2014 Women of Vision: Joanne Powers and Heather Bagby

Joanne Powers    
President – CEO, Shear Art Salon, North/South; CEO, The Salon Professional Academy
Heather Bagby
Vice president, Shear Art Salons
Senior director of development, Summit Salon Business Center

Mother and daughter Joanne Powers and Heather Bagby make a dynamic duo in the salon industry. Together they run Shear Art Salons in Tampa, Florida, and Bagby also is a partner of and the senior director of development of the Summit Salon Business Center, the world’s largest seminar, consulting and training company for the salons and spas. Their journey began when Powers began her cosmetology career in 1976, opening her first salon ten years later. In 2003, she became a graduate of the Summit Salon Business Center, and in 2005 she opened The Salon Professional Academy and currently serves as its chief executive officer. Bagby literally grew up in the salon, but initially followed other interests. A graduate of Auburn University, she also holds a certificate in association management from DePaul. Prior to joining SSBC, she was an association executive with SmithBucklin Corporation, the world’s largest association management firm. Today, her enthusiasm and passion for organizational development is instrumental in leading salons to consistently deliver management solutions that drive growth and achieve organizational effectiveness.  

Joanne, how are you passionate?
Powers: Today the word “passionate” is utilized often. However, it clearly describes our industry’s personality. On a daily basis, I am allowed to be heartfelt, emotional, intense, impassioned, heated, excited, spirited, energetic—and it’s acceptable! As an entrepreneur, the heartfelt feelings for our staff are truly genuine, because we really care about them. Be passionate about the people in your life, as relationships develop your success. We believe, if we treat our staff and guests with an authentic heart, our company will grow and the monetary value will follow.

Heather, how are you tenacious?
Bagby: I have always believed that you have to have tenacity to get things done. You must believe in what you are doing and consistently demonstrate it as such. As a leader, I am tenacious about growing employees who use intelligent verbiage and make an impression on every guest as the smartest group of salon professionals on the planet!

Since you started your own business, how have your motivations changed?
Powers: When I started our business, the focus was on the guest, now my focus is our staff. We provide them with all the tools they need to succeed and they know they are fully supported by our management team. By treating them with respect and providing them with the highest level of education, we know our guests will receive exceptional care.

Bagby: I grow people for a living. We do hair, skin, nails and massage for fun. Our company is in the business of growing people. It’s the single most important aspect of our company.

What do you do on a daily basis to help you grow as an entrepreneur?
Powers: To grow as an entrepreneur and as a person, the balance of work, family, exercise and spirituality must be in order. We can all read inspirational quotes and business magazines, but if the balance gets out of order, that is usually when we fail.  

Bagby: I am extremely fortunate to be a member of Summit Salon Business Center’s board of directors. On a daily basis I have interactions with some of the most successful salon professionals in the industry. These people are my mentors, and our combined passion to “change the conversation” in the salon industry drives me to pass it on.

Who or what inspires you?
Powers: My father inspired me at a young age, through teaching me the balance of life.  He was a small-business owner who displayed humility, lots of heart, and good old-fashioned hard work. One of the many valuable life lessons I learned from him was to always surround yourself with like-minded people, and at the end of the day always do the right thing.

Bagby: Cosmetology students inspire me. I am impressed with their love of hair and passion for the art. My mom (Joanne Powers) and I also own a cosmetology school and these students are the future leaders. We teach them how to marry the beautiful energy in their heart with the brilliance in their brain! Our goal is to celebrate the intelligence in our industry and to do it one student at a time.

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from running your own business that you would share with other women?
Bagby: Women in business must learn how to be simultaneously gracious and tough. This is how I describe my business partner and mother, Joanne Powers. Having a gracious voice ensures that you will be heard and not taken advantage of in any business situation. Staying gracious, no matter what, shows that you are in control and thoughtful. In the end, all women should be helping to shape a business world where all voices are heard.

Powers: Take less time agonizing over the one negative factor within your company, as you step back, there are ninety-nine positive factors that need your attention. As soon as you can take the emotion out of daily decisions, and make a decision for the betterment of all within your company, you change your life.  

As you grew your company/brand, what “Ah-Ha” moments of clarity helped you shape its future course?
Powers: Summit Salon Business Center shaped the course of our company 11 years ago. Together with the Summit we developed a strong business plan that has taken our company beyond our expectations. We have grown to two salon locations and a school.

Bagby: Smart scheduling! We run two shifts per day and our team members work 32-hour weeks. This enables all of our employees to have quality of life and quality of work life. Smart scheduling is a tremendous point of difference and has enabled us to recruit the best and the brightest. We understand that the new generation is willing to work hard, but will not do so at the sacrifice of their personal life.

In developing your company, what is the biggest roadblock you’ve faced, and how did you conquer it?

Powers: The changes in the economy through the years have been a big challenge. We are forced to constantly reinvent ourselves and adjust our business plan.

Bagby: The realization that we are not for everyone. Our salon company is comprised of career service providers. Not every service provider we hire embraces our career path. I used to try and cheerlead people to success because my tenacious nature would not allow me to give up. However, once I realized that my dream is not necessarily their dream, it became clear that our company is not for everyone.

How would you describe your management style? What do you think makes you a good leader, and in what areas would you want to improve?
Powers: We believe in growing our own, and you are only as good as your people. We stay focused on our core belief of growing people and stay authentic in our heart.
Bagby: I don’t try to manage people. I believe we provide service providers an incredible canvas to do their best work everyday. Our motto is to consistently “better your best.” Because of this philosophy, I believe every day is an opportunity to improve.

Throughout your professional history, what’s the best lesson you’ve learned after making a mistake?
Powers: Every mistake you make is God’s way of humbling you. It gives you a chance to learn from your mistake, and come back stronger than ever.
Bagby: To admit the mistake. Getting in front of your mistakes not only garners respect, but it also humanizes your leadership. My team knows I am not perfect. And more importantly, they know I’m always trying my best.

What is the number-one quality you look for when hiring employees, and how do you evaluate if they possess that trait?
Powers: The number-one quality we look for when hiring is a nice person with a winning smile. We believe we can teach them the rest.
Bagby: For our company, it is simple. The number-one trait is personality. You simply have to be nice. We believe in hiring the person and training them to become successful.

Share something personal that very few people at your work would know about you.
Bagby: Since I did not attend cosmetology school, I am very open about my lineage in the salon industry. I grew up in a salon. Literally. I spent most days after school and almost every Saturday working in our salon company. The irony is that when I was growing up I never thought I would end up in the salon industry. In fact, when I left for college I didn’t even anticipate ever moving back to Tampa, Florida, where my salon companies are located. It took me several years in the corporate world to understand how I could marry my business acumen with my love of the salon industry. What most people do not know is that I considered going to law school after completing my bachelor’s degree!

What’s the best thing an employee/colleague ever said about you?
Powers: One of best things an employee said about me was that I was a really nice person, but don’t cross the line. In my opinion as a strong business woman, it’s important that you display true caring emotion but maintain strength.
Bagby: My first boss out of college wrote a letter of recommendation for graduate school. These words drive me to better my best everyday: “She is both assertive and aggressive, understands the difference, and has the maturity to know when to use one or the other. She is a discerning thinker, has the strength of her convictions, and clarity. I have seen her debate, as an equal, senior executives three times her age and one hundred times her income without fear.” I’ve kept this letter for almost 20 years and refer to it often. To this day, it is one of the best things a colleague has ever said about me.

If you were training another woman to take over your job, what’s the most important advice you would offer her?
Powers: Provide a culture with team synergy, a strong training program and benefits. Lead people through your passionate love of what you do every day.
Bagby: I spend a lot of time training others to take over my responsibilities. My belief is that you should always be training others so that new opportunities present themselves. My advice is to ask questions. No one knows everything and taking the time to ask questions can prevent unnecessary mistakes. And those mistakes, they will happen. The question is always: what did you learn from it?

If you were to look at scrapbook of your professional career, what would be your favorite page? Which page would you like to remove?
Powers: My favorite page, would be celebrating my staff’s successes. The page I would like to remove would be the day we found out our shopping center needed to demolish our salon building and we had to rebuild.
Bagby: My favorite page would be the day we opened our cosmetology school. I would remove all construction projects!

If someone were to write a book about your life, what would be an appropriate title?
Powers: Woman of Strength and Heart

Bagby: She Has an Intelligent Heart. I used to think being the smartest was the most important trait in business. What I have learned throughout my career is marrying intelligence with a loving heart not only inspires your peers, but is also creates a tremendous spirit of happiness.

If you weren’t in the beauty industry, what would you be doing?
Powers: It is very difficult to see me doing anything else. But if I had to choose, it would be something in the arts.

Bagby: I would be working for a public relations firm.

What is your vision for the future of your company? What is your vision for the future of the industry?
Powers: The future of our company will continue to grow through constantly reinventing ourselves, maximizing our second location through double shifting and strategically marketing ourselves with the ever-changing social media.
The beauty industry is constantly growing and evolving. Paula Kent Meehan revolutionized the products of our industry, and the future will maintain that trend. Together with science, the future of the beauty industry will continue to develop anti- aging products and tools for the baby boomers demand, mens’ grooming, reduction of hair loss and many more.

Bagby: Our company is now owned by a group of shareholders. In addition to my mom and I, we have six other employees who have purchased shares and are now partners with us in our two salon companies. We are getting ready to invite our second generation of shareholders to become partners. Our salon company will live long past my mom and I. That makes me very happy.

I envision a future where parents are positive and excited when their child chooses to pursue an education in cosmetology. We are changing the conversation by growing people for a living and teaching them how to have a wealth mentality.

How does your salon-owner daughter support you in your goals and endeavors?
Powers: My daughter teaches everyone around her the importance of articulation, education and presence. When she walks into a meeting, she raises the bar of professionalism. Heather will continue to support our goals and endeavors by continuing the tradition of controlling a meeting with style and maintaining grace.  We believe in being 100-percent present and staying focused on work issues and celebrations. We aren’t always perfect at staying 100 percent, but we give that thought process a lot of credence. As a parent, it doesn’t get better than this.

How does your salon-owner mom support you in your endeavors?

Bagby: She always told me I could do anything if I was willing to earn it. I was blessed as a child with many wonderful things, but I am truly grateful that she taught me to respect and appreciate work.

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