Serious Business Recap: Get Out of Your Own Way

Originally published on Salon Today on January 21, 2019. Original article

With an overall theme of “Get Out of Your Own Way,” Neill Corporation’s Debra Neill Baker opened Serious Business 2019, which was held in New Orleans Jan. 20-21, with some words of caution, as well as words of advice.

“We have a long list of excuses why we can’t move ourselves—those can include self-pity, stress, worry, insecurity, self-doubt and attachment,” she said. “Some ways to get out of your way include mastering self-discipline; getting clarity; cultivating positivity, persistence, and endurance; expressing gratitude and appreciation, being present and evoking acceptance.”

A carefully curated list of mainstage and breakout speakers for this year’s conference helped the 1,500 salon owners, managers and team members in attendance clear their pathways to evolve their thinking.

"Your relationships are your story. Write well, and edit often," says Psychotherapist Esther Perel.

"Your relationships are your story. Write well, and edit often," says Psychotherapist Esther Perel.

The first speaker to take the stage was Belgian psychotherapist Esther Perel, who authored The State of Affairs and Mating in Captivity. She showed attendees how the quality of their relationships determines the quality of their lives. “In a way, stylists and bartenders are informal counselors—you have your chairs, bartenders have their stools and I have my couch,” she said. “In addition, the salon is one of the few havens where appropriate human touch is encouraged.”

Perel explained as the world changes and humans draw less from the villages around them and more from the apps on their phone, the few relationships people do have are becoming more critical. “Engage your clients with a different set of questions: ‘What keeps you up at night? What is the best advice you ever received? What experience would you like to transmit to others?’”

“Your relationships are your story. Write well and edit often,” she concluded.

Ben Greenfield, a human performance consultant with 13 best-selling wellness books to his name, offered simple guidelines for feeling better and prolonging life. “Don’t smoke; eat wild plants; avoid processed and packaged foods; eat legumes; incorporate low level physical activity throughout your day; prioritize social engagement; drink moderate alcohol; restrict calories and participate in intermittent fasting; possess a strong life purpose; have low amounts of stress; embrace a spiritual discipline of belief in a higher power; and remain reproductively useful,” he advised.

“Empower yourself to enjoy an adventurous, joyful and fulfilling life,” he concluded.

Next to take the stage was Shama Hyder, a social media expert who is the CEO of Zen Media. She helped the audience understand how to grow their salon brand in the digital age. “People are now the media, how do you amplify that?”

Hyder shared three principles for gaining momentum on social media. “First is customer focus—it’s not so much what the brand says about you, but what does doing business with your brand allow people to say about themselves,” she said. “Second is to gain agility through analytics—numbers are our friends and the analytics help us tell a better story. And, third, it’s all about live video—video has three times more reach than any other content. Make 2019 the year you do more video.”

Scott Missad, president of Gene Juarez Salons and Spas in Seattle, schooled the audience on the difference between value and price, by sharing an experience he and his daughter shared at the American Girl Place in Chicago, where they dined with her doll, took the doll to the beauty parlor and spa, got the doll’s ears pierced then bought it a new outfit.

“It wasn’t about how much money I spent, it was about the look on the face of my six-year old--the moral of my story is I paid for the experience,” he said. “Quit prejudging your clients from the perspective of your own wallet,” he warned. “You bring value to the experience, exude it.”

When Seth Mattison, a near futurist and author of The War at Work took the stage, he explained that we’re in a time of massive change--from the age of ‘Hierarchy’ to the age of ‘Network’—which promises to shift the way we work.

“Hierarchy provides a lot of security, stability and clarity but very little freedom,” he explained. “Network provides freedom, but also brings ambiguity and uncertainty as things move and change very fast.”

Next, Joey Coleman, author of Never Lose a Customer Again posed a question to the audience. “How big would your salon be if you never lost any of the clients you once had?”

Coleman walked owners through the eight phases of the customer journey—assess, admit, affirm, activate, acclimate, accomplish, adopt and advocate. He explained that most companies put their efforts into the processes before the customer makes the purchase, but they lose most customers after the purchase.

“Customers feel neglected after the sale is made and that is why they leave,” Coleman says. “Things you can do to improve their experience include investigating them through social media, personalizing your communications with them, and surprising them with gifts and moments of delight. If you pay attention to the first 100 days after the purchase, you can have that customer for life.”

To wrap up the main stage experience, personal development experts Alexi Panos and Preston Smiles offered the audience six kick-ass tools to kick it in 2019: “1. You can’t intervene in a world you cannot see. 2. Get radically responsible—our reality is a result of what we create, allow or perpetuate. 3. Take aligned action, persevere and find joy in the journey. 4. Own your awesome—the context determines the content. 5. Have a damn fun time—bring the fun with you to every position,” they advised.

A variety of breakout session options allowed attendees to design their own Serious Business experience:

  • Ben Greenfield offered basic and advanced tactics to increase longevity.

  • Shama Hyder continued to explore marketing options in the digital age.

  • Scott Missad helped owners embrace the future.

  • Winn Claybaugh encouraged attendees to be nice, or else, in their salons.

  • Visual thinker Lyn Christian showed them how to be a bad ass leader.

  • Kati Whitledge, owner of Be Inspired Salon, guided them through building the best team ever.

  • Patrick Thompson, owner of Nurtur Salons and Spas, showed them how to double down on culture to build an irresistible experience.

  • And, Qnity’s Tom Kuhn walked owners through the option of taking on partners as a potential exit strategy.

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