Amanda Hair, owner of Bob Steele Salons with five locations across Atlanta, designed a long-running employee competition that encourages her top performers to keep bettering themselves and fuels the rest of the team to stretch themselves in an attempt to achieve the top-ranking status.

Each year, Hair takes the top eight performers, who have amassed the highest annual gross sales company-wide, on a 48-hour retreat. The sales include both service and retail, and are calculated from January 1 to December 31. The eight finalists are announced when the company’s year-end results are finalized in February of the following year. 

To date, each year’s getaway includes a fun group activity and relaxing spa services, wrapped around mutual meals and plenty of relaxation time. Hair acts as host of the retreat, and each experience starts with the eight honorees leaving together and enjoying celebratory champagne on a limousine-style bus.

“Each year we design a different experience,” Hair says. “One year we went to Chateau Elan Winery and Resort, where we enjoyed a wine tasting experience. The following year we spent time kayaking and enjoying the pool at the Ritz Carlton Lake Oconee. And, last year’s trip at the Barnsley Resort included horseback riding.”

The annual retreat is built on a foundation of goal tracking, measurement and year-round competition. Each week, at each Bob Steele location, managers post the top 10 performers in service sales per hour and retail units per transaction. “It’s all about pure recognition, stylists are really excited when they make the list,” Hair says. “We’ve long called them the Big 10, so following the basketball trend, we named the retreat the Elite 8.”

The retreats are purposefully unstructured because the overall goal is to reward and celebrate the top performers. “They only need to come and relax,” says Hair, who shares that many of the honorees also are busy working moms, so relaxation is at the top of the agenda. But the process of having employees from different locations enjoying the getaway together has resulted in its own benefits. 

Inherently, there’s a cross pollination of ideas, as the honorees share the best practices that led them to winning a spot on the Elite Eight. “For example, Jennifer Fitzgerald is one of the most amazing stylists I’ve ever seen. She maintains a 30-minute book and she’ll still find time to squeeze people in. She’s been an inspiration to Elite Eight members, many of who went back and reduced the time between booking clients from 45 minutes to 30, making them more productive,” Hair shares. “Madellin Bong consistently is our top retailer and she’s shared her strategies during Elite Eight trips and I’ve watched as other members retail numbers bump up after one of these retreats.”

Hair continues, “It just goes to show that even top performers can still find room to grow.”

Hair budgets $10,000 annually for the retreat, but considers it money well spent. “A strong sense of community develops as these team members build relationships across locations,” Hair says. “Plus each year they give me lots of suggestions that result in a stronger salon organization.”