Redefining culture in a 50-year-old business

We spent the last two years rebranding our 50-year-old company. What started as a project to build a new salon evolved into a new brand identity, which was far different from what preceded it. Therefore, we shifted our company mantra and brand pillars to support it from the foundational level.

Over this journey, I’ve found truly living a company’s culture takes tremendous effort and focus.

Identify a goal

To start making culture a way of life, define a simple goal. For us, it was, “To create a culture where treatment of guests and team members is more aligned.” Establishing what we’re working toward has been our North Star, guiding all other tactics.

Inclusion is key

Include the team from the start. In fact, individuals and groups of team members were interviewed to provide insights for our new company mantra and pillars.

Think of the progress as a ripple. The core leadership team led this initiative. The reach expanded when we pulled our salon managers into the process, and that continues as we target groups within the community.

We conducted internal surveys to gauge the understanding of our mantra and pillars. Team members uncovered how the culture aligns with their day-to-day lives; they just needed us to connect the dots.

In addition, I plan to bring the mission together in a collaborative, interactive day retreat, which should be another steppingstone for companywide buy-in of our new cultural direction.

Reinforce tactics that make an impact

We also implemented tactics to help team members feel like they’re on an even playing field. For example, to reinforce positive behaviors, meetings begin with a moment of mindfulness, then a check-in. Each agenda point is timed, allowing equal discussion time for each party. Meetings end with a recap of action items, followed by an exit ticket, which is an opportunity to share feelings about the topic discussed.

PENZONE power circles — a moment to connect with the brand, paired with intentional moments for self-care — have become a part of our cultural shift. We not only host power circles for new hires but circled back to tenured team members, training teams and more to invite them to participate and buy in.

Our initial survey brought to light a need for direct, concise and clear communication to carry the culture through all levels. After we heard this feedback, we implemented a companywide communication tool. The app and website organize department-specific information into a user-friendly application, and two-way communication has increased our reach considerably. Over 86 percent of team members are currently enrolled, fostering engagement and culture throughout.

Know it’s never done

A culture shift doesn’t happen overnight. We’ve been at this project for nearly two years, and it’s not close to completion. And I don’t expect it to be, especially for a brand that’s been around as long as we have. Buy-in takes time — and involvement from all parties involved.

We’ve found success aligning on a goal and tackling tactics to get the job done. I feel confident that as we achieve a culture of care, successes across all facets of the organization will abound.


Debbie Penzone is the president and CEO of Charles Penzone Inc. Debbie’s expertise as a business leader, hair professional and her avid philanthropy have earned her the respect of the salon industry and the nonprofit community. She has been recognized as one of the 20 most remarkable women in Central Ohio, one of the 20 most intriguing salon owners and was a Smart 50 winner.