The business of beauty Featured

8:00pm EDT October 26, 2007

Charles Penzone’s mother begged him to be a dentist, and while he may not have followed that particular career path, he did take another piece of his parents’ advice to heart: “You are only as good as the people with whom you surround yourself.”

The president and founder of Powell, Ohio-based Charles Penzone Inc. says those words weren’t meant to be business advice, but they stuck with him through the years. They guided him to make better decisions while growing his 39-year-old chain of eight Central Ohio salon/spas and a company that distributes beauty products throughout Ohio, parts of Kentucky and Indiana.

As the passionate leader of more than 650 employees, Penzone is dedicated to change, both in the business world as well as in the beauty and fashion industry.

“To stay ahead of the competition, you’ve got to be willing to change,” he says. “If you don’t, you die; your company remains stagnant and doesn’t grow.”

So how does Penzone accomplish this never-ending task? He puts job candidates through several interviews to ensure that he is hiring smart people who also thrive on change.

“They’re willing to sign a commitment agreement with our company and go though an additional year of training within our company before we turn them loose on providing service to the client,” he says. “We know they’re committed to our industry and to our culture.”

Describing himself as a “big-picture-focused type of individual,” Penzone supplements his large-scale plans by hiring detail-oriented associates.

“I’m not sure I’m comfortable with being called a visionary, but in essence, that’s probably what it is,” he says. “Company owners have to envision what direction we want our company to head in the future, and that is a very big picture.”

Penzone believes successful business leaders need to delegate their objectives to smart, dedicated people, and then stay out of their way.

“We service 10,000 clients a week. I have to be confident in the people that I’ve chosen to work here,” he says. “They’ve proven themselves to be capable, and it works for me.”

There is a certain amount of risk involved in empowering employees, but Penzone says his team members are welcome to refer to the company’s well-established policy and procedure manuals, as well as its group of highly skilled managers.

“We’re talking about a well-trained group of professionals being managed by a well-trained group of professionals,” he says.

Penzone has found that his employees care about doing the right thing and performing their jobs well. And that, in turn, makes his job easier to do.

Customers won’t see Charles Penzone Inc. opening 10 salons in a year or acquiring chains with reckless abandon. Instead, Penzone prefers to follow a simple strategy: slow and pragmatic growth.

“We do the due diligence it takes to open a location. We take our time, focus and try to do a good job. We’re not rushing out there or doing anything at the expense of jeopardizing what we’ve done over the last 39 years,” he says.

Having established a solid infrastructure of young professionals at his company, Penzone is confident that his business will continue to grow and find success long after he’s retired.

“I’m extremely entrepreneurial and have a tendency to want to charge forward, but I have a great group of people here that advise me and keep me very disciplined,” he says. “I don’t have a lot of ‘yes people’ around here. I have a lot of people that voice their opinion, and we work together to make decisions.”

After 45 years in his industry, Penzone says success means being happy with your job.

“I just can’t imagine not loving what you do when you get up in the morning to go to work,” he says. “I’ve genuinely loved being in business and still do. It’s still a ball.”

He says that his favorite part of his job is making a difference in people’s lives. He estimates that since he founded Charles Penzone Inc., the company has employed about 10,000 people and made millions of visitors feel special and look great.

“How many people enjoy going to the dentist?” he asks. “And who do you know that doesn’t enjoy going to a Charles Penzone salon?”

HOW TO REACH: Charles Penzone Inc., (614) 898-1200 or www.charlespenzone.com