Patricia Fripp wrote this article to answer the question “How did you get started and build your business?”
Only In America – Advice for the Would Be Author and Speaker
You just never know what life has in store for you. I never dreamed of writing a book, keynoting hundreds of conventions or perfecting the presentations of CEOs and Presidents of the Fortune 500. Of course, I was born in England during a time when no one expected much of girls. The focus was on the boys. My brother was brilliant, and good grades came easily to him. I, on the other hand, worked quite diligently just to bring home average marks. I don’t regret the average status because the good news is that I developed excellent working habits which have turned out to be the keys to my success.
By the time I was 15, I was apprenticing to become a ladies’ hairstylist in a salon in Bournemouth. On the 45-minute bus trip to the salon, I listened to my young friends’ dreams of marrying millionaires. Even at that tender age, I knew instinctively that it was more practical to be a millionaire than marry one. Not that I didn’t have contact with the wealthy…
Rich, glamorous women patronized the salon, and I didn’t miss an opportunity to learn from them. “What were you doing when you were my age?” “How did you make your money?” Or, if it applied, “How did you meet this fabulous millionaire you married?” They were dripping with style, money, and valuable experience; and I was a sponge.
By the time I was 18, I was well trained as a stylist, and my excellent working habits had grown stronger. I loved working as much as most of my pals enjoyed their hobbies and was filled with ideas gathered from all the interesting people I had the opportunity to meet and work with. The next move was leaving home to work in a salon on the island of Jersey off the coast of France. I worked with gentleman from the West End of London; they worked magic on women’s hair in a way I had never seen. I was amused by the stylists, who actually used the lunch hours for eating! I knew this was a time I could squeeze in three extra customers.
My boss told me that I actually produced 30 percent more income for the salon than the other stylists who were not only more experienced and talented, but who also earned more money than I. A thought occurred to me that I had not considered: Tenacity and willingness to work hard might be more valuable than talent. All my life I believed I must work harder and longer than others to achieve and accomplish. That I could actually be on equal footing with the gifted was quite an awakening for me. But where best to capitalize on my tenacity and drive for work? Hmmm . . . The Colonies!
At the age of 20, I arrived in San Francisco with five years of hairstyling experience and little money, no job, no place to live, and only the name of four salons that a former client’s daughter gave me. Was I worried? Of course not. I knew that in America everyone was rich, and the streets were paved with movie stars.
My first job was in a salon at the Mark Hopkins Hotel where I discovered that in America, hairstylists receive 50 percent commission with no guaranteed salary. I thought it was a license to steal. In Jersey we had earned a basic salary and a small commission. I could not wait to start. After a few weeks, the salon owner came to me. “I have never seen anyone work the way you do,” he said. No kidding. “Go back to England and bring back 28 more stylists who work like you, and I’ll be a millionaire in no time,” he said. I did know 28 stylists, but none that had my drive.
What an experience. In the hotel we met people from all over the country and other parts of the world. Again, I kept asking questions of world travelers, celebrities, and even royalty. My hands were on the heads of high-profile individuals such as Princess Ann of Denmark, Ann Landers, and movies stars such as Rosalind Russell. My first year at this salon I earned $6,000. I felt rich beyond my wildest dreams.
In 1969 my one of friends had started to work in the first men’s hairstyling salon in San Francisco. It was an exciting, unprecedented trend in hairstyling, and I wanted to be part of it. I applied at the salon selling myself as a manicurist and receptionist—the only opening. My friend told me four of the stylists were soon leaving to set up their own salon. The owner promised I could start training for the first opening. He had no idea how soon that would be. Soon after, the salon was purchased by Jay Sebring, the innovator of the movement. His clients were all the Hollywood actors and celebrities. Picking up the phone, I would talk to Steve McQueen or Sammy Davis Jr.’s assistant. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, special friends of Jay’s, came to our Grand Opening party. My dream was a reality—movie stars everywhere.
Our clients, too, were fascinating—proven professionals in business and finance. On many occasions we would see our clients in the Wall Street Journal. I continued my sponge-like questioning. “What makes you the best salesman?” “What did you do to your small company that would make a large one pay you millions of dollars for it?” These people would tell me about books they read and seminars they attended that had improved them professionally or personally. I have always been a believer if someone you admire and wish to emulate gives you advice, don’t ask, “How much does it cost?” Just do it. I read the books, attended the seminars, and realized I never wanted a life like their wives; I wanted their lives. Wheeling and dealing. Making things happen. Today, when I am asked how I gained my business degree, I tell them the truth—twenty-four years behind a stylist’s chair.
The next logical step was to go into business for myself, although I loved working in the salon. As I was still working 100 percent on commission, I was out-earning and out-producing anyone who worked alongside me. This is probably when I realized I was no longer working to keep up with the smart people; I had long ago left them in the dust!
So in 1975 I opened my own salon in San Francisco—Miss Fripp’s. Not surprising, the dream brings with it new and bigger challenges. Yes, now I had to keep it open and prospering. Of course, I did have wonderful advantages: a powerful drive for work, a great following of clients, and years of other people’s experience.
My biggest surprise, like the lunch hours from Jersey days, was I found out my staff went straight home in the evening. I had always gone out to pass out business cards and continue my networking.
One of the most important pieces of advice came from a multimillionaire client Manny Lozano the first week I opened my salon. I pass it on in many of my seminars today. “I don’t care if you can’t squeeze another customer or hairstylist in the salon, you still keep promoting because you have to keep convincing your customers that yours is still the salon to come to.” I followed his advice and became an unabashed, relentless, self-promoter of my business. Remember the real sale comes after the sale. Your best clients are the best prospects for your competitors. As Bill Gates says, “If you lose a customer, you lose two ways. One, you don’t get the money; two, your competitors do.”
I promoted with growing confidence and growing strength on the airwaves, in the streets, in the media, being involved in the business community, and I never, never, never, ever stopped. Yes, I know I am being rather “Churchill-esque”. . . I am British after all.
I really am a relentless, unabashed promoter and could offer you plenty of fabulous, “Frippy-esque” ideas on how to grow your business. books, and website www Fripp.com.
However, allow me to breeze you through the short version. One of the most effective marketing/promotional activities I performed was speaking to local professional and community organizations. I loved being on a platform talking about customer service or how I managed my time in the salon business. I attacked speaking in my usual manner—full-speed ahead. I continually worked on improving my presentation and delivery, and one day I was offered a fee for a talk. Soon I had a significant part-time professional speaking business along with my salon.
In 1982 a good friend, Joel Margulis—an English teacher who had ghostwritten a book for a professional speaker—delivered the manuscript to a local publisher with his notes attached with oversized paper clips bearing my name “Don’t get clipped; get Fripped.” What can I say; I’ve always been big on specialty advertising. The publisher who knew me from the local business community as a business owner and professional speaker asked Joel if I would be interested in writing a book.
“I’m not particularly interested in writing a book,” I told Joel when he related the publisher’s question. After calming down from a minor fit of pique, Joel explained that if a publisher expresses interest in your writing a book, you simply do not refuse. I agreed to meet with the publisher, and that is how the first version of Get What You Want! was published. Since 1982 I have rewritten the book three times, and I have now self-published the fourth edition. I enjoy a significant amount of success from the book; and more importantly, the readers seem to benefit from my practical ideas.
I am not a full-time writer, nor do I expect to sell a billion copies. However, I have authored chapters in anthology books with Ken Blanchard, Brian Tracy, and many of the most popular, in-demand speakers. I have countless articles published in trade magazines as well as those of my clients’ who regularly request that I contribute for them. In fact, I offer clients, friends, and anyone who is interested a catalog of my articles on my website which they may download and use at no cost (the only requirement is that they cite the source). More importantly, for my purposes, writing serves as an excellent method of promoting my professional speaking business. Yes, I know, I am relentless. . . and I do not plan to stop.
The writing world offers opportunities for all types of writing, for all types of personalities; and there are myriad reasons for which we write: for our businesses, for personal gratification, for our hearts. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is how you go about it.
I offer you Fripp’s secrets for success. They are what I have followed all these decades and will continue to follow. First, love what you do—you will have boundless energy. Second, continue learning, expanding, and enhancing your knowledge. Make every day a learning experience. Ask questions of the people you come into contact with. Third, work exceptionally hard. By following these, gratification, success, and many good things will be yours.
A Final Fripp Thought
I went to hear Bud Friedman, founder of the Improv Comedy Clubs, speak. Someone asked him, “Mr. Friedman, is there such a thing as natural talent?” He replied, “Yes, but there is no such thing as overnight success.” Frippicism: You may not lack the talent to be a success, but you may lack the patience. Overnight success takes an average of 15 years.
Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE is a San Francisco-based professional speaker, executive speech coach, sales presentation skills expert, and the author or co-author of five books. A Past-President of the National Speakers Association. Check where you can hear Fripp speak or attend a coaching session.