Debra Penzone led Penzone Salons through challenging times

When Debra Penzone was announced as president of the Charles Penzone Family of Salons in 2008, the company was faced with the start of the worst economic crisis in history.

“I felt adamant about not laying anyone off, not cutting wages and still supporting our community,” Penzone says. “With these three areas needing to remain, we had a tremendous amount of work and strategy to figure out. “

Her team worked together to eliminate unnecessary spending and were challenged rethink every aspect of business. As a result, the Penzone Salons support and create career paths for more than 520 professionals and their families in the local business community.

Penzone was named one of the 2010 Smart Leader honorees by Smart Business and Blue Technologies. We asked her how she overcame that challenge, how Penzone innovates and the importance of giving back to the community.

Give us an example of a business challenge you and/or your organization faced as well as how you overcame it.

Everything that we had planned on accomplishing my first year totally changed. Luckily, we realized early on that we needed to immediately make changes to every area and budget for the year. Our team successfully worked together to streamline the processes and eliminate unnecessary spending to allow us to cope with the economic issues. I realized that if our team could navigate through these challenging times, we would be able to face the future with conviction that our brand and our team are strong.

Also, as the leader of the organization, it was very important for me to inspire and reassure our team that we would be able to change and adapt to move our company forward. The team morale was very important because they are hands-on with our guests. We had to educate them on the changes in our world economy while at the same time empowering them to see the value of their service. While many competitors started to discount their brands we remained committed to believing that especially in these times our services are even more needed and we continued on without cutting prices.

In what ways are you an innovative leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?

During this time, we brought in outside consultants to help us reimagine our brand, strategy and marketing plan. The research helped us to think outside the box and challenged us to see new opportunities. Our reimagine projects included launching a new website with an updated online booking system, videos, social media and a new brand campaign. We also reimagined our services, training and customer service.

How do you make a significant impact on the community and regional economy?

We support and create career paths for over 520 of our professionals and their families. We are very committed to our community by volunteering hands-on, giving back by fundraising and donating our services for events. Through these very difficult times, I made the choice to make sure we were still there to support our many nonprofits because I knew, now more than ever, they needed our support and help. I realized that this would be the area many companies would immediately cut out of their budgets. Our team pulled together to continue to give and help others.

How to reach: Charles Penzone Family of Salons,