I stood in the middle of the salon floor and took in the vision of my brand new salon education space as I declared out loud to her, “You’re ready.” At the same moment I wondered if I was ready. I looked at my reflection in the station mirrors, the stations I had built with my own hands and designed with my own imagination. “I am ready.” I whispered to myself.
I know who I am and what I stand for and I am certain that this program is going to be a game changer for those who participate so let's begin, shall we?
You don’t know me, but I think I know you. I think I know why you’re here. You say you want to help people look and feel their best? How about playing with hair? Does that sound like fun? How about being there for all of your clients' special family moments? How about the freedom and flexibility to be there for your own special family moments? Be part of a fun supportive environment of like-minded people, and if you’re willing to work very hard, not a glass ceiling in sight? Interested in a long term relationship with the professional
beauty industry and very creative and rewarding career choice? If that sounds like you,
I am here to help you with all of those goals. I am holding myself responsible for helping every hairdresser I can have a smoother transition into the professional beauty space. As you join the ranks you’re going to need people to help show you the ropes and make the lifestyle change from cosmetologist to Beauty Professional. I am committed to helping hairdressers transform their lives and create the solid foundations personally, professionally and technically they need in order to have the best chance of that long, fun, fulfilling and rewarding career that was mentioned in beauty school.
So we’re clear, a beauty school’s main focus is to prepare stylists to pass the state tests first, then provide a well rounded education as an introduction to the industry. The focus is purely on developing the hairstylist. Your hours, your program, your growth, your shiny new career path.
Then you graduate and you can’t put your finger on it, but things are quite different.
In the real salon world the focus is on the client first and then on whatever the owner decides is next in line and so on and so forth. It could be everything or nothing at all and their ability to come good on their promises is directly connected to the amount of money the salon brings in which is usually directly connected to the hairstylist’s ability to be productive which is usually directly connected to the salon’s ability to train and cultivate a culture of education, openness, curiosity and vulnerability in a team environment which is directly the orchestration of the leadership which is directly connected to the leaderships personal desire and commitment to self development as a leader.
Most of the time salon owners are busy stylists themselves who believed it was their best and necessary next step in their career beyond being a busy Rockstar hairdresser and with little more than a fun idea for décor and a clever cute name they open a salon. They generally have poor people management skills and little to no business experience. And with the grandest of hopes they set out on a journey which 7 out of 10 times will turn into a beautiful tragedy in a relatively short amount of time, about 5 years and with that kind of ownership turnover it makes for a pretty unstable and challenging entry level experience for the newest hairdressers. Other than the few larger salon groups left there are even fewer salons offering in house training and of those offering the training there is particular motivation for the stylist to stay there when they complete the main portion of “real salon life training” and use that training to grow their clientele there. Data tells us that 60% of the industry is currently operating as independent contractors and when interviewed 80% of students said they wanted to work for someone for the first 2 years and then after that 60%of that 80% said they wanted to try and go it alone after that. If that’s the case you can see why some salons have decided to scrap entry level training programs altogether because people just seem to take the education and then leave for one reason or another once their time is up and the contract for employment has been fulfilled. I don’t blame the salons, and I don’t blame the stylists either. Things cannot go on this way and like everything else in the world right now, they can’t go backward either. Unfortunately, that means currently there are a few choices for advanced education and only a few are really trying to help develop the hairdresser as a person first. It is not to say that success can’t be had, it's just that one must be real about the state of the industry at any given moment because it determines the current focus of the trade. It requires an ear to the ground and a desire to meet the community where they are while being able to utilize modern science and consistent techniques to ease their concerns and restore hope in the direction of the universe. In this way Hairdressers can change the culture of a community.
We are essential. Everyone is getting their hair done. Which means that there is an opportunity there for the hair community to use their access into the worlds of common strangers to help build stronger more connected communities. The one thing I always understood from the very beginning that has always made me want to be a better stylist is that I always knew it wasn’t about me, it was about them. Without clients we do not have a job. What if I love what I did and they hate it and I tell them their opinion doesn’t matter essentially when I tell them to live with it? They won’t come back and the journey is over, my impact in their world has come to an end and they become more jaded toward an industry that promises to help them feel better and so frequently falls short of that promise while still attaching a large price tag. More than ever people want to be seen and heard and if we’re being honest most of the time that doesn’t end up looking like a lot of the trend styles or silky smooth blowouts with iron curl work. It needs to be made for them and their specific hair types and lifestyles when we aren’t there. It says more about us if their hair looks good even when we aren’t there to do it. I don’t need to prove to you that I am amazing with hair, I ought to be, I am the hairdresser, they are the client. Of course they are going to leave the salon with an amazing finish. What really says something about me as a hairdresser is if I can set a client up with a no fuss shape, simple processes and product applications they can recreate at home, even more so if I can give them the tools and information to be a bit more brave with trying new techniques and styles on their own. We have to master the customized consultation of a whole person and we have to show up as a whole person ourselves in order for them to be open to that. Authenticity is a must and anyone who is lacking in either that or integrity will be called on the spot, especially with younger generations. There is little tolerance these days for people in spaces of influence not to be fully responsible for participating in the social changes necessary to provide a more equitable, inclusive and honest experience for the members of our community. There is no more ‘fake it til you make it’. It is now ‘own your current place in the journey and ask for the support of your community’. It is better this way, trust me. All that lying about my experience early on never did me any good anyway, usually got me in over my head and in desperate need of the elusive mentor or advanced training situation…which I never found one that worked for me then. So life, clients, feedback, self-awareness practices and a complete obsession with better self-care for myself and others has been my teacher and that is why it has taken me 20 years to get here. They say, “if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together”. It is very true, and in an era characterized by fast, I say we slow this thing down and go together. We have so far to go and we are in uncharted territories in this covid world and with the constantly shifting sands of the economy and demands of the clients our industry is taking unnecessary hits due to simply not having common systems in place to consistently onboard the new graduates and keep them learning and growing through all of the challenges and many stresses that those first few years can bring. The loss of 8 out of every 10 new hairdressers in those early years should be proof enough that it’s a tough reality. No matter which way you go it’s going to be tough. It’s not meant to be easy and it’s also not meant to be as impossible as the stats show. It’s just the old ways are not working and this isn’t a problem any one person or salon can fix alone. It is a problem that must be solved on a larger scale as an industry and on a smaller scale community by community.
What if the hair communities could band together and create a common goal and language around uplifting the community? What if instead of my very common “real world” 20 years learning experience to become a sought after influential hairdresser, we could get that info into new graduates within a few years and send them well on their way to becoming the best versions of themselves while continually learning, serving and discovering the parts of the beauty industry that best suit them and their gifts in a way that makes them glow as they grow and allows the space and flexibility to change over time? What if there was a network of salons that worked together to create better job placement for all stylists willing to be part of the solution instead of dispelling hairdressers who need more direction into the non-supportive abyss of booth renting? What if we had an answer for that awkward phase of initial personal and technical growth? What if you need that multiple times? What if hairdressers knew that valuing their own self-awareness and self-care practices was 100% part of the job and that sharing that feedback as helpful nuggets is one of the best ways they can inspire others to try new things and remain open? What if hairdressers always showed up 100% for their clients in a way that was made to impact so much more than just the hair? What if we could flip the number on it’s head and only lose 2 out of every 10 new stylists? What if, indeed?
Well, that’s what I intend to spend the rest of my life and career in the beauty industry trying
to find out. I am choosing to start my adventure in the advanced education arena and have created the industry's first ever Salon Residency Program. A 24 month comprehensive hands on paid training salon experience that will help cosmetologists transition from student to beauty professional. Stylists will learn strategies for personal, professional and technical growth. They will learn how to read industry trends, set goals and learn which key factors to watch in order to determine business success. They will learn critical thinking skills and gain a deeper understanding of the job, the salon environment and get valuable experience working one on one with both salon teams and clients. Salon Residents will be prepared to take a solid first step into the industry and no matter where they decide to go they will hopefully be assets to their salons and communities who hold themselves to a higher standard of living for themselves and service excellence for others.
By improving the entry level experience, we may be able to decrease the amount of people leaving just because it wasn’t what they thought it was going to be like. And when we keep more people longer by providing support along with a realistic view of the current state of the industry and its challenges we are giving them an opportunity to be part of the conversation and the solution to solve some pretty big issues like improving consistent client outcomes for all hair types, inclusive, safe and equitable hair environments, better transparent business practices, sustainability and all that other jazz.
It is going to take all of us to craft the salon industry of the future. Are you ready to join the movement of Wholehearted Hairdressers on a mission to improve the world one head at a time?
I surely hope so. Our industry deserves you.
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