Expert Advice

Cost-Effective Learning

Victoria Wurdinger | July 10, 2011 | 6:24 PM

Chances are you're doing some hard calculating-gas and airline prices, exchange rates-before traveling far for education. But nothing keeps business booming like staying up-to-the-minute. Here are the best ideas and most affordable options for higher learning. Some are as close as your own backyard.

Co-Op Your Efforts
Cost-Effective LearningThere's strength and buying power in numbers when small salons join forces. At Pygmalion in Long Beach, California, owner Ken Cassidy says he reaps triple benefits by sharing his space for educational training. How it works: He asks his sales representatives to provide education for his boutique operation, then tells the rep to invite other owners and stylists to the event.
"Inviting others to attend a class so you all qualify for education is very effective," says Cassidy. "Anytime salons band together, the training cost per person is reduced."

The tactic works both ways: You can tell your DSC that your space is open for him to invite others or you can join with local, non-competing salons and create a study-buddy group before you approach distributors, manufacturers or educators with a training request. They'll appreciate independent contractors in the fold, because they're difficult for distributors to reach-out to one by one. With enough attendees, you might even be able to bring in a headliner at shared costs.

Lending a hand is, a social network site for freelance educators in the U.S., Canada and the UK. It's free for trainers to join, post videos of their classes and add website links; salons pay just $50 a month to access the list.

Says Christopher Montoya, owner of J. Christopher Salon in Kennewick, Washington, and the site's founder, "Smaller salons and ones that carry multiple product lines can't always qualify for corporate education. Also, our educators provide pure education. I created the site to bring together knowledge-hungry salons and the tremendous number of experienced trainers who want to teach."

Educators negotiate their own fees, and several salons or independent contractors can pool their money to bring the best in-house.

Creating a complete in-house training program and keeping it current can be challenging. That's why Bennie Pollard, owner of Bennie and Friends in Louisville, Kentucky, relies on an educator director to seek out all local education and bring it back to an orientation educator, who then shares it with the newer staff members. He also arranges "exchanges" with other salons, in which he sends a cutter to train their employees, and they send a specialist to train his. Both parties save money and learn exciting new techniques as a group.

 "We've even done exchanges with colorists in different states, who we located through our distributors," says Pollard. "Salons don't realize the power DSCs have."

For near-free, in-house training, Pollard uses his home camcorder to videotape stylists as they role play, so they can hear how their dialogue sounds and see how they present themselves. It's been profound, he says, growing the staff's skills substantially.
Many manufacturers award educational points and vouchers based on sales, and Pollard's BennieFactor brand includes in its programs a two-day presentation on how to create in-house training programs affordably. Cassidy has another great idea for programs like these: Instead of giving your staff a commission, percentage or bonus on retail sales, set a certain level of sales, at which a percentage of retail dollars are applied to partially paid education.
"This shifts the tax category," explains Cassidy. "It's not taxable income for the employee, and it's a write-off for the owner."

When you require each employee to use educational credits for different classes, everyone can come back and teach what they've learned, maximizing your investment.

One area where salons can't afford to slide is the lucrative hair extension market. Why limit yourself to learning one brand's attachment methods, when you can learn all seven of the major ones from Garland Drake's ( pure education book and accompanying DVD? It's $150, everyone in the salon can use it, and the company offers a full supply kit and on-site workshops.
With strong growth in the men's market, stylists will also want to muscle-up their barbering skills. At, master barber Bob Ohnstad offers free sample videos, and sells dozens of others for about $30 each.

Go Techno
Cost-Effective LearningTechnology has moved salons beyond the DVD library to a world of training on-demand. At MODERN SALON Learning, You'll be able to choose from several self-paced, online programs in cutting, coloring, styling and chemical work, and earn CE credits in certain states. At a super-saving $15, your course is available for three full months after the date of enrollment, and there's even one in Spanish.
For subscription-based education, Vivienne Mackinder's offers 58 video lessons (there's 20 more in the works) and featured-guest interviews for $50 a month for individuals or $350 a month for salons.
"Traveling is ridiculously expensive, and then there's the question of how much of the education will stick," says Mackinder.
Her knowledge-bonding solution: Mimicking, an online program in which stylists view a lesson, copy-cat the education on a model, upload their photo to the website,  get feedback and a diploma. Future lessons, says Mackinder, will be iPhone accessible, and salons with WiFi will be able to turn the staff room into an on-demand learning lounge.
The greatest power of the internet is its ability to bring the world to your door. To check out what's hot in fashion-forward Australia, go to You'll be able to watch Trevor Sorbie Salon's creative director Angelo Seminara and Andrew O'Toole's live, onstage photo shoot, check out winners of the Australian Hair Fashion Awards or listen to podcasts, like scissor-pro Sue Edward's Edge-ucation program. The hair-specific podcasts are also available for free at the iTunes Music Store; just search for prohairstylist and you can load them on any mp3 player for learning on the go.

American hair cutting has its roots in England, so it's only natural stylists will want to check out, where the founding team includes UK salon owner Lee Stafford and former creative director of the Vidal Sassoon Advanced Academy, Stacey Broughton. The membership-based, stylist-dedicated training site offers a basic cut of the month and a "pure foundation" or advanced cut of the month for about $186 (check the online currency converter) per year, with discounts for salons and educators.
Most online learning requires broadband or high-speed internet access. If you don't have it in your salon yet, it could be the best investment you can make in affordable, travel-free education for years to come.

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