While the group initially elected to keep the names of its members confidential, DiJulius was able to share a few of the industry visionaries that have joined in, including Charles Penzone, founder of the Columbus, Ohio-based Charles Penzone Family of Salons; Van Council, owner of Van Michael Concept Salons, based in Atlanta; Gene Juarez, founder of the Seattle-based Gene Juarez Salons and Spas; and representatives from Chicago-based Mario Tricoci Hair Salons & Day Spas; and Ratner Companies, which include more than 1,000 Hair Cuttery salons across the country.
At the first get-togethers, the owners gathered and shared success stories, as well as some of the challenges and landmines their businesses had faced. “But we soon learned that many of these principals weren’t able to discuss the details of their marketing plans or education systems—they’d simply grown to the point where they weren’t working at that level of their businesses,” explains DiJulius.
So the group responded by changing the scope of the summit, inviting top-level managers of different departments along to form their own educational subgroups. “For example, now the people who run the education programs will meet and the people who lead the marketing efforts will meet—it’s one of the best things we ever did,” says DiJulius. “These managers will come back so fired up with new ideas, and there really isn’t a forum that addresses their unique needs.”
Last year, the group pooled its resources and hired its own keynote speaker, Verne Harnish, author of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits. “Harnish, who’s worked with companies like Dell, shared strategies for maintaining and managing fast growth,” says DiJulius.
But the real learning comes through interaction with some of the industry’s most brilliant minds. “One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from Gene Juarez,” says DiJulius. “He warned that as you grow, you always have to remember that there are two huge sides of the business—the business side and the artistic side, and that you can’t let the pendulum swing too far into business. The voice of the hairdresser needs to be heard in everything you do, from your marketing to your vision to your operating systems.”
That revelation sets the tone for the future direction of the group. Tom Kuhn, who was a member of the group as the former co-owner of JUUT Salonspas, now takes over direction and organization of the newly renamed TKO Market Leaders as the president of TKO Services Inc., a consulting group based in Minneapolis. The duality of business and creativity is clearly visible in the group’s one-page plan that lays out its vision, mission, purpose and goals. On the back of the written plan is a visual representation of the plan.
“If you look at who is attending this year’s conference, it’s a unique blend of the people who are running the business side of the salons and the artistic directors who dictate the creative side,” says Kuhn. “They don’t typically participate in the planning process together, but in this very stimulating two and a half days, they’ll work together in teams designing their strategic plans for 2007.”
“As this group was formed, it was about best practices and critical issues,” continues Kuhn. “Now we have a forward focus on next practices.”