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Inside a Successful Salon/Spa Culture Shift

December 18, 2020 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

What exactly is a culture shift?

Think of a culture shift as being obese, in poor health, and knowing that you have to lose 100 pounds. Doing so means completely changing your behavior with respect to diet and physical fitness. It means 100% commitment to doing whatever it takes to become a new you.

It’s the same in business. If your culture is contaminated and toxic, it cannot perform anywhere near its full potential. It’s like you’re watching employees drill holes in the bottom of your ship and hoping the bilge pumps keep you afloat. Eventually the bilge pumps get overwhelmed and the ship sinks.

In this week’s blog post, we showcase the winner of the 2020 Team-Based Pay Culture Shift Award, Mary Ann Brooks, owner of Brooks & Co., in Edwardsville, PA.


Mary Ann converted Brooks & Co. to Team-Based Pay in August of 2018 and never looked back.

Describe your company’s culture before and after the turn-around.

Mary Ann: We always had a culture where everyone got along. We always helped each other too. I believe the bad stuff that happens in business is what the leader allows to happen.

We were the typical commission salon with the have’s and the have nots. If a call came in for a certain stylist, it would only go in with that stylist. Rarely would we offer another person.

We used to have some appointment book columns that were empty and others jammed with waiting lists. Now we have extremely balanced columns and workloads. It’s very common to have multiple people working on one person.

I can’t even imagine a commission salon today getting all of the extra things done to accommodate for Covid. We just do it, and it is comforting to know that it will get done.

Our team really looks at each day and tries to fill the time that we have open. Whether it be to add on to what is already on the schedule, to looking ahead and moving appointments up to get them in sooner. Even when the phone rings I hear everyone trying to get that guest into the current day’s schedule before ever looking ahead to something else. The best part is, they offer the stylist that’s available and has the right skills — not the requested stylist. It’s truly all about the guest.

I think the biggest thing for me is that we communicate EVERYTHING now. It used to be the hardest thing to do. Today, it’s the most important and most valuable thing we do to keep everyone on the same page.

Describe where Brook’s & Co. was and where it is today.

Mary Ann: We opened in October of 2008, just as the economy was on a rapid downward plunge. Like many new owners, I went in with blinders on.

Six months before opening, I went to the bank to get my loan to open my hair salon and I had every intention of walking out with exactly what I would need to open. As I was leaving the house my husband said, “Don’t be upset if you don’t get it. They aren’t loaning money right now.”

My credit was good, so why wouldn’t I get a loan? Well, I left the bank without a loan.

Three hours later, I had $125,000 unsecured money in the form of two credit cards, a line of credit, and a 0% construction loan from my landlord to start my buildout. My husband couldn’t believe it. They were still loaning money. Yay for me, right?

Well, one year to the day after opening, and without any notice, that same bank decided to pull my line of credit. I went to transfer money to pay bills — the money was gone. I had NO IDEA what a cash-flow plan was. I didn’t even know that we didn’t have enough money until it was gone.

So many thoughts went through my head. Will we have to move in with my mom, sell our house? OMG, what did I do to our family? Should I close the salon?

That lasted two days. I cried so much I didn’t have any tears left. Then I decided that crying wasn’t accomplishing anything, so I started looking at the numbers to see how I could make this work. Keep in mind, I didn’t have a clue what those meant, I just knew we had to cut expenses to the bare minimum, for the business and my family.

Somehow, we made it through that fiery pit of hell. Little did I know that many more fiery pits of hell lay ahead.

Explain your decision to convert to Team-Based Pay.

Mary Ann: In 2018, I made the decision that we were going to completely change everything and become a Team-Based Company. I was tired of living on the edge and reacting instead of being proactive.

I knew even before working with Strategies that I would NEVER work for a negative profit.When I compared where we were then to where we are now … OMG! In 2018, we ended with a lack luster 1.6% profit. In 2019, our first year on Team-Based Pay, our profit increased to 4.1%. If you take out the first half of 2020, we have a profit of 15.83%. Every year I received a paycheck and this year I gave myself a raise.

Most important, we will end 2020 completely debt free!

What employee benefits do you now offer?

Mary Ann: We offer many benefits today that would not be possible had we not changed.

Currently our team receives 100% paid education, 50% contribution to health care, up to two weeks paid vacation, contribution to their retirement account, and a paid team vacation for one week every year.

Prior to becoming a Team-Based Company, we offered a one-week vacation. I often thank my Strategies coach, Melanie Loboda, for teaching me how to make these accomplishments and her response is always the same, “You had to do the work.” I just needed to know what the work was.

I knew that I wanted to become debt free and be able to offer all of these wonderful benefits, I just didn’t know how to get there. Strategies showed me how to get there and I will be forever grateful.

I can honestly say that converting to Team-Based Pay was a breeze compared to that shutdown.

We have overcome many hurdles along the way, and I can say that because we are a Team-Based Pay salon, it made it easier to get through.

How much does your company have in cash reserves?

Pre-Covid, we had $6,023 in cash reserves. By the end of 2020 we will have $21,000.

I share this because we came out of this Covid fiery pit of hell stronger than ever.


Describe the challenges you overcame during the Culture Shift.

Mary Ann: At first, daily huddles were a challenge. I remember leaving Incubator with this being my biggest worry. Today, the entire team is good at doing huddles. We never miss a daily huddle because it has become part of who we are.

Putting numbers up on our scoreboard took time. I would put percentages, but not the actual dollars. Then I heard Neil say, “If you ask someone to run a race with you, but don’t tell them how far the race is, how can they perform at their best?” That made complete sense to me and from that day forward the real totals have been on our scoreboard.

We always did performance reviews but now, and especially after implementing Strategies Internal Training Program, the structure is much more consistent, and easy to understand.

Something wonderful happened at a recent huddle. Please share.

Mary Ann: Amber is our huddle leader, and her message was to always be grateful for what you have. “Be grateful for the people that choose to let us take care of them.”

She said that during quarantine she was grateful for the way that I took care of them, and to work in a salon that she didn’t have to worry about having a job to come back to. She was also grateful for our salon and the way that we do things and how busy we are.

Amber then asked everyone to say something they were grateful for. This has been the start of a new way we do huddle, and it has everyone feeling grateful every day.

We didn’t talk numbers that day … just gratitude.

It was at that moment that I too was grateful that I made that decision to proudly become a Team-Based Pay salon.

Any final words you’d like to share?

Mary Ann: It’s been just over two years since becoming a Team-Based Company. Right now, I’m at home working on my computer, and I know that our salon is open, and things are being done as if I were there.

To have such peace of mind as a business owner is priceless.

This can happen when everyone understands why we have goals and why we have to work together to achieve them.

Categories: Team-Based Pay

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