Culture Club: Studio Be
About five years ago, Ian and Beth Weber got their entire Studio Be team together to talk about the concept of core values and how these values could drive the business forward.
“We wanted a road map to govern decisions and conduct ourselves throughout the day,” Ian says.
The team came up with statements important to them and emailed them to the Webers, who then narrowed them down to 10. Establishing a culture with clearly defined and communicated values has helped the Webers mold their team into the kind of people they want to work with.
“All of our employees buy into the core values and communicate them to new stylists,” Ian says. “We also have a brand brochure that’s an overview describing what we’re about and how we run our business. We want to be really transparent so everyone feels like they’re a part of the business.”
A Unique Hiring Process
Keeping everyone involved extends to the hiring process. Studio Be focuses on hiring mostly people fresh out of school so they can mold them to their culture.
“Our job as salon owners is to create the employees we want to have,” Ian says. “We don’t look at skill set because we will teach them to do a blowout or haircut. We look at the culture of the individual—do I want to hang out with this person?”
The interviewing process at Studio Be can be a bit daunting. Potential new employees all come in together (the salon has had as many as 30 candidates) and sit in Studio Be’s large conference room around a big table. A manager runs the interview and starts by casually talking to candidates in the group setting. Next, the individuals are asked to break into teams and come up with core values they will present to the rest of the group.This is when certain candidates begin to stand out.
“The reason we do this exercise is to see who volunteers to write down all the values and who chooses to present—we want to see who takes charge of the process,” Ian says. “If we have a group of three or four people and one is writing and documenting, and one is leading the group, that speaks to their skill sets.”
During the group interview, managers also ask candidates some off-the-wall questions such as, “What makes you weird?” or “What’s your favorite time you ditched school and did something else?” These questions and answers continue to give personality feedback the Studio Be team is looking for.
Finally, the group is allowed to ask its own questions in an open forum and are given a tour of the flagship salon.
After candidates leave, managers and any stylists involved in the interview process do red card/green card. “We say the name of a candidate and everyone in the room flashes a red or green card,” Ian says. “Green means go ahead and move them to the next step.”
Once you’re an established stylist at Studio Be, culture continues to be a huge part of your day-to-day experience. Staff members evaluate new stylists as they go through the training process and let managers know if someone isn’t a culture fit.
“We always tell our managers that if one person has a problem with another, it’s between those two. But if you have an individual who gets bad feedback from multiple people, we address it,” Ian adds. “Too many organizations are fearful of letting their staff get involved. But it’s not a popularity contest here—people respect our core values.”
The Webers don’t often hear “I don’t like this person,” from a stylist. Rather, the feedback is: “Here’s how one of our core values is being violated.”
The Webers also evaluate employees monthly with a skill and culture chart. Skill is easy to measure, but culture can be more elusive. The Webers say they have found an effective way to do it.
“We know our employees and whether or not they are participating and maintaining our culture,” Ian says. “We evaluate with questions such as, Do they help out? Are they the first or last to leave? Are they willing to pick up shifts if someone is sick? Do they participate in the cultural events we do?”
The chart they use is 50/50 culture and skill. If a skill set is lacking, Ian says he simply sends the stylist to a class or for more coaching in that skill set. But when he has an employee who might be a great colorist but isn’t a team player or respectful, that’s when a tough decision has to be made.
“We have conversations with the stylist about it, but if they can’t change, they have to go,” Ian says. “As the owner, especially if they’re a top producer, we have to realize the juice is just not worth the squeeze. And typically revenue makes itself up quickly, and the culture is better for it. I can train someone else, and we work hard on our marketing to keep clients coming through the door.”