Despite the fact that vibrant Mardi Gras parades were going on all around them, nearly 2,000 salon owners, managers and stylists gathered in the historic Saenger Theater January 31-February 1 in New Orleans for Serious Business 2016.

The event’s hosts Debra Neill Baker, Edwin Neill and Carol Augusto welcomed attendees by exploring their theme of ‘Into-Me-See.’ “Intimacy is not planned or scripted, it’s spontaneous,” Neill-Baker explained. “It’s more critical than ever that you form a more intimate connection with your team and your guests. Over the past years, we’ve had themes of ‘Being Here,’ ‘Trust,’ and ‘Naked,’ so intimacy was the next natural step.”

With that spirit in mind, Neill Baker and Augusto invited the first speaker, Mel Robbins, founder of and a regular CNN contributor, to a quaint table setting on stage with them for an opening conversation. In presentation which followed, Robbins further explored intimacy by going into the audience and randomly asking people about their professional and personal goals for 2016. Then, she shared her success with helping people accomplish their goals.

“If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill it,” says Robbins. “Tell someone, write it down, send an email, ask for help, volunteer, raise your hand, post something, take a risk…if you don’t do something physical, your brain will decide your plan is too hard and will ditch your plan.”

Next, James Morrison took the stage. Formerly of TONI&GUY and TIGI, Morrison shared the inspirational professional and personal journey that’s led him to open Morrison Hair in Laguna Beach, California. Then, Van Council, co-owner of Van Michael Salons in Atlanta, talked to the attendees about the importance of developing a salon culture, and shared the ideas behind his salon’s client service wheel and New Talent programs.

“Culture is a way of life shared by a group of people—the beliefs, values and behaviors that they accept, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next,” said Council, who also shared Van Michael’s core values of integrity, education, creativity and competition.

The first morning wrapped with a introspective lecture from integrative medicine expert Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D. She walked the audience through some preventative measures for good health, including diet, stress management, exercise, sleep, detoxing and limiting exposure to environmental toxins.

In the afternoon and on the following morning, Serious Business attendees were encouraged to customize their education experience by choosing among a number of smaller breakout sessions held at The Roosevelt Hotel. Breakout speakers included Alejandra Crisafulli and Bonnie Bonadeo of NAP Events; Dr. David Cuccia of Cuccia Health Institute, Stephanie Fox of Canvas Salon; Mac Fuller, author of Amazing Face Reading; Matt Humphrey of Gary Manuel; Chris Murphy of and Maximum FX Salons; Jodi Ohama of RedBloom Salon; Carrie Perkins of Veda Salonspas; Professional Beauty Association’s Myra Irizarry Reddy; Frank Rizzieri of R Session Protools; Jeff South of Intrigue Salon and Club Intrigue; Summit Salon’s Kristi Valenzuela; Wendy White McCown of 3-Day Work Week and Signatures Salon; and Rob Willis of Atelier Salon & Studio.

On Monday afternoon, Serious Business closed on the mainstage with two captivating speakers. Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger, who wrote the best-selling book Contagious: Why Things Catch On, kicked things off by encouraging the audience to consider, “How tasty is your marketing?”

“Stories are the currency of conversation,” said Berger. “Only 7 percent of word-of-mouth marketing is online—most is still person-to-person, face-to-face.”

Robin Sharma, author of  The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and The Leader Who Had No Title, wrapped up Serious Business with a rousing speech on the value of leadership.

“Leadership is less about a title, and more about a mindset,” he cautioned owners. “It’s about what you do when no one is watching. Leadership is about doing what’s right.”

Originally posted on Modern Salon