Industry News

Understand Greatness

Patrick McIvor | August 14, 2013 | 3:02 PM

Understand Greatness When I was doing the Goldwell/KMS/Arrojo On Tour in NYC, one of my favorite people, Maggie Mulhern, asked me what my favorite movie was as a professional hairstylist. I had two answers at the time – Vidal Sassoon: The Movie and Unzipped (the Isaac Mizrahi movie) both for different reasons.

Then a couple nights ago I stumbled upon a movie, Jiro, or more specifically Jiro Dreams of Sushi on Netflix.  I started watching the movie with my family – it’s about an 80 year old Japanese man who owns a 3 Star Michelin Rated Sushi Restaurant in Tokyo. Jiro is in The Guinness Book of World Records for being the oldest 3 Star (the highest rating) working chefs in the world. But what makes Jiro unique is not only his high standard for making sushi, but the standard he holds himself and his team to - apprentices work for 10 years, and for that, he teaches them all he knows. Before that, it's years of massaging octopus for four hours by hand so that it’s more tender than everyone else's. The apprentices work for years only making rice, before they are able to make the grilled egg, and ultimately after 10 years, sushi. And then Jiro said something that stopped me cold. He said that the team needed to eat great food, as you watched the apprentices and chefs sit down and eat what would be the same highest quality fish/food they would be serving to their guests when they opened. To give some perspective, there are only 10 seats in the restaurant, the dinners start at $300 per person and require one year for a reservation - and the team is eating the same food! 

What Jiro explained is that you can’t make great food if you don't know what great food tastes like. 

Okay stop, at this point my wife turns and looks at me and says, “Does that mean you have to have great hair to do great hair?”  I swallowed hard as I said, “No?” Heck, my hair is often all over the place when I’m done working (I have grown and donated my hair three times so far in the last 10 years) and I come from a camp/tribe where the stylist hair has nothing to do with what they can do, i.e. Christian, Guido, Arrojo/Cutler Salon in NYC…and I know a lot of great bald stylists too. But, there was something here I just hadn't figured out yet, then it came to me...for us it’s SERVICE.

I realized why I had had challenges in building team members in the past. I could train them on how to do great hair, because you can see great hair, but like the taste of great food, how do you know what great service is? Especially if you have never experienced it. Wow, BAM there it is! I realized challenges I've had in the past were because there was not the experience of being serviced, with great service, and without a 5 star experience, how would you know what that could be?

So, I started to ask friends and co-workers and realized quickly that there is a correlation between the service experience we create for our guests and the service experiences we have had in our lives.

Here's what I have learned:

1. Training someone on good service by servicing them at work is still work.  You learn what great service is when you experience it outside of where you work because it’s not expected.

2. If you want to up the service experience you provide, one of the fastest ways is to have more great service experiences yourself outside of work.

3. As an owner, one of the questions in our interviewing process is now, “Tell me about your most memorable or favorite service experience.” 

I have been very lucky throughout my life, I have experienced life/services with no stars and 5 stars (the equivalent of Michelins 3 stars) and it is always the highest rated experiences that give me ideas for my salon/guests. What Jiro made me remember is that it's not just technical abilities we need to invest in to provide a better experience for our guests to grow our businesses, we need to invest in the service experiences we have outside of work for ourselves, so we can understand better what great service should feel like when we are doing it at work.- P

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