Style and substance

Farouk Shami didn’t intend on working in the hair care industry. His goal was to follow in his father’s footsteps and pursue a career in education.

But, after waiting tables and attending the University of Arkansas, he dropped out of college and enrolled in cosmetology school. Eventually, he became a salon owner, but developed a deadly allergy to ammonia, which is found in hair dye.

Instead of quitting, he did some research and developed the first ammonia-free hair lightener and coloring system. After patenting that product and many others, Shami is now in charge of Farouk Systems Inc., a billion-dollar hair care and spa product company that he started from scratch.

Sure, Shami, founder and chairman of the company, which produces CHI and BioSilk products, had to roll up his sleeves and lead by example, but he gives credit for the company’s growth to his more than 2,000 employees.

“I started from nothing and hired almost everybody,” he says. “You’re adding one employee at a time, and thank God, most of the people that started with us 20 years ago, they are still here.”

By hiring the best people and listening to their opinions, the company has grown to more than $1 billion in revenue.

“Once you have the right people and there are team leaders, life becomes so easy and so pleasant,” he says. “You’re not working on problems, you are working on progress. So, that’s really the difference from where we started and where we are now. When you have the right people, it’s motivating and I can’t wait to wake up in the morning and come to work.

“At the very beginning, it’s the hardest part. When you’re starting and you’re lacking lots of things, then it’s a challenge, but now, really, it’s a piece of cake.”