Some people create mess, problems and drama. And fewer see the problems for what they are, analyze and attack them logically until solved.
They are the fixers. Tabatha Coffey, the platinum blonde of “Tabatha Takes Over,” airing Tuesdays on Bravo, reigns supreme among fixers. Previously, the hairstylist-by-training exclusively revived failing salons. This season she applies her critical eye, no-nonsense attitude and problem-solving skills to a variety of small businesses.
In a wide-ranging interview, the 43-year-old Australian talks about how she works her magic.
Zap2it: Have you always been a fixer?
Tabatha Coffey: I have always been a fixer. I am a fixer. I like problems, and I like puzzles, and I like to help people, so I have been a fixer, and I have always been an educator.
Zap2it: What are the problems common to failed businesses, regardless of the type of business?
Tabatha Coffey: It starts from the top. You have to have a really strong foundation. It has to include the business plan and how you are going to get your plan out to people. You have to make sure you have a really strong foundation and … making sure customers are taken care of and the staff are motivated and taken care of as well.
Zap2it: Do you generally walk into an establishment and pretty much know what ails it?
Tabatha Coffey: You can. The show is correct in that you can walk in and see this is wrong or this isn’t working. I call it peeling back the onion. I can see this place is ridiculously dirty or incredibly cluttered. If I am walking in and seeing it that way, a customer is certainly feeling that way. If it is incredibly dirty, that shows no one cares. And if no one cares about the aesthetics of the place and the cleanliness, that tells me they probably won’t care about the product they are providing. The cleanliness and products and aesthetics of the establishment, the way people react and greet, all tell me a synopsis of the story, and I get to know more as I sit down and talk to them.
Zap2it: On the show, dirty salons and stylists who don’t talk to the customer consistently surprise me. What surprises you?
Tabatha Coffey: To be really good at whatever you do, you have to be a very good listener because you have to ask the questions. It is the only way to get the answers. You have to really listen to what the person says because sometimes their answer is not really what they mean. If you are not really listening, you don’t hear that. You have to remember to ask the questions. I am always surprised by how many hairdressers don’t have the consultations.
Zap2it: Has there been any place you could not fix?
Tabatha Coffey: There have been places that have not changed, not for lack of trying, but people have to be open to change. But the best I can do is make the recommendations I can make and give them the tools they need to make it better. It is truly up to the individuals to go forth and conquer. Once I say I am taking over, I am dedicated to taking over and making it better from when I walked in. At the end, it comes down to the individual.
Zap2it: What are some of the worst examples?
Tabatha Coffey: Honestly, sometimes the hardest thing is people being so resistant to me, because if I can’t find a way to get through to them, I can’t help them. The hardest thing is trying to find their button. What is the button I can push that you will have your epiphany and you realize this has to change? They know it has to change, and they really don’t know I am coming, that is why you see such strong reactions from people. They don’t know I am there. … I am always disappointed if people don’t change. I get very emotionally vested in each of the businesses I go into. I really do think about them. When the cameras go down, I am still sitting in a hotel room thinking, “What is the approach?” It doesn’t go away for me.
Zap2it: What is most gratifying?
Tabatha Coffey: When I see people that have changed and have had, to coin Oprah, their “Aha!” moment. I can sit down and have a conversation with someone and see the light switch go on, and that truly is the most gratifying. And when I check back six or eight weeks later, I always have butterflies. Even if they are willing to change, follow-through for some people is hard. That is the most gratifying thing, that I have been [able] to help someone keep their doors open. A lot of the salon owners have run with it and become incredibly successful.