'I Can Do It. I Promise You, I Can Do It'

Episode 84: “I Can Do It. I Promise You, I Can Do It”

Introduction:

This week, Dana White takes us along for the ride, sharing the remarkable opportunities and the daunting challenges she’s confronting simultaneously. In a one-on-one conversation, we catch Dana at an emotional moment. After a triumphant trip to Germany, where she expects to open salons on multiple military bases, she’s just returned to Detroit—only to learn that the team she’s counting on is showing serious cracks. Even as she’s signing contracts with the military, getting ready to roll out her franchising plan, and courting newfound investor interest in funding the development of her salon management software, those cracks have shaken Dana and left her questioning her approach as a CEO. Ultimately, she talks about those moments many entrepreneurs experience, in the cold of night, when things aren’t going well, and they realize this is all on them. In those moments, Dana confesses, “I’m scared. And I feel alone.”

— Loren Feldman

Guests:

Dana White is founder and CEO of Paralee Boyd hair salons.

Producer:

Jess Thoubboron is founder of Blank Word Productions.

Full Episode Transcript:

Loren Feldman:
Welcome, Dana White. We haven’t spoken in a while, Dana, in part because you’ve been traveling the world. How are you?

Dana White:
I’m okay.

Loren Feldman:
Okay, what’s going on?

Dana White:
I have no idea what’s going on.

Loren Feldman:
Okay, what do you mean?

Dana White:
I have… I have no… I don’t know what’s going on.

Loren Feldman:
Well, you’ve just been traveling. Where were you?

Dana White:
I was in Germany.

Loren Feldman:
And you were there looking at a military base?

Dana White:
I was looking at like five or six or seven.

Loren Feldman:
Wow. And how long were you there?

Dana White:
Six days.

Loren Feldman:
So is that what you’re not sure about? Did that go well? What can you tell us about that?

Dana White:
So, there are great things happening, and there are some not so great things happening. And it’s because of both of these things that I don’t know what’s going on.

Loren Feldman:
I see.

Dana White:
Like, what is going on right now? How is it that you win them over in Germany—I mean, win them over. Like, when I tell you, they are like, “How many does she want? Oh, by the way, Fort Hood can be ready. Fort Bragg is a go. Oh, and by the way, don’t forget, we want all of these.” I mean, they are beyond impressed with me, and they’re not bringing me on base to bid on these contracts as if I’m a contractor. They’re bringing me in like I’m Starbucks.

So that’s what I had to learn, was the difference. There are salons on bases that they put the contract out, and you bid on them. And you just keep bidding every time your contract is up. Starbucks doesn’t have a contract and neither will Paralee Boyd. That’s how interested they are in having me. I’ve surpassed that process, and that’s huge. The people who were working with me that know this company, AAFES—the Army and Air Force Exchange Service—they don’t do anything with deliberate speed except work with Paralee Boyd. And they’re moving quickly. So that’s one thing.

Loren Feldman:
That sounds pretty great.

Dana White:
Right? Exactly. That’s amazing. You come back, and you have a 7 a.m. debrief call about how you did such a great job and made such a great impression on that trip. Okay, great. So then you’re franchising, and yes, that process has slowed down—not because of the work I’m doing, the military stuff. That stuff is easy. It’s just looking and talking. That’s it. But it slows down because your Midtown location is doing decent numbers—better numbers than they’ve ever done—because now you’re down to one location. But your team is falling apart. I get back on Thursday, and I get a resignation letter from Ashley. And I get a—

Loren Feldman:
Wait, that’s your operations manager, your key person.

Dana White:
Yep, my operations manager. And on Saturday, I got a resignation letter from my manager. And it was emotional. It was an emotional resignation. It wasn’t, “This is a bad company.” It was, “Dana, we don’t think you like us.” From the manager.

The team’s morale is low. They just want you to love them. “Where’s Dana?” And so, I get on a conference call with my manager and operations manager. And my question was, as the owner, “Well, if my team does not feel appreciated, one, why am I hearing this after the resignation letter’s been given? And two, why wasn’t I told before?” “Well, why should I tell you?” And then Ashley, she did interject and say, “It’s your duty. That’s your job to let leadership know how your team is doing.”

So this is what I’m dealing with. And so I’m like, “You know what? I need a strong manager. I need a team.” Not to mention, there is the technology piece of Paralee Boyd that’s starting to percolate. Investors are coming to me. They’re like, “Yeah, the military opportunity is great. Yeah, the franchising is great. But we actually want to talk about this technology piece you’ve got going on, because there are these two Black guys who have just developed this barber shop app called Squire. And yeah, they just raised about $750 million, and yours is more robust than theirs. So let’s start getting this going.” And I’m like, “Oh my goodness.”

So how is it that I’m at the precipice of all of this opportunity, that I could potentially get the entire show of the military, that their hair studios and their styling salons will be Hair Studio by Paralee Boyd, plus Paralee Boyd salons on base—the whole show! We’re not talking 15. We’re talking global. I’ve got franchising on deck, and I’ve got this tech piece that I’ve got three investors at the table, talking about funding me in quarter one of 2022. But I’ve got an operations manager who I’m going to be putting into a more administrative role, and I’ve got a salon—

Loren Feldman:
Wait, I thought she resigned.

Dana White:
She resigned until she talked to me.

Loren Feldman:
Ohhh.

Dana White:
When we talked, she was like, “I can work from home, but I’ve got to be here for my girls. And I can do the payroll. I can support you administrative-wise.”

I’ve got a stylist trainer who has a personal life that might not be conducive to the growth of this position for him. He might just need to stay where he’s at, because even being in Germany with me disrupted things a little bit. I’ve got a stylist trainer who is beyond talented, who was a hit in Germany. But he’s got a personal life that is more suited to where he is and less to where he’s going. They’ve already got me planned to meet with commanders and admirals, and you need people who are going to be working with you who aren’t going to say, “I can’t go because I got a concert to go to on Saturday,” which I’ve heard. You need people who are going to be ready. And in all fairness to my stylist trainer, he—

Loren Feldman:
So…

Dana White:
Let’s unpack it.

Loren Feldman:
Yeah.

Dana White:
Let’s try.

Loren Feldman:
You know, I’ve gotta tell you, my initial reaction is: I’m hearing a lot more great stuff than bad stuff. That’s my initial reaction. As far as the bad stuff, it seems to me that it boils down to two main issues: One is the workforce that you’re dealing with. And you’ve talked to us about that in the past: People who are not necessarily as professional as you would like them to be, or expect them to be, and I think you thought that Ashley, your operations manager, was really helping with that. And that’s the second issue that I see, which is, you had placed a lot of faith in her. You thought, given her tremendous experience in the industry—

Dana White:
She’s brilliant. She’s brilliant to me.

Loren Feldman:
You thought she was the key person who was going to help you make this work, and I understand you’re saying that she feels beat up. It’s hard for me to understand just from the little bit we’ve discussed here, how someone with the vast amount of experience she has could be struggling so much with the issues in one hair salon. What do you think’s really going on there?

Dana White:
I think first and foremost, she’s a mother, which I think is great. And I think there are things in her role as mom that need her right now. It’s not that she’s not been doing her job. That’s not it. I think what it is, is her role as mom is much more needed. And it’s demanding. Like, even in her resignation letter, the very first part of the email was all about what happened with her daughter’s tooth, and what was going on. And so when you are—

Loren Feldman:
Were you at all prepared for this? Did you realize she was struggling before you got the letter?

Dana White:
And when I tell you “out of nowhere,” we talked the day before I left for Germany, and we were laughing about how we should get to know each other better because I didn’t even know what her partner’s name was. So when she said, “Yes, Jade is sick,” I didn’t know who Jade was. I was like, “Don’t be rude. ‘Who’s Jade?’” And she started laughing because she said, “I thought the young man coming in here and helping with all the maintenance was just the maintenance guy. I didn’t know he was your fiancé.” And she’s like, “We need to talk more.” This was the Thursday before I left! And so she said, “I love working with you. I love talking to you. And that refuels me to deal with what I have to deal with in the week.”

To answer the other part of your question, I think there’s a number two to it. In addition to the demands of her job as mom, we are in a very challenging hiring period right now. But, I think what saddens me—and I’ve shared this with both of them—and it did bring me to tears. I said, ”Christina, why didn’t you talk to me?” “I didn’t feel I could.” That blew my mind, because she has my cell phone number. I was very communicative with her. We started having bi-weekly meetings. I even joshed around and laughed with her. It wasn’t like I was this distant person. But she said, “Yeah, I know. I just didn’t feel I could do it, and I can’t really articulate that now. Maybe if I wrote it down and told you I could articulate it better.” What?

And so what bothered me, what made me sad—not bothered me—what made me more sad, and I still have reservations, is the fact that neither one of them, considering the rapport, trusted me enough to talk to me first. That hurt, because I poured into them. Not poured into them like I made them. No, I talked to them. I engaged with them. I’m not really wanting to share my personal life, because I don’t want them to take that on, because I do realize that they’re creatives, and they will, and they care, and they’re good people. So I don’t really talk about my personal life, but I shared my hopes and dreams for the company. I shared my vision for the company. I shared how I felt they could be a part of that, if they choose. I supported them as mothers. I talked to them about their families and their children. I didn’t mind if Christina needed to bring her son.

Loren Feldman:
Do you think they both appreciate the opportunity that stands in front of them and stands in front of Paralee Boyd at this point in time?

Dana White:
I think they do. I think Ashley grasps it, but Ashley’s chosen her first job, which is to be a mother. I think Christina does… I think she does, but I think she wants something from me that it’s not my place to give, and I think she needs to be a stronger manager. I think a stronger manager would know, “You know what, that’s not Dana’s job to feed me like this. Dana’s job is to make sure I have everything I need to do my job. That’s it.”

My job is to make sure that you have a company to grow in. My job is to make sure that if you are having issues in your personal life, as far as childcare, that you have a position that you could pay to have the appropriate child care. That’s my job: to grow this company. And I don’t think they realize that, because who looks like me that they can reflect on that does it? Every owner is the owner of a salon who collects booth rent. They’re not getting military contracts. They’re not franchising. And so they’re proud of me, they’re excited for me, and they want to be next to me. She said, “We sell them on the vision, and then, no Dana.” Well then, what vision are you selling them on? Why is their expectation Dana? So I think they get it. I just think they want more of me.

The other thing I’ll say to you is this, Loren. Dana has grown up. The problem Dana has is, if there was a mixed message about Dana being a CEO, it came from Dana. Because Dana has not been a clear-cut CEO. Dana has been the nice owner. Dana has been the friendly owner. Dana has not been a clear-cut CEO, and I’m still not. A clear-cut CEO would have moved a little differently, I think.

Loren Feldman:
What do you think you would have done differently if you were a clear-cut CEO?

Dana White:
I think a clear-cut CEO—and maybe I’m overthinking this—but for example, with the stylist trainer, after the third or fourth time where the sign has been that this person may not be ready, a clear-cut CEO would have just pivoted. The nice, friendly owner’s like, “No, let’s give him a chance. Let’s groom him. This is an excellent opportunity. This is somebody I care about.”

Loren Feldman:
He’s good at what he does?

Dana White:
Oh my goodness. Like, talent abounds. And on top of that, I’ve met so many people in this industry who aren’t good people. And he’s a good person, and I see so much in him and his potential. And his way. He shined in Germany. But, again, my advisor said, “Yeah, that might be his potential. But that’s not who he is. And he’s built a life around who he is, not who he’s going to be. And what you’re offering is who he could be, and that don’t gel with his life.”

I need someone who’s gonna say, “Yep, I can be in Fort Bragg next week for four days of training.” Not, “Well, I can’t, because I got a concert to go to. Well, I can’t. I mean, I gave my word. I said I’d be at this concert.” My advisers were like, “A clear-cut CEO would have started looking to replace that person after all those signs came through.” And I’ve been the friendly owner: “No, no, let’s give him a chance. You guys don’t see what I see.”

Loren Feldman:
So one of the things I’m not hearing here is what I feared when you first mentioned the resignations, which is that these are all people looking at you or looking at the company and saying, “I just don’t believe in this. I don’t think it’s going to work. I don’t want to be a part of it.” And I’m not hearing that at all.

Dana White:
Not at all. They even said the opposite.

Loren Feldman:
I think that’s important. It sounds like it’s pretty clear that you need an operations manager. You’ve got so much work to do. I’m sure there’s plenty for Ashley to do in a new administrative role. I don’t see that as a problem. Am I right that your real issue here, the thing that you have to solve first, is bringing in somebody who can be a real operations manager?

Dana White:
I need someone who can be a strong manager on the floor of my salon. I need a strong manager.

Loren Feldman:
But that just helps you in one salon.

Dana White:
That helps me in one salon, but I think an operations manager will be needed when we start rolling out these locations, and I need somebody who can travel. I need someone who, when I call, I know when they’re working. There were days I didn’t know when Ashley’s working. And I would call, and my call wouldn’t get answered.

Loren Feldman:
But aren’t you at that point now? I mean, it sounds like you’ve got the green light for locations all over the world. I understand that’s not going to happen tomorrow. But don’t you need somebody getting ready for that?

Dana White:
I agree, and that’s why I was saying, because I don’t have anybody in mind and because I haven’t really put it out there and this just happened, yeah, I need somebody now. But you know, where am I today? And maybe Ashley is that person until I find that, because since we don’t need to go to a location, maybe when it comes time for me to go to a location, we will have onboarded that person, and then it can just be a smooth transition. Who knows? Maybe.

Here’s what’s beating them up. I think their wanting me—or at least the salon manager wanting me—is because Ashley’s an hour away and can’t be in the salon as often as she needs to be. She can’t give that, so that leaves Christina looking at Dana like, “Why aren’t you here for me?” I think the staff is beating them up. I think the staffing challenges are beating them down. People calling off, not coming to work, having a hard time hiring, I think is beating them up.

Loren Feldman:
An issue that businesses all over the country, if not the world, are dealing with right now.

Dana White:
Here’s an example that Christina gave me that she said, “It might seem small, but it turned into something big.” We bought two new flat irons that the stylist trainer had recommended that we use, considering the new technique we’re going to use for curling hair and he was training them on. They were working, they were fine, and then both of them shorted, burned the customer’s hair. It was handled. The customer was fine, because she was a regular. She trusts us. She understands it was the flat iron. One of the girls quit because of that. She said her license was in jeopardy. And she said, “I can’t work for a company where these are going to be the flat irons that they use.”

The stylist trainer has been using that brand of flat irons for years. They were just two flat irons that shorted. Why is that indicative of an entire brand of flat irons and that you can’t work at a company that used that? They shorted! And I’ve had that happen before. Flat irons short. And what you do is, if there are extra ones, you go to the back, you get some other ones and you keep moving. But this is an example of, these are the things that are beating the managers down.

Loren Feldman:
Again though, I wonder: It sounds like not everybody in the business understands where this business is headed. You know, if that stylist understood, it’s hard to imagine her walking out the door over a flat iron given the opportunity that’s there.

Dana White:
Loren, we have told them. We have shared it with them.

Loren Feldman:
I guess it’s not real to them yet.

Dana White:
Listen, they’ve never seen anything like it before, especially for people who look like them. “I don’t work for Great Clips. That’s for white men. This isn’t my world.” And that’s the thing: When it is real for you, it’s gonna be too late. When it becomes real for you, when you have a stylist trainer who is committed to be behind the chair, and they’re 70, no retirement, and here it was 20-something years ago—Dana was trying to set you up so that when you are 70, you can work behind the chair at your leisure, because I know you love it. But if I can’t get this workforce to see it, or they don’t believe in their ability, or if their personal lives don’t allow for them to bridge that gap, what do I do?

Loren Feldman:
Well, you continue on the path you’re on, and I think a lot of those things are going to become more obvious. If you’re continuing to spend time on military bases around the world and then start opening salons on them, that will register, I think. If the software package comes together, it seems to me that will register.

And I also think this is all important in terms of hiring the next operations manager. You have a much bigger story to tell now than you did when you hired Ashley. This is an incredible opportunity for somebody. And obviously, I don’t know your industry, but there have to be other people with experience similar to Ashley’s out there who would leap at the opportunity.

Dana White:
I agree. And the opportunity to work with someone who isn’t a bitch. And even Ashley said, “This isn’t you.” She’s like, “No, every time I talk to you, I feel better.” And she knows I support her, but I can’t—and she can’t, in good faith—continue on in her role knowing that her job is: Mom comes first. And right now, her daughters really need her, and she’s over an hour away.

This is an amazing opportunity for somebody who knows the business. What I would love—and my advisor said, “This might be hard to find”—is someone who has the business acumen of an operations manager who knows the industry. Oh my goodness, I don’t care if you’re green, white, Black. I talked to my mentor, and he was like, “Well, do you think part of her issue is because she’s white?” I said, “No. Because she’s smart as I don’t know what. It doesn’t matter what her color is in her position.”

Loren Feldman:
Let’s stay on that for a second, because you have talked about how important it is for everyone involved in your salon to know that it has been, it is, it will be Black-owned. And I think that’s been true of customers. It’s been true of employees. Did bringing in an operations manager who isn’t Black cause any problems? Is that in any way the issue here?

Dana White:
Oh, yeah. It caused—not problems—a beat to be missed with the customers. Because as soon as they saw her, they thought I didn’t own it anymore.

Loren Feldman:
But what about with the employees and the management issues you’re talking about?

Dana White:
Yes, the employees felt, “Well, what does she know about our hair?” And so, again, that’s the challenge that I’m breaking through, even on military bases. When you have a contract on the military base with a salon, if it’s a white operator in the salon, now all of a sudden that salon serves white people. If it’s a Black operator, now they service Black people. They’re convinced that, “When we put Dana in there, it’s going to service everybody.” And they’re right, especially with the stylist trainer I brought on board. He can do it all.

I literally had a girl quit because she said, “I don’t know what Dana was trying to do by hiring a white manager. Maybe she thought she would look more professional.” And I’m like, “What? Why do you think I would hire white people to look professional? Who am I looking to?” I hire people to get stuff done. So it’s a mindset, and that’s the biggest challenge. That’s where my doubt comes in. That’s where the tears have fallen. Because is my business strong enough to defeat a mindset?

Loren Feldman:
Let me ask you this. It strikes me that, given all the things that you want to do, your one salon in Detroit might be almost irrelevant to the future success of Paralee Boyd. You’re going to have an incredible hiring challenge as you open salons around the world, but I think it’s going to be of a very different nature. I’m imagining that, at each of those military bases—and you’ve described the remarkable size of some of them—there are going to be a lot of people who either are civilians who live around the base, or are spouses who live on the base. It seems to me you’re going to have a lot of people to choose from to staff those shops. And the experience you’re having in Detroit might not be at all representative of what’s going to happen when you go global. Does that make sense?

Dana White:
It makes absolute sense. We’ve been talking about staffing. We talked about it in Germany. Germany was hit really, really hard with COVID, and we talked about it when I went to Fort Hood. The reason why keeping Midtown open… because that has been something I’ve chewed on: Should I close Midtown down? I’ve had some people say, “Yes, absolutely.” However, I’m franchising, and when you’re franchising, you need an open model to show people that this works. I’ve thought about closing Midtown and finding the money to open in a more viable market.

My dear friend, April Anderson of Good Cakes and Bakes, she said, “Why do you doubt what you’re about to do?” And she said, “Don’t answer that. I know why. Because you think what’s happened to you in Detroit is indicative of what’s going to happen in every salon you open. You feel you’re multiplying Detroit, and it’s not the case. Detroit has beat you down.”

Loren Feldman:
She’s in Detroit, too, by the way.

Dana White:
She’s in Detroit. She’s here, and she’s like, “Even look at Detroit vs. Everybody, we’re proud to have the struggle. We’re proud of that.” And she’s like, “That doesn’t bode well for business at all.” And she said, “If you were in New York…” Even in Dallas—the headquarters for AAFES, Army and Air Force Exchange, that will be hosting me on these bases—They said, ”You couldn’t keep the doors closed. People are jammed in salons that want to be like yours.” As much as Detroit has served me, if I could go back to November of 2011 and sit down at my dining room table in Brooklyn with Dana and say, “You know what? Yes, Detroit deserves you. But Detroit may not be ready for you.”

When I opened Midtown, there were women who wouldn’t come to us because, one, they thought we were a white salon because we were so nice. And, two, that they couldn’t afford us. Are they ready? And the answer is: no. They weren’t ready here. But if you’re on a military base, and that’s the only salon there, they get ready. Because they’re like, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing. Finally, for us. Finally, something that is for us.” And they don’t want to struggle. They don’t want to go off base to get their hair done. They want to get their hair done on base.

Loren Feldman:
If you had the right operations manager and the right manager of that salon, I don’t think you’d even know about—

Dana White:
Exactly.

Loren Feldman:
—the issues that you’re raising. But it seems solvable. I mean, if you listed the operations manager job on any service, and just listed requirements for experience being working at one of the national chains, having experience overseeing the operations of a certain number of salons, is your expectation that you would get a lot of resumes out of that? It seems obvious to me, but am I wrong?

Dana White:
No, I don’t think you’re wrong. I think before I do that, I need to be a stronger CEO. And that’s what I’m working on right now: Talking to my advisors and saying, “What does my job look like at this juncture, not in five years?” And they can help me with that. As of today, this is what your job looks like as the CEO of Paralee Boyd, and what working on the business looks like as a CEO. This is what you talk about. This is what you know. This is what you don’t know.

Loren Feldman:
What are you not clear on? What are you not sure is your job?

Dana White:
I’m too nice, Loren. And I don’t mean that, “I’m so nice!” That’s not what I mean.

Loren Feldman:
Earlier you said that one of the advantages of working at Paralee Boyd is that you don’t have to work for a bitch.

Dana White:
Exactly.

Loren Feldman:
And so, now are you saying that maybe you have to change that?

Dana White:
A little, and that’s not comfortable for me to say, but it’s true. I need to be a little bit more of a bitch. And bitch is a hard word, because I need to have a little bit more edge to me.

Let me give you an example. I have an assistant. We had a call scheduled for four o’clock. I get on the call. Eight minutes into the call: “Oh, I’m sorry. I have to go. My car is ready.” Nice Dana: “Oh, okay. Okay. Yep. Go ahead, and go call me when you can.” No, not anymore! “Excuse me. We have a call scheduled. And I have notes that need to be covered for this call. Are you telling me we’re not having this call?” “Yeah, I gotta go get my car. I gotta go.” “Okay,” and then pivot and get ready to find the next person. “Well, I’ll get to it after seven o’clock tonight.” “Okay.” That’s Dana. “Okay.” No, “I need that email sent three hours ago, and it’s just an email.” So what Dana has been doing is sending the emails herself.

Loren Feldman:
I don’t think it’s about being a bitch or having an edge. I think it’s about demanding professionalism.

Dana White:
Exactly. Thank you. I need to be a better demander of professionalism. Especially with all of these opportunities.

Loren Feldman:
Let’s take a quick break. I want to talk about that when we come back, but I want to hear from our sponsor, Work Better Now, which connects entrepreneurs with virtual assistants. You might want to listen to this ad when it comes out. And when we come back, we’ll talk more about all the things that you have on your plate and how you prioritize them.

[Message from our sponsor, Work Better Now]

Loren Feldman:
And we’re back. So Dana, each of these by itself would be a great opportunity. You have all of them piling up. Can you possibly work on all of them at once?

Dana White:
Not by myself.

Loren Feldman:
Well, no. But can you oversee all of them at once?

Dana White:
I think so. And then, can I be honest with you?

Loren Feldman:
You always are.

Dana White:
Thank you. There are people on these teams that care about me, and their care is starting to impose, and their care is feeding my doubt. For example, “Well, I don’t know if Dana can do this. Let’s stop doing this.” Whoa, whoa, whoa. Dana is more than capable of saying when it’s too much for her to do, and that has always been a struggle I’ve had. People, for some reason, have looked at me and already put my line in the sand: “Oh, she can’t do more than this. This is too much for her.” Well, let Dana. And I’m fairly intelligent, and I have a high emotional IQ. I’m very in tune with myself. Let Dana tell you where that line is.

Loren Feldman:
Are you hearing from your franchising consultant—because I assume they’re aware of all the other things you have going—are they concerned?

Dana White:
Yes, they are. But I’m not upset or frustrated with them, because honestly, it comes from love. When I tell you Chris is my godmother, like, I love her. And she wrote a long email, and she’s not wrong. But talk to me first. Let’s have that conversation. First, hear what Dana needs, hear what Dana can do, before you all surmise that, “This is what we need to do for Dana.”

You said it best: All the issues that I have are solvable. They’re not looking at it that way. They’re like, “Uh, well, they’re saying they’re solvable…” There’s this franchise box that they have for Paralee Boyd, and I don’t blame them. It’s worked for several franchises, and they’ve been really good about understanding that this is a little out of the box. And in this situation, I’m gonna need them to understand that this, too, falls outside the box with modifications. So let’s manage this, but talk to Dana first. I’ve watched three emails go by, and all they’ve heard is what I’ve said is the issue. They haven’t talked to Dana about how I’m gonna handle it.

Loren Feldman:
Is this happening because you guys have laid out a timeline, and you’re falling behind and just not able to keep up with what they thought you were going to do when you set out to franchise?

Dana White:
Yes, and they believe that the reason the timeline is slow is because of the military. It is not. The timeline has slowed down, because, one, there are things that, culturally, that need to be addressed and handled on the back-end. This franchise needs to be a lot tighter than, “Okay, we’re ready to go to war, and let’s go.” No, there are things on the back-end that need to happen. Two, I need this salon to do better. And this is what’s wonderful about them: They said that in the email, but they came to that decision without talking to me first.

My delay in franchising is not because I went to Germany. It’s not because I visited bases. That’s a day trip. My delay has been because: one, whoa, we open a franchise, and there’s this technology piece. They’re really, like, “Uh, no, no, no, no, no, she doesn’t need a technology piece.” They don’t see what I see. If we don’t have this technology for a walk-in only hair salon, there’s going to be a wait, and then none of them are going to sell. We need the technology to support what we’re doing. And I can start a whole other company, have a CTO, which we’ve already talked about, who can help me with this so it’s not Dana doing it. And we can roll these out with franchises. And we can roll these out on bases.

Loren Feldman:
You’re operating your salon in Detroit without this technology.

Dana White:
And we’re struggling. There are waits.

Loren Feldman:
But you’re talking about waiting on franchising and on opening military bases until you have software developed?

Dana White:
No, no, nope. The phase that we need just to be operational isn’t going to take long. The primary reason for the delay in the franchising is because Midtown is not tight: staffing shortages, ups and downs, hills and valleys. And why do I know this? Like you said, because my leadership team isn’t tight. I need a strong manager. I need a strong manager to go pick up the phone, call my operations manager, have it handled. “What do we need from Dana? We need this from Dana.” And go.

Loren Feldman:
What is the most important reason for having operations tight in Detroit, as it applies to franchising? Is it because franchisees who are going to invest in Paralee Boyd have to see an operation that’s working?

Dana White:
Yes.

Loren Feldman:
And have you shared this with your franchising consultant?

Dana White:
Nope. They shared it with me in the email, and I don’t disagree. But I would have preferred them to have a conversation with me first. It was a lot of deductions made, a lot of conclusions that were come to, and I’m thinking, “They haven’t talked to me in-depth. They’ve heard the problem, but they haven’t heard about how I want to go ahead and solve it. This is my plan.”

Loren Feldman:
Well, there doesn’t seem to be anything lost because they put it in an email. Maybe they felt this was the most efficient way to start the conversation.

Dana White:
Exactly.

Loren Feldman:
Especially when you’re traveling. Maybe Germany did have some impact, in that sense. This was the way to raise the issue, and it doesn’t sound like they are unwilling to have the conversation that you want to have.

Dana White:
No, they’re definitely willing. Again, you have to understand this is a franchise consultancy that cares. These aren’t people who are just trying to control everything. No, these are people who are truly invested, not only because of the work they’re doing with me and the relationship. These are just good people who are invested in Dana and care about Dana. Like Chris, my strategic implementation person, she’s like my godmother. Like, I see her on the screen, and I’m comforted. I love Chris. I just feel handled. I feel managed. I don’t like that.

Loren Feldman:
All right, we’re almost out of time. Let’s prioritize. What do you need to do? And where do you need help? Let me list a couple of things, and you can add to it. You need to get the operation the way you want it in Detroit.

Dana White:
I need a strong salon manager. If they have industry experience, great. If not, fine. My strongest managers have run restaurants.

Loren Feldman:
Are you the person to hire that strong manager? Or do you need an operations manager first, whose first assignment would be to hire that salon manager?

Dana White:
I need to hire that person with someone.

Loren Feldman:
So you need the operations manager first.

Dana White:
No, I think Ashley and I can hire a strong manager together.

Loren Feldman:
I see. You have so much on your plate, and you have so much opportunity. Have you thought about trying to structure your business so that you are offering these key people you hire participation in the results that you expect to get?

Dana White:
Absolutely, and would be glad to do it. Would love to do bonuses, profit share, something, as well as offer them opportunities to grow in their craft and to grow in this industry.

Loren Feldman:
Because again, this isn’t just being the manager of one salon in Detroit. This is an opportunity to be manager of a very important salon in Detroit that’s going to be a model for salons all over the world. And that could lead to all sorts of other opportunities, if done well. Correct?

Dana White:
Yes.

Loren Feldman:
The kind of opportunity that someone might move to Detroit to take, knowing that it could lead to another job in Atlanta or Brooklyn or Germany.

Dana White:
Loren, the Fort Bragg contract is done. The Fort Hood contract will be done in February, or if not, by the end of this year, and I’ll be ready to go in February. This is happening. If I had a license to operate in Germany, I could be on two bases in six months. Like, this is happening. Next trip: Kuwait. Fort Campbell, my very next trip. I’m going to be at Fort Campbell on Monday. They’re ready yesterday.

Loren Feldman:
When do you think the first base will be open?

Dana White:
Sometime in 2022. Because command has already signed. I get the contracts in a couple of weeks. And that still takes time. You’ve gotta get permitting. That takes 45 days.

Loren Feldman:
Have there been moments in the past couple of weeks dealing with this where you had serious doubts?

Dana White:
Oh, moments? You mean like hours and days and dreams?

Loren Feldman:
Are you sleeping at night?

Dana White:
Yes, I’m sleeping at night, thanks to jet lag. Woohoo! Let me tell you what gets me through: Prayer gets me through, and the four tenets that Jay taught me: one, it is what it is. Two, deal with it. Three, you are operating with a good and noble purpose. You did not open the salon to hurt people. You did not bring on these managers to make their lives hell. You brought on these managers to create an opportunity for them in the future and to help you build now. That’s why I brought them on. And guess what? When you get in my way, fuck you! I’m having problems with number four, though. Because that’s where that demanding professionalism lives at: number four. I’m having trouble with that. I’m like, “Well, maybe we…” No, I need to be a little bit more on number four.

Loren Feldman:
All right, well, that might be a good topic for a subsequent podcast episode, get some input from some of our colleagues.

Dana White:
I’d like to get input from your listeners, especially after this episode. You know what, Loren? I thought I was gonna cry. Yesterday morning, I was in tears. Laura has texted me, “How’s it going today?” And that’s just in my business life. You know, I’m a person, and I have a personal life. And so that’s a whole other episode where. My engagement. Whoa. You know, Taron is amazing, but still…

Loren Feldman:
I was gonna say, that’s going well, right?

Dana White:
It’s going healthy, which means he may not be ready. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s a beautiful thing.

Loren Feldman:
You do have a lot going on, Dana.

Dana White:
I have a lot going on. And then I found out that my payroll provider hadn’t been paying my payroll taxes, even though they took them from me. So there’s a legal hold of an exorbitant amount on my account. They haven’t taken the money, but there’s a legal hold until we get this sorted out with ADP and Paychex. You guys took the money. Why didn’t you pay it? Found out one of the reasons why: It’s because they have the wrong EIN number. They’re like, “Oh, our bad.” You think?

That’s why, when I tell you, I’m dealing with a lot, I’m dealing with a lot. So yeah, the tears have fallen. Yes, there’s been doubt. Yes, I’m saddened by the fact that the support I have around me, even in my stylist trainer, is gone. Yeah, when you lose somebody like Ashley, and even though she’s not a complete loss yet—there’s a modification—I still laid in bed in the dark at 5:30 in the morning and read that email. And the feeling in your ears, in your chest, and you first think, “What did I do?” You realize you didn’t do anything. Even at her words, it’s not you. You still go through that.

When you asked me at the beginning of the episode, “What’s going on?” I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going on. Because I am on the precipice of all this opportunity, and then there’s all of this, as Laura would say, “shit.” Laura Zander would say, “There’s all of this shit,” right?

Loren Feldman:
All right, we’ll have plenty more to talk about in coming episodes. But thank you, Dana, as always, for sharing so openly and honestly, what you’re going through.

Dana White:
You know, Loren, one more thing. I guess I’m scared. And I feel alone. It’s chilly. It’s cold.

Loren Feldman:
Why do you feel that way?

Dana White:
The thermostat in my house is at 75, so I know it’s not really cold. But I’m scared, and I feel alone. And I know I’m not the only entrepreneur who feels like this. But that’s how I feel. I feel like—especially with how quickly people can not be who you need to grow your company, how quickly you can have that key employee who turns into that key ex-employee. That can happen in an hour. How quickly it can go. You realize that, all there is is you. You’re not going anywhere.

You know, you have people you can talk to. Of course, Jay is amazing. Laura is awesome, and other entrepreneurs, and you keep that circle small. Because like I said, in the entrepreneurial community I’m in, they’re comforted by your struggle. But that’s where the loneliness comes in. You’re like, “Wow, who can I talk to who’s been through this? Who knows how cold it is—it’s chilly—and how scary it is?” Because you don’t know if you’re spinning your wheels. You don’t know if you’re doing all of this in vain. You don’t know if this is a waste of your time.

And in this current climate, time is a very valuable resource that’s not given to everybody. I can’t tell you how many people have died in my newsfeed. I’ve got to get off social media because everybody’s dying. So that’s how I feel. It’s scary, because I’m giving so much time. And it’s lonely, because who will stand next to you today and support you today? The support I thought I had last week, I don’t have today. I don’t have that. And that’s what makes me emotional. I’m sorry, Loren.

Loren Feldman:
I hear you. I hear you.

Dana White:
That’s what scares me. Because I’m like little Dana and I’m like alone. And this opportunity is so big, and Loren, I can do it. I promise you, I can do it. It’s in me. But I really believed that I had the support of these people, and I don’t. And now I’m standing here, and it’s cold. I thought I had it, and I don’t. And I’m alone. And I’m okay. I’m gonna do it. Right? I’m Jay’s mentee. Listen, if Jay Goltz is my mentor. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna stand up. I’m gonna tighten my bra strap, and I’m gonna go.

Dana White:
I’m gonna be all right. I’m going to be okay.

Loren Feldman:
I think so too. Thank you, Dana White.

Dana White:
You’re welcome, Loren Feldman.

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