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Discontent in a previous job pushed Joan Turley into the beauty salon and spa industry, but she went kicking and screaming due to the required Saturday work.
Although it was the only option available to her at the time, she was reluctant to make the leap. When her husband encouraged Joan by suggesting it might be the best thing she had ever done, she accepted a job God had been preparing especially for her.
“I am a slow learner, and it took me a while to understand all those lessons, but I walked into my calling,” said Joan. “It’s not so much the job, but the people who were entrusted to my care that mattered. I fell in love with people’s development.”
At first, Joan started working behind the counter checking people in. But, within six months, she ended up becoming the spa director, which opened the door to general management and finally to the position of director of operations.
“There were a number of people working for me in about seven departments. It was one of the largest salons and day spas in the Houston area,” she explained. “Because I fell in love with the people, I absolutely fell in love with the work.”
It was a life-changing moment for Joan that had ripple effects on countless people. The job went far beyond helping people to look the best they could, it allowed her to help others become the best versions of themselves, too.
Build ‘em or love ‘em
“I wish people could just realize their jobs are more about the people who move in and out of their circles, and how we are called to love them and build them up when we can,” said Joan.
“People are not buildable, if they are not teachable. So you just spend time loving them for a short season and they’ll probably be on their way,” she added. “But, with the teachable ones, God uses you to bring out and call out the best in them.”
That’s what Joan loves most about coaching, and it transcends political and religious viewpoints.
“I felt called to serve all kinds of people. As long as that was where my feet were planted, I was called to love them or build them right there,” said Joan.
The environment was a dramatic change from the Christian non-profit organization she was working at prior to joining the very secular salon.
“When I first walked through the door, I shook my head,” Joan explained. “I said, ‘Oh, my Lord. Look at me, a lily-white, pretty conservative Southern Baptist. And look at them. They are not at all like me. I said under my breath this is not going to work.
“That’s when I had a holy moment. I heard God say, ‘You’re right. They are not like you, but they are like me and made in my image,” said Joan. “‘It doesn’t matter whether they know me or not, I love them, and they are precious to me. So, I need them to be precious to you, too. I called you here to love them.’“
Although Joan felt like she had walked into Babylon, it actually became a season for her to fall in love with the beauty of imagemakers. Everyone she would encounter was worthy of dignity and respect.
“When you can start showing people true dignity and respect, even when they have different opinions, then love walks in the door,” she explained.
Stretched in a new direction
Although Joan had never been to business school, she ended up running the company. By the grace of God, her priorities changed.
“I had to put my staff first, my vendors second and my clients third,” said Joan. “Intuitively, I knew if I took care of my staff, really listened to them and saw where they were lacking in what they needed to grow; then really honored my vendors because I could partner with them, then I knew I could get things that most people could not.”
It became a beautiful collaborative effort. Her vendors taught Joan the business and then helped her build a smorgasbord of benefits for her team.
“I knew if my staff was well taken care of, then we’d never have to worry about unhappy clients,” she explained. “It became something that is near and dear to my heart, and at the center of what I teach in my salon business.
“Business owners need to get their priorities straight. Their staff should be first, and owners need to see employees as their biggest asset,” Joan added. “It doesn’t mean you will never fire someone. But, even in firing, there is a way to do it with dignity.”
A plan for restoration
When Joan first started in the position, she did not realize she would be involved in a correction process.
“I remember thinking, ‘My gosh, write up an adult.’ I had never been written up for something on a job before and I didn’t know what it involved,” she admitted.
Joan knew she needed to go beyond simply documenting an errant employee’s behavior or attitude. She wanted to help the employee succeed whenever possible by developing what she calls a restoration plan specifically tailored for that worker.
“People don’t understand the true and noble purpose of correction because most people are not properly corrected in the workplace,” said Joan. “Scripture says rebuke is the way of life. It requires coming alongside somebody to help them face an area they are deficient in and helping them grow.
“I had a very wise mentor give me some advice early on that, when I started to lead, I could hear it loud and clear, like a foghorn,” she explained. “My mentor told me I should not rebuke people unless, in the same breath, I can restore them. If I can’t restore them, then I have no business rebuking them.”
Consequently, Joan’s goal has been to correct problems and help employees to thrive. But, when that wasn’t possible, it became Joan’s mission to let them go in an uplifting and empowering way.
“Many times, when I would tell an employee I needed to see him or her this afternoon, the person had a deer in the headlights look in their eyes,” she explained. “They were scared to death because their hearts had been ripped out and left bleeding on the floor by previous managers, supervisors and owners who did not know how to properly correct their staff.”
Joan did not want her staff to be afraid of meeting with her. Rather, she wanted to sit down with that person to talk about what was happening, what needed to change to do it the right way, and create a path forward.
“If the problems weren’t corrected, then I would call the employee into the office to have a talk,” said Joan.
“I would pull up three or four restoration plans and say, ‘You haven’t followed any of these and here’s what that tells me,’” she added. “It tells me that you’re not a bad person, but this job is not your cup of tea. If it were, you’d be flourishing here.
“You were made to flourish, and you need to go find your flourish,” said Joan. “It’s probably not here because you’re not able to follow these plans. But I wish you the best and I’ll be praying for you.”
If the people she was ushering out the door were honest, they knew before the meeting took place that the business was not their place to flourish. Yet, the process required her to document everything that happened and everything she’s tried to correct the problem. It is a delicate process that sometimes leads Joan to feel as though she is balancing on a three-legged stool.
“You are managing three different factors in the business. One is the ownership; one is the staff and one is the clientele. They each have different needs and expectations,” she explained. “You’ve constantly got your fingers in all three of those areas at all times.”
She’s Moses now
When Joan worked at a Christian non-profit, the owner of the beauty salon was one of the organization’s major donors. About the time Joan sensed her time with the non-profit was coming to an end, the salon experienced its first walkout where all the company’s moneymakers had left the business.
“It was the first time in the company’s 18-year history that a walkout had occurred, and it was to the tune of millions of dollars,” she explained. “The owner was a precious woman of God who entrusted her staff into my care as we walked the road to recover lost revenue.
“So, I came on board to bring about some healing. I did not know how it was going to play out,” said Joan. “Nor did I have any idea that I would be running the organization within six months.”
“During that six-month period, I learned how to truly love this vast and different team consisting of everything under the rainbow,” she added. “The staff consisted of all different types of people, and I needed to learn how to love them practically.”
When the former director left the organization, Joan was elevated into a position of enormous responsibility, and it scared her.
“God was giving me all their hearts. So, when the owner basically said, ‘Tag, you’re it.’ I was feeling like, no, no, no, you don’t understand, I have never done this before. I don’t even have a business degree,” Joan explained.
“I pleaded with the owner by explaining I’m a really great person to be second in command, but she needed to find someone else to lead. I’ve always been an Aaron before, never a Moses,” she added. “But, the owner said, ‘Well, you’re Moses now.’”
A turnaround expert
Many years later, Joan wrote a book about her experience titled “Sacred Work in Secular Places: Finding Joy in the Workplace: An Invitation to Partner With God in a Beautiful Broken World.”
Joan dedicated the book to three former bosses who helped develop her into a transformational leader herself. However, Joan also dedicated the book to her first team.
“They worked with a very green leader who didn’t know anything about leading or running an organization. All they knew was that I loved them,” said Joan. “My team and my vendors taught me about the salon industry. It became my most beautiful season at work ever.
“I walked into my calling and didn’t know what I was really made of and what I was made for,” she added. “I was to love people, and that still brings tears to my eyes.”
If someone were to ask Joan what her business today was all about, she would respond that Salon and Spa Made Simple helps turn around struggling businesses.
“If you’re experiencing a lot of turnovers at your salon, I’m your girl,” said Joan. “More than likely, you have a leadership problem. There is a common denominator and it’s probably you, so let’s figure out how to help you lead people well.
“I can tell you how to get your books corrected and what the proper ratios should be. I can also give you the systems you’ll need to be successful,” she added. “But, if you don’t know how to treat your people well, then all the systems and standard operating procedures aren’t going to matter.
“You need to know how to love your people well,” said Joan. “I will show you how to hire and fire well, and to train your people. But are you really seeing them as your best investment? You need to know what to do with what has been entrusted to you. That’s what people hire me to do.”
Joan worked for the salon for almost a decade. At that point, she and her husband seized an opportunity to move to Nashville.
“We loved Nashville, but still lived in Houston because that’s where most of our family lived,” Joan explained. “We knew if we didn’t move to Nashville at that time, then we would never make the move. So I put a little fleece out for the Lord.
“I said, ‘If you want us to go, please help us sell our house really fast,’” she added. “We never got the for sale sign up in the yard. It sold the first day on the market. In fact, we had multiple offers.”
Joan was about to learn a key lesson. When God called Abraham, it was to go to a land he WOULD show him, not a land he HAD shown him. Abraham’s journey took place in stages, and so would Joan’s.
“You don’t know what the next stage will be or the stages after that. But, God doesn’t make mistakes,” said Joan.
“Left on my own, I probably would never have had the courage to start my own business. It is just easier to work for someone else,” she explained. “But, I had this passion for developing people, and God told me to do that.”
Joan became a certified leadership trainer with the John Maxwell Team. Then she wrote her book and launched out on her own looking for clients.
“I only work with a handful of clients at a time,” she explained. “I work with salon and spa owners as well as aspiring six-figure stylists who are teachable.”
Joan worked with one young stylist who she coached through school, then helped complete her apprentice program. The first year in business, the stylist was the No. 2 stylist in a company of 70 employees. This year, she will be No. 1.
“She is making six figures today because she was so teachable and so coachable. She was like a little sponge,” said Joan. “Because she is soaring, we’ve grown more into a mentorship relationship. My clients come to me by word of mouth.”
Joan keeps a handful of acorns in her office because she likes what they represent.
“When you look at a tiny acorn, it’s not just what you see that matters,” she explained. “Inside each little, tiny acorn is a forest. When the acorn falls on the ground, a tree will come up from it. That one tree will produce hundreds of thousands of acorns over the course of its lifetime.
“The clients I have now are in seed-bearing and planting season,” Joan said. “I hope with all my heart the joy I get from walking beside them will produce a healthy company that flourishes for the owner, flourishes for the staff and flourishes for the clients.
“Long after I’m gone, I hope the leadership lessons of guiding people will continue to make an impact,” she added. “I may not see it all until I get to the other side. But the most precious commodity we have on the planet is people. Everything we do should be about how to love and serve them.”
As a business manager, Joan had a unique approach to viewing people on her team.
“I never ran a payroll where I did not see the individual without thinking of their families,” she explained. “When I would run the payroll for 100 people, I knew the money wasn’t just supporting employees, but also being used to clothe their children, put shoes on their feet and food on the table.
“When you start seeing people from that viewpoint, your perspective changes,” Joan added. “The business needs to make a profit, but we are profitable so people can flourish and walk into their best days.”
Joan considers herself to be a vinedresser who helps businesses, and the people it employs, to prune unhealthy things from the vine.
“If an employee isn’t flourishing, that’s when I realized it was okay to terminate employees so they could be grafted somewhere else,” she explained. “Rather than holding on to something that was not growing well on the vine, I realized it was okay to prune it.
“We were created for human flourishing. If people can’t flourish in our company, I know they will often flourish somewhere else,” said Joan. “I am super passionate about helping people to flourish.”
“Sacred Work in Secular Places”
Joan had known for a long time that she would eventually write a book.
“But God laughed and said, ‘We’ll just put that on the back burner for 30 years because you have got a lot of learning to do first,” said Joan. “God knew I didn’t have any lessons really worth teaching at the time.”
She recalls a day when a young employee was suicidal and asked her to go to lunch with him. It was something Joan didn’t regularly do, but she felt God nudging her to go to lunch with the young man.
“As he unfolded his story before me, he cried and I wept, too. There was so much trauma in his life,” she explained. “It really impacted me to know how he was hurting so much.”
Joan had started keeping an empty chair next to her desk to remind her that people are much more important than any paperwork she needed to complete or projects she had to work on. The empty chair reminded her of the most important thing in life and at the business – people.
“A few days after we had lunch, the young man came into my office, sat down in the empty chair, put his head in his hands and started to cry,” said Joan. “He looked up at me with tears running down his face and asked, ‘Am I going to make it?’
“I probably broke every rule, but I reached over and patted him on the knee. It didn’t matter. He needed to be comforted,” she explained. “I told him I had people praying for him and that, yes, he was going to make it.
“When he stood up, I saw him straighten his shoulders and his head was held high,” she added. “It didn’t matter if he knew Jesus. He understood that Jesus knew him. In that moment, the Holy Spirit told me, ‘Joan, that is sacred work in a secular place.’“
Joan liked the phrase so much that it became the title of her book. She wrote a collection of stories about partnering with God in a beautiful, but broken world.
“That’s what faith is about. It’s not beating people up with the Bible. It means loving them so well that when they hit those hard places, they know who loves them,” said Joan. “At that moment, they are willing to give you permission to speak into their life.”
Many times, her employees will ask how she gets through difficult days, and Joan is honest with them.
“I explain this needs to be a separate conversation from my role as a boss or a leader, so I will invite the person out for coffee so I can share my faith away from work,” she said. “When you love well, you earn the right to speak well into their life.”
The greatest mission field
People spend far more time at work than they ever do at church. Many times, employees spend more time with coworkers than they do their friends and family. The field is ripe and ready for harvest.
“The workplace is the greatest mission field. Our churches are not filling up with people right now,” Joan explained. “However, I believe if we love people well, invite them into our home and host dinners around the table, then those relationships get strengthened.
“There will come a day when you can tell a friend, neighbor, or coworker, ‘We’re going to have someone come to our church to talk about that situation. Would you like to come and visit?’” she said. “That’s how we will repopulate the church. Every Christian has a huge mission field in front of them. Their job is to just love people.
“The people you work with or associate with bear God’s image, so you treat them with respect,” Joan explained. “You be that one leader who shows them dignity and respect.
“Stop calling your people out in public. Go into your office and have a discussion, but never shame someone in public,” she added. “You wouldn’t want your own children shamed in public. Neither does God. Stop that mess.”
All it takes is for people of faith to watch for opportunities and seize them when they occur.
“You might hear of someone who has a true need, and the Lord will tug at you to give that person a financial gift to help meet that need,” said Joan. “That’s how I can love in a really authentic way.”
Winter Saints Mandate
Joan always knew the day would arrive when she would officially cross the line to become a “senior citizen,” but she was still surprised by the speed at which it arrived. Yet, she sees it as a time for her to flourish in a different season of life.
“A few years ago, I was reading the story of Jesus turning water into wine. It’s a great story, but then I heard the Holy Spirit tell me, ‘Did you catch that?’“ Joan explained. “God saved the best for last. He wanted me to see the big picture.
“He said, “You thought you knew love when you got married. Then, you thought you knew love when you had children, but were over-the-moon in love when you had that grandchild,’“ she added. “It’s a picture of life just getting better and better. But God saves the best for last.”
Joan was directed to read Psalm 92, which proclaims the righteous will flourish and still bear fruit in an old age.
“To me, that doesn’t sound like we are supposed to be sitting on the sidelines,” she explained. “Then God took me to Psalm 78, which says we are to speak to the next generation who does not know the mighty works of the Lord.
“It was at that point, the Lord told me everything I had done up to age 60 was all prep for better things to come,” said Joan. “I realized I had lots of stories to share.”
For example, when people talk about not having food in their pantry, Joan can describe a situation when a knock on the door delivered food during a very difficult time in her life.
“I can tell them about the time I didn’t have a car, but how God has given me five cars in my life,” she explained. “We all have stories to share, but here’s the problem.
“Most people never allow God to take them to the Red Sea. That’s where the enemy is right behind and about to swallow them up,” Joan added. “But God parts the Red Sea right before them and a miracle takes place in the midst of hard things.
“We, as the winter saints, have Red Sea stories to tell to encourage and reassure others,” she said.
Joan’s son wrote her a letter when he was a senior in college explaining how he would never forget the period when their family had no food in the pantry, but she got down on her knees to pray.
“I’ll admit that I got a little mad at God that day,” she explained. “But, then God showed up with beautiful groceries. He wants us to share those stories.
“The Winter Saint Mandate tells us to speak to a generation that does not know about God,” said Joan. “He calls us to speak to the xennials and millennials and all the other generations behind us.
“We can share something their peers cannot share – the faithfulness of God over and over. In fact, we can share those stories for decades. All we have to do is open our mouths to speak.”
Stories have appeal
In the Bible, when the Israelites crossed the Jordan River, God commanded them to bring up stones to create a memorial. That way, whenever the Israelites and their children passed by that place again, they were directed to tell the story about what the stones represent.
“We all have stories to tell. If people think about it long enough, story after story after story will surface in their minds,” said Joan. “Those are the stories God wants us to tell.
“When you’re walking with people by having coffee with them, that’s when the Holy Spirit will remind you about things which happened in your life,” she added. “You will be able to impart a real story into someone’s life.
“You can argue about theology, but you can’t argue about an experience. Because it’s your experience, there is no shaking you from that,” she explained. “They can’t deny what happened and how God parted the seas for you.”
It’s one thing to tell other people that God will provide for their needs. But it’s an entirely different matter when you describe a situation where you had no provision or no way forward, but God provided for that need and created a path through the trouble. It is very hard for people, even non-believers, to deny a personal experience.
“At the lowest point in my life, when the ministry we were a part of crumbled and the organization came to an end due to moral failure of the leadership, my theology was wrecked,” said Joan. “I didn’t know what I believed. It was a healing year where I needed a breakdown to have a breakthrough.
“I was so angry at God because all we had was bread. Sarcastically, I told God that Jeremiah 29:11 says he has a plan for my life to give me hope, a future and a welfare, but I never expected it meant I would have to go on welfare,” she added.
“Two hours later, there was a knock on my door. It was a woman I hadn’t seen for two years. Her husband had been in the same predicament as my husband in being unable to find work,” said Joan.
“When I asked her what she was doing here, she pointed her finger at me, waved it in my face, and said, ‘Because God told me to come,’“ Joan explained. “Then she threw back her van doors and started to bring in bag after bag after bag of groceries. By the time she left, tears were falling down my face. Then she stuck a $100 bill in my hand.
“God reminded me that I told him I wanted my children to know the God of the Bible still does miracles,” she said. “But you don’t get those miracles unless you stand in great need and trust him to take you to the Red Sea.”
Focus on mentoring
The new year brought a big change for Joan. In addition to time spent on her salon and spa business, she is also pursuing a new direction of teaching and encouraging others – The Winter Saints Mandate.
“I needed God to give me something he wanted me to teach, not just what I wanted to teach to bring me honor,” said Joan. “I wanted God to give me something that burns on his heart that he wanted to use as a rallying cry so winter saints would understand their mandate.
“I know we have a crisis of loneliness in America and the rest of the world, yet winter saints often feel unseen, unheard, unvalidated, unnecessary and irrelevant,” she added. “That’s not what scripture says. In most cultures, elderly people are really honored.
“You don’t need permission. If you don’t get a seat at somebody’s table because you’re too old, then set your own table and invite others to yours,” said Joan. “Do what God is telling you to do. If you open your eyes, you will see divine appointments everywhere. It doesn’t matter how big or little they are.”
Joan knows she may never get an audience the size of Beth Moore’s or Priscilla Shirer’s. Yet, that’s okay with her because God has already given her a circle of people just the right size for her to make an impact.
“God gave me a beautiful gift in my business, Salon and Spa Made Simple, and he didn’t want me to waste that,” said Joan. “That’s why I keep it going. So long as there is breath in my body and someone who needs to learn, I am going to offer that.
“But, during this next season, I am going to be doing more mentoring. The word ‘mentorship’ keeps forming in my mind,” she explained. “There are people I work with who are in their 40s, which is the same age as my children. God put them into my life for me to mentor them well.”
Commitment to prayer
As Joan begins to understand what the Winter Saints Mandate means, she knows it is a rallying cry to help people be more and do more in the later years of life. It is only through prayer that she is told what next steps to take.
“I am a huge believer in silence and solitude as well as making an appointment with the king,” Joan explained. “It has to be a high priority. I put it on my calendar. That’s when I get my marching orders. As I pray, I’m learning to listen and pray even more.
“I start thinking about what I read in scripture that day. The message was either for me or for someone else,” she added. “If it wasn’t for me, then where is that person?
“You know, it costs nothing to call someone and say, ‘Hey, let’s meet for coffee,’” said Joan. “I talked about coffee in every chapter of my book, so my editor gave me a sign for my office that reads, ‘All I need today is coffee and Jesus.’“
With America experiencing a crisis of loneliness, having coffee with someone can have tremendous impact.
“People are so lonely and feel so forsaken that, even in big churches, they are hiding. They don’t know who to connect with,” said Joan.
She recalled a time when she and her husband were having breakfast at Cracker Barrel. A woman at the next table just seemed off. When a waitress sat down next to her, the woman began to cry.
“I got up and put my arm around her and said, ‘I noticed you the minute I came in here. Are you okay,” said Joan. “The woman said, ‘I lost my husband recently and I’m so lonely.’
“Don’t tell me there is not a crisis of loneliness,” Joan added. “Even young people can feel like nobody sees them. Just pay attention to who is around you and listen for that little prompt.
“It is as simple as standing in line at Walmart and telling the clerk she has a nice smile, a pleasant demeanor or she’s great at her job,” said Joan. “I was in Walmart and could tell the clerk was struggling. I asked how she was doing, and she replied that she didn’t like to talk about her problems. But I asked her name and said my husband and I are going out to the car and we’re going to pray for you right now. It’s as simple as that.
“You know, I’ve never had anyone turn me down when I offered to pray for them,” said Joan. “I’m not pushing religion; I’m simply offering to pray for them. But, I do it right then, either with the person or after I walk away.”
Your story matters
Simply asking people to tell their story is powerful because it’s important and it matters. Inviting people to share their story is a great way to start a conversation and a relationship.
“When you know someone’s story, you will never judge that person again in the same way,” said Joan. “Their tears matter to you. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the same page politically or spiritually.
“You get to experience just a little bit of how God feels for other people. When they weep, God weeps. When they laugh, God laughs,” she added. “Suddenly, the other person is real to you. It’s easiest to judge people we don’t know. So, share your story to a generation who does not know about Jesus, and invite them to share their story with you as well.”
People can connect with Joan on Facebook and Instagram. She promises to respond to anyone who sends her a direct message. Business owners looking for help can connect with Joan at www.salonandspamadesimple.com.
After closing his business and enduring several painful years of uncertainty regarding what to do with his life, Greg founded Forward From 50 to help men and women over 50 to live more purposeful lives by pursuing things they are passionate about. A Wisconsin native, Greg currently lives in Arizona.