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Durham and TONI&GUY

State-of-the-art styling irons, boar bristle brushes and London Fashion Week aren’t things you would usually associate with a business school. Yet, if you wander into any Toni&Guy salon you will see that strong leadership skills, in-depth knowledge of human resource practices and a keen eye for numbers are fundamental to the innovation and growth of such a striking brand image.

That’s why, since 2014, Durham University Business School has been collaborating with the multi-award winning hairdressing brand Toni&Guy. Since its launch in 1963 with a single salon in Clapham, London, Toni&Guy has grown to be one of the most iconic hairdressing conglomerates in the world, with 485 salons in 48 countries. The development of new cut, colour and styling techniques across the decades has guaranteed an enduring relationship between hair and fashion, leaving an indelible mark on the hairdressing industry. A testament to this continued growth and creativity over more than 50 years, the company currently has an annual turnover in excess of £175 million.

When spending time with Toni&Guy, one of the most frequent phrases you hear is ‘Education, education, education’, a core value stated by Toni Mascolo for many years and an enduring philosophy of the company to date. Toni&Guy is more than a hairdressing brand, it is a world-leader in session, editorial and avant-garde hairdressing, a creative space for hairdressers to learn and perfect their skills, and a centre of excellence for superior client service and haircare knowledge. This combination of education and creativity continue to give the business a competitive edge, highlighting two key areas of interest for the partnership between Durham University and Toni&Guy.

Firstly, the partnership acts as research collaboration. This began as a research project between the hairdressing industry favourite and Dr Les Graham into understanding excellence in service delivery in a salon environment, key moments in a client’s journey to generate delight with service quality, and the importance of how employee-client interactions impact upon the client’s perception of their Toni&Guy experience. From these early studies, many instances of changes to policy and practice can be seen within Toni&Guy. Examples of this can be seen in training initiatives on front-of-house service interactions and product recommendations to clients, alongside the re-design of the hair-washing process, now referred to as HAIRSPA, a jewel in the crown of service excellence at every Toni&Guy salon.

After initial studies in service excellence, the research collaboration has continued to develop. Using data from franchise partners, salon managers, employees and clients, Dr Les Graham and colleagues at the School have conducted dynamic research into a variety of concepts such as leadership styles that prioritise service excellence and the development of up-and-coming talent, and the role of employee wellbeing for the provision of high-quality service delivery behaviours. This research has also investigated the importance of supporting business functions, such as high-performance work systems, to maintaining a business edge in a highly competitive industry.

The most recent development within the on-going partnership is the Toni&Guy Leadership Programme, a two-year programme of knowledge-sharing workshops between Toni&Guy and members from the team at the School, which was designed, developed and delivered specifically for the unique organisational context. The programme involved four different leadership knowledge-sharing workshops on topics such as supportive leadership, the role of skills and high-performance work systems in a salon environment, and the importance of passion and wellbeing in the workplace. As a form of research-based education, each of the workshops used findings and results from the five-year collaborative research project to achieve increasing levels of service delivery excellence and client delight.

In September 2019, there was an evening of celebration at Durham Castle, which saw the first cohort being recognised for their achievement in completing the programme. The Durham team were delighted to welcome more than 100 guests to this event, which was hosted in the Great Hall. An evening of dinner, drinks and a celebration of achievement for programme participants began with inspirational speeches from Dr Les Graham, TONI&GUY CEO Nigel Darwin, and Global Franchise Director Christian Mascolo.

Sacha Mascolo-Tarbuck, Global Creative Director at Toni&Guy said: “Working in collaboration with Durham University Business School, who are leaders in developing management talent, we scheduled a series of knowledge-sharing workshops to be delivered over 18 months. Having commenced in April 2018, this programme will become an ongoing and integral part of all future manager’s development education.”

The event at Durham Castle was a fantastic way to celebrate the completion of the first cohort’s training programme, according to Toni&Guy CEO, Nigel Darwin, who said: “The ceremony was a great way to mark the successful completion of this course delivered by Durham University Business School. Our Partners are at the heart of the Toni&Guy business, and it is their leadership of their teams and of the Toni&Guy brand that enables us to delight our clients every day and to write the next chapter in the Toni&Guy story.”

‘Education, education, education’ and a commitment to opportunities for self-development of those that make Toni&Guy such a vibrant brand are an enduring value of the organisation. This value guarantees the future of the collaboration with Durham University Business School, which sees the second cohort in the UK embark on their leadership and management journey in January 2020. Excitingly, 2020 also sees a further expansion of the project to Australasia, with the first global programme being delivered to Toni&Guy Partners in Thailand.

Find out more about the International Centre for Leadership and Followership here