Paula Malloy

Paula Malloy

Paula Malloy, salon product development and marketing director for JCPenney, believes in constant communication. It’s one of the tools that will keep salons and stylists firmly on the road to success, even in these somewhat scary economic times. Paula, a former salon owner who arrived to her current position after first serving as director of education and development for Sebastian International and then as senior vice president of sales and marketing for the Colomer Corporation overseeing The Framesi USA and ABBA brands, shares her thoughts with Vivienne Mackinder on how to thrive and what it’s like to work for the JCPenney salon family. We present excerpts from that conversation here.

There’s no such thing as a typical day at JCPenney, says Paula. And how could there be? With 980 stores and over 20,000 service providers, all her days are different.

“I oversee the products used in the back bar and sold in the salons, and also oversee the marketing and the programs we develop for stylists,” she says, adding that they offer a wide range of business building tools.

She also travels widely. JCPenney has salons throughout the continental U.S. as well as Puerto Rico, and Anchorage—one of their largest locations. A big part of her job consists of salon visits, talking with managers and stylists about the business of hairdressing.

Stylists, she says, tend to favor the creative side more than the business side—something she understands since she was attracted to this industry for that very reason. But if hairdressers are going to succeed, they must learn to strike a better balance between creativity and business and stop giving the latter short shrift.

“As a stylist, you either need to attach yourself to a business manager or you need to develop these skills yourself,” she explains.

JCPenney provides a strong assist in this respect. Believing that communication is essential, they do so regularly via weekly emails, bimonthly newsletters, their own magazine as well as educational programs, featuring a variety of artists and shot in JCPenney’s own studio. The also have “very precise” national training programs for all levels that cover, among other business building aspects, how to attract and retain clients, take advantage of new opportunities, improve operations and so on.

Constant self-education and exchanging ideas is also crucial, says Paula, who is also the immediate past, and first female, president of the International Salon Business Network (ISBN), an association of salon chains. During her tenure ISBN became a powerful resource for business building education and networking.

“I get some of my best ideas from the small chain salons in our membership,” she says. “Their owners are brilliant. And I take these ideas and spin these to JCPenney.”

Although aware of the economic realities, Paula says she chooses to focus on the positive. But she isn’t advising complacency. Although the stylists working for JCPenney don’t have to worry about staying employed (the company has over $10 million budgeted for marketing) they nevertheless need to stay on their toes. Now, more than ever, stylists and salons must be mindful to give clients the value they’re seeking.

“Stylists need to work a little harder than in the past to keep clients,” she explains. “Continue your technical training, invest in education. Talk about what you do, carry your business cards. Offer complimentary try-me services, offer incentives for referrals. Help your clients become chemically dependent on color or texture. You must constantly market your business.”

Salons must brand themselves; determining who they are and the clients they want to attract. They also need to ensure their staff understands this message and that it’s communicated effectively and consistently throughout the entire operation, down to the smallest detail.

“And don’t be afraid of people who know more than you,” she adds. “You can really learn from them. Look for ways to learn more and grow more. And every day try to search out opportunity and gratitude.”