2014 Women of Vision: Jennifer Parks
Senior Vice President, Sexy Hair
Since joining Sexy Hair in 2001, Jennifer Parks has been instrumental in increasing the company’s presence in the domestic marketplace. She has consistently exceeded sales goals and increased Sexy Hair’s national accounts business by 3,616 percent. Her dedication to her customers has earned Parks and her team four ‘Vendor of the Year’ awards – two from Minneapolis-based Beauty First, and two from Beauty Brands in Kansas City. In 2013, Parks was named a finalist in the LA Business Journal’s Women Making a Difference Award.“Sexy Hair has a very strong team-oriented culture,” she says. “From the top down, we all roll up our sleeves to make things happen.”A 25-year veteran of the professional beauty industry, Parks worked in sales at L’Anza and Sebastian International before joining Sexy Hair.
How are you tenacious?
Parks: I’m in sales and it comes to me naturally. If I believe in an idea, I will continue to push and see it through to the end—some of the best products and ideas have come through this tenacity. In the interest of full disclosure, some of the biggest failures have resulted from this persistence as well. You never know until you try.
Over the years, how have your motivations changed?
Parks: Sexy Hair brought me on to open doors, develop a division and build a team; it was great fun, and to join a company that really wanted to put the resources behind the product was amazing. People spend millions of dollars on team building—my team came that way. Our customers know they can get extraordinary service from any of us, they know that’s how we work. This was a goal since the start.
What do you do on a daily basis to help you grow as an leader/entrepreneur?
Parks: I love sticking my nose into as many opportunities as possible, and being involved in as many aspects of the business as I can, from marketing to social media and everything in-between. My biggest advice is read, read, read. Read everything. Harvard Business Review is a great magazine and gives such a bigger, broader picture. And I don’t know how anyone in the beauty industry could live without WWD. There is so much to learn from out there.
Who or what inspires you?
Parks: Michael O’Roark. He taught me really great things: charity begins at home, take care of your family, and take care of yourself. He was always about the “lowest common denominator” in the room—don’t start with the top, they already know it all anyway. Make sure everyone is on board and take it from there.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from running your own business that you would share with other women?
Parks: Make sure that you leave it so much better than you found it. Teach women that the onus and responsibility is on them to do the same thing. I think as women, we can bring so much forward and then it’s the next generation’s turn. There weren’t any female executives in this female-dominated industry not too long ago. Now it’s time to take it to the next level and make sure that women have a voice. We’re one of the few industries where women can make the same money as men and do the same kind of work. Learn something, teach something, and leave it better.
As you grew your company/brand, what ‘Ah-Ha” moments of clarity helped you shape its future course?
Parks: Our company is different because it’s about the hairdresser. There are many who say that, but not many live up to it. Many of our 300 contract employees have Sexy Hair tattoos—they are so engaged. Back in the day, you could tell when Sebastian was in the house; we all looked the same, dressed the same. To see that same passion today and blast of energy is incredible. Michael really laid the foundation—we’re all so proud to be a part of this company.
Throughout your professional history, what’s the best lesson you’ve learned after making a mistake?
Parks: Try again. Maybe the idea needs a little dusting off, or a tweak, or maybe it doesn’t need a damn thing but different timing. I don’t think that mistakes are things we should never repeat. If you don’t succeed now, try again later. Sit and talk to more people, don’t work in a silo.
What is the number-one quality you look for when hiring employees, and how do you evaluate if they possess that trait?
Parks: My team has only two jobs: presentation and follow-through. If you’re the very best at both, you will win every time. When it comes to customer service, you either have it or you don’t.
Share something personal that very few people at your work would know about:
Parks: I ride a Harley Davidson Fat Boy Lo. I’ve been riding since ’99.
If you were training another woman to take over your job, what’s the most important advice you would offer her?
Parks: Make sure you treat the team as your biggest asset, and they will treat the customer as theirs. In building our team, we’ve hired people that were customers at one point; they were easy to train. Others that hadn’t worked with us took a while to get the mindset of doing things a little differently. If you treat your team how you want them to treat your customer, you’re in good shape.
If you were to look at a scrapbook of your professional career, what would be your favorite page?
Parks: I will never forget when the entire company, from the CEO to the sales team, participated in the AIDS/Lifecycle Ride to End AIDS, bicycling from San Francisco to Los Angeles. It was such a feeling of accomplishment—as a company it was mind-blowing. We also have an annual Sexy Hair Walkathon to raise money for Look Good Feel Better, helping women struggling with the appearance-related challenges of cancer. It’s a really moving experience to see the heart and soul of everyone who participates.
If someone were to write a book about your life, what would be an appropriate title?
Parks: The Life and Times of a Shampoo Girl
If you weren’t in the beauty industry, what would you be doing?
Parks: I would most likely be in real estate; I love other people’s homes.
What is your vision for the future of your company? What is your vision for the future of the industry?
Parks: The future for Sexy Hair is so exciting—the company that just acquired us has a such a beauty force; now we will be a dominate player not only North America but in other countries as well. It couldn’t be a more exciting place to be.
The industry has to continue to compete; it’s a different world we live in and we can’t be fearful or slow to adapt. What you have to do to drive brand awareness and your professional side is bigger than it’s ever been. Advertising, for example, needs to stand out against a sea of beige. When you’re flipping through a magazine you wouldn’t necessarily see an ad; our recent campaign uses Marilyn Monroe as a brand ambassador and now it stops you in your tracks.