First Chair profiles three new talent success stories as part of our ongoing “A Day in the Life...” series. Their customer-service skills, professionalism and passion for the industry helped them successfully make the clinic-to-salon transition in three years or less. Read how Kelsey, Casey and Taylor make the most out of their careers.
When a client sits in stylist Kelsey Morrison’s chair at PureTalent Salons at Aveda Academy Denver, and isn’t sure of the style she’d like to try, Morrison refers to her scrapbook of magazine clippings and celebrity hair styles. “This look book has set me apart from other stylists at my salon. I spent time putting it together, and made it personal by including my biography, photos of work I’ve created, hair and makeup I like,” she says. “It’s nice, because when I’m focused on cutting, the book is a good way for my client to get to know more about me.”
It’s the little ways of showing a client that she cares about her job, and personalizing each and every experience, that helped Morrison hit the ground running upon graduation. “In the beginning when I was in the PureTalent training program at my salon [one of the initial stages for new stylists], I created my own business cards and personalized them with drawings or deals I was offering. Drawing on each card took a lot of personal time, but it paid off, and people really appreciated it,” she says. Clients liked her drawings so much, they held onto the cards and remembered her. “Today our salon prints out business cards, and for each client who sits in my chair, I hand them three to four cards so they can refer me to their friends and family.”
Morrison adds on to every service by giving each client a complimentary scalp massage. She writes down all of the products she uses on a “prescription pad,” (a customized list of the products she uses on each client). This way clients will know exactly what products she used to create his or her look. For her clients who frequently visit, she adds them to her Facebook page.
“I use Facebook to notify clients of services I am offering. It makes them feel good and, most of all, special. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with everyone, but it pays off in the long run.”
Morrison says a tip for new stylists looking to get ahead is to always stay in control of your service. “It’s not only important to have strong technical skills, it’s crucial to have good communication skills as well,” she says. “Customers will stay with you when you can communicate well.” You need to listen to client requests and mirror back how you will deliver that service. “Some clients still intimidate me, but with experience I get better. I tell them when they sit in my chair, ‘let’s see what we can do.’ We take things slow and go from there.”
Besides staying on top of marketing herself in creative ways and personalizing every service, Morrison participates in in-salon classes as well as continuing/advanced education. This year, Morrison’s educational inspirations were at the Aveda Congress in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she witnessed one of her mentors, and Aveda editorial stylist, Peter Gray in action.
“Since I had the highest retail sales for two months at my salon, I got a free class with Peter Gray. We learned how to make headpieces, do photoshoots and we even got an up-close look at the creations he presented on stage.”
After the Congress, Morrison was so inspired she got involved in a photoshoot at her salon. “I worked with a model, styled her hair, did her make-up, and coordinated with a photographer. The energy was my favorite part—I loved the directing process.” Now, Morrison has completed three separate photoshoots on a volunteer basis. “I continue to participate in photoshoots because I learn something different from each one. It’s also a great way to build my portfolio.”
In five years, Morrison would like to work as an editorial stylist, or even be a stylist to the stars. “I also want to educate—I feel like I am finally making something of myself,” she says. “Remember, hard work always leads to good things!”
Toss a blow dry cream, mini hair spray, shampoo or conditioner along with coupons and a business card in a gift bag, and you get stylist Casey Dunn’s marketing promo bags that she gives to businesses with potential customers.
“As often as I can, I give a selection of gift bags to each store near the salon,” she says. “I tell them to hand out the bags to their employees, leave them on tables or to keep the bags for themselves.” Dunn says she seeks out medical and dental offices in particular— she believes that giving the bags to businesses that attract health-conscious consumers, will help generate her target market of clients. “So far, I have had a wonderful response. Since my salon already hands out free samples, I thought why not take it a step further and personalize the process?”
However, Dunn’s 80 clients per month and highretention rates didn’t come easy. She credits a lot of her success to finding the right salon after graduating from Concord School of Hair Design in New Jersey.
“My first job was at a mall where I was expected to go straight onto the salon floor, and work with guests without any additional training,” she says. “I felt like things were going much too fast and that I wasn’t prepared— so I left, tried out another salon, left there too, and then finally found the salon I work at currently.”
At Evolution, The Salon in Shrewsbury, New Jersey, Dunn has surrounded herself with mentors, and a successful marketing program. “My salon will send e-mails to all of the clients in our system. A message might say, ‘If you book an appointment with Casey, then you will get a free conditioning treatment!’ This marketing provided by my salon helps me further my career.” Dunn also realizes that by creating individual deals for her clients brings customers into her chair. “I give my clients $25 gift cards to give to friends and family. I also post on my personal and salon’s Facebook pages about deals being offered.”
Another tactic Dunn believes sets her apart is being honest. “I’m not afraid to tell my clients exactly what they need. I do what they want me to do, and I do what I feel looks good for them. Sometimes if the look they want is really out there I may say, ‘I don’t think that’s the best look for you but we can try this hair cut in a different way.’ If a client is stuck on a decision we may go through look books or I’ll pull magazines for inspiration.
I’ll offer product recommendations and show them how to properly use the product—they will usually purchase it.”
Through vigorous self-promotion and honest communication, Dunn has gone far in the short time she’s been in the beauty industry. In the past six months she has jumped from Level 1 to Level 2 (based on the Summit Salon System her salon uses) and is now on her way to being a Level 3 stylist. “I have moved up Levels so quickly because I beat all of the numbers I set for myself and I doubled my goals. More clients come to see me now, too.” Dunn says to always see yourself achieving success—and to work hard until you achieve it.
“First find a salon you love. When I come to work I don’t even feel like I’m going to work—that’s how much I love coming here,” she says. “I do get discouraged sometimes if my day isn’t as booked as I’d like it to be, but I realize success comes in waves.”
In five years, Dunn sees herself working at her current salon, progressing Levels and retaining more clients. “I would love to be an educator one day. I want to continue learning and growing, and educate others on how to be successful in their careers,” she says.
During her first year of college, whenever Taylor Sill visited Salon Visage in Knoxville, Tennessee, she loved the energy. From the exceptional customer service to the hustle and bustle of the salon atmosphere to the cutting and styling— everything lured her in. Sill thought from that moment on, “Wow, I would really love to work here.” However, Sill was already in her fi rst year of college, and on her way to being a nurse. If her parents found out she were considering dropping out, she knew they would disapprove. “Everything changed after one of my English classes. I remember I had to write a paper on my dream career, and decided it would be fun to go to Salon Visage and interview the stylists.” After conducting the interviews and writing the paper, she told her parents she wanted to go to beauty school. “My parents were worried, and told me I would have to fi nance my new education if I were to drop out.”
Even with these obstacles, Sill was determined to follow her dream. Soon after, she interviewed at the salon for a spot in their call center, just to get a taste of the career she eagerly awaited. “I finished my first year of school, started working at Visage, went through extensive training and as soon as I got my license, I finally became an assistant at the salon! It was everything I had hoped for.”
Sill credits her success to her mentors at the salon—Education Director Teresa Hoxworth, and Cutting Department Head Chris Branson. By watching how they executed cuts, listening to client dialogue, and seeing how they marketed themselves.
“I see about seven to eight clients per day, and 60-70 every two weeks,” she says. “Although I have personally worked very hard to retain my clients, getting them in my chair has never been a challenge. My salon is very reputable in our area and clients know if they come to this salon, they will get exceptional service.” Sill recommends newer stylists should strategically choose salons to apply at, versus just trying to land any job. If you end up at a big-name salon, it can be easier to build a clientele.
Sill’s professionalism in her career, includes how she dresses for success. “I make sure before I leave my house everyday that I look my best. I can’t tell you how many times I have been out somewhere and someone asks me, ‘Where did you get your hair done? I love it!’ This is a great conversation starter and, from there, I refer my services.”
Sill says she pushes herself to be a social butterfly in all situations. Whenever she finds herself in a conversation with a potential client she hands out business cards—one for the client to keep for themselves and one to pass on. “If they pass out the cards for me, they will get a free service at the spa for every client they refer.”
Once a client is in her chair, she says the next challenge is to retain them. “I make sure clients pre-book every time before they leave,” she says. Another strategy she recommends is remembering the details about each and every client who sits in your chair. “Write notes that will help you recall what’s going on in their lives so you can comment about it next time. And, always mention what products you are using on them, how long they should wait until their next appointment, or any tips to maintain their look between appointments. Clients like that.”
Whenever Sill is having a slow day, she will post a status on Facebook, but she ultimately thinks that by perfecting your communication and technical skills you will give a client exactly what they want. “It’s impossible to have one without the other. You have to have both to be a good stylist.” To improve her technical skills, Sill attends several classes so she can stay up to date with all of the new trends. “Recently our salon traveled to Santa Monica to attend a training class at the Sassoon Academy. I actually got to meet Vidal! And, we attended an inspiring fashion show. After education events, I always try what I learned on my clients. If you don’t use it, you will lose it!”
In the past year, Sill has moved from a Level 1 to a Level 3 stylist. In five years, she hopes to reach Level 6, which is the top level at her salon (commission is at its highest, you get an assistant, and you always have a full book). “It’s going to be difficult, but I am shooting for the moon. I eventually want to be an Education Director. I think it’s important that when you find success you should help everyone starting out and guide them in a way,” she says.
“Sometimes I compare myself to a race horse— I felt held back because I couldn’t take on everything at first, but without the slow start and fundamentals I wouldn’t have been able to progress as fast as I have.”
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