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In 1975, with $200 in her pocket and not knowing one word of English, Tamara Friedman emigrated from Russia, which was known at the time as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), to the United States with her husband and 4-year-old twin girls. Friedman was a nurse dreaming of becoming a doctor, when she and her family planned to leave Russia for a better life. However, she learned that to practice medicine in America, she would need to start from scratch.
Friedman, knowing she needed a second profession, studied beauty at the Moscow Institute of Beauty in the Soviet Union. Once she arrived in Michigan—Friedman and her family chose the Motor City-area for its job opportunities—she received her cosmetology license from the Michigan College of Beauty in Troy in 1975. Being immersed in school helped Friedman pick up English quite quickly. She spent two years working for others as a cosmetologist, but then took the leap, opening her own 600-square-foot spa in Southfield, Michigan. Although critics told her she was crazy for opening a spa after only residing in the United States for a couple of years, she continued to experience success due to her overwhelming passion and determination. Throughout the years, she moved to one more location before finally settling down in a 10,000-square-foot skin care facility with 30 treatment rooms and 42 team members in Farmington Hills in 1991, where her husband, Eugene, and one of her twin daughters, Gabrielle, works with her. They both help Friedman run the spa, and Gabrielle is also a permanent makeup artist. Friedman’s other daughter, Edita, is a registered nurse working in the intensive care unit in the cardiology department at Henry Ford Hospital. Friedman attributes her success partly to word-of-mouth, as well as offering the best possible services to each client every apppointment.
“I love when clients walk in and they’re exhausted and tired, but when they leave they have no worry on their face—they smile—they are so happy,” says Friedman. She asks each client to provide feedback and requests that they never leave unsatisfied. “Unless I know what clients think, I cannot change it. If there is a problem, the same day I will call the client and we will discuss it … they say, ‘It is so nice to hear from you; I never expected your phone call so fast,’” she explains.
Friedman’s No. 1 retail strategy is to give effective facials, and to use and sell effective, results-oriented product lines, including Dr. Temt, G.M. Collin and Olos. “I make sure that the culture of the company here has integrity, that people who sell have knowledge and believe in what they sell—that the products really work,” she says. “I have the most beautiful people here … every single person who works here is a star. Your team can make you or break you.”
Part of what makes Friedman’s team of skilled skin care professionals so successful is continual training and education, starting from day one. Friedman practices role play in her spa to ensure that her team has the knowledge and skills to perform the very best treatments for their clients. The turnover of team members at Tamara Spa is quite low—Friedman has team members who have been with her up to 30 years.
Friedman requests training from the suppliers she works with and also conducts classes about ingredients. “You need to tell clients what exactly is in the facial, how they will benefit from it, and why their skin needs this specific product ... Before you could have said, ‘This is a great cream; I have it.’ It doesn’t work anymore.” she says. “The minute you know what you’re selling and why you’re selling it, the clients buy it immediately.”
“[Skin care] is continuing to change; nothing stays still anymore,” says Friedman. One of the ways she helps her team continually learn is by providing each employee with various industry magazines, and having them come together as a group to share what each has learned. “We educate each other,” explains Friedman.
Friedman travels all over the world, visiting spas and bringing back what she has learned; it has taught her how to treat her clients. “You do not sell a product, you do not sell a service—you sell a feeling. A lot of people can give a good massage or body treatment, but the feeling that they have, what they feel after they leave you—this is when they will start talking,” she says.
“Most important—don’t sweat the small stuff,” Friedman says. “You have to roll with the punches and not beat yourself up over anything. We don’t take anything personally here. We come up to the client and hug them and say: ‘Let me make your day today. I want you to relax and I want you to be happy today,’” she explains. “It’s a choice—happiness is a choice, and when my team walks in to work, it has to be a happy day.”