Podcast Episode 112: Jennifer Grimm, CEO & Founder Lux Beauty | Math Doesn't Lie
Bob Phibbs interviewed Jennifer Grimm, CEO and Founder of Lux Beauty Boutique in Edmonton. She shares her tips on being a small business and how she looks at some retailers who put so much money into a store because they love shoes or clothes or beauty and they don’t realize what they need to love are spreadsheets, systems, and analyzing people.
Tell me something good about retail
Jennifer Grimm, CEO & Founder Lux Beauty: Math Doesn't Lie
• Math doesn't lie.
• Write down your core values
• Shoppers and employees should leave feeling better after they have come into your store.
Jenn: 18 years ago right out of university, the stars came together and I opened up LUX Beauty Boutique. At the time, certainly in Canada and much more so in Edmonton, all the really cool hard to find beauty brands that we would read about in magazines all the time weren't available. And I thought, "Well, I grew up magazines and loving the beauty industry and thinking someone should bring this here, so why not me?"
Jenn: It was also around that time that the internet was first starting. I think Amazon was just a page full of janky-looking links. Sephora was just entering the U.S. market and it was all about like going to the department store and maybe to The Body Shop but that sort of open brand, open counter, cosmetic-buying experience was very, very, very new.
Bob: Well, I think that's the key Jenn. Do I call you Jennifer or Jenn?
Bob: Oh, good. So I think the key though is that you understood the frustration point that women in your market had.
Bob: And that open counter, you were pretty fast-forward with that, weren't you? I didn't think that was around that much 20 years ago, was it?
Jenn: No, that was very, very new.
Bob: You know, you had to kind of wait for them to come serve you. That's not your store and so you were a pioneer in that, really.
Jenn: Yeah. I had grown up loving magazines and beauty products are really fun and that was an interest to me. But the reason why my business lasted 18 years is because of my love and fit for retail and for business. So it happened to be, I chose a really cool industry...
Bob: Got it.
Jenn: ...to open a store with but I always joke like I could be doing this for selling tires, for refrigerators.
Bob: So the beauty was just a vehicle to get you there. You knew you had to be in retail.
Jenn: Yes. And something I also think is pretty cool is how, at the time, I actually didn't know that I loved retail. I got my degree in business from the university and I thought, "Well, I'll be a consultant and tell other people how to run their businesses and then maybe one day I'll open up my own consulting firm." But my...
Bob: By the way that sounds better than it actually is. That's a lot of work.
Jenn: Yeah, because I always knew that I just loved business and how it worked and the strategy behind it and the problem solving and the creativity. And in university I had an undeclared major. So some people, you know, focus in marketing or some people focus in, I don't know, management science, but I was undeclared because I just had too many interests and I couldn't just focus on one. Well, what I have since learned is that people who have undeclared majors in university are actually perfect for going into retail because as you know each day is different and you have to...
Bob: Well, that's right because you have to wear all those different hats and so you have to be up for the challenge.
Jenn: Exactly, yeah, and then just that constant change and the diversity of skills and all that fun stuff.
Bob: Fabulous. Well, I need you to talk about the way that you do manage, well, the way you manage your employees because you are so, you know, it's like they hire with you once and then your goal is to get them to go on and do great things. Isn't it?
Jenn: That's true, I hope they stick around for a while.
Bob: You know what I mean?
Jenn: Yes, like it's a great source of joy in my life to see where my LUX alum ladies go and I'm gonna get them...
Bob: How do you do it, because folks that are just joining us, Jennifer has been in business 20 years and you've got a real system of how you empower your employees. It's not just lip service with you, so can you share, you know, two or three tips of how you have such a passionate workforce. I think that's not easy.
Jenn: I think it all starts with hiring and being really involved in the interview process in the hiring. And what it comes down to is several years ago, myself, my organization, we properly defined our core values, and of course, core values exist always that's why they're core but we have...
Bob: Yes, but not written down they exist too with everyone interpreting that.
Jenn: We defined them into four core values and that was the best thing I've ever done. And so be able to point on the wall and say, "Yes, you're part of our organization because you match those core values." Or, "Oh, it's been poor fit not because either of us are wrong it's just that we're not the right fit." And so that was number one, absolutely, define your core values and hire to those.
Bob: Can you give us one example of a core value because I know it's hard. I know it's hard to work on, so.
Jenn: Yeah, for sure. So the LUX core values are passion for exemplary retailing, pounce on possibilities, united front, and find a way to say yes plus.
Jenn: And everything we do comes down to those and those are the qualities that I look.
Bob: And live and breathe by it so when you're interviewing you're hearing how is this a match or not a match and it's not whether I like them, it's are they gonna grow and thrive in this environment because there are plenty of people that are not, we're in this together...
Bob: ...and yes plus. It's kind of a no-maybe, right?
Jenn: It's just everything became so clear as soon as those were written on the paper. It was great. So absolutely, my number one, spend some time, spend money on an expert, whatever you need to do to define your core values.
Bob: And then you do meetings every week, don't you, isn't that one of your things?
Jenn: Well, it depends on how busy the year is.
Jenn: We really love our team and not only for a chance to get everyone trained up on whatever the subject is at the time but also we just all really like each other so it's an opportunity to hang out and have some fun. Yeah, I really...our staff meetings and our trainings are really fun or sometimes they...it's like, "Okay, well, actually we're all gonna go out to a patio and hangout but we'll kind of integrate a bit of meeting to this."
Jenn: The other thing that I was thinking of is that LUX, our mission statement is it's not too complex, it's everyone leaves LUX feeling happier than when they came in. And so I always say it's not just about the clients feeling happier which, of course, it is. I mean if someone walks out the door and they're feeling happier than when they came in you have done your job. But it's about our team, you come to work and spend so many hours of your life at work, this should be a great place for you and you should feel happy to come to work and certainly leave feeling happier at the end of your shift. And so that comes up a lot in our one on ones. That's another thing I guess. I do our quarterly one on ones checking in, setting goals, of course, it's all about the metrics, so.
Bob: Well, it's a personal...that's the thing. You're an entrepreneur than you're...you're driving the car that's what I think when we met. I realized that you really are driving the car of this business and you understand how to take care of it. Now, I'm sure people listening are [inaudible 00:09:04] everything is wonderful.
Jenn: Both. No.
Bob: So tell me like with that employee who doesn't want, at some point who isn't making the world a better place and you have to have that hard conversation. Do you feel like you missed it or you lacked or did they or how do you approach something like that because I know that's really tough for an independent business becomes so bonded and we like our crew and we like them outside of work but when it comes to the actual job people have trouble actually either reprimanding or suggesting, "Hey, you know, you already left the job, I just need the body to follow it now," you know?
Jenn: Everything you said, yes. Well, first of all with like everything in life I always think what is my deficiency? Like what could I be doing better, like what have I not brought to the table, and just really look inward on that sometimes maybe for too long.
Bob: Sure, yeah.
Jenn: And just, you know, again, it comes down to that united front and I recently had some clarity on it's not just about, you know, a part of united front is that if someone is going through a tough time we're there for them and we'll nurture them through that. It's not just, "Oh, you kind of had a bad month and so boom, you're out of the team." No.
Jenn: Like we'll try and get through this together and also what's my role in that, and then...
Bob: But you don't take responsibility for their performance all on you, right? I mean you see this as an equal choice, isn't it?
Jenn: Well, I guess that's one reason why metrics are so lovely because it's like math doesn't lie, right? You could read the stories in the number and so you can say, "Hey, something is going on because the pattern of these numbers tell me so." And I can do as much as I can or this environment can, but at the end of the day like something is going on and so that's very nice because then it takes away the, you know, just the awkwardness really when you can just point to something that's...
Bob: Yes, it's black and white, I love that. I may have that embroidered on something and put up, "Math doesn't lie." If you have a retail store and you wonder what would be a great thing to put by your office that's a great one because that's what your banks looks like, that's what your vendors look like, and, you know, and...
Jenn: And I say this as someone who like over analyzes to death and so ultimately when you can say, "Hey, there it is."
Bob: Well, can you give me an example of a challenge you've had to overcome because just like an employee interview, you know, I'm hearing everything is going great, going great and then you have to find some little contrary information to keep it a balance of [inaudible 00:12:01] so what would be the challenge you've had, I mean, my goodness, you've had this beautiful store for 20 years, the market is certainly changing, you got the biggest mall in the world is not that far from you. So what's a challenge you've had and how did you overcome it?
Jenn: Oh, my god, so many.
Bob: Just one.
Jenn: Yeah. Well, I mean I guess traffic is always going to be a challenge and I think all retailers will sing that song. So, you know, staying relevant and staying interesting and keeping people interested, challenges with, you know, our orders that are MIA and so our shelf is empty of products that we really want. And who's the one that looks bad in that situation, it's LUX, it's us, right?
Jenn: Another topic that certainly is on my mind but I don't really hear out there a lot is that you know we're a small business. That means that my family, we're involved. Like the work, it's us. And so right now we moved into a larger hopefully more beautiful space.
Bob: Congratulations, when did that happen?
Jenn: Yeah, about a year and a half ago, that's right, since you were visiting.
Bob: Same development or...?
Jenn: Yeah, same. One of our neighboring bays I suppose, came up available and that was an example of pouncing on possibilities and moved in, so we have about the same amount of space on the main level but then we have a lower level which is a creative space or creative lounge where we host parties and classes and makeup appointments and then office space.
Bob: That's not the fun part, yeah.
Jenn: Well, actually for me it's the office space after years of doing this on my dining room table, so a beautiful office space is great.
Jenn: But anyway our store is still not 100% done. Most people wouldn't see the stuff that I see that's undone but, you know, who's doing that work? It's my husband, it's me, right? And so that's that other story where, god, imagine being Sephora with endless budget and crew and let's, oh, we want to try this, and let's get her done...and for us it's like time and energy and...
Bob: Yeah, but that makes it more rewarding because Sephora may have money behind them and, you know, that's good and beauty let's face it, you know, young women are trying on faces now instead of clothes. I think that's the thing. And so you have that experiential environment. You also have young women who understand that and keep that fun aspect but it's about much more than that little box on the shelf. I think what I really appreciate about the way you talk about your business is you really realized you have two customers. You have an internal customer and you have the external customer and both have to be happy. And I think that's really a key. I mean did that come from some great advice you had received at some time or did you just come up with it or...?
Jenn: I just really like having fun and I always thought that there had to be a better more mature, more serious answer when, you know, the experts would say, "What's your driving purpose? What's this? What's this?" I'm like, "I just want to have fun." And then I clued in that that's actually kind of the key to LUX and my team and our success, so I'm going with it and it seems to work.
Bob: Yeah, we like that. Well, you know, plenty of businesses have fun and are never around 20 years. So you, I think kind of make it sound like, you know, I just like to have fun but math doesn't lie and you know your numbers and how do you decide to pull a line?
Jenn: Oh, yeah. Well, I guess it comes down to it's got to pay its rent, right, the shelf space. We only have so much and the brand has got to perform. Oh, that's another beauty of numbers, oh, my gosh, because anecdotes can be so distorting and there might be like let's say two clients that love a product, love a brand, and those voices are very loud and distorting but when you look at the numbers you're like, it's not moving, it's not selling.
Bob: I like that.
Jenn: Yeah, it's true it's that balance of like having fun but we're in it to win it. Right? So I want to...
Bob: What's one of the best investments or most worthwhile investments you've ever made in your business?
Jenn: The best investment, I guess training and learning...
Bob: Let's dig into that. So why is training a great investment, because that's the thing that you know, I was talking about on my Facebook live video this morning that so many people I think swap out learning, oh, I read a blog or I watched the video but then they stop and don't do action with it and I think that's the challenge with training. The challenge is getting people over that hump to say, my life could be easier if I trained everybody to do what I wanted to do instead of putting out fires all day long or settling for crumbs when I could have the whole feast. Wouldn't you agree?
Bob: So how'd you get there? I mean were you always, you know, when you're going through high school, through college was training a big thing they brought to you or...?
Jenn: No. So well, I mean I don't remember exactly the path to getting this way, I've had great people on my team who brought knowledge with them and implemented, you know, training...because they came from corporate backgrounds and stuff and...
Jenn: So so much that I've learned is the various people who worked for me over the years and the knowledge that they brought. But I don't know, I guess we're, I like to always say that my team is a team of A+ people and A+ people like their brains stimulated and perform well and so we try...
Bob: Don't minimize that because you're right. The A+ people like hanging with A+ people. You throw a D person with them and not only is it demotivating that A+ person but it's almost impossible I think to get the D person up to that level. They either start at that and go higher or they can't, would you agree?
Jenn: Yeah, for sure. There is nothing truer than, what is that, the bad apple drives out good? Oh, my gosh, or that you can tell someone by who they hang around. Right? You can...those that you have to protect that team so strongly and it's painful sometimes and you have to take really painful action of being the big boss and letting someone go and it's just a horrible, horrible experience but the team has to come first.
Bob: Great. Yeah, I love that. So I want you to think that your girlfriend or a buddy of yours calls you up and says, "Hey, Jenn, I'm gonna quit my job and I'm gonna go...I want to talk to you." And so you go and you meet over at your local coffee place and they say, "I've always wanted to open a retail store." What advice would you give them?
Jenn: Yeah, gosh, this happens to me and so I think about it a lot and, okay, so I think what it really comes down to just because I've witnessed it. I've witnessed it by reading between the lines in the news and I've seen it happen in real life with people that I know where...to take a really good examination of your skill set and your personality and are you a manager skill set in personality or are you a owner because those two things are absolutely necessary, equally necessary and very, very different.
So, for instance, I, you know, I like something to change every day and I like new ideas and chasing after this shiny object and all that stuff and I am not a very good manager of like the following through, the little details every day, ding, ding, ding, ding, ding, and thank goodness I've had those wonderful, wonderful people in my life. And conversely I've seen people who were really, really great managers of a store and they're like, "Oh, I love this and I love running a store and I love this industry and so I'm gonna go open a store and I've seen them implode because all that other stuff that they don't see, you know, whether it's like dealing with the money stuff, whether, and that boring stuff or like...
Bob: Well, it's a lot of stuff. It's like people say, "Oh, it'd be great to open a bed and breakfast." Yeah, well, it is until you open one and realize you have people in there 24 hours a day or you think, "Oh, it'll be great you have a restaurant or a bar." It's like, well, that's great but you're not gonna have young children with that because you're gonna be at the bar closing it down until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning. Or, "I'm gonna have a bakery." Well, you're gonna be there every day at 5:00 a.m. making the product and you don't get a pass from your customers just like you said about that cosmetics. You can't just say, "Oh, we didn't get around to it." You don't have that luxury, right?
Jenn: Right. I think it's really important that it comes down to that, that knowledge of...and again, I don't know, I think that there's big like thing online now around, "Oh, you're an owner, you're an entrepreneur," that whole...
Bob: You're doing the hustle Jenn. You're hustling.
Jenn: Yeah. And I mean, don't get me wrong. I'm living the life, you know, I'm hoping that I'm living the life that I'm supposed to and, you know, my born to be and all that stuff. But I don't think it makes me better than other people. It just happens to be that I'm wired this way.
Jenn: And so, and we need great managers and we need leaders, like team leaders and I don't know why that's not being exalted right now on social media because they have a place too.
Bob: Absolutely. And that same idea with retail in general like, "Oh, well, you're a dinosaur marching on the desert." You're like, 90% of the people are going to retail and frankly, the skills I would say, Jenn, you know, retail kind of normalizes people who've been through retail. If you've been in retail you learn it's about somebody else first and then I get what I want.
Bob: Until you do that you think it's all about you.
Bob: And if you don't learn that I think you just have a tougher life, you know?
Jenn: Retail is so great. It's please, come on, is there any more marginalized career choice than going into retail, right, and like...and that's the other thing too, right, when we're talking about like hiring and choosing either like you get it and you get lit up by that or you're just like, "Well, what?" So you spend your day folding shit. [inaudible 00:23:14]
Bob: Exactly. Yeah. When I graduated college and this opportunity came to build this group of stores from 6 to 55 becoming biggest in the nation but my friends who got their degrees like, "You're really doing retail?" Like what a loser. And I look back and I say, "Thank goodness I did because I'm living a life I didn't think I would have been able to when I was in college and more importantly every day I like. I'm not stuck in music school with 30 kids playing untuned guitars trying to play "Stairway to Heaven" and just begging for the day I'm out there." You know, and I...well, I got to get back to my...I have a few more questions. I want to be generous but I know you've been generous with your time.
Jenn: I could talk to you all day.
Bob: When you feel overwhelmed or you've lost your focus temporarily, what do you do to get back, because you seem like an easily distracted person with a lot of fun things but at the end of the day that's a lot of energy you're putting in the world, isn't it?
Bob: And you have a young daughter, if I'm not mistaken.
Jenn: Yeah, and projects, always, so many projects. Well, definitely being around people is reenergizing because I can just, you know, summer is a great time to kind of get caught up on projects that need doing so I end up being sort of isolated with that. It's a slower time in the store, all that stuff, and so just being around people is very energizing.
Bob: How do you turn it off? How do you turn the store off? You know what I mean? Like they're always in your head but do you go out with people who have nothing to do with retail or...?
Jenn: If you find out the answer to that question I... But I'm lucky, my husband is also, he loves...he's not involved other than being our handyman at the store. He has his own career and all that. But we, I don't know, there's always something to talk about. When we travel we like look at stores and the design of them and we kind of mentally calculate what things cost or, you know, evaluate how the shopping experience was. It's fun, right?
Bob: I think it is fun because you're curious.
Bob: And that's what makes retail fun for me. I mean, why did they do that? That's an interesting display. How is that working? I get a different feel from it. Then when you unpack it you're like...
Bob: This isn't random, you know?
Bob: You know, this is...it's pretty amazing.
Jenn: Yeah. I don't know, like it's fun and turning it off...I don't know.
Bob: All right, fair enough. All right, so tell me something good about retail. That's always...that's the name of the podcast, what would you...just tell me something good about retail.
Jenn: For sure. Okay. Well, yeah, all the doom and gloom, right? ...okay, it comes down to this, as consumers, as people, or not even at the point of consumers, we want to be inspired, we want to feel a connection and we want to find a solution. I talk about this all the time with my team if...this is why people are walking in the store.
Jenn: They want inspiration, connection, and a solution. And we need to hopefully deliver on all three as we find out the primary one and then, you know, also satisfy the other two. And so, you know, we spend so much time online, we spend so much time working on our computers, commuting, those things do not offer necessarily those inspiration, connection, and a solution. And so that's what we're seeking, Hey, I want to see...I just want to look at pretty things. I just want someone to talk to me. I want to meet, you know, I'm kind of bored with my living room maybe I could use a few new pillows.
Jenn: And I just want to be lit up by that and you just, how do you get that? You go by looking at stores, right, and then having this really great experience where someone sees you and taps into what you're looking for and then like offers all, "Oh, there's something better, it's amazing."
Bob: Well, you don't feel alone in the world. I think that's why we got...
Bob: I mean it is a lonely place, it's only getting lonelier and the more we dive into this virtual world, everybody thinks the smartphone's the best thing ever. I think it's probably the worst invention we ever created but...because the people skills are what's leaving and, you know, when you see people in a restaurant and the three-year-old is on the iPad and everyone is looking down at a blue screen I just keep thinking, you know, "Go out 10 years, what does this look like?" And brick and mortar is holding on to that experience and saying, "We're more alike than different. I've got to find a way to like you before you like me," which is the opposite of what you're gonna get on Facebook or certainly in politics or something else and so you can't be in that cocoon if you're gonna work retail and that's why I think we can change the world with people like you that are actually, you know, again, understanding you have two customers, one that's buying a product but also the one that you employ and then making sure you do a great job with both of them.
Jenn: Yeah. And I just, I mean thank you for saying what you said about me at the end there but everything you were saying prior to that I just really agree with and exactly where else are we getting this sort of, when it's done well, this instant satisfying connection with strangers, right, that you can go and have all your senses stimulated and have this great conversation and exactly. I tell my staff when I'm training them that just like you love beauty products so just those people who've come in just pretend that they're your best friend and you're just showing them all your favorite stuff.
Bob: Nice. That's it.
Jenn: Yeah. And you see people light up all the time because it's so rare to be seen, to be connected and inspired.
Bob: Well, with that energy that you're bringing to them that's what I like Jenn and I think that's probably the key to your success and is you know your numbers but more importantly you're enjoying your job and ultimately you're finding other people to share that passion and then with that core statement of being able to make sure that the customer when they leave both internal and external feels better than when they walked in. That's a great recipe for success. So again, I congratulate you and I thank you for joining me on the podcast today. Did I miss anything you wanted to say?
Jenn: I've probably spoken too much.
Bob: Hardly at all. So how can we find out more about your wonderful business even though this is all over the world and they may not be driving to your store but tell us how can we find out more?
Jenn: For sure. Well, first, you can visit my website which is luxbeauty.com then you can follow our store account on social media which is @luxbeautybtqyeg which stands for LUX Beauty Boutique, YEG is the airport code for Edmonton.
Bob: Got it.
Jenn: So luxbeautybtqyeg and then me where I try and show behind the scenes about what's it like running a store and retail experiences that I really like is @jenn_luxbeauty.
Bob: Fabulous. Well, thanks for joining us today. I really had a great time.
Jenn: I did too. Thank you so much.
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