Management Practices

Wake Up!

Stacey Soble | March 16, 2012 | 4:21 PM

“Prepare to be re-woken,” warns Neil Ducoff, even if you’ve been a subscriber to his three-year-running Monday Morning Wake-Up blog series, which starts business owners' weeks off with practical strategies to get their businesses on the course to success. Now Ducoff, the founder of Strategies and the author of No-Compromise Leadership, is repackaging the collection of posts into a fast-read book packed with great business-building ideas.

On the eve of his book launch, he sat down with Stacey Soble, editor in chief of SALON TODAY to talk about the new book:

CLICK HERE to listen to the podcast.

ST: You’ve become a little famous for not only inspiring leaders, but also removing their blinders and making them confront the tough issues. When it comes to salons, what’s the number one issue people need to wake up about?

Ducoff: “The thing that I encountered most often is a term I called ‘Intolerable Toleration,’ where you see things that are happening in your business and are driving you crazy, but you’re not engaging in doing anything about it.  For example, when your people arrive late, or don’t recommend product, or take 15 minutes too long to do a service, or don’t show up for meetings—when you allow it to go on too long, it becomes normal. It becomes acceptable. Then it’s really hard to change.

ST: You have a section in the book called “The Pressure Test, Manager Meltdown.” Tell us more about that.

Wake Up!Ducoff: “I always ask owners, ‘On a dial from one to 10, what’s your sense of urgency?’ And, they’ll usually respond with an 11 or 12. Then when I ask where the rest of their team is, they’ll say five or six. You’ve got to rock the boat and pressure test your business. For example, we all know the key to selling retail is a professional recommendation. But stand in front of your salon and see how many clients come to checkout without a recommendation and without making a purchase. So the pressure test would be: Can you hold your team accountable that a recommendation is made both verbal and written, that the front desk team understands the recommendation and is scripted to ask the guest if she want to buy. Are you holding them accountable? The pressure test is: pick a system, implement a system, and stick to it with the right accountability.

ST: Your new book is full of what you call ‘use-them-now’ strategies. Can you share one?

Ducoff: I have one called the “Entrepreneurial Manifesto,” which is a list of bullet points about things that an owner needs to lock into their thinking to run a successful business. Things like considering the phrase meeting expectations. Well, to meet expectations, you’re just average. If you buy hamburger at McDonald’s and they do everything right, they’ve met your expectations. If you’ve met a client’s expectations, then your just average. If you exceed expectations by one percent, then how much better are you than the rest of the competition? But I also built some balance into the manifesto. For example, I even threw this crazy thing out about if you can’t take a 90-day sabbatical away from your company, then your company isn’t strong enough to survive without you being there on a daily basis. Again, that wakes people up!”

The book can be found at or or by calling Strategies at 800-417-4848.

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