On this Bring It In podcast episode, 1Huddle’s CEO and Founder Sam Caucci sat down with Jarred Fajerski, SVP at Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa, who has helped the business to be recognized by Entrepreneur Magazine‘s Top 100 businesses, as well as Franchise Times Top 10 Fastest-Growing Brand.
On this episode of Bring It In season one, Jarred sat down with Sam and discussed employee turnover, having faith in your employees, leadership skills, and culture.
Audio available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts.
Below are some of the insights Jarred shared during our chat, edited for length and clarity. You can find more Bring It In podcast episodes here.
Sam: Do I get a quick background on your role with Hand & Stone and you know, who is Hand & Stone?
Jarred: No problem. So my name obviously is Jarred Fajerski. I’m the senior vice president of North American Operations for Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spas. We’re a franchise system in the massage and facial spa industry space with locations in Canada and the United States. I believe we’re in 39 states right now, and two provinces in Canada today, most of the locations in Canada are in Toronto. But we’re spread pretty evenly across the United States and growing. We’ve got about 468 open locations today. We open about 50 spas a year on average the last few years and don’t close any. That’s one of our claims to fame. We don’t close stores.
Sam: You’ve spent a long time in leadership roles prior to Hand & Stone. And I think the interesting thing about the franchise model is you get to work so close with small business owners, first time entrepreneurs. Anything you’ve learned about leadership as you’ve interacted over the years with your network?
Jarred: Yeah, it’s a great question. And I have a diverse background as you know, you and I have known each other a long time. I, myself, was a small/medium business owner. I owned a two-location fitness chain of my own concept in Pittsburgh for over a decade. So I can empathize with a small/medium-sized business owner.
And then I worked for a 12,000 employee, three and a half billion dollar regional healthcare provider. So I’ve been part of big business. I’ve worked with the YMCA, which is a vast network and one of the top five sized Y’s in the U.S., and then obviously spent the last six years here with Hand & Stone, which gives me a unique perspective on leadership because I get to talk to all of these different franchisees that they themselves are leading a small business, but all come from various diverse backgrounds.
And the one thing I can say across all of that 20 years of work and life experience in mostly leadership roles is that difference in scale, whether you have two or three direct reports in your small business or 125 people in your business unit department, directly or indirectly rolling up to you. The leadership style doesn’t have to change with scale. That being a good leader, whether you got two employees or 122 employees, is the same.
Sam: What do you look for in great leaders? What do you think that intangible is? Because you said that you don’t close a lot of stores. I mean, I would assume that has to do with the types of folks you’re getting involved.
Jarred: You know, people ask us all the time, do we vet them? And especially their leadership skills. Certainly, we do. We have all kinds of application checkboxes to determine whether or not you become a franchisee, but then we have to come see you.
They come to our discovery day. Even in this COVID 19 world, we’ve been doing discovery days every few weeks here. We just do them on zoom. Like everyone else, if you pivot and you evolve. I can still sit down face-to-face in front of a potential franchisee, present our brand and hear about their life and their backgrounds.
And me and the entire executive team goes through this process. And then we convene and say, all right, what were your opinions? What’d you like about this one? And now after so many franchisees, so many locations in so many years, we’re pretty good at right after spending a whole day, we spend six hours with these people, and then we get into a room and we’re almost always unanimous.
It’s like, yeah, I think they’re gonna be great. I don’t think they fit. I don’t think they’re going to be able to manage the type of employee that we know is required in this industry. And in our unit buyer, in our boxes, we’re pretty good at that.
Sam: How are employees changing? As time goes on leadership has to evolve and change. We were talking about the Jordan documentary earlier, Phil Jackson‘s obviously somebody who’s learned to evolve as he was a coach. What do you think? What’s your commentary or perspective on the way the workforce looks through the lens of your stores?
Jarred: Well, I’ll tell you this, especially with millennials and gen Z being the vast majority of the current and up and coming workforce, with that group, we’ve been forced to change. And I appreciate millennials for this because I think to be honest, it was a change that was passed due.
I use the example of how I was parented versus how I now parent. When I was a young kid, my dad would say, Hey, go do A, B, C, or D. And I would say why and his response, I’m sure I see you nodding already, it was always the same; “because I said so”. That dictatorship level of doing it because I said so, do it because I’m your boss, do it because I’m your father, whatever. That doesn’t fly and it hasn’t flown for some time. And it’s funny, Dale Carnegie wrote in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People decades ago that people do why you tell them, not what you tell them. He knew this in the seventies, right? In the seventies or eighties, he knew that if you wanted to get the best out of your workforce, you need to get buy-in and to get buy-in the best way to do it is to explain why you want something done, why it’s important to the company, to their personal professional growth that this be done and be done this way.
Right? That’s coaching. Getting buy-in for the team. Why Dennis Rodman, to your Jordan documentary example, why Dennis was fine getting 20 rebounds and scoring six, put back. Six points and put back a game and he was fine with it because he knew what his role on the team was. John Paxson, I think in that same documentary, he said, ‘I knew very early on, I was going to be a role player so I embraced my role and I did it really well. And then I taught Steve Kerr how to do it.
Sam: And knowing the roles of your players are super important. I think there’s still a lot of challenges though today. What do you say to either the manager or the business owner that’s sort of struggling with their team?
Jarred: That’s also interesting. We come across this often and it’s always, almost always a communication issue. And I’ll tell you a short, anecdotal story about a real life example of this. I had a franchisee who we have something that we like to call internally, our sort of culture metrics. We have quantitative and qualitative data that we can look at to tell you, if you have a poor culture.
Culture, everyone assumes culture is this vague, soft sort of undefinable word, or it is what you make it. Which is all true. But I firmly believe that there are metrics in a business that you can track to see how the culture in the spa is, or in any business for that matter, whether it’s employee turnover, customer service surveys, sales rates, or conversion rates.
There’s a lot of ways that you can qualify and quantify the culture inside of a business. So I had a franchisee who we knew just from our consultation of the operations team that works under me. And he said, ‘no, she doesn’t know how to communicate with her staff. That’s a really bad culture. It’s toxic’.
It’s that versus attitude, right? Like management versus staff on two different sides of the field, which doesn’t work, especially in a small business. And she, the owner, was completely blind to it. ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about. I love my staff, my staff loves me’. And so I showed her a bunch of these data points and I tried to explain them all the way until we got to employee turnover.
I said, ‘what do you think your turnover, your churn rate is if you will, on staff over a calendar year, your annual attrition rate of employees?’ She’s like, ‘I don’t know, 30, 40% sort of average, like any business’. I said ‘yours last year was 175%. Meaning you turned over your entire staff one and three quarters times in a year’.
And her response to me was, ‘well, that can’t be right, because I’ve got two or three employees that have been here with me since I opened’. I immediately thought of it like, okay, so you don’t get it. Then I said to her, ‘well, then if that means you’ve retained those two or three people for years, then someone else got fired. That job code got fired and lost four times. For every person you’ve got to keep, that means someone else got fired twice’.
Sam: So it’s like the resistance to reality was the problem.
Jarred: But what we knew all along from the consultant that works with these people, her staff and this owner all the time was, it’s communication. She basically needed a translator. So I sort of said to her, because she complained and she said ‘I fired someone because she wanted to come in late because she was upset that her boyfriend broke up with her the night before’. I said ‘welcome to managing millennials and gen Z!’
Self-care is important to them. You have to be considerate of their feelings. Well, they had a job to do, I get it. I believe very much in accountability. Certainly. You need a translator, you need someone that’s fluent in your generation and the generation that works with you. And that was a simple solve, she got herself a manager, sort of a buffer zone between her and direct contact with all of the bottom line employees, and it changed everything.
Sam: What piece of advice do you have to somebody that is again, trying to lead people through the screen right now? What is working? What have you learned that, if you did just one thing right now, what should you be doing to make sure you’re keeping that team connection and culture you’re talking about together?
Jarred: That’s a good challenge and it’s something new to a lot of people, but it has not been new to me. Managing and being a franchisor with locations in Canada and over almost all of the states in the United States, I’ve had to deal with remote employees for years. But it was new to me when I came here and I had the fear that I think a lot of the leaders right now are worrying about and it’s fully about accountability and productivity.
And my advice to them would be to have a little faith. And what I think a lot of them have found over the last couple months in this COVID and post COVID “new normal” that we’re all calling it, that’s one of those phrases that I think people, if not already sick of are going to be, the new normal, but it’s a reality.
Remember when it was a hassle to have to take your belt off and your shoes off at the airport? We all evolve. We all adapted, there’s that old saying “adapt or die”, have a little faith in your employees. I think as long as you check in and I don’t care how that is, text message, email, zoom meeting, call, or just creating due dates throughout the week on specific projects or tasks, the productivity and accountability will be there.
Have a little faith in these grown professionals that you chose to hire, and let them go. I mean, I’ve been impressed with the creativity and the adaptability that has come from what my staff has been forced to do in the solitary confines of their homes, and I’ve been impressed.
Sam: Great Jarred Fajerski, I appreciate it, man. Thanks for sharing.
Jarred: My pleasure. Any time, Sam, always.
Topics Discussed: Employee Turnover, Culture, Remote Work, Leadership, Trust
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