As a business grows it gets harder and harder to stay on top of all day-to-day activities. Nurturing and empowering team leaders helps take some of the pressure off, as Be the Business found out.
Every hair salon has its own personality, from an expensive designer boutique for the fashion crowd to a well-loved local perm palace for the blue-rinse brigade. What both extremes of the hairdressing spectrum – and everything in between – needs to thrive commercially is a core clientele of loyal customers. Achieve this, and sales and profits will follow.
Boutique South London hair salon chain Myla and Davis has acquired an impressive local reputation for itself. Jess Gartland, general manager, joined the company when it was founded in 2009 at its salon in Herne Hill as an apprentice and has watched it grow to become a three-shop business with 43 employees. Gartland went on to become a stylist and manager of its Brixton salon in 2014 before becoming general manager in 2018.
When the business expanded to its third site, management decided that each salon should have its own manager, drawn from the full-time team of each salon’s assistants and stylists. “Candidates for these roles seemed to naturally present themselves,” said Gartland. “They were individuals who had shown a particular appreciation for the workings of the salon as a whole, rather than what fell only within their role.”
She explained that team leaders at Myla and Davis are not chosen for how long they have been with the company, but for their attitude and how well that fits with the company’s culture. “Would their approach to a difficult situation be similar to ours?”, she explained. Further fundamental qualities include being caring, organised and passionate about the craft. “We believe that if staff are genuinely cared for then they, in turn, will care for their clients. The central tenet of each manager’s role is to look after the team and it is this which allows the floor team to provide an exceptional and personalised service for each client. If this is achieved the rest follows,” Gartland said.
Hairdressing revolves around cultivating a one-to-one relationship with every client, and it is only if this is pulled off with aplomb that clients return and sales and profits are maximised. Gartland says that each team leader must be adept at giving the individuals under their charge the room to carve out their own relationships with clients. Some clients want a chatty confidante, others want silent efficiency – it’s up to the individual hairdresser to decide what works best.
Myla and Davis salon managers are responsible for looking after a team of between six and twelve people, and for the day-to-day running of the salon – as well as their own work as either a stylist or assistant. They must hold monthly team meetings and quarterly one-to-ones alongside training and management meetings. Ahead of quarterly appraisals with every team member, key performance indicators (KPIs) are assessed based on key metrics, such as the percentage of repeat requests from clients. “Experience has shown that there is a correlation between these KPIs and how happy a stylist is feeling at work,” said Gartland.
Vision and values
The company’s mission statement explains that “thought, craft, and understanding is all part of the Myla and Davis way”. Neither managers nor stylists are given monetary targets – key performance indicators are all based on the nature of the stylist’s clientele, including the number of new and returning clients. Gartland’s advice for creating team leaders who maximise sales and profitability is to “choose your team wisely and look after them!”.
Another business that focuses on creating excellent customer relationships as the means to growing sales and profitability is The Pig hotel group of five luxury locations in the South of England. The group was founded its first hotel in the New Forest in 2011, and now has a total of 450 employees – although this will likely grow to 750 by the end of next year when it opens another three hotels.
Tom Ross is The Pig’s group operations director, and like Myla and Davis, the company prefers to promote team leaders from within. “Future managers are identified at an early stage – age is no barrier. They will display good operational skill but most importantly will understand hospitality, and they must understand the philosophy of the Pig,” he added.
The business currently has a group of 40-50 junior employees it is training for future leadership positions. “We do not believe in the sink or swim approach which can occur it our industry,” said Ross. A team leader’s responsibilities can range from being a hotel director, responsible for more than 100 staff, to a reception manager in charge of four people.
The qualities the group looks for in future leaders include having an ability to understand the operation and mesh this with the philosophy of the business, being able to lead a team in the same direction to achieve this, and a commitment to achieving the best for themselves, their team and the company.
Critically, it is incumbent on team leaders to understand that the business is about hospitality, not money. “If they are driven by sales and profitability then they will not be thinking about the guest as their first thought. Of course, there are targets to meet and we guide and coach our leaders on what these are and how to meet them but hotels and restaurants are about hospitality and people. We make poor decisions when driven by profit,” said Ross.
The “spirit of generosity” is what is at the heart of the business, believes Ross. “Robin Hutson [founder of the Pig Hotel group] has always said: ‘If the restaurant manager is not giving away a case of dessert wine, fizz or sherry a week in odd glasses, he is not doing his job properly.’ This does not create profit but it is hospitable and leads to good will and longevity of business.”
Paradoxically, Ross says the one thing team leaders who want to maximise sales and profitability should not focus solely on is making more profits. “Have financial targets obviously but don’t focus solely on profit. Focus on the people that deliver your product, focus on your product and focus on the people that consume your product. Then the profit will come.” Cheers to that.