Jesse Linares is a master stylist and a member of the Sam Villa Artistic Team. 
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Jesse Linares is a master stylist and a member of the Sam Villa Artistic Team.

Anyone who’s done hair for a long time will have stories to tell and wisdom to share. Each year we experience refines our approach, techniques, and expectations - the stylist we were at the beginning is not who we are today!

For myself, wisdom has been hard learned. After nineteen years at the chair, most of my best salon practices are the result of a previous disaster that firmly demonstrated to me a NEED for change. Insofar as I have experienced success as a hairdresser, I have also endured crushing defeats that cost me money, clients, or opportunity (sometimes all at once!). I’m kind of a slow learner (lol). Over time, however, I have learned that a successful day in the salon is largely about managing risk, maximizing our effectiveness, and appearing professional whenever possible. It’s about handling matters before they become “issues,” thereby enabling us to give our complete focus to the guest and the experience we’re providing. The following advice is what I call my “greatest hits” - lessons I’ve learned the hard way (repeatedly).

Be Prepared for Your Day

Arriving 15-30 minutes prior to your shift gives you ample time to forecast your day, check inventory, and clean your workstation. For those of us who can’t arrive early, these things can also be done at the end of the day’s shift in preparation for the next. It’s beneficial to check salon color and retail inventory before zero hour. Discovering that an essential color is unavailable in the moment we’re mixing is never fun. Finding out we’re out of the hairspray we just convinced our guest to buy can be embarrassing - as we fumble for something else to recommend. Being aware in advance of inventory shortages can save us in the moment - it allows time for color reformulation, or to find an alternate product for that guest who needs it today. 

It’s proven that feeling prepared reduces stress and the sense of distraction at work. When working with chemicals, hot tools, and sharp objects on peoples’ heads, being focused matters!

Maintain Your Workstation and Tools

It’s said you can know a worker by their tools. Having a clean, organized workstation and tools is a MUST in today’s salon environment. People are rightly sensitive about cleanliness and sanitation protocols, especially around cold and flu season. Regardless, it just looks professional to be tidy and to have a workspace and equipment that are sanitized and presentable. As the old axiom says: In the salon, we never know who’s looking.

It’s also responsible to have all your own tools; it pays to be ready for anything without having to borrow someone else’s equipment. The borrower seems unprepared in the moment, and the lender must worry about their gear. Having backup equipment, especially shears, is critical. If a shear is not performing, or has been dropped, it should not be used again until it is maintained by a trustworthy sharpener (this usually means the manufacturer). Any damage to the blade will be exacerbated by continued use, so it’s necessary to have spare scissors to use while the other is repaired.

Practice Good Ergonomics

Every job stresses the body in some way. Doing hair creates unique challenges for the body that often result in repetitive stress injuries over time. While it may seem impossible to cram anything further to think about into the salon day, good posture, exercise, and ergonomics should be considered. Improper posture at the chair can overwork the neck, shoulders, and back - accelerating arthritis and disc degeneration. How we position ourselves (as well as how we position our guests) can extend our career. Or shorten it.

On top of regular exercise, it never hurts to see a physical therapist from time to time. These doctors specialize in movement, and they can aid in identifying the source of pain (it’s not always where it hurts!) and recommend exercises to solve specific issues. 

Think of Your Time as a Tangible Good

It can be difficult to make the decision to change your salon schedule or to increase pricing - and when to do it. Business model schematics and metrics can be overwhelming, and their predictions sometimes just don’t seem to fit in our world. There are many methods for analyzing our work on paper; it’s hard to know which is best. Viewing one’s work performed as a “tangible good” can eliminate a lot of confusion. Tangible goods are subject to rules of supply and demand, meaning, when an object (or, in our case, TIME) is in short supply, its price often increases. If we apply this simple rule to our work, the decision when to make changes becomes easier. What a hairdresser truly sells is TIME. When that time is all taken up - and there is none to be offered - a schedule change or price increase becomes necessary to disrupt the process. This will hopefully cause us to lose some guests which gives us back time to offer, and the cycle begins again.

Regardless of our experience, training, or expertise, our salon schedule speaks for itself. Filling the time we offer at work is the best way to handle most issues stylists say they experience on the job: boredom, anxiety, gossip, personality conflicts, etc.…

When our books are full for weeks, and guests are upset with us because they can’t get a reservation, there is little time for such worries.

Discover more hard-learned wisdom from Jesse Linares by booking an in-salon class (hands on and demos) here.

About the Author: Jesse Linares is a stylist at TRACE SALON + SUPPLY in Franklin, TN, as well as a member of the Sam Villa Artistic Team. As a self-described "working class hairdresser" and passionate educator, he takes pride in being able to share what he's learned throughout his decades-long career. Follow Linares on Instagram @jesse.linares.

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