Expert Advice

Building a Future

Patrick McIvor | September 18, 2014 | 9:45 AM
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As we began the build out for our new studio, I started to think about the team we will have and how we will grow them as our new studio takes life. I have always had a belief that the most successful endeavors are ones that are looked at as partnerships, where both sides feel like they can win together. I believe this with the manufacturers we work with, the tools we use, the teams around us and even the people that employ us. I felt like a partner at Arrojo Cutler, even though Nick and Rodney owned the salon, I still ran it like we were partners and I owned the color department, which I didn’t. But, that was what allowed our color department to excel and explode. I started to think yesterday about what it takes to be successful in our industry, and once you have the right partners, how you build the success you want. So let’s start at the beginning, when I went to beauty school and was taught by my teacher that it starts with "you need to dress up, show up and be up."

Beauty School

The reality I see over and over is students can’t get models and can't build clientele. It’s funny when students say that they expect to be world famous, doing the most expensive haircuts at the top salons, and they don’t even have people willing to pay beauty school prices for their work. This is where students need to rely on family and friends to build their skills and to learn how to build a clientele. Even though I was so bad at color in beauty school that my teacher would not let me foil, I still always had models and even extras for my friends in school too! My grandmother used to bring all her friends from the retirement community and between grandma and friends from youth groups and part time jobs, my chair on the workshop floor was always full. Realize that if your friends and family aren’t willing to pay for your talent at reduced prices or don’t see the value in making the time to have an appointment at the school in a professional environment, then why would a guest/client? It’s easy to spot the students that will be successful, they always have models.

New Stylists

This is where the rubber hits the road, and for me it’s where we separate the salon professionals from the hobby hairdressers. One of the keys to success here is don’t have a back up plan!!! If you love our industry, all you need is talent, passion, a great team and time. So let’s assume you have talent and passion, now you need to find a great team and hopefully the right team too! How do you do that? Who have you heard that is great? And, who have you heard that fits your needs? Not everyone needs to work at the “best salon” or the most expensive. In some parts of our country that may mean you’re taking care of people with five too many facelifts and little dogs in little bags. Do the people on the team look like you… or the way you want to look? How about the guests/clients? Do you want them in your chair? Do you think they will like you? And, what training do they offer to help you achieve the success you want? How long is the training? For me, if I have the answers I need, then the path for success and failure now rests on my shoulders. It is up to me to have my models every week and be out meeting people and building my clientele. From restaurants, clubs, fitness centers, community groups, friends and past co-workers, building your clientele first is better than any bartending or part-time job you can have. Starving has always made success more urgent for me and many of our industry’s most successful too.

Seasoned Stylists

Building a future as a seasoned stylist many times means making the choice of owning a salon or staying with a great team. For me, I’ve always chosen to be on a great team first and I have only opened salons in areas I could find a salon team that I wanted to be part of. Great salons and teams provide people around you that inspire without the added responsibility that goes along with ownership. For me, when I’ve owned my own salons where I was the only employee (I started this way in Princeton, NJ at my first salon), I eventually needed to go back to NYC because yes I was busy, yes I was written up in Allure Magazine as one of the best colorists, but creatively I had nothing to be inspired by but my work and no barometer to measure my work against except my clientele. Reality is, I ended up in my own analog filter bubble with people who loved what I did, and that keeps you from seeing new things to do. For the seasoned stylist, the people around us and education is what keeps us forever young and constantly able to inspire our guests in new ways while at the same time giving us the chance to be inspired and measure our work against our friends that inspire us.

The Returning Stylists

If you have been out of the industry for more than a year, trying to get guests back can be tough, and if you have been out longer than that, it can be impossible or even a flat out waste of time. As a returning stylist, someone who maybe took 2-10 years to raise a family and now wants to return to our great industry, we need you! With an aging population and so much wealth held by the baby boomer generation, they want you to be taking care of their hair over someone in there early 20’s. Yes, trends have changed, but there is still only one way to cut hair and that is off, and there are only four things we can do with haircolor, make it lighter, darker, warmer or cooler. So get to an Academy like the new Goldwell KMS Academy in NYC or take classes at your local distributor and get your groove back, then find a salon that will give you more education as you build your clientele.

It’s funny, there are so many things we can do to fail, but there are just a few things we need to do consistently to succeed. It starts with Dressing Up, Showing Up and Being Up to win, and after that it’s having the right partners who share with us the right portfolio of products, services and education to help us grow. Then it’s all up to us to grow and succeed. And if failure happens, it’s on our own shoulders.

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