PassionSquared Q&A with Keri Davis, Gila Rut Salons

Nina Kovner, of PassionSquared, is one of our favorite guest bloggers on We recently spotted this interview beetween Nina and her friend, award-winning salon owner Keri R. Davis. We're pleased to share it with you here:

Nina: What does passion look and feel like to you?

Keri: When I see something that I am passionate about, I see beauty, in all things — not just industry beauty or physical facial beauty. I see passion in nature. I see passion in people helping people. I see passion in laughter … and I love to see the igniting of the light bulb in someone’s thinking. When I feel passion, it feels like butterflies in my stomach. I feel anxious or driven in a good way … as if it can’t come fast enough, yet I don’t want it to end so I can relish the greatness of it.

N. Why did you become an owner?
K. What a loaded question! I was so young (26 years old) when we opened our first salon. Thinking back that far is challenging, but what I do remember is that the salon I worked in for my first 3 years in the industry was my biggest learning experience. It taught me what I didn’t want. I hate to say that, but sometimes when we learn what we don’t want, what we do want becomes clearer. Kind of like a relationship!

As I observed hairdressers that had been practicing their craft for 20+ years, what became clear was that they had nothing to show for their hard work … not in their personal life or business life. And when I say that, I am referring to a retirement plan, and exit strategy, owning a home. I felt that they felt stuck. That could have been just my observation, but that is what drove me to want to do something that gave me security.

When I went to work for the second salon of my career, my observation got even clearer. I could not find a salon to work in that offered me a career opportunity. I could only get a job! This was a huge distinction because I wanted a place where I could grow roots — a place where I could see myself for a long time and elevate my position/career. I wanted a mentor.

This was the changing point for me. It became evident that my path was to create an environment that offered career opportunities to people where they could grow and where they felt taken care of through health insurance, retirement and paid vacations. Basically, for me, things needed to operate like a ‘real’ company.

I wanted to be a facilitator to be able to help people see what was possible for them where they may not have seen it for themselves. This became my mission and has become my passion. This vision has not changed over my 24 years of business ownership!

N. What is the biggest challenge you have had and how did you overcome it?

K. I think the biggest challenge I have had (there have been many) is accepting that people have their own ‘process’ of execution and achieving a final result or goal that is often different from mine.

Overcoming this is a process in itself, so I breathe a lot and remind myself that people have their own amazing process of getting things done. As long as the communication is clear and we are working toward the same end result, it is a beautiful thing to observe and respect different ways of arriving at the same place. In some cases, they arrive in a better place.

N. What is the greatest lesson you have learned?
K. To practice gratitude for all that we have been blessed to encounter in our lives … business and personal.

N. What is one skill you believe all successful owners need to have?
K. A vision and the communication skills to get people aligned to that vision.

N. Why that one?
K. Without clear vision of where you want to go, the energy and culture becomes fragmented. People are moving in different directions and when coaching, we need to have a clear vision/goal of where the company is going. Otherwise, we have nowhere to direct them.

N. Why are you so passionate about salon culture?
K. To me, culture is EVERYTHING. In my mind, this is my second home. I want to feel amazing when I walk in. I want our staff and guests to have that same feeling. Without a strong culture, the customer experience is inconsistent. That being said, this would create an entirely new set of problems.

Culture is the glue that connects the experience of your company. From owner to staff members, from guests to community. It is who you are!

N. Favorite quote?
K. I have two:
“Either you create your own culture, or your culture will be created for you. You choose.”
“Be now what you want to become.”

N. Starbucks or Coffee Bean?
K. Neither: I make my own!

You can find Keri on Facebook, and follow Gila Rut Salons on Facebook + Instagram.

"Either you create your own culture, or your culture will be created for you. You choose." - Keri R Davis