WHEN A WALKOUT BECOMES A WAKEUP CALL
A walkout can be a salon owner’s worst nightmare. Recouping lost clients and rebuilding the team takes time and money, and your business might not be able to weather that kind of financial crisis.
But even if you’re able to sustain revenue, your salon is still in danger—those stylists left for a reason. Do you know why? Are you willing to dig deep to find out?
When a walkout happened to Wendy Daly of W. Daly Salon in Peachtree City, Georgia, she wasn’t about to play the victim. Even though she lost about half her workforce at that location, including seven stylists and a manager, she knew that crying about the difficult situation wasn’t going to help.
“I needed to take a look at myself and see what part I played in the walkout happening,” Daly says. “I needed to know how I could have prevented it.”
UNDERSTANDING AND COPING
Looking back on the time before the walkout, Daly made an important observation that has since changed the way she interacts with her staff.
Daly struggled opening herself up to her staff, and instead of having a relationship with them, she hid behind her managers and let them have the relationships with the team.
“Behind the chair, when I’m interacting with people one-on-one, I’m amazing,” Daly says. “But as an owner, I was different. I was working on the structure of my business while my manager was going out and partying with the team. I became the police and an ‘us versus them’ culture was created. They were the fun people, and I was trying to stop them from having fun.”
Daly didn’t know how to engage her team to support the culture she was trying to create, so a subculture manifested and eventually resulted in the walkout.
The silver lining to the situation was all the negativity walked out the door when the team members left. But Daly still needed to put the pieces back together.
“The first thing I did was call my marketing people,” she says. W Daly works with Imaginal Marketing Group, an Aveda partner specializing in marketing and brand development for salons & spas. “They sent out letters to every stylist, who then sent letters to their guests, offering them two complimentary services,” she says.
Daly sent the letters again to clients three months later and the salon saw a slow trickle of guests come back. She also got on the phone and called some guests personally.
To get new clients in the door, Daly got aggressive with her referral program and opened up an extra day behind the chair for herself.
CREATING A CONNECTION
Next, Daly shifted her focus on the stylists who were still with her. She knew it was time to make a major culture shift and it had to start with her.
“I opened up my house and did a crawfish boil—my favorite kind of party,” she says. “It had become clear that the social part of working at the salon was important to my team. I wasn’t comfortable with it, but they were. I wanted my personal life to remain private, but I had to stop hiding from the things that were scary to me, and it has been just fine.”
The crawfish boil is now an annual event Daly’s team looks forward to, and she opens her house to them at Christmas time as well.
Daly also works with two coaches—a business coach and a Tony Robbins interpersonal coach who helps her understand how to communicate more effectively. Through this coach, whom she has been working with for more than a year, she has also learned about her own strengths and how they affect her management style.
“One of my top strengths is empathy,” she says. “It’s hard to make decisions when you feel bad for people, and I was making incorrect decisions because I was too empathetic.”
She was also coached on how to be more effective in her staff meetings.
“I’m an action person,” she says, “but not everyone is, and I had to figure out how to speak to everyone and not make them feel bad if they aren’t like me. I learned how to speak to different personality types and find out what drives them.”
She communicates differently in her one-on-ones with stylists as well. “I used to start our one-on-one sessions by talking about numbers. I was so excited to understand the numbers that I thought they would be, too,” she says.
Instead, Daly came off as money-hungry to her employees. So now, she starts off one-on-one reviews by talking about the individual’s dreams before they get into numbers.
“It was painful for me to get real about how I was affecting people before—I made them feel bad.”
Daly is also getting more involved in her stylists’ lives. For example, in the past, she would ask a manager to find out what was going on with a troubled employee, and the manager might report back the employee was having financial difficulties.
“I would tell the manager to go help the stylist and the manager would become the face of W Daly,” she says. “I was the one who said to go help my employee, but I wanted to stay in the background. Now, I’m ok with stylists knowing I’m there for them.”
Daly’s new vulnerability with her team has empowered her and opened up the culture of her salon to be more positive.
“I don’t know if I can avoid having a walkout ever happen again,” she says. “But the more you’re plugged into the stylists—and they know they are important to you—the more loyal they will be.”
Daly continues to strengthen her salon’s culture every day by making herself open and available to her team and implementing programs in line with her vision.
“Qnity has also helped me a lot,” she says. “They helped me understand how to approach my one-on-ones effectively, and for the stylist, it’s a brilliant process that speaks to the artist.”
Of course, avoiding another walkout is important to Daly, too. She advises removing anyone who isn’t supporting your salon’s culture immediately. “Give people a chance,” she says, “but remove them before they poison the rest of your environment—even if you’re afraid of the financial repercussions.”
But Daly maintains connection is the most important thing to stylists. “And you have to connect in a way that’s meaningful to them,” she says.
“I ask, ‘What do you want and how can I help you get it?’ If they’re working on their own dream, it helps the business,” she adds. “Letting people get to know me has been great for my team, but it’s also been great for me. They know me—the good, the bad the ugly—and they’re happier to know I’m a flawed person. I’m more human to them now, and more authentic.”