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How Stonetree Runs a Multi‑Brand Business

The CEO of the family‑run manufacturer and distributor of professional hair care products share their experience.

There’s a sweetness in the air at the Stonetree LLC’s offices. That’s because for nearly 35 years, the family-run manufacturer and distributor of professional hair care products been a pivotal innovator for curly hair textures. “It’s as simple as cooking,” says CEO and chief chemist John Searles, who has been formulating products in the lab since he was about 18.

John inherited the business from his father, which has expanded into different brands under its corporate umbrella, including SILK2 and Naturally SILK2, as well Mr. McGee’s premium barbering products. But bringing the company into the digital age wasn’t easy. “The honest truth is that I can’t manage all of the facets of my business alone,” says John. “Delegation plays a huge role.” Here’s how John juggles a multi-brand business.

John has worked with virtual assistants (VAs) since high school, when his dad first used them to code his web projects. Now he uses VAs to help with everything from coding and social media to print design and research. “I have done most of the jobs that I’m asking my VA to do. So I understand the scope, timing, and cost of the things I need,” John says.

Stonetree’s immersion in digital help doesn’t end there: “The key for us has been overcommunication and documentation,” John says. To keep tasks from falling through the cracks, John has signed the team up for Trello, a web app that creates tasks and workflows and assists with scheduling. “When we have large projects going on we live by, ‘If it’s not on Trello, it didn’t happen.’” Most of the team actually uses the system in their personal lives now, too.

Tailoring the messaging of each brand has been somewhat of a challenge, John says, since each brand has its own voice, but there’s some overlap of information. Specifically, a salon owner might care more about how to use the product, whereas a consumer might be more interested in the end result. John finagles the messaging to appeal to one, or sometimes both. “I’ve created a formula for digital marketing that I follow with each brand,” he says. “So, managing them really becomes a matter of planning and making sure things don’t break.”

Stonetree has custom software built to handle most in-house tasks, such as product formulas and inventory. “Outside of that, I have an app arsenal that I use to plan, automate, and keep up with the brands.” And he’s not kidding: John’s proficiency with using software and apps in tandem with one another from Trello to Adobe Illustrator and everything in between is a thing of wonder. Because if there’s one thing his dad imparted, it’s to never stop being curious. “The most important thing he taught me is how to teach myself,” he says. “You just gotta keep learning.”

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