Name: Paula Thomas
Business: Trimmers hairdressing studio in Maghull, Merseyside, which specialises in the “latest cuts, colours, textures and products”.
Background: Paula Thomas and father John Fazakerley co-founded the Maghull branch of Trimmers in March 1988. After learning his trade, John opened his own salon in Liverpool more than 50 years ago aged just 19. His eighth and Paula’s first, Trimmers in Maghull, remains as busy as ever. The business has 12 employees, but has provided jobs for more than 50 people since first opening its doors.
How important is it that staff remain happy in their work?
Paula Thomas (PT): “Crucial, especially in hairdressing where they come into very close contact with customers. And happy employees tend to be productive employees, too. Hairdressing is a vocation, so staff are reasonably well motivated anyway, but it can be a tiring job, and some customers can be very challenging, which can demotivate or even upset staff. But my staff and I love the job, because we make people feel better about themselves, which is rewarding.”
How strong is the team ethic at Trimmers?
PT: “Very strong. Some of the senior members of staff have been here since the start, others 20 years or more. We’ve grown up together; our success is shared; and we have a fantastic relationship. I’ve never asked anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do, and I was cutting hair until relatively recently, so I did the same job and hours as everyone else. Feeling part of a team is highly motivating.”
How do you motivate your staff?
PT: “I support them when necessary; they can come to talk to me if they have any problems. And we’re flexible, where possible. There’s a strong sense of trust and respect between us all; people put in a 100 per cent and work for each other. We’ve had people in the past who were very talented, but just didn’t fit into the team.”
What about having difficult conversations about performance?
PT: “It has to be done sometimes, but it’s rare. If I point something out, it’s to help people improve. You must pick the right time and place, and make criticism constructive. People are motivated by different things and as you get to know them you find out how to get the best out of them. Good two-way communication is key, it helps to prevent problems.”
What about wages?
PT: “The girls get a good basic wage, plus commission and bonuses, so the rewards are there for hard work. They each have monthly targets and get bonuses for reaching them. There’s another bonus for best overall performance against target. I don’t believe in having unreasonable expectations or targets - it just demotivates people.”
What about staff appraisals?
PT: “We used to do formal appraisals once a year, but not anymore. My managers and I are constantly giving feedback. We sit down and set targets at the beginning of the year, but as long as staff are hitting them without any problems, it’s fine. We finish early once a month to have a team meeting in work time. It’s very informal and the managers lead. I don’t attend, but obviously hear about points raised. It’s a great way to identify any issues we need to sort out.”
Any final advice about motivating employees?
PT: “You have to remember to thank people and recognise their contribution when they do good things. We all want to feel that our work is valued and appreciated. Although, obviously, there are business benefits to making sure your people know the latest techniques and products, investing in their training is a good way to make them feel valued. Creating a pleasant working environment is also important, because that can affect mood, motivation and performance.”