On the Cutting Edge: Business Profile with Jenn DiRaddo of First Choice Haircutters


Jenn DiRaddo is the Director of Human Resources for FCH, First Choice Haircutters, in Guelph, Ontario, the Founder of Career Pump, a blog and career strategy consulting company for women, and a busy mom to two boys, Everett and Wesley.

How has FCH handled the COVID-19 pandemic, given you are a customer-facing, service driven business?

When we first learned about the pandemic, we amped up our sanitization protocols above and beyond the regular public health guidelines that we strictly follow. We cleaned work stations with Lysol wipes between each guest, our staff washed their hands and used sanitizer, the frequently used areas and door handles were sanitized many times per day and equipment was cleaned with disinfectant after each use. As things progressed and schools were closed, we made the tough decision in mid-March to close our salons. Since our stylists were not able to stay the recommended six feet away from our guests, it was clear that we had to protect our staff and the community by closing. We made this decision a week before provincial, non-essential business closures came into effect. We felt that responding proactively was the right thing to do in this difficult situation.

What are some of the challenges that your employees are currently experiencing? 

Thankfully, our employees should qualify to receive government benefits, but they won’t be able to make tips which is an important part of their income. We have 40 employees across our six salons. Some of our staff are parents and so they needed to be able to stay at home and safely take care of their families.

It’s important to us that we communicate with our staff regularly so that we continue to maintain these deeply valued relationships. Many of them have worked for us for over five years – some as many as 20 years. We see this as a temporary situation and plan to hire back our team when we are able to re-open our doors to the public. We miss our loyal guests and the community FCH has been able to develop within our salons over the 30 plus years that we have been in business in Guelph.

As a parent of young children yourself, what challenges are faced by your family during this period of self-isolation and working from home?

As a mom myself, I really empathize with anyone trying to juggle work obligations with parenting right now. This has not been easy with two young and energetic boys to care for.

I think families are really having to reorganize their days and make some trade-offs. While my husband is working from home, I am able to fit in a fitness class in our basement while he eats breakfast with the kids. After lunch, I have an hour or so to catch up on emails, complete items on my to do list, and do some writing for my blog. I am currently profiling local female business owners to provide some inspiration that we all need right now.

I’ve found this change in our routine difficult for my kids too. Our oldest misses his friends and teachers and our youngest is missing out on the socialization he had at daycare. We are doing our best to use FaceTime to connect with friends and family, but this is tough on kids. Fortunately, we’ve been able to get outside every day as a family. As we settle into this new normal it does get a bit easier to navigate each day.

What can employers do to help support employees who are also parents?

Open and frequent communication is so important. For those who are working from home and also caring for young kids there must be some wiggle room allowed. Leaders should speak to each of their team members individually to develop realistic work plans right now. Work sharing is a good option as working a full day every day of the week is pretty much impossible with young children at home to care for, home school and entertain.

Productivity is bound to go down during this tough time but that is to be expected. If we want to come out on the other side of this with loyal and engaged employees we need to be there for them. Each individual will have different needs which is why open communication is key to maintaining strong relationships during this crisis. bh

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