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Don't build teams, build individuals.

April 23, 2019

As salon owners, our business is people.  People are our revenue so we’re scared to death when the top producers walk out the door. Whether they go to chair rental, leave for bigger opportunity or become your competitor, sometimes we feel captive to them.  In the process, we may ruin our culture and create conflict by giving them what they want.


Culture is a buzz word that keeps popping up in business reviews, classes, and with consultants.  As we see reports and data coming out about different generations, ways to run a business vertically vs horizontally, or different personality tests, it’s easy to get confused on how to go about it.


One rule that doesn’t change from culture to culture or generation to generation is the 80/20 rule.  It’s the Pareto principle, which states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.  It’s in both nature and economics. 


Most of our policies, our handbooks, and our guidelines are written for the 80%, or the standard group.  We want them to thrive but within boundaries.  We help them to build their business, we get them education, help build their confidence, and coach them along the way.


But there are always those few remarkable individuals that just don’t need the extra push.  They’re self-motivated, introspective, goal oriented, and don’t necessarily need the daily encouragement.  They’re what we’ll call our A Players.  20% are usually your top producers, you can count on them and they get things done.  Unfortunately, they tend to be the first to leave too.  It’s not that they want to, they’ve hit a ceiling. 


So do we treat them the same as the 80%? I wouldn’t. 

This is personal for me because I was that 20% top producer, who loved my job, loved my co-works but left and now have become a competitor to a boss I still admire.  So what would have kept me?  Now that I’m a boss, I ask myself this often and have done research and found I am not alone.  Here are a few key ideas on how to address your top people.   


  1. Opportunity

Creating opportunity is key for top players.  If you don’t have opportunity for them, let them create it.  If you don’t have a training program, let them write it.  Keep them engaged and this is where you’ll gain their loyalty.  Lack of opportunity is usually the #1 reason they’ll leave.


  1. Recognition

Top players don’t want to be treated like the 80%.  I mean if they’re doing the heavy lifting, they should be recognized!  You can do it through mentioning their performance at meetings, giving them rewards, or even taking them to a dinner and thanking them individually.  If they’re a top player, treat them like a top player! 


  1. Listen

Often, top players have great ideas that are often ignored.  It may be they want to do something that hasn’t been done before or you don’t know how to go about doing it but get them involved. Dismissing their idea completely can impact their performance and it often comes in a bad attitude. Hierarchy does not work with the elite so speak to them as an equal.   


  1. Rules

A lot of times, top players don’t do well with rules.  Again, they don’t want to be treated like their co-workers who aren’t performing as well as them.  Remember, they are driven individuals so give them clout.  Let’s say an A player comes in dressing poorly.  Rather than punishing them, have them give the talk at the meeting about dress code.  If they’re a top performer, usually they will rise to the occasion.  If they are told what to do, they often push back. 


  1. Goals

They need goals in order to stay focused.  With a goal, they become focused and efficient.  Without them, they become unhappy and defiant.  The good news is, they don’t need tons of coaching, they just need a target.  Give them space to hit the target as long as it’s respectful. 


In the salon industry I often hear the term “team work”.  But what is it exactly?  Does a team that gets along well but produces mediocracy and gossips necessarily make a great team? A question that sounds ridiculous is “how many people on a team would it take to beat Bobby Fischer in chess?”.  The idea here is if you want to build a great team – build great individuals. 


Our intelligence is incredibly complex and as a result, a great individual can far exceed the value of many mediocre minds. Harvard Business reviews states, “Our brains work very well individually but tend to break down in groups. This is why we have individual decision makers in business (and why paradoxically we have group decisions in government). Programmers are exponentially faster when coding as individuals; designers do their best work alone; artists rarely collaborate and when they do, it rarely goes well. There are exceptions to every rule, but in general this holds true.”


The best example I can think of is Phil Jackson with his numerous championships.  He built individuals that created solid teams, not the other way around.  If he built the team first, he would have never helped shape Michael Jordan. If he would have built the team first, Michael Jordan would have had to fit into a box and it would not have allowed him to shine. 


So the idea here is to allow people to flourish.  Don’t make your top producers fit exactly into this idea that you’ve contrived as team work.  Not all people thrive in the same environment. Quantity is better than quality when it comes to people so build up your “Michael Jordan’s” but also know that not everyone has to be a Michael Jordan.  See people as individuals and create a strong dynamic with multiple facets.    

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