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A Regular Guy with a Big Vision



Hair Cuttery founder and CEO, Dennis Ratner, will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming Miami Herald Small Business Forum in Miami FL. Prior to the speech, Dennis sat down with Nancy Dahlberg who contributed the following story to the Miami Herald.

During your career, what is the No. 1 lesson learned?
Had I known when I first started in 1974 what I know now, my company would be a much better company. The transition from a management culture to a leadership culture has been a huge impetus of improvement in the quality of everybody's life and in the focus on the people in my industry, in our company. We place our people first in everything we do.

Leadership [rather than] management--that to me is the key driver toward greatness, not toward bigness, there is a difference between big and great.

But it's never too late until you are dead and we are a learning company. We are learning, growing and executing these strategies to success. We do put our people first in everything we do. We do have a vision of having a company of happy people and we put strategies toward these initiatives.

What's your best tip for entrepreneurs?
Goal setting--simplistic, very embryonic goal setting, and as you grow any enterprise you move into more professionalized planning models. But simplistic goal setting--if you can get into that habit early on, it will take you whereever you want go. Most people hear that all the time, but few execute.

It doesn't mean it is prerequisite for success, it just makes it easier. Then I would say, there is nothing easy.

What are your keys to success
Understanding organization and how to invest in organization. Number two would be clarity of understanding so everybody understands the tasks. There are no secrets. There is full disclosure. And then there has to be shared accountability on the responsbility of what those expectations are. So everybody dances to the same music.

Having just gone through a recession, how did it change the way you do business and what advice do you have on that for others?
When the recession came, we moved from a monthly and quarterly review of our plan to a weekly and daily review, so we could modify, change and be flexible to meet the times that were extraordinarily difficult for two or three years.

You have to be very careful of how you invest your dollar, to contain the growth to a lower level, and really be deleveraged--not over-leverage--in order to be somewhat failsafe.

Why did you decide not to go public with your company?
Too much bureacracy, too much process. I don't like notoriety, and I do not like the aspect of accountability to strangers and shareholders who could care less and then they put pressure on you to do things that are not in the best interest of your people.

It has never been about the money to me, it's always about the people.

It's about having a company and reinvesting in people, systems and physical envirionment, where people work every day. This mandates us to put strategies and investments toward out people's happiness. We have seven values we live by and they fit together under our leadership principles. Our seven values are: Building relationships, teamwork, self-confidence, integrity, everybody's quality of life, direct communications and accountability.

Anything about Dennis Ratner that might surprise some people?
I'm just a regular guy. I can work with a street clearner and I get along with the chairman of Home Depot. We're all just human beings.