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Helping Avanti Grow a Pair

Tabatha was really impressed by the change she saw at Avanti.

I was so thrilled to go to Boston and excited by the challenge of taking over a Newbury Street salon. Newbury Street is eight blocks of high fashion boutiques and restaurants and has over 100 salons on it, so competition is fierce.

Avanti salon was in a prime location, not a bad looking salon, but it lacked leadership, rules, structure, teamwork, and accountability. Stylists were doing whatever they wanted, assistants were doing nothing, Janida was coming to work hungover and late wearing clothes from the day before, Priscilla was acting like a princess, and Alex the owner had totally given up. He wanted his business to run itself. When I saw the lunch room in the middle of the salon with stylists stuffing their faces while the clients right there were watching, I knew that had to be changed. When an assistant walked out while he had a client processing at the sink without even telling anyone he was leaving, and Alex's reaction was a shoulder shrug and telling me he was a nice guy who didn't like to yell at people, I realized it would be a long week.

When I talked to the staff several things became clear. Everyone thought Alex was a pushover and wished he would take more control. They all really liked him but wanted more rules and structure. Betty the manager was feeling all the financial responsibility of the salon, and the staff had no idea how bad things were financially. The staff also seemed to have issues with Priscilla and her attitude, since she was of the opinion that she was the most professional of the bunch, but the assistants felt she spoke down to them.

I wanted the staff of "Boston Magazine" to be the clients for the day, because I needed Alex and the team to realize that the competition was fierce. The salon needed to start acting professionally not only make the "Best of Boston" list but also to get and keep clients. I was impressed with the work of the stylists. They were very talented, but the one that blew me away was Janida. I got nothing but attitude from her at first. However seeing the great consultation she gave and her amazing work, I knew my challenge was simply getting her to realize that she needed to balance work and fun, since her behavior was affecting her business and Alex's.

I really felt like I was starting to break through to the staff, but I was having a problem with Alex. He just wasn't stepping up and being a leader. He was truly so passive it was doing my head in, and I needed to get through to him that he could still be a "nice guy" while being an effective leader. I hoped taking the staff to the Harvard boat house and having the honor of meting the coach and coxswain would get Alex and the staff to realize the importance of teamwork and leadership (and help Alex grow a pair). Everyone started to get it, but Alex truly struggled with leading the team and finding his voice, but with help he started to get there. 

I like using analogies to show people things, but in this case I wanted everyone to see what their competition was truly like, how you make the "Best of Boston" list, and more generally how you run a professional team and business. Thus I had them visit Bradley and Diegel. The light bulbs started to go off for everyone when I had them treated to the full pampering the salon offers. They were able to talk to the staff about how the salon is run, the structure and rules they have in place, and what makes their team so successful. After talking with the owners Alex realized it's not about being a nice guy, it's about protecting his reputation and his business. He had to stop being a wimp and start being a leader. 

Reopening day was a big success. Everyone really worked together. Alex took charge, and I could see he was invigorated and wanted to be the boss. The assistants did a great job, and the staff truly were changed. In fact several of them came and told me that although they loved the makeover, it didn't mean as much to them as the difference I had made to them personally through the lessons I taught them and everyone agreed that they could see a huge change in Alex.

I was so impressed when I went back to Avanti salon. Not only was Alex on top of things, but he loved running his salon again. He had meetings, organized education, and was truly being a leader. Talking to the staff, they all felt like they were working together, and they were all so happy that Alex had finally stepped up. He had even yelled at a few of them! I had challenged Janida to stop partying and showing up hungover by potentially rewarding her with a shopping spree. I saw so much talent in her, and I was hoping the challenge would inspire her to pay more attention to her work. I was thrilled Janida kept her promise to me, and we did actually go shopping!

I am really proud of the staff at Avanti and of Alex. They saw where they needed to change, they embraced it, and I have high hopes they will make the "Best of Boston" list.

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