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This Beauty Founder Shares the Secret Leadership Skill to Making a Company Thrive

Drybar co-founder Alli Webb says shares with us the best advice she ever took and how it helped her company scale quickly.
This Beauty Founder Shares the Secret Leadership Skill to Making a Company Thrive
Image credit: Drybar

As a business woman and mother of two, Alli Webb knows what it is to be busy. Which is why she thinks feeling beautiful and confident should be as easy as walking into a salon for blowout -- while not breaking the bank.

Webb is the co-founder Drybar, the Los Angeles-based chain of salons that provides only blowouts, whether you want to look good for wedding photos or professional at a job interview.

Drybar began life as Straight at Home, a one-woman mobile blowout business Webb grew through word of mouth and a website made by her husband Cameron, who is also her business partner. In 2010, Webb decided to expand on the venture and launch Drybar.

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Today, the company has more than 70 locations in the United States and Canada and has raised $38.5 million in funding.

Webb attributes the success of the company to the fact that it is a family business -- she not only works with her husband, but with her brother Michael Landau as well.

“There is so much trust, and we all have strengths in different areas,” says Webb. “The three of us working together; it’s the perfect storm. There is so much mutual respect for each other which is how we’ve made it work.”

We caught up with Webb and asked her 20 questions to see what makes her tick.

The answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.

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1. How do you start your day?
When my kids are in school, it’s getting them up and ready to get out the door, making my coffee and a shake somewhere in between all of that, and then I go to work out. I’m kind of obsessive about working out.  It’s to look better and feel better, but it’s also like a cleanse and a detox. You get kind of addicted to getting a dose of that every day. It’s such a great release. One of the things I’ve learned over the past few years is that it’s so important to do that for myself to recharge, so I can feel good the rest of the day and have more energy.

2. How do you end your day?
I try to end each day in some sort of water like a bath or a hot tub. I’m a Pisces, which is a water sign, so I’m drawn to the water. And I grew up in South Florida near the beach so I find water very calming. I’ll watch a show at the end of the night, because it's mindless and a good way for me to wind down.

3. What’s a book that changed your mind and why?
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I read it when we had just started Drybar. Like everyone else, I was so enthralled with the book. I was like, “this woman is amazing, she just left her life and did this whole thing.” It just inspired me. When I was starting my own business and trying to find my footing and my confidence, I remember reading that book and being inspired that she could change her life up when I was in the process of changing so much at that point.

4. What’s a book you always recommend and why?
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. It’s about a black woman who is a nurse. She is a neonatal nurse. There is a white couple who is very racist and doesn’t want her to treat their baby. But in the end, these people turn around and change their lives and understand how important this woman was to them. It’s an important book to remind people that we’re all the same

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5. What’s a strategy to keep focused?
I need to shut everything else down and close my office door to work on something. There are just so many distractions. If I really need to focus, I put my phone down, so I don’t get pinged every five seconds.

6. When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a professional tennis player. I grew up in south Florida and Chris Evert’s younger sister was the tennis pro at the golf and tennis club where my parents were members. I played seriously for five years, and then I got to high school and realized I didn’t have the mental game to become a professional.

7. What did you learn from the worst boss you ever had?
I had a boss that was very scattered and short with people and not always nice. It always made me cringe. I hated that.

8. Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?
My parents had their own business when we were growing up. It was a clothing store. My brother Michael is my business partner, as well as my husband Cameron. We saw my parents bend over backwards for clients. We learned that the customer is always right and that is how you approach business. If you want to be successful, that is the most important thing.

9. What’s a trip that changed you?
Nicaragua. I remember going there a few years back, and we took our kids. It’s such a different life. The people we met lived in these small, poor communities. They don’t have what we have in the U.S., but they were happy. It made me think, ‘do I need more simplicity in my life,’ which I grapple with a lot. 

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10. What inspires you?
I’m inspired a lot by so many of these great, women-owned businesses that have popped up. The big movement towards women’s empowerment and women doing more, I find incredibly inspiring and awesome.

11. What was your first business idea and what did you do with it?
I started a dog-walking business when my husband and I lived in San Francisco for a year, before I got pregnant with my first son. It was a branding lesson. My husband made me a website, and it was very exciting when I started to get phone calls.

I found it boring after a while, and I started to feel very isolated. So, it wasn’t what I wanted to do, but it was fun to see if I could build it and I did.

12. What was an early job that taught you something important or useful?
In my early 20s I worked in PR. It was a short-lived career, but my boss at the time,  taught me how to pitch, write and be a professional. They are things I take for granted now, but I really got my professional sea legs in that job.

13. What’s the best advice you ever took?
Take criticism and feedback. Don’t get defensive, but rather learn and grow from it. It’s a tough pill to swallow when you’re starting a business, and you want everything to be perfect and right. Understand that feedback is a gift and something that will help you. A lot of people aren’t open to it. Our first instinct is to snap back, but that’s something I’ve worked on. I only want people working for me to give it to me straight. I think you put a vibe out there as a leader that you will take someone’s feedback and not claim to know everything. When you’re at the helm, that sense of humility and being open to hearing other ideas, is what makes companies flourish.  

14. What's the worst piece of advice you ever got?
People -- and my parents -- telling me not to become a hairstylist. They weren’t fans of me becoming a hairstylist, they didn’t really understand my vision and wanting to go to New York.

15. What’s a productivity tip you swear by?
I’m always making lists. If I am sitting in my office on my laptop, I will flag emails. I love how on iPhones you can open up an email, keep it at the bottom and you have those stack up. it keeps me from forgetting to address them.  

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16. Is there an app or tool you use in a surprising way to get things done or stay on track?
There is an app we use in the company called Wunderlist. What’s great about it is you can sync it up with multiple people, and you can see what everyone else has done. It helps with team work.

17. What does work-life balance mean to you?
Having two small kids and a husband and then working with my husband and my brother, it definitely ebbs and flows. It’s trying to figure out the things that are most important for the business, my marriage, the kids and myself. It’s a constant juggling act of doing enough for all of those areas and trying not to fall short.

It’s always vacillating between the different areas and trying to do it all. Time management is a big thing. Like I said, I start my day by working out because it makes me feel better and more productive as a business woman and a mom. I don’t think enough people, especially women carve out enough time for things that make them feel good, and that is so important for you to be your best self.

18. How do you prevent burnout?
I think it's about taking a break and taking some time for myself, like with travel. My kids are 10 and 12 and getting to the age where we know they aren’t going to want to hang out with us much longer, so we’re trying to take advantage of taking trips with them.

19. When you’re faced with a creativity block, what’s your strategy to get innovating?
For me, it’s going to museums and doing cultural things that I don’t normally do in my everyday normal life. I also love going back to New York City -- there is so much inspiration everywhere.

20. What are you learning now?
Our company has grown so much over the last seven years, and we’ve hired so many people to take over a lot of areas. I don’t make every decision anymore, because we’ve brought on so many great, smart people to help us. But it is hard to let go. I struggle with it, but I find that if I trust in the people that we brought in and let people make decisions, even if they are the wrong ones sometimes, that is a learning process for me.