You see them on every corner. The competition is fierce. So how does a hair salon go from an unknown local business to a 30-year success story and one of AJC’s “Best Places to Work?”
On this week’s CEO Exclusive, we discover the secret to Atlanta-based Joseph and Friends Salon & Spa’s success. Sitting down to discuss their business model and corporate philosophy are owner and industry fixture Joseph Golshani, along with his General Manager Elana Madrid. From training to community outreach, creating “lifers” in both customers and staff, Joseph and Friends has formed a corporate culture that sees them succeeding in a very crowded market.
One of the keys, according to Golshani, is something he calls “the three stages of life.” Along with establishing solid core values, building meaningful relationships with the community and with clients, and being a more interactive leader, these factors form a process that has allowed him to unlock his employees’ potential and achieve sustained growth.
Learn Your Craft Cold
At Joseph and Friends, service and satisfaction are job one. In order to stay ahead of the competition, they have to offer more than just a wash and a cut. For them, it’s about the salon experience, and that derives directly from the staff – a well-trained and dedicated staff.
This is where Golshani’s “3 stages of” come into play. He believes that an employee who knows their position, develops their skills, and passes on their knowledge to others, creates a climate where customers are comfortable, confident, and committed. More than 75% of the company’s clients are the result of repeat business, and that’s on top of the 400-plus new customers they greet each month.
Joseph and Friends is clearly doing something right, and part of their strategy is a set of core values that concentrate, as Golshani puts it, on “education, growth, and relationships.” From a “strict educational platform” that involves intense training as part of a “boot camp,” to surveying beauty schools for the best candidates, the company strives to create lifelong connections that help grow all aspects of the business, from profits to the people.
Apply the 3 Stages of Life to Your Employees
Stage one is what Golshani calls “the learning curve.” As it applies to Joseph and Friends, he states that, “for someone to become a really good stylist, a good service provider, it takes three years.” During this time frame, he expects his employee to learn their craft and learn it well. In fact, he views this as one of his company’s primary duties. Golshani admits that some will get “stuck” on the curve, while others will go on to stage two – mastering.
“The mastering is another three years,” says the man whose name is on the marquee, “that means you’re going to do the best bob, the best layered haircut. You’re going to be the best that there is.” This is important for two reasons. First, it establishes a reputation for the business, and second, it creates an atmosphere of expertise which leads into the final stage – mentoring.
For Golshani, the question is “How am I going to give it back?” He wants his entire staff to be comfortable as mentors, to pass on their knowledge to others still struggling in stages one or two, and to understand that the quicker they get involved in such a practice, the more they will get in return.
Change With the Changing Times
For General Manager Elena Madrid, these ideas hit close to home. “When I came in, I started at the very bottom,” she explains, “I thought I wanted to do hair. I then realized I wanted to be in management, so I was guided in that direction.” This is because the staff at Joseph and Friends recognized her personal vision for a career path and checked in with her to see what they could do to make her dream a reality. “I went from an assistant to being the general manager of five salons,” Madrid explains, “the company grew what was inside of me.”
Not everyone wants what she did, however. “Everyone’s point A to point Z is different” Madrid points out, “Not everyone’s priorities are going to be mine or Joseph’s.” The key for this company is applying the three stages and then doing one final, crucial step – listening. They pay attention to what their employees want and need, and then they develop ways to help them get where they need to go.
It’s all part of changing with the ever-changing times. It’s also about making connections, and this means doing the same with your clientele as well. For Joseph and Friends, it’s about “lifers.” As Madrid explains, “We’re trying to build these lifelong relationships so when we meet you, we get engaged. We learn about you, you learn about us. We just don’t want to connect with you; we want to connect with everyone you know.”
Educate by Example
If there is a consistent theme throughout many of the CEO Exclusive discussions, it’s the notion of leaders stepping away from the board room and getting “down in the trenches” with their employees. Golshani argues that for those in charge in any industry, you have to “walk the talk. It’s very common to see me going into the salon and sweeping hair,” he says.
It’s the same for his GM. “On any given day, Elena will put on a different hat and do whatever it takes, and that’s what you want,” Golshani points out. In his mind, it’s one of the biggest reasons for the company’s growth. “There are challenges, changes every day and you have to change. You can’t say, ‘oh no, that’s not my job.’” Indeed, no chore is too menial for this man. “On any given day, anything could be my job,” he confesses. “You could see me changing lightbulbs; if the lightbulb needs to be changed, I will change it.”
Talk it Out
Communication is also crucial, as is knowing just how to address your staff. “I try to talk to the three-year-old in everybody,” Madrid says. When she sees a problem in the salon, or senses one of the employees has an issue, she will go one on one with them. “99% of the time, they just need to talk about it,” she confirms. “Once they are being heard and feeling cared for, they get right back on their game. I’ve got kids, it’s the same thing.”
From the interview process to daily interactions, it’s about building relationships. “The more you find out about your clients, or your stylist, or your employees, the more they want to find out about you,” Golshani believes. Madrid agrees. “When I go to pick up my bagel and coffee in the morning and the guy who owns the place says ‘how are you doing, how’s your son, how’s your daughter?’ I feel the connection.”
For Joseph and Friends, the three stages of life – educating your staff, helping them master their skill set, and more importantly, having them give back, both to the business and to the community at large, is the reason they are as popular and successful as they are today. By creating that connection, by fostering these relationships, you too can stand out in a crowded marketplace and thrive.