You feel like taking a trip, maybe even pampering yourself for a change, but you’re too conscientious for your own good. You think that time away from working in your salon business should be spent learning about running your salon business. Still, when was the last time you took a real vacation? You can’t decide.
Along comes the R+Co Excursion, and now you don’t have to decide—you can do both and more. You can learn and pamper, explore and indulge, network and give back.
R+Co describes its new four-day Excursions as “where the critical exchange of ideas with fellow salon owners is encouraged against a luxury backdrop of festivity and friendship.” Held at five-star venues, the Excursions attract owners of some of the country’s top salons.
The first R+Co Excursion took place in October 2022 in Key Largo, Florida, and the 2023 calendar has three dates: February 5-8 at the Wynn Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada; March 12-15 at the Ritz-Carlton, Santa Barbara, California; and October 15-18 at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida. Like so many recent initiatives that represent a twist on the familiar, the idea for fashioning a sort of “destination education” event for salon owners originated in response to the pandemic. Salon pros missed in-person education, yearned for social gatherings, thirsted for luxurious adventure and, most of all, just wanted to get out of the house.
While areas of exploration include hot business topics like leadership, staff recruitment and retention, intergenerational communication, and profitability, a detailed syllabus is not released because it’s just too proprietary. Attendees trust the R+Co team to deliver the highest quality of content, and the veil of secrecy only makes it more enticing.
Industry icons Tev Finger and Dan Langer have always infused education into beauty branding, from their very first venture together when they helped to build the Bumble & bumble brand. As they’ve developed and guided other successful brands, including Oribe, education has been the vehicle that has supported customers and kept the pair of beauty pioneers connected to the greater salon community. While all of their earlier beauty companies were sold at some point, their latest brands, R+Co and R+Co Bleu, fall under the Luxury Brand Partners corporate umbrella, with Finger as Founder and CEO of Luxury Brand Partners and Langer as president of R+Co. Because they believe that educational support is more important than ever, Finger and Langer have positioned R+Co Education as a separate brand under the same parent company.
But right before education became a breakout star for Luxury Brand Partners, there was no education at all; the pandemic brought most types of learning to a screeching halt. By the time lockdown lifted, Finger and Langer noticed that the industry around them had experienced a sea change or two that began well before Covid.
“Between 1998 and 2022, the landscape of the entire salon world, in my opinion, changed,” Finger explains, citing the leased salon model and social media as two of the change drivers. “It used to be that the best salons were constantly sharing information, and salon teams back then liked having a consistent payroll—working long hours with no side hustles. All of that is different, and that’s where I see the challenge today.”
The impact of social platforms alone has been seismic, Langer notes.
“Social media has changed the salon’s relationship with clients,” he says. “Now everybody in the salon participates in the marketing—every stylist, everyone who works at the front desk, has their own followers. Instead of rolling out large, singular brand campaigns, the salon can be immediately visible to the public through the team. The newest members of the salon might create the highest amount of awareness just because of the way they leverage social media. So instead of connecting with clients every six weeks, it’s daily. Salon owners really need to think about how that can help their business to function.”
New Learning for New Times
To address today’s reality of setting up salons to thrive, Finger created fresh educational material and brought it to the full team. Together, they made a plan. A four-day schedule would provide time for a broad range of subjects. The R+Co team would do the teaching. The events would include meals to offer organic opportunities for attendees to network and learn from each other. The new concept was taking shape: an excursion. But where to hold it?
“I didn’t want to go to the same place each time as I’d done at Bumble,” Finger recalls. “Teaching in a new environment makes my team more passionate, and then the owners enjoy it more. It’s not ours, it’s not yours. It’s a new place.” Each of the four days would be split into about a half day of formal learning with the rest of the day open to enjoy the location, sit by a pool, hang out at the bar, and quickly get to know each other.
Just prior to the Excursion launch, R+Co surveyed salon owners to identify specific problems they faced and topics they wanted to learn about.
“We got back so many responses,” Finger recalls. “In the end we had four pages in small type of all the topics they wanted. That inspired me. I saw that salon owners were screaming out for help. Now everything we’re teaching fits into the top of that long list—recruiting stylists, losing stylists to other salons, and profitability challenges now that rents are higher. Psychology also is an important topic, because that is part of why people leave.”
The first event, at a private club in the Florida Keys, brought about 75 attendees together with 25 people from the R+Co team.
“It was a wild success!” Finger reports. “We really coddled the customers.” Even more people participated in the second event, at a larger venue in Las Vegas. And departing from much salon education, the Excursions aren’t about directly selling product.
“I’d say R+Co products are featured in only 1 or 2 percent of our education,” Langer says. “It’s paramount to bring together the best salons rather than to focus on product sales. We invite people all the time who may not even carry R+Co but who we think would enjoy our education, which is exhaustive in the business category—providing education relevant to the salon business.”
Even the wonkish, early-morning elective classes have been popular, Finger adds.
“These classes talk about how to read a P&L and how to potentially sell the business—things like that,” Finger notes. “About half of attendees come to them. I didn’t expect that.” Neither did he expect the 75 percent showing he gets at the hour-long Midnight Mentor sessions. As one day slides into the next, Finger chooses a topic and leads the team in answering participants’ questions.
“Midnight Mentor is a way of showing our level of commitment,” he adds. “We go the extra mile, just as they do at that hour.”
The Excursions model follows the culture that Finger and Langer have built over the long career they’ve shared with a core team that has been with them for most of it. They’re all committed to the same goals and familiar with each other through years of working together.
“We’ve seen thousands of examples of what salons are doing—what they’re doing great and where they can improve,” Langer explains. “We have a fascinating perspective because of the breadth of relationships we’ve established. We bring that unique perspective to this education.”
The price of the Excursions ranges from $2,000 to $4,000 per person, not including airfare. R+Co loses money on every Excursion, but the execs feel it’s well worth it.
“The excursions are incredible for me, because I get to spend time with salon owners outside of the office,” Langer says. “A big part of what we do is about creating community, and the Excursions help us to strengthen that community. Nothing makes me happier than getting to know salon owners on a personal level.”
And it’s “back atcha,” according to the feedback forms participants fill out. They love getting to know the minds behind the brand and appreciate being gathered together.
“These owners are committed to education, to their brands, to what’s next,” Langer continues. “So you inherently have salons that love education and collaborating and community, a like-minded group of business owners who already have successful businesses but want to take it to the next level. That’s a great starting point.”
Taking Stock and Looking Ahead
From that starting point, the Excursions tend to push the salons to new heights, Langer reports.
“We’re seeing salons grow significantly after the education—by 50 percent or even 100 percent in some cases,” he says. “It’s not only about what we teach. One of the biggest blessings is that they bounce ideas off each other. We’ve seen lasting friendships form. Also, it’s critical for all business owners to take time to step away from their day-to-day activity, have strategy sessions, and focus on the direction of their business. Salon owners don’t necessarily have the time to do that. As a culture, we’re always running, going faster, trying to do more. Rarely do we step back to think about our successes, how far we’ve come, and which areas are the most important in our business to lean into.”
Always following the path toward growth, Finger and Langer are planning Excursion 2, which will be an international venue, most likely in Italy. The prerequisite for enrolling is attendance at an Excursion 1 event. Finger reports that everyone who’s attended an Excursion so far has expressed the intention to continue this journey. The other new idea is to offer a significantly lower price point by gathering during the day at a luxury venue in Florida but letting attendees choose their own hotel or Airbnb.
After that, there may be Excursions 3 and 4 to explore every nook and cranny of salon operation. Finger says he wants to generate discussion of a diverse collection of information and many perspectives, even those with which he may disagree.
“The Excursions are about creating communities focused on excellence,” adds Langer. “This is an amazing industry that brings the most incredibly talented people together with communities of clients who have huge loyalty and love for their salon. The future is about refining what we’re already doing. I’d love to see salons take charge of their brand and create experiential moments, embrace digital, think about their businesses as 24/7, and provide best-in-class client service to drive forward their place in the local business communities.”
For more information on R+Co Excursions, see the dedicated page on the company’s website.
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