life beyond the terrible twos

the first few years of any small business can be bumpy. the gulf between what i thought might be achieved and what is actually possible (given the circumstances) is mighty. not one to shy away from a leap, or a climb, i can happily state that while "mission accomplished" would be premature, "we have lift off" is our current reality. we have come so far yet there is much further to go. as our salon celebrates 3 years in business, i can say without guile that 1095 days is not a great deal of time, but it feels like forever.

what will be written and said about us is yet to be. we have had some wonderful pr pieces, articles, tv spots, awards and such in these first few years, but rising up to the level of consistent leader is not yet within our grasp. as we attempt to disrupt the salon models of the past, this creates consternation for both clients and some other salons. i personally strive to set a standard of respect and dignity for all the people who work under my roof. at duross & langel, it is not uncommon to welcome an amazing stylist with a full book only to watch a segment of clients peel away one by one. i can tell you from past personal experience as a stylist, losing clients is a frightening business. a new place, a new dynamic.. depending upon where a stylist comes from, where they've been, it can be a difficult process. it breaks my heart when a stylist is treated like a client's bitch. unfortunately, everyone loves their stylist until it becomes inconvenient. in our salon, like many others, we supplant attrition with new salon clients. what makes a real difference in the overall dynamic is the new replacement's acceptance of the culture we provide. our new clients understand that i'm not going to book a stylist after their hours or force them to come in on their day off. we don't really have a full time desk person who will happily spend 10 minutes on the phone so online booking allows for everyone to see what's available at the stroke of a key, but we are still here to answer questions. sometimes you'll get voice mail and sometimes you'll get me and a store full of people. i try to be helpful and patient but often... not so much. not everyone is going to love the paradigm we are creating. the idea of reserving an appointment with a credit card is second nature to the philadelphia transplants and out-of-towners. they get it. it's ingrained in the salon culture of many large cities. but here in philadelphia, we get a certain amount of push-back. i am learning that new ideas become a bit problematic, especially with the over 50 crowd (being an over 50 myself, i could riff forever on the myriad of things that make the majority of my entitled boomer generation cranky and rude). i cannot get past the axiom that time is money. if someone chooses not to show up for whatever reason, the stylist doesn't eat. i believe people should show up for their appointments, on-time, and the stylists should do their job with stunning precision and gratitude. when a stylist begins to worry about losing clients due to these rules, i have to remind them that at 117 s 13th street, the reality is talent. if you are a talented stylist who is diligent about your work, i can promise you won't lose your business. disruption of the status quo is hard for everyone. yet duross & langel is not the first, nor the only salon in the philadelphia area who works in this way. together, a committed portion of salon owners are working to raise the standards for our industry. everything begins with respect for our staff. all remainder flows from there.

does all of this make me think we are better or greater or special? no. and yes. i firmly believe that we are a part of a movement that creates a better work life for salon stylists, greater service for the clients, and a deeper appreciation between stylist and client in relation to the transaction. and yes, the sea change that comes with the elevation of salon life profoundly effects the fundamental way our operators approach their work. but again, i am speaking from three years plus one day. my intention now that the systems are in place is to smooth over the wrinkled edges i've created. but there is still a chance i could be wrong about everything.

i follow quite a few stylists on social media. watching others achieve is gratifying. most of us believe we see objectively. i would disagree. much of my world is subjective. my thoughts or feeling about a thing are layered over the thing itself. i can see an instagram page filled with the work of a stylist and love what i see for my reasons. when coming up in the early nineties, we didn't have social media, so i photographed my work and hung it all over the walls of the atlas hair company. much of my photography was stylized black and white scenes of my clients, young men being young men. shooting hoops, swimming, playing with their with dogs, running, etc. i wanted to create a vision of my work that connected to a lifestyle. i didn't know there was such a thing or that that was what i was doing. now, decades later, i can see what elevated my work and made me strive for greater things. beauty is already there. how we present it or uncover it or shape it creates the experience for others. at best, it is almost a religious solemnity. which is why i personally have an aversion to plain backgrounds and ring lights. do they show a haircut in the best light? absolutely. however, when our clients are actually owning their look, feeling themselves through their look, in their own way, i find it infinitely more compelling. which is why i think the client selfie is the greatest thing we can post on our pages.

today my team and i shared a feast and laughed and dreamed and used the phrase "not-for-nothing" before someone got chided. we care about where we are, how we feel, what works, what does not, and how we can best support one another. think what you will about my business acumen, i am not a "let's talk about your goal numbers" kind of guy. for me it feels small and petty. an antiquated notation of how a business should run. let us talk about where you want to travel, and what type of house you dream of living in, how you feel about kids or having more kids. what are your dreams? what are your goals? how may we support one another to achievement? how can we dream together? so when you read this blog, please tap on the last picture in the grouping at the top of the page. it is our team as it exists today, quietly celebrating this milestone together, and dreaming of a tomorrow we have yet to live into.

for everyone who has ever supported us, shown love and affection, spoken well about our work, has been a client, offered feedback (negative or positive) and has taken a moment to look upon our endeavors, i thank you from the bottom of my heart. no small business can ever succeed without the community it serves. we are proud to be a part of the philadelphia community, midtown village, washington square west, center city, east of broad, market east and whatever name they choose to call our neighborhood next. nothing but love for you philly xoxo!

Posted on April 24, 2018 and filed under salon life, small business, building a brand.