I go to work as a hairdresser today for the last time. I always knew it would happen, maybe not so soon though.
I started hairdressing school in 1993 but I didn’t really begin my career as a stylist until 1996. That was the year hairdressing became my career, or maybe more my identity.
I have gone from a starving apprentice to a fully booked stylist, to a platform artist, to a starving salon owner, to a fully booked salon owner working five days a week, to four days, then three days, then two… I stopped being the highest earner in my company about three years ago. I still hold the record month, though I suspect a 26 year old member of my team is going to beat that pretty soon. She easily could if she worked four days a week instead of three. And I will celebrate it when it happens.
Salon ownership is hard. It is usually ego that made us open the salon in the first place. “Asshole is taking half of my money. And he doesn’t know what he’s doing. I’m going to do it better.” So we open a salon built around us and make ourselves the star of the company. And this is the right way to do it. In order to be an inspiring mentor, you need to have climbed the mountain yourself. But this is when most owners go wrong. They like being at the top of the mountain and they want to stay there.
Once I figured out that I couldn’t do everything alone and that I needed my team to be stars in there own right rather than just my supporting cast, it became my mission to make them all develop mastery of my knowledge of hairdressing and success. My ceiling needed to be their floor, because if they all knew what took me years to develop and figure out (it’s not complicated, but I had to sift through a lot of nonsense and have a lot of experience to develop my systems), then they could use it as a foundation to branch out and develop their own. The sky would be the limit.
By taking myself off the floor, I am now going to be able to truly dedicate my energy to helping and pushing my team to success. Since having children, I’ve lost the extra time I had to communicate with my team. I’ve always been a hardass, but I’ve devolved into a hardass who doesn’t have time to nurture. I’ve allowed my company to run itself, thinking to a degree that few people cared anyways. My bad attitude and inability to be present has manifested into a stagnant salon company. I’ve allowed resistance and negativity to develop because of my own resistance and negativity.
So today marks the last day of my career as a stylist. I will miss the relationships I had developed and how incredible it is to follow people’s lives over a long period of time. Telling my clients has been profound, many have been with me for 19 years, one for 21. There have been a lot of tears and a lot of great stories and reminders of how cheeky I used to be. I’ve been overwhelmed.
I’ve had an amazing career as a stylist and have also had a pretty great career as an owner. But it’s time for me to make some big changes in my life in order to help my team have great careers. And I know that some of my staff will be resistant to my increased presence. Some will likely quit or perhaps be encouraged to seek employment elsewhere. But I am excited to be able to fully commit to my company and team once again.
September 4, 2014 at 3:20 pm
Will you keep posting on your blog? I’m a 39 year old stay at home mother of 3 and have been seriously considering becoming a hair stylist once all my children are off to school. Part of me feels like I’m to old for a career change, but life is short, I love doing hair and I’m really good at it. I love reading your posts, and I feel like I’m learning a lot before I even begin!
September 5, 2014 at 2:50 pm
Oh, of course I will. I own 3 salons and 2 schools. I am going to be in the salon more moving forward than I ever was.
I’m glad you enjoy my stuff. Jump into hairdressing when you can. It’s an incredible career.
September 4, 2014 at 4:08 pm
It is a sad day but a great day, a sunny day to start your new life without shears.
Michael, you were not such a hardass. I actually thought you were quite sweet. Always quick witted and without a doubt one of the most unprofessional professional stylists I have ever worked with, quick to make your regulars at ease and any new ones that were lucky enough to squeeze a spot in relaxed and feeling confident they were in the right place.
As a stylist I always enjoyed when you were there and as I moved from one location to the next I asked you to promise you would be there at least one day a week. Unfotunatley that never panned out as you were too busy building the new frontier. (Space) I missed working so closley with you.
If some people want you around less I say they are crazy. Michael you were and I am certain you will remain the fairest of the fair employers. Your staff(team( as far as I know this. At least the ones I spoke with.
Your cluents will miss you Michael but your team is lycky to have as far as I am concerned the funniest man on the mainland around anf more involved in helping them develop.
Cheers Michael, with the upmost respect from one of your biggest fans and an EX employee. Jamie McCallum.
September 5, 2014 at 2:49 pm
Wow Jamie, this is a beautiful comment.
Thank you my friend.
September 4, 2014 at 4:19 pm
Best wishes as you embark
September 5, 2014 at 2:47 pm
September 4, 2014 at 5:25 pm
Great post, you might as well have been writing my life and experience too. Years ago I stopped being a stylist and started being a business leader.
In addition, I became a coach teaching owners and leaders how to do the same. It’s a long road of learning and teaching …
Our industry needs heavy doses of education, empowerment and growth; ego and “faking it” has proven it’s limitations.
Cheers to you and thanks again for sharing!
September 5, 2014 at 2:46 pm
Thanks so much! It means a lot.
Pingback: Michael Levine’s Hanging Up His Scissors | OverDirected
September 5, 2014 at 3:34 am
September 5, 2014 at 2:46 pm
September 5, 2014 at 4:02 am
It sounds like you had a wonderful career, you place in the salon has only evolved. Your staff will carry on for you. Best wishes to you and to them.
September 5, 2014 at 2:45 pm
Thank you Peter!
September 6, 2014 at 4:23 am
I also began my career in 1996. I’ve owned two salons and have had one foot in hairstyling and one foot out over these umpteen years. But I’ve decided to rededicate myself to the industry thsee last two years. I’m 42 years old but hell, who cares. !!! Lol. Your article was inspiring. I’ll look to read more about your new season in your journey
September 6, 2014 at 6:07 pm
Thanks so such for taking the time to write. I’m glad you liked it, now get in there with both feet.
September 6, 2014 at 11:48 am
September 6, 2014 at 6:07 pm
September 6, 2014 at 8:02 pm
Hello there I just have to say that you preaented me with an amazing opportunity when you did the 2nd hand project. I was one of the first 5 to receive my shears and I have only began this journey into my life of a hairdresser but you inspired me to move forward and I will aways be forever greatful for that. I hope that you fine peace in your new journey and so glad that I got the chance because of you. Thank you
September 6, 2014 at 8:19 pm
That’s amazing Danielle! I’m not sure I did this though. I know I donated several new pairs of scissors, combs and clips a while back but I though they went to Africa or somewhere like that.
I’m going to have to look into this!
September 6, 2014 at 10:20 pm
Enjoy the next phase of your career, hope you find some time to sHair your awesome blogs on hairbrained! Hope to see you soon
September 6, 2014 at 10:51 pm
Thanks Gerard. And I will definitely post on HB.
I hope to see you soon as well.
September 7, 2014 at 12:24 am
Good on Michael, congrats!
September 9, 2014 at 2:09 pm
September 7, 2014 at 6:50 am
Hi, I love reading your blog. I am a salon owner and it looks like it has come that time for me also to hang up my shears to run the business more. When you cut back on your days working behind the chair how did you decide which clients that stayed on your book and those who moved to a employees book?
September 9, 2014 at 2:14 pm
I didn’t decide. When I went to two days a week I raised my price and then I spoke to each client as they were in and discussed it. My company is very open and many of my clients knew the team so some naturally gravitated to people, others I suggested to other people.
My issue is that many people book 6 months a head with me so we had to call all those people and try to squeeze them in elsewhere.
If you want to continue doing some hair, I would suggest you try to only keep people who make you happy.
September 7, 2014 at 1:42 pm
Best of luck in your endeavor !
Your ability to post about our industry is so right on, that both myself and my staff look forward to your posts. Would have loved to have had someone in the industry like your self in 1971 when I started. In my mind your up there with the great inspirers of our industry…….Looking forward to hearing about your new endeavor !
September 7, 2014 at 4:45 pm
That is really nice of you to say. I feel like we all go through the same stuff. Rather than get all preachy, I just write my real experiences. It’s become a bit of therapy for me to be honest.
September 9, 2014 at 2:09 pm
This is so nice of you to say. Thank you.
September 11, 2014 at 8:14 pm
As I was doing some research I stumbled on your posts, great insight and motivating as well. I started as a stylist, then educator and administrator of a school and salons. Being in the business since 1980, with the same company. Seeing and feeling most of the same emotions. We have been through a few changes and made hard decisions that aren’t always popular but they are the right ones. Its so good read these posts, I love it when people have standards they live by. Thanks!
September 24, 2014 at 3:06 am
Ok I’m crying ,,,,,I have been a stylist /owner for well over 20 years and I just found your blog. Such a similar story ,,Thank you for sharing. I sure hope there is more to read, as I’m in that weird limbo of should i step away from the chair…and don’t want to leave my wonderful clients of 20 years. if not I’m going to have to get your number it sure isn’t easy and a lot of hairdressers don’t take it this far. Good Luck with the new endeavor. Who would of thought in 1991 other 20 year olds would be as cool to teach as being the student ourselves. It is a great business, just a bit STRANGE and there isn’t a lot of how to info out there.
Thanks again. JEN
ps I googled up how to “feed stylists in salon” and you popped up
October 7, 2014 at 1:55 pm
Thanks so much for writing Jennifer. It really means a lot to me that this post speaks to you.
Leaving is tough. I may have to keep my hands a little bit in it still. It’s been a month now and I feel mixed.
November 26, 2014 at 2:19 pm
Hi Michael! Let me first tell you my business and life partner have enjoyed reading through your posts. We can certainly relate to this one and others. You seem to have great convictions about your methods and I am curious about your opinion on some things. How do you handle cancellation policies and no shows in your salons? How do you handle a supposed “redo” appointment weeks after the original service? And do you redo if a client does not follow home care directions that lead to fading due to over washing, terrible or over the counter products etc ? Our cancellation situation was pretty out of control so we implemented our policy. We catch flack of course from clients who are horrible at keeping appointments and although our policy is not common in our area it is not unheard of in the industry. Thank you so much for sharing!
January 12, 2015 at 10:05 pm
Just stumbled across your blog, I am a stylist from Ireland! You are amazing and I’m picking up some great tips here as a junior stylist looking to grownmy clientele more and more ! Giving up your work on the floor to help mould and develop your staff is the most selfless thing ever, outstanding and they’re so lucky to have you! Hope it’s going well!
January 13, 2015 at 6:52 pm
Thanks Kellymarie! It so far hasn’t, as I’ve been hired to write a book, am opening another academy and been booked to speak in New York at the big hair show. So actually I’ve been at work even less.
I have a lot of work to do.
February 7, 2015 at 4:48 pm
Hi. So glad to meeting you here. I am so happy for you to have chance spending time with your family. I have two dogs & a husband. We both work our ass off but never forget our dogs routine . I have my own hair studio for 3 years after work for nothing ! Yes, it’s nothing! I have 24 years plus experience in the industry, travel around the world to learn different techquie and skills. I was very happy and passionate to keep continueing my dream , after I worked for “3 jerks ‘ in this industry in Austin, Texas, my soul & my spirit dead, that’s dead was come from abuse, exhausted, and threaded. I just want to be an one kind of an amazing hair dresser who has enough skills to teach and do a beautiful hair on any person who want to be Beautiful & feel good with themselves , so simple.
I’ve been hiding for a long time and now I have my own hair studio, I was start over and become salon studio owner . But the location hit me harder than harder, from being working 7 days a week , 9-10 hours a day, to once a week ., or may be not, people just tie their pocket, some die and die young. Now I am looking forward to find a new place to start over. Where should I go?
I am certified Wella Color MCE ( master colorist expert) and Certified A-List Stylist. Humm.. rough
April 18, 2015 at 9:08 pm
Great article, and congratulations! I have been doing hair since ’94 and am getting pretty tired. Trying to figure out what I’m going to do as a new career. It sure would be nice to have a set salary and benefits and start paying into social security again! I have no desire to open or run a salon,I had 2 children during the last 16 years so opening a salon wasn’t an option. What next??! Good luck to you and your team!!