The shot that helped Salon Pure clinch the NAHA Salon Team of the Year win in 2010. Photo by Ara Sassoonian.

Reflecting on NAHA: Salon PureThe judging for the 2014 North American Hairstyling Awards judging is now taking place. Have you ever thought about putting a team together in your salon? SALON TODAY talked to three owners who’ve successfully put together teams and won the prestigious NAHA Salon Team of the Year award for an inside look at the process.

Below, Anna Pacitto, co-owner (with Daniel Benoit) of Salon Pure in Montreal (NAHA Salon Team of the Year winner in 2002, 2007 and 2010) weighs in on her experience. Stay tuned for interviews with Allen Ruiz of Jackson Ruiz Salon and Steven Robertson of Lunatic Fringe Salon.

SALON TODAY: How did you choose who worked on your team? How many people were on the team?

Anna Pacitto: It is always difficult because we are a staff of about 80 at PURE (just hair), and so many have exceptional talent. My partner Daniel and I ask all interested to bring forward their ideas on a model, mood board or in a very visual or physical way—not just verbally. We than collectively analyze all the material and ideas.

Sometimes two to three people worked on one look. We usually produce seven to eight looks the day of the shoot, and then Daniel and I decide on the top five shots based on how well they look together as a whole. We all know there are no hard feelings—the end result counts and we use the other shots for other projects.

SALON TODAY: How soon before the deadline did you start developing your concept? What was your timeline like (hiring models, photographer, stylist, make-up, etc.)?

Pacitto: We start about six months before [with the idea process] but only get going right after the Christmas holiday, which is quite tight on the deadline, but we seem to work well under pressure.

In the team category, for all three wins we worked with our own in-house photographer, Ara Sassoonian, an in-house stylist and in-house make-up artists or a couple of artists we work with all the time for various projects, so that part is easy. We are connected to many model agencies and many models are our clients, so that isn’t too difficult, either. I approve all models and I’m very difficult about the final choices.

SALON TODAY: Did you have a specific vision from the start that the team helped execute or was the whole team involved in the concept? What was your creative process like?

Pacitto: The whole team is involved, and like I said earlier, the process is very physical and not just ideas verbally expressed. We want photos, magazine tear sheets, videos, color swatches, actual cuts or styles on live models or fabrics or anything that renders the theme or mood, clearly.

SALON TODAY: What would you do differently if you entered again?

Pacitto: What we do works quite well for us, there is genuine respect for each other and each year the process is more effective and efficient.

SALON TODAY: What do you think set you apart from the others in your category, making you the winner?

Pacitto: We are blessed with so many talented people at Pure and with so many in-house members—we are together constantly, so we are on the same wavelength creatively all year round.

SALON TODAY: How important is the dynamic on the team? Did personalities ever clash? Were disagreements productive in the end?

Pacitto: I really believe that when creative minds get together there is bound to be friction, then sparks, and in the end there is fire and light!

SALON TODAY: What advice would you give to a salon team that’s considering entering this category? Was it a good team-building process?

Pacitto: Daniel and I have been competing forever and we truly believe in how it transforms an ordinary hairstylist into an extraordinary one. Working together as a team creates bonds that last a lifetime. Just do it: Regardless of the outcome, you will gain from the experience.

SALON TODAY: Finally, how did the experience help you in your every day work at the salon?

Pacitto: When you carry a title like NAHA Salon of the Year you have just raised the bar to the highest level and expectations are very high. So when a client sits in your chair, you better deliver the best work and service ever. The results are astonishing.

Interview conducted and story written by Laurel Nelson, contributing editor for SALON TODAY.