“May you have a strong foundation for when those winds of change shift”… Bob Dylan
Along the way, I have learned a few lessons in life, especially on embracing change--Change before change changes you, keep evolving or you soon, will be dissolving.
In the next six months, we will be opening two new locations; one in December, the other in early Spring 2014. While this exciting news will provide great opportunities for my team and their professional growth, there are some who may view this change as a challenge, seeing this expansion as unwanted change, which in turn may cause some resistance.
Here are some of the lessons I have learned as we have changed and evolved…
Team Before Individual: The growth of the team always comes before the entitlement of one. Within your team, you are going to expect more, so be prepared to provide more. There may be some attrition within your team, as they may not want to be part of this new growth, wish them and their future employers well. Expect some internal team dynamic shifts, as you may be giving more responsibilities to your junior team and bypassing some of your seniors. Please think this through and educate your seniors as to why some may be sidelined. Accept this type of change as part of taking a few steps back to regroup, to then take one great leap forward. You need and want to surround yourself with a strong team that enjoys new challenges. A team that understands that raising the bar and providing a better experience is the ultimate goal.
Communication: Always crucial, especially when going through times of major change or growth. The unknown brings fear and stops your team from taking ownership. Work strongly with your department heads and encourage them to be open with their teams. Even the ones closest to you might show concern… listen to their questions, explain that we are in unchartered territory. Explain that mistakes will occur, which in hindsight will end up being valuable lessons. So it is not the screw ups, but how we learn and adjust from them, that will enable new growth. Embrace failure as part of your growth.
Keep the Brand Strong: As you grow and change, be careful to not dilute the brand. It is important that the team can “step it up” and maintain, or even better, enhance the level of the experience. Choose your new locations strategically so that you are not competing with yourself. For us, we are opening in new resort areas and high end hotels, new locations that will require different types of services and pricing from what we currently deliver. This means we will not directly be competing or diluting our brand, while instead hopefully expanding and strengthening the brand.
With Hiring comes Training: Have a strong in-house, across the board, training program in place. Education and training are priceless, it sets the culture, quality, and protocols, and it sets the standards for the experience and the brand. It enables you to discover hidden strengths in your new recruits. Make sure you have written protocols and your new team gets signed off at different stages of their training.
Have your Bookkeeping in Order: Most of us have received little training in finance and tend not to focus on this area until there is a problem. Be proactive, it can take as little as one individual to bring your whole house down. As you grow and expand, you better have your accounting, banking and books in solid shape with the correct professionals in place. Most salons either outsource or have one individual taking care of their books. This is too much trust in one person. Make sure you have good back up system in place…have other professionals that can come in periodically and oversee that your books, payroll, taxes, account payable, balance sheets, P&L, bank reconciliation, human resources and all other business transactions are being handled correctly.
Support from your Vendors: Establish strong relationships with your suppliers and vendors of professional hair care lines. No matter how famous and great a professional line professes to be, in the end, it is only as good as the representative that represents your territory. We have a line that has been with us for years and does six figures in purchases annually, but unless we see major improvement in their service there will be no further growth and they know this. So work with the professional lines so they see your vision and are willing to walk the talk. Have them put their commitments in writing, do not sign the contract they provide as is, read it, add to it what is important to fulfill your needs…remember YOU are the customer. Make sure you have access to others up the food chain as well. That way you can approach the higher-ups when the going gets tough.
Inventory: How you handle inventory for one location is different to that of numerous locations. This may end up creating a new position within your team…ordering, receiving, imputing, pricing, counting, returns, displays, backbar..it all adds up. Be prepared to think this through, including creating a mini distribution center.
Success: Keep in mind that success is sometimes achieved through a series of stumbles and blunders. There is no well-travelled roadmap to success, just hard work, loyalty, honesty and possessing a deep well of passion that fuels your vision. Relish and accept the setbacks with the same passion you embrace success.
With change, comes change. Some to your choosing and some that will arrive from where and when you least expect it. Always approach change, as an opportunity to learn, grow, discover the talents in others, inspire new beautiful relationships, as well as all the amazing opportunities change can and will create.
Allan Labos has more than 30 years of beauty and style experience across the country and in Europe. He began his career under the tutelage of Vidal Sassoon in London and opened and managed Sassoon salons and schools in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York. For the past 25 years he has owned and operated Akari, a 20,000-square-foot business in Portland, Maine. Akari offers hair, nail and spa services and also includes a boutique, fitness center and medical spa.