My Life As A Hairstylist

Salon owner, hairstylist, educator, product maker, photographer

Find a Mentor and Be a Mentor- Part 1


I’m breaking this up into 2 parts because it will be too long, and part 2 is going to require some real thought to express the gratitude I feel.

I used to get really annoyed when people would ask me to get together for a drink because they wanted to “just pick my brain.” Then I heard myself saying it to Anna Pacitto in a Toronto hotel lobby last year and I cringed as the words left my mouth.

The reason this can get annoying to the people who hear it is because they are generally very busy kicking ass and there isn’t much in it for them to spend an evening telling someone over cocktails what they already likely know. Unless it’s a future business contact, you are friends, or the person wants to learn something from you, it’s just not a good use of a busy person’s time. The relationship has to go both ways.

But it got me thinking about the people who influenced me on my path to success so I thought it would be time to name names.

In the early 2000s, I used to hang around on a popular message board and would see the name Robert Cromeans everywhere. I had no idea who he was so when I saw his team was doing a show at a show in Vegas, my wife and I went down to see him. And he absolutely blew us away. I left that show with a CD set called The Art of Making Money, and I listened to it almost constantly. Robert Cromeans became my first real mentor as a salon owner, and his CD gave me some of the tools and the confidence to push my business to places I had only dreamed of.

I had met Nick Arrojo a few years before when we were both working with Aveda but I hadn’t really spent much time with him. His current business was just about to open and mine was booming, so it wasn’t until a few years later that I made Nick into my next mentor. I had liked his personality and consultation style on What Not To Wear My so my wife and I flew to New York to take a two-day class at Nick’s growing salon. The session was called Up Close With Nick, and it helped me take things to the next level. Nick was much more business focussed than I was and it made me see things with a more controlled and purpose-filled eye. And we opened our second location.

Ted Gibson was another former Aveda guy and I had paid attention as his name started to grow outside of the Aveda world. We knew back in the 90s he was special, and now he was in New York, had Angelina’s endorsement and was becoming the next big name and his salon was taking off. So my team and I flew to New York for an IBS show where Ted and his team were presenting. I wanted to get closer so I paid extra and took a hands-on with Ted and his husband Jason Backe.

Now understand this; I almost never take classes to learn hair. I take classes to pay attention to how the person speaks and their mannerisms. And this was no different. I am a good hairdresser and I have strong core ideas, so I’m only looking for little tips and tricks, not to change the way I work. But there were two women who actually left the class when they discovered that there wouldn’t be any colour education. I shook my head, and if they had paid attention to who Ted became later, I hope they regretted leaving and learned something. This was well before What Not To Wear but it wasn’t as if Ted wasn’t already a big name.

I learned an extremely valuable lesson from Ted when his model came in 40 minutes late, with a coffee and no real apology. That one exchange changed the way I think completely and was more than worth the cost of the trip and class. I also name dropped some people from my Aveda years and connected with Ted and Jason, enough so that they came to my salon in Vancouver to talk to my team, as well as had dinner with me.

Part 2 coming soon…

4 thoughts on “Find a Mentor and Be a Mentor- Part 1

  1. I absolutely love hearing your history. Dying to hear how Ted handled the late model. An area I’m extremely weak in. Looking forward to Part 2!

  2. Great blog – It’s true what they say: who you hang around with really matters.

    I would add to the “picking your brains” comment – I laugh when people just want to “have a chat and throw some ideas around” – translates to “can you do some thinking for me!?” You hit the nail on the head – it has to be a two-way street.

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