Michael Baker and Carol Augusto (with a video assist from Debra Neill Baker) welcome more than 1,800 attendees to Serious Business 2015 at the New Orleans Convention Center.
Michael Baker and Carol Augusto (with a video assist from Debra Neill Baker) welcome more than 1,800 attendees to Serious Business 2015 at the New Orleans Convention Center.

More than 1800 salon owners, managers and stylists gathered Jan 18-19 at the New Orleans Convention for Serious Business 2015. “Transparency is the buzzword of the moment,” says Debra Neill Baker, who welcomed attendees via video and introduced them to the conference’s “Naked” theme. “Recent studies have shown that transparency isn’t just ethical, but also good for growth. It retains employees and engages teams and guests.”

Technology Guru Dan Tapscott

On the first day, technology guru Don Tapscott took the stage, showing owners how they can boost profitability through technology, and how today’s tech-savvy world makes transparency even more critical. “If you’re going to be naked, fitness is no longer an option,” warned Tapscott. “Your business must have good value and good values as well—like integrity and consideration of guests. The expectation is that the client will also behave with integrity. If you are buff, good things will happen and transparency is your friend.”

Vulnerability Researcher Brené Brown.

 As research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, Brené Brown has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame. Through personal and professional anecdotes, Brown taught the audience how letting down their guard can make them more powerful. “You can choose comfort or courage—you can’t have both,” said Brown. “If you think you’re being brave and you’re comfortable, you’re not. Discomfort is where the courage lives.”

America's Green Nutritionist Kate Geagan.

Next, America’s Green Nutritionist Kate Geagan gave the crowd a wake-up call about obesity in America. “At this point in time, we’re in a perfect storm of being overfed and under-nourished,” said Geagan before introducing the audience to a number of tips for infusing their diets with healthy, high-powered foods. “Say yes to nude food—whole food that is as close to how nature created it as possible.”

The Salon Today Best Practices Panel with Stacey Soble, Jeff South, Terry McKee and Ronit Enos.

After a moving tribute to industry notables who passed in 2014, Salon Today’s Stacey Soble took the stage with a panel of salon owners representing the Salon Today 200. With short in-salon examples, the panelists each shared a best salon business practice. Intrigue Salon’s Jeff South showed owners how to boost profits by creating an upgrade menu; Signatures’ Wendy White McCown illustrated the benefits of establishing a three-day work week; Nuovo Salon Group’s Terry McKee described his management team’s strategic planning process and Maxime’s Ronit Enos illustrated examples of engaging team members to create original content for the website.

The Professional Beauty Association's Scott Buchanan and Steve Sleeper with Modern Salon Media's Steve Reiss (center).

In the second part of the Business of Beauty segment, Modern Salon Media’s Steve Reiss joined the Professional Beauty Association’s Steve Sleeper and Scott Buchanan on stage to enlighten the audience on the current state of booth rental in the industry. Reiss walked the audience through a recent research study conducted by Modern Salon and Neill-TSP, while Sleeper and Buchanan introduced owners to PBA’s new online calculator that shows stylists income expectations in employment-based salon versus booth rental situations. 

Personal Strengths Researcher Marcus Buckingham.

To round out the two days, best-selling author and researcher Marcus Buckingham helped attendees uncover untapped potential by identifying their own strengths, as well the strengths of their team members.“Expectations have a short shelf life,” he advised. “Check in with each of your people once a week. Ask them what their priorities are that week and how you can help. Don’t give feedback—it’s a threat. Coach them. People want to get better.”

In between the mainstage presentations, attendees could design their own Serious Business experience by selecting the breakout sessions that most interested them. Breakout speakers included Passion Squared’s Nina KovnerBlo’s Bryan Nunes; Aveda’s Ricardo Dinis; EvelineCharles’ Lina Heath with University of Massachusetts-Boston’s Professor Benyamin Lichtenstein; Psy-Cosmetology’s Jay Williams; Dream State Salon’s Katie and Adam Wright, Heather Wightman and Sarah Beth McBride; Alignable’s Eric Groves; The Blind Barber’s Jeff Laub; and Whole Aveda Salonspa’s Tim Belcher and Jason Snyder.

Edwin Neill, Stacey Soble, Tom Petrillo, Carol Augusto, Steve Reiss and Katharine Cook prepare for the Salon Today 200 Recognition Party.

On the last evening of Serious Business, almost 400 honorees representing 91 of the SALON TODAY 200 honorees gathered at the theater in Harrah’s Casino for networking and a special certificate presentation hosted by Neill-TSP.

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