How Generosity At Work Saved a Local Business

by cv harquail on April 26, 2016

 ~ crossposted from ~

A story from my own hometown…

When I was getting my start-of-the-semester haircut in February, I was surprised to see Hannah, the woman who cuts my teenagers’ hair, working in the hair salon I go to.

Hannah normally works at Parlor, which has a hipster clientele. Yet here she was at Aesthetica, where they play 90’s alternative rock for us olds.  What was Hannah doing at Aesthetica, I wondered? Had she defected from Parlor to a new workplace?

I asked my personal stylist and informal consulting client, Legia, what was happening.

Just a week earlier, Parlor’s salon had gone up in flames.  Some electrical issues at the wine shop next door. It would be at least two months, if not three, before the salon would be renovated and open for business again. In the meantime, 12 stylists had nowhere to go and no way to serve their clients. None of the stylists could afford two months without a paycheck.

An owner of another salon in downtown Montclair had an idea — why not have Parlor’s stylists work in the empty chairs of the salons nearby?

In Montclair’ competitive hair salon marketplace, this idea was a little surprising. Why?

Salons grow their businesses mostly by luring clients away from one another, not by the growth or change in the local population. Clients can switch easily from one stylist and salon to another.

For Parlor, there were lots of reasons not to send its stylists to other salons.

  •   Stylists might defect from Parlor to the salons hosting them.
  •   Parlor clients might like the temporary salon better, and move their business away from Parlor.
  •   Scheduling appointments with clients and managing payments would put all of Parlor’s customer information in the hands of competitors.
  •   Clients might just get confused and leave Parlor’s stylists altogether.

But the alternatives for Parlor, of staying closed, leaving their stylists temporarily unemployed and abandoning their clients, seemed worse.

For the potential host salons, there were obstacles too. 

Their own clients might see a ‘new’ stylist and consider switching to her. Additional stylists and clients might add to the wait time a the shampoo sink as well as the garbage and laundry. How would their own receptionists schedule appointments for someone else, and manage the payments to visiting stylist not on the actual payroll?

There was not a lot in it for the hosting salons, but a half-dozen owners teamed up with the owner of Parlor to work out a plan.

For the past two months, pairs of Parlor stylists have been working with their own clients, but at one of the hosting salons. The stylists move to a different salon every week, so they don’t get too comfortable or feel awkward for too long (depending on their fit with the current host salon’s vibe).  Appointments are handled by Parlor’s owner, and payments are handled by each Stylist on her iPhone (thanks to Square).  Each host salon figured out a way to charge the Parlor stylists for the products they used on their clients, not making extra money on this but also not losing money either.  So far,only one of Parlor’s stylists chose to move permanently to a new salon.

Parlor’s business — at least the bulk of it — was saved by the generosity of its competitors.

I asked Legia how she and the stylists at Aesthetica felt about hosting the Parlor folks.   What did they and the host salons get out of the deal?

They didn’t get any publicity, because the arrangement was not discussed in the newspaper article about the fire. (I had to be curious, and have noticed the new stylists in the first place.)

Well, for one thing, Legia told me, she’d learned a new blowdrying technique by watching one of the Parlor stylists at work.  She and another Parlor stylist had chatted about managing difficult clients, and had collaborated when a client came in for a hair color emergency. (Apparently, blue hair didn’t look good on her. Who’d a thunk?)

Yes, it was a bit awkward having these guest stylists visit at Aestherica. The visiting stylists kept a little separate, and some of them dressed and styled themselves rather differently from the norm at the host salons.  Some of the stylists were not as quick to clean up after themselves as was the norm at Aesthetica. There was a little awkwardness about how much any of the host stylists should interact with the clients of the visitors, and that sort of thing.  But overall, it hadn’t felt like a burden at all.

Instead, there’d been a palpable feeling of camaraderie, of professionalism, and of local pride in being part of each other’s community.

This story made me wonder how many other acts of collective, business-to-business generosity go undetected.

Maybe Generosity At Work is less uncommon than I’ve thought?  Let me know if you see any subtle acts of generosity at the businesses you frequent…

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Come With Me To a New Place on the Interwebz!

by cv harquail on March 24, 2016

Thank you SO much for being a longtime reader of AuthenticOrganizations!

It’s meant a lot to me to know that there have been people on the other end of these ideas.

Not just the visitors who click on over from Twitter, LinkedIn, or a guest post … but also the nearly 500 of you dedicated readers who’ve been receiving an email every time I post a blog.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed the ideas I’ve shared so far — and I hope you’ll be interested in joining me in my new digs.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be moving my writing over to the mvp of my new site,

I’d like you to come along with me!    CV Harquail ss


To help make the move easier for you, I’ll be sending you an invitation to subscribe to “posts by email” from (These will come ‘automagically’ via MailChimp.)

If you want to join me the next leg of the journey — and I hope you do — please use these invitations to renew and transfer your connection with me.

I’ll continue to publish posts here on AuthenticOrganizations for a while, and I’ll keep the site up as an archive for all these great older posts.

Other big news:

To focus on writing related to my book on Generosity At Work, and to find the audience who’s most excited by these ideas, I’ll also be launching a newsletter.

(The newsletter will be  separate from “posts by email” and will contain different writing, links, and questions.)

I’ll be sending you a separate invitation to “sign up as a Beta Tester” of the newsletter. Think of this as an invitation to check out the ideas before you make a commitment. You can test out the newsletter (as I figure it out!), offer some feedback if you’re so inclined, and decide if the ideas are useful to you.

As always, I only want to send you things that feel like a little gift in your mailbox.

My feelings won’t be hurt if these new ideas aren’t a good fit with your interests right now and you decide not to sign up for the newsletter.

But, I hope you’ll be excited enough by the ideas unfolding around Generosity At Work to stay with me and help me figure them out.

To each of you, my heartfelt thanks.



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3 Ways Etsy’s Parental Leave Policy Demonstrates Generosity At Work

March 23, 2016

Tweet For so many reasons, Etsy has been one of my leading examples of companies practicing Generosity At Work.  I rely on Etsy’s Code As Craft initiative to illustrate the strategy of Opening Your Learning, but that’s only one way that Etsy demonstrates an expanded culture of generosity. Etsy uses each of the five higher-level […]

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Defining Your Business’s Success Using Net Positive Value

February 4, 2016

Tweet Here’s an excerpt from the introduction to Generosity At Work that defines a concept that’s critical for assessing the impact of your business. Let me know what you think! Defining Net Positive Value Self-centered business care whether their own bottom line is growing.  Generous businesses care about their own growth at the same time […]

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Generous Products: How Products Do What They Do, as a form of Generosity

January 7, 2016

Tweet I’m “working out loud in public” with a rangy, rambling first draft. What I’m working to understand, with this draft, is how to explain ‘generous products’, and how to link ideas about generous products to current conversations about product design. This is a small piece of the puzzle, focused on how products themselves might be […]

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Campfire Generosity

December 21, 2015

Tweet A little story I’m using to illustrate Generosity At Work — Three cowhands are setting up camp on a chilly night. While one builds the campfire and the second gets water for the horses, the third takes command of the saddles. He drags each one to the far side of the fire pit, lines them up […]

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What Generosity At Work Looks Like: Subway Version

November 20, 2015

Tweet @Brian_Ashcraft of Kotaku  shared this gif of two commuters who, somewhat accidentally, illustrate how one business can be generous with another while becoming stronger itself.   The tall fellow ends up with a hand on each strap, making his own stance more sturdy. The shorter guy gets something to hold that he can actually […]

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Why We Should Be Using Feminism At Work

May 20, 2015

Tweet I wrote this explanation of Feminism at Work back in Feb of 2013.  In advance of our panel at In Good Company on June 1, I’m reposting it as pre-reading for folks who’ll be attending. Want to join us? Sign up here: Everyday Leadership for Women Entrepreneurs It’s time to use the f-word at work. […]

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How Do We Know If Practices are Actually Generative?

December 3, 2014

Tweet Cause and effect. Intent and impact. There’s a vast gulf of questionable causality captured by those ‘and’s. How do we know if generative practices have generative impact? It didn’t surprise me when this question came up at the HBS Digital Initiative seminar, since it’s been haunting me for some time. The question haunts me because– […]

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Generative Business Practice: Questions from Harvard’s Digital Initiative

November 25, 2014

Tweet I got lots of feedback from the folks who participated in the HBS Digital Initiative seminar where I presented some big picture ideas about generative practices.   As promised, I’m summarizing what they shared with me on the index cards we used to gather up ideas. While I was so. glad. that I asked […]

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