Monday, February 22, 2010

Innovation is the Only Way to Win

If you have a fish tank full of the same breed, you have witnessed what ecologists call the competitive-exclusion principle.

Basically, it means that while you’re sharing a relaxing cup of coffee in front of the tank, willing your anxiety away, the school of fish on the other side of the glass are actually doing the same thing! They’re whooshing from one side of the tank to the other, trying to gobble up all the floating flakes you’ve trickled onto the surface. As one fish gets a glimmer of another cache of flakes floating down, it quickly shifts gears and zooms over to the new buffet trying to outdo the crowd, inspiring the remaining fish to follow suit. On and on they go, back and forth across the landscape.

Until one day you notice that a lone fish has broken from the pack and figured out that if he goes in the opposite direction of the crowd, he will be at a buffet alone! Voila! – exclude the competition. Let’s look at a few ways you can exclude your competition.

1. Avoid Creative Destruction As humans we’re often lulled into a sense of complacency by our own desires; for comfort, for a large bank account, for a nice car. And when we reach these goals, we forget that it was creativity that brought the innovations. Remember that the goal of business is not to reach a plateau and stay there. The goal of the business is to develop your creativity bone so that you will be able to consistently meet the market demand with innovative products and services. When you achieve this flexibility, you’ll sleep better at night knowing you can meet every challenge with creativity.

2. Build Change Into the Business Model The forces of change will bring new and varied opportunities to your door. If you and your business model are accommodating and aware, you can open the door and accept the opportunity to increase revenue and the legacy of your business. You can build change into the business model in a variety of ways, starting with rewarding your team for coming up with new ideas, encouraging experimentation, and talking as a group about what’s going on in the market place that is new and exciting.

3. Conduct a Competitive Analysis This is a continuous activity that should have your radar on full time. It’s a good activity to engage with your team as well. Many eyes can be more thorough than just two. Assign a media to each team member and meet regularly to analyze their findings: websites, newspaper and magazine ads, service menus, job ads, press releases, and even the local speaking circuit through women’s organizations and the Chamber of Commerce can provide knowledge as to where your competitors are showing up and why. Using the information from the competitive analysis, you can guess what other business are doing (and not doing), and perhaps even what they’re planning. Look for patterns and anomalies.

4. Get Pro-Active Now it’s time to get pro-active in defining your brand to exclude the competition. If salon and spas A-D in your region are all focused on out doing each other in the quality of their customer service, you not only have to meet the standard they have set, but you also have to discover your unique niche. You have to address an unmet need with a service or product that is not currently available through your competitors, and not likely to be. Many salon and spas are attempting this niche strategy with private label products, others with regional specific experiences. I’ve heard of a few big city salons and spas focusing specifically on recruiting Star List stylists, while a rural salon is spotlighting 2 young color specialists passionate about bringing London chic to the country side.

5. Speak Up and Be Consistent Whatever your unique niche is, your final step is to start communicating your brand to the public. This too requires innovation and consistency that your team should engage in. Every opportunity they and you come in touch with the public should reveal the brand, in your clothes, attitude, stories, behavior. This is why alignment is so very important at this phase. Your public will know that you have chosen the wrong niche if you’ve selected bringing London chic to the countryside if all your stylists look like Ms. Moffit. Choosing to innovate with a new market niche requires alignment across the organization. Engaging the team to develop and own it will make the transition more easeful, and longer lasting.

We’d love to hear your stories of transformation with innovation in a new market niche, or innovative ways of communicating with your clientele. Leave your comments, or call a Milady coach to discuss how we can help you build innovation into your business model. 800-998-2700.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Spa and Salon Business: Constant Change and Transformation - The New Necessity

Innovation is a ‘hot’ topic in business today. Businesses continue to grapple with the challenges the recession brings and the subsequent changes in consumer behavior. Put simply, many salon and spa’s just need to find ways to stay alive…but staying alive will not sustain a business long term.

Thriving in today’s economy takes constant change and transformation and a willingness to do so constantly. Yes, the way you used to do business may not be the way you need to do it today. Now more than ever salon and spa owners must take the time to recalibrate their deficient business models and do so on a more frequent basis.

What does it take to change and transform in a disruptive economy? Below are some simple ways to the identifying gaps and opportunities within your business.

1. Acknowledge that there is a problem:
There are still some salon and spa businesses holding out for the economy to ‘right’ itself and return to "normal." Unfortunately that is na├»ve thinking, it’s not going to happen. Constant change is the new normal and a necessity of survival. Success now requires not just doing it better, but mastering the ability to do it differently and quickly. If you are watching your numbers and they are at or below last year then you must recognize that there is a problem. Don’t be fooled and think that you are safe or that it could be worse and thereby breathe a sigh of relief. You need to consider what will have you growing over the next 6 – 12 months and act!

2. Think outside of the box:
Have you considered what would radically change your current salon and spa business model and thereby ensure future success? Many salon and spas pay lip service to being customer-focused, but when it really matters; they simply fall back on the tried and true and continue to look just like every other business in the area. Transformation requires a relentless out of the box thinking. Take the time to identify growth opportunities, assess your capabilities, invest in the future and seize the opportunity.

3. Allocate adequate time and resources to change and transformation?
Every salon and spa is unique and every change is going to require resources to accomplish the proposed change. Resources are not only monetary but time, talent and tenure. Engaging your entire team in the process of innovation will allow you to see opportunities that may have been hidden by your perceptions. Remember, everyone is feeling the effects of the recession and thereby everyone needs to be a part of the solution.

These tips just touch the surface of what it takes to become a transformative business. For more support feel free to contact a Milady coach at 1-800-998-2700 ext 2700.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Leading by a Tale: How To Put Storytelling To Work In Your Salon or Spa

Of all the leadership tools I’ve brought to my clients, the one that was easiest to learn, as well as the most transformative, was storytelling. It’s also the most fun! With this skill you can inspire your people to act in unfamiliar ways as they navigate the transformation you require.


The purpose of any story is to establish trust between you and the listener. Your teams wants to trust your abilities, and believe in your plan. They want to make the business “happen,” as much as you do. That takes immense trust. Gary Morris, CMO of Marketing Advocate, in Centerville, MA said it best: “Only authentic trust accrues into a predisposition to try anything, whether it’s a new product or a new idea.”


The most important story you’ll tell is the Vision story. A vision story takes your listeners from where they are now to where they need to be, with comfort and trust that you truly see and feel your vision.

The Vision Story takes some courage, says Annette Simmons in her book, ‘The Story Factor.’ Its purpose is to “shrink today’s frustration in light of the promise of tomorrow.” The process for change and perspective should be modeled in the story, as in the bricklayer’s parable. All three construction workers are doing the same job, but when asked, one says, ‘I’m laying bricks.’ The second says, ‘I’m building a wall.’ And the third says, ‘I’m building a cathedral.” Your focal point has to include affirmation of the process in all three jobs, while guiding their thinking and activities toward the vision of the completed cathedral.


Empowering the listener to visualize the needed transformation, and then to act on it, can be achieved by exposing your own motivation toward the change. At what moment did you know things had to change? Frame that experience as an obstacle for which you have discovered a solution. What if the solution works? Paint for the listener how things will look once the solution is realized. Make it subjective, from the fountain of passion that brought you to this business in the first place. Lead the listener into the future with a vaguely detailed strategy of how victory over such road blocks will champion any innovations already realized, that progress is in the process of evolution, as a team.

Steve Denning, author of ‘Squirrel Inc.’ knows from his experience at World Bank that “people are more likely to overcome uncertainty about change if they are shown what to aim for rather than what to avoid.” By making your story overwhelmingly positive, with the problem right up in the foreground, you’re presenting yourself as a protagonist in the story.


You have enormous potential to change the minds of your followers - that’s the business you are business truly in! The secret is to learn this method as a way to support the rational analysis that is ever present. Lean on your human intuition born millions of years ago in caves, gathered around the camp fire recanting the days adventures. We’re all hunters and gatherers deep down.

Your followers will rise with abundant energy, mirroring your own, prepared to retell your story whenever they encounter an associate who needs a boost. With storytelling in your tool bag, you’ll now be able to harness your own imagination, and tether it to your company’s evolution—onward and upward!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Fulfill Your Staff's Dreams While You Fulfill Yours!

I just returned from the International Salon & Spa Expo in Long Beach, CA. As always, we had fun, the energy was great and people took action to improve their businesses!

As I was presenting my seminar I lead a discussion about how to lead your staff versus manage them and asked a pertinent couple of questions; “How many of you know exactly how much more money each person on your staff wants to make in 2010 from past years and what would they do with that money?’

I was met with an amazing response. No one raised their hand!

It makes sense!  Most of us are so busy working hard and working with clients and don’t have systems in place to understand where the business is - so we just run around reacting to things as they happen. Fundamentally, it becomes all about us, the owner or manager, getting what we need and telling the staff what they have to do. No fault to us, but this is what happens. No wonder no one raised their hand.

The funny thing is, if you want to grow your business, make more profits, have more stability, you need to do this on the shoulders of the people who work "with" you, NOT for you! Get it? This means it is time to adjust your priorities. Take the time to find out what’s important to the people that work for you. What roll can your salon or spa play in helping them to achieve what they want?

In the practice of Dharma, even if one specifically looks to the benefit of other beings, the results that are most assured are those that arise within oneself. Thus it is said that by helping oneself one helps others, and by helping others one helps oneself.

There is an analogy regarding this related by the Buddha in the story of the two acrobats. One form of acrobatics performed in the Buddha's time involved the use of a long bamboo pole, which was balanced on the head and shoulders of one acrobat, while another acrobat balanced himself on top of the pole. They would perform various tricks and balancing acts in this way. Two of these acrobats, master and apprentice, were traveling around the country performing their art.

One day the master said, "Now you keep your eye on me, and I'll keep my eye on you and so keep you from falling off."

The apprentice replied, "Oh, no, master. You should look after yourself while I look after myself. In this way we can perform our act and earn a living in safety."

Thus it is said that looking after ourselves we look after others, and when looking after others we look after ourselves. The practice of Dharma is co-productive in that its effects extend to all beings. When you make it your number one priority to do this you will have a business that thrives and an environment that is magical!!