Hair is a “people” business

Lessons Learned Part 1


They say “failure is part of success” and the hair business  is no exception. An industry icon who blogs a lot recently stated that his success wasn’t due to being exceptionally smart (in fact he went on to say that he was on average only 52% smart) but with perseverance and determination it was enough. There must have been plenty of “failures” along the way. I can relate!

I don’t know too many successful salon owners who weren’t successful stylists first. Beyond developing skill and technique at doing hair, success as a stylist requires being able to relate to clients and communicating well with them. That last bit can really trip you up if you aren’t naturally a “people person”. Worst case scenario building your clientele will suffer, you’ll have a lot of re-dos and you will probably bounce around from salon to salon looking for greener pastures. Ultimately you may suffer such a lack of morale that you quit the industry altogether.

Now I may not be the “client whisperer” but I want to focus on a few things my 28 years in hair has taught me. The first thing you need to do is park your ego at the door and listen to your client. If you’re not making a go of it it’s you…not them. No one likes someone with a big ego because it blocks them from getting to know the real you. This brings me to my second recommendation: don’t be afraid to open up to your client. This is a bit tricky because you don’t want to ramble on about yourself or go into your deep dark secrets but bottom line, as in any relationship, people have to know you before they like you and they have to like you before they trust you. Try to get to know them as well and show genuine interest. This is a must if you want your clientele to grow.

Be more than just an order taker. I’ve seen unhappy clients who left with exactly what they asked for. Often the stylist knew it wouldn’t look good but did it anyway because it’s what she asked for. I’ve seen this happen a lot over the years and I know I’ve done it too. However it’s better to go out on a limb in these situations and do their hair how we know will look better. The risk of them being unhappy is lower. If you do it how they want and you know 100% they will hate it after, you could perhaps persuade them to trust you with your idea and the risk may be 50%. The power of persuasion is key here though. I’ve seen stylist completely ignore requests and I kind of get the logic. If the risk is 50% anyway just cut to the chase. This rip-the-band-aid-off approach often backfires because the client may walk out with nicer hair but she may find it difficult to trust you after that.

Portrait of discontented young female at the hairdressing salon

Sometimes we are surprised when a client/guest reacts negatively by asking for a redo or flat out tells you you she doesn’t like it. I say it’s a good thing because at least you know. How many clients lodge their dissatisfaction simply by not coming back and yet we discount that. Seize it as an opportunity not a failure. An opportunity to build trust and communication skills.

Part 2 coming soon…

by Renn VanDyck

Salon Owner/Master Stylist

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