Philip Pelusi sounds like a style-savvy Bill Gates as he recounts how he dropped out of high school to attend beauty school and opened his first hair salon in 1965.
It was a risk that paid off, and those who succeed in business require “a maverick component,” he says.
“They will be risk-takers,” he says. “They won’t always follow rules.”
To balance his risk-taking, Pelusi sometimes hires employees who are more qualified than he is. And his success-seeking attitude surfaces in his 350 employees as he helps them down their personal career paths.
When everyone meets their goals, the company grows, he says, and Philip Pelusi Salons has expanded into a chain of 13 locations, sprouted haircare and skin care product lines and posted 2007 revenue of more than $15 million.
Smart Business spoke with Pelusi about how to grow your company by helping your employees meet their goals.
Q. Why is it important to hire employees who are more qualified than you?
One has to be astute enough to know what you don’t know. You have to surround yourself with people that are very qualified and, in some cases, more qualified than you. You can get the door open, but now to go from point A to point B, I have to be willing to hire educated people.
I always felt that the company will only grow as far as I can as an individual. The more I can grow, then the more there’s room for people under me to grow. But if I’m myopic or if I’m little, if I don’t go anywhere, then obviously they can’t, so they’re going to have to leave. That’s why you have to have a vision, a path for opportunity, a career path.
At one point, I was the top colorist. But it got to the point I had to replace myself. That was a tremendous learning curve for me. When you’re growing a business, you have to be able to replace yourself. Everyone you hire, their function should be to grow and also to replace themselves.
By doing so, then they can move up; they’re not threatened then by somebody coming up. You start to create a culture that’s more of a coaching/mentor culture and a little less threatening.
Q. How do you help employees decide on their career path?
Everybody has to know their role, so you have a road map for success. It’s very important that it’s tied into what their goals are. If someone is in a limited-function job but they want to be there, they don’t want to go anywhere else, we’re not going to sit down and try to sell them on a Ph.D. at Pelusi.
They’re going to be part of the team. They’re going to be updated and still know that there’s opportunity in our system.
Say you have some prior experience; you come to work for us. We do a skills assessment. We would hire you, give you credit for your previous experience, knowing you would have to learn and transition into how we do things. They would have a personalized road map.
If you’re right out of school and you come to work for us, we’re going to do a skills assessment. Then we’re going to map out a road map for you on what you need to do to increase your skills and to move up a level.
Everybody has a vision. They know where they’re at; they know where they need to go. It’s not just what I think you should be doing.
Q. What does that road map look like?
First of all, the goals have to be realistic. That’s very important.
You would have goals such as, ‘I want to become a better hair colorist,’ [or] ‘I want to move up so I need to increase my frequent client base.’ So how do we do that? Sometimes it’s a combination of your communication skills and your technical skills. For some people, it’s strictly communication skills. They’ve got the technical skills, but they’re lousy communicators.
Q. What do you do when goals are not being met?
Don’t wait until the goals have not been met. Don’t wait until it’s time for the review and then say, ‘Oh, your goal was to be at 20; you’re only at five. Boy, that sucks.’
This is about leadership. You want to monitor how their numbers are trending. If they’re into the second month and you’re going to have a review in six and you see they’re not getting there, then you need to talk about it.
You need to review and see what’s going on. Why are they trending low? What can we do to help? Is it a class? Sometimes. Is there something going on?
Challenging people is important. And understand when someone’s going through a hard time. If their performance is not hurting you, but they’re not achieving their goal and they are going through a tough time, you have to have a little bit of a leeway.
You want to be proactive in working with them. Discuss; have some ideas. See what’s an opportunity to improve. And if necessary, readjust the goals.
You may have to lower them. Or you’ll say, ‘Let’s do this: Instead of waiting six months, I’ll check with you in two.’ Adjustments should definitely be considered. You can’t wait till the end. You have to monitor.
HOW TO REACH: Philip Pelusi Salons, (888) 263-4720 or www.philippelusi.com