Welcome to the Salon Owner’s Podcast, Phorest FM Episode 63. Co-hosted by Killian Vigna and Zoé Bélisle-Springer, Phorest FM is a weekly show that puts forth a mix of interviews with industry thought-leaders, salon/spa marketing tips, company insights and information on attending Phorest Academy webinars. Phorest FM is produced every Monday morning for your enjoyment with a cup of coffee on your day off.

Phorest FM Episode 63

The concept of leadership has been around for generations. Today, leaders come in all shapes and sizes. But what are the universal principles behind what we deem as good leadership? How can we bridge the gap between generations and create the one business everyone wants to work for?

Stephen R. Covey once said, “To change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.” And that’s precisely salon coach David Barnett of The High Performance Stylist’s point of view on things as well. On the show this week, he joins Killian and Zoe to discuss inspired leadership and ways to shape the dream workplace.


David Barnett is offering free 30-minute consultations for anyone looking for some advice or help with an aspect of their business. Pick a date and time that works for you – it’s fast and easy: https://meetme.so/DavidBarnett


Leave a Rating & Review: https://bit.ly/phorestfm


Killian Vigna: Welcome to the Phorest FM Podcast, Episode 63. I’m Killian Vigna…

Zoe Belisle-Springer: And I’m Zoe Belisle-Springer.

Killian Vigna: This week’s episode focuses on inspired leadership, or in other words, running the salon where everyone wants to work.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Joining us on the show to discuss this is salon coach and educator David Barnett from the High Performance Stylist. As always we top off the show with our upcoming Phorest Academy webinars.

Killian Vigna: So grab yourself a cup of coffee, sit back, relax, and join us weekly for all your salon’s business and marketing needs. Good morning Zoe.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Good morning Killian, how are you?

Killian Vigna: I’m good now. So, looking forward to this episode this week because, even though we’ve built up a little bit of kind of content ourselves through the blog and other podcasts and webinars, it’s something that we just can’t get enough of – it’s the leadership. So, what better person to, I suppose, talk about leadership, is a guest regular, David Barnett from the High Performance Stylist.

Good morning David, how are you?

David Barnett: Thanks Killian. Yeah I know, it’s always a pleasure to be here, and yeah I’m excited to do this episode with you.

Killian Vigna: Yeah I know, we just thought it’d be brilliant because you are a salon coach yourself, you have worked in the industry, so if there is anyone to talk about leadership best, it’s you, because you’ve had your own staff and now you inspire this into other salon owners.

David Barnett: Yeah, and I think that leadership has been something that we’ve seen have a massive shift in what’s going on in the industry right now. And I think that’s been the main cause why we’ve seen so many of the breakaways into different types of businesses like the salon suites and the more rental salons and that type of thing. I think it’s due to the way that we are leading salons. So it’s a great opportunity to kind of talk about what some of the most successful salons in our industry are doing differently and how they’re leading the way.

Killian Vigna: Yeah, Zoe you actually have a good question to kick it off with.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: I was just looking at things, and right, like I’m from a younger generation, and I feel like we have this difficulty leading the younger generation because of perhaps the fact that we were brought up with technology straight away. So how do you define “great leadership,” with all this generational gap?

David Barnett: Yeah. Well, I think that’s a great question. I think that the way that we approach… If we look at it two different ways, right? And I think this is the way that I look to explain it to some of the salons that we get to coach, is that there’s kind of like the old way and the new way, you know? Those of us that have been in the hairdressing industry long enough, we always remember that, you know, working for the salon, you worked for the boss, you worked for the brand, you worked for the name. He was kind of like on this pedestal or she was on this pedestal, and the team were there below it, you know? And we were there to support this salon or this brand or this boss.

Whereas now, the guys that are just kind of like knocking it out of the park right now, they’re the ones that show up for work saying, “Guys, what can I do for you? How can I best support you? You know, what are the tools that you need in order to be successful?” Because you’re so right, you know, the stylists of today, they have realized they are able to go and build their own brand and build their own business. You know, that is why so many of them have taken this kind of entrepreneurial route and decided to go and take over this one-chair salon or this tiny little space or go and rent a chair somewhere, and really build their own career and build their own business.

So now we need to be approaching our team members as if they were our bosses, you know? And we’re saying to them, you know, “What can I do for you? How can I best support you? What are the tools that you need in order to be massively successful?” Because I really believe that the stylist is the one that’s in control of their career now. And when they realize that, and the boss realizes that, things just kind of take off.

Killian Vigna: That’s interesting because I was going to ask, basically what I was going to say is, do you know where you kind of see a leader and people, when they’re younger especially, they always assume, “Oh you’re a born leader.” You always hear that phrase “you’re a born leader,” and when you talk about introverts and extroverts, I was going to say, is it something that you are, just genuinely born into or you can build into it? How did you find yourself approach leadership?

David Barnett: Yeah, you know, for me I was always fascinated by education. You know, I really enjoyed giving education. First of all, I love education whether I’m receiving it or whether I’m giving it, you know? But education was something that I always seemed to, you know wherever I worked it always seemed to be the niche that I fell into. You know, it was like, “David would you teach training night?” As soon as I finished my apprenticeship it was like, “Okay you can start teaching training night now,” you know?

And from there I’ve just always been in that role. But I think the beautiful thing about social media and building your business that way is that you can be an introvert and still be very loud on social media. You know, it’s not a case of having to be out there in front of people or shouting out your name anymore. Because I know that there’s a lot of hairdressers out there, you know, very very artistic, very talented, and very introverted. And really don’t like to be making a big noise and shouting, or standing on stage or being in front of a large class or a large room. But they don’t have to be anymore. They can be that introvert and still have a loud message.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: So how do you demonstrate those leadership skills? You know, on a day to day basis? Does it have anything to do with like, a proficiency to face challenges, or maybe it’s about being transparent, earning trust? Obviously earning trust is a big one.

David Barnett: Right. So I’ve got a couple of formulas that you really need to have in place in order to come across as that really supportful leader.

First of all, I just wanted to kind of put this out there, and that is that, you know, when I work with salons, always the salon owner is looking to get more profits, right? Become a more successful business. Which is, the old way of doing that is of course to get more clients in the chair or to be doing more services, right? We make more money.

What about instead of marketing to new clients, we were able to build a business and become famous for being the best place to work? And marketing to the best stylists in your area. Because let’s face it, if you’ve got the best stylists in your area working for you, or they’re knocking on your door wanting jobs, and they’re fully booked, then your job is done. You have a highly successful business. And I think that if you can approach it slightly differently, rather than going after the clients all the time, have a saying, you know, “What can we do differently for the team? How do we make this the place to work?”

And it’s not always through paying them more money. It’s not always that. You know, there’s plenty of other stuff that we can be doing. And I’ve got a couple of suggestions here for you.

So first thing is, there has to be those one-on-one meetings that you’re having with each team member. This is something that was just like, religious, in my salon. That Nicole and I sat down with each team member for at least 15 minutes every single month; it had to happen. And it was always on the same date, always at the same time. We were very, very consistent with it.

A lot of salon owners, what they do is, when they’re setting goals for their team member, they have a look at what they did last year, right? Let’s just throw out a number, for instance. Let’s say it’s 500,000 they did last year. And this year they want to do 600,000, so they want a 20% increase. So then they go and break down those numbers and they start to kind of distribute them amongst the team members and say like, “Okay this is your goal for the year; this is what I need you to be doing.”

Well, the stylist has no ownership over that goal. Because that is not their goal. That is the salon’s goal; that is your goal. So the first very important thing to do is to make sure that the goal that you’re setting is something that they have come up with themselves. So, it could be something that is nothing to do with the business, you know? I mean I’ve had stylists come to me and say, “You know what, my daughter has always wanted ballet lessons. I would love that for her, that within three or four months from now, I have the money that I can put it into this ballet school she wants to go to.” Or perhaps it’s a new car, or perhaps it’s a new couch or a wedding or a down payment on a house, whatever it may be, it needs to come from the individual.

Now, the thing is, that when they come up with that, everything that we do reverts back to how much money we bring in because it’s all associated, it’s all linked to it. But it can’t come from there, to begin with; it has to come from inside the stylist. It has to come from the heart, you know? And once they come up with, then we start to build on the goals: “Okay what does that look like? Let’s break it down into a financial goal.”

So, when you’re having the one on one meetings with them, then the first thing is, of course, to go and have a look at how they did the previous month. You know, let’s have a look at those numbers; let’s have a look at where you were. Did you hit the goal that you wanted to achieve? And of course you’re talking about the personal goal; you’re not talking about the financial goal for the salon, okay? And then, of course, you want to be able to reset them and make sure that they’ve got something else that they’re aiming for the following month.

And I think, you know, one of the most important questions is to always ask, “What else can I do to support you?” You know, “How can I best support you? What are your biggest challenges right now and how can I support that?” And I think that you know, the client just automatically connects with you then, and they find this different level or deep level of trust in you. And that’s what we need to get.

Killian Vigna: So you talk about, and the ownership, I’m going to get back to that because I’m actually so happy to hear you talk about the ownership. But you’re sitting down your staff, you’re doing one to one targets, one to one goals…

David Barnett: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Killian Vigna: How do you get everyone working together as a team? So do you, the whole, if one person is kind of lacking, you’ll get that like pointing the finger and team are starting to blame each other if performance dips in one area. So how do you get the team altogether to want to help you? So, I see you’re not doing as good in an area. I’m going to take it upon myself now to go and help you. As another staff member now, not as a leader. I’ll help you; I’ll support you. Because at the end of the day, we all have that one objective. So how do you motivate your team to want to help each other?

David Barnett: I think all of this comes back to communication, right? And I think that the salons that are just like, crushing it right now, who are doing so well…There’s times during each day where they are communicating together as a team. And we used to have the morning huddle; it’s something that I talk about a lot during my coaching programs. And I think it’s such an important thing because again, it just kind of unifies you; it’s five minutes in the morning where you get to talk about, you know, yesterday’s successes, you know what happened yesterday that was a huge success?

It could be something really, really small; it could be that a client asked for a Diet Coke, and you don’t serve Diet Coke but the stylist was good enough to go out and get one. You know? I mean that’s awesome service, you know. And of course, it could be that a client was so happy with her hair that she got up and she was hugging the stylist. Whatever it may be, whether an act of kindness or just success that you saw the previous day, then you celebrate it.

Then you look at the challenges for today. You know, what’s going on in the salon today that could possibly cause a challenge for you? And again, you’re identifying it as a team; you’re talking about it. Rather than a stylist noticing two appointments booked too close together and rather than saying anything she’s sitting in the back going, “Oh gee I can’t wait for my two o’clock; it’s going to absolutely kill me,” she’s going to go mad with the ethos going on here. You know? You’re identifying it and both of you, you know that there’s going to be support there that’s going to be help. And then the third part then is, what are the goals for today? What are the salon goals, what are the personal goals for today and how can we support each other?

So, to answer your question really, again, it’s just communication. I see so much of a lack of it in so many salons, and the idea with the huddle isn’t that you’re having this meeting every day; I think when it’s put across like that, of course, you get the big eye roll from the team and it’s like, “Oh my god, we’re meeting every day now? She’s out of her mind” or “he’s out of his mind,” you know? The idea is that you’re grabbing a coffee together. You’re grabbing a coffee and you’re setting yourself all up for success each day.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yes, I mean it’s the way you market it almost, I suppose.

David Barnett: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yes.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Would you think that communication is kind of like the most difficult part of being a leader, like making those communication streams open?

David Barnett: Yeah, absolutely, you know I think so in a lot of circumstances. Again, social media is an awesome tool to use within your group as well, you know? Within my own salon what we had was, we had, of course, our Facebook page and Instagram page for the salon. Then we also had a private group for our team, for the entire team, and then the management team, so there was like four of us who were in a management group as well.

And again it’s just such an easy way to communicate. Rather than having, you know, if you’re a leader, having to have the same conversation with multiple people at different times of the day, being able to shoot out a message anytime during the day or night, and be able to say, “Okay this is what’s happening tomorrow morning” or “this is what I need you to do.”

So I think social media, it’s not something that’s going away, you know; it’s something that’s here, and it’s something that is such an efficient tool for us if we use it correctly. And it’s not just for marketing, it’s also a great form of communication. So anything that you can do that you think works with your team, then use it.

Killian Vigna: Cool. And just on the other spectrum of that, so you’ve got your staff being more communicative with each other, being more supportive, wanting to help each other. What about egos? Because as a leader an ego can be, not just your staff members, but also sometimes you might have an ego, because when you get good at something you know you’re good at it. And that ego can sometimes, I suppose, deafen you from listening to other people. So how do you deal with it with other staff members who feel like they’re better than everyone else, or even yourself where you feel like you’re always in the right, that you’re eventually not listening to your staff. Has that ever happened to you?

David Barnett: Yeah, that’s a really great question. I think that an ego is definitely something that, as a leader, this is one of the biggest changes. Because it was, you know, some of the salon owners back in the day for sure anyway were famous for having the ego, you know? And I think it worked for them back then, because they were like the rockstars, you know? A few people are jumping into my mind right now as I’m thinking about it!

And I was probably like that when I first got into the leadership role myself. But it’s the one area now where you’ve got to realize that your salon, your business, isn’t the brick and mortar location; it is the team. You know, that is your business. Your people are your business, meaning your team members and your clients. That is your business. And you’ve got to be that protector. You’ve got to look after them and support them, you know? If you realize that and you understand it, then your business will thrive. If you think it’s all about you, or anyone would work for you or they’d be happy to work for you, then you’re going to have problems somewhere down the line, I can almost guarantee it.

Killian Vigna: And do you feel that, like you were saying it’s kind of the old school approach, is this still an issue at the moment, or do you think that people have now moved into the next level of leadership?

David Barnett: You know, you can definitely see it. There’s definitely some salons out there that are still living that way. And maybe they’ve been in business long enough to get by, but I think you’re going to see that this new approach to leadership will far outdo the old approach. And I think you’re going to see them just rise past them. And I think it’s the answer to having a massively successful salon now, is creating this place of massive support.

Killian Vigna: Yeah, because just like the title of the episode, it’s not about, “I’m going to be the best salon;” it’s a place that people want to work in, want to work for you.

David Barnett: Yeah, yeah. And another thing that is often thought in the industry, which I think is wrong as well, is the fact that a lot of stylists believe they can earn more renting somewhere than working in a commission or a salary based salon, which is just, again, not true. You know, I had a commission-based salon and the stylists that were working for me were earning much more money than what they could ever earn renting a chair somewhere.

But again, it’s about having the systems in place to allow them to continue to grow. You know, having the support there for them, having the assistants or the apprentices there for them to support them, to allow them to see more guests and be able to charge more prices and see more clients and make more money.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: So do you have any like, specific examples of what some of the most successful leaders today are doing at the moment? Like doing differently, when you say that new approach to leadership?

David Barnett: You know, I’m seeing a lot of salon owners now start to step away from behind the chair, so they can actually play this role even better. So like I was talking about, the one-on-ones and the huddles every day. But just coming up with whatever ideas they can in order to support, to market to their community, and that becomes more of their role, rather than seeing their own guests and focusing on their own clientele. Which I think would probably be a dream for a lot of salon owners as well; they would love to get out behind the chair, but not getting out behind the chair to do less work, but just to switch roles. Now, still work just as hard as what they were working, but more in this supportive role.

Killian Vigna: You have to change that hat eventually; you can’t always be the stylist of your own business if you want to grow that business.

David Barnett: 100%, I agree with that. I agree with that, you know. And I’ve watched so many salon owners who continue to just, you know, be the busiest stylist in the salon; they feel that is the way to probably set an example to their team members. And I think that’s true up to a certain point, but then you’ve got to realize that your role, especially if you want to do another location or grow the business in other areas, then you’ve got to take your focus away from your own clientele.  And really kind of manage your business as if you have seven or eight smaller businesses. If you’ve got eight stylists, if you managed it like you have eight businesses, then I think you’ll see things completely shift. You know, I think that is a great, great way to look at it.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: So would you almost compare today’s new way of leadership almost as a mentorship relationship with your employee?

David Barnett: Yeah, 100%. I think, 100%. Yeah, I think that’s a great way to look at it. That you are mentoring the whole way through. But I think it’s always been a bit of a mentorship, you know? But I just think, there’s a deeper level of support. I think a lot of salon owners live in this fear that you’re going to support this stylist and then they’re going to up and leave and go down the street, you know? They’re very reactive with their leadership; they’ll kind of wait for something to happen, “Oh yeah I’m going to give him all this, and then he’s going to take his clients down the street.” You know, at the end of the day, we can’t run our business from that type of fear. We’ve got to just release that.

And there’s a much, much higher chance of that stylist staying with you, and going on to be even more successful, if you give them the tools. If you hold back, there’s a much higher chance they’re going to leave. And at the end of the day, if they’re going to leave, they’re going to leave. So, we move one. Stylists have been doing this for years, you know? And it happens. But let’s make them highly successful, and let’s give them the type of support that’s going to make them think, “You know what? I wouldn’t go anywhere else. This is so great.”

Killian Vigna: And that is something that came up in a recent episode, about staff retention, because we always talk about client retention. But the staff retention was, if they’re going to leave, they’re going to leave. But you have to treat everyone as if they want to stay with you for the next 20, 30 years because not everyone wants to go out and be their own businessperson…

David Barnett: Right.

Killian Vigna: Not everyone wants to be their own salon owner. You were bold enough and brave enough to make the decision, but not everyone has that passion that you do.

David Barnett: Right.

Killian Vigna: So, invest in your own guys.

David Barnett: Yeah. I mean, like I was just saying there earlier about my own stylists, we had multiple stylists earning over six figures, you know? And why would they want to go and open their own place and have all that pressure on them, you know, when they’re taking home that kind of paycheck. I was like, “They’re kind of matching my check, you know? And I’ve got to go home and deal with everything else, and manage everybody else on my team.” So I completely agree with that, that a lot of people have no interest in opening their own place; they just want to have a highly successful career and work somewhere where they’re really appreciated.

Killian Vigna: And do you have any tips or advice for a salon owner that wants to find their own mentor? So what we were saying about mentoring your own staff, how would a salon owner go about to find their own mentor?

David Barnett: Yeah. I mean there’s a lot of different avenues right now. This is an area that my wife and I obviously felt that this was something that was needed in our industry. And that’s why we kind of decided to sell our California business and go into coaching full-time.

So, certainly, I would love to be a resource for anybody out there. You know, if there’s something going on in your business and you are just like, “You know what? I’ve tried to find the answer for this but, I can’t find it,” or “I can’t find the right advice.” Or, “My business is totally different from anybody else’s out there,” which of course we all think on some level. If that’s what you’re feeling then I’d be happy to offer a 30-minute coaching call complimentary to anybody who would love to just have 30 minutes with me. I’d be happy to do that.

Killian Vigna: That’s absolutely brilliant, because when you’re so wrapped up in your own business, you could be missing simple things.

David Barnett: Yes.

Killian Vigna: So having someone like you come in and take a fresh approach, a fresh look at it, it’s like you’re saying, even at 30 minutes you might see a load of stuff that they just never even thought of.

David Barnett: Yeah. You know what, so many owners out there totally miss what seems like an obvious opportunity to me. Because when you’re in it, you’re doing those clients every single day, you’re trying to manage the business, and all of your focus goes on to what’s not happening. You know, all of the negatives that are going on, they’re the things that tend to fill up your mind.

So yes, definitely, an outsider’s approach, an outsider’s viewpoint of it. And sometimes just a 30-minute conversation, and you come up with the answers yourself. That’s a great thing; sometimes it just takes having a proper chat about it to somebody and you’ll come up with the answers. You know, everything is fixable for sure.

Killian Vigna: Like, I even find here sometimes, when a project just isn’t working for me, I’ll talk to someone, even if they don’t understand what I’m talking about, they could be a wall for me, but after saying it loud, you’ll start going, “Well hang on a second…” Sometimes you just need to hear yourself say it to instantly pick up and go, “Well actually…”

David Barnett: Right.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: That happens to me all the time; I can totally relate to that!

David Barnett: Yeah, 100%. So, what I’ll do is I’ll give you the link to my schedule and what they’ll see then, if they click on the link there’s a very short questionnaire there, so if you’ve got something going on with your business you can fill out the questionnaire, just to give me an idea of what’s happening, and then I’m happy to schedule a call with you.

Killian Vigna: So David, we’ll put that in the blurb, we’ll put that in the episode’s notes, on the social media and stuff, but just to summarize this episode today, you’ve obviously been around a good…

David Barnett: Many years. Thanks!

Killian Vigna: I trying to very carefully phrase this! Okay so like you said, you’ve been around for many years. Just to summarize, how can you compare, so someone that you feel might be still stuck in the old form of leadership and wants to move into new leadership, how do you identify what you’re currently doing that needs to move on to what you should be doing?

David Barnett: I think the first question has to be, how well do you know your team? Do you know what their personal and their professional goals are? How well do you know them? Because I think, it’s really important to understand exactly what makes them tick, you know, what’s going to light them up. And it’s different for everybody, you know. And if you feel like, “I just cannot motivate this lot,” you know, or “I’ve got certain stylists, and they are just so lazy, they just won’t do what I ask them to do…”

Killian Vigna: Passing the blame.

David Barnett: Yeah, is it because you don’t understand them? Have you actually taken them out for a coffee? Sometimes it takes that to take them out of the salon, and just have that conversation about, you know, “What is it that you want? If I could wave a magic wand and six months from now, what would you love to see happen? And let’s see if I can help you with that.”

And I think that level of understanding is the difference between the new and what used to go on. I mean it’s funny you know, you look at some of these shows that are on TV now, or even like Tabatha’s Salon Takeover, or… What’s the one with the chef?

Killian Vigna: Gordon Ramsey.

David Barnett: Gordon Ramsey, you know. And it all comes back to the owners, you know? You never see him really going crazy at any of the staff, or you never see Tabatha going crazy at any of the staff; it always comes back to the leadership. You know, it comes from above, and it’s up to you to set the tone.

And honestly, if you can connect with your team at this level, on that personal level where you really understand them and they are open with you, then you’ll get this unbelievable level of respect, you know? And you’ll find that they’ve got this new fire in their belly to want to be successful for you.

Killian Vigna: So, number one, take ownership of your team?

David Barnett: 100%.

Killian Vigna: Take ownership of your business.

David Barnett: Mm-hmm (affirmative), 100%, yeah.

Killian Vigna: That’s been absolutely brilliant, David. Thanks very much for that.

David Barnett: My pleasure. My pleasure as always, thanks a lot.

Killian Vigna: And always, our second part of the show is our webinar section. Over to you Zoe.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yes, so coming up is Valerie Delforge’s second to last instalment of the Salon Management Series, so “How to Handle Difficult Staff.” That takes place on Tuesday, March 6 at 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. U.K./Ireland time or 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. U.S. Eastern Time. And if you want to sign up for that, all you have to do is go on to our Facebook page in the events section, click the “How to Handle Difficult Staff” event; find tickets, register there; it’s free as usual. It’s just to save you a spot on the date.

So that’s it for us today. If you have any feedback, feel free to leave us a review on iTunes or on Stitcher; we’re always looking for suggestions on how to improve the show. Otherwise, have a wonderful week, and we’ll catch you next Monday.

Killian Vigna: All the best!

Thanks for reading!


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