With his roots in a salon family and a business degree from Boston University, Israel Cronk brings an interesting blend of spiritual creativity and analytical thinking to his role as general manager at Bangz Salon and Wellness Spa in Montclair, New Jersey. The best example of his blended approach is a strategic gratitude program he pioneered, and naturally tested, at the salon.
“It all started one evening at my favorite restaurant. Sitting at a table familiar with my healthy appetite, I was offered a free dessert and coffee by my server as thanks for my loyal business,” he explains. “Later that evening, I met some friend at the pub and proceeded to tell them about my delicious and free chocolate-covered raspberry cheesecake.
“That’s when I was smacked by my gratitude. I was so grateful to be recognized as a good customer that I did something I normally didn’t do by eating dessert, then I gave my server a bigger tip and told ten people about the experience.”
As the manager of more than 60 service providers, Cronk began thinking of how to apply strategic gratitude to the salon and decided to test out his theory—Gratitude + Empowerment = Lucrative—with a test study of five randomly chosen stylists. He coined the program B.Y.O.B. or Build Your Own Business.
For a month, these five stylists were empowered with the ability to hand-select two to three clients a day whom they wanted to thank for something, either their long-term loyalty, high retail purchases or their number of referrals to Bangz. It was at the stylist’s discretion what they wanted to gift, up to 20 percent off a service or product purchase. The service discounts were given for a future appointment pre-booked on one of the stylist’s slower days. The stylists could opt to participate or not, and discounts were split between the salon and stylist at the same rate as the stylist’s commission.
For a month, Cronk met with the pilot group weekly to discuss pros and cons of the program and he tracked their progress in four categories: retail sales, pre-booking percentage, productivity and participation rate. Over the trial, Cronk happily observed as numbers crept up in every category. After the month, the pilot program was terminated and Cronk watched numbers go back down. He then expanded the program to 20 stylists, who were coached and tracked for a quarter.
Cronk witnessed other positive behavior. “To participate each day, the stylists had to arrive before their shifts started and submit the names of the clients they’d gift that day,” he says. “If they were late, they couldn’t participate for the day, so everyone started showing up early for work.”
Since the trial period, Cronk has opened up the program to everyone in the salon with amazing results. Retail sales have doubled, from an average of $3,000 a week to $6,500 to $7,000 a week, prebooking rates jumped from 30 to 65 percent, and productivity on slow salon days jumped from 20 to 60 percent. Since no other changes were made in the salon at the time, the results are fully attributed to the strategic gratitude program.
“I’ve taken just about every management course out there and they are all based on the numbers and the hard sell, and that’s just two things most stylists and many owners are very against,” says Cronk. “Since not every client gets the discount, and a single client doesn’t get it everytime she visits the salon, this is not seen as a promotion, but for what it really is—a sincere gift of appreciation.”
But more importantly, says Cronk, is how the program’s transformed the thinking around the salon. “It’s really changed the mindset of the staff to not be employees, but to take ownership for growing their own business—to be accountable and be empowered,” Cronk. “Now, they’re coming up to me with even more ideas of how to apply this program.”
Follow the progress of Cronk’s strategic gratitude experiment by following his blog at israelcronk.com.