Recruiting Stylists with a Road Trip

Pavo Salon Spa
Source: @pavosalonspa

Pavo Salon owners Scot Robinson and Shawn McGhee have been successfully recruiting stylists through their local Memphis cosmetology schools since they opened in 1999.

But as owners of two Aveda salons with more than 30 stylists, their ideal recruit comes from an Aveda Institute.

“The local students are harder to train because they aren’t familiar with the Aveda culture and language,” Robinson says. “So we go to the career fairs at the Nashville Institute and recruit there.”

Feedback from the director in Nashville was great, with one caveat—students wished Pavo were in Nashville, instead of three hours away in Memphis.

“After a couple of visits with this feedback, we decided students had the wrong impression of Memphis, and we needed to take matters into our own hands and get more savvy with our recruiting,” Robinson says.

Selling Their City

Two years ago, Robinson and McGhee came up with a solution: the “Live, Work, Play weekend.”

“We’re a market leader in our city, and we needed to show off Memphis,” Robinson says.

“We felt confident if students visited our city and our salon, it would be a win for us, even if they didn’t choose to work here. They would still go back and talk about our staff and their experience here.”

Robinson and McGhee crunched numbers and knew they could bring up to 10 students to Memphis for the weekend, but first had to find out who was really serious about moving.

“Our salon director conducted a series of phone interviews to make sure the students were the right fit for us,” Robinson says. “We talked to them about the gravity of moving to a new city, and asked them about their relationship with family and friends. They would be uprooting themselves, so we needed to know they were serious.”

The phone interviews helped Robinson determine who they would invite to the Live, Work, Play weekend.

“We ended up extending the offer to eight students, but during the month between the phone interviews and the trip, five students dropped off,” he says.

The remaining three students were serious about moving, and eagerly anticipated their weekend in Memphis.

The students were shuttled from Nashville to Memphis in a rented van, and checked into their hotel before getting treated to a salon tour.

“We (the leadership team) brought them straight to the salon for a tour,” Robinson says. “And then took them on a ‘date’ at a local coffee shop where we talked and got to know each other.”

Next, everyone got back in the van for a tour of Memphis, where Robinson and his team talked up their hometown.

“I think the best thing we did is not talk about Nashville—there was no reason to compare,” he says. “We have so much diversity and different communities here, and we celebrate that. I took them to beautiful neighborhoods, Graceland, the Memphis College of Arts, the downtown river area, the zoo—but also to less obvious spots.

“We have little pockets of cool neighborhoods. We showed them good areas to live and places that would be of interest to their age group.”

That evening, the trio of students was treated to dinner at a trendy Memphis restaurant with coffee and dessert afterwards at a famous local bake shop (the students were under age, so no bar-hopping).

“The next day, I hosted a brunch at my house with the whole staff,” Robinson says. “This allowed them to interact with everyone, and went on for more than three hours. It was great because the students asked lots of questions, and it was very laid back.”

The Result

After the Live, Work, Play weekend, Robinson and McGhee extended offers to all three students.

“All three accepted and moved here a month later,” Robinson says. “Two are still with us. One left after a year for a smaller environment, but that was positive for both parties.”

The two stylists who are still with Pavo are thriving, and one recently achieved the Aveda certification for color training and leads new hire introduction and foundational color theory.

And now, these two stylists are ambassadors for Pavo as well.

“We took them back to a career fair at the Institute recently and let them tell their stories,” Robinson says. “Students got to hear how they completed their year of training with us and why they love Memphis.”

Through this connection and presentation, another student was sold on the salon and two more came to Pavo though word-of-mouth. These three are now completing their first year with Pavo.

Robinson and McGhee are ready to do another Live, Work, Play weekend this spring, when Memphis looks its best.

“Each time we do a weekend, it will be unique since it’s based off who we have coming,” Robinson says. “Next time we’ll include a technical test where we’ll provide models for the students.”

The weekend cost Pavo less than $1,000. Two of the students shared a room, so the only costs were the van rental, two hotel rooms, and meals. And in the end, the salons gained six employees.

For Robinson, the weekend was priceless.

“Students from the Institute come to us with better technical skills, an understanding of value-added service and retail,” he says. “It makes our training easier because they’re familiar with the language and color line. Simply, they are a better caliber of employee.”

Robinson adds, “With the Live, Work, Play weekend, we wanted to convey that it doesn’t matter if you’re in a big or small town, if you’re an authentic, great business, people will be attracted to you.”


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