Podcast Episode 111: Patricia Fripp | Work Smarter, Not Harder
Bob Phibbs interviewed Patricia Fripp, past president of the National Speaker's Association, as she shared her journey from in-demand hairstylist in San Francisco and salon owner to speaker, speech coach, and sales trainer. She shared important rules of customer service, owning your own business and saying words that make you sound less-than-professional.
Tell me something good about retail
Patricia Fripp: Work Smarter, Not Harder
• Concentrate on becoming the type of person people want to do business with.
• A person's sphere of influence is a lot greater than the amount of money they may have.
• If you give a business card or if you ask for a referral, be specific who they should give it to.
Hey, it's Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doc. I'm here today with Patricia Fripp who is a long-time friend and a great fashionista. And we're here at NSA, which is the National Speakers Association. Patricia is the past president.
Patricia: And legend.
Bob: Total legend. In fact, she is the reason why I got into speaking in a lot of ways, but that's a whole another story. So if you're just joining me, it is a special broadcast, tell me where you're coming in from, type in let me know so I can see it, give me some thumbs up, give me some love. You may not know her yet, but when you are done with this interview, you are gonna say, "Wow, I had no idea." So let's start off. This is just talking about retail and I love the idea that you have a connection to retail. So, what's your connection? Tell our viewers what's your connection?
Patricia: Well, I am at the National Speakers Association because now, I'm a speaker, and speech coach, and sales trainer. However. When I first arrived at the National Speakers Association, I was San Francisco's number one men's hairstylist, when that was a relatively new industry. And I travelled the country delivering seminars for other hairstylist helping the merchandise, sell their product. But I first went to work at age 15 in England, serving a three-year apprenticeship to be a woman's hairstylist. And I was very lucky though because I had a dad who was in the real estate business. He was a self-made local businessman who in our small community was outrageously successful. But he started with nothing, built himself. And the first day he pushed me out to get the bus. My first day of work, he said, "Patricia in your career, don't concentrate on making a lot of money. Concentrate on becoming the type of person people want to do business with. And then you most likely will make a lot of money." And Bob, my first boss, Mr. Paul...
Bob: That's a great story, by the way, it's edgy.
Patricia: Yeah, okay, good. So, of course, it doesn't matter how good our marketing is unless we're actually nice because as I tell my clients, "If you are the same as anybody else, as far as the pricing, the type of services. The person who's most likeable and, of course, has the best presentation is likely to get the business." But back to my simple career. My first boss, Mr. Paul, my dad paid the equivalent of $250 for me to go and work for $4.5 a week, and it cost me $2.5 to get to work on the bus. But that was serving an apprenticeship. And he was a brilliant hairstylist. And I got to work with him closely because I was the most organized efficient apprentice.
Bob: We're not as surprised by that fact in the least.
Patricia: No. And I saw him treat every woman who came in our salon like the only one in the world for the amount of time that she was there. Now, as a young woman, I thought, "Well, that's really very nice, that's generous, that's good." And then when I became a little older, a little more sophisticated and understood business more, I realized that it was brilliant because he was nice to the rich little ladies who lived in the penthouse of the Carlton Hotel. He was equally nice to the waitresses who worked in the Carlton Hotel.
Bob: So why does that matter? When you think, "Oh, you take care of the person that has the most money, right?"
Patricia: Well, the retired elderly women probably play bridge and had lunch with the same six friends, all the time. Whereas a waitress who is serving a high-end clientele, who is there mostly on vacation and if they were paying for that hotel fees, the price of the hairstylist didn't matter. And so they would look at the waitress to say, "Oh, I like your hair. I need my hair done while I'm here. We're going out to the theatre tomorrow." And so I realized, a waitress' sphere of influence was a lot greater than the amount of money she could invest every month. In fact, I think he probably carried them some months when they worked because he obviously realized that. And so, I...
Bob: But it wasn't a calculated thing. It just happened to be like, "Oh, and so that works along with that same philosophy." Right?
Patricia: Yes, it is all the same philosophy. So, I was lucky to be trained by good bosses who really reflected my dad's philosophy.
Bob: That's huge. And you had your own salon in San Francisco. You were very successful, and you told me that you could sell product. You know, one of the things, I worked with an awful lot of hair care and spa, people out there. By the way, if you're just joining me, I'm Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doc, you probably know me, but visit retaildoc.com. Or I'm here with Patricia Fripp, who is the past president of the National Speakers Association, and her website is...
Patricia: Fripp, fripp.com.
Bob: And we'll talk more about that at the end. But what...things that fascinated me, is so many spas and so many brands say, "Oh, I can't get the stylist to sell product. And it's so hard because everybody's on the internet and they all buy it at the grocery store. And nobody wants to buy my product." And yet, you did a great job with that.
Patricia: I did a very good job. Of course, now I arrived in England...arrived in America 20, no job, nowhere to live, didn't know anyone, $500. And I worked at the Mark Hopkins Hotel, and then I parlayed that into a job working in the first really posh men's hairstyling salon. And I was one of the last two students of the legendary hairstylist Jay Sebring and last night, it was a TV program by Manson and Sharon Tate. Of course, my boss was unfortunately murdered. However, he was brilliant.
Bob: That's not part of the story.
Patricia: No, this isn't part of the story. But what I learned from him, it's how the importance of PR and promotion was to business. Well, when I...business to myself, when I was 30, I started traveling nationwide for hairstylists who've been associated with Jim Mark...with the Jay Sebring. And Jim Markham who went on, he started ABBA and Pureology, sold them for millions of dollars. Anyway, great training. But he used to say when we...in your salon, "Stack them high and watch them buy." But he took...and that was the time, Bob. When many of the hair product companies were going into the chemical makeup and...
Bob: They still do that a lot.
Patricia: I know. So, with me...
Bob: Did you care about that stuff?
Patricia: No, no. As a men's hairstylist what I would do, I would do their hair and look and say, "Wow, you look good." And they would say, "Oh yes." And I said, "Would you like your hair to look that good every day?" And I remember so many people would say, "Oh, it's not possible. Is it?" And I said, "Well, yes. I need you to use this much shampoo, this much conditioner and leave it in, and then you have to take this hairbrush." And I would hold their hand and help them brush their hair and now, "You just need a little hair spray. This is how you do it." And they would walk out with a bag of product.
Bob: So here's the thing I don't get, so you're a stylist?
Bob: You have to admit you're here to make money. I mean, you like cutting hair, but, right? So why is it so darn hard to convince stylists that, "But wait, I'm an artist. I don't wanna sell. I wanna sell..."
Patricia: Well, you're not selling, you see, that's the point. It's not selling. You are serving...you are letting your clients know your recommendations. And one of my...
Bob: It's your business. Isn't it your business part if she walks out looking bad. Right?
Patricia: Yes. Because this is the important part, is I say, "I need you to look this good every day, not only for you." But, of course...And this is something else I did naturally, no one taught me this. But I would give everyone free business cards. I say, "One is for you and two is for the next two people who tell you how good your hair looks."
Bob: Oh my gosh, that is a brilliant tip.
Patricia: I know.
Bob: Well, you're brilliant. Because think about that, wow. Now, had you ever been taught that?
Patricia: No. But it seemed common sense, you love the experience. And you have to remember in those days men's hairstyling was so new and we were charging three times more than the barber. But people were looking so good, they couldn't believe it. You knew they were gonna get compliments. In fact, many of my clients said, "I was at a dinner party last weekend, you know, with five couples and all the men were talking about coming here as their hairstylist." Women didn't say anything except, "Oh, yes. And he looks a lot better." So this was it, but it was just...and then, of course, they'd be regular. I said, "I know I've already got one, these are the people who tell me how good I look." Because this is an important point. And this is true in the speaking industry, people will say, "Please refer me." Well, as our friend Alan Weiss says, "If I tripped over a prospect for you, how would I recognize them?" So if you give a business card or if you asked for a referral, be specific who you should give it to.
Bob: That's another brilliant tip. Now, this woman has created a brand which if you're not in the speaking world, you don't know, but is a rock star. And she's always, always promoting. And I mean that in the best way because let's face it, there's a lot of speakers here, right?
Bob: And they're all going after your business. Let's be honest, we're all going after each other's business. But the funny thing is, it's only my business for today, because, you know, once they've used Patricia or someone else, they're gonna need me or somebody else. So we're not in competition. That's one of the nice things about NSA, that we all learn that, "Oh, we're greater together." And I think that's the challenge with a lot of retailers. You're in it alone, and you face challenges, and then you call up other people who kind of allow you to go into that bad feeling. And we can't afford to do that and I think that's the same in retail. Is there a challenge that you had to overcome in your business and how you might have done that? Whether it's in your salon business or speaking, what comes to mind? And by the way, hi, good morning from San Antonio. And Michelle says, "That's why having a hairstylist that loves what they do matters."
Patricia: It is very important. And if I may go back to that. When I would finish cutting somebody's hair, especially when we transformed them. I would say, "Oh, you look so good. I have to show the other staff. And I would take them around and say, "Look, look, did you see when he walked in. Can you see how good he looks?" Because if you don't get joy and so proud of what you did, and want to show him off. And then, of course, I had all women stuff. So you can imagine, men say if suddenly they've got seven women, "Oh, you look wonderful. Your wife is gonna be thrilled." And then they would walk into their offices and everyone would turn around and say, " Wow, oh, John." Yes, the gasp that they got when they walked into their home and their offices was worth the price of admittance.
Bob: And they just happen to have a few cards to help.
Patricia: Oh, yes, exactly.
Bob: It just happened. I don't know how that happened.
Patricia: No, no. Well, what you were doing, you were asking about challenges?
Patricia: And well, the challenge as an entrepreneur...I was obviously a self-starter, I was raised by parents who I saw worked really hard. And I have a brother who, if you have any rock and roll fans, like, The Robert Fripp, according to "Rolling Stone" magazine, the 42nd best guitarist in the world, living or dead, his group is King Crimson travelling in Europe at the moment. They'll be performing in Munich tonight and he played on David Bowie Stevens. Anyway, my brother is brilliant. And I realized as a young woman, "Look, my brother's considered by many a genius. And I'm average." But I realized that you don't have to be the best. You don't have to be the smartest. You just have to get up a bit early, you have to do more, you have to do a little more. And when I first left home, Bob, I went to an island off from school Jersey, it's British, but have their own government.
And I worked in this posh salon with gentlemen from the West End of London who could do hairstyles I'd never ever seen before. But one day, my boss said, "Patricia, you bring in 13% more income for the salon." And that was better than the stylist who were more experienced and their base salaries was three times more than mine. Because they thought lunch hours were for eating lunch and I realized lunch hours were for squeezing in three or four people who could only come at lunchtime. And so when I first came to America, worked at the Mark Hopkins Hotel, and discovered that hairdressers in America make 50% commission, now, no guarantee, no sick pay, no vacation pay, but to me, that was a license to steal. And my boss, Charles, said, "Patricia, go back to England, bring over 28 of your friends, I'll become a multi-millionaire." And I said, Charles, "I've never seen anyone who work the way I do." But it was good work habits. And in retail and small business, in any business really, you want to be acceptable, standard, just do more. Now, you can be strategic to insist...
Bob: And consistently so more. Not that one day when you feel like it. There's days you don't feel like it, right?
Patricia: People often say, "Well, what if you got to speak to 2,000 people, you don't feel like it?" You don't ask yourself the question. You live up to your professional responsibilities. That's why I'll say, "You know, get your clothes ready the night before." "Well, how do I know what I'm going to feel like." You don't dress how you feel, you dress for what you gonna do.
Bob: Well, think about that retailers. So, there it is for the week of Christmas. And you are like, "I hate Christmas music," and you allow that thought in your head. And now, you're walking in to wait on someone like Patricia who wants to get all of her shopping done. She loves your boutique, she loves all these things. And now she has this feeling like, "It doesn't quite feel right. What is it?" When you started it because you didn't...you were waiting for the feeling to come into you.
Patricia: Oh no, you take the feeling. Now, what I would like to do is...I am a great consumer. I am a fabulous consumer. In fact, people see me coming.
Bob: And when you see the picture of us after this, you will understand this woman is...
Patricia: Well, you will understand when you see the photo of this jacket. I was speaking for a group at the Del Coronado Hotel in San Diego. And I want to find the meeting room the night before because I don't know much sense of direction. These enormous conventions, you need to know exactly where you're going if you gotta be there at 7:00 in the morning. And on opposite...I saw this beautiful shop with this jacket in the window.
Bob: Oh, my goodness.
Patricia: So as soon as I had finished my program, I popped my head in the door, and said, "How much is that jacket?" Well, there was a wonderful, vivacious, dynamic, incredible sales professional. She was, I think, French, good accent, you know, just helps with the retail, little accent. Well, to cut a long story short, not only did I buy from the jacket, the slacks and the top that I have, I bought, I don't know, maybe, I bought the evening outfit I'm gonna wear tomorrow night for the CPIA. I bought probably like 15 items. I won't tell you what I invested. But I'm the type of person if I'm having a wonderful experience, and I find a store that I like, especially a boutique, or even, you know, a Nordstrom, where people are giving you attention, if they earn the sale, this is it. Some people earn your business and we've all tried the businesses where we wanted to buy what they were selling, but they weren't giving us the service. I'm not giving you the satisfaction, I'm going somewhere else. So she made it a wonderful experience. Another time, and this is going back decades, I walked in the Nordstrom...
Bob: You started as a child?
Patricia: Yes. I started to shop...I was trained by my mother, but this was many years ago. But when Nordstrom was first in San Francisco, and, you know, wonderful, and I walked in, I said, "I want a pair of black shoes." And he said, "How much do you wanna spend?" You know, this is a long time ago, I said, "Over $100." And he brought three pairs, he said, "These are 80, these are 100, and these are 120." And he looked at me and he said, "You know, it is my job to bring them out." Well, I ended up buying five pairs of shoes from him because he was funny, made it an experience.
Bob: So here's the thing I want you all listen to is, what is Patricia really saying here, "Your customer is not finite." She doesn't have, like, here's a $100 bill, that's it. You don't know how high is up until she finally just says, "You know, I don't even care at all if that's out." Or "Can you ship that?"
Patricia: I'll help you, yes.
Bob: But you're so thrilled you get that one item, right? So, he could have bought the $80 shoes. Here you go, and you might have bought them, and that's fine. But the reality was, you don't stop because once I've made that connection, once I trust you, which is true in speaking, it is true in retail, it is true in everything, once I trust you, it's easier for us to just do business together. I wanna do more of it. And I really don't want it to stop. Wouldn't you say as a customer that...
Patricia: Well, because this wonderful woman, she knows this designer, she's, "I like flashy clothes." She sends me photographs. And she'll send me the clothes, "You can try them on. Send me back what you don't want."
Bob: But now, is it all about your price? Is it all about price point? No, it's all about feeling, which is what I talk about all the time. Look, if you make people feel they matter, they buy more. And that's why retail is dying for so many retailers because I feel worse going into your brick and mortar store, you're sitting around, you have bitter Betty behind the counter, she doesn't like being there. You think that your product's unique, they aren't. Your products are boring, I can get them anywhere. What I can't get is a feeling of walking down a quarter late in the afternoon, seeing the scrumptious jacket and having someone probably saying, "Well, why don't we try it on first." Right?
Patricia: At least 60 people have asked me where I bought my jacket, at least.
Bob: And do you remember where?
Patricia: Well, the Del Coronado Hotel.
Bob: Well, we all do. You're all giving me great thumbs up. If you enjoy these kinds of things, I am Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor. This is Patricia Fripp with fripp.com with two Ps. And we have an awful lot of hearts, a lot of people saying this is just wonderful.
Patricia: Good. Now, may I tell your friends my favorite retail store.
Bob: Wait a minute, okay.
Patricia: One day, I was all dressed up, I'd just given the speech and I had an appointment downtown San Francisco to meet with the gentleman who was considering hiring me. And his assistant said, "Well, Miss Fripp, he's gonna be half hour late, would you like a cup of coffee? I said, "No, no, not a problem. I'm gonna go to the store opposite buy a pair of pantyhose. And as I walked in, this dynamic, vivacious young woman said, "Well, good afternoon, don't you look nice. What are you looking for?" And I said, "Well, I just need a pair of hose." She said, "Well, come to the shoe department and talk to me." So I bought a couple of pairs of shoes, walked over to the shoe department and I must tell you, I had Lois...I mean, Imelda Marcos would come by and admire the amount of shoes I own. And I thought, well, I could do with the turquoise pair of shoes.
So as I was looking down, looking at my new shoes, she said, "You know, you really do look nice. What do you do?" And I told her, "Well, I travel the world talking about good and bad customer service." And she said, "I knew you were somebody important." And she said, "For a certain fact." I said, "Well, next week, I'm going to the National Speakers Association convention and they are gonna make me their first woman president." She said, "For somebody that important, do I have the dress for you." And she brought out this outrageously expensive beaded evening dress. And, Bob, until I met that woman, I had no idea I was that important enough to deserve that dress. So, I walked in to kill half hour bit by a pair of hose. I walked out with two piece of hose, a pair of turquoise shoes, and an outrageously expensive beaded evening dress.
Bob: Can we just unpack that? I never knew that I was that...
Patricia: I didn't know...well she...first of all, she said she was nice. And she said, "You really do look nice. What do you do?" "Well, I travel the world." And then she said, "For somebody that important..." Because of course, you know, I'm on a role of how important are you, let me tell you. But it's all about as Bob teaches you, the experience, making shopping fun. And I don't care, it doesn't have to be clothes, it can be buying chains, it can be anything.
Bob: Buying pantyhose, it's like just pantyhose, you could have gone anywhere for that. So, you know, and you've been so gracious with your time and we have things to go...This woman is like, she is the celebrity here. Everyone wants to ask her and tell her stories. I always go back to the time I was first starting out as a speaker, and she gave me three things about my website and really put me on the path like, "Are you gonna be serious about being a speaker. It's gonna take a lot of work." And I think that's the same thing I say to all of you, "You'll be successful." It is a lot of work but what's the option? Sit around and say, "Oh, I wish I could have, I had..." You know, Melanie Teller is joining us from the UK, she has 50,000 followers. She opened her store with her two daughters. No one was coming in, she said, "We gotta fix this." She started doing Facebook live videos. They now have a VIP club, where women share picture of themselves with the clothes who say, "I never would have thought I would have been comfortable somebody seeing me in a photo online, and now I feel confident." Isn't that what we're saying?
Melanie: That is fabulous. And I don't know if you know my sister in law, who is rather well known in England. My sister in law is Toyah Willcox, the singer actress. She's been a legend in England for years. Toyah, if you google T-O-Y-A-H, because she's been a star for a long time.
Bob: Well, that's nice to know. So Melanie, thanks for the shout out. That's good. So I wanna be respectful of your time. Tell me something good about retail.
Melanie: I am a great believer that women enjoy...and I have some male friends who love to, as well, who just lack the experience of going out and looking. Yes, it's fine to order online. But honestly, I like to try something on and see how it feels, see does it wrinkle, see what I look like from the mirrors behind, just make it an adventure for me. And I have credit cards and I know that's what the young woman thought when I said, I want to pay her out, "She's got credit cards."
Bob: And again, that merchandise can only do so much because even a beautiful jacket, which again, you'll see at the end, even a beautiful jacket can't sell itself. That's the other thing, you think that the merch will do the job. No, it does the job and got her attention but if she'd stopped at the price, you might have said like the beaded gown, "Yeah, I'm not that person." Just try it on. Just try it on. Tell me, how can we find out more about you?
Patricia: F-R-I-P-P, fripp.com. I have plenty of free information. I help perfect sales conversations and presentations and help drive business by how you talk. So, fripp.com, sign up for my blog, my newsletter, look at the videos, and we're all over YouTube, Patricia Fripp.
Bob: So you're gonna school them at what you schooled me at the beginning. So, I carelessly said something about this thing over here, and Patricia immediately connected me and what did you tell me about the word?
Patricia: Well, the question I ask my clients more than any other is, "If it weren't a thing, what would it be?" Be specific. Specificity builds your credibility and gives you a competitive edge.
Bob: You mean like, what I'm talking about that kind of stuff, like that?
Patricia: Stuff should only be used in America when you are talking about the turkey. That is non-specific.
Bob: Excellent, well. This has been Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doc live with Patricia Fripp. Again, if you like this, please make sure you share with your friends, let them know that, you know what, it doesn't matter. So many people, I think this is the important thing, also, I wanna call out Patricia, you have no idea that most people did have a background in retail at some point. Somehow, they learned it's about somebody else first, and when they learned that, then they're able to go on to so many other things and put such a difference in the world.
Learn more about Patricia Fripp here.