Famed beauty industry speaker and consultant Geno Stampora tells the story of attending a meeting of his local Chamber of Commerce, where the members each stood up and spoke about their business. One owner of a cleaning company wrapped up his presentation saying: “If you know anyone undergoing chemotherapy, contact us and we’ll clean the person’s house for free.” Stampora says that sentence was a game-changer.
“That business owner put his heart out there, and when you put your heart out there, you change the game,” Stampora says. “Everyone at that meeting knew someone in chemotherapy to refer. Our business is no different. When you love what you do, who you are and what you provide, the salon can become the nucleus of the community.”
Becky Spence hopes to bring to life that exact vision.
“Most hairdressers I know already care so much about the guest in their chair,” says Spence, a stylist and in-salon educator at Amber Waves in Naperville, Illinois. “My shift in the paradigm is for the salon to be not just part of the community but the heart of the community. For me, beauty has grown to caring beyond the chair—first helping people’s hair look good, and then helping them in their lives. We have guests who come to our salon just to hang out and feel good. We’re the Cheers of Naperville—everybody knows your name. It’s a safe house for people, where they’re not judged; they’re cared about.”
Spence is involved with Love Heals Events, and through that organization Spence and two other women have arranged a special evening of information and entertainment on September 15 in suburban Chicago to raise funds for Eyes on Cancer and Reclaim 13 (tickets and information at lovehealsevents.com). Launched by iconic hair educator Jeanne Braa Foster and her husband, Dean Foster, Eyes on Cancer teaches beauty professionals to spot skin cancer, while Reclaim 13 is a separate organization that fights sex trafficking of girls as young as 13. The event includes continuing education in domestic awareness required by the state of Illinois.
In his book Dear Preston: Doing Business with Our Hearts, event planner Preston Bailey says generosity should be part of the culture of every service business.
“Doing business with your heart changes your relationship with clients,” Bailey writes. “They go from focusing on getting as much as they can for the least amount of money to focusing on the quality of the service and the beauty of the results.”
By nature, hairdressers tend to be givers. But following your heart isn’t only about community service and using your skills to bring beauty to ill or less fortunate people—sometimes it’s more about you. Studies have long indicated that aligning your work with your values not only fuels your earning power but also impacts your physical and mental health. In the beauty business, you can heed your heart’s message in many ways:
Follow your creative passion: This is easy for most beauty pros. You may hold a degree or have experience in another field but, ultimately, you chose beauty because you want to enjoy doing it everyday.
Customize your career: When you find yourself most excited by one aspect of your job, following your heart into a specialization can help your unique talent to blossom while keeping you engaged in your work. What do you daydream about? Maybe you’d love to do only hair color, switch from doing hair to teaching hair, increase your photoshoot and competition activity or try your hand at salon management.
Structure your schedule and working conditions: Today, your options range from solo artist and boutique salon to chain salon and the 10-chair neighborhood salon. Even within a traditional salon, you can find flexibility. Stampora urges owners to accommodate individual requests. “Some young people want to work only 32 hours a week, and I say let them!” Stampora says. “You can build just as successful a salon with a larger number of stylists each working fewer hours.”
Nurture relationships: “I could do only one look,” Stampora confesses about his modest hairdressing skills, “but I was the top booker because I made people feel great.” A 75-year Harvard University study concludes that good relationships are the single most critical predictor of health and happiness.
“Good relationships keep us happier and healthier, period,” Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, told Inc. magazine. It’s the quality of your close relationships that are the real game-changers.
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