“5 things I wish someone told me before I became a CEO” with Chelle Neff of Urban Betty

An interview with Phil La Duke

Phil La Duke
Oct 17, 2019 · 15 min read

Don’t sweat bad reviews. The busier you get, the more online reviews you are going to receive. And that’s not a bad thing AT ALL. Let me warn you though, about 1% of them are going to be negative. You’re not pizza, you can’t please all the people all the time. I remember the first negative review that we received on Yelp. I cried for several hours and couldn’t sleep all night. Now when we get one, of course, I am peeved. However, it only lasts 30 minutes max. I will warn you, take time before you respond to that review. Get your emotions under control and be professional.



  1. Networking- Consistently being tied to your brand and representing it at all times. You never get to take that hat off. Whoever you meet, wherever you are, you are promoting your brand. Even when you’re not aware of it.
  1. The ability to admit that you are wrong. My company was built on making mistakes. Admitting to them and learning from them is what will set you apart.
  2. Connection to people. You must stay connected to your company and employees. The number one reason most businesses fail is because of an absentee owner.
  1. Let people go with love. Employees are going to leave, it’s a fact of life. The average lifespan of a stylist in the salon industry is 4–5 years. I made the mistake of trying to talk several of them into staying and letting them know what a terrible choice they were making. Guess what? That only made them want to leave more. (It’s the same philosophy as when someone tries to break up with you.) If they are choosing to leave under good circumstances, cheer them on and let them go in peace. I remember one time when I made a whole spreadsheet for an employee about how much more money, they would actually make by staying with me instead of leaving. That DID NOT work. In fact, they left feeling as if I thought they were stupid. I later apologized after learning this and guess what, that employee actually came back to work for me later. Never try to talk someone into loving you or staying at your business if they want to leave.
  2. You probably won’t make a profit or even get a paycheck for a while. For each business, the timing on that can be different. I was keeping my head just above water for the first 10 years. I remember after I first expanded in 2010 and added 6 chairs, half of my staff left. They felt like the company was getting “too big” and wanted to stay in a smaller space. I understand that now, but at the time it was like a knife in my heart, both emotionally and financially. I had to live off of tax returns and a small loan from one of my best friends just to make my house rent, bills, and car payments for about 6 months.
  3. If you’re a recovering perfectionist aka control freak, don’t hire contractors. Instead, have employees. Your brand is your brand. If you have people that have their own brand (contractors) inside your business, that can be much harder to control. I quickly learned that the best way to achieve a profit and a cohesive culture was to switch to an all employee-based business model with structure. In 2010, I changed my salon company to 100% commission, my brand flourished, and everyone was on the same page.
  4. Hire a business coach or consulting group. In 2013, I was floundering and in the negative in my bank account a lot of the time. I remember my banker calling every other day to make sure that deposits were going to come through so that we could cover expenses. It was embarrassing and extremely stressful. In 2014, I joined the Summit Salon Business Center and hired a business coach. Since bringing on the consulting group and coach, I have grown Urban Betty’s income by a whopping 82%. In 2018, Urban Betty Salon generated $3.4 million in revenue, making it one of the highest-grossing salons in Austin. That same year, Urban Betty made Inc. 5000’s list of Fastest Growing Privately Held Companies in the country and was one of only four hair salons to make it on the list. I was also able to retire from doing hair and focus solely on the branding and marketing of the business which is what I now love!

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Phil La Duke

Written by

Author of “I Know My Shoes Are Untied. Mind Your Own Business” and “Lone Gunman. Rewriting the Handbook on Workplace Violence Prevention

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

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