.

I would hang in the break room for two hours as people were coming in and out, and just like, “Hey, how was your weekend? What’s going on in life?” As a catch-up. It was intentional because otherwise, I’d be all over the place. I mean, my schedule is so busy. It could be how, instead of the context of like, “How was your weekend? What’s going on in your life?” If you don’t want to be that casual, you could say, “How was your Saturday at work? What happened?” You can get specific, but it still is showing this interest. I want to know, I wasn’t here. Give me some update.

I think, if I was going to say about a process, it’s really just identify points that you can spend time with them in a way that’s not just at a coaching session where you’re laying out numbers in front of them and saying, “Oh, you’re pre-booking should be higher.”

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Yeah. I think the way you ask questions as well, changes the whole relationship. I think back to this like… The first few months of me being in Ireland when people would ask like, “Hey, how are you doing?” I would actually reply, and in Ireland, it’s just like a formality just to kind of say hi, and they don’t… It’s just like you pass by and that’s it. Right?

Killian Vigna: I’m not stopping for a conversation, I’m just asking, how are you? I’ve seen Zoé in that awkward position so many times in the stairs.

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Cringing thinking about it (laughs). But if you ask someone like, “Hey, how’s your day?” They’re probably just going to answer, “Good, how’s yours?” Flip it back to you straight away, because that’s what we’re used to hearing as a question. But if you go… I’ve tested this out with loads of my friends and even people not so close to me, but like, “What was the best part of your day yesterday?” Then you’re getting into something.

Stefanie Fox: Yeah, I love that. Yeah. I also think just being willing to… You work with somebody every day, you observe their emotional patterns. If you see something that seems off, being willing to check in with them, whether they seem like they’re in a great mood, maybe they’re celebrating something, or something’s a little down, it’s okay as a leader, and I think it’s important as a leader to check in and say, “Hey, how are you doing? It seems heavy with you this morning.” They don’t have to give you any details, but just the idea that you noticed tugs on somebody’s heart. So, it’s building those repetitive actions where they know they can come to you if something is going on, and they know that you’ll celebrate them, and that’s a big piece.

I think I learned this lesson, maybe the hard way in my life. I gave my team one year the love languages assessment because I wanted to know how they liked to feel loved. I think leadership is really about love. So many of them were words of appreciation, and I am terrible at that. In my brain, I’m.terrible at it. Even my husband is like, “Oh, I never get enough positive feedback.” I’m like, “Oh my gosh!” Because I’m just not good at it. I have to train myself to be because I recognize that, as much as I have in my brain that I appreciate them and consciously think it, it needs to come out of my mouth.

I started putting calendar alerts for myself, like pop-ups that would remind me to give people positive affirmation, because they need it. Then I did the same thing. I created a gratitude practice in my business, where once a month I would do something completely ridiculous like, I bought donuts and like, “You donuts how much I love you.” Just these silly things that… I can’t even think of all the ridiculous. I used Pinterest to find ideas, but once a month, I would just give them all some sort of a fun gift that was like a thank you. You guys rock.

I think getting intentional like that also builds that relationship that says like, I’m here for you, I care about you. It’s not just a number. You’re not just producing a profit in my business for me.

Navigating transparency levels as a salon leader [29:56]

Killian Vigna: As a leader operating the whole transparency approach like you want them to feel like everything’s transparent, have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’re going, maybe they’ve asked a question about you, and you’ve gone, “Maybe I shouldn’t give that level of detail?” Is there ever a grey area when it comes back to you? Because conversations are two-way, relationships are two-way. But, maybe sometimes it might kind of… That friendship that they feel might get a bit too relaxed. Have you ever had to nip anything like that in the bud?

Stefanie Fox: Not for me, personally. I think I’m pretty transparent, so I want them to know me, and I want them to know my life. I’m pretty honest about like “Today is rough. Apologies in advance if I don’t show up as my best self, it is a hard day.” I think where I see salon leaders get into the biggest mess with that is, if they spend a lot of time outside of work with their team with drinking involved. I definitely will have a cocktail here and there with my team, but it’s like, we’ll go out, and I’ll have one or two drinks, and then I’m like, “Great guys! See you later!”

I’m not going to be the one that’s out still awake at two o’clock, because I would rather be with my girlfriends if I’m going to go out and stay until two o’clock, because you can tip over into maybe way more personal information. As a leader, you just have to have that sense of responsibility that you know like, here’s kind of my line. I’m not going to be as silly and transparent with my team about topics that I would totally be with my best girlfriends because it could definitely create a sticky situation later. It could diminish respect, and that’s really, I think the line you’re walking is, be a friend, but not to the point that you diminish respect.

The power of connection: willpower & waypower [31:42]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: I was going to bring it back to connection there because we mentioned it in this episode, you mentioned it… It was actually a big part of your presentation at the Salon Owners Summit 2020. Anyone who remembers, you had like an anecdote about Italy and this part of Italy where people live a longer life expectancy. At Uplift! this year, you also talked about connection and said that it was composed of willpower and waypower. I would love for you to explain the nuance between the two, especially in a salon context.

Stefanie Fox: Yeah. For me, and again, this is all coming from asking stylists, like, “What do you want from us?” Connection is the basis for emotional stability and safety. Again, if we’re going to be somebody helping somebody else grow, and we know that means there’s going to be difficult conversations at times, we have to have emotional safety. Come back to the world today and all the things we went through in 2020, connection is what allows us to be hopeful. When you sense that you’re not alone, you can have a greater element of hope. Hope is comprised of willpower and waypower.

Willpower is this idea that, in your own mind, you have the will to get to an end goal or the will to achieve something, whereas waypower is you actually see a way to make it happen. You need both to get to an end game. You need to not only have the will but be forging an understanding of the way. I think that, as leaders, we are the will. We help create the willpower because if we’re leading and go back to that hand-in-hand idea, they know I trust this person, they’ve got my back. No matter how hard this feels, or how big I fail, I’m not by myself. Then we have a sense —

Killian Vigna: But not motivating.

Stefanie Fox: Not motivating, right? They also then have this sense that, as a leader, you should take responsibility for providing some of the waypower, because if people knew how to do all these things on their own, they’d be out there doing them. If we have tools, education, resources, network, whatever it is, those are all waypower tools. We have to be responsible as a leader for putting them in front of somebody because then they can —

Killian Vigna: That’s making sense now, yeah.

Stefanie Fox: Yeah. We’ve given them the like, hey, we’ve got you. We’re your cheerleader. We’re going to be right here with you. By the way, here’s maybe step one and how you get started.

Killian Vigna: Yeah. Would you call the need for education by providing educational resources, would that also be like waypower, or have you got a better example of… Sorry, waypower to me is just new. I kind of get willpower because I’ve always got terrible willpower when it comes to chocolate and drinks and stuff like that, but can you give me an example of waypower then?

Stefanie Fox: Yeah. Waypower would be, right now, performance in a business is critical. Salons need their team performing at their highest level, doing the best they can. The new performance report that Phorest just launched is a form of waypower. If I’m a leader and I have built my business around this idea that I’m going to help you grow and I’m trying to live up to this, “I’m going to give you feedback, and I’m going to care and be connected to you. By the way, here’s one of the ways I can help you grow. Here’s this tool I’m going to put in your hands. I’m going to teach you how to use it. I’m going to ask you to look at your numbers every day.” That’s a form of waypower that you’re giving them and saying like, here’s information in your hands.

Killian Vigna: So they don’t have to keep going to you to find out how they’re performing.

Stefanie Fox: Exactly.

Killian Vigna: That’s really good. I think we probably couldn’t have wrapped this episode up any better by literally giving them the tools in their hands and listen back to this episode, what? Every quarter, every couple of weeks when you’re doing your performance reviews or your one-to-ones. Willpower, waypower, put the tools in their hands. That’s excellent. Cheers. Alright, Zoé, I think you’re ready to queue up now with your third thought-starter of the season.

Reflections, upcoming events & final words [35:38]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Absolutely.

Killian Vigna: This is the bit that everyone gets either excited or nervous about. Which one are you, Stefanie?

Stefanie Fox: I don’t know. I’m a little nervous.

Killian Vigna: Well, I’m terrible at answering questions on the spot, so I’m glad it’s you and not me.

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: All right. Well, this actually ties really nicely into what you do with research. If you had to write a book, what would you write about?

Stefanie Fox: Oh goodness. I feel like I have like five book manuscripts on my computer right now. I always think about writing about —

Killian Vigna: What’s your first one to publish?

Stefanie Fox: If I was going to write a book, I would write about the power of our tribes around us. For me, the people in my life allow me to do everything I do. They give me all the willpower. When I don’t have the willpower, it’s like, I go back to them, I’m like, I need a dose. I would write about that. I’d write about the people in my life.

Killian Vigna: I just need a quick hit!

Stefanie Fox: Yeah, exactly. That’s my dopamine hit. It’s the people you know believe in you, and how crucial that is to get to whatever you’re dreaming up in life, whatever it is you want to do, however, you want to feel, it’s because of the people you surround yourself with.

Killian Vigna: That answer is just so everything you’ve talked about in this episode.

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Yeah!

Killian Vigna: Yeah, perfect.

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Perfectly aligned!

Stefanie Fox: I’m consistent (laughs)!

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Stefanie, if anyone wants to learn more about your research, or Talent Match, or anything else you do, where can people find you online?

Stefanie Fox: Yeah, so my website is, and there’s actually a place in the top right-hand corner. They can request the visual of all the research. So, it’s in a really nice format. They can read through. There’s a lot of information, so get ready to digest some interesting things. Or you can also follow me on Instagram at @stef_fox_jaxn. That’s my leadership inspiration dose. It’s my personal little dopamine hit that I do for myself every day. Hopefully, leaders get a little boost out of it.

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: I do personally, anyways. I follow you so I can attest to that!

Stefanie Fox: Yay (laughs)!

Killian Vigna: Excellent, Stef. Well, thank you so much for joining us on the show again, Stefanie. It’s been a pleasure!

Stefanie Fox: Yeah. Thanks for having me!

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Lots and lots of gems in this interview with Stefanie today. I hope that you bookmarked this episode.

In terms of what’s coming up next, we have a brand new webinar coming up on March 1st with Steve Gomez. You can find all the information about this webinar in the transcript of this episode, and you’ll also find a link to the Vish on-demand recorded webinar called Charging Your Worth, so you can catch that there.

One last thing before we sign off, don’t forget to head over to You can also subscribe to the show’s email newsletter, and get all the updates, guests’ downloadable content, resources, everything that we essentially talk about in these episodes delivered straight to your inbox weekly on Wednesdays.

As always, if you want to share your thoughts on Phorest FM, or this episode specifically, send us an email at, or you can leave us a review on Apple Podcasts! We never shy away from feedback. Otherwise, stay safe, and we’ll catch you next Monday.

Killian Vigna: All the best.

Related links

In 2021, with the emergence of a trend called “presence-free living,” we can expect to see consumers starting to put a premium on proximity, growth in innovative tools that make presence unnecessary and more than ever, brands needing to earn customers’ visits. A downward trend in frequency of visits is, in fact, already being observed across the salon industry.

In this session, Business Coach & Trainer Steve Gomez will support you in the following important areas of salon business: perception & thinking, sales growth & customer service, new client retention, cash flow management, and team involvement. Strengthen your approach to these areas, and you strengthen your business plan & improve results!

Save your spot on “Mission Control: Learn To Shift When Needed & Improve Results,” taking place on Monday, March 1st 2021 at 1:00 pm US Eastern Time.

More specifically:

  • Learn how your perception dictates results and how you can shift where needed
  • Discover new client integration & retention strategies
  • Grow your add-on business to bridge client traffic gaps

And, watch “Charging Your Worth: An In-Depth Look At Pricing & Communicating Value,” now available on-demand!

More specifically:

  • Learn how to break down your color business and understand pricing
  • Get ways to review and present options for communicating prices to clients
  • Understand how to take control of dispensed color and turn it into a profit center while also focusing on sustainable practices in your business

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This episode was edited and mixed by Audio Z: Montreal’s cutting-edge post-production studio for creative minds looking to have their vision professionally produced and mixed. Great music makes great moments. Tune in every Monday as Phorest FM brings you an inspirational mix of interviews with salon business leaders, marketing tips and salon growth insights. For your industry, by your industry.

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