Winn Claybaugh is the dean and cofounder of Paul Mitchell Schools and the founder of MASTERS Audio Club. He interviewed Lauren Gartland, the vibrant, dynamic, and anything-but-boring president and founder of Inspiring Champions. Known as the "Redheaded Firecracker," Lauren is rated as one of the top business trainers and success coaches in the salon and spa industry. With a proven track record for helping beauty industry professionals make more money, Lauren has trained and coached thousands to the top in their careers.
Winn: Who gave you the title Redheaded Firecracker?
Winn: Well, it fits! You've been in the beauty industry since 1983, started off as a sales consultant selling different product lines. You were in the top 1% nationally with your sales, you've owned and run a distributorship. Your company teaches people how to make more money, live a better life, work fewer hours. You were on the cover of Salon Today magazine and recognized as one of the top coaching companies in the salon industry. You were featured in Launchpad magazine with the Reader's Choice Award for Best Programs. You have trained and coached thousands of salon professionals to the top in their career, using your proven and repeatable success systems. You highlight "proven and repeatable success systems" - why is that?
Lauren: The one thing I noticed was missing in the industry was systems. When you think of a company that everybody can relate to called McDonald's, here's a billion-dollar company, Winn. They don't have great food, but they have great systems. And I just realized that that was what was missing in this industry. And how I realized it was being out there in salons every single day for the first 13 years of my career as a sales consultant, as a distributor sales manager, and as a distributor. It was shocking to me how many people weren't succeeding. I thought, if somebody created a business seminar, these people could turn their business around overnight. I remember thinking, never in a million years would it be me. But 18 years ago I just woke up one day and something inside of me said, "You're the one. You're the one, go do it." I remember that moment like it was yesterday and I remember sharing it; when you have a goal, when you have a dream, you've got to share it. I remember sharing it being shocked by how many dream killers there are.
Winn: What do you mean by a dream killer?
Lauren: So many people said to me, "It'll never work. Other people have tried it and didn't succeed. It's going to be a long struggle, Lauren, and I don't know if it's worth it." But I never bought in. I refused to let their opinion become my reality. I am my reality.
Winn: Who did you make this announcement to that you were going to launch this coaching company and take over the industry and be the leader in all of this? What group of people did you share that dream with?
Lauren: Well, it actually didn't start out as a coaching company. It was going to be a camp called Champ Camp. I noticed that the model of this industry was a pyramid. The top of the pyramid is the manufacturer. Under that is the distributor. Then you have your salon owner, and at the very bottom are all your service providers, the people that make it all happen. You had the manufacturers putting tremendous pressure and stress on the distributors to sell more, sell more, or we'll pull the line and give it to someone else. Then we had the distributors putting massive pressure on the owners: Order more, order more, we need bigger orders. Then you had the salon owners trying to help the service providers, and they didn't know how. It's not that these people can't do it, it's not that they won't; they simply didn't know how. When I started Inspiring Champions, all I did was tell everyone, "I'm going to take the pyramid and turn it upside down. We're going to put all the focus on the service provider. We're going to train service providers on how to make $100,000 a year, and we're going to give them all the tools and systems." If the service providers win, then the salon owner's going to win. They've got to order more product because they're selling it, and their profit's going to go up. If they're ordering more, the distributor's going to win, and if the distributor wins, he's got to order more from the manufacturer, and that was what everyone felt wouldn't work.
Winn: So they felt that providing the right education, support, coaching, and cheerleading to service providers in salons (i.e., hairdressers, nail technicians, skin therapists) was not going to work.
Lauren: Exactly. Everyone said, "You've got to put the focus on the salon owners," and I said, "But there's a lot of companies doing that." I talked to owners and things weren't changing because they didn't have the tools.
I want to share what I believe is the ultimate success formula, and I hope everyone writes it down and remembers it: You can have anything you want in life if you're willing to help enough other people get what they want and need. Find a need and fill it. Find a problem and solve it, and your success will follow.
Winn: What's the opposite of that?
Lauren: The opposite is that you make it all about you. And I'll be honest with you, I did live like that. On my average day, I would sit in my car and figure out how many salons I needed to see in order to pay my car payment. How much do I have to sell today to pay my rent? Probably a year and a half into my career I knew I had to do something, so I went to the bookstore and saw The One Minute Sales Person. It said just what I shared with you: You can have anything you want as long as you're willing to help enough others get what they want. But I could never figure out what it meant until one day, sitting in my car figuring out how much I had to sell to take care of me, it hit me like a brick and I went, "Oh my gosh, I know what that means. It means stop focusing on you and start focusing on what your clients, your guests, want and need." And I changed everything. You would see me pulling big flip charts out of my trunk in my four-inch pumps, mini skirts, running across the parking lot, going into the salons, hosting team meetings, and saying, "Tell me what you want and what you need."
It was amazing—these were simple things but there were no solutions. Every day I thought, "If somebody started a business seminar, these people could turn their lives around, they could turn their business around." It was shocking to be in salons every day and see people constantly struggling to stay in the industry. People were working two and three jobs but they couldn't make a living. I rented a seminar room, took all 30 of those flip chart papers, laid them out across the floor, and said, "I am going to find the ten common things that people want and need, and I'm not going to stop until I come up with solutions." We came up with ten common threads, and that was the birth of Inspiring Champions and our three-day Champ Camp.
Winn: You gave a great example of what it looked like in your world, focusing on the needs of your customers rather than focusing on Lauren's needs to pay her car payment. What does that look like for a salon owner? They need their staff to perform so they can pay the bills and make a profit, yet they're not focusing on the needs of the staff.
Lauren: If you ask owners, "What do your people want?" the answer is always the same: My people want to make more money. They want more clients. They want to increase their client retention. They want more time off. In The E Myth, Michael Gerber talks about the entrepreneurial seizure. The entrepreneurial seizure is simply the service provider who buys a salon, the musician who opens a music store, the barber who opens a barbershop, the real estate agent who decides to own a real estate business. Service providers become business owners, and before you know it, they have one job they know how to do fairly well, and 25 other jobs they have no idea how to do at all. Their dream becomes their worst nightmare because the person who shows up every day is not the owner, it's the service provider because that's what they know how to do.
What's missing was fast, easy, repeatable systems. I'm going to go back to a simple company like McDonald's that everyone can relate to. They don't have great food, but they have great systems that are repeatable and create consistency. Every owner I ever sat with or ever talked to could tell their people, "You need to pre-book more. Just say to your client, ‘We need to get you in the book.' You need to get more clients." But they didn't know how to tell them. They didn't have a repeatable system that would work every time they used it. I wanted to create an environment where we would tell them what to do, we would show them what to do, and then they would do it until they got it. It would be a how-to.
Winn: Aren't there statistics about that: if you just tell somebody, they're going to forget. If you show them, they might remember. But if you involve them, which is what you're doing in your Champ Camps, they retain it and apply it and have success with it?
Lauren: We tapped into a really amazing technology called learning phases. When we're teaching our systems, they go to small breakout groups (15 to 25 people) with a certified coach and trainer who takes them through the five learning phases to learn each of our fast, easy, repeatable systems. And they're on paper. I don't care if they have a second-grade level of education, everybody can follow our systems. They can go through the perfect consultation and quickly identify the wants, needs, and desires. It's all scripted. All they have to be able to do is read. There's a 30-second system for pre-booking. When you have a new service provider come on and their pre-booking is at 20%, you've got a big problem because there's no guarantee that 80% are coming back. But if you have a fast, easy, repeatable system—we can tell them how to do it, we can show them how, and then we can have a pre-booking card that they can literally use with the guest and follow it verbatim and get the result.
Winn: The pre-booking is just one example of many, many systems.
Lauren: The biggest challenge for people in any industry is that most people absolutely would rather die in a fire than be a pushy salesperson. We've taken all the fear out of it, because when you can clearly identify what someone wants and needs, you no longer sell a product or a service; you sell solutions. We can't show up and sell products or services. That's the biggest mistake people make. You've got to sell solutions. Well, you can't sell solutions if you don't first find out what the challenges are. The people who are the best at that are the most successful and the most profitable.
Winn: And they're scripted. They're not winging it. There's a system and a script. That's important, because if your entire staff leaves you tomorrow, the next staff can step in and pick it up because this is exactly how we do things. By the way, that's my definition of a system: this is how we do things around here.
Lauren: Right. There's got to be a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Winn: The example I like to use is that if you were hired on as a new cook at McDonald's, you can't show up with your own recipe for a hamburger. "No, we don't care what your recipe is. This is exactly how we cook a hamburger here at McDonald's."
Lauren: Right. We're not going to do it your way. We're going to do it our way. There's one way: our way. If you want to do it your way, go to Burger King.
Winn: I'd be surprised and a little heartbroken to see how many salons that have been in business for one, 10, 30, or 40 years still don't know the system for handling a complaining customer, or making sure 80% of your clients are pre-booking, or answering the phone. Does everybody answer the phone the exact same way, or do you just leave it up to them so if I'm in a bad mood, you'd better believe the client's going to sense my bad mood on the other end of the phone that day.
Lauren: It's not that they don't want to put this in place; they don't have time. As you know, most business owners work 24/7. They're working really hard in the treatment room or behind the chair because they have to keep the doors open. That's where the dream becomes a nightmare. Owners have to create leverage, and the only way to create leverage is to turn your people into superstars. You've got to make more money in less time. That's what we help people to do. And then you've got to focus on growing your team and learning these systems. You're going to learn how to teach your people these systems, and you're going to turn every one of your service providers into a $100,000 salon professional.
Winn: If somebody enrolls in one of your camps, how long is it?
Lauren: We place them throughout all of North America. Champ Camp is three long days; they hardly get to sleep. And we have a massive amount of back-end support if they need that. We do one-on-one coaching, team coaching, and onsite training for their team so they can fast-track them all at the same time. We've got front desk webinars and an advanced leadership program where we train owners how to coach.
Winn: What areas do you track? Obviously you're tracking product sales and pre-booking.
Lauren: If you want to grow your business, you've got to grow your people. And to grow your people, these are the crucial areas you must, must, must focus on.
Winn: Whether you're a salon owner, brand new working in a salon or a spa, or a veteran in the salon or spa, I'd be curious to know how many people even know their own individual numbers. It's like going to a football game and not keeping score. Nobody would have interest if the Super Bowl decided, "We're not going to keep score this year. Everybody go out there and just run around the field, throw the ball around, have a lot of fun. But we're not keeping score." Would millions of viewers tune in to watch? No. I think people get bored in the salon because they're not keeping score. So give us these benchmarks, so to speak.
Lauren: People have to realize that their income is going to be in direct proportion to how much they sell. Most of them say, "I'm an artist, not a salesperson." But if their revenues do not exceed the expenses, they're going to go out of business. Everything is driven by sales. I want to encourage all of them to think, "I'm more than an artist. I'm also a great salesperson." I want the new motto to be, "I'm an artist and a great salesperson."
So here are the areas: You have to know your average service ticket, average retail ticket, and pre-booking results. We also have performance standards that tell how you're doing compared to everyone else in the industry. The top 1% are like the Tiger Woods of the salon industry. They are performing in the top 1% and they're not basing it on emotion, they're basing it on knowing the numbers. Then you have the top 10%, then above average, and then average, which is the best of the worst. Then you've got below average. For instance, in retail the top 1% must have an average retail ticket of $22 or higher. For spa owners and skin care therapists, their numbers are double that ($44 or higher). Now you know you're in the top 1%, not based on emotion but on facts.
Winn: What do you mean not based on emotion? Are you saying that you're working with the salon owner and you're asking, "Who are your top performers?" and they throw out some names that may be the life of the party, really fun and everything, but when you looked at their numbers in terms of performance, they were some of the worst employees? Meaning they were basing, "That's my best because my emotion tells me that"?
Lauren: I can tell you that it's always the same. I'll say, "How many people in the room think you're performing in the top 1%?" and the majority of the hands will go up. I'll ask, "Who really thinks you're performing in the top 1%?" And some of the hands go down. And I say, "We're going to look at this not based on emotion but based on facts," and I'll take them through the performance standards. I'll take an individual who believes they're in the top 1%, and I can tell you that 95% of the time not only are they not in the top 1% but 95% of the time they're an average, which is the best of the worst.
Winn: By the way, this can be good news for them because now here's their opportunity for growth. Here's their opportunity for driving a better car, living in a better house.
Lauren: Right. So you've got to know the performance standards. Again, $22 and higher, top 1%. Top 10% is $11-$21.99. Above average is $7.50-$10.99. And then average, which is the best of the worst, is $3.20-$7.49.
When people come to Champ Camp, they have to come with their numbers. Throughout the entire three days, we go through all five categories of performance standards, and it plays out exactly as you see it. You'll have 1% of the room stand for the top 1%. You'll have 10% of the room stand for the top 10%. But in retail, 80% or more of the room is $5 or less average retail ticket. And these are people who thought they were the bomb dot com. They thought they were all that and a bag of potato chips. But now they're not basing things on emotion, they're basing it on facts.
Winn: I was listening to you speak and you said the numbers never lie. The numbers tell the true story. You could go to any department store and talk to the people who work at the makeup counter and ask them these facts. What are your sales, what's your quota, what's your goal? They know. They know how much they sold a week ago during that hour time slot on a Tuesday. They know this information because they're required to know. And if they don't know, they're not working there.
Lauren: That's a great point. They have tremendous leadership at the top that's guiding and leading them. But what you have going to the workplace most days is a service provider who decided to be an owner, but they don't operate as an owner. Most of them don't have or understand the numbers, so how do they teach their people? And that's the epidemic.
Winn: What do you say to people who say, "Well, I'm just not a numbers person"?
Lauren: In the moment, that may be true but the past doesn't dictate the future. Because of my learning disabilities, I knew that I had to understand it to teach it, and I knew that if I could create it, I could understand it. Even if someone had a second-grade learning level they would be able to go through our courses and get it. We're able to take people who couldn't even use a calculator, who were dyslexic, who had three learning disabilities, and they're able to understand the numbers. Not only do we get them excited about it, we show them how, we tell them how, and then they do it, where they literally learn to understand their numbers in a way they never, ever have. Probably 99% of our coaching clients, if you ask them what is your biggest breakthrough in the coaching, they will say, "The understanding I have of my numbers is beyond what I could've ever imagined possible." You've got to have the numbers because it tells you if you're winning or losing the game. I think some people are afraid to see the numbers because they know they're losing; they just don't want to know how bad. But if you can see it, then you can do something about it.
Winn: How many salon professionals are just winging it from one guest to the next, from one day to the next? There's no consistency in following the systems, in dress code, in energy.
Lauren: The national average for client retention right now is 31%. That means that for every 100 people a salon works very hard to drive into the business, only 30 out of 100 are staying. That's a big epidemic, and the reason is they're lacking consistency and they're lacking an experience. It's all about the experience.
Before I was in the industry. I started traveling around the United States, working in restaurants. I didn't work in any restaurant; I had to work in the best restaurants. I remember being down in Florida and working at a fabulous five-star restaurant where we made Caesar salads at the table and served flaming baked Alaska and steak Diane. I was making tons of money. One night, an elderly couple came in. It was amazing to see all the other waiters and waitresses run up to the front desk and say, "Don't give them to me." When you looked at this couple, it was pretty clear that they probably had saved for a year or a lifetime to come to this restaurant. You could tell that it was not normal for them. I walked up to the front desk and I said, "I would love to take them," and I gave them the best table I had that night. Here's the difference between champions and others: A champion always, always, always sees an opportunity in everything. Other people look for the bad instead of the good.
I played a game as a waitress, and the game was simply this. Every single human being is going to be treated like a king and a queen, whether they have money or they don't have money. I don't care if they tip me or don't tip me. The game was they're going to leave and tell everybody they know about me. And they're going to want to come back to have that great experience again. That evening I walked up to the table, and said, "I am so excited to serve you tonight. Is this a special occasion?" They looked at each other and said, "Yes, it's our 55-year anniversary." I treated them like a king and a queen, and we laughed together and cried together, and they shared stories and showed me pictures of their kids. I just wanted them to have the greatest experience because I thought, "If I never see them again, this is it."
I remember bringing the bill to the table (it was around $200) and everyone saying, "You're not going to get a tip." I went back and in there was $100 bill. I ran to the back room and I'm like, "Woooo" to all those people who had said no to them. Here's the thing. What created that $100 tip was not me, it was the experience I created for them. It was making them feel so special and so loved. It's about being a daymaker. So many people today are just selfish. It's like population one, all about me.
You've got to get outside of yourself. You've got to forget about yourself, and you've got to ask, "What can I do to serve someone else?" If they carry this philosophy into the salon, and if they show up every day to create an amazing experience and to serve that guest and make them feel like a king or a queen, they're going to be very, very successful. Not only will their income go up, but so will their client retention and their new clients, because those people will tell everyone they know and send new people back with them, and they're going to have an amazing career. Too many people just put the focus on them. I used to be one of them. I can occasionally still fall back on that, but you've got to catch yourself and pull yourself back.
Winn: That's a great story. I wonder how often that happens in salons where the guest walks in and people judge them: "Ooh, don't give them to me. I don't want that guest."
Lauren: That's the moral of the story. Never, ever judge the book by its cover because you don't know what's underneath. You can charge $25 per service and it can feel like a $200 experience. Or you can charge $200 and it can feel like $25. What kind of experience are you creating? If you were your guest, what would you pay yourself for that service? Do you find yourself talking to your client but in your head you're thinking, "What am I going to have for dinner tonight? Am I going to make mac and cheese for the kids or am I going to make hot dogs and beans?" Or, "Geez, where are my husband and I going to go on a vacation this year?" Or are you really present with your clients and giving them 100% of you? That's called excellence.
Winn: Last night you asked a group of people, "How many of you want to own your own salon?" and it seemed like the majority of the hands went up. I know you're all about helping people live their dreams, but you also know the reality of what it takes. Do you try to talk people out of that dream, or do you try to help them delay it and give them advice on where to get the proper experience?
Lauren: That's a great question, Winn. Who am I to steal or kill someone's dream? I direct them to Cash Flow Camp to get the tools they need to determine if it's the right choice for them. It's a three-day live event for individuals who want to open a salon, or for salon or spa owners who are having cash-flow problems and need to know how to change it. Or it's for salons and spas who are doing really good, paying their bills, and they just want to know how to go to the next level. Our goal and dream is to get every human being who is thinking about opening a salon to first go to Cash Flow Camp. They will leave there and know unequivocally if this is the right choice for them or not. Of the people who came to Cash Flow Camp and then worked with us to develop a business plan, all of them were profitable in their first year, which is unheard of. Not because we're so great, but because they had the tools.
So going back to your question about whether someone should open a salon or not: not if they don't get professional help to learn how to do it correctly. We have a lot of people who have gone to professional consultants outside of our industry and spent thousands of dollars, and literally none of it applied to them.
If you were thinking of opening a salon or a spa, I'm going to give you some tips. Seek counsel. Don't even think of opening the doors until you learn from experts. Don't go talk to another salon owner because 86% of them aren't profitable. You want to go to a company that has a proven track record, that has references you can call, that has statistics they can show you, "Here's how many people we helped, here's what we've done for them." You want to go to someone who has credibility and has the tools and the systems to set you up. So in a sense, we've got to help them take off their service-provider hat, because that's all they know, and we've got to teach them how to put on a CEO hat. And they've got to know to understand the financials, the P&Ls. People say, "What's a P&L?" You know they're in trouble when they say that. Your profit and loss statement. They need to understand compensation. They need to understand the pricing of services. In fact, the reason 86% of all salons aren't profitable is they've got a broken model. If the compensation is off, if the pricing of services is off, you will never be profitable. It'll virtually be impossible. And they think, "Well, if we work more days, more hours, get more clients in, it's all going to work out." But that's not true. Your loss will only grow greater.
Winn: How many different camps do you have? You mentioned Champ Camp and Cash Flow Camp. Are there just those two?
Lauren: We have four. Champ Camp, which is for owners and managers who want fast, easy, repeatable systems to increase the performance of their entire team and their own business. So with these systems, the owner can literally cut their days in half and make the same amount of money if not more using our systems so they have time to manage their team. It's for all service providers, whether they do hair, nails, skin, or massage. All of our systems are customized for each of those areas, and it's for all service providers who want to increase their income, their sales, their client retention.
Then we have Cash Flow Camp. That's for owners only, on the business end of the business, and for someone looking to open a salon or grow their current salon. We have R.A.M.P. Camp, which stands for retail, advertising, marketing, and promotions. It's like the advanced version of Cash Flow Camp. They have to complete Cash Flow Camp before they go on to R.A.M.P. Camp. It's an eight-month webinar on social media, networking, marketing through your computer, through your website, through social media. That's where things are going and we're showing people how to ramp up their advertising and marketing for little or no money.
Our last one is Leadership Camp, where we train owners how to do what we do at camps but to go back and do it at their own salon.
Winn: Do you have a final message?
Lauren: You always have to find the lifesaver called hope. Never, ever, ever lose hope. As long as you have hope, if you can get up, you can go up. You've got to reignite that passion. What was the passion you had when you first decided to become a PHD: a professional hair designer? What was the passion that evoked you to open up a business? You've got to find that passion and that purpose again and you've got to believe that wherever you are right now doesn't define where you can go. You've got to believe that your best days are not behind you, but your best days are in front of you. You've got to have the courage to seek wise counsel. Find people who are where you want to be and do what they're doing. Most important, refuse defeat. Refuse to give up. Put your stake in the ground and say "no more" to the excuses that have been holding you back. Say "no more" to the things that have been stopping you, and know that obstacles and hurdles are not meant to stop you, they are meant to grow you.
The last thing I want to say is, it's not how you start, it's how you finish. You can finish strong and it all starts with a decision. Decide today that no matter what, if you have a dream, you are going to finish strong and the little Redhead Firecracker, I'm going to be cheering you on all the way to the top. Wooo!
Winn: I'll tell you, if I had a video camera and put that last bit on YouTube, you'd have a million hits, sweetheart. You'd be viral.
Lauren: Thank you for having me today. It's been an absolute blast sharing this special time with you. And Winn, I want to acknowledge you for the difference you are making. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to share with your listeners. And you keep up the good work you are doing, because you are a daymaker. Yes!
Winn: Thanks sweetheart, I'm not going anywhere. I love this industry!