Unlike many Twin Cities lifestyle business owners, David Wagner knew what was coming. His chain of 10 Juut Salon Spas includes a location in Palo Alto, California, which got hit by Covid-19 and began social distancing a few days before the orders went into affect in Minnesota. Wagner voluntarily closed all of his locations, including seven in the Twin Cities and two in Arizona, three days before Gov. Tim Walz ordered Minnesota salons to halt operations. Wagner, who travels the world speaking to Fortune 500s, not only about business but about service and compassion—ideas outlined in his book, Life as a Daymaker: How to Change the World by Making Someone’s Day—spoke to TCB about the unprecedented shut down—something he’s never seen in more than four decades in the salon industry.
TCB: How has your work been disrupted by coronavirus?
Wagner: We have one salon location in Palo Alto California and they seemed a few days ahead of our Minnesota and Arizona locations. We voluntarily closed all our locations on Tuesday, March 17th. Our customers and our team both applauded us for the decision. At the time it seemed bold, now it just feels like it was common sense. The governor (of Minnesota) ordered salons to close three days later.
Q. When did you start experiencing the business disruption?
A | It really came fast, first we were aware and wondering how we would need to alter our operations, then it seemed like overnight we had to develop protocols on disinfecting everything, every time. Our team did an amazing job of adapting and protecting our guests and themselves. As we became more aware of social distancing becoming the norm and our proximity to our guests it became more evident that we should close. This all happened in a matter of four or five days.
Q. How did employees and clients respond?
A | Of course, guests will go through just about anything for a great color, cut, or a brow wax. Snow storms, etc. We’re always surprised by how far people are willing to go to make their appointments. This has been different, it’s not just 6 inches of snow; it’s life or death for some people in our community. Our staff felt like we were protecting them and our community when we announced our closure. Our leadership team did an amazing job of giving direction on our healthcare, which we are covering during the shutdown, how to get their PTO, and unemployment benefits. Clients have been supportive, understanding and look forward to the day of normalcy that can include a haircut without gloves on.
Q. Some restaurants are delivering, some stores are offering curbside pickup and virtual shopping. Is there anything your salons can do during this down time to stay connected with clients?
A | We don’t really have an opportunity to be in the salons since the governor ordered us closed so the options just are not there for additional revenue now. We are encouraging guests to book their next appointments online, which they are—our staff can see their appointments in the future, which is giving them more confidence that when they return they will be busy. Since our employees are technically furloughed, as a company, we can’t instruct them to do any work. But as a community, many of our staff have taken it upon themselves to inspire each other by cutting (the hair of) mannequins at home, sharing tips on nutrition for building our immune systems, and more.
Q. Do you anticipate work bouncing back quickly?
A | Right now it appears that we will be very busy upon re-opening since we already have appointments on the books as well as those that we had to cancel over the last few weeks. We’re looking forward to being open and contributing as much as we can to our communities as Daymakers. I think a simple act of normalcy like getting a haircut is going to be so appreciated by everyone. Small things that we may have taken for granted are now special.
Q. In your entire career, have you ever experienced anything like this? How does this crisis compare to 9/11?
A | We’ve never closed before aside from the occasional snowstorm. This is unparalleled. Even after 9/11 we had clients come into us as an oasis from all the trauma and fear. They came to connect, get a hug, look better but more important feel better.
Q. Any bright spots in the pandemic?
A | Now, we’re really focused on the health of our employees. Mental as well as physical. The ideas that staff are sharing on how to stay inspired, healthy, where to spend time online learning, etc. is all very inspiring but at the end of the day we are in a “high touch” industry. The best compliment we receive from our guests is a hug, which, in normal circumstances, is so apparent. You can sit in the waiting area during normal times and see hugs not only on the way out for guests but on their way in since they have such a great personal connection with our artists. We’ll see how that changes, what would a virtual hug be?
Q. Are you working at home?
A | Of course, most of my friends in the beauty industry are staying in close contact as there are so many unknowns for us as business owners. Each day is new, since no one has been through this before. My strength finder’s talents include adaptability, and ideation so I’m finding that I’m spending more time looking out the front window than the rear view mirror these days.
Q. Best advice for being stuck at home?
I’m finding that I’m compartmentalizing my day. The news isn’t on all day in the background; I tune in a few times a day for updates, of course, but it’s not a constant deluge of negativity. The other compartments for me are spent on re-opening procedures, protocols, and communications, which keeps me optimistic. Other compartments include my health, family, walking the dogs, checking on friends—especially older friends, and time in meditation and prayer. Having a structured day is helping me stay focused on a variety of important aspects of my whole life, not just the business.