Hair Expressions: Growing People and Profits
by Sara Altizer
Total Annual Sales Prior to Summit:$592,817
1 Year Later: +12%
2 Years Later: +13%
Total Growth: +26%
Meet D’Ann Bagan and her team at Hair Expressions in Arden Hills, Minnesota. This close-knit team with an “every person for themselves” mentality started as a small mom and pop shop. Here is how the Summit Salon Associate Program and Level System of Summit Salon Business Center gave D’Ann the structure and know-how to grow beyond being everyone’s friend and become a true salon leader and mentor to her team.
Inspiration and Background
D’Ann began her career as a stylist in a salon that, while not part of the Summit Salon Business Center (SSBC) program, had strong standards and structures in place. She was also introduced to Michael Cole early on and his insights resonated with her immediately, giving her the mindset to jump quickly and do very well.
After a shake up at the salon, D’Ann moved with some of her fellow stylists to a different salon. This new salon, however, had little structure and was full of stylists with much different standards and less work ethic than she was used to. D’Ann and her coworkers enjoyed their newfound freedom and flexibility in this environment and were still able to grow because of the structures they had learned before. When the salon went up for sale, D’Ann and her close friends had a decision to make—should they find a new place to work or take the leap and purchase the salon themselves? D’Ann saw this as an opportunity to step up to the plate.
D’Ann quickly realized that being a salon owner was much more involved and challenging than she had originally anticipated. She also saw that her friendships with fellow stylists, which she valued so highly, were creating an environment of unintentional favoritism and she sensed she was being taken advantage of. D’Ann had an extremely hard work ethic and struggled to understand how others were not on the same page. “I was doing everything myself that I would have had to pay others to do,” D’Ann explains. “I was doing all the laundry, cleaning, payroll, fix-it maintenance, attending community events to market myself, etc.”
Not only was she doing all of these tasks herself, D’Ann was managing her own career, and she was good at it. “I was a very successful stylist and I knew what it took to be one,” D’Ann says. “It was hard to see that others needed help with that, but I didn’t know really how to tell them that. I was younger than most of them and friends with them and it didn’t seem like they wanted to hear my advice.”
D’Ann’s desire to be liked put her in a tough situation. “When I purchased my salon, I bought a veteran staff that were mainly my friends,” she explains, “It was hard to go from friends to being a boss. Not everyone liked rules because they were used to a lot of freedom. Everyone wanted to do their own thing with no responsibilities.”
She quickly became exhausted. “I felt like a hamster on a wheel. I was working so hard to make it grow and we were stagnant. Even though I truly loved it, I felt as if I’d bought myself a second full-time job. I felt very alone, even though they were all great friends and coworkers.”
D’Ann started to identify the problems in her business: the salon was not growing, the location was too small and limiting, and there was a definite need for structure. After three years of running on this hamster wheel, D’Ann finally realized that she needed help. Through this entire time, Bob Marx, her salon sales representative, had been encouraging D’Ann to go to The Summit. After resisting for so long, she finally let go of her fears and gave in.
The Summit Experience
There are many ways in which SSBC fosters incredible success in salons, including providing materials for business and leadership development, financial services, and salon consulting. But all of these programs are nothing without the The Summit, where salon owners truly begin to see their business exactly where it is, and beyond that, exactly where it can be.
The Summit opened D’Ann’s eyes to the possibilities. Her a-ha moment came when she recognized that it really is all right there in black and white; the numbers don’t lie. One of the things D’Ann loved about The Summit was how all the benefits—education, commission, hours, etc.—were tied to performance. With this newfound knowledge, D’Ann saw an opportunity to finally introduce structure in a nonthreatening and impartial way to her dearest friends. D’Ann had discovered how to make her dream of being a great leader and mentor to her team a reality; she returned to Hair Expressions inspired and full of hope.
This new hope and inspiration, however, also came with the fear of introducing changes. D’Ann tackled this fear head on, focusing the most on implementing the level system with the help of her consultant, setting up continuing education classes, and beginning the monthly one-on-ones.
Since D’Ann’s stylists had also become her great friends, she felt the most anxiety about introducing the new structure to her staff.
Thankfully, during The Summit, Michael Cole had given D’Ann the perfect way to come back and set a strong example for her team. Michael had encouraged her to fire someone in her salon who she knew could not and would not make it past level 1. “No one has ever forgotten that,” D’Ann explains. “I think she was the sacrificial lamb. Let’s just say it was the best thing I ever did to show them all that I was serious about growth and change.”
D’Ann was also blessed to have one of her most challenging stylists leave around the time of implementation. From this experience, D’Ann learned what kind of personalities she wanted to attract and encourage in her salon, and how ONE person with a negative outlook can bring down a whole team. Now, she was able to use the Summit Salon Associate Program to build the kind of team that she knew would make her salon successful, and use the Level System to mentor and grow her existing stylists into even greater versions of themselves.
Jennifer Ward, a level 4 stylist at Hair Expressions, describes the impact the structure had on her own career: “The Summit Salon Systems have made a huge difference in my career. Because of them I have been able to track my progress from a level one to a level four in just over four years! It has given me guidelines of goals to strive for and I have been able to see my accomplishments as I made them. I have always felt supported and inspired when it comes to new ideas and fresh approaches to getting referrals, adding on services and selling retail. My experience in a summit salon has set me apart from a lot of my peers in the industry and has helped me earn more money. I can’t imagine where I would be without it.”
Impact on Clients
D’Ann admits honestly that, “Some of our older clients had trouble with our ‘new ways.’ They liked the mom and pop shop. Unfortunately at the time that was the bigger part of our clientele. It took awhile, but as we added new blood and attracted more progressive consumers, it changed. We now get a ton of compliments about our service and people seem to like the more upscale feel.”
The new systems had served to attract a clientele which could grow with her salon, and any openings that were left from the older clients were ultimately filled by clients who only cared about what Hair Expressions was doing now, not about their past.
Impact on D’Ann as a leader
The positive impact that Summit Salon Business Center had on the stylists and clients at Hair Expressions was amazing, but there was an even greater transformation that had taken place in D’Ann herself.
As D’Ann explains it, she went from feeling scared, like she was supposed to magically know all the answers, to now having the confidence to make her own decisions. “I truly think it through before I make decisions,” says D’Ann, “because I like to know that the reason I do something will ultimately benefit the stylists. They all see now that there is no favoritism.”
D’Ann says that now she is much more confident. “I am not afraid of the hostage syndrome. I was able to cut back to three days per week doing hair so I could work more on building my team. My true passion is to help others grow. I am not afraid now to tell them and show them how.”
Where Hair Expressions is Now
D’Ann proudly says that she has embraced the Summit Salon Systems and follows them completely. “It has proven to be very successful for us. My stylists stay motivated to grow and really encourage each other as they jump through the Summit Salon Level System. The budget guidelines are not only very important to follow but are a great tool for your employees to see where the money goes. The Summit Salon Associate Program has allowed our new stylists just out of school to level jump within the first year, making them successful right from the start.”
Hair Expressions has been voted the best place to get a haircut in their area, was featured in Salon Today magazine, and received an award for outstanding customer service. They have grown to become a Redken Elite salon with two Redken Certified Colorists, two Redken Certified Designers, three Redken Specialists and two Pureologists on staff. And, Hair Expressions has grown into a much larger salon space and the team has big plans for the future.
When asked what she would tell someone considering investing in the Summit Salon Programs, D’Ann said simply, “JUST DO IT!!!”
Total Annual Sales: $592,817
Average Retail/month: $4,585
Average Services/month: $44,818
One year after Summit Launch
Total Annual Sales: $663,032
Average Retail/month: $5,378
Average Services/month: $49,874
Two years after Summit Launch
Total Annual Sales: $746,142
Average Retail/month: $7,116
Average Services/month: $55, 062
Hair Expessions’ Summit Salon Consultant is Michael Nikolas.