If You Had to Do it All Over Again: Advice from a Retiring Hairdresser on How to Build a...

If you are looking for a mentor, someone to help guide you through a long, fulfilling and healthy hairdressing career, look no further than Carlos Valenzuela. Carlos has been one of our featured MODERN SALON bloggers for years, offering his expert advice on everything from ten ways to keep your salon client coming backfinancial advice for a stylist, and even when you should fire a client.

He has been an inspiration and will continue to guide us as we will be picking his brain on different salon situations, asking What Would Carlos Do (WWCD)? Today, we ask him to look back at his career and reflect on what he might have changed, who were his professional heroes, and what he hopes to see for hairdressers in the future. 

MODERN SALON: What did you do right?

Carlos Valenzuela: I identified what I liked and didn’t want to like from the great menu
of cosmetology; case in point—I am primarily an educator. I like haircutting, color, updos and education and went deep on these. I don’t do extensions, hairpieces, and don’t particularly like permanent waving and retexturing services. I quickly understood that my talent was centered around communicating information, education. I feel you can’t have too many options on your service menu because it takes persistent focus to build a clientele any beauty disciplines. Right now, it takes about two years of aggressive personal promotion to build a start-up clientele. The number one question I get is, “How can I build more of a clientele?”
The saying, “Do what you love the money will follow” is true, but be prepared to spend 60 hours a week working at it, being disappointed, abandoned by friends and loved ones.

MS: Anything you would have done sooner and more of?

 CV: I wish I had dedicated more time to my salon work, I spent many years working as a platform artist and educator, which I love, but it all happens in the salon and that’s where the beauty industry really lies. The beauty industry is what happens in a typical salon professional’s day.  This is how one can find out what works and doesn’t.  

 Every manufacturer, company, association and publication needs a cadre of working salon professionals working with them on their ideas. When I dedicated myself to salon work I understood clearly why so many marketing strategies which appear so valuable to others sound ridiculous to working salon professionals. I also wish I had started saving money with my first job—and wish the industry had some way of alerting new professionals of this.

 MS: Anything you would have avoided?

 CV: Taking anything personally. I think it’s tough when you work with an art form. My dedication to learning the craft was so intense, I had difficulty in separating myself from my work. 

 MS: How did you stay healthy?  Did you ever suffer any repetitive-stress injuries?

 CV: I did ok when I was younger, but as the years went by I had issues with my right side, shoulders, knees and spent a couple days in the hospital with a lower back spasm due to blow drying hair. What saved me was Yoga, massage and more awareness of healthy living. There is no information provided to salon professionals on staying healthy and the toll salon work takes on our bodies, emotions and wallet. 

 MS: What will you miss about doing hair on a regular basis? 

 CV: The clients, number one. I had marvelous clients. For someone like myself who is intensely private and never really socialized with my clients, I was surprised how often I heard, ‘I will really miss our conversations.’ 

I will miss the camaraderie—hairdressers are cool, going to events together, we have a great sense of humor, I also liked potluck—bringing in goodies to share together. Doesn’t do much for my diet, but the sharing is incomparable. 

 MS: What won’t you miss as much?

 CV: I won’t miss the disinterested salon owner who rides on a stylist’s professionalism and customer service in lieu of salon policies that allow the entire team to work cohesively. They basically abandon the salon, create insecurity and conflict even when they are present working on clients themselves. A salon, commission or lease, needs structure because too many personalities are in one room together. 

MS: Who had the biggest influence on you professionally? 

 CV: There are several influencers according to my stage of life and development. With hairdressing, it was Leo Passage, the founder and late CEO of Pivot Point International. I learned to color hair with Duke Riddle, the chemist for Lamaur color. Teresa Pupillo taught me how to do a wet set and comb it out. Dwight Miller was my master cutting teacher. 

 MS: And personally?

CV: My mother. I definitely was not a mama’s boy, she was strict, but had great optimism for life and lived it to the fullest. She truly believed I could do anything I put my finger on. I bought it also—what a gift. She wasn’t touchy, feely, kissy—she totally loved me and my siblings by being proud of our achievements. That worked for me like magic. 

MS: What is your wish for the hairdresser of today? 

 CV: That they specialize in one area of hairdressing, become the best at it and build their business around it. 

 That they learn to plan for life outside and after the salon by taking care of their wellbeing physically, emotionally and financially,

 That they understand that the beauty industry works on innovation—whatever you are doing now will soon change. Go with it. 

   Carlos Valenzuela is a hairdresser/educator, ex-salon & school owner, author and corporate spokesperson with forty-five years of beauty experience. His focus today is raising wellness awareness and assisting salon professionals in developing a fulfilling career via his podcast “Tiny Steps for Salon Pros”  www.anchor.fm/carlos-valenzuela and at industry events, seminars and in-salon workshops.

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