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Building Stylist Career Paths Equals Employees for Life

Brian Perdue, CEO of Atlanta’s Salon 124 and the 124Group, has created a system that fosters beauty professionals by building career paths and increasing their earning potential. With seven salons under the Salon 124, Genesis Salons by 124 and Crush by 124 monikers, plus two Keune Academies by 124 and growing, he has created the opportunity to guide and enhance the careers of cosmetologists from the day they enter cosmetology school through the biggest achievements in their careers.

Brian, who has a business degree and worked in the corporate world, met his wife Karen right after she became a stylist. When they moved to Atlanta, she went back to school to finish her accounting degree. Once she started working in the field, Karen discovered that accounting wasn’t her passion and returned to hairdressing. She built her clientele quickly.

At the same time, Brian was looking for an entrepreneurial venture and started exploring franchise concepts. While he was intrigued by the beauty business, he could not find an upscale salon franchise concept. Determined to create one, he first enrolled in cosmetology school to learn how to do hair himself. “I went in believing you are born knowing how to do hair or you aren’t, but once there, discovered that it’s a learned skill,” he explains. “Once I graduated, I wanted to study the industry and the business of hair, so I went to work at Van Michael Salon, while Karen was perfecting her technical skills at advanced academies like Sassoon and DeRitter. My big aha was about the importance of education. After a year with Van Michael, I bought the salon where Karen worked. We are so proud that the team members from that salon are still with us 24 years later!”

Brian soon discovered that his true passion came from developing and pushing people. “I don’t say that I’m in the hair styling business. Rather, I operate a hair stylist development company,” he explains. Using the advanced techniques they had learned combined with their business skills, Brian and Karen started developing stylists. They trained their support team how to do hair, too. After 5 years of sharing their vision, they had 18 stylists and were out of room. They launched the first Genesis by 124, their new talent salon, a mile down the road wit services at a lesser price point.

“We focused every day on developing people,” explains Brian. “About 10 years ago, I had almost 40 people in training to be stylists and we were spending massive amounts of money on training. That’s when I decided to enter the cosmetology school business. It’s been a great success.”

To locate the school, Brian followed Sam Walton’s hub-and-spoke approach to Wal-Mart’s distribution centers. “Ultimately, my products are hair stylists. My school is my distribution center. So I located the school in the center of my salons within a 1-hour driving radius,” Brian explains.

Today, The 124 Group has been honored in the Salon Today 200 more than 10 times. “The reality is that I don’t plan to open 8 salons or 800,” says Brian. “I develop stylists. When we’re out of room, we open a new salon. My passion is to elevate the standards of the industry. 80 to 90% of the time stylists leave the industry, it’s not about the money. It’s because they feel stagnant or like they have nowhere to go. My next step is to help salon owners develop their business strategies, to bring better people into the industry and then to create career-pathing that leads to greater opportunity for them. For example, I opened my newest concept, Crush, which is more of a makeup, skin care and retail concept, to give them a way to make more money or to re-engage if they’re bored creatively. I opened Crush for my stylists as much as for our clients. My goal is always to open more doors for stylists to help them pursue their passions and increase their incomes as they progress in their careers.”

Brian’s newest business venture, ZeeZor, is an app that keeps stylists engaged and more aware of their business. The simple dashboard extracts data directly from a salon point-of sale-system and feeds key performance indicators to the smartphones of its users. For stylists, ZeeZor provides real-time information, allowing them to watch and track service and retail sales, retention rates, rebook percentages and more. “Managers and business owners can now gamify productivity through contests, rewards and public praise,” Brian explains. “We’ve always trained stylists to set goals. Now we empower them with information to achieve them.”

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