Philip Pelusi Featured

8:00pm EDT September 25, 2010
Pittsburgh Pacesetters 2010

Philip Pelusi was once a shy 20-year-old intimidated by the high-fashion clientele he wanted to attract to his new salon. Clients said he was too young. True, he was young.

But by connecting with his clients and understanding their needs, he found his voice, clientele and a vision.

Nearly 45 years later, the president and CEO of Studio of Elegance Inc. maintains the same vigor for recognizing clients’ needs by educating his staff of more than 300 and consulting with salons seeking his knowledge and experience.

To get his message across, Pelusi developed the S.P.A.C.E. Education Center. While the center provides training for his staff and hosts national events and programs like long-term strategic planning, Pelusi focuses the bulk of his time training on soft skills, such as communication.

One way he teaches customer communication is by role-playing. He puts employees in the chair, which allows them to gain the customer’s perspective. Part of the process is teaching employees how to ask questions that will provide solutions to clients’ problems, not just asking what clients want.

Pelusi also holds quarterly telementoring conferences to better understand his employees’ challenges, questions and goals and to receive training ideas he can present to the entire staff.

The more in tune employees are with clients’ needs, the greater the client experience and the greater chance that the client is coming back. To demonstrate the importance of that idea, Pelusi has tied employee incentives to customer return rates.

He begins stylists at an $8 to $12 hourly rate. Once 60 percent of their clients return, they begin receiving commission. When 70 percent of their clients return, they can raise rates.

The concept has more clients returning and fewer employees leaving. Pelusi’s employee turnover rate is 10 percent, compared to the industry average of 30 to 40 percent.

Pelusi’s ability to learn and adjust to clients early on parlayed into what is today a chain of more than a dozen salons, more than 30 partner salons, three product lines and recognition as a top haircutter in the country.

As expansion continues, customers remain in the forefront. The newest salon in New York City offers a gallery and café.

How to reach: Studio of Elegance Inc., (412) 648-1636 or