Master of All Trades
Frank and Belinda Gambuzza have covered all the bases in Knoxville, Tennessee, where they own six salons that target very different demographics.
You know the saying: “Jack of all trades, master of none.” In Frank Gambuzza’s case, the opposite is true. The renowned hairdresser and president of Intercoiffure America/Canada, together with his wife and business partner Belinda, owns and operates six unique and successful businesses with 170 employees that serve more than 600 clients per day in Knoxville, Tennessee. It all started when the couple opened Salon Visage in 1986, which was the mother ship to the whole business concept. In addition to the original salon, the power couple also owns Spa Visage, Studio Visage, Frank’s Barbershop, Be Styled and the Visage Advanced Hair Academy. Originally Spa Visage was alongside the salon, but eventually the Gambuzzas chose to separate the businesses into different locations. Each business is unique in terms of style, service and decor, to reach a wider demographic—from hip students seeking an affordable cut to a sophisticated clientele looking for something more upscale. “When we say six salons, it’s really six brands,” Frank says. “Each salon has its own flavor. The spa broke out from the salon. We didn’t want to limit who came to our spa by putting it under one roof. When we were tied to the spa, it was primarily salon clients that were using it. We were trying to get more out of less.” >
One of the keys to the Gambuzzas’ success is having a good management system and support staff. A general manager at the corporate office reports directly to Frank, and each location has its own director. “Although they’re all under this umbrella, our philosophy is that the bigger we get, the smaller we have to operate,” Frank explains. “Each person is responsible for their store, which keeps them hyper-focused without getting distracted.” Frank and Belinda (who have been business partners for nearly as long as they've been married) maintain an excellent working relationship and always make decisions as a unit. “Belinda has great instinct when it comes to seeing clues in the beauty business,” Frank says. “The reason we make such a good team is she’ll see these clues and hold onto them until she feels confident, then she’ll dump them on my shoulders and I’ll figure out how to implement them strategically. I take her lead on instinct so she’s really the visionary behind that.”
But Frank also stresses the importance of taking the time to sit down and listen to others—especially clients and employees. “I listen to what I need to do as opposed to telling other people what to do,” he explains. “We get the opportunity as salon owners to interact with people, from hairdressers to consumers. We never take one client or one day for granted. All salon owners need is intelligence in their staff and in the chair. If they just listen, they’ll know what direction they have to take to drive their business.”
With six successful salons, Frank says expanding is an option but not in the immediate future. “This year we’re focusing on finding the fleas in the company,” he says. “We’ve been in growth-mode for two decades and when you do that, you tend to focus on the big picture. We know where the elephants in the company are and now we’re looking for the small cracks and inconsistencies that can be improved upon. But every time I say I’m never opening a new location, I end up signing a lease the following month.” —Kamala Kirk, west coast editor