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Paul Tate, CEO of Shortcuts Smarter Business Technology explores how to build a successful column with Ron Love, the mastermind behind the expanding gentleman’s hairdressing brand 18|8.

"You can spend 10 years building your book – or you can decide now that you’ll do it in two. All it takes is a positive attitude and a determination to be the best you can be," says Ron Love, founder of the expanding men's hairdressing brand 18|8. Just shy of 50 years in the beauty industry, Love has watched many beauty school graduates come into the business. "A lot have succeeded and a lot have failed. But that success," says Love. "It hasn’t been because of technical skill alone."

"Over the years, I’ve built a system that we instill into every single member of our team at 18|8, and as we move into a massive growth phase, opening 3-5 new salons each month during 2014, we need to be systematic. It starts with this: the way you cut hair isn’t the most important part of what you do," he says.

But first Love advises taking a step back to look at what a "good book" is. Some people measure ‘good’ by the number of clients they do. But if you only look at the numbers coming through the door, you are missing a major opportunity. A good book is one that lets you live the life you aspire to: that nice car, the apartment and those holidays in the sun. A good book is one that contributes to the health of the business. It's one that lets you function with a reasonable degree of independence.

So how do you get there? And, more importantly, how do you get there quickly?

#1. "It’s simple. You have to give up this idea that being a good craftsperson is not the only thing that counts. It’s actually only 30 percent of the job. Just as important are being a good communicator and being a good self-marketer." Ron’s theory is you get the skills from beauty school and you keep those skills by immersing yourself in ongoing education. You practice and you learn and you’ll get better at the craft. But at the same time you must develop excellent interpersonal skills.

#2. "This all boils down to being ‘likeable’; probably the hardest element of your job to quantify and to be methodical about, but try you must," adds Love. "There is a client for every type of person graduating from school, but if you want loyal, high-spending clients you need to think constantly about how you can be liked by every potential client walking past your salon door. We teach our team to be completely client-focused and to like their clients. Why wouldn’t you like the person who pays you the money that allows you all those lovely things in your life?"

#3. The final 30 percent is marketing. "You can’t just plonk your client down in the chair, cut his hair and then expect him to buy lots of products, tip you generously, tell all his friends and come back the following week. You’ve got to push yourself. Tell him all about the amazing products that will make it so much easier to keep his look good until the next visit," says Love. "Ask him to recommend you to his friends. Send him a card to say thanks for coming and use your Shortcuts database to keep an eye on whether he returns or not. And if he is slow to return, send him something to tempt him back."

These three elements are all crucial to building your book. The next step is to learn to measure how good your book is and, if it doesn’t come up to scratch, to do something about it. Love uses Shortcuts at 18|8, and every team member monitors three key performance indicators (KPI) on a weekly basis to judge how ‘good’ their book is:

  1. Number of clients they do per week.
  2. Retention of those clients.
  3. Average ticket.

If clients are not returning or they are paying for the haircut and nothing else, then you need to look not just at your technical skill but also at how friendly you are and how much you are marketing yourself, the salon and the products you sell. If you keep this in mind at all times, you will build a ‘good’ column quickly.

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