My Life As A Hairstylist

Salon owner, hairstylist, educator, product maker, photographer

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How To Not Get That Job and How To Mildly Offend The Potential Employer In The Process


I’m always hiring at the entry level, and you should be too. The reason? Well, most people we hire don’t work out, so I never stop. I know that the minute I think I am fully staffed, someone is going to quit, not show up, come in hung-over and smelling bad, break a leg skiing…something is going to happen to disrupt the rare moment of calm I sometimes get to experience as a salon owner. So I have an ad on Craigslist right now and I’m interviewing.

I have now had two of the four people I’ve interviewed show up not matching our dresscode and knowing virtually nothing about me or our company other than we own hair schools and salons.

I teach a session all over Canada and the United States called How To Survive and Thrive as a Hairstylist and it is geared towards students. A huge part of this is about getting and keeping a job, so I am maybe a little sensitive when I see people doing it so wrong when it’s easy to do it right. And if you don’t know, my name is on the door of our salons, and that alone speaks to my ego. So I asked this latest person if she had taken a moment to Google me to do a bit of research once I realized she knew very little about us. She said she had but there “wasn’t much out there other than that I owned salons and schools.”

So I Googled myself and discovered I might be one of the easiest salon owners on the planet to look in to. This isn’t bragging, it’s more about the fact I never stop bitching. Like right now. This blog has given me a pretty loud voice and I clearly have little to no filter. Add to that, all my videos are run on American Salon Magazine, as well as other publications, and it’s pretty easy to find out what makes me tick and what you should do in order to lube things up a bit during an interview.

What you should do is spend a bit of time digging and then implying that you are very aware of my company and have wanted to work with me since you first went to hair school and, then list off the reasons, which you just discovered that morning. And even more importantly, you should care about your career enough to make sure my vision aligns with yours.

So I proceeded to give this applicant a probably super intense and possibly not very polite lecture on this very subject. Because I teach it all over the place, I am hyper-sensitive to when these things happen to me and once I get into “Let me give you ‘Getting a Job 101’” mode, things often get ugly for the person sitting across from me. I can’t help it, I’m sick. But in my own weird way I am trying to help them in the future. I also loudly lecture salespeople who call me “Mike” when I introduce myself as Michael. It’s ugly but I would hope they think about it the next time they have an opportunity to speak with someone by the name they are given.

Alright, who am I kidding? I’m an asshole. But I’m trying to get people who half-ass things to work a little harder. So you could say I’m an asshole with a heart of gold, doing what your hairdressing school instructor and your parents should have done.

So the search continues to find two more people to join this first team of future superstars. Thankfully I have had several applicants so right now I can afford to be picky. And for that I am grateful, because one of the worst situations plaguing our industry is a lack of new talent. I’ve had to hire people before that I wish I didn’t because I needed a warm body. And once someone is in for a while, it’s hard to get rid of them even though you know they will never do anything meaningful with their careers, and that degrades the ability to create the Utopian salon we all envision when we plan our businesses.

If I can leave you new talent stylists with one bit of advice, you have a computer in front of you right now and you carry one in your pocket all day every day. There is absolutely no excuse to not spend a little time researching the company you are trying to get a job with. You have no excuse for not knowing what their dress code might be if they have one. And for the love of God, if the owner is arrogant enough to put their name on the door, you better stroke that ego by finding out what you can about them.



Hairdressers! This Is The Most Important Thing You Will Ever Read

My blogs and videos are generally about a reality check, attitude adjustment and improving professional behaviour for hairstylists.

This is the most important and powerful blog I’ve ever posted. And I didn’t write it.

It came in as a comment on one of my other blog posts, and there is something in here for every one of us. I’ll leave it here without any further comment.

“I personally have found most stylists to be very pleasant people. In addition I would not want to ever hurt someone’s feelings or be rude in any situation.

There are, however experiences I have had in the last several months with stylists that have made me wonder if my communication skills are lacking, or is there a trend for stylists to only half listen, and then give you the look THEY want you to have, instead of what you asked for.

Also after I have explained what I wanted and ask them to reiterate it, and they do so, it still turns out to be not what I asked for.

These are lovely sweet stylists. I feel they somehow are distracted, half listening, or already have in their minds what they think I need.

I’m learning nowadays, its wise to bring a picture of what I want, to ask them to show me what they mean by words like caramel, smokey, cream, blend, undercut, build, pull, etc.
A lot of misunderstandings occurred because they were using terms of the salon trade which they did not explain to me.

Yesterday I was accused of trying to leave the salon without paying. I was not happy with my color at all. I was trying to pay and get out of there. I had never been there. I went to the waiting area up front, where I thought there was a reception desk.
I did not know you paid the stylist at the chair.

So not only was I shocked at what the stylist had done to my hair, because she did not listen to me, I was humiliated because I didn’t know where to pay, because both the stylist and the owner were actually angry with me because I did not like my hair.

I sat in my car and cried.

I’m 62. The stylist was about 25.

The rudeness of the stylist and the owner was breathtaking.”


Be Careful Who You Let In To Your Business


It’s happened to most salon owners at one point; a stylist with a clientele walks in to your salon and wants a job. Since most salon businesses are struggling with profitability, it’s easy to get excited when this happens. You look at this person and you see dollar signs. The answer to your problems just walked in your door so you hire them immediately before someone else snatches them up. Because this person is a very hot commodity and if you don’t take them in, someone else will.

They said everything right to get the job, and you may even have ignored some red flags during the interview because the upside was so good. But more often than not, you will very quickly regret opening your business to this person.

If you are a rental salon owner or a commission owner without plans for expansion, this type of hiring may be fine for you and it may be a great relationship. But if not, you want to tread very carefully here. Because the short term gain may lead to some very long-term pain.

That stylist with a big clientele is going to look very cool to your team. Their techniques, style and clientele is like a breath of fresh air in your salon and your staff will likely be drawn to the new stylist, especially if they are good. It’s like an injection of energy, busy-ness and cash in to your salon and everything appears to be going well.

But they may have a bit of a hard time adjusting to your culture, maybe ignoring their share of the cleaning duties. Maybe sitting in the staff room or leaving the building when they don’t have a client in their chair. And that’s not how things are done in your salon. You let it slip a little because you don’t want to rock the boat too much because this stylist could have taken their act anywhere and you don’t want to lose them.

And slowly your relationship erodes as you try to maintain control of your business while allowing someone to chip away at what you worked to build. Eventually it seems you are constantly trying to do damage control. They are now openly saying some of your policies or non-negotiables are bullshit and that they don’t need to adhere to what the rest of the company does because their clientele is THEIRS. And they are right. This one thing can have a profound impact on the rest of your salon. Do you let all your staff have full access to the client lists?

And then suddenly they quit.

When that person leaves, the aftershock in your salon can be devastating. Maybe they had become quite close with a few people and had spent some time talking shit about you and poisoning a relationship or three you thought were solid. Nobody ever leaves without talking about it and nobody ever leaves without disliking a job. In as little as a few months, this new stylist in your salon may be the catalyst for you losing a long-term employee. Maybe even a full scale walk-out. Because when someone comes in to your business and then leaves, the remaining staff will start to wonder “What’s wrong with us?”

More scary than that, and I’ve seen this happen many times, the person decides they want to damage your business and will continue to try to hurt your relationship with your current staff. I once watched a former creative director of a company manipulate a situation against a former employer where several of the education, management and top stylists in the company left within 6 months of her leaving. And she wasn’t even staying in town, she was moving. But for some reason, some people want to see a salon fail when they leave it. Maybe their ego wants it to not survive without their presence. Maybe they are just mean-spirited. Our industry can be a strange one and there are sometimes people with bad intentions.

I myself dodged a bullet a while ago apparently. A stylist I met a while back mentioned that he had applied with me but not gotten the job. I apologized and asked where he had gone and he had ended up working for some friends of mine. He then told me how he left because they were ripping off the staff with low commissions and that he had personally been responsible for one of their longest term employees quitting. He was almost bragging. I asked how long he had worked there. A month. In one month, this stylist caused long-term damage to a well-known salon run by highly respected owners.

I believe in order to survive as a business, the culture and team need to be the priority. In order for people to all be on the same page they need to have climbed up the same ladder and overcome the same hurdles. Notice the first four letters of the word “CULTure.” You cannot have a strong business without a cult mentality. That doesn’t mean you have to convince people to wear khakis and castrate themselves, but the best businesses are basically cults that care about their members and want them to achieve their professional and financial goals rather than take a drink and wait for the mothership to come back. Your team need to see you as a strong leader with vision and your company as a place they love and want to invest in.

As with all rules, there are certainly exceptions, but it happens enough that it is not worth the gamble if you care about your culture. The best thing you can do for your business is to let that person go down the street to another salon. It is not worth the risk. Fast and easy money is rarely good money and it is no way to build a team. A strong foundation is they key to real success and longevity.