Philippa Middleton

Culture eats strategy for breakfast: 5 tips from Philippa Middleton

2 Sep 2021 by Kitomba

We sat down with Philippa Middleton, a successful business owner with over 25 years of entrepreneurial experience in the hair and beauty industry, to chat about how culture shapes the success of your business and how to develop your dream team.

Watch the full interview and read these top 5 tips below to find out about how to provide daily inspiration to your team, avoid burnout and know your purpose.

Tip 1: If culture comes first, success will follow

“When I was writing my first business plan, at the top of the page I wrote ‘I want to be in charge of my own culture, and I want to be in charge of my own destiny.’ That gave me the courage and the momentum to start my first business.

Your success in business comes down to a lot of things lining up but at the core is culture because culture eats strategy for breakfast! Don’t get me wrong, you need a really strong strategy, budget and all of those things but without culture, they will all eventually let you down or fall apart. The people that work with me are always number one and creating a culture that I wanted has led me to success in all of my businesses.”

Young woman and two men are having a discussion at a hair salon

Tip 2: Your team is your priority

“I have to inspire and encourage people to do amazing things every day. One of the biggest things I always said to my staff is that nobody gets paid enough to be treated badly by anybody. Our clients sometimes have bad days and they can be awful to deal with. I always empowered my team to say “Hey, I don’t need to take this” or even walk away. My team knew that my door was always open. They would come and get me and I would go and talk to a client. Your team needs to know that they are number one in your business.

You’re already good at inspiring your clients and that’s why you started your business. Now, if you want people to work for you and root for your success, you’ve got to be good at inspiring your team.”

A salon space filled with light with pot plants hanging from a ceiling and hair products displayed on the wall

Tip 3: Working on your business vs working in your business

“If you’re an on-the-tools person, here’s something that you’ve probably been hearing for years: you’ve got to get off the tools to run your business. Working in your business and on your business are two full-time jobs including managing and inspiring your staff, and being an outstanding culture-oriented leader.

Here’s what happens to businesses like salons, spas and most other small to medium-size enterprises. A technical person starts a business because they’re good at what they do. Next minute, they’re trying to be an accountant or counsellor, a marketer and do social media. When you’re dealing with human real estate, which is your staff, you want them to be as good or better than you. That’s a full-time job too. You’ve got to invest in that, make them feel amazing, lead and inspire them. You don’t create a culture, put it in a spreadsheet and forget about it. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a daily discipline like exercise and food.”

If you try to be the leader that you always wanted to have and lead your people that way, you can't go wrong.

Tip 4: Make time and space for your staff

“How do you lead and inspire? Whatever role you have in your company, e.g. doing hair, doing treatments, make sure that you are never too stressed or overworked to the point that you are not available to your people. Your door always needs to be open so that you can talk to people and help them with what they’re going through. Because there’s always someone broke, pregnant, depressed, going through a relationship breakup, addicted to something. I’ve bailed people out of jail in the past. I’ve done it all because that is just the world we live in. Your team is your responsibility in a lot of ways. Dedicate yourself to being a great leader and a great inspiration to them.”

A barbershop owner sitting on a window sill with an tablet in his hands

Tip 5: Start with ‘why’

“Some people don’t really know why they’re in business. Simon Sinek has a really good philosophy that everyone knows what they do and how they do it but not a lot of people know why they do it. It’s finding out your ‘why’. Why do you get out of bed every morning? If it’s a chore and you’re not enjoying it, you’re burnt out because you’re working on the business and on the culture, and sometimes it’s all too much. Pull yourself back from the edge. Think about why you started your business in the first place? Why are you there? You had a passion, a dream and a desire. Get back to that and also share it as part of your brand and as part of who you are. 

If it’s been diluted over the years by being burned out and having too many full-time jobs in your own business, find out  ‘Why am I actually here? Why is my business any better than anybody else’s?’.

A lot of people might think ‘I’m here for the money’ but money is a product of what you do. It’s not why you do it. If it is why you do it, you’ll only be in this industry for a short time. I never focused on money but money always came, and it’s because I created brands with ‘why’ involved in them. I also led my teams with a great, strong culture and I put them first. The clients felt that.”

A computer screen next to a white vase with red flowers

The ultimate guide to managing and cultivating your dream team

Do you want to build a high performing, engaged and successful team for your salon, spa or clinic? Check out our ultimate guide that has everything you need to know for creating the team of your dreams – from leadership, to hiring, to motivating with targets, to training, culture, and so much more.

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