Kim Hansen: Closing the Salon, Opening New Doors

It took 21 stressful years as a salon owner, some wise advice from her children, a few honors she felt were misplaced and a fall that broke eight bones for Kim Hansen to recognize that the career she’d built was no longer a structure that served her well. Her wake-up calls came one at a time, each one pushing her along in a journey that landed her in a surprisingly comfortable spot: the slow lane. But that sure wasn’t where Hansen started.

“Like many hairdressers, I focused on how many clients I could jam into my day,” Hansen says. “I ate while I was mixing color and sustained myself with coffee.” On one level, it worked. Hansen’s California salon grew rapidly, doubling its stations and moving to a busier location. At the height, Hansen was doing $1.2 million in business and had a staff of 25, all while parenting two children.

“I always felt depleted,” Hansen says of those days. “The demands of ownership, working as a full-time stylist and managing my family left me drained physically, mentally and emotionally. I tried to eat right and fit in an exercise program, but it seemed that no matter what I did, my health was declining.” Still only in her 40s, Hansen had high blood pressure, dizzy spells, anxiety attacks and some depression. The first thing to give way was her marriage. To help her children get through the divorce, she took them on a trip to Hawaii, where she had an “aha” moment.

“I was sitting by the pool with my phone and my laptop, trying to manage my business while my kids were playing in the water,” Hansen says. “My son climbed out of the pool and said, ‘Mom, let’s just go home. You’d be happier at work.’ From that moment, I started to have my first real vacation. I dropped my phone and computer at the hotel room and joined the kids. Afterward, I thought a lot about that trip and whether ‘having it all’ was sustainable.”

A year later, a series of accolades brought Hansen even more clarity. Her mayor and governor honored her community service work and, when Salon Today named her salon among its Top 200, she traveled to New Orleans to attend the awards ceremony.

“Everybody seemed really happy and excited that they’d won the Top 200 award,” Hansen remembers. “I wasn’t. I didn’t feel that I had accomplished much. On the outside it was all great, but on the inside I was just tired.” Three months later, in July 2014, she closed her salon.

“It was a very hard decision to close something I’d been growing and nurturing since I was 28 years old,” she says. “It was like shutting the door on all of my dreams. I felt very humbled.”

Hansen joined a team of her own former staffers who were working at a small salon. “It felt like a safe place for me to heal, although it was difficult for me to let go of the owner’s way of thinking,” she remarks. “When I saw something that wasn’t right, my inclination was to fix it.” Little by little, she got away from that mindset and focused instead on her clients and her health. With a new interest in food and recipes, Hansen launched a blog, “A Sage Life,” to document her journey of finding a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

“I’d developed arthritis in my hands, so I added turmeric to my diet and began learning how to cook differently,” she says. “I started eating breakfast and lunch! For exercise, I knew it wouldn’t be sustainable for me to go to a gym, so I started walking and then I added running and yoga.” Although her goal was simply to feel better, Hansen lost 35 pounds.

Again at this stage, it was her children who provided some needed insight. “My kids said, ‘Mom, you need a life. Get a hobby!’ They saw that I needed to create balance. One thing I added was meditation.”

Life wasn’t finished teaching Hansen lessons. About a year ago, she tripped on her pajama pants, fell down a 15-foot staircase and broke eight bones—pelvis, wrist, jaw, collar bone and several ribs. Her recovery was tough and long but, thanks to being in good shape, she healed quickly and more completely than the doctors had anticipated. After three months, she was back at work.

“My fall forced me to take life more slowly,” she says. “I no longer book three clients at a time. I work only four days a week. If my son has a baseball game, I go to the baseball game. I may not make the money that I used to make, but I enjoy my career a lot more. What started out as my dream turned into ‘I have to prove myself.’ At 51, I don’t feel that way anymore.”

Hansen’s evolution is now taking her into coaching. She’s entered the John Maxwell program with an eye toward sharing the insight from her own experience by coaching other salon professionals.

“When I was managing people, it was about numbers and productivity,” she explains. “Instead, we should focus on each team member, and the productivity will follow. In coaching salon owners, I’ll help them get to know their team and incorporate health and the spiritual aspect, all of which will lower their turnover and ultimately lead to higher productivity.”

Hansen looks at her journey as a series of layers. “For me it started with eating better, then exercising and finally the emotional/spiritual part,” she says. “It doesn’t happen in six months. My message is that it’s a process.”

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