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Modern Exclusive: An Interview with New ISBN President Rhoda Olsen

Anne Moratto | December 22, 2014 | 12:23 PM
RHODA OLSEN

The International Salon/Spa Business Network (ISBN)’s Board of Trustees elected Rhoda Olsen, CEO of Great Clips, as the association’s president during the Board’s annual fall meeting. During her 2-year term, she will lead the owners of the only association for international multi-unit salon and spa companies in growing both their own businesses, as well as the professional beauty industry.

“Each member of the ISBN Board invests a great deal of talent and time in giving back to the professional beauty industry in their own communities and specialty areas, so both as an association and individually, ISBN impacts the industry in a very positive way,” says Olsen. “As president, I plan to extend those efforts by broadening our communication and connections to benefit our customers, our industry and one another.”

Olsen has been associated with Great Clips, Inc. since 1984. In 1998, she was promoted to president/chief operating officer, making her fully accountable for the Great Clips organization. During Olsen’s tenure as president/COO, Great Clips grew from just over 1,000 salons in 1998 to more than 3,500 salons in 2013. In February 2011, Olsen was promoted to CEO of Great Clips. She understands the importance of a customer-driven brand that creates success and opportunity for employees throughout the organization. Recently, MODERN spoke with Olsen about her vision for ISBN’s future.

MS: How does your current job at Great Clips influence how you will approach this role?

Olsen: I work hard at leading an organization to stay focused, to keep it simple, to make sure we have accurate data about the customer and to really be engaged with stylists and customers. Leading a franchise is different than leading a straight corporate structure because we all have independent businesses and connecting them and communicating with them in meaningful way requires a great deal of collaboration. This focus on collaboration and communication is what will come into play with ISBN. The more we members collaborate, the more we focus on shared goals and use our combined energies, the stronger we will be as a group.

 MS: What challenges are facing the professional beauty industry?

Olsen: We have never faced so many legal government issues and challenges but I think the industry needs to understand that is true for all businesses.  We have to say these are the conditions we are working in and continue to thrive. Gordon Logan (CEO of Sports Clips) is a dear friend of mine and he has done a fabulous job of working on these issues of reciprocity, gainful employment, deregulations and issues of license hour requirements. Instead of letting these concerns drag us down, I’d like to see us come together more proactively and to stay focused on the customer.

MS: What do you feel is ISBN’s function? 

Olsen: In the industry there are three distinct aspects—the business side, the stylist side and the customer side-- and they shouldn’t be separate. It is ISBN’s role to strengthen the connection between business, industry and the consumers.

We have a strong member base and all the large chains represented and many of the smaller, too. We can deepen those relationships so we can all learn and share together.

MS: What will you change?

Olsen: I am stepping into a pretty solid, well organized group who have worked very hard so there is a lot of momentum going, already. I believe the one thing I will work on changing is the depth and breadth of our communication.

The way people communicate has changed and the industry may be a little bit slow in adapting. We need to establish a strong digital program and develop an ongoing social media presence. It sounds so simple but there probably hasn’t been a formal ISBN communication plan since the old days of newsletters. 

We are the leader of all the chain salons and we work with the distributors, the manufactures and the school associations but we aren’t effectively communicating with them about what ISBN does. We need to share where we believe we are making an impact. I would like to leverage the great strengths that we have but better communicate all the meaningful things that are occurring.

ISBN has added some new younger folks but generally we are older and we are two generations removed from what is driving our business. A lot of second generations are assuming leadership roles in our industry and we have to develop some clear, strong strategies to meet the stylist’s needs.

MS: How do you work with the other industry organizations?

Olsen: We have great connections with all the manufacturers, with PBA, with AACS, with industry partners and our members are engaged with them at different levels. I believe we have an opportunity to deepen those connections.

My term begins January 1st and I will be presiding over the May ISBN conference. I’m very excited about this conference because we have the right topic and the right focus. From a business and stylist’s perspective, we’re going to focus on the Millennials to better understand and stay engaged with them. We’re looking at this new group of stylists and asking what are they going to expect from us.

The strength of our industry is built on those very emotional, committed employees and stylists. I love being in the salons and hearing about their hopes and dreams. There is so much passion in this industry and that means there is huge opportunity.

SAVE THE DATE: ISBN’s 2015 Conference takes place May 3-5, 2015, at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, FL. Watch for details at www.salonspanetwork.org and connect on the International SalonSpa Business Network’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/InternationalSalonSpaBusinessNetwork

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