Cory Couts is convinced that the most important thing he did after becoming Global President, Kao Salon Division (Goldwell/KMS California) in 2012 was to create a simple mantra: Partner with the right salons. “We have a huge portfolio of products and business-building programs,” says Couts, who has a very clear goal once a partnership has been established: to provide a salon everything it needs to succeed. “We’re trying to design brands that are very different from each other, yet can still exist comfortably in the same salon,” he says. “Both Goldwell and KMS California attract different kinds of consumers, but it’s important for salons to have options available for their clients.” Everything the company makes, from color to keratin treatments to retail products, is meant to work in tandem. “We need salons to have more bums in chairs as Nick Arrojo would say, to build their business in any way they can, from upgrading services to using social media,” says Couts, who is crystal clear about the fact that if his company does not help salons grow their businesses, it will lose.
As the leader of an organization as big as Kao Salon Division, Couts admits that he had to “unlearn being a control freak” and start asking questions of his team. So when someone comes to him with a new idea, he asks them if it’s on time, if it’s on strategy and if it’s on budget. He saves the most important question for last: Have we asked hairdressers about it? Part of the company’s rebranding a couple of years ago was its new tagline: We Think Stylist. “We’re in an emotional business where habits are difficult to change,” says Couts, who should know. From 1990 to 1995, he managed a 5,000-square-foot salon in San Francisco, and it’s that experience that helped shape his approach to running a global company. “It’s hard to get stylists to think about doing a service differently than the way they’ve always done it. We know that they don’t always have enough space in the dispensary to accommodate a new product. And we also know the magic of a Saturday when every chair is full and the blow dryers are humming and the phone is ringing.” It’s that magic that Couts hopes to duplicate every day for salon owners in the Goldwell/KMS California network.