Facing Forward: Penzones Celebrate 40 Years
In March, Charles and Debra Penzone and their staff of 620 beauty professionals celebrated the 40th anniversary of one of the most innovative and pioneering salon companies in the U.S. Recently, the Penzones reflected on the formation of their success and shared their plans for the future:
Success is the result of a few key, strategic decisions.
When Charles and Debra Penzone look back at their rich history, they can point to a few stages that were critical in shaping the company.
The first was Charlesâ exposure to Vidal Sassoon during Sassoonâs first trip to America around 1968. âHe did a show in Chicago with Gene Shacove that literally changed my life, but also the direction our industry was heading,â remembers Charles. âI came back and introduced the Sassoon way of things to central Ohio, which gave us a huge jump in our local market.â
Charles and Debra Penzone at the 40th Annual Awards Celebration that capped their companyâs Re-Imagine Week.
Charles cites his second most critical decision as the introduction of a training and apprentice program in 1969. âWe implemented a program that lasted 12-18 months depending on the individualâs ability to progress through the program,â he says. âWhile the idea was popular in Europe at the time, it was unheard of over here.â
Throughout the companyâs growth, the Penzones invested heavily in the quality and design of each location, transforming fairly industrial environments into showplaces. In 1991, Charles realized a 20-year-old vision of a full-service, suburban, freestanding salon and spa and opened the first Grand Salon. âAt the time, the biggest salons were about 9,000 square feet and we started opening locations that were 18,000-20,000 square feet,â he says. âAll of a sudden, we were featured on the Today Show and Inside Edition and in People magazine and every major publication. It was a concept that changed not only Central Ohio, but the entire industry.â
Throughout its history, the company continues to be an early adopter of ideas, systems and technologyâcomputerization, gift certificates, online booking programs, centralized call centers, a professional management teamâthat have kept the brand a leader in both the market and the industry.
Throughout time, our brand has remained constant.
âIt has always been synonymous with incredible service, luxury, professionalism and cutting-edge style,â says Debra. âAnd it works. Itâs one of the strongest brands in our areaâwe enjoy 97-percent name recognition in Central Ohio.â
Today the brand includes six salons surrounding the Columbus area under three names, with three Grand Salons, two urban salons known as MAX The Salon, and the upscale neighborhood Q Salon.
The key ingredient to our success is our people.
âWhen we held our celebration and awards banquet, I told our staff there were about 10,000 people who preceeded them, and each and every one has contributed to our overall success,â says Charles. At the celebration, the Penzones honored four people who helped start the company with Charles in 1969âtogether theyâve contributed 134 years of service and one, Jaqi Howard, is still working with them.
âNot only do we have a very low attrition rate of six percent to eight percent with many employees celebrating decades of services, but weâve been with many of our outside advisorsâbankers, lawyers, accountantsâfor many years,â he says.
Itâs a time to celebrateâand connect to the future: by text, Twitter and other community-building technology.
The company celebrated its 40th anniversary with a week of activities March 1-7, kicking off the event the way they lead their companyâby focusing forward. During the Re-Imagine Event, President Debra Penzone spoke about the direction the company was headed, the continued importance of its professional image during the nationâs tough economic struggle, and the importance of focusing on new opportunities.
Charles Penzone flanked by the four employees who helped launch his salon 40 years ago. From left, Jaqi Howard, Sandy Keller, Carol Wilcox and Chris Tarini.
âWe shared information on the re-launch of our website (charlespenzone.com), which will allow us to change information constantly, post videos and makeover images, and build a community among our clients by leveraging social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter,â says Debra. Throughout the corporate presentation, Debra kept employees engaged by posting questions to her audience, inviting them to text message their responses, and giving prizes for the best and fastest texters.
By sharing the communityâs perception of the brandârevealing the responses of mystery shoppers and sharing blogs about the salonâthe Penzones reinforced with their staff what they already know to be true: Exceptional customer service and a focus on professionalism are what have set the business apart and kept it growing.
The Penzones also used the opportunity to reassure staff about the companyâs sustainability. âWe put up a slide that showed since we were founded in 1969, weâve been through seven economic downturnsâweâve gotten through them before and weâll get through this one as well,â says Charles.
The rest of the weekâs activities focused on celebration and a Saturday night gala, awards banquet and fashion show.
Continued growth means knowing when to step back.
At last yearâs awards banquet, when Charles announced Debra would assume her current role as president of the company, he also announced he would step down from day-to-day operation. But then he publicly surprised her by stating he was taking an immediate three-month sabbatical. âThose three months have stretched into 12,â he says fondly. âThough I continue in my role as chairman to serve as an advisor to the company, we feel weâve put together a great team of people that will continue to keep the brand infused with fresh ideas.â
But Charlesâ willingness to step back doesnât make him shy about speaking up on Debraâs accomplishments. Realizing the importance of the community in their success, the company has generously supported a number of organizations, including Adventures for Wish Kids, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Susan G. Komen, and Look Good Feel Better. âDebra spends an unbelievable amount of time and energy on these causes and empowers our staff to do the same.â
Check out the newly designed Charles Penzone website for yourself at charlespenzone.com.