As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole Gregory of Urban You.
Several years ago, while traveling, Nicole Gregory found that finding a place to go to get all of her beauty needs met was nearly impossible unless you personally knew of local beauty artisans; hair, brows, make-up, nails and medical spa services. She found that many others had the same frustration.
Urban You Beauty Bar was born from that gap in the industry, with those who desire to be confident, carefree and connected to their health, wellness and beauty, in mind. Nicole teamed up with Barbra Homier and set out to find talented beauty artisans, the newest trends in the beauty and medical spa industry, state of the art technology, and a designer for a bespoke brand to make her dream become a reality.
The mission: to provide a trendy, clean, inviting space that all guests feel they belong in, with affordable pricing for essential beauty and wellness services. Confident. Carefree. Connected.
Empowering women in all they do is a passion. Since opening in 2017, this business has opened Nicole’s eyes to the softness and beauty in others. Being an entrepreneur in technology for 20 plus years has put her in situations where she wondered, “how did I get to the table?” Looking deep into herself she realized, hard work, focus and taking “no” as an opportunity rather than a roadblock was her way to success. Urban You wants to empower you to find out the real you, as you clear your mind and make connections during your experience. Who are you? You deserve to be at the table and to build your own table.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Funniest is hard to say, there have been a lot of moments each day that as an owner you just need to laugh at yourself. In retrospect, the funniest mistake I have made is thinking the service/retail business would be like any of my other businesses. However, the service/retail industry is very labor-intensive, between handling products, working with staff and meeting client’s needs. I give kudos to the solopreneur who does everything in their retail business — especially now with COVID and a smaller pool of labor resources, they are working 24/7.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’ve been very fortunate to have an entrepreneurial family who offer me amazing support and resources my husband David who listens to me every night, and, to be honest, I’m surprised he still asks me “how was your day?” Most importantly, I’ve had a chance to be a mentor to many young professionals, including my five kids. Mentoring has taught me so much about being a leader. It has helped me look at everything from a different viewpoint and figure out how each situation or challenge can be a growth and learning opportunity for those I am mentoring. A little secret in life: helping others usually helps you even more.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses’’ are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
For me, my hope and purpose were to create a brand/company that allowed people to feel they belonged and were part of a greater community. At Urban You, we want to normalize beauty for everyone and have open conversations about how beauty and wellness can allow others to feel — curious, confident, carefree and connected. We also want to make it easy for our clients. We call it the midnight moment: when you want to book a service at Urban You, you can, because we have also focused our efforts on marketing and technology, making it easy to get (and book!) what you want, when you want.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
Like most, we were all impacted by COVID-19, especially since we had to close our locations for three months. We had just opened our Northville location, and all our efforts to grow the business, immediately stopped. Within a few days of closing, however, I switched the narrative, sharing with the team that we had actually been given the gift of time. When are we ever able to close our businesses, take a moment to pause and really look at our growth strategy and direction? In realizing this, we continued — and actively doubled down on — our marketing efforts, while also preselling services and selling on-demand and requested products. I was the inventory, packing and mailing person for a few weeks, and, they knew me well at the post office!
In addition to marketing, we reevaluated our current processes and procedures to determine how and where we could update areas, implement operational changes, introduce innovative beauty and wellness trends, and more. We felt unstoppable! The other component involved staff, as we were unable to bring back our full team all at once. With that, we shifted parts of our business to focus on virtual aesthetics consultations, Body Sculpting assessments and full wellness intakes. ALL of this allowed us to come up with a full virtual product, which we will be releasing in October 2020, and we are so excited and proud of.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
COVID has garnered different reactions from everyone, and we were committed to giving the grace and space each person needed — from resigning to taking a break to coming back. So, yes (!), while I considered giving up several times the past few months, in the end, I always came back to 1) What kind of example am I setting for my children, my team and our community? 2) My upbringing in the Upper Peninsula and my SISU background has motivated me through hard times — I just don’t give up.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
Empathy and transparency.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
This was a learning moment for me because times were hard — we sent “welcome back” packages to our team, offered employee days, bought coffee and lunches and gave a few bonuses for motivation. With some employee feedback, we found out they simply wanted more in-person touchpoints with me and other leaders. I truly believe that in life most people just want to be appreciated and respected. Humanity goes a long way.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
At Urban You, we have communicated news to our clients and followers through live videos on our social platforms and internally, we have these conversations through Zoom. There is something to be said about having difficult conversations face-to-face (or in-person if applicable) and showing a friendly face and smile. We also have an internal system called WorkPlace (Facebook) that allows us to communicate as things change.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
Go back to your mission statement; the answer is usually there.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Create an action plan.
With that, we shifted parts of our business to focus on virtual aesthetics and injectable consultations, body sculpting assessments and full wellness intakes. ALL of this allowed us to come up with a full virtual product, which we will be releasing in October 2020, and we are so excited and proud of.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?
Every business is different, but here are a few ideas to keep in mind:
1) Do not pay too much attention to your competition and stay in your lane. If you need to, go back to your mission statement to find that.
2) Those that do not create a short-term plan to get out of a current situation — COVID-19, a recession, supply limitations, etc., all require a short-term action plan.
3) Those that believe everything will go “back to normal” because there is no “new normal.” Everyone has been impacted, and things have shifted and will continue to change; but that’s okay! Make it a BETTER normal and focus on how you can improve your business given the new situation.
4) Those who do not SHIFT and CHANGE when needed.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Keep marketing. You might shift need to the medium, your target market or messaging but keep communicating. Numbers are your friend; they tell a story. Read them, assess and shift.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
1) READ, listen and connect with others. We can’t live in a bubble; the more we know and can understand how the world’s actions will affect our business, the better we will be at communicating to our team, with certainty on the direction you will take. I did “walk and talk” (over the phone/video calls) with community leaders and professionals almost every day at the start of the pandemic because I wanted to hear what they were thinking and doing during this time — to learn and gain additional insight and advice.
2) Get dirty. Be willing to do the day-to-day work that it takes to run the business, including cleaning toilets! A team that sees a leader willing to jump in will model the same behavior. I love it when our team says, “I’ll do whatever it takes to help,” because that shows me, they are invested in Urban You’s — and the team’s — success and growth.
3) Clean lines. It is very natural for our eye to stop at the first thing it sees and not look beyond. Have clean lines during uncertain times; don’t let the news or information clutter up your view of where you want to go. As mentioned above, I went back to our mission statement several times over the past few months to find the answer to gain clarity. Teaching our team to follow this example has been powerful.
4) Listen to your team, have empathy and create a safe space for them to share feelings. I’m learning that as a leader, people want you to listen to them the most, but when you do speak, share the vision, then share it again, and again. This is one of my works in progress.
5) Put your energy where you want it to go. There are a million and one things I could do each day, but I want to put the energy where it’s needed to grow the company.
Let go of things that don’t make sense with the current focus, but it frees space that will eventually become full of direction.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?.
“The work you do today will be the work you get tomorrow, don’t do shitty work.” I think about this every time I want to say “it/this was good enough.”
How can our readers further follow your work?
Urban You @theurbanyou