On an uncharacteristically chilly morning in Tuscon, Arizona, approximately 300 team members from the Gadabout SalonSpas family gathered at the salon company’s brand new Resource Center in mid-January. While a slight fender bender in the parking lot did initiate a few gasps, it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the staff members as they set foot in the space for its inaugural event. Eagerly, they selected their seats among the folding chairs in the large common area that once beckoned a congregation to the building that was a former church.
“This is about dreams coming true,” said Frank Westerbeke, as he and his wife and co-owner Jana, welcomed their team that morning.
“This education center has been 10 years in the making and we built it to share with others,” he continued as he invited faculty and students from local cosmetology schools and owners and team members from fellow Intercoiffure salons in the area to stand and be recognized. “Our Gadabout word of the year is LOVE, and we want to share our love and care for the industry by sharing this center and our education with others.”
The Westerbekes then introduced the day’s guest educators, Frank and Belinda Gambuzza, owners of the Salon Visage Group in Knoxville, Tennessee. As current president of Intercoiffure America/Canada, Frank Gambuzza started by painting a picture of the current state of professional beauty.
“It’s a new day, and easy is over,” he said. “Today’s salon clients have more choices, less discretionary income and their expectations are at an all-time high. It’s not that they are unwilling to spend money, but they want to make sure they are getting their value for the dollar.”
To have a little fun with the Gadabout crew, Frank Gambuzza then ran through his top 10 disciplines that define a world-class service provider, asking the audience if they believed Gadabout filled each one. After the rousing presentation, the Westerbekes dismissed Gadabout’s esthetics crew who would spend the afternoon in a microblading class in an upstairs classroom, and the nail technicians who had a scheduled nail class.
Stylists remained in their seats for the day’s technical education, Gambuzza Palooza. Belinda Gambuzza took the stage, walking stylists through a live hair color demonstration, before bringing up five models and walking the audience through their hair color transformations. Afterward, Frank Gambuzza took the stage, grooming a male model and talking through best grooming practices.
Create the Space and They Will Come
In the weeks following the inaugural event, the Westerbekes are discovering the new Gadabout Resource Center is creating a culture of love for their employees in ways these two dreamers hadn’t even envisioned.
About 30 people work full-time in the education center. Corporate offices house the salon’s finance and marketing departments, as well as Frank and Jana’s offices. An adjacent warehouse houses all of the salon’s retail product, with team members dedicated to fulfilling any requests from the company’s five locations—including five Gadabout Salonspas and two VerVe Aveda Lifestyle Salons and Spas.
An upstairs room houses the salon company’s communications center where 13 full-time staff members seamlessly answer calls and book guest appointments for all seven locations. A mural outside their door has renamed the group “The Pulse,” because that is the important role the Westerbekes believe they play for the rest of the operation. Each day, one of the attendants from the communications center mans the education center’s front desk, giving them a chance to interact with the public face to face.
“We been talking about creating an education center over the past decade,” Frank Westerbeke says. “Ironically, when it came time to start looking for a physical space, we started looking at places with a big enough parking lot for all our team members to gather. That led us to looking at old churches.”
In a little room off the main studio, the Westerbekes have set up a workout area, with a treadmill, elliptical machine and stationary bicycle, so when an opportunity presents itself team members can drop in for a little workout—helping them strengthen themselves so they can better serve guests. Within a few short months, the center has already hosted a few pop-up yoga classes for employees with experienced Gadabout team members leading the classes. And, on Tuesdays nights, a portable ballet bar appears, and a dancer who works in the communications center teaches ballet to interested staff members.
Before nights when the center is hosting a number of technical and educational classes, Jana often can be found in the kitchen, stirring a big pot of soup she’s put on to simmer. “It’s been rewarding to watch staff walk into the kitchen and get excited about having someone cook for them,” Jana says. “It creates a culture of contentment.”
David Wagner and a cache of team members from Juut Salonspas has dropped by to check out the new space, and the Westerbekes are looking forward to hosting Reuben Carranza, president of R+Co for a visit. “It’s not normal for a salon’s staff to have that kind of elevated exposure, but this space is giving our team a chance to meet and shake hands with industry leaders,” Frank says.
When a number of the salon’s groups gather at the center for individual technical or leadership classes,, the Westerbekes will gather them all first for a little “87 percent” session. “We believe 87 percent of a guest’s experience in our salon goes beyond the technical execution of the service, so we help cultivate the human spirit of service, including good communication skills such as how to maintain eye contact, offer a beverage and talk about products,” Jana says.
In a few weeks, Gadabout will use the space to celebrate team members who have been with them 10 years or more. A special guest speaker will be the young man who was selected as Youth of the Year by the Tucson Girls and Boys Club. “Six of our managers were invited to judge entries for the Youth of the Year, and he’ll tell come tell us about how the Boys and Girls Club helped transform his life,” Jana says.
Beyond the Salon
Knowing that the space they are creating is truly special, the Westerbekes are preparing to share it with their community partners. Tu Nidito, an organization that helps children through the grieving process, is planning to use the space for a dueling piano event which will raise much-needed funds for future programs. The Boys and Girls Club is considering the space as a place to host its proms.
“We know how important it is to give more than just gift baskets, but also time and effort to help these community outreach groups,” Jana says. “We feel it’s our responsibility to bring them in so our team members can see what they do and difference they make, and now we can also donate our space to those who have a need for it.”