Robert of Philadelphia: Letting GO leads to letting it GROW!

by Sara Altizer



Meet Rob DiLella, one of the owners of Robert of Philadelphia and ROP the Studio in Naples, Florida, a salon chain founded in 1980 by his parents, Robert and Marlene. After attending The Summit for the first time, Rob saw an increase in his business and productivity, but continued to hold on to some of his old methods and habits from the past. When his business began to plateau again, he attended The Summit for a second time with his sister, Tracey. Here is the story of how they used the Summit Salon Level System to improve their leadership skills and learned to let go of control.


Rob grew up in and around the salon. His father had always encouraged him to be an active part of the company, hoping that some day he would take over. Initially Rob explored different educational opportunities, but when all of the doors kept closing, he gave in and attended cosmetology school. But Rob quickly realized he was not meant to be behind the chair. Now a beauty school dropout, Rob decided that his next move, considering his natural inclination towards management, was to step into the business side of things. He would leave the important work of mentoring and growing new talent to his very talented sister, Tracey, who started in the business as a desk coordinator before she went on to become a stylist and a top 1 percent colorist.

With this sibling partnership and the strong foundation of a salon chain that had been around for thirty-four years, Rob saw the potential for greater success. He began to see the weaknesses in his business, and felt a tremendous sense of responsibility to ensure that the company his father and mother had built from scratch remain successful and continue to grow.

“Times have changed, habits have changed, the economy has changed. Some of the things we are holding onto from the past are preventing us from evolving and growing. After being in business so long, I am often unable to see our blind spots. We’ve done a lot of great things to be here thirty-four years, but we have always been looking at what’s next, how do we evolve. It’s important to hold on to what’s great about the past while implementing changes that help us grow.”

One of Rob’s greatest struggles was how to grow his stylists, “Their evaluations still involved me judging and assessing their progress,” he explained. “It was not a system where they could control their own progress and earn their way towards growth and prosperity.”

By chance, Rob heard about Summit Salon Business Center (SSBC) through Brent Smith, a representative from SalonCentric who invited Rob and his salon manager, Amy, to attend a SSBC business seminar. Rob said, “Amy had seen our pain and suffering and challenges over the years and knew this would help us. I agreed, and here we are.”

The Summit Experience

During The Summit, Rob was able to clearly identify and define the main problems within his salon: growing in the current economy, blending the millennial generation with the baby boomers, leading and guiding staff with different learning styles, and providing his team with a solid growth path and the tools to help them succeed.

Rob went back to his salon and implemented most, but not all of the Summit Salon tools and resources. “I got a lot out of the first Summit course, and we began the implementation process immediately, seeing amazing results,” Rob explains. ”But I was still holding onto my assessments of their programs and not fully engaging in every aspect of what they coached us in. I worked on what I thought was important to us and directed staff to modify some of SSBC’s methods or not to do them at all. It just seemed easier.”

When his sister decided she wanted to go through The Summit, they decided to do it together. It was during his second trip to The Summit that Rob experienced his big AHA moment. “Somewhere during the course of that training, the fog lifted and I could clearly see the problem! It wasn’t them! IT WAS ME!! That was a revelation. Once I saw that I was the stop, the hindrance to all this, anything and everything became possible.”

“I was holding onto old ways and my cynical beliefs that some of this was for us, but not all of it,” Rob explains. “So we just selectively used some of it. But since I have let go and been willing, so much has opened up.”

Since then Rob and the team at Robert of Philadelphia have fully adopted every aspect of the Summit Salon Systems, and everything has changed for the better.

Rob now sees uncertainty as a good thing. “It’s like anticipation of what’s next, like not knowing what you are going to get for your birthday. Everyone is earning more money and there is a clear pathway for growth. A lot of the mystery of how things work has been removed.”

Perhaps most importantly, they have completely transformed the way the stylists are coached and mentored. “I’ve learned how to listen to them in a whole new way. I have learned more about most of them in the past six months than I have in the past ten years of knowing them,” he explains. “Taking that time to do one-on-one monthly meetings has been invaluable. I love them on a whole new level.”

The clients have noticed a big change as well. “They are seeing more options for themselves and getting a better service,” Rob says. “And, they are realizing they don’t have to leave to get the changes they are looking for.”

As an owner, Rob feels less stressed and more excited about where they are headed. “I find what I do much more fulfilling than ever before,” Rob reflects. And this fulfillment comes from a beautiful place. Sure, his salon is making more money and is growing, but what really touches Rob’s heart and makes him so proud is watching his stylists—some whom are single mothers—become completely independent, buying their own homes, paying off debt, and building a future with a 401k retirement fund. He is most proud of the fact that the Summit Salon Systems and guidance have helped him grow his business into one that has created a better future for everyone involved in it.

“I really thought we had all the answers, that we knew what we were doing, and that this industry was just different,” Rob explains. “It required long work weeks, a lot of fear, a lot of worry and sleepless nights, and low wages for an owner and staff. The Summit program has shown us a new way. It’s given me hope and inspiration to help people grow and live great lives through our salon company.”

If you’re still not sure if The Summit is right for you, Rob offers this bit of advice: He promises it will help you sleep better at night.