February 21, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments
The salon/spa industry’s longstanding approach to compensation is built on one seriously simple method: If a service provider delivers a service, or sells a product, he or she gets a piece.
In order to get that “piece,” the salon/spa must determine “who gets the credit” for the service or product sale.
Here are the four most common “who gets the credit” challenges:
- One or more service providers work on one client and each expects to get “a piece” of the ticket.
- A front desk/guest services employee sells a retail item to client at checkout. The service provider has a fit because he/she didn’t get the credit.
- Front desk/guest services employees disengage from closing or selling retail because the credit and commission automatically goes to the service provider.
- A service provider says, “I’m not doing [insert service/product sale] unless I get a piece.”
These four challenges may seem extremely basic, but they’re far from it. Why? Because the moment an employee feels short-changed or cheated, it contaminates your culture and spreads like wildfire.... Read More
February 14, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments
When you admire any company’s culture, commitment to quality and relentless customer service, you’re admiring its values-based behavior.
That level of refined values-based behavior doesn’t just happen. It’s designed and meticulously cared for. Most importantly, it begins at the top.
The structure, discipline, values and guiding principles are the granite blocks that a salon/spa culture is built on.
That doesn’t mean a salon/spa is so rigid that it’s incapable of
changing. It just means its core behaviors are deeply rooted in its values.
Tampering with the values of your salon/spa is much like tampering with the forces of nature. When the owner or leader compromises your company’s values, it can cause a tidal wave of otherwise avoidable issues, problems, and drama.... Read More
January 31, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | 3 Comments
For owners, staying positive in these uncertain times is something you need to keep working at.
Of course, you’re weary of dealing with this pandemic. It’s been a tough ten months and COVID-19 is going to be with us a while longer.
When you’re dealing with cancellations, no shows, reduced capacity, client fears, employee quarantines, and tight cash flow, staying positive is a challenge.
As an owner, your ability to stay positive cannot be underestimated or ignored. Why? Because the owner’s positivity establishes the company’s sense of urgency and performance expectations. So much so that the culture and performance of a salon/spa business is a direct reflection of the owner’s level of positivity.... Read More
December 6, 2020 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments
Strategies definition of Staff Retention: “The staff retention business outcome is all about creating a dynamic and empowering culture to attract and retain the best employees — and doing so with no-compromise leadership, open communication, integrity, and respect.”
FACT: Employees come and go. However, the “employees just don’t stay with salons/spas very long anymore,” or, “Why train them if they’re just going leave,” thinking is doing more to encourage turnover than improve it.
- Excellent employee retention doesn’t just happen.
- Paying high commission doesn’t improve retention.
- Allowing employees to do as they please doesn’t improve retention.
Building an integrity-based culture with a team that’s committing to growing the salon/spa is what retains employees.
This year’s winner of the 2020 Team-Based Pay Staff Retention Award is…... Read More
October 25, 2020 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment
No one becomes an owner for the thrill and excitement of dealing with problem employees. In fact, dealing with problem employees is probably the most disliked of all ownership responsibilities. It’s stressful, exhausting and, next to financial stress, a major contributor to owner burnout.
FACT: There’s no secret training camp that prepares problem employees to infiltrate your business, wreck your culture and stress you out.
There are three primary reasons that problem employees find their way into your business:
- Bad fit: A potential employee may appear to be a good fit through the interviewing process but lack the necessary thinking and behavior to fit into your culture. Examples: Attendance, teamwork, following rules, attitude, mutual respect, etc..
- Evolved over time: A good employee can become a problem employee due to the work environment. This includes lack of or indifferent leadership, broken trust/promises, lack of opportunity, lack of appreciation, etc..
- Personal issues: Life challenges, personal relationships, drugs/alcohol, and other factors that have nothing to do with work can turn a good employee into a problem employee.
If you own an employee-based salon or spa, you will have to deal with problem employees. To what extent really depends on you and your approach to leadership.... Read More
October 4, 2020 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments
They used to be called “receptionists.”
Smile. Be pleasant. Answer the phone. Book appointments. Check clients in and out. What could be easier?
FACT: If you want to experience the most demanding position at a salon/spa — work the front desk for eight hours on a busy day.
Today’s front desk/guest services employees are an integral part of driving salon/spa growth, productivity, client retention, retail sales, and just about all essential critical numbers.
In celebration of these hard-working individuals, we give you the top ten characteristics of an awesome front desk/guest services employee:
- Servant’s heart with a commander’s brain: A service-intensive business like a salon/spa is a balancing act between customer service and business efficiency. The servant’s heart is the ability to make clients feel cared for. The commander’s brain is to ensure efficient client flow between service providers and maintain client scheduling on the appointment book with a focus on driving productivity.
- Ability to anticipate needs: All salons/spas want to deliver extraordinary customer service experiences. But going through the motions of checking in, checking out, answering the phone and booking appointments is far from extraordinary. In order for extraordinary customer service experiences to consistently occur, front desk/guest services employees must have the ability to anticipate client needs. For example, they should be able to “read” a client’s stress level with reassurance and extra personal attention. Anticipating needs unlocks the door to extraordinary customer service experiences.
- Attention to detail: How many Mrs. Smith’s are in your database and they’re all the same “Mrs. Smith”? How many appointments are made with an incorrect phone number or no phone number at all? How many appointments are scheduled incorrectly? How many missed prebooks and retail sales occur during the course of the day? It doesn’t take much to disrupt the flow of business, upset a client, miss simple opportunities, or stress out a service provider. Botched data, indifferent “it’s good enough” thinking, or incorrect appointments can quickly sabotage your business. The best salons/spas make attention to detail a non-negotiable.
- Task and systems oriented: Everything … repeat everything … at the front desk is task and systems driven. Even if you replaced your front desk with a technology solution like iPads or tablets, locking into tasks and systems is even more important. Operations Manuals and documented procedures, and the training to support them, are essential. For this very reason, individuals that are task and systems oriented are a must. Anything less is a compromise.
- Multitasks wisely: There are people that pride themselves at being multitaskers that appear busy as heck but get little done. An awesome front desk/guest services employee excels at establishing priorities, often in the moment. This means that the most essential task at the time is being addressed — most often to avoid a potential problem or upset client.
- Cool under pressure: The phone is ringing. Clients are waiting to check in while other clients are waiting to checkout. You’re on the phone with a client that wants to book multiple hair and spa services. Service providers are running behind and waiting clients are getting upset. If this scenario sounds like a nightmare to a candidate, it’s a bad fit and he/she won’t last long in the position.
- Never compromise a system or procedure: Consistency at the front desk means thoroughness. It means being accountable. It means understanding how vital systems and procedures are to customer service and the performance of the company. Awesome front desk/guest service employees earn trust and respect by doing their work and making it appear effortless.
- Essential for driving overall productivity rate: Front desk/guest services employees are responsible for the most precious commodity of salon/spa business — hours available for sale on the appointment book. It’s not just one column, it’s all columns. It’s everything from up-selling services and filling white space, to keeping clients off the waiting list when the time and skills are available. The hallmark of an awesome front desk/guest services employee is an impeccably managed appointment book.
- Ensures service providers prebook and recommend retail: It’s the service provider’s responsibility to recommend prebook services and retail products to clients. It’s the front desk/guest services responsibility to lock in prebooked appointments and “close” retail sales. This cannot happen if front desk/guest services employees don’t receive or ask the service provider for prebook and retail recommendations. The transition from service provider to front desk checkout must be seamless. Awesome front desk/guest services employees help keep service providers on task by requiring prebook and retail recommendations.
- Valued member of the team: Just like service providers, front desk/guest services employees are vital to achieving true teamwork. They are not second-class citizens simply because they don’t do services and lack a professional license. Most of all, they should not be regarded as minimum-wage/low paid employees. Any employee that meets the previous nine characteristics is a valued member of the team.
Here’s my challenge to you: How do these ten characteristics match up with your current front desk/guest services employees?... Read More
June 29, 2020 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments
Depending on the state, some salons and spas have been open since the end of April. Salons and spas in eastern PA and NY are just reopening … or about to. Salons and spas in certain counties in CA are still waiting to reopen.
For most of you, it’s been a mad dash to get your salon/spa reopened. You had to figure out all the safety protocols, acquire PPE, get your employees off unemployment, sanitize everything, reschedule client appointments … phew.
No matter where your salon/spa is in the reopening timeline, checking all the boxes in all those reopening checklists is a daunting task. It’s easy to miss a few. It’s easy for a new system or protocol to become inconsistent, ignored or forgotten.
More importantly, there are to-do’s that should have been on your checklist that you didn’t know about, or feel were important, or just didn’t want to deal with.
At Strategies, our mission is to help owners lead and grow salons and spas that are capable of delivering service excellence in the most efficient, productive and consistently profitable manner possible. To do so requires the right leadership approach, systems and team-based culture.... Read More
June 22, 2020 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments
During the mandated business closure, many owners worked extra hard at maintaining contact with employees. Weekly Zoom meetings quickly became the new norm.
During the stay at home period, maintaining your salon/spa culture and connectedness became more essential than ever. For owners and employees, just being able to see and interact with team members provided some semblance of normalcy.
Now that all but a few areas have reopened, the quest to find that “new normal” may appear well underway, but with the extreme busyness that comes with reopening, the need for connecting with employees has never been greater.
FACT 1: After months of being closed and reopening with social distancing, sanitizing protocols, reduced capacity, and wearing PPE, owners and employees are working under extreme pressure to accommodate high client demand for services.
FACT 2: When working under extreme pressure, internal communication systems are prone to breakdown — especially taking the time for one-on-one’s with employees.... Read More
January 27, 2020 | By Neil Ducoff | 8 Comments
I began my career in the salon industry in 1970. Back then, booth rental was more of an oddity found mostly in the Midwest and Southern California.
Back then, the prevailing salon business model was as follows:
- Hire a stylist
- Give them some clients
- Pay them a commission (at the time, it was 50% to 60% or higher)
- Tell them to build “their” request rate to build “their” clientele
- Raise their prices when they’re booked solid (sometimes increase commission rate with prices)
- Offer little-to-no employment benefits
- Get pissed when they leave with “their” clients
The salon game was simple. Fill enough chairs with busy stylists and, by all appearances, you had a successful salon.
Owners that picked a commission rate below 50% had a better chance of creating profit than those that picked 50% or higher.
Enter the “Product Cost Deduction”... Read More
July 30, 2018 | By Neil Ducoff | 4 Comments
For as long as I can remember, salon/spa owners have been saying, “I can’t find good people.”
Today, more than ever, we hear our coaching clients expressing their recruitment frustrations. Owners are saying:
- Enrollments are down at cosmetology schools and schools are closing.
- Chains are grabbing up the graduates and burn through them.
- The lure of booth rental and suites is hard to compete against.
I decided to contact long-time coaching client and Team-Based Pay advocate, Shawn Trujillo, to get his take on school enrollments and recruitment. Shawn and his wife Angie own seven Lunatic Fringe salons and two Paul Mitchel Schools in Utah.
I figured Shawn could provide accurate insight into school enrollments at his schools. Shawn’s feedback:
- School enrollment is been very consistent in recent years.
- There are no indications that this trend is going to change.
- Some Paul Mitchell Schools report a decline.
Paul DiGrigoli, owner of the DiGrigoli School of Cosmetology in West Springfield, MA, reports that enrollments are are down slightly. Through his very active speaking schedule, Paul adds that enrollments at most schools are down.... Read More
February 12, 2018 | By Neil Ducoff | 6 Comments
I had two back-to-back coaching calls with two salon/spa leaders where the focus was on a long-term service provider.
- Call number one was on creating new opportunities for an extremely busy stylist.
- Call number two was on how to end the relationship.
Losing a highly productive long-term service provider is disruptive and costly. Although the two scenarios in my coaching calls were quite different, both offered up some vital lessons for all owners and managers.
Scenario One: New opportunity for busy stylist
On call number one, the general manager and stylist were on the call. The stylist has been with the salon/spa since opening almost ten years ago. She is on Team-Based Pay at a premium hourly rate with an always-full appointment book.
It was a wonderful coaching call because it wasn’t about how to drive more revenue through the stylist’s two hands. It was about carving out a few hours a week for the stylist to contribute to the company in other ways, such as training and mentoring new talent.... Read More
February 27, 2017 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments
Last week, I gave you my top ten reasons why great employees leave. This week, I want to take you inside my top ten reasons great employees stay.
What I don’t want to do is regurgitate a litany of obvious reasons like career paths and growth opportunities.
Because great employees show up, deliver results and consistently go above and beyond to support the company … they could easily jump ship for a better job offer or, if bold enough, strike out on their own…
But they don’t.
The reasons great employees stay go beyond the obvious. There are deeper multi-faceted emotional and relationship connections that create a bond between what the salon/spa is, and its ability to fulfill the great employee’s needs and ambitions.
From a 30,000 foot viewpoint, great employees stay because of what surrounds them, encourages them, nurtures them, pushes them, cares for them … and rewards them.... Read More
February 20, 2017 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment
Don’t forget to check out the follow-up to this post, 10 Reasons Why Great Salon & Spa Employees STAY.
Employee turnover at salons and spas has always been a horrendous problem.
The most dreaded employee exodus is the infamous “walkout.” It can turn an otherwise busy salon/spa into a cash-starved ghost town overnight.
Today, with suites offering your best employees a seemingly enticing and easy transition to become “independent”, employee-based salon/spa owners are being force to upgrade their business models. In other words, to create a sustainable business model that is less susceptible to employee turnover.
Employees leave for many reasons, many of which are quite valid. But when great employees leave due to the leadership, operation and culture of the business … that’s a wake-up call that owners must heed.... Read More
April 11, 2016 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment
When service providers decide to quit a salon/spa, it is anything but, “Go gently into that good night.”
All too often, the process plays out with clandestine plotting and close teammates swearing secrecy. The easy part is quitting the salon/spa.
The difficult part is figuring out how to get the clients they serviced to follow them to a new location. The presumption is that all clients that requested them “belong to them.” And why not, they did the work.
Owners have a very different perspective. Owners look at their investment in training, coaching and filling the service provider’s appointment books with new clients. Owners look at the collective effort that is required to “build” a successful service provider.
Most importantly, owners regard their customer database, client history, formulas and other data as an asset and company property.
There are many voices in the industry that say, “no one owns the client” and that clients are free to go wherever they choose. Yes, clients are free to go wherever they choose. But, when the departing employee actively solicits those clients … often times through unauthorized use of client data … that’s when things get ugly.... Read More
February 25, 2016 | By Eric Ducoff | No Comments
It’s the age-old question posed by salon/spa owners…
Why don’t they ever do things like I want them to?
Well, maybe they never realized they were doing them wrong! If that’s the case, there’s no quicker and easier way to get staff back on track than with a performance evaluation.
One of the most effective ways to get the most out of your salon/spa staff is to give them lots of feedback. There’s a saying in Human Resources that nothing said in a performance review should ever be a surprise for an employee. Problems should be dealt with as they arise, and not saved for formal reviews. And be generous with your praise. What gets rewarded, gets repeated!... Read More
February 15, 2016 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments
Everyone knows about the “walls,” though few openly speak of them. These are the invisible barriers that stand between stations, between technical and guest services, between staff and ownership.
- Everyone agrees the walls should come down, but few know where to begin. The fact is, many of these barriers can be circumvented, and eventually torn down, by a new approach to client service.
The question of who “owns” the client is central to the thinking of most stylists and technicians, because they want to own as many as possible. This is especially prevalent in commission salons/spas where income is based solely on individual service and retail sales. In such circumstances, more clients equal more money. But this mentality builds those infamous invisible barriers within the salon.
Everyone who works does so, at least partly, in the pursuit of money. Working long hours in order to live well is a common endeavor. But at what point do customer relations begin to suffer?... Read More
December 21, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment
Consider the annual income of three salon/spa employees from entry-level to senior service provider. If the-entry-level employee is making $10 an hour and working 40 hours per week, the annual gross income will be $20,800. A mid level service provider at a rate of $20 an hour, working 40 hours per week, will earn $41,600. A master level service provider at $45 an hour, working 40 hours per week, will earn $93,600. (Tip income is not included.)
Now, let’s go shopping for a new car in the $20,800 price range. There is a wide selection of economy-priced cars on the market today. From an expectation point of view, you want a decent level of quality, performance, comfort and some nice features like Bluetooth phone connectivity. You know your expectations must be in line with your budget – but you also will not accept any car that doesn’t meet your minimum expectations. QUESTION: When paying an entry-level service provider $20,800, why would you accept anything less than your minimum expectations?... Read More
December 14, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments
Everyone wants to be part of something – to belong. Team momentum and excitement are infectious. Teamwork pulls people together in the most positive and inspiring way. When your salon/spa’s team spirit is strong enough, even your self-proclaimed diehard loners and change resisters will find themselves subtly seeking a way to align with the team. Call it teamwork, camaraderie, or your family at work, the effect teamwork has on staff retention is the magic that every company can, and must, strive to achieve.
Throughout my working years, I’ve been part of three teams that stand out. With two of those teams, I was an employee. Of those two, one was a salon and the other was a publishing company. We were truly tight as co-workers, and relentlessly focused on goals and vision. Both companies had inspiring leaders who kept us on task and totally accountable for our actions and results. We were proud and WOW, were we ever productive. In both cases, when our teams’ fearless leaders moved on (one was promoted and the other turned into a jerk) the team energy and focus left with them. For me personally, I yearned for the involvement, camaraderie and growth I experienced on those teams. So much so, that without the team connectedness, I found myself looking for other opportunities beyond the company. In both instances, my searching led me to start my own companies.... Read More
December 7, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | 3 Comments
For a salon/spa, walkouts are the ultimate “destroy from within” scenario. What could be worse than once trusted employees clandestinely plotting to inflict severe damage on your business? What could be worse than having years of training and developing staff, loyal clients – and cash flow – relocate up the street?
In the walkout aftermath, owners are left feeling violated, scared and overwhelmed by the task of rebuilding. The stress and spinning scenarios of surviving a walkout can wreak havoc on an owner’s confidence and determination to rebuild. What will clients think when they return to a near empty business? Will you be able to meet payroll? How will the bills and rent get paid? Will you have to stop taking your paycheck? Will you ever be able to trust employees again? Many begin to question if business ownership is worth all the stress and hard work.
FACT: Walkouts happen for many reasons. Most often, the seeds of a walkout are unknowingly planted by the very owners and leaders that feel so victimized in the aftermath. Because of their labor intensive nature, a salon/spa is a leadership intensive business. Dialing back on any aspect of leadership, systems, accountability, employee development, appreciation and culture building assures the planting of walkout seeds.... Read More
October 5, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments
No-compromise leadership = Consistency across all four business outcomes (Productivity, Profitability, Staff Retention and Customer Loyalty). It’s such a simple equation. Yet, within its simplicity is a profound message to all who lead, or seek to lead others. The rich word for me here is consistency. Consistency is perhaps the most challenging aspect of no-compromise leadership to comprehend and live, because how one leads is influenced by the leader’s collective abilities, beliefs, behavior styles, perceptions and life experiences.
How long your voyage to no-compromise leadership will take depends on current behavior patterns. Some people are natural achievers while others are procrastinators. There are those who obsess over every minor detail in their quest for perfection. In leadership positions they can bog things down by micro-managing everything. At the other end of the spectrum are those who hate the details and do all they can to avoid them. In leadership positions, they can wreak havoc by communicating in such broad brush stokes that the outcomes they desire are vague and open to broad interpretation … if achieved at all. For a company’s performance and culture to be consistent, its leader must be a model of consistency. This is non-negotiable. It is one’s commitment and ability to be consistent that defines the no-compromise leader.... Read More
September 28, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments
Employee turnover is the age-old nemesis for all business owners. Recruiting, the hiring process, training and skill development are time consuming and costly. The real wildcard in the recruitment process is hoping that the new hires will adapt and fit into the company’s unique culture. At the other end of the spectrum are your long-term staff members. These employees have been with you through the good times and the not so good times. They’ve seen you at your best and, most certainly, they have seen you at your worst. They know the game, get their work done and represent the heart and soul of your company.
Like any long-term relationship, long-term staff members can present a unique set of potential challenges for leaders. At the top of the list is resistance to change. Because senior staff members typically require less oversight, they tend to settle into their routines and their own modified methods of getting their work done … better known as settling into their comfort zones. Once their comfort zones are furnished and landscaped to their liking, very often, even minor changes to workflow, work schedules or the introduction of new systems, is met with resistance.... Read More
August 10, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments
Do you do quarterly performance reviews at least once a year? That’s a line from my No-Compromise Leadership book that always gets an unsettled chuckle. Why? Because there’s something about conducting performance reviews that causes them to be avoided, conveniently forgotten or dreaded. For many leaders, the thought of scheduling performance reviews is the equivalent of sentencing themselves to hour after hour after hour in purgatory. If you regard once a year as bad enough, quarterly performance reviews are going to be pure torture. But no matter how you view the process, avoiding performance reviews is a massive leadership compromise.
All leaders want to have a dynamic, efficient and productive business with a culture dedicated to delivering relentless quality. They want engaged employees who believe in the vision and purpose of the business. And more than anything … they just want employees that do their job. But what leaders want, requires that leaders also do the most essential part of their job – to coach and inspire employees. Performance reviews are simply part of the work of leadership to bring out the best in those they lead.... Read More
March 30, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment
If you want it done right, do it yourself. That’s the motto of a control freak leader. You oversee everything. You need to approve everything. You come up with the ideas that everyone else needs to execute. Your definition of delegating is allowing others the freedom to get things started, then stepping in, taking over and doing it the way you want. You’ve got your tentacles embedded into every nook and cranny of your company. Yes, you are a proud and worthy control freak leader. You are also the most frustrating, smothering and energy sapping leader to work for.
There are varying degrees of control freak leaders. Some are project and turf selective where everyone knows it’s best to keep their hands off. Some are pouncers that, like a wild tiger tracking its prey, hold back until they’re about to explode … then pounce on a project and rip it to shreds. And as described in the opening paragraph, there is the certified obsessive-compulsive control freak that meddles in everything to the point where nothing gets done.... Read More
February 9, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | 5 Comments
Some owners are happy when employees just do their job well. Get the work done. Follow the rules. Make clients happy. Don’t waste resources. Be on time. Take initiative within the confines of the “employee box”. This “just do your job well” approach is the traditional owner/manager/supervisor/worker hierarchy where people and groups are ranked according to status or authority. Each group or level places people in a “box” with set levels of authority. There’s nothing wrong with this approach and very successful companies have and will continue to emerge from this most traditional approach.
The limitation of the box level approach is that it constrains and contains the creative thinking of people within their designated box. At the worker level, the box is all about output and productivity and very little about creative thinking and decision making to do the work more efficiently. Creative thinking and decision making is reserved for the uppermost boxes that are often the most distant from the work. This approach leaves a vast resource of untapped brain power at the most critical level … where the work is actually being done.... Read More
February 2, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments
In its most simplistic state, a compensation system buys time from an individual performing work. That’s the easy part; everything beyond this point becomes progressively more complicated. Can the individual perform the work and deliver on expectations? Can the individual fit the company’s unique culture? Does the individual have the desire and drive to grow and excel? Is the individual coachable and adaptable to change? Will the individual show up on time … or show up at all? Will you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth every time you hand over a paycheck?
As previously stated, buying time from individuals is the easy part. Designing the components of a compensation system that drive the right outcomes is the tough part. There is a “layering effect” that begins with the actual dollars to be paid for the work and compounds all the way up to a career and income growth path. Every layer is a joint effort that links the thinking and behavior of employees and leadership in order to create the right outcomes. The concept of “pay for performance” is seriously shortsighted. It sets both employees and leaders up for frustration and failure because just paying for performance – handing out a paycheck – is no guarantee that genuine work will occur.... Read More
October 20, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments
As a business coach, much of my work centers on guiding leaders through the wonderful, wacky world of human thinking and behavior, both of those they lead and their own. Dealing with financial stuff is easy. It’s math. Spend less than you bring in and there will be profit. Revenue projections and budgets are mathematical assumptions that we fondly refer to as “wild-ass guesses.” But it’s the leader’s thinking and behavior that brings the numbers and profits to life. System and procedure design is easy too, but it’s getting people to buy into and live the change that tests one’s ability to lead. And to truly become a No-Compromise Leader, you must master and engage in “the conversation.”... Read More
September 8, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 3 Comments
Every leader has a story of that “perfect team” of people. The stories are always about a shared passion to achieve the near impossible – to overcome all obstacles. There’s camaraderie, mutual support and knowing that everyone has your back. And then there’s that sprinkle of magic that gives each and every team member the belief that, together, they are unstoppable. But gradually over time, members of the team move on and replacements are brought in. The legacy of greatness remains, but that magic and electricity is different … or else absent entirely.
For leaders, it is a privilege to lead such a perfect team. But how does such a team come together? Is it by chance or by design? Perhaps the real question is, can such a team be persistently and consistently replicated? Perfect teams are like fuzzy benchmarks. You know the stats they’re capable of producing. You know the required skills and can articulate how all the players should seamlessly interact. You think you know all the ingredients … but it’s getting that mixture just right that eludes you.... Read More
July 14, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments
A person’s thinking and behavior patterns make them extremely predictable. That’s how you know certain employees are going to be late for work, that their projects will miss deadlines, and how they will react during a tough conversation. It’s why some people are detail oriented and highly organized while others are “big picture” and all over the place. It’s why some people work for a paycheck while others work to build a career and make a difference. It’s why some people fit your company culture and others do not.
For leaders, the challenge is to harness all those patterns of thinking and behavior into one highly functional and impressive tapestry. That tapestry is your company’s culture. Some patterns fit. Others don’t. Some patterns fade over time and need to be replaced. Some patterns act as support, holding things together. Some patterns lose their integrity causing the patterns that surround them to also lose theirs – that is, if you’re not paying attention.... Read More
April 28, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments
Something went “oops” in your company and one employee immediately stepped up to save the day. It wasn’t just any employee – it was that one amazing employee who always seems to step up when things go wrong or when a volunteer is needed to go above and beyond. This employee did the right thing … but a number of team members label the employee as a “show off” or so-called “teacher’s pet.” The company has been in a funk lately and there’s grumbling within the employee ranks. Yet there’s one employee who consistently steps up and kicks butt by producing numbers and results that are off the charts. This employee is doing the right thing … but a number of team members shun and bad-mouth the employee for making them look bad.
... Read More
April 7, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments
At Strategies, every aspect of our business training and coaching is focused on what we call The Four Business Outcomes: productivity, profitability, staff retention and customer loyalty. Business success, and your success as a leader, is defined not only by the proficiency and mastery of each outcome, but by how equally you balance and synchronize The Four Business Outcomes. Think of each Outcome as one of the four powerful jet engines on a Boeing 747. Maximum efficiency and thrust to lift the 875,000 pound jetliner with over 500 passengers and cargo requires all four engines to be in sync. Should one engine underperform or fail, the performance and safety of the entire jetliner is compromised.
Outcomes are an end result. High productivity rates are an outcome. Impressive Balance Sheets and Profit & Loss Statements are outcomes. A unified and cohesive company culture with little employee turnover is an outcome. Fiercely loyal customers and high client retention rates are outcomes. In order to produce extraordinary outcomes, you’ve got to get the drivers right.... Read More
March 3, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 5 Comments
Last week I did a No-Compromise Leadership talk for the Princeton Merchant’s Association. In attendance were bankers, restaurant owners, retailers, dry cleaners, non-profit associations, local media and others, all representing this prestigious university town. The response to my opening line, “Business leaders exist to drive their employees crazy,” earned the style of laughter that confirmed I was speaking to a group of worthy offenders. They laughed because in so many ways, my opening line is true.
Aboard ships there are mutinies. In countries there are protests and revolutions. In corporations there are work slowdowns and labor strikes. In hair salons there are walkouts. And everyday, in businesses all over the world, there are employees quitting leaders … not companies. Yes, leaders can be jerks, insensitive, overbearing, dictatorial, self-absorbed and egotistical. The more accurate description is that most leaders are a perpetual work in progress to get better at this job called “leader.”... Read More
January 13, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment
Just as every leader understands the cost of employee turnover, they understand the challenges of keeping long-term employees engaged, positive and supportive of change initiatives. New employees are easier to train, coach and mold into your company culture. It’s an entirely different story with long-term employees. Like a marriage, long-term employees have been with you through the good and bad times. They’ve seen it all, and they know your strengths and weaknesses just as well as you know theirs.
When it comes to embracing change, new procedures and systems, long-term employees can either be your biggest advocates – or your most hardened change resisters. But resistance doesn’t mean they’re “not on the bus”; it just means they really like their seat. They’re comfortable in it … and everyone knows not to sit in or mess with their spot. Everything else can change as long as their seat – and their work – is left alone. The problem is that “the bus” is the company and it can’t remain competitive, innovative and fast if it cannot collectively adapt and change – including long-term employees.... Read More
August 19, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments
Every time you distribute paychecks, you are “buying” all of the behavior and performance your employees delivered for that pay period. You’re buying positive attitudes, initiative, accountability, trustworthiness, creative thinking, follow through, and other characteristics of a great employee. But at the same time, you’re also buying missed deadlines, chronic lateness, resistance to change, negative attitudes, broken commitments, low productivity, and a bunch of other stuff that drives leaders crazy. The question is; why do you continue to buy behavior and performance that is unacceptable?... Read More
August 5, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 3 Comments
Job descriptions are one of those business tools, like policy manuals, that belong in every company. It simply makes sense that every job comes with a written description of expectations of what success in that specific position looks like. But job descriptions are nothing more than an outline or an overview – not a complete reference guide with step-by-step instructions. Still, as a leader you cannot underestimate the importance of having job descriptions, nor can you overestimate their functionality.
Interestingly, the only job description I have ever had is the one I wrote for myself as president of Strategies. It was an enlightening exercise because it forced me to compartmentalize my work into functional areas like leadership, financial, sales, curriculum development, writing, training, and coaching. The process made me zoom out and take a 30,000-foot view of my job and the work that I do. I recommend that every leader go through this process – and not just once, but regularly over the years.... Read More
July 8, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 7 Comments
Leadership is about growing a company into something extraordinary. It’s about getting results, hitting goals, taking calculated risks, and creating profit. It’s about structure, discipline, making tough decisions, and, when necessary, leading your company out of a crisis. Leadership is many things, but it’s really about people. And it’s that people thing that gives leaders a true sense of fulfillment … or drives them crazy.
Imagine what it would be like to lead a team of perfect employees. Everyone would show up motivated and on time. Customers would be delighted beyond belief. Change initiatives would be as easy as flipping a switch. Competitors would be in awe. Of course, this scenario is pure fantasy. Even if you had a team of “A” employees, the combination of skills, personalities, thinking, and behaviors would still require a leader capable of bringing them all together to achieve a common goal. (more…)... Read More
July 1, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 4 Comments
I did two breakout sessions at the Harms Experience last week in Scottsdale, AZ. Sunday’s class was on “Plugging Opportunity Leaks in Your Company,” and Monday’s session covered “How to Get Employees to do Great Things.” Both sessions are elements of my No-Compromise Leadership training. As always, my mission is to get leaders to examine their leadership thinking and behavior and how it shapes their company’s culture.
Near the end of Sunday’s session, I was asked a very familiar yet unsettling question: “As an employee, what do you do when it’s your leader that’s doing damage to the culture?” Instantly, a few more attendees chimed in, their hands shooting up with elaborations on that same question. In all cases, these employees were passionate about their work and their companies. They loved the team they worked with, and…despite what their leaders have put them through… they remain fiercely loyal. However, the bottom line in these cases is always the same: working for leaders that fail to see the damage they inflict on their own companies eventually drives amazing employees to quit. (more…)... Read More
May 20, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 5 Comments
A coaching client just informed us of their discovery that a trusted employee has been stealing from the company by manipulating and creating false transactions in the company’s business software. Luckily, another employee saw something questionable and informed the owners. After hours of examining and comparing transaction logs, it was clear who the culprit was, how it was done, and for how long it’s been happening. Damn…isn’t running a business difficult enough without having your own employees stealing from you – especially one from your trusted inner circle?
The owners were shocked and devastated to discover just how extensive their trust was violated by this key employee. To learn that thousands of dollars had been siphoned out of much needed cash flow is one thing, but to learn that someone you trusted intentionally stole from the company right under your nose is where the real and lasting damage is done. (more…)... Read More
April 1, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 5 Comments
Employees get set up to fail more often than you think. It’s never done intentionally – it just happens. Tasks are poorly defined. Desired results are sketchy. The chain of command looks like a pile of broken links. Training is inconsistent and inadequate. There are leaders that actually expect employees to know what they’re thinking … and to execute their nonverbal commands perfectly.
Some employees try their best to deliver what they perceive they were charged to do and get chewed out when their performance doesn’t match unspoken expectations. Others give it half an effort knowing they can’t win. The end result is always a demoralized team and de-powered culture that is capable of so much more. Once a pattern of getting set up to fail settles into a company’s culture, getting things done takes more time, money, and resources. The company springs leaks that it cannot plug up fast enough.... Read More
March 18, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments
Every moment of every day, change is all around us. Seasons change. Weather changes. Our bodies change. Our lives change. Likewise, business changes. Every day, new businesses are born – some grow, prosper, and endure for a long, healthy life, while others stumble and die. The one constant we can be sure of is that change is relentless. Some embrace it with open arms. Some wait to see what the new reality looks like and then jump onboard. And then there are the change resisters that hold onto the status quo with a white-knuckled grip.
Contrary to popular belief, change resisters don’t exist to drive you crazy – even though they can and do. Change resisters simply deal with change differently than most. They lock into patterns of thinking, behavior, systems, and cultures that become their “normal.” They get good at functioning in their “normal.” They know everything about their “normal.” And then change comes along, often with a wrecking ball, and starts knocking down their “normal” to replace it with something new and foreign. Their natural response is to protect their “normal” by resisting change. (more…)... Read More
January 21, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments
I’ve watched the television show “Undercover Boss” a few times. It’s entertaining proof that most leaders are afflicted with the same form of tunnel vision. They get so wrapped up in “their work” they disconnect from what’s most important – their employees. The story line is always the same; the boss goes undercover by assuming the identity of someone looking to start a new career, works alongside employees, discovers things are wrong, bonds with some employees, gifts employees thousands of dollars and/or training they should have had to do their jobs. The show ends with the leader vowing to maintain the connection with employees.
Every MMWU is a reminder that leading and growing a company is tough work and that keeping your finger on the pulse of your company isn’t as easy as it sounds. As Undercover Bosses discover, to truly feel the pulse of your company means monitoring its pulse from the corporate office to the front line. The bigger your company gets, the easier it is for you to get disconnected from your people and the quality of their work. Even if you have a small company with just a few employees, it’s easy to get disconnected because you’re so busy working and generating sales. (more…)... Read More
September 28, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | 2 Comments
John Cougar Mellencamp said it best: “Hurts so good. Come on baby make it hurt so good”.
Personally, I can think of a few times when that statement was actually true. One time was when I finished my first marathon in 95-degree weather. All the pain and commitment from months of training finally paid off as I crossed the finish line after 26.2 miles. Another was recently when I had to have physical therapy on my shoulder due to two dislocated ribs. As a stylist of 29 years, the pain in my shoulder had become almost unbearable when I would blow dry. My physical therapist pulled, twisted, massaged and made major adjustments that were down-right painful, but at the same time “hurt so good”. Now I’m on my way to a full recovery thanks to the pain I was willing to endure to get the end result.
Now let’s put a spin on this and relate it to running your salon or spa business. Do you have some painful areas that are clouding your vision for your company? Or perhaps there are some sore spots you need to address, such as people on your team that you would be better off without? Maybe you need to make some serious financial cuts that would be painful at first, but in the end would be more beneficial for the company and your financial future? The pain is worth the end result.... Read More
September 24, 2012 | By Neil Ducoff | 9 Comments
It’s one thing to be a great individual achiever by outperforming and outselling everyone around you, innovating the coolest breakthrough ideas, mastering the work that feeds your passion – perhaps even leaping tall buildings in a single bound. Yup, there’s nothing like being at the top of your personal game and being recognized as a rock star in your chosen field. It’s what’s possible when you have the courage and tenacity to relentlessly push yourself beyond the comfort zone of “ordinary” to “extraordinary.”
It’s something completely different to lead and inspire an entire company of people to do great things. It doesn’t matter if there are five, 500 or 5,000 people looking to you for direction and inspiration; it’s just not that easy to get that fire in your gut to burn bright in others. As a leader or entrepreneur, your dream was to grow a company – not be a cheerleader, disciplinarian, or babysitter. Heck, just getting employees to show up on time for a meeting or follow a new policy can be a Herculean task. It’s that “people thing” that keeps getting in the way. It wears you down and takes all the fun out of growing a company. (more…)... Read More
September 20, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | 5 Comments
We have all seen a hostage situation, either on the nightly news, a drama or in the movie theatre. The situation is usually the same: You have someone that is irrational, angry, and unwilling to negotiate or reason with sound resolutions. The situation often appears hopeless as emotions run high. And many times, either a life is on the line, or people are endangered. Usually, the individuals that are holding others hostage have high demands — like a large amount of ransom money, a getaway car, political power or perhaps a one-way ticket out of the country. Whatever their reason, rarely does it ever have any direct connection to the individuals being held hostage — but it always has an immediate connection to the needs and desires of those in control.
Unfortunately, this same type hostage mentality plagues the day-to-day operations of thousands of salons and spas everyday. Think about these scenarios:
- Have you ever had a high revenue-producing service provider that is holding your salon/spa hostage with excessive demands on the business (i.e. higher commission, Saturday’s off, a personal assistant that the company cannot afford, a new product line, etc.)?
- Is this employee irrational and unwilling to negotiate/reason with sound resolutions that would make your company stronger (i.e. pay that is in alignment with the health of the company, attending staff meetings, dress code, showing up to work on time, running on-time to care for the customer)?
What is at risk? Is it the financial health of the company, the clients or the other team members? Unfortunately, it’s all three.... Read More
July 19, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments
Ah yes, the lazy days of summer. Often times, those lazy days seap into the atmosphere in the salon/spa — and you can tell things at the salon are little too slow, or just too quite. You walk on the floor and you feel as though you are being watched, and it looks like the staff is lacking energy or urgency. Is it because its summer and we are all chilled and relaxed? In the end, it doesn’t really matter what it is — we need a mood shift!
Here are few tips to recharge your team’s morale — and boost those summer sales:
- Identify who in the salon need an uplift, get them to go to hair show or class.
- When times are not so busy, bring in a motivator to come for an ” hour of power” (stand up comedy theaters often do team building sessions), or just play a game every morning to boost moral.
- Change the music.
- Have a sale contest with a team goal. This will hike up the urgency and, if you add elements that make it fun and engage clients, now you’ve created buzz!
- Great game: Give your staff an opportunity to do great things, and reward them for their efforts. Example: Each member has the opportunity to “wow” the client. The best “wow” gets a reward. Give a budget of up to $25.00 a person to wow the client, although you don’t have to use money for it’s not in the budget — everybody can get creative .
Create fun and it will change the atmosphere.... Read More
June 26, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | 2 Comments
Entrepreneurs are definitely a special breed. I like to say that being an entrepreneur is both a blessing and curse. We think and move at lightening speed, we aren’t afraid to take risks, and we can virtually see into the future. In fact, our vision at times seems so crystal clear that we often wonder why no one else can see what we see. We implement change and then it’s quickly on to the next initiative. We add and subtract, we move this here and that over there. Employees in our companies who resist change hate how we operate, and find it hard to keep up with our pace. The only time we’re really comfortable (and understood) it seems is when we are around other entrepreneurs.
Just recently, after a string of bad hires in my company which cost us dearly on so many levels, we decided to re-engineer our recruiting and hiring strategy. Okay, who am I kidding? I decided to re-engineer our recruiting and hiring strategy. There it is again, that pesky entrepreneurial attitude that rears its head like a race horse ready to bust through the starting gates at the sound of the gun.... Read More
June 11, 2012 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment
Scenario One: A key employee leaves your company. As you begin to assess the work and status of various projects the individual was responsible for, you begin to discover things that are disturbing and quite different from what you thought was being done. Projects were far from complete. You learn of conversations that undermined your leadership and created division within your team. You scratch your head and wonder how all this was happening under your nose.
Scenario Two: You have some long-term employees who have become increasingly and openly resistant to change. In fact, they’re outright ignoring change initiatives. You see it. Everyone sees it. It’s been going on for some time and has become the norm. You feel as though they’re holding you hostage. Your frustration hovers near the breaking point. Then, they quit without notice and open a competing business. You feel blindsided and as you discover the elements of their plot, you wonder how all of this was happening under your nose. (more…)... Read More
May 21, 2012 | By Neil Ducoff | 4 Comments
There is something different about an individual who plays to be indispensable. There is an unmistakable level of engagement and tenacity that keeps such people at the forefront of darn near everything in their sphere of influence. They give it their all, play hard, and play to win. More importantly, they play hard because they want to. They take ownership in creating the right outcomes – without being asked. “Indispensable” means that you wouldn’t want to run your company without them.
On the flipside, there are players on your team who are dispensable. They occasionally, rarely or never step up. They show up, do their job and go home. They expect more for doing the same average performance, and even for doing less. In more deteriorated cases, their view and relationship with the company becomes adversarial, or at best, indifferent. It’s a scary question: How many dispensable players do you have on your team? (more…)... Read More
May 7, 2012 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments
It’s something that happens slowly over time and is often barely perceptible as a growing problem. You hire or promote someone into a specific job in your company. It’s a suitable fit, and you feel good that a key position in your company is producing the intended results. But as time passes, subtle changes occur. Certain areas where the employee once paid close attention appear to be less of a priority. Work patterns are showing telltale signs of inconsistency. Projects or responsibilities that the employee once sought out are now avoided. Finally, that little voice in your head asks, “What happened? How did this person’s job turn into this?”... Read More
May 3, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments
You’d never open a salon without the proper tools — state-of-the-art scissors, top-of-the-line blow dryers and, of course, fabulous, effective products. Similarly, no one would try to run a spa without massage tables, pedi chairs and wonderful scrubs and lotions.
Unfortunately, many owners do try to run their salons and spas without the proper business tools needed to be profitable and successful.
Many salons and spas struggle with cash-flow and figuring out what’s coming in (and going out). Without a clear financial picture, it’s impossible to plan for steady growth, as expenses always pop up. Many owners (maybe even you) start using their personal credit cards to pay the bills — even to cover payroll. It’s impossible to build a strong business without a realistic cash-flow plan.
Numerous other owners and managers grapple with staff concerns, from hiring to pay design to performance evaluations. Some owners have leadership issues, uncertain how to translate their vision to their employees so that everyone is working toward the same goals. Proper communication is one of the first steps in building a successful business, yet it is one of the basics that many salon and spa owners believe they don’t have time for. A culture where employees want to do their best, stay and grow is one of the hallmarks of a thriving, profitable business.... Read More
April 11, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments
I’m in the process of hiring a slew of new employees and figured that now was a good time to review ways to keep my culture strong and vibrant in the midst of change. Boy, did I not know how it would affect my company in the following week!
It took me just a few days to read the book. I loved it, of course, and was inspired to initiate a culture-oriented project for my staff. The timing was perfect with all our new hires and our 29th anniversary in business. At our April team meeting, I told my staff about a project they needed to complete in four days, in order to present to the entire company. The project? In one page or less, describe the Visual Changes culture.... Read More