Q&A with Paul Frasca

Why have you chosen to take part in STEPtember this year?

We’re always looking for ways to give back to the community. Back in the early days of Sustainable Salons, we made a decision that our team members were just as important to us as our members, and that we’d give back to our community and our team in any way we could.

Building our internal culture means everything to us, and it’s how we’ve attracted some of the best and brightest in the field to Sustainable Salons. Some of these team members actually came from the Beauty Industry, and as therapists whose jobs were to make their clients feel their best they also recognised the importance of a strong team dynamic and culture in order to be a successful salon/spa. Creating this culture within beauty industry spaces encouraged these team members, in particular, to better serve their clients and it is an amazing stress release for jobs such as these.  

STEPtember is perfectly aligned with our ethos – it’s raising money for a great cause, it’s getting us up and off our bums and keeping us active and healthy. A lot of the Sustainable Salons team have been working from home, so STEPtember is the perfect challenge to get us moving. 

We like to encourage our team to keep active whenever they can – we’ve got team members who cycle or walk to work for instance. Australians spend on average 3.5 hours walking outside the home per week and if you’re fortunate enough to live within walking distance of your work, commuting by foot is a great way to stay active, be sustainable and enjoy the world around you. In fact, if you replace just one driving journey per day with a carbon-free form of transport like cycling or walking you can save half a tonne of CO2 per year.  

Where does the money go?

Money raised during STEPtember goes to the Cerebral Palsy Alliance. It funds either equipment and services or research. Cerebral Palsy is the most common childhood disability and is caused by damage to the brain while in utero or shortly after birth.

How have you motivated your team to take part?

Not only have we raised money for the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, but we’ve decided to run a little internal competition, too. At the end of the month, we compared the walking averages of our teams across every state in Australia and New Zealand to see who walked the most. The team from that state got to pick a charity to which we donated an additional $250. This year Sustainable Salons took 14,057,371 STEPS! With our NZ Team taking the lead with a total of 607,243 steps. We had so much fun, check out our story highlights here! ⁠

The charity chosen was SPCA NZ. The SPCA helps protect over 34,000 animals in New Zealand every year. Animals who are sick, injured, abused, or simply abandoned. Sustainable Salons has donated $250 in honor of their achievement.⁠ ⁠So not only did the whole Sustainable Salons team work together to fundraise for the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, we got to support another charity at the same time. 

Steptember Team Member Walk in California, USA

Why the focus on team culture?

I believe the way we interact with our teams has changed pretty significantly over the last few decades. Back in the day team culture was taking your team out for a boozy Christmas lunch, but that’s just not cutting it anymore. We really need to focus on building a great culture from the ground up and offering staff a job in which they can find purpose and belonging.

The COVID pandemic has uncovered some very interesting workplace trends. One of the biggest takeaways is that employees are looking for purpose, flexibility and culture. This in particular is very prevalent in the Beauty space at the moment, we are seeing many staff members come and go simply because being a therapist alone is not cutting it anymore. Therapists are also looking for a purpose, if salon and spa owners can offer their staff more than a basic beauty therapist position with team activities, benefits, company values and a strong team culture they are more likely to stick around. People aren’t looking to work for CEOs who think they’re royalty anymore. Collaboration, feeling valued and working with a great team is the way to go.

How can beauty salons foster team culture when the environment is so fast-paced? 

There are lots of ways that salon owners can help their teams feel a sense of purpose in their work. First and foremost, I’d say chat with your team. What makes them tick? What are they passionate about? Finding out what is and isn’t working for them within the spa environment is also essential. If there is something they are struggling with and it is not being addressed, that is going to weigh on them more and more each day.

Small but successful ideas such as offering some basic beauty treatments for free to those in need on a regular basis? What if you donated a percentage of your salon’s profits to a charity for one month of the year? Some spa owners are going that extra mile for their staff, offering end-of-week pamper nights for employees to relax, unwind, have a glass of champagne, and bond with their team in a not-so-formal environment. Brainstorm with your team and you’ll find ways to give back that make them feel happy and fulfilled at work. 

What do employee purpose and happiness look like at Sustainable Salons?

STEPtember is just one of the ways we kick those employee satisfaction goals here at Sustainable Salons.

We’re constantly trying to find ways to improve our team’s wellbeing and sense of purpose. We take part in lots of initiatives like STEPtember. The key thing I’ve learned since we started doing this a few years into the Sustainable Salons journey is that employee buy-in is so important.

We empower our employees to tell us what they want to take part in, and what they want to support. So we’ll give them the criteria: it’s got to help people, it’s got to have a real purpose to it, it’s got to raise money for a good cause. And they’ll go away and think of things we can do that fits that criteria.

Christmas, holidays, you name it, we’re always looking at ways we can give back to the community.

How do these kinds of initiatives affect your employees?

They love it. We’re building an A team here and for us, that means people who show up to work motivated and who work with passion. We have a high retention rate and, as someone who has been in management longer than I care to admit, I have to say our employees are some of the most fulfilled I’ve ever seen. Their cup is full.

We’ve made it our mission to be disruptors and changemakers in the hair and beauty industry, so why wouldn’t we extend that thinking to how we treat our employees? They’re our greatest asset and they’re the ones who bring the Sustainable Salons vision to life every day.

If you are a salon or spa owner in the Beauty Industry, simply prioritising your staff, having regular staff meetings to discuss things they are passionate about, making them feel valued, and implementing some of their ideas into your space can really change the attitude they bring to work each day. Having beauty therapists that know they are offering more than just a facial or massage treatment, their voices are being heard and making some kind of impact will help create a stronger team, better results for your clients, and higher retention within the salon space.

Steptember Team Member Walk at Palm Beach, NSW