Like so many out-of-the-box ideas, this one was driven by the pandemic. How could a salon team stay in touch during a lockdown? At JEM Hair Studio in New Paltz, NY, owner Jaclyn Cosh figured out a way: the Marco Polo app.
A sort of private mini-Zoom, Marco Polo lets you speak directly to your phone camera to create a little video of whatever you want to share. The other people in your app network do the same, and you all check in to see what the others are saying.
A Way to Cope
“We’re a very close salon, and at the beginning of the Covid shutdown we wanted to make sure we stayed in touch,” Cosh recalls. “So we’d hop on Zooms. It was during this time that we started doing a morning gratitude session and stating a goal for the day.”
JEM Hair Studio went into lockdown on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2020, and didn’t reopen until June 9. When those tough nearly three months were over, every stylist came back to work. Cosh credits staying in touch, first on Zoom and then through Marco Polo, with her result of retaining all of the salon’s stylists.
“My team saw that I was going to show up for them,” she says. “If you’re still in communication, still trying to lead, and still showing that you’re there for them, it helps them to believe in you.”
Goals and Gratitude
When the salon reopened, the staff continued the videos. Every morning, typically on their drive into the salon, team members set up their phone to capture themselves as they offer one “fact”—a goal they want to make happen that day—and one expression of gratitude. Cosh says that while they’re also all aware of what’s going on in each other’s personal life, the Marco Polo sharing sticks mostly to professional topics.
“When you get to the salon, you leave it all at the door,” Cosh says. “So we share before we get here. There’s been many a tear shed in morning gratitude!”
Their stated goals help Cosh plan one-on-one coaching and broader salon education. “They might say something simple such as struggling with coloring red hair,” she says. “That lets me know that I need to have a class on that.”
Then in the evening, they’re back on the app, sometimes following up on the morning goal. In the red hair example, the colorist might say, “My struggle of the day was that the red wasn’t exactly what I wanted.” Or maybe she’ll report a win: “My success of the day was that my blonde client came out great even though I was nervous about the service.”
In between the drive-time videos, there are more touch points. A buddy system gives each stylist a designated person so the two of them can look out for each other, Cosh holds frequent one-on-one meetings, and a daily morning huddle helps the owner troubleshoot by asking her team what isn’t working and what they can do better.
“Maybe people think the towels would be better placed at a different spot,” Cosh says. “If we never have a chance to talk about it, I’ll never hear that.”
While the huddles and meetings remained, once pandemic-related things felt relatively normal again, Cosh let Marco Polo go. She didn’t feel it was so necessary. She soon learned that no one agreed! Staffers missed their morning connection and asked to have it back. So stylists, assistants, and any reception staffers who want to opt in are all back on the app twice a day.
Now these mini-videos can feel like just a fun way to share. But Cosh keeps in mind how, only two years ago, the app filled a hole, meeting a desperate need to keep a salon family together.
“I find myself comparing the feeling of the pandemic to that horrifying day in 2001—September 11,” Cosh reflects. “At the beginning of the pandemic, many of us salon owners from New York had conversations and discussed the similar feelings the two tragedies evoked. We always came up with the same conclusion: what we do now is going to make or break us. We wanted to look back and remember what we did for our communities and what we need to do to propel ourselves in uncertain times.”
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