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I just returned from Tempe where I spent a tremendously inspiring day with Jerry Johnson and his team. Jerry and his partner, Jessica Wolman are the owners of 20 cosmetology schools and a product company, to name a few of their ventures. I was there to learn about a school management software package they are developing. In addition to the information on the package I got a wonderful bonus: An education on business and leadership. But how did Jerry get from growing up on a chicken farm to cosmetology and to his current success?

The answer is profound because it's at the heart of most business success. It was a beautiful October day (100 degrees) in Tempe and the building I was dropped off at looked like a warehouse, not a school. As it turned out, this was where the business offices and product manufacturing occurs. I started by meeting with the head of Operations and then met with Jerry. In my mind I'm thinking, "This guy is a heavy hitter. I better get to the point and use up as little of his valuable time as I can." It wasn't that he had an air of being a big shot. In fact, he is very down to earth and humble. But he also carries himself with confidence and always seems to be thinking, "How can we make things better." I ended up spending most of the day with Jerry and various team members as we visited three of his campuses in Tempe. Every school was lavish, with lots of granite and other stone, beautiful design features and high-end equipment. The clinic floors had a beautiful open feeling to them with a lot of space. One was in a mall and the other was an entire building. There were inspirational flares and interesting details to engage the imagination. Jerry is an excellent negotiator and has built an extensive and diverse business. But the thing that stood out was something far more important. Jerry loves his people. While meeting in the morning he had to excuse himself to give a long time client attention in his one chair salon at his corporate headquarters. Then as we toured the facility all the employees, from the people packaging product up to his top staff, were happy to see him and he showed a deep caring for each one, often asking them about various things that were going on in their lives. As we went to each campus, the same pattern of caring about the employees was repeated over and over again. It was clear that at the heart of everything he is doing is one principle: Honor, respect and take care of the employees, students and customers in all that you do. It wasn't work. It was natural. It's who he is. And it was evident in all aspects of the company as it trickled down from management to the customers and everyone in between. Of course, Jerry would be the first to tell you that there are good and bad days and there are times when tough love is required. But at the core is a belief in the goodness of people and a desire to help them reach their potential. This is the platform that creates success that is sustainable. The lesson for our students and graduates is this: Be sure to look for this quality in the employers you work for as well as to set it as your standard when you become an employer. By following this basic principle you will enjoy what you do and build something of lasting value. Kris Stecker, President Spa Tech Institute Schools of Massage, Polarity, Cosmetology and Aesthetics http://spatech.edu p.s. Thank you Jerry for being an industry leader and for your generous sharing of time and information. I have been enriched and look forward to working with you in the future.

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