Guest Post by Jane Plitt.
She was long dead when I first discovered Martha Matilda Harper and her amazing feat of launching modern franchising even though she had been a servant for nearly a quarter of a century. History buried its memory of the 500+ franchises she sprouted and staffed with other poor women. But, fortunately, they saved the records and here are her ten commandments of business success.
1. Dare to Dream and persevere -Just when you think your idea is beyond crazy and that all is hopeless, don’t give up. Remember if Harper could transform her life with her business, you can, too.
2. Seize Opportunity — For Harper, it was a secret hair formula, but for you, it is something else. With that formula, she immigrated to the US and began planning her business launch.
3. Capitalize on your Assets — Don’t assume your assets are money. Women rarely have enough. For Harper, it was her floor-length hair. She hung a photograph of herself in front of her pioneering hair and skincare salon so that women might be attracted to come in.
4. Build Everything on Customer Service — Having been a servant, Harper realized it would be much better when washing patrons’ hair, if the chair would go backwards. She invented the first reclining shampoo chair in the U.S. How can you best please your customers?
5. Commit the Customer — When customers ask you to expand services or locations, get them to commit more than themselves. Harper got a prominent Chicago socialite to get 25 of her best friends to say they would patronize Harper’s shop IF Harper came to Chicago.
6. Innovate –Think Outside the Box –Do not be a boring cookie cutter. Be distinctive and come up with solutions that meet your needs and your principles. For Harper, it was deciding to franchise her business as a practical way to expand, when she could not get working capital, plus be assured of an ownership base that would strictly follow her dictates.
7. Develop Win-Win strategies to Benefit All– Harper needed to expand, but had limited capital and the banks were not rushing to lend to her (like today). She created modern franchising and decided to put poor women in ownership positions of the franchises, transforming their lives, guaranteeing Harper of a loyal following who would go anywhere Harper sent them, and would follow Harper’s strict approach to operating healthy hair and skincare shops.
8. Lead & Brand — Harper was committed to producing and selling only organic, safe products in her salons. She sold customers on their safety and on the massage-oriented approach to hair washing, brushing, and facials. Price, therefore, did not become the issue because the Harper method meant quality.
9.Listen To & Reward Your Staff -Believe that people on the front line are literally your most important people. Harper insisted that at staff meetings the first item needed to be what feedback the employees had for the boss. Design a compensation program that encourages staff to meet your goals and theirs! Remember compensation does not always have to be cash, it can be time off, celebrations, recognition.
10. Stick to Principles & Core Competencies – Markets change. Competitors appear. Do not compromise the essence of what your business is and the principles for which it stands. For Harper, it was an insistence that hair dyes were dangerous and would not be allowed in any of her shops. Unlike the majority in the beauty industry that was selling “hope in a jar,” Harper preached that everyone was inherently beautiful and the Harperites’ job was to bring that inner beauty out.
To your success!