Family makes beauty salon a place of beauty
Operating a family owned business has its risks, both to the family and to the business. Many people have tried to run a family business; some have succeeded, while many have failed.
The owners of Marie’s Beauty Salon & Supply seem to have found a formula for success in a family run operation. Since 1988 this business has been on a track for growth, and the company is healthier than ever.
The founder, Maria Neubauer, a licensed cosmetologist and instructor, determined that most salons were not meeting customer needs for beauty supplies and services, so she decided to start a business.
Joined by her husband, Joe, daughter Diane Holzschuh and her husband, Phil, they formed a corporation to operate Marie’s with a goal of providing high quality salon services and beauty products, with primary emphasis on customers.
They determined that in order to be successful, they had to maintain their focus on the business. Here is their formula:
* Focus on customers. This was the primary goal when starting the business, and it continues to be the major priority. The customer comes first at Marie’s. That message comes from the top down. It is communicated regularly to all employees.
"We try to exceed expectations," said business manager Diane Holzschuh, "and we expect our employees to have that approach to our customers."
* Focus on balance. In a family owned business, it is difficult to get away from either the family or the business problems. It is necessary to maintain balance. Family time is sacred. The owners try to balance business needs with family priorities.
* Focus on strengths. Each family member contributes unique strengths to the business. Neubauer and Holzschuh run the day-to-day operation of the business. Neubauer takes responsibility for personnel, ordering and the salon management. Holzschuh’s business and accounting background make her a natural to manage financial and marketing duties.
The husbands both have other businesses, but are active in the major decisions for the corporation. Phil Holzschuh’s computer skills help with inventory and accounting systems, while Joe Neubauer contributes marketing skills. Regular family business meetings update all owners on the responsibilities of each.
* Focus on employees. Marie’s has an excellent staff, and Holzschuh says that good communication and continuing education play a key role in maintaining good employees. "We like to hire good people and keep them happy," Holzschuh said. The company uses graduates from local beauty schools when possible. They also have bi-weekly staff meetings to communicate information about new services, products and company policy.
* Focus on marketing. "We want our marketing effort to be proactive rather than reactive," said Holzschuh. "A regular, planned approach using primarily radio has been successful for us." The company recently began using a marketing firm. According to Holzschuh, the timing was right. "The marketing firm helped us with fresh ideas and creativity," she said. "It also made time available to devote to other business needs."
* Focus on banking relationships. Five years ago, when the company wanted to expand, its lender, National Bank of Alaska, used a program of the Small Business Administration to help with the financing.
SBA’s loan guaranty program helped the bank overcome factors the bank considered more risky than it wanted to take without the guaranty. The SBA guaranteed loan enabled Marie’s to expand its retail space, add privacy rooms for facial, pedicure and waxing services, and improve lighting throughout the store.
"The SBA provided an important tool for the bank in providing the financing for our expansion," said Holzschuh. "We have an excellent relationship with NBA," she said, "and we take full advantage of the services they offer for our business."
The company was able to pay off the SBA loan ahead of schedule. Since the expansion in 1996, the company has nearly doubled its sales and has added seven employees.
"Compete with yourself" has become a company motto, empowering the owners and employees to focus on making Marie’s the best that it can be, constantly evaluating products, services, staff and facilities, to give the customers the level of service they desire. That’s a good formula for success in a family owned business.
Ron Veltkamp is the business development officer for the Small Business Administration’s Alaska District.