BLOG: How rowing inspired my new business innovation, by Abby Whittaker of Sarah Hodge Hairdressers.

abbey and carly

Abby and Carly Whittaker

Somerset and Devon’s successful Sarah Hodge Hairdressers group has developed a revolutionary new business practice as a result of the team lessons co-director, Abby Whittaker, encountered on joining a rowing club. She was struck by the simplistic but powerful ethos that all team members must synchronise their efforts to produce the fastest, most effective race.

Here, she shares how she applied the same united vision to her business practices and developed a new innovation to help align members of the salon group.

Understanding the full commitment of being part of a team and for the first time being a crew member rather than a skipper, I was keen to play my part, so before hitting the water on the first competition day I asked the skipper, “What do you want me to do?” The skipper replied, “The same as the rest of your crew.”

If you have one person out of step with the others, it slows everyone down and reduces the effectiveness of your efforts and allows your competitors to get ahead. We have nine salons that, if we are not careful, could start heading off in different directions; not intentionally, but just by very small amounts each week, which could lead to a salon way off course over a period of a year!

We needed a way to make all the teams in each salon to work as one entity and for all nine salons to work together as one business – all heading in the same direction, at the same speed, in the same rhythm and totally in tune with the rest.

Confident that my teams have the skills and knowledge that they need to succeed and a good understanding of our business, I started to consider ways in which I could implement a new system that would enable the whole team to become one crew steering one boat. I realized that what they needed was to all have the SAME information, all have NO DOUBT of our business strategy and a format of activity that each team member would be responsible for and could take ownership of, and that would meet our business goals.

So at the beginning of this year I came up with a new initiative called the Sarah Hodge Company DrivA, a calendar tool that plots out the direction for the business over the next 60 days covering the four key performance indicators – Clients, Team, Brand & Culture.

Each day there will be activity that forms part of those KPI’s that the teams need to action.  So every salon performs the same activity / task on the same day. Meaning that our very large boat – made up of nine salons – actually moves in the same direction all at the same time!

Each month, the management team comes together to discuss what we need to do for each of our KPI categories within that month and then we break it down to daily / weekly activities. It is all agreed upon, put into the calendar and colour-coded. Once set, the managers take it back to their salons and within their team meetings they go through the Company DrivA – so that every team member, whether a top stylist or a first year junior knows what the company is trying to achieve in the next 60 days and how the salon has done for the previous 30 days. There are reviews and updates built in – so that no salon can fall behind and all the results can be collated and reviewed within the next meeting.

Here’s what they look like:

sarah hodge


So what has this initiative done for our business? In four months we have seen;

  • An 18 per cent growth in client retention and an increase of 14 per cent of new clients with an increase of £2.11 on the average client bill.
  • Moral and energy within the team is up 200 per cent. With zero resignations, and 42 new job applicants.
  • Our Facebook page likes have grown by 241 per cent, we have 100 per cent satisfaction from customer service client call backs and 58 per cent increase in the Town Awareness Survey.

So not only has this tool had a measurable effect on our business bottom line, it has also increased the energy and moral of our team who tell us that they love the fact that they are all involved with what is happening, they can see where we want to go and how we are going to get there and they are motivated by that knowledge.

Nick Wood, managing director for Goldwell and KMS was introduced to the system and commented, “The Company DrivA for the managers to execute is extremely effective and well thought through, and I have honestly not seen anything like it in this industry in 15 years. I especially love the Top Tip element which guarantees that the task is done. Brilliant!”

Next month we present this new innovation to the Goldwell HUB Talks programme to introduce it to other salons, because we believe that whether you are big or small you can implement this system into your salon and get all of your staff to row in the same direction for outstanding results.

– Abby Whittaker, co-director, Sarah Hodge Salons