By Laurel Nelson, contributing writer with Salon Today
“I love the atmosphere in the salon when Tonya walks in,” Roy Guira, stylist at Tonya Jones SalonSpa says. “It’s so much more fun when she’s there, and she’s so generous to her employees. She always makes sure everything is good in my life.”
How many owners have stylists who would say the same about them?
Tonya Jones, owner of three Tonya Jones SalonSpa locations in Birmingham, Alabama, doesn’t just happen to have the world’s most complimentary stylists. Creating an atmosphere where her staff are comfortable, happy and motivated is something she has worked hard to achieve.
HEELS ON THE GROUND
Jones employs about 50 staff members (26 stylists), works behind the chair four days a week and is getting ready to open a fourth location in August.
She’s busy, to say the least. But a year and a half ago, she decided it was time to spend more quality time with her stylists, so she created “Heels on the Ground.”
“I needed a way to get out from behind the chair, and grow my business instead of just run it,” she says. “I wear heels all the time, which is how I came up with the name, and decided to start with just one day a week where I’m focused on the business.”
On her designated day “off,” Jones visits her locations, holding huddles, conducting one-on-ones and engaging with the team.
“Managing from behind the chair is tough,” she says. “So now I hit all the locations every Thursday, and it’s exciting to be in front of the team.”
Jones has given herself the gift of flexibility with her Thursdays, and sometimes only ends up visiting one location so she can be out in the community working with one of the three boards she’s on.
“Tonya’s a phenom at branding,” Rodney Fuller, director of education and stylist, says. “She’s involved in community events you wouldn’t even think about, like girls’ night out at the baseball field. And we’re there too, because it trickles down to the staff.”
By August, Jones says she’ll be down to three days a week as a stylist, working in each location one day a week (except the new location).
Stepping out from behind the chair can be a scary prospect, but Jones has confidence in her staff and their ability to be successful.
In fact, a few of her millennial stylists are already pulling in six-figure salaries.
“You have to practice what you preach,” Jones says about coaching her team. “I ask them questions and find out their goals so they know I trust and support their dreams.
“I tell them if they want to be a six-figure hairdresser, I can get them there because I was one. But they have to go all in. The answer always has to be ‘yes.’”
Jones expects her stylists to look and act like a six-figure hairdresser as well as focus on a few key questions: ‘How will I build relationships with clients? What’s my target market? Am I willing to get educated? Can I confidently raise my prices?’
“Eighty percent of my clients are doctors, lawyers, CEOs—you attract what you are,” she says. “It’s about being driven and giving it 150 percent.”
Coaching is how Jones reached her own goals as well. She works with Tom Kuhn of Qnity and her mentor, Antony Whitaker, of Grow My Salon Business as well as her Aveda SDP.
“After I opened my second location, I realized it’s lonely at the top and I needed some help,” she says. “I needed someone to run things by to grow personally and professionally.”
Now, Jones finds showing, rather than telling, her stylists how to succeed is key. She has also learned to avoid talking about long-term goals.
“You can’t give them more than a one to three-year goal,” she says. “I don’t even ask them about long-term goals in the interview anymore—they’re just trying to get to next week.”
Jones says she focuses on figuring out each stylist’s “why” and speaks their language.
“They’re all about family, and they want love,” she says. “They want to know you’re there for them, you’ll go to bat for them. They want that security.”
HAVE WINGS, WILL FLY
Jones’s staff feels the love and gives it right back to their boss. Below, four of them tell their success stories and how Jones gave them the confidence and tools to achieve their dreams.
Rodney Fuller, director of education/stylist
Fuller, who has been a stylist for 10 years, has been working for Tonya Jones SalonSpa for a year and a half.
“My first goal was to not be stressed paycheck to paycheck—I wanted to be comfortable,” he said.
“By the end of this year, I’ll probably hit a six-figure salary. I’m already up $10k over last month.”
Fuller was nervous to make the move to Birmingham and start all over in a new state with no clientele, but his risk has paid off.
“We’re not complacent here—we’re always keeping up with continued education,” he says. “And working with the SalonBiz app helps, too. We’re on it all the time and very conscious of our numbers.”
Fuller also says the networking Jones does is invaluable when it comes to building a clientele.
“For example, there was recently an event at a local brewery. She bought 10 tickets that she gave to staff members so we could go, have fun, and meet new potential clients.”
But perhaps the best part about working at Tonya Jones is the strong focus on strengths and positive reinforcement.
“Instead of saying, ‘Don’t go back there,’ if someone is headed to the break room, Tonya says ‘Let’s go do this,’” Fuller says.
“We focus on what we CAN do versus what we shouldn’t do.”
Fuller says Jones has a long-running policy of treating employees fairly.
“She lets you do hair the way you do hair,” he says. “So if someone has longer processing times, that’s ok—just as long as you can manage your job and be successful in the way you do it.”
The combination of autonomy and positive reinforcement has yielded impressive results in stylists’ paychecks.
“We’re required to show up, be positive, and be active on the floor—not on our phone. But beyond that, we can be who we are.”
Roy Guira, stylist
“I’ve been a stylist for 16 years and with Tonya for two and a half years,” Guira says. “Initially, I just wanted to be comfortable with my salary. But now, I’m growing so quickly that I’m trying to beat myself every week.”
In Guira’s first year at Tonya Jones, he brought in more than $120,000 in services to the salon. Last year, he brought in more than $150,000.
“I didn’t have that success at my last salon,” he says. “I use the SalonBiz app to check how I’m doing, and know if I’m down a month, I have the rest of the year to make it up. And if I run into clients at the grocery store, I’ll book their appointment right then and there.”
Guira says Jones’s talent for branding and flexibility with her employees have yielded success and happy stylists.
“We always have help available, too—shampoo techs, interns, assistants,” he says. “You can use them or not. If you do, you can do large volumes of clients because you have the support.”
Lauren Poole, stylist
Poole has been with Tonya Jones her entire career. She spent her first year in the New Talent program, and for the past two and a half years, she has been a stylist.
Naturally shy, Poole has found confidence knowing Jones is always there to support her.
“I usually have a full book, and my favorite goals are retention, pre-booking and RCPT,” she says. “When I’m not with clients, I hang out in the retail area so I can educate clients on any products they’re interested in. I stay out of the ‘minimum wage area’ (the break room),” she laughs.
“I have done a lot of networking events with Tonya,” Poole says. “She makes me feel comfortable and confident. She has helped me overcome the feeling of intimidation, and I feel good handing my card out now.”
James Guira, manager/stylist
James Guira has been at Tonya Jones for six and a half years, and was recently made manager at one of the locations.
“I came to the salon after teaching at the Institute,” Guira says. “I had no clients, and didn’t think working behind the chair was going to be for me. My goal was to work for Tonya as a means to finance going back to school.
But Jones had other plans for Guira and knew she could make him fall in love with the industry again.
She promised that in two years, Guira would be a six-figure stylist. And he was.
Guira has continued to grow—last year he brought in $250,000 in services and $45,000 in retail.
“I am not a natural cutter,” he says. “I gravitated toward color, but Tonya put me in the chair next to her and taught me cutting. If I wasn’t busy, I was watching her.”
One thing she is adamant about, though, is the availability of her stylists.
“It’s a very natural thing for a hairdresser to want to go home if they don’t have a full book,” Guira says. “But if you have a scheduled shift, you’re at the salon for the whole time, whether there’s a client on the book or not.”
Managing creatives is a skill Jones has down pat, Guira maintains.
“It’s not all about Tonya—she’s not a micro-manager. She empowers people, gives us a task, and we run with it.”