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How a Failed Company Fueled the Success of My Next Business Venture

Scott Griffiths, CEO of 18|8 Fine Men's Salons

After committing more than two decades of my life to growing several companies, including Crystal Cruises, Paul Mitchell's men's brand - Mitch for Men, House of Blues and Nokia – I developed a wealth of strategic and practical skills for creating and building brands and companies. Yet, the circumstance I attribute my largest success to also happens to be my biggest failure – my microbrewery, Rhino Chasers.

The Rhino Chasers emerged as a successful brewpub at the Los Angeles Airport and soon blossomed into one of the top 15 brands in the nation – with major influence within the craft beer industry. Rhino Chasers' popularity skyrocketed at an incredible pace. We grew so fast that every dollar was put toward purchasing inventory and sales support.

To keep up with demand, I had to tap into my friends and family for financial support and quickly burn through their money to fund my company. Knowing this was not a path towards success, I decided to tap a venture capital firm for an equity cash infusion. The caveat to this agreement was that I give up my position and let the venture capitalists hire a new CEO with an MBA to run day to day operations. The company then went into bankruptcy, resulting in the sale of the assets. Even though I wasn't in charge, I still felt responsible for those who had invested in me and my visions.

What could I have done differently? Earned an MBA.

If I had had an MBA at the time, the venture capitalists may have trusted me with ongoing control and leadership. A year later, I applied to UCLA to attain my own MBA with the conviction that I would never be compromised again, forced to sacrifice my leadership. The UCLA Anderson education and experience was an eye opener and a game changer for me. It gave me a new perspective with the necessary skills to pursue new business opportunities, one of which was my most recent brand, 18|8 Fine Men's Salons.

The concept was sparked by the fact that many men spend $40 to $60 every four to five weeks to go to a women's salon, not wanting to be there (and the women not wanting us there, as well).

In 2012, I began franchising 18|8 and have since grown my company to nearly 100 locations with 150 more in development. I attribute the success of my brand to a few lessons I learned along the way.

Nurture the right brain, feed the left

Today's entrepreneurs cannot be just transactional. Although I'm currently functioning in the business world as the founder and CEO of 18|8 Fine Men's Salons, I was trained first as a scholarship artist and designer at the Art Center College of Design, where I was able to translate what I saw in my mind to a blank canvas. I had to imagine how something was going to unfold. Earning my MBA from the UCLA Anderson School taught me how to analyze from a business perspective and articulate business opportunities with the vision driving the opportunities.

Even smart people can't do everything

Lack of objectivity or perspective is a leading cause of failure. I learned early on that even though I could imagine and visualize the future for my brands, I needed to rely on a team to help delegate responsibilities and strategize. When you're too involved in every aspect of your business, your company ends up suffering. However, having a clear vision understood across the board is key to collaboration inside a team.  

Empathy leads to longevity

I believe the key to entrepreneurship is understanding how your vision is going to unfold. Conversely, success is not solely recognized by money, but rather by the team. Empathy is dying; and no matter how you label yourself in an industry, compassion is a key business strategy.

This tactic can be seen through the inception of 18|8 Fine Men's salons, in which we have created a sanctuary for men by catering to and understanding their grooming needs. Men should not have to go to women's salons for a better haircut; they should not have to be in a fishbowl environment, hearing conversations they can't relate to; they should not have to have Cosmopolitan as their only reading material. 

18|8 was created as the fine men's salon concept and that empathizes with the needs of man – by helping clientele make significant changes which will overall help boost their morale and regain confidence.

About the author: Scott Griffiths is the CEO and co-founder of 18|8 Fine Men's Salons, a national network of nearly 100 full-service prestige men's salons. The brand offers a wide range of premium grooming services, including handcrafted haircuts, straight-razor shaves, facial and scalp treatments, waxing and nail treatments and a proprietary suite of water-based hair and shave products.

Image Credit: 18|8 Fine Men's Salons