My Life As A Hairstylist

Salon owner, hairstylist, educator, product maker, photographer

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I Have a Love/ Hate Relationship With Hairshows

My wife and I attended the Long Beach ISSE for the 4th time in 4 years and we had a great time. ISSE has made one big change that made a huge difference in the experience, and that was to move all the classroom education into the main building instead of in a second building away from the actual show.

What this change has done is created a more education-friendly environment, where the show floor was quiet and the classrooms were packed, which is good because if you’re not careful and spend too much time on the show floor, you might see things like this:

Even when I am speaking at the show, I always sit in on seminars that I think will be helpful to me and our team. The first seminar we attended was put on by two prominent Instagrammer and colourists, was listed in the “Color” section of the education itinerary/ schedule, and was described as,

“_______________ will light up the stage with some life changing information. This class is all about HIGH IMPACT color placement that will change your life behind the chair.”

Upon arrival, the screen had a slide reading “10 Ways to Slay Your Life.”
I personally hate the word “slay” (almost as much as I hate “yaaasss,)” but I know I’m not the target audience for people who use those words. I still had high hopes though.

After the first presenter, who gave didn’t touch at all on colour in their 30 minutes but did give some inspiration, the second presenter came on.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone asks their audience to clap louder at the beginning of a performance. I feel it’s cheap and cliche to ask at all, let alone before you do anything to warrant it. And this second presenter did just that. Once she felt we had given her the proper amount and volume of praise, she spent 15 minutes talking about how powerful the information she was about to give us was. Her introduction to how mind-blowing the material she was going to present took half of her time on stage, as much as her delivery of the actual material! As the clock was ticking, she finally got to her slides, which seemed thrown together in the hotel room either that morning or the night before. Trust me, I know a little about writing a presentation at the last minute.

She told us to listen to Tony Robbins and also referred to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and then briefly broke them down, and told us if we can meet three of those needs for our clients, we can create lifelong raving fans.

Now all of this is solid information, especially if one has never studied entry level psychology or read anything on similar subjects, or listened to Tony Robbins. My issue with the presentation was how rushed it was because the intro was so long. She was trying to cram an hours worth of material into 15 minutes.

Another other pet peeve of mine is trying to sell tickets to another class during a class. You have to give value in each session you do, and a speaker has a responsibility to at least touch on things in the description of the classes they are leading. And this free class was solely to sell tickets to the paid color class later that day. Super annoying.

After we left this class, the next one we wanted to attend was full, so we walked the show floor for a while, where we came upon Habibe‘s booth, where he was selling sunglasses.

Sunglasses at a hair show! Ridiculous, it’s more flea market than hair at these things.

My wife and I bought a pair each.

We then made our way to the last class I wanted to sit in on before my own session started. We arrived early in order to guarantee a seat, and were surprised to find the speaker, Daniel Mason Jones, speaking and answering questions 20 minutes before his class started, giving out great information. This is something I like to do as well whenever possible, and I feel it really shows the sincerity of the speaker.

Once Daniel’s class started, his AV immediately died and he ended up doing his session without any slides. Charming, professional, funny, heartfelt, gracious, sincere… Liz and I hung on his every word.

In sitting in his class, I knew immediately how much work I had to do in my own business. He was wonderful, and a contrast to the morning’s session. It was a profound experience for me, and I was saddened I had to leave right at before it ended in order to get to my own classroom. It was among the best sessions I’ve ever attended, though there was little I was able to walk away with and apply to my life and career other than realizing how I had so much more to do. I will definitely be attending anything I can with Mr. Jones in the future.

My own session was called Incredible Salon Success, and I was with several fantastic business leaders. Led by my friend Larry Curtis, we simply introduced ourselves and then took questions from the audience. I enjoy the format because it requires little preparation and allows each panel member to chime in where they feel they can add. I found myself being perhaps a little aggressive with a couple of attendees in my answers, as I struggle when people start businesses without a plan. If you’ve read my posts or sat in one of my classrooms, you know I am raw and real, which is a nice way of saying I can be a bit of an asshole sometimes. For me to feel I was being aggressive definitely means I was.

After the class, we made our way towards the exits as our kids were in LA and had been alone since 8am. Luckily we ran into some good friends on our way out and were able to get some hugs and conversations in before hitting the road.

Two days later, we went to Pulp Riot Headquarters where I shot a haircutting and highlighting video.

Such an amazing day, capped with cocktails at Pulp Riot founders David and Alexis Thurston’s beautiful new home.

It was a fabulous trip and mini vacation that had us in the airport right when the Corona Virus scare was starting. 3.5 months later, I so look forward to a time when we can travel again and enjoy a trip and trade show without worry.

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How To Colour and Trim Your Own Hair

We aren’t shaming you, do your own roots if you need to.

Here are some tips and tricks from Michael Levine and Liz Abreu, owners of Space Salon and the Vancouver Hairdressing Academy.

– No henna
– Ammonia isn’t bad
– Natural doesn’t mean better for you
– Don’t try to go blonde
– Err on the side of slightly too dark and more neutral/ natural in tone

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And Another One Gone…

Yesterday I was contacted by students from another Vancouver hair school, a 25 year business which also operates as a salon. That business has suddenly closed, leaving their students’ without a way to complete their program. Apparently the students received the message via text yesterday. A few days ago, this company was posting how they are looking forward to 2020. Things are rarely what they seem.

I completely understand how difficult the salon business is and how challenging the school business has become in the last few years, especially since there are 2 schools in my city that are very hard to compete with. Kudos to them. And when Aveda and Evelyn Charles can’t make it work in your city, you know things are tough.

Closing a business is one of the hardest decisions to make and usually we owners hang on until there are no other options, which is always too late.

I led a seminar last spring at the Toronto ABA called When To Call it Quits. It was likely the first ever seminar of this kind, and in it I outline the signs to look for before its too late, how to get out with minimum exposure, who to pay and who to let sue you. That kind of thing.

The salon business is incredibly hard. For every brand that has managed to maintain their size and actually grow over the years, there are 1000 that cannot survive the first 3 years.

I worked like a maniac the first decade, and we made good money between years 7 and 18 of salon ownership, and lost almost everything in the 19th year. I wish I could take back 2 bad decisions I made, and there are a few things over the years I’d change if I could. We are in recovery mode today and I think 2020 will be a positive year. I think we have a wonderful team and we’ve gone back to basics in a lot of ways. I just don’t have the same energy at 50 that I did at 30.

Our business, like the restaurant business, is cyclical. If you’re up, unless you are very careful, you will go down eventually. Think back to all the top restaurants 20 years ago. Think about the top salons 20 years ago. I’m not naming names but almost all will have either shrunk, have aged poorly, or don’t exist.

What’s my point?

Build your business with a strong foundation. If “success” happens quickly, you will probably be in real trouble if you don’t take advantage of it and build something lasting that doesn’t rely solely on talented people.

Lastly, don’t get arrogant when you’re up, and understand there is no shame in the struggles you may be facing.

The question is, what are you doing about it?

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Who’s Going to #ISSELB?

How to survive2
Who’s going to be at Long Beach ISSE in January?

I’m going to be speaking twice on Sunday, then I’ll likely hang out at the Pulp Riot stage as well.

My first session is geared towards owners and managers, and I’m going to address the reality of the business;
how, through a lot of hard work, good systems, trial and error, and a lot courage, my wife and I became very successful.

And how after some poor decision making and mismanagement, solely our fault, we almost lost everything, suffering 2 walkouts, the most recent being 4 months ago.

I will be putting it all out there: what happened, the mistakes we made, and how are we navigating the hardest challenges we’ve ever faced in 20 years as salon owners.

This is going to be the first time I’ve spoken about our issues and this is largely the reason my blog has been quiet for the last year.
Sunday, January 27, 2019: 9:30 AM – 10:45 AM
Room: Hyatt – Seaview C

My second session will be as part of the Incredible Salon Success panel with some people I truly respect and look up to. I’m looking forward to adding my perspective to this group.
Sunday, January 27, 2019: 2:45 PM – 4:00 PM
Room: 104A

I look forward to being back in California and seeing some familiar and new faces.

I’m back, older, wiser, and will continue to bring the reality that nobody else talks about.

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Stop Making Excuses

Doing what you love is easy, and hairdressers are among the luckiest people because they get to do what they love all day. But most of us wish for more; more success, more money, more respect, more publicity, more notoriety.

To get more you need to put in the real work and often that means getting better at the things that you aren’t good at or don’t enjoy as much. It involves tackling challenges rather than shying away from them, and taking risk when you are afraid and unsure.

Achieving mediocrity is easy, achieving something great is hard, but you’ll find it far more rewarding once you overcome your challenges.

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Empathy, Perseverance, Responsibility, and Thinking Bigger

shutterstock_452441251I reached out to a realtor looking for a new space and discovered a very new salon, less than 2 years old, is now available for sale. This is the owner’s 3rd location that has closed, changed hands, or is closing. This is a person who may be a very talented stylist but is not equipped to own a hair salon. Salon ownership is hard, and if you go into it without plans for a real, actual business, you will fail. It’s inevitable, and it is why the vast majority of salons close.

I recently closed a salon, and I caught myself feeling like, “I’m tired of trying to take over the world.” I am reevaluating who and where I want to be in  the industry .”
I currently have 28 employees and 4 locations and I told myself I was no longer interested in growing and that I was simplifying.

And this is business suicide.

Salon ownership kicks you in the balls over and over again until you decide you don’t want to get kicked anymore. So you downsize and just rent the chairs. You’re done with the bullshit and you have no fight in you anymore. And this is where you will start hammering the nails into the coffin.

Luckily, like Kenny Powers, (very NSFW and dirty, I advise against clicking this link) I listen to my own recordings and I gave my head a shake and got my act together again. In business, you are either growing or you are dying. There is no such thing as maintaining what you have.

Salon owners are trying to make money by billing by the hour and relying on the talents and skills of individual employees. It’s very much like a law firm but but with much smaller income and a ridiculously low profit margin potential. In order to mitigate the losses when your top talent inevitably leave you, you must constantly be developing new talent. This year I lost 2 of my long term and high earning employees. And other than emotionally, I wasn’t really hurt in any way. In fact, our numbers really didn’t change much.

If you offer your team a path, provide them a cool salon in a good location, and never stop growing and developing your team because you know that you will lose people, you will be OK. You just have to keep the fire going.

A couple of years ago I was asked to speak at Paul Mitchell The School in Costa Mesa, California as well as do a Masters interview for Winn Claybaugh. This audio is and excerpt from that interview, where I cover a few different ideas, but they all come together with my usual message;
Grow up, look in the mirror, get your act together, and think big.