There are a few famous families in New Orleans. The Nevilles. The Mannings. The Marsalis family. The Batistes. The Brennans. I could name more, and you can probably think of others too. Like mine, your list of names is likely going to be families of sports figures, musicians or restaurateurs.
There are also families of business people here in New Orleans. Families that are every bit as dynastic as these other names. Like, for example, the Neill family.
In 1946, Harriet and Abner Neill started up the Magnolia Beauty Supply company. They manufactured and sold hair care products to hundreds of salons. They stayed in business for a couple of generations, over the years becoming bigger and more successful.
Then, in 1991 they expanded into retail, and opened their first hair salon, in Hammond. That one salon, which they called Paris Parker, is now 8 salons that are called Paris Parker Salon & Spa. Employing over 200 people, they’re a division of the Neill Corporation and are co—owned by Executive Director, Garrison Neill.
Growing up in a family where people are talking about business around the dinner table can be a distinct advantage for anyone going into business. But you can only absorb so much over a meal. And even if you go to business school, when it comes to actually running a business and making decisions that affect hundreds or thousands of other people, that’s a whole other set of skills.
Those skills – including communication, management, and leadership – are an absolute must to master. And what’s interesting about them is, you can’t learn them once and know everything. As times change, so do the ways you run a company.
Michelle Johnston keeps corporate executives abreast of those changes. Michelle is an executive coach for the leaders of companies as diverse as Ochsner, Pfizer, The City of New Orleans, JP Morgan Chase, and many more. She’s also a professor of business at Loyola University in New Orleans, and the author of a book about keeping current in business, called “The Seismic Shift In Leadership: how to thrive in a new era of connection.”
There’s no doubt that age makes you wiser. As time passes, you learn from your mistakes. If you’re really wise, you reach the conclusion that you’ll never stop learning. But what comes along with that wisdom is the corresponding realization that you’ll also never stop making mistakes.
The best you can do is to minimize your inevitable errors of judgement. And one of the ways you can do that in business – the same as in the rest of your life – is by learning to listen.
Michelle’s impressive list of clients, students, and readers of her writing are all smart enough to listen to her. And Garrison has learned from the generations of family members ahead of him and is continuing to shape the family business in response to the changing needs of both clients and employees.
Out to Lunch is recorded live over lunch at NOLA Pizza in the NOLA Brewing Taproom. Photos by Jill Lafleur.