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Tabatha's Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Business Culture The Bravo show about a brutally frank salon consultant has a lot to teach business owners from all fields.

By Carol Tice Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Tabathas Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Business Culture

If you don't like the atmosphere at your business, a recent episode of Tabatha's Salon Takeover offers a primer on how to turn it around. If you don't know the Bravo reality show's star, Tabatha Coffey, she's an edgy, black-clad, white-blonde, brutally frank Aussie salon-business consultant who overhauls failing shops.

People kept telling me to check out this show, and I'm glad I did. Coffey puts the reality in reality TV. She doesn't care whose feathers get ruffled if she can fix a dying business. In the episode I caught, she arrives at Earth Moon Sun, a salon in upscale Western Springs, Ill, that's fallen $500,000 in debt. Owner Janeen Nufer has floundered since her sister and business partner, who led the hairstylist team, left her flat.

Since then, the atmosphere devolved radically. Employees and managers shout across the salon and berate each other. Workers eat while talking on the phone to customers, belch at the front desk, and drink on the job. Unsurprisingly, customers come in. . . but they don't come back.

Here's how Coffey turned around this sorry scenario and helped instill a culture of professionalism and respect:

  • Document the problem. Before arriving at the salon, Coffey spent a day taping the workers on hidden camera, and sent in secret-shopper customers who came back unhappy with their haircuts. Confronted with the evidence of the problems in the salon, Nufer was receptive to new ideas to turn things around.
  • Get over the past. Nufer hadn't moved on after her sister left the business. She'd never hired a new hairstyling manager, leaving the salon floundering artistically and in terms of training. Coffey takes Nufer to the beach to scream and vent her anger and sadness over this betrayal. Then, it's time to move forward.
  • Freshen up. If your place of business looks grotty, it's easy for civility to go out the window. A quick facelift that adds warmer colors and a few new furniture pieces have workers instantly feeling happier to show up to the salon.
  • Get out from behind the desk. Nufer's general manager, Nicole, is a big problem that Coffey identifies immediately. She's not really managing the employees or making sure customers' needs are met, preferring to hide in the back office doing paperwork while everything goes to heck. Coffey pulls her on to the salon floor and tries to get her involved in operations, but Nicole isn't interested.
  • Take a break. At one point, Coffee sends workers home for a couple of days to think about how they've been acting and to learn new skills. The break from the work grind gives everyone a chance to reflect on how they could change their behavior.
  • Boost training. One haircutter is a disaster, unconfident and unresponsive to customer's feedback. With Coffey's encouragement, the employee is moved to an assistant position and off the haircutting floor, then signed up for more training to improve her skills.
  • Model the behavior you want. Coffey has Nufer lead the staff in rounding up all the liquor and pouring it out. When they go out to cut hair for a fashion show, Coffey cautions her to set the tone by making sure she's polite and talks softly to staff. Employees immediately pick up on the vibe.
  • Have the guts to cut the deadwood. Every worker in the salon hates Nicole, and Coffey feels Nufer is in a co-dependent relationship with her manager. At one point, Nicole even cuts off all Nufer's sentences and finishes them for her. A few weeks after Coffey departs, Nufer finally musters the courage to get rid of her.

Coffey is a rock star in the salon world. Haircutters about fall down when she walks in. This helps with Coffey's shock-and-awe approach to revamping the business.

Bravo's so happy with the show it morphed it into Tabatha Takes Over for season four, in which Coffey fixes all types of businesses. Makes sense to me, since her back-to-basics business advice is equally relevant to any business with employees. As her memoir says, It's Not Really About the Hair.

What would you like to change about your company culture? Leave a comment and tell us your gripe.

Carol Tice

Owner of Make a Living Writing

Carol Tice, a freelance writer, is chief executive of TiceWrites Inc. in Bainbridge Island, Wash. She blogs about freelance writing at Make a Living Writing. Email her at

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