My Life As A Hairstylist

Salon owner, hairstylist, educator, product maker, photographer


The Importance Of Bringing in Guest Artists and Speakers

If you’re a salon owner, you know that it can be frustrating to see your message fall on deaf ears. It’s okay, it happens to all of us. Bring in a like-minded guest speaker and ignite that fire through a fresh voice conveying a similar message to yours.
And I touch on some other stuff as well.


I Hate Yelp, But We Probably Deserve Our Reviews


I had a terrible service experience at a bike shop the other day. It was so bad I didn’t buy any of the parts I wanted. I won’t go in to the details, but this awful service actually caused me to spend 3 hours at the hospital after I ate it on my bike 15 minutes after leaving the shop. Tetanus shot, road rash and what I thought was a broken wrist. I started my Yelp! review from the ER and also copied and pasted it to Google. So much anger!

As I was writing the review, I thought about how it was ironic that I hate Yelp with a passion but it was also the very first thing I thought to do after a negative service experience. And looking at my yelp profile, it seems I generally find the time to write negative reviews but rarely positive. But hey, I’m a cranky bugger.

Writing a post on Yelp, or just having a service experience that is lacking  puts us in the position of the majority of people who have written negative reviews on our own businesses and it made me think about how many cues we are given and opportunities we have to fix issues before a client takes to the internet with revenge on their mind. And often it’s not revenge, it’s simply an expression of frustration, though with hair, it tends to be more personal and dramatic. And rightfully so.

What causes a business or service provider who clearly recognizes the client is unhappy or frustrated to let them leave their business without a plan for resolution? At this bike shop, they were rude from the outset but I still chose to go with this simple service because I needed it done and it was only $120. When I picked up the bike, the majority of the work hadn’t been done, the work that was done was done very poorly and they were completely unapologetic when I clearly told the entire staff that I was really upset about the situation. I had been planning on purchasing a rack for the car, new pedals, a new stem, and I had bought 2 bikes from them within the last 4 years. I’d never experienced a business so clearly demonstrate dislike for their customer.

But I’m quite sure that in their mind, I was simply being an asshole and being difficult. I was being a psycho.

How often do hairdressers, who take tend to take criticism of our work personally, make the same assessment of the client who is expressing their anger and frustration over the services we have provided? Oh, I’m not saying their aren’t psychos out there, but in reality there are a lot less of them than we like to expertly diagnose once our skills have been questioned. How many of us are truly objective and honest about our work? Have you ever changed a parting because a bit of grey didn’t cover, or a foil bled or the ombre blend was chunky and hard? Taken a client outside so they could see the colour that they (or we) couldn’t see in the salon?

What about when a client says “It’s fine,” or goes completely silent. We know they aren’t happy, but we don’t react unless they expressly tell us they dislike their hair? Do we just get them out the door because out of sight, out of mind? I think many of us do.

Once again, I hate Yelp, and I hate it for 2 main reasons:
Firstly, I think they use extremely shady business practices. I used to advertise with Yelp and after 12 months I was able to quantify that there was no real difference in the traffic I got with advertising and without, so I didn’t renew my contract. Within a week, six of my 5 star reviews were filtered out, and all of them had been written by regular contributors and had been considered legitimate by Yelp for several months.
Yelp claims it was just a coincidence, but I don’t believe it.
I also hate their predatory sales calls and that each month some new person calls me and tries the hard sell if I log into my owners account.

The second reason I hate Yelp is simply that they exist. It gives people an avenue to publicly complain rather than go to the business and try to seek resolution first. And this is where things get more complicated.

My own recent experience at this bike shop had me expressing my frustration to several people in the store. Nobody took me aside and sincerely apologized and tried to make it right. I stood there obviously angry and they didn’t care. And as I was writing my own review on Yelp, hoping to negatively impact their business, it go me thinking how often this happens in my own salons. How at fault my own company is for ignoring a client’s dissatisfaction or unhappiness. I think it must be a lot more often than it should. I can’t imagine people deliberately go to a hair salon with the intention of being unhappy. I have to assume 99% of the people out there want to leave a salon loving their hair. Sticker shock can be an issue, but it usually isn’t if the client truly loves their hair. Some people are crazy, but there really aren’t that many of them. We know that they are the minority.

Is it your agenda to deliver amazing hair, that you yourself would want if you were the client? Are you empathetic to the client experience and able to not make the service about you but about the client? Do you truly care?

I think most people who take to Yelp are just like me. They were not happy and the business ignored them. As an owner, I would hope the client would reach out to me and ask for resolution, but I have a feeling that most people already did in some way reach out to someone while still in the salon. And they were ignored.

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My Hair DNA For American Salon Magazine

There is a lot more to my story of course, but I first got into hairdressing for the girls and the social side of it.
I suppose it worked in that I met a beautiful young woman through hairdressing and eventually married her.
My passion and understanding for the craft of hairdressing and for the people who choose to sit with us and support our careers grew and evolved over the years, and continues to do so.


Are Photo-Shoots and Hairdressing Competitions Irrelevant?


As we are now inundated with nearly countless new hair images each and every day, I am starting to think that the conceived, budgeted professional photo-shoot lacks real value to today’s and tomorrow’s hairdresser.

Each and every day, hairdressers are loading images of their work to Instagram. Some of those hairdressers take their imagery very seriously, shooting with a studio light and a professional camera and then transferring the higher quality image to their phone for uploading. In one of my salons, we have a studio light and area dedicated to shooting in-salon images.

But a hairstylist doesn’t need any of that if they have a newer phone with a quality camera and understands light. It’s pretty simple really. Have your model face the light, or have the light coming from behind you as the photographer. This is a basic principle of portrait photography and why you see some people get amazing shots with their phones and others with the same phone never seem to get their shots looking clean and punchy.

Salons also can have a sweet spot for photos, where the available light falls in such a way that the images look amazing every time. We were at Butterfly Loft salon earlier this year and watched a few stylists taking images in front of their iconic concrete wall, and as a photographer, I was shocked to see the images looking incredible straight from the phone, no editing. These guys have a perfect sweet spot for hair imagery. It may be a fluke but I suspect they knew what they were doing.

Obviously, the strength of a hair image is rooted in the work itself, followed by the attractiveness of the model or client. But with this type of imagery, we can frame a focal point of a cut or colour and angle the shot to include as much or as little of the model’s face as we like. But the point here is not about how to take a great hair shot in the salon, it’s about whether traditional hair shoots have become or are becoming irrelevant. And I think that they are.

Instagram has become the social media platform of choice for just about everyone these days, and hairdressers have absolutely embraced it as a way to promote the type of work that they love to do. It is an incredible marketing tool for new business and has become a way for hairdressers to finally take the power away from product companies and has changed the industry in just a few short years. I love what Instagram has done for equalizing the playing field and opening doors for everyone who uses it well, but the side effects of new media are having much larger implications. I cover some of this in a previous blog post called The Dumbing Down of Hairdressing. In fact, this is almost a Part 2 of that article.

Traditionally, the way a hairstylist would gain national and international attention was through being published and winning awards. There was nothing more coveted than winning North American Hairstylist of the Year (except for winning British of course) and many winners of these awards were often tied to larger brands as ambassadors or educators. Through NAHA and the Canadian counterpart Contessas, industry icons were born. That is not to imply that they weren’t awesome and known before their awards, but these awards made them household names in the industry. Charlie Price, Nicholas French, Tony Ricci, Edwin Johnston, Daniel Holzberger and many others became famous outside of the cities they worked in and the brands they educated for.
And a man named Dimitros Tsioumas became a legend.

Before Instagram, we would wait for each month’s hair publications and then stare at the 8 x 10 inch image and absorb everything if we liked it. We would pass it around the staff room and celebrate or critique the image in detail, from balance, makeup, wardrobe, model, literally everything. I can recall almost all the images that I loved over the years down to the finest details.

Fast forward just a few years and today the industry is moving at a much faster, almost break-neck speed, not in progress but in how we “consume” imagery. We have become conditioned to absorb and view an image in a few seconds on a 3×3 inch box on a 5 inch screen. When we log in to our Instagram feed each day, we are only exposed to who we follow and then we quickly scan the images and like what appeals to us and maybe spend a few more minutes staring at the things we truly love if we are studying how it was accomplished. This has created an industry-wide situation where a stylist must produce new imagery each and every day in order to maintain and build a following.

With Instagram, a new generation of artists have emerged who don’t care about NAHA or an award. Not in a,
“I don’t care about that shit,”
but in a
“That’s awesome, nice work! But I’m not interested in doing that,”
kind of way.
They care about doing work they and their clients love, and emulating today’s stars; fabulous stylists like Iris Smith, Ricky Zito, Linh Phan, Jenny Strebe and of course, Guy Tang, and hopefully it translates into likes and followers. Because for the first time in our history as hairdressers, commercial hairdressers are being celebrated as the new industry leaders, (excluding Allan Edwards, Chris McMillan and Sally Hershberger changing how an entire continent wore their hair of course), and the previous generation of industry icons are essentially irrelevant when it comes to the industry as a whole. Unless they can gain a meaningful following.

Today, a hairdresser’s stock is based on how many followers they have. Case in point, a list of the 20 Best hairstylists in Vancouver just came out. Of the 20 mentioned, I have only heard of four of them and personally know or have met just three. I’m not saying I’m fully in the loop and that they aren’t all awesome, I’m sure some of them are, but Vancouver is home to some major, award-winning stylists, several Canadian Hairstylist of the Year winners, and none of them were even mentioned as the Top 20. To ignore Chad Taylor is ridiculous and irresponsible.

One of my own team members, Alina Friesen (who a few days ago moved to New York to pursue a career in real editorial hairstyling), was not mentioned. Alina is a 4 time Contessa winner and 3 time NAHA finalist. She would be considered a giant in any city, fully booked with a waiting list and charging $200 for a cut. She is also responsible for nearly all the editorial work for Aritzia and Kit and Ace over the last few years and she is only 28. She doesn’t have a large following because she doesn’t really care to, but I do know she was insulted to not have been mentioned as one of those 20 stylists in the city she kicked ass in for the last decade.

So here we are, in an incredible place where everyone has a platform and everyone can achieve their dreams in the industry without having to go to the trouble, expense, and creative efforts to create something brand new for each collection in order to stay on top. That may read as bitter but it’s the truth. Ask any award-winning artist about the time, creative energy, the team and the expense needed to create 3 images for a collection and you will understand. This is not to say that there is not an incredible amount of work and creative energy put out to create a fantastic Instagram shot, and it is amazing that some of those barriers have been removed in order to achieve industry recognition.
But why invest all that time, energy and money in creating imagery that is all but forgotten a few hours after it is released. There is so much noise out there today that almost nothing has the chance to become important. An image simply doesn’t have legs anymore.

Today the trade magazines realize that there is more power in social media than in print. All you have to do is look at the work they are sharing in their social accounts to see this.
Unless the trade magazines and the competitions can figure out how to evolve while still celebrating the importance and value of traditional hairdressing editorial work, the amount of stylists willing to truly test themselves and push boundaries is going to become smaller and smaller. This type of styling is not important to the stylist who wants huge success and accolades in a world where reach is everything.

The truth is that if I were a new stylist entering today’s industry, I don’t know that I would even be aware the awards and that level of hair artistry even exist. It certainly wouldn’t be worth the efforts because other than for personal satisfaction, it is not really going to do anything for my career in the short term. And we all know that we are living in a short-term, instant gratification world, and yesterday’s work is truly ancient history.



The Dumbing Down of Hairdressing


There is nothing more dangerous to development and growth than fast success; success that hasn’t been what would be considered earned in the traditional sense. Most of us lack the ability to deal with rapid success, which is why you see most pop stars become insufferable assholes after a hit or two, and why they all tend to be broke and forgotten a few years later.

Our industry is in full Kardashian era right now, and much like what the K family is doing to the priorities of a large chunk of the under 30 set in the western world, this is causing what might be irreparable damage to the industry.
The reason is that hairdressing has become generic, boring and way too easy.

I’m a cranky old bastard so we can get that out of the way. Perhaps I’m being super dramatic, but I don’t think so.

As much as a few people like to think I’m a progressive thinker, I’m very old school in my belief system; develop your craft through apprenticeship, working your ass off under a master or two. Overcome adversity and work until you are deemed good enough, fight for your skillset and your station. At the same time, I do believe in faking it until you make it and putting out the perception to clients and potential clients that you are better than you might be in order to build your books. Because clients want to sit in the chair of an exciting and passionate hairdresser, and they certainly want to have faith that their stylist is fantastic.

But the important part here is that the stylist themselves need to know that they have work to do and that they should never be satisfied with their current skills or abilities. Never being satisfied means the stylist will continually work to become better, through ongoing training as well as a truly objective opinion of their own work. The issue we are having today is in how many relatively new stylists view their current skillset, and who they are influenced by each day.

I was lucky to have apprenticed under a few very demanding hairdressers who were much more knowledgeable than I was. They weren’t always nice, but they were fucking awesome and I had a deep need for their approval and to figure out how to get my work to be great, like theirs was. That need in me was personal, but was also part of the culture of the salon I worked with, to grow through the ranks of the company and become a master stylist. And this is what I attempt to do with my own company as well.

Today we have a very different industry than we did 3 years ago, even 12 months ago. If you’ve read this far, I thank you. But here is where I will start pissing some of you off:
Instagram, YouTube, “PLEX” products are hurting the future of the craft of hairdressing.

Instagram itself is an awesome tool for sharing work and allowing people to build their businesses by showcasing the type of work they like to do and are excited about. It’s wonderful in that we all have a website that anyone can view in seconds and it broadens our potential reach drastically. It’s basically given everyone an equal opportunity platform to let the world know what they are all about. Awesome, right?

What we have seen since this phenomena started is a rapid dumbing down of hairdressing. This platform has launched a new generation of industry stars, virtually unknown, almost overnight. And that in itself is amazing, except for when some of those people aren’t that good at doing hair.

Now this is not at all trying to imply that Instagram famous hairdressers aren’t great. Many of them are amazing and do wonderful and sophisticated cuts, colours and finishing.
But a small handful of these stylists are not very good. At all. And it’s clear that they are unaware of it. And no, I’m not naming names.

So now what’s happening is that a few shit stylists have become influencers to an entire new generation of stylists, who try to emulate them. Product companies are sucking up to and endorsing stylists because of reach rather than skills.

Now we come full circle to that thing about surrounding yourself with amazing people who are way better than you so you can always see that you have room to grow. Many of these people won’t look around the room because they are starstruck by IG hairdressers and want to follow a similar path to success. And because most of these stylists are also constantly putting up bullshit inspirational memes about independence and being true to yourself, new industry talent sees this as their path also, rather than working their asses off to perfect their craft and to climb a ladder in an amazing salon company. It’s now a race to rent a “loft” space and work alone. While I totally get independence and the micro-salon thing, it absolutely should not be the goal for anyone but the most together, driven and entrepreneurial of us, and that is an extremely small minority. But that is another article.

So here we are today, where tens of thousands of hairdressers are making a cacophony with largely similar, often mediocre to completely shit work on social media. In literally 3 years, the legends, the people who have put their time in, who have dedicated a lifetime to artistry and craft are disappearing from eyes of the vast majority of the industry while mediocre curl-sets hiding mediocre cuts reign supreme.

We used to rip through trade magazines each month to see who was featured and who was doing what. We would wait for the Contessas, the NAHAs and the British Hairdressing Awards to see what new, incredible work would be put out and who would evolve into a future icon or legend by consistently being nominated or winning. We would see what the latest photography and makeup trends for editorial were going to be and who was going to do something truly meaningful and lasting.

Whenever I speak, I ask if my classroom knows of certain industry icons. Of course everyone has heard of and icon like Vidal, but in a very vague, mythical sense. But few will know of Roger Thompson, Trevor Sorbie or Tim Hartley. And of course I don’t even bother with names like Akin Konizi, Angelo Seminara or Mark Hayes.

But they absolutely do know the Instagram stylists with huge followings. Again, this is not at all meant to be negative about people putting out work that they love. And again, many them are fantastic and we should all have had the foresight and have worked so hard at the outset of social media to secure our place. And, they deserve all their success for putting out work that people are loving.

What it is about is our technical and creative leaders who have spent a lifetime honing their craft being replaced almost overnight, sometimes by people who are incapable of cutting a one-length bob. And when a standard of technical excellence and pursuit of perfection is being replaced by a pursuit of likes and followers, our industry suffers.

I believe in having a solution before bringing up a problem, and there is hope, but it falls on a few key people:

All hairdressing school instructors and mentors have a responsibility to teach people about the history of modern hairdressing. Vivian Mackinder‘s wonderful video series, “I’m Not Just A Hairdresser,” is part of my academy curriculum and I make it my mission to introduce my students to the icons of this industry. My personal hero is Trevor Sorbie, so I make it my mission to introduce him to my students and staff.

The trade magazines already promote NAHA, Contessa and BHA winners in print and showcase what can happen when hairdressers push the boundaries. But they should celebrate these people on one IG post per day. It would be invaluable to young hairdressers. Let’s be honest, our trade magazines’ social media accounts are following right now rather than leading. I get that they have to tap in to the popular vote in order to gain followers, but they also have a responsibility to uphold the highest of standards and only showcase the best of the best. They should also make it their agenda to help push rather than follow, which seems to be what is happening lately.

The Hairbrained Teach-In is one of the few ongoing platforms where icons, legends and new talent alike get together on a stage and show their work and talk about their beliefs. I love what they do over there, and I think it would be amazing if they would invite an Instagram famous stylist to participate at each teach-in. Right now there seems to be a divide, and by welcoming them into their arms and giving them their platform, it will bring people together, and this can only be good for our industry. And the gang at HB will discover what many of us already know; that these are awesome, passionate talented hairstylists who are capable of great work and inspiring others. I consider the HB Teach-In to be a showcasing of the elite, and I think the elite should embrace these artists and start to bridge a widening gap.

The artists themselves need to work harder for a stronger social media presence Of course the trade magazines promoting them should help as well. I looked at several IG accounts of the 2016 NAHA finalists, and most have dismal followings. The scale needs to become a bit more balanced, as the work we currently see and is celebrated by the community at large is more or less all the same.

Right now the industry is heading towards Idiocracy. But there is hope, because we have never seen so many people taking pictures of and celebrating their work. This is incredible. But what needs to happen is an industry-wide effort to improve standards and raise the bar. And to recognize mediocrity and not reward it with likes, follows and compliments.
We need to not be afraid to say the Emperor has no clothes.

But Michael, why are you bitching about “PLEX” products? They are awesome!
Well, they have made it so nobody has to master the art of the colour correction anymore. Slap on some high volume bleach and you’re there. While it is a true miracle and an incredible breakthrough, it has made doing hair colour something that your average person can learn on Youtube in an afternoon and perform reasonably well in their kitchen now. And not only that, we have so many hairdressers teaching professional colour technique publicly rather than in private accounts.

Again, I’m a cranky old guy, so take that for what it’s worth. It’s my opinion that the majority of hairdressers out there suck and the majority have always sucked. I myself am only fairly decent at it. But never before have we seen an era where mediocrity and sameness has been so celebrated en masse. If you’re a hairdresser and you care, decide that you aren’t good enough and then invest the time in truly becoming great.
But it is going to require looking outside the wavy hair-noise we are inundated with each day.

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Never Let A Client Leave The Salon Unhappy

We’ve all been guilty of this at some point, trying to get a client to live with a colour they don’t love. But when we lose sight of why we are there and what our job is, we fail as hairdressers and service people.

Make your service about the client, not about your pride and ego. Sometimes we fail, and how we deal with our mistakes is what defines our service aptitude and professionalism.

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Michael Levine Answers You- Should I charge My Staff For Products Used in Services

Charging your staff for the products needed to perform their job is a challenging thing to do as a business owner. If you don’t do it right, it can make you look cheap and it can cause resentment. But you need to get those costs covered, and the salon shouldn’t be paying a high commission and also paying for the colour used.

The reason salons need to charge for products is because industry commissions are simply too high. Change your pay structure and charge more for your services. And make sure to explain the cost of doing business to your team so they don’t feel like they are being given a bad deal.

Do things right and everybody wins. Do it wrong and it’s a sure way to create a rift between you and the people you rely on.


“Dear Hairstylists, We Are Not Taking Half Your Money. Love, Your Employer”

greedy_businessmanIf you’ve worked in a salon, you’ve thought about it;
why does the owner get to keep half my money?

In fact you’ve probably also thought to yourself,
I can’t wait until I build enough to go rent a chair, or open my own salon. Then I get to keep everything! And also do what I want, when I want.

That’s okay, I used to think that as well. Until I became a salon owner myself. Then the grim reality started to set in. But before we go any further, let’s put this in perspective and remember that you, the hairdresser, are being paid a percentage of the what is being billed to the client by the salon. You are not paying the salon a portion of what you bring in, it’s the other way around. And thanks to my friend Alberto Cirillo for mentioning that to me.

Now this isn’t going to be about rental vs commission, that’s another discussion. This is about educating you as to what goes on behind the scenes to keep the salon where you work running smoothly. Actually, even just to keep the doors open.

I own salons in a very expensive city. I will try to break down the rent and basic expenses in just one of my locations, an 1800 sf salon with 12 stations on a decent street, not a huge amount of walk-by, in Vancouver Canada,. Now I know the rent alone is going to seem insane to some readers, but you can figure out your own rental situation. Most other costs will be very close for a similarly sized location.Remember, these are monthly expenses.

The build-out on this location cost $150,000. It’s beautiful, or at least it was at one point. It’s seen better days for sure, and needs a bit of an overhaul if I’m being objective. And I know my staff wonder when it’s going to be renovated. Most salons need a fresh look within 5 years, but it also helps when the team tries their hardest to keep colour off the floors and the walls.

$11250– $75 per square foot gross rent
$150– telephone and internet
$6000– receptionist and support staff to keep the salon clean, towels folded, shampoos and blow-outs for when you are running behind or to allow you to double book, lunch runs, products ordered and deal with all the other things so you can focus on your clients.
$400– liability, fire and theft insurance
$300– hydro and utilities. Water is not metered here thankfully. Talk to my friends in California about their water bills in a larger salon.
$500 miscellaneous expenses, like paper, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, light bulbs, garbage bags, new towels, washer and dryer maintenance, coffee cups, coffee and tea.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things here. I don’t know what my monthly credit card processing is immediately, but I’ll make it $200, which may be conservative. So we have a monthly fixed cost of $18,800 before we’ve even started doing any hair. Let’s round it to $19000, but I’m sure it’s closer to $20000. Each month.

Now let’s talk about the cost of doing business. What does it cost to do that $60 haircut and the averaged $120 colour? I assume roots and grey coverage are substantially less than a full balayage.

The cutting costs are generally covered by the above expenses, as the physical hard cost of a haircut is the square footage, the hydro, and the product used. Colour costs are a very different story though.

Firstly, the cost of your station is about $800 per month in rent. Simple math is the 1800 square feet divided by 12. Obviously the station itself is much smaller than this but you and your 11 co-workers are the ones generating all the money I’m getting to keeping so I like this as an easy cost of the station.

If you are fully booked doing $60 haircuts and average $120 colours (roots and grey coverage are a lot cheaper than a balayage) you would have an average ticket price of $90. A fully booked stylist doing these numbers generally should bill about $11000 per month. Do you bill this much? Most of my staff doesn’t. The average full-time, on the floor stylist in my company would do about $7000 per month, but I develop talent and don’t hire people with a book, so my situation is likely different than yours. But chances are you know what you bill and the people around you are billing.

From that $7000 per month, you get half, $3500. It’s pretty clear cut here. You get an annual salary of about $42000 each year. $42000 for being mediocre at your job. I say mediocre not as an insult but as a fact. If you are full-time and only generating $7000 a month, you are simply being average. But hopefully you are growing each month and getting better and more booked. Sadly many people stagnate though. You don’t get to say you are doing well until you are hitting at least $10000 each month

Things are much more complicated when we talk about my share of that $3500. From that $3500, we have a monthly fixed cost of $1580, which is assuming all 12 chairs are doing that average figure. So now we have $3500-$1580= $1920. Not bad, I’m still taking almost $2000 of your money. I’m still getting rich, right? But we’ve forgotten about all the other expenses involved in you generating that $7000. Like colour costs. Have you ever wasted any colour? Is your bowl clean and empty after every application? As an owner, I would say “no, it isn’t.” And what happens when your toner goes wrong or a colour goes bad? Who eats the costs here? And if a client isn’t thrilled, you drop the price a bit, making sure that your end is covered but the salon’s margin gets smaller and smaller. If you are renting your chair, I guarantee you make sure to not over-mix, but employees always over mix, even the ones I train from the beginning to mix small and remix often. So now we need to take a conservative $400 in colour costs off of our  $1920. This leaves your employer with $1520.

But this isn’t bad, is it? Well, I can only speak for Canada, but here we have 2 weeks paid holidays per employee, 3 weeks after 5 years. That totals $145 each month, leaving us with $1375.

Again, not so bad, right? Well I also pay medical benefits at $80 each month, $160 if you are married. Even more if you have a child. So now we are at $1295.

Now here is the kicker, the thing you probably didn’t know about:
Whatever is deducted from your paycheque other than tax, we pay at lease equal to what you pay. So here is a breakdown:
The average $3500 paycheck in British Columbia has the following deductions:
Employment Insurance- $65.80
Canada Pension Plan- $159.92

Your employer has to also pay $159.92 for the CPP, and has to pay 1.4 times what you paid in EI, making it $92.12. So now we deduct another $252.04, leaving the salon owner with just $1042.96. From this money, the employer must pay off the original cost of their build-out, pay surprise expenses, and of course pay themselves. I have several employees that make more money than I do. And just recently I myself had the unexpected expense of nearly $4000 in replacing both water tanks in a salon after just 5 years.

But in this perfect scenario, the salon might still make $50,000 a year in profit or about $4150 each month after the owner gets paid. This equals about 5% profit if the owner pays themselves $100000 a year, if your keeping score.

But let’s talk about me and my situation, because I know a lot of owners are just like me. Today, we have two salons, two academies and a product company. I drive a nice car and live in a nice house. After 22 years behind the chair, I don’t do hair anymore and you might say I have a nice life.

But what you likely didn’t see was the decade of 7 day weeks, countless hours of struggling, of personally coaching everyone on my team and losing money year after year until we eventually became profitable. Today you see the end result of the equivalent of a lifetime of dedication to the craft of hairdressing and to creating a salon company. You don’t see what got me to this point. And 99% of salon owners will never get to where I am today. That’s not bragging, it’s stating how difficult it is to actually be profitable.

A well-run salon can absolutely make a profit, but all too often the scenario isn’t perfect, and things get chipped away. Like when an employee decides that their employer is getting too rich off their backs and deliberately erodes the salon client relationship by whispering things like “I’m leaving soon. I’m tired of my employer getting me to push product on you. I just want to be your hairdresser, I don’t want to be forced to pressure you into buying his over-priced shampoo.”

Eventually this stylist gets enough of the client contact information and has slandered the owner enough that when they quit, the clients are ready to leave with them. Now imagine if a friend or two leave with them. The salon owner doesn’t stand a chance.

So let’s talk briefly about retail. When your employer asks you to sell a little more retail, yes, the profits from those sales are extremely helpful to the salon’s bottom line. Yes, the salon owner needs these sales in order to keep the salon looking good and running flawlessly, as well as allowing the owner to sleep at night and not be miserable to be around because the business is thriving. Those retails sales allow the salon to hire an extra assistant and to allow the staff a little more leeway. To permit the owner to provide better education with special independent guest artists not paid by product companies. To make sure the annual Christmas party is good and all expenses covered. To make the salon a better place to work.

But we don’t want you to pressure those retail sales. We want the clients to see us as experts in their hair and trusted advisers on what products will solve their hair problems. You see, retail sales are actually a barometer of how well you are doing your job and how the client views you. People don’t buy from people they don’t trust. They also don’t send friends and family to people they don’t see as amazing. By you adding “fixing your clients’ hair problems and giving styling lessons to everyone” to how you view your role as a hairdresser, you will see your retail AND service dollars start to skyrocket. And that is a really good thing for you, and when you are performing well and making a great living as a hairdresser, the salon starts to increase profits. Both of these are wonderful things for all parties. It’s win/win.

So the next time your employer seems grumpy, consider the pressure this person is carrying each day just to try to keep their dream and investment alive. And then go out there and give a styling lesson and sell some damn product.