Expert Advice

I'm Not Famous In Real Life

Patrick McIvor | October 21, 2013 | 12:20 PM
Patrick McIvor

The other day, my daughter Claire (almost 10) asked me a funny question, her friend “Sue” wanted to know if I was famous, my answer was, “Not in real life,” as my wife started to laugh.  But, it made me realize that as hairdressers, like chefs, photographers, artists, models, clothing designers, actors and many other professions, the perception of fame can be the difference between good and great. 

In the hairdressing world, we have struggled with the idea of fame and what it has done to our industry in the past. At times it has hurt us, but I believe without some degree of "fame" our guests’ loyalty drops.  I believe this is why so many hairdressers go to beauty school with great hopes, but end up frustrated and bitter with the greatest profession in the world. Look at the turn over/drop out rate of graduates; approximately 80% in 5 years is a known industry statistic.

Why do these graduates leave a profession they entered with dreams, ideas and hopes, not to mention the cost and debt incurred to pursue what many times is a life dream? I think, because no one was talking about them. Instead of their guest going home and having their husband comment on how great their hair looked or their guest telling friends about their new amazing stylist, the husband said, "You got your haircut" or worse, he said nothing and the guest didn't say anything to their friends either. Guests telling friends makes us "famous."

Our guests being stopped by friends and random people asking, "Who does your hair?" makes us famous. When your name is mentioned and heard often, you're "famous." But as I said, in the past fame has gotten our industry into trouble and has even given it a bad reputation when "Chez Pierre Salon" in the 1970's would have guests waiting for hours or temperamental stylists thinking attitude was something required to be famous. This then lead us to the 1980's "me" decade where early in the decade "me" became more important than "you" and guests became tired of it.

Then, the retraining of our industry in the late 1980's focused on the guest and not talking about ourselves. This unfortunately for many stylists led to a new challenge - how to get guests to talk about them, when after the first visit and the initial change it became more about maintaining a look rather than creating a new one, and still we were talking about them. The reality is, if we are only talking about them and how to do their hair at home with the right products, pretty soon it becomes harder to articulate more that we are great.

We always do a great job and are really concerned about their hair, appointment after appointment. The difference here is that "famous" hairdressers do that too, but they also have stories of what they have been doing that add to the experience and give guests a reason to talk about their hairdresser and why they’re great. 

This is something I have always focused on throughout my career.  How do you do this?  You create it. My goal is to have a new story, experience or idea that can be shared with guests every time they visit - something that can be incorporated into their visit, making their hair better. This is not hard and when your guests have things they can share about you with their friends, not only do you become "famous," your business grows exponentially too.

I think of it this way, the average guest visits the salon every 6 weeks or 8X a year, which means you only really need 8 stories a year, and honestly 4-6 works really well too. So, what kind of stories work?  Guests love to brag when their stylist attends education because they know they are polishing their skills and keeping up with trends. They love to hear about shows we’ve gone to, because they know we keep ourselves inspired. They love to see photo shoots or makeovers, charity work, visits with well-known stylists, work at fashion week or awards from competitions. 

I'm Not Famous In Real LifeIf we look around the industry at successful or well known or "famous" stylists, it is usually some of the ideas above that made them cross our path and learn their name – whether they are “famous” in our town or in our industry worldwide. As I sit here on my flight returning from Goldwell Color Zoom 2013, I think about all the winners, and especially my buddy Derrick Zeno who won Gold in the Partners Category.

I smile knowing that because of hard work, not only will the winners and their guests benefit, but when the winning stylists share the news with their friends- their guests and businesses will benefit as well. The thing we have to realize is, our guests want us to be “famous” in their eyes, and their friend’s eyes to some degree, because today it's hard to be great and not be known.


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