The Importance of Women in Leadership and Mentorship with Heather Elrod at Amazing Lash Studio

One big issue in leadership is still the lack of representation of women in leadership. The surprising thing is that the strong women in my life are all strong leaders, so it makes sense that we would have more women leaders at work too. Today we look at how to improve the numbers of women in leadership. My guest is Heather Elrod, CEO at Amazing Lash Studio. Her company was ranked #260 on the 2018 Inc 5000 list. Amazing Lash Studio has made this list for three consecutive years. Heather shares her views on mentorship and its impact on women in leadership. We look at how to give the women around you more opportunities to be the leaders they are capable of.

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Target Audience: Heather Elrod is the Founder/Chairwoman at SkinPhD. SkinPhD is an advanced cosmeceutical and prescriptive product collection with at least one bio-active ingredient per product that not only enhances the appearance of the skin but has a positive physiological effect at the cellular level. and  Chief Operating Officer, Amazing Lash Studio. The nation’s premier and fastest-growing lash studio franchise. Amazing Lash Studio delivers an extraordinary guest experience while providing a solid business model to our franchise family.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Heather Elrod
Creating an environment of trust. It’s letting team members know at all levels, that you trust them to make decisions, that you understand that everybody is going to make mistakes. And that when there are mistakes made, which should be expected, you know, along the way, we’re not growing if we’re not making mistakes, that the culture is going to be supportive. Not finger pointing not accusatory, not how could you But okay, we have a mistake here, let’s course correct, and let’s fix it together and determine the root cause. And so that we don’t make that mistake again.

Intro [0:43]
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett, I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of them. Are you ready to grow?

Gene Hammett [1:00]
Investing in women? Well, you shouldn’t invest in all of your employees. But today, we’re going to focus on empowering the women inside your organization, mentoring them to a higher level, and why that’s necessary for today’s work more than ever, and why it’s so important. My name is Jean Hammond, I study fast-growth companies today, CEO I have is the CEO of amazing lash studio. It’s a franchise of semi-permanent lashes. I don’t wear lashes. But I wanted to have her on the show today to talk about empowering women, how do you get them to have a voice and really have the confidence to step up when necessary. It’s a very specific conversation today. But I know this is a needed one because I know women in my world who are very talented, but yet, they were afraid to really step out of their shadow and really put themselves out there. So I say all this to you, because as a leader, even if you’re not a female, and especially if you’re not a female, you should be able to have conversations with them, that allows them to step in their own greatness, and you owe it to them to invest in them. And they really can shine for your business. They can develop incredible employees be very detail-oriented, have visions, and really help you grow the company even faster than it’s already growing. and empowering women is something near and dear to me, my wife is actually the CEO of our company. She is an amazing, talented person. And she has struggled with her own confidence at times. I say that to you, because she’s incredibly smart, and has had to learn how to step out beyond the shadows, to be a professional speaker, to share her voice, get her message out there and serve the clients that we have. Now all this is for you as a leader. Before we get into the interview, make sure you go ahead and subscribe to the 12 core principles of fast-growth companies. You can go to And you can download those principles absolutely for free. I’ve taken all of the hundreds of interviews and organize them into the 12 principles. You can see which ones you’re doing well on which ones you could use improvement. There are some examples in there to give you the details. You won’t believe how different some of the fast growth companies approach their people’s leadership. And you can get all that into principles, Now here’s the interview with Heather Elrod.

Gene Hammett [3:28]
Hi, Heather, how are you?

Heather Elrod [3:30]
Hi, Gene. I’m great. How are you?

Gene Hammett [3:31]
Fantastic. I’m excited to talk to you today about women empowerment. And how do you engage them and mentor them to create the kind of leadership that a company needs for fast growth?

Heather Elrod [3:43]
Well, I’m excited to share Thanks for having me.

Gene Hammett [3:46]
Well, we were just talking before we got here, I would love for you to let our audience know a little bit more about your company. I know you’re the CEO of this company, Amazing Lash Studio. So give us some context.

Heather Elrod [3:59]
Yummy. Happy to so Amazing Lash Studio is the largest provider of semi-permanent lash extensions. We’re a franchise business and we have 251 locations across the country, we really created the category of bringing semi-permanent lash extensions to masses of women, making it accessible and affordable. And we are by far the category leader three times the size of our nearest competitor. And then what I like to share and position for the brand is that we want to be the category killer. And what I mean by that is not just in terms of points of presence, but also in innovation and education and educating women why that should be part of her overall beauty regimen.

Gene Hammett [4:46]
Well, I love the fact that you’re coming here. I don’t actually have any semi-permanent pensions or anything like that. Never have…

Heather Elrod [4:54]
We can solve that for you. I’ll take you there. How about that?

Gene Hammett [4:58]
I wouldn’t be the only guy to Ask these. But I am excited to talk to you today about women empowerment. So, you know, being a women kind of based business you’re selling to a lot of women, it would make sense that you hire a lot of women. Is, is that just something that’s, there’s more to it than just because we serve women, and they understand the product?

Heather Elrod [5:23]
Yeah, certainly, because we’re in the beauty category, a lot of women are drawn to our industry, both as franchisees to purchase the franchise, and certainly, within the studio, our lash stylists are lash consultants and our studio managers. But it’s really just a passion for me, personally, I’m 49 years old, and I, in my entire career, have not had a female mentor. And so I think that’s, that’s rather sad. I’ve had some amazing male mentors, and I’m really grateful to them. But it would have been wonderful to have a woman mentor me along the way. And so I, you know, thankfully, times have changed when I was going through my career trajectory. It was really, you know, women not viewing, pulling each other up the ladder, but rather, in order for me to be successful, you can’t be as another woman. And that has changed. But women generally are not purposeful it seems about mentoring other women. And that’s the culture that I’m trying to create with an amazing lash studio, that we are a business of brand, that is about women helping women.

Gene Hammett [6:43]
That’s a great story. And it’s got to be a part of the mission of the company. Is that fair to say?

Heather Elrod [6:49]
Yes, I mean, our mission is, you know, to create lasting beauty and confidence through passion, and excellence, so that women can look and feel amazing. So it’s, it’s, we are because we’re a service for women, we are women helping women every day to feel confident.

Gene Hammett [7:11]
But when you were talking to Sarah, my team about, you know, the ideas for this, you guys have made the Inc list of over 400% growth in a three year period, over 11 million, you’ve probably continued to grow since then because that was in 2019. When you think about empowerment, what is empowerment to you, if you had to define it.

Heather Elrod [7:33]
Empowerment to me is creating an environment of responsibility with accountability. And it’s also creating an environment of trust. It’s letting team members know at all levels, that you trust them to make decisions, that you understand that everybody is going to make mistakes. And that when there are mistakes made, which should be expected, you know, along the way, we’re not growing, if we’re not making mistakes, that the culture is going to be supportive. I’m not finger-pointing not accusatory, not how could you But okay, we have a mistake here, let’s course correct, and let’s fix it together and determine the root cause. And so that we don’t make that mistake again.

Commercial [8:25]
Hold on for a second. Heather just mentioned creating an environment for trust. And I’d love for you to think about what have you done in the last week or two weeks, that have allowed you to create an environment of trust? Can you think of a specific thing you’ve done? Or if you focused on COVID? Or if you focused on, you know, getting back to work, if you focus on the strategy, the sales, those things are all important. But have you focused on creating an environment of trust? What does it take for you as a leader to show that people can trust you, and that they should trust you? And that trust is such a central part of organizational communication, the way you work together. Just want to remind you about creating an environment of trust. Back to Heather.

Gene Hammett [9:11]
I found that fast-growth companies have a really different relationship with their mistakes. And any kind of failure that that happens, that it is embraced as a way that we move forward as opposed to in some organizations that aren’t growing as fast they have this approach to it is it’s Let’s stay safe. Let’s avoid that risk. But what you’ve been described from empowerment is this mistake is actually kind of an okay thing for you to move through. Right.

Heather Elrod [9:45]
Yeah, excellent point and a fast-growth environment that you know, if you’re going to be agile, sometimes you it’s 8020 for sure, you know, you’re going to get 80% there, there’s going to be 20% that’s not perfect or not there at all, but In order to maintain the momentum, that has to be acceptable, that is not always appropriate. So it’s also just having the ability to determine when it’s acceptable and whatnot, but even just what we’ve gone through with COVID, you know, we like so many other businesses have the furlough a significant number of our employees, and do a tremendous amount of work and creating safe new safety and sanitation procedures, creating environment and spaces where not only our employees but our guests would feel comfortable creating entire playbooks around this and new business metrics and doing it with a significantly reduced staff. It’s a great demonstration of what can be done when you are agile.

Gene Hammett [10:45]
So, you know, I know you mentioned mentorship, it wasn’t there for you, but is that as mentorship, a part of how you’re developing your employees, now?

Heather Elrod [10:55]
it is, and we do it really in informal ways. First and foremost, it is part of the culture. And it is particularly as it relates to women. And you know, I can say this, because I am one, sometimes there can be an environment of drama. Sometimes there can be this backbiting, the gossiping. And it is creating a culture where that is just not allowed. It is not acceptable. And the second it happens, someone’s calling it out and saying no, that’s not who we are, you have an issue, you go have a conversation with that person, not talk about that person behind their back. So that is part of the informal culture, just that it’s not tolerated. And then it’s how can we help each other? What are your career goals? How can I help you get maybe it’s not even within our organization, but if I can help you outside the organization, or any other team member can let’s do it, and create an understanding that we are all leaders at every level of the organization because leadership is about behavior, not the title.

Gene Hammett [12:02]
So much in there, I love I, I was watching some mindless TV that a little guilty pleasure, I had something on Netflix, it was a real estate place that I wanted to see the great houses in LA. And there were two leaders that were men. And there’s a lot of drama on their neck. And I get it, that’s what makes the show. But I turned to my wife and said that would not work with me that would that drama would not be tolerated and how they are so catty with each other, and there’s never I know that it gets edited in such a way that it’s entertaining. I totally get that. But just looking at face value as that is really poor leadership. And I’m glad that you said that. They can get there but you don’t tolerate it. And I imagine you you kind of hire to that understanding as well. Right?

Heather Elrod [12:52]
Yes, definitely. In every interview, that is part of the process. And, you know, certainly, we make we endeavor and make every effort to hire for the culture. First. I mean, absolutely hiring the skill set. But you know, I would definitely admit it mistakes that I’ve made along the way is misfiring and hires when the resume looks perfect. Every you know, the skillset seems absolutely on target. But culturally, the person doesn’t fit. And that, you know, you may have a near term limb, but never a long term.

Gene Hammett [13:29]
And we’ve all made that mistake. And it doesn’t take many times to realize that we’ve got to hire for culture first. I know people say that, but actually doing it is a fantastic skill. And I see a lot of fast-growth companies like yourself doing that, Heather, when you think about really kind of helping women grow in the organization. I know I’ve seen this happen, and I’m gonna get really specific here for a moment. The level of confidence that a woman has, sometimes at home is different than what’s at work. And so how do you bring that out in someone? Like what did the what are the kinds of conversations you have with them, that you could share with us as if we know we’ve got to build the confidence of a leader inside of our staff? That’s a woman that has so much potential, but she just needs to have more confidence in what she does and who she is.

Heather Elrod [14:26]
Yeah, yes, interesting, because competence is actually learned. So again, I’ll point back to culture and creating a culture where she can be confident having a voice speaking up and we’ll purposely do this if we know we’ve got someone who’s really talented just by nature, an introvert, just calling them out in a meeting. What do you think? So giving them an opportunity to have a voice and then developing We also use some internal personality type tests that help us to understand the personalities of each person. So we can better support that and improve our communication. And that’s really important, and letting people be who they are and embracing the differences in each person. What makes them we don’t want groupthink, you know, we, we create, and I’ll say this often to the team. Conflict is good, and everybody should not agree, challenge each other, it makes us better, but we’re gonna do it in a respectful, caring way. And, you know, I think that a lot of at least what I’ve witnessed, and even for myself, over the years, a lot of women feel like, in order to be respected, they have to be extremely tough, and they can’t show emotion or a caring side. And actually, I believe it’s just the opposite, that when people really believe that you have genuine care and concern and compassion for who they are, that you are far more effective and influential as a leader.

Commercial [16:16]
Did you catch what she said earlier, hiring for culture, how important that is for your organization? Well, you can hire people for skills, and sometimes that’s absolutely necessary. But if you aren’t also looking at the culture fit, you really will be wasting your money because someone that is talented and has the skills for you, but is not a fit, will end up driving you crazy driving others crazy, and maybe even be toxic for the organization. Your job as a leader is to figure out the right process to hire the culture fit. That means you have to have an idea of what you expect in the culture, you have to know how it’s being shaped through the mission, vision, and values of the company. Those things are so critical for this. And you want to make sure that you are hiring for culture fit, before skill fit. And many fast-growth companies. A lot of interviews I’ve said today is one of the biggest mistakes they’ve made is not hiring for culture fit. I remind you that today and back in an interview with Heather.

Gene Hammett [17:17]
Absolutely. I agree with that. When you think about the caring that is necessary for leaders to be effective. What stories come to mind, maybe in your career, that will allow us to tune in to why that’s important to you.

Heather Elrod [17:35]
I think for just in I’ll reflect on amazing lash studio specifically right now. One of our core values is caring, and the lawyers hate this. But I’ll often refer to our franchisees as our franchise family, because we care and support each other like a family and because that’s one of our tenants, our core values and influences every decision that we make. Are we making this decision with integrity and with caring? Is it the right decision based on that approach? And I think for even, even in the most difficult of decisions and in terminations of employees when they’re just not the right fit, and we’re not setting them up for success. Even approaching that with an attitude of care makes a huge difference. I’ve had people call me back or after I’ve had to terminate them, call me back a year later. Thank you so much for the way you handled it, I wasn’t a fit. I you know, I wasn’t happy. It opened a new door for me, you helped me make that transit transition. And that feels good.

Gene Hammett [18:46]
I want to give you one more chance. I know we’ve been talking about women mentorship and empowerment, what other aspects of your leadership and culture have been really moving the needle for fast growth of the company?

Heather Elrod [19:00]
Well, certainly in Division casting, the whole idea that I already shared creating the category, being a category leader, maintaining that position is critically important. And then being a category killer. So having that vision that we not only internally embrace the corporate office, but our franchisees and their team members really, really rally around that. And what’s interesting, you know, we had at our franchise conference last September, I reminded during one of the General Sessions speeches that again, we are a business about women, supporting women and women helping women and what was so interesting to me is the response from the men in that comment, so many of our male franchisees came up to me afterward and shared how much it meant to them because of their daughters, you know, for an environment for their daughters to be in that for their female friends. team members to be in that it was really meaningful. And that really touched me. You know that. In fact, there was more commentary from the men and the women in the audience,

Commercial [20:10]
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Gene Hammett [20:29]
One final question, Heather, we’ve all made some mistakes that have really shaped who we are, as leaders, anything come to mind that you feel comfortable sharing with us about a mistake that really caused you to shift who you are.

Heather Elrod [20:43]
And, you know, I think when I reflect on the stakes, as I’ve already shared, a number of them have been around on hiring for culture, for me, the formative years of my career. And I’ve spent the past 26 years in franchising and in beauty. You know, there, there really was a pivotal event. I was in my 20s, and a male colleague and I were chatting after a meeting that had become pretty heated. And he said to me, You know when it’s just to take things, too, personally, it’s so frustrating. I mean, we guys can duke it out, after you know, in the meeting, and then we go out and grab a beer afterward. But you guys are mad for days. And at first, I really resented that, that commentary, but the more I reflected on it, it actually helped to shape me. And that, you know, it, I took the other position, that I could be more powerful by showing emotion in the right way, by showing that caring, and by being really approachable. And it made a huge difference in my career.

Gene Hammett [21:56]
Well, I’ve learned through my journey, as a leader, that you can’t leave emotion at the door, you have to live and work with it, you have to be able to manage that on your own, you have to be able to understand others with empathy. And that’s just part of leadership. So Heather, thanks for being here and sharing your journey, and really talking about women empowerment, and what that means to you as a leader. And hopefully, we can help you with that mission.

Heather Elrod [22:22]
Thank you, Gene, thanks for all you’re doing for the leaders out there.

Gene Hammett [22:27]
Fantastic interview, love being able to talk to women in the trenches of their own leadership, and have a voice, and create moments for other women to grow and other people to grow. Remind you of one thing that she said inside this interview, there’s really powerful that you don’t have to be someone that’s driven by authority and drive driven by fear to lead others. That’s not the strong way, the strong ways actually to be as caring as you need to be, and really have empathy for who you’re leading. That’s the way people feel connected to the work they feel appreciated and valued. Now, are there times when you have to be strong and direct? Absolutely. But there are times when you have to be more caring than you’ve ever been before. Make sure you know when to bring all of that to your own leadership and culture.

Gene Hammett [23:19]
My name is Gene Hammett, I work with leaders in the defining moments of their own growth to help them figure out who they are and where they’re going. What is that next step for you? A lot of leaders when you ask that question, don’t know the answer. So if you’re still listening in here, and you don’t know exactly what your next step is, as a leader, I love to help you get clear about it. Make sure you reach out to me [email protected]. I’d love to connect with you and get to know you. You’re tuning in to this episode’s week after week after week. Listen to these interviews. Make sure you subscribe, make sure you tell others about it. As always lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.


Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.


GTT featuring Heather Elrod



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