Art, Beauty, Love


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The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.

As part of The Beacon Program at #cosmoprofna you just experienced two days of what it feels like to be considered the future of our industry. Even though I was only privileged to sit in on a couple hours of your experience, the goodwill and concentrated effort of your PBA hosts, facilitator Geno Stampora, and speakers such as Jay Williams, showed me people putting everything they have into giving you a personal head start. When Geno shares his “Words to Live By,” or when Jay talks about “Significance, self-worth, and sense of belonging,” what you’re witnessing are two people doing their utter best to gift you a lifetime of experience so you can achieve your own riches, potential, and happiness.

With that in mind, this is what keeps coming back to me as I consider you and your bright futures.


For many, art is the enduring nuclear reactor inside your heart that provides the endless source of energy and passion for our business. As you create your journey, stay closely connected to your artistic self. When people say, “Motivation and passion come from within,” accept it as an invitation to renew your connection to your art.


It is useful to ask yourself, “What business am I in?” Some answer, “hair,” some will say “beauty,” and others feel it is, “The people business.” Regardless, for convenience we end up calling it the beauty business. Even though it does change, sometimes change comes slowly—too slowly in fact. Friends behind the chair were recently telling me about how in Europe hairdressers are considered “professionals” while here in the U.S. not so much. After much reflection, I think professionalism, motivation, and passion are cousins that come from the same place—inside each one of us. So, if you want to be seen as a professional, choose a professional role model and act like her until you become one too.


I have enormous respect for how difficult it must be to be your absolute best for every client, every day, every month, year-in-and-year out. We are all human beings and we all get depleted. We have ups and downs and some of us even get burned out. Believe me when I tell you that clients can sense when you’re not feeling your best and it impacts their mood and experience in your salon and in your chair—and maybe the rest of their day. We each have to find our own little happy place where we go to get our minds right before seeing our next client. If you haven’t found yours yet, I humbly suggest love is the answer. If you can pause to love yourself, and see something to love in each one of your clients, you’ll be on your way to being your best for every client every time.


My hope is that among these 500+ words you take-away just three and let them run as a little script inside your head: Art, Beauty, Love. That’s all you really need to remember in order to succeed in your new, meaningful, and lucrative career.

Going too Far


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circa 1933:  American film actress & sex symbol, Mae West (1892 - 1980).  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

I like restraint, if it doesn’t go too far. Mae West

In my business experience, I haven’t met (m)any people who learned at home—or at school—how businesses essentially work or how to behave within an organization. Like other roles in our lives, mother, daughter, friend, spouse, etc., we learn by experience and figure things out by the seat of our pants.

In “What is Management?” I proposed the basis of how businesses work. I encourage you to come back to these 11 bullet points until they are second-nature. We spend so much of our time working in organizations while actually ignoring the context of business and its requirements of us as leaders, managers, and employees.

My clients often ask for my input on difficult employee situations that inevitably occur. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t begin my response by first reflecting on “How Business Works.” As I listen to situations, clarify goals, and probe for motivations one thing crops up time and time again—the issue of restraint, or self-control.

At a very basic level, organizations simply cannot function unless everyone has achieved some minimum level of maturity. We don’t work well together unless each of us takes responsibility for our own behavior and exercises control over our own urges which may come from any direction; absentmindedness, fear, power, self-image, control, and so on.

Management has a reasonable expectation that employees will conduct themselves responsibly, with restraint, and even professionally. Employees must take responsibility for their role at work, recognizing its basic requirements, the same way they take responsibility in their roles as mother, daughter, friend, and spouse.

Employees have a reasonable expectation that Management will conduct themselves responsibly, with restraint, and to “do” management instead of just tasks. It is on them to provide leadership, goals, clear communication, and constantly state and reiterate the importance of values, purpose, and the company’s vision. Management must take responsibility for their role in the organization and not confuse it with power, control, micromanaging, dismissiveness, and the like.

Mae West was quite a character. For organizations to excel what we need is a lot of character.

What is Management?


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Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.
Peter F. Drucker

Because few of us have had bosses who were trained managers, and because few of us have received specialized training in management, we tend to think management is some kind of gut-feel thing. In fact, there is much that is known about management as it has been defined, studied, and systematically improved over the past century. Management is endlessly fascinating and, at the same time, it is not rocket science. For our mutual benefit, and so we have a shorthand way of understanding what we’re talking about when we say “management,” here it is on one page. Again, thanks and props to Mr. Drucker.


To create a customer.


To serve as validation that customer needs are being met.


To know the Purpose, Vision, and Values of an organization and to constantly communicate them.


To make our work productive and to help workers achieve results.

There is a lot of study and discussion about how our memory works. Authors such as Malcolm Gladwell and Daniel Kahneman talk about the concept of “The availability heuristic.” Availability describes what’s happening when, “Something just ‘pops’ into our heads.” In the hustle-bustle of daily management, how we respond to (or lead) a situation is often determined by what pops into our heads. The results can be pretty random. Instead, I ask you to train your memory until the following model of how business works pops into your head. That will help you put things into perspective, help you lead for results, and solve situations in more effective ways. For every business situation you face it’s far better to rely on this model than to just wing it.


  • There is a customer need.
  • There is a better idea to satisfy the customer need.
  • Values, Purpose, and Vision concentrate the effort of multiple people.
  • An organization is formed to divide the work.
  • Each job is described so its contribution is clear.
  • People who share in the Values, Purpose, and Vision are hired.
  • Employees use self-control and contribution to guide the work they do and how they do it.
  • Customers are satisfied.
  • The business earns revenue, and eventually profit, as validation of its success.
  • The business shares their monetary and other success with employees.
  • The business invests so that meeting customer needs can continue.

The Power of the Branding Framework


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A branding framework, “brand DNA,” or “brand book,” is essential knowledge about who we are as an organization, where we’re headed, and what we stand for. A proper framework invites us to think deeply about our business and then puts us in position to communicate our brand to any audience. Example audiences include internal ones like our employees and managers; external ones like advertising agencies, web developers, and other suppliers; and above all it lets us communicate effectively to our customers, “clients,” or “guests.” A branding framework covers a lot of territory from internal strategic intentions to external marketing messages and, therefore, is one of our organization’s most important documented knowledge.


It is very common for people to use the word “branding” and for it to mean different things to different people. It is natural for an advertising agency to say the word branding and for it to mean an ad campaign. To a graphic artist, branding usually means a logo or other symbol they designed. We are going to define branding as something much bigger than an advertisement or a logo. For us, branding is:

The total impact of the organization on our clients and the marketplace.

A brand is composed of hundreds of little fragments of client perception. Our logo, our website, the retail products we carry, the way we dress, our salons’ interiors, the way an individual client was treated by a receptionist and then how she described that to a friend. Every little interaction and every way our clients come into contact with us, our staff and our salons comes together to create an image. It all builds up to create our brand. Stated another way,

Our brand = what we stand for; but not just in our minds: Primarily in the minds of our clients.


The most practical reason we want to invest time in creating a branding framework for our organization is because no two people are alike and it is very rare for any two people to describe the same company the same way. The more “technical” reason for our framework is to create continuity in our brand story and to connect all those little fragments of perception in the minds of our clients in just the right way so they choose us instead of our competition. That also goes for attracting talented people who want to come to work for us. They need to know who we are, where we’re going, and what we stand for because we want to work with people who value the same things we value and want to be part of a journey that is bigger than any one of us. Finally, it also goes for those of us currently on the team. We want to make a difference. We want to make our mark. We want all our hard work to mean something and to pay off. Pulling our branding framework together will bring us together in old and new ways.

By taking the time to get clarity about what’s important, to document it in a way that creates a common understanding among us, and then to communicate what we believe to our clients with one voice has the potential to be one of the most powerful things we do.

Don’t Let Diversion Divert Your Attention


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Chances are you can describe your preferred type of client, you have a pretty good understanding of her needs, and you offer her services and products at fair prices. When clients spend money on what you offer, they are validating you as a business. Money is revenue. Enough revenue, combined with responsible financial management, becomes profit. Profit is, a sometimes rare, validation.

  • New clients validate your offering, your space, and your marketing. It’s good enough to try once.
  • Returning clients validate your total experience. It’s worth trying again.
  • Loyal clients validate your total experience. It is better than your competition.
  • Clients who are your advocates validate the presence of a strong emotional bond.

Usually salon owners I meet spend most of their time thinking about getting new clients—and then their attention is diverted. It is the owner’s responsibility, and opportunity, to create a deliberate plan to move their clients through each stage of Client Maturity.


Clients at each stage are open to different messaging and capable of different behaviors. For example, no one would expect a brand-new client to refer all of her friends to you—but for a Loyal or Advocate it would be natural. I argue, “Why do so many salons hand out referral cards to brand new clients?” I don’t think they are capable of “hearing” that message when they are still deciding about you themselves.

Client Maturity planning helps you focus energy to achieve specific results rather than throwing the kitchen sink at your entire client base and seeing what happens. Relating this to our topic of Diversion (and your need to grow your retail sales)

I urge you to first focus 80% of your attention on creating solid populations of clients within each stage and the retail problem will partially solve itself.

The converse is obviously false since focusing 80% of your attention on selling retail will not create Return, Loyal, or Advocate clients.

For any problem you encounter, ask yourself, “What is it about our offering, our price, our experience that is the root cause here? What can we do better to keep this client firmly in the Return stage and potentially grow them to the Loyal stage? If you’re not sure of that, no amount of asking them to buy your retail will help. From the time a new customer starts looking for a new salon, to the time they return, to the time when they rely on you to satisfy more of their needs, to the time they refer their friends; you are in relationship with them. The more responsibility you take for how they perceive and experience your salon, the more opportunity you have to make a good impression, satisfy their needs more deeply, and develop positive lasting relationships that translate into more sales of everything.

Shift Your Thinking about Diversion

MoroccanoilWhen it comes to selling professional hair care products, every competitor thinks about how to exploit her unique advantage.

  • Big box retailers take advantage of their location, their ability to offer a wide assortment, their purchasing power, lower pricing, etc.
  • Specialty retailers take advantage of their location, their appeal to a niche—or a specialized assortment, their product knowledge, etc.
  • The Internet takes advantage of convenience, low price, low overhead, high volume/low price, etc.

The salon distribution channel has powerful advantages too. Think of it like this. Imagine yourself talking with one of your good clients—not your best client because she already buys her product from you. To your good client imagine yourself saying this,

“Instead of giving your business to them, what if you let me earn it?”

This question is designed as an in-the-moment tactic to help you start a conversation with a good client. It is also intended to be strategically helpful as way to start a conversation with your staff.

As a salon owner, this is your tremendous advantage:

 “You have a personal relationship with your client and you, uniquely, have the expertise to diagnose her hair.”

Getting your staff to use this powerful advantage is more about shifting their perspective than it is about sales commissions or training. They need to shift their idea from “Just doing hair,” to “Serving their whole client,” and respecting their own work. Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computer, famously said,

 “When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.”

Only a true professional hairdresser says, “I’m not going to allow someone to sell my client random hair care products she doesn’t need and that won’t solve her problems. She is my client before, during, and after her appointment and I’m going to make sure she buys the right products so she can feel as good about her look at home as she does when I do it here.”

Yes, sales training is important too. It is. But this single shift in perspective will help your staff grow into their potential, develop their professional status, serve your clients more deeply, and ultimately earn more retail sales.

Why Customers Buy into Diversion

Pureology DuoIf you ask me, “Why do my customers buy their professional hair care products from big box retail, drug stores, specialty retail, or Internet distribution channels instead of buying them from me?” I have a pretty simple answer.

The first purpose of any business is, “To create a customer.” Doing that successfully usually means:

  • Precisely identifying your target customer
  • Understanding her needs
  • Having an insight into how to meet her needs better than the competition
  • Putting the right product within reach, at the right time, in the right quantities, and at the right price with the right support.

The fact is you already understand this. Think about it. You already create customers for professional hair care services. You have a salon. You have a staff. You have a list of services with prices. You have clients. However imperfect it may be, you have figured out how to create a customer for a hair cut, a hair color, a blow out, and so on. My educated guess is that you spent a lot of time thinking and dreaming about owning a salon. You studied and trained for years. You had your ups and downs but you stuck with it. You thought of nothing else but “doing hair” for decades. Some people have thought about it their whole lives.

Well, as it turns out, retailers spend the same amount of time thinking about how to sell retail product to consumers. In fact, some of them have been doing it for generations and others have been doing it long after their companies’ founders retired or went to the “big box in the sky.” In other words, they got good at because they focused on it. And guess what? It makes your job harder. But, guess what else?

They have not made it impossible.


Enjoy DuoManufacturers of professional hair care products are not restricted to a single channel of distribution. Historically, brands have established their reputations and built their images through the salon distribution channel. Today the salon distribution channel moves an ever-smaller portion of a brand’s total volume. Other channels such as big box retail, drug stores, specialty retail, and the Internet make up the bulk of all sales volume and growth. You might consider this diversion but it certainly isn’t the grey market. Most manufacturers are well established in several legitimate distribution channels. You are not alone if you feel they unfairly exploit the salon channel and leverage their own success at the salon owners’ expense.

When I think of diversion I think, in particular, of the unscrupulous brand who has pressured a salon to take on too much inventory—more than they can possibly sell. Or, on the other hand, an unscrupulous salon owner who intentionally buys too much knowing she will offload some of that product in the grey market.

One of the biggest grey markets of professional hair care products operates completely in the open. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Amazon is a bad company at all. And, frankly, they are at least three degrees of separation away from the real problem, that is, too much inventory getting stuffed into channels beyond their normal business capacity.

If you haven’t already done it, then look for yourself. There are many examples of hair care brands who purposely do not distribute their products through—and yet there they are. Why? Because some salon owner, or middleman, has the ambition to buy up excess inventory and resell it below “retail” (and “at or above” in some cases) directly to consumers. This, of course, offends the brands themselves, but more to the point, injures salon owners who play by the rules. They are the ones who build the customer relationships, diagnose individual needs, recommend effective products—while their customers often buy hair care products on line, or from other channels, to save money.

Knowledge Work is More than You Know


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Think about service businesses for a moment—especially businesses like hotels, restaurants, hair salons, and retail shops. If you peel back current fashions, modern conveniences, chains and franchises, and the cornucopia of offerings, these businesses exist much as they did in the 18th century. Merchants, hoteliers, and shopkeepers operate business models that are hundreds of years old and have very low barriers to entry compared to, say, rocket science.

In these pages, one thing you’ll learn is that service can set one business apart from another.

What’s more, knowledge sets one business apart from another—or even above the rest. Knowledge is such a powerful factor that when applied properly it actually transforms 18th century trades into 21st century businesses. Knowledge in the form of business management, human behavior, art, fashion, customer experience, sales, computer science, technical education, and so on carries with it the potential to separate your business from the millions of “entrepreneurs” who’ve gone before—and who are still out there, just opening and closing each day while conducting transactions in between.

Every day I encounter businesses—many of them national brands—that miss their opportunities to put knowledge to work for the benefit of their customers and the benefit of their own organizations. Think back on situations you’ve encountered:

  • Hotels where the receptionist asks you, “Is this your first stay with us?”
  • Coffee shops or counter-service restaurant employees who call out, “Next person in line.”
  • Hair salons who ask, “Who are you here to see?”
  • Dentists and doctors whose receptionists who say, “Just sign in and take a seat.”

Each of these, and many more, have the option to choose knowledge work over low-level, menial, dead-end jobs—and they don’t need to change careers to do it. When Peter Drucker coined the term Knowledge Worker in the late 1950s it came, rightfully, to mean people who deal primarily with knowledge like accountants, lawyers, engineers, and others.

By accepting Mr. Drucker’s famous challenge to search for the unused potential in every job, even a low level clerk can transform her work as a hotel receptionist into knowledge work by learning that people prefer to be looked in the eye, recognized, and greeted with a smile. See? It’s not rocket science.


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