I’ve always believed that having a strong, healthy culture is more important than a P&L statement. It gives people a reason to show up and do what’s best for them, their clients and the salon.
It’s also the strongest source of loyalty among staff members. A strong culture can effortlessly weed out the pears that are growing on your apple tree and give managers the opportunity to switch from policing behavior to managing systems that make everything work better.
In my business, our culture represents “likeminded people that work in an environment where they can thrive as individuals and as a group.” All of our policies, customer care practices, technical education, and hiring policies are based on this defi nition.
As the owner of three salons and an academy, and a lifetime stylist, I’m not only speaking from experience, but also my heart. Creating and living our culture has allowed us to grow our business from three employees in 1988, to over 150 in 2012. More important, our culture has become a self-sustaining energy, thanks to the synergy of a likeminded team.
At Eric Fisher Salons and Academy, everyone on our staff wholeheartedly believes that education is our key to thriving—not in terms of taking advantage of classes that come our way, but what we do on a consistent basis to ensure that learning and growing are always at the forefront of our agenda. In that spirit, we hold weekly workshops for stylists with two years or less experience and monthly workshops for all staff members. Our staff is responsible for bringing in models, doing their homework and being present. If education is also the core of your culture, then you have to live up to what it means to be an authentic, education-driven company.
|Eric Fisher, Head Coach of Eric Fisher Salons, Founder of Eric Fisher Academy, independent business and Aquage TeamQuest Educator|
My advice: While education delivers measurable rewards, it’s never a free ride. Creating and maintaining a quality education program requires a lot of work, research, organization, and awareness. It’s a big job that you can’t and shouldn’t do alone.
Empower your senior members to become teachers. Encourage your young professionals to master skills and then bring them to class. The old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” is no lie. A culture that’s successfully based on education is always a group effort.
As I travel all over the country doing independent business education and platform work for Aquage, many salon owners and managers tell me how difficult it is to get staff members to attend education and follow through with so many other things that would make their careers and salon business sing.
You may have a similar challenge. If your culture is based on education, but you’re having problems with others buying into it, you need to realize that your salon still has a culture, it’s just not the one that you want.
Whether you consciously create one or not, the moment your open your salon doors, you’re building a culture.
Shaping the right culture for your business takes commitment, careful thought and monitoring. When someone consistently refuses to buy into your culture, you could have a pear on your apple tree—or not. Everyone needs guidance. Are you failing that person in some way or have you made a poor hiring choice? Either way, you’ve got to take responsibility and take action. No matter what you must do, getting and keeping your culture on track will always strengthen your salon.
Just like some salon owners give piein- the-sky descriptions of their culture, many potential staff members can talk the same nonsense with a smiling and sincere expression. Before hiring someone, it’s essential to be able to separate fact from fiction. Does the person in front of you really have a thirst for knowledge? Is she fooling you? Is he fooling himself?
I’m the first to admit that I tend to be gullible when it comes to interviewing candidates. Knowing this weakness, I don’t get involved in the process until the initial screening has been done.
Part of this screening is the Myers- Briggs Type Indicator personality test, which helps people to discover their best career paths. [This test is available online.] Other parts of the hiring process include well-researched interview questions and techniques that we have honed over the years.
Fortunately, for the past five years, we’ve hired graduates from our academy who already embrace and practice our culture. For the first 19 years, though, we hired many stylists who had never been part of our organization. One of our caveats that we followed then and now: We don’t hire for talent; we hire for attitude.
A weary owner once told me that her salon was like an infant that never grew up. While I sympathized with her plight, I also felt glad that our situations were polar opposites. I’ve been able to remain a business owner for the past 24 years because our culture has given me the independence to not be a slave to the day-to-day operations.
I continue to do a set schedule of clients, be active on industry committees that help influence our industry, and travel on a frequent basis to teach independent business classes and platform work for Aquage. When I’m not present, I’m not neglecting my business or waiting for the other shoe to fall. Our culture keeps the business running correctly, whether I’m there or not. (EricFishersalon.com) (EricFisherAcademy.com)
|Eric Fisher Salon, West location|