Artful Alliance

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Innovation has long been the driving force behind the success of Currie Hair, Skin & Nails, located in Glen Mills and Kennett Square, PA. So when owner Randy Currie learned that he was one of six salons to receive an invitation from AstraZeneca, one of the world's leading pharmaceutical companies with sales in excess of $21.4 billion, to submit a proposal to open a salon/spa for employees at its U.S. corporate headquarters in Wilmington, DE, he got down to business, fast. Here, Currie, named the Salon Entrepreneur of the Year at the 2004 Global Salon Business Awards in London, shares how he won over the minds of the corporate bigwigs and the hearts of employees by creating a space that's all about building life-enhancing relationships.

 Currie's winning proposal for AstraZeneca's on-site salon was thorough and detailed
Currie's winning proposal for AstraZeneca's on-site salon was thorough and detailed

STAND AND DELIVER In an effort to stand out from the contenders, Currie reacted quickly to provide the pharmaceutical giant with an impressive dossier, which included ads he had run on his business, information on the accolades and awards he had received, and reprints of press mentions. After landing a formal interview with the decision-makers, Currie kept the momentum going by delivering a powerful message laden with statistics on cutting, coloring, nails, massage and skincare, as well as examples of what he was doing in his other locations and what he could do at AstraZeneca. But what ultimately sealed the deal—the business equivalent of a home run—was the proposed layout his distributor, Stan Klet from East Coast Salon Services, had helped him create. "It contained everything we planned to use in the 1,600-square-foot space—from the furniture right down to the equipment—and it totally blew them away," Currie explains. "Three days later, they called to let us know we'd been chosen, and that we should get the planning process underway."

Furniture and Equipment.
Furniture and Equipment.

ESTABLISH A DEDICATED TEAM Finding the right staff to run the new facility was a critical component of Currie's business plan and, as it turns out, also one of his biggest challenges. "Initially we thought we'd borrow staff from our other locations, but soon realized that conducting a job search to find a dedicated team who could meld with the corporate culture, follow the dress code, adhere to no-smoking regulations and tight security policies and be sensitive to the needs of AstraZeneca's 6,000 employees was the best course of action," Currie explains. "Shuffling staff around and having them adapt to one set of policies from one week to the next would have been disruptive and counterproductive for everybody." He also modified the pay structure, instituting a higher hourly rate at the corporate location to offset the fewer working hours.

STICK TO THE BASICS Because employees only visit the salon during the work week, throughout slow periods or on their lunch hour, Currie decided to forego offering elaborate services and instead kept to the traditional salon favorites like cuts, color, manicures, pedicures, facials, massages and makeup. "It was important that whatever services are on the menu could be done quickly without compromising quality," he says.

REWARD THEM AND THEY WILL COME Attracting employees who had been going elsewhere for their beauty needs before the salon opened also posed a challenge. To tip the scales in his favor, Currie created a frequent-user card program. "After every three haircuts, they get one at half price," Currie says. "When you're only drawing from an employee base, it really pays to have an incentive."