The Future of an Industry is at Stake!

The Future of an Industry is at Stake!

As you may be aware I have the opportunity to travel the length and breadth of New Zealand in my role as a Salon Specialist Business Coach and Mentor, I also get to communicate with industry stakeholders and participants on a daily basis.

And having been involved in many different capacities within the Hair and Beauty Industry over the past 30 odd years (I know, seriously that long!!) I feel I am qualified enough to voice an opinion or two on what I see and hear today.

Now I must profess, and I need to let you know that this is just my opinion and is not driven by any political, social or scientific agenda. I’m an industry participant who is noticing a disturbing trend (a phenomena if you like) that has the potential to de-skill, de-value and de-rail an industry that throughout the 30 odd years I’ve been involved in it, I have to say I’m proud to be a student of and leader in.

So just what is it that I’ve been hearing that’s disturbing me so much that I feel I need to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard as the case may be?

Well it’s the comments I have been hearing from salon owners regarding employment… and more particularly employing apprentices.

Having met heaps (and I really mean heaps) of salon owners over the years I often ask the question – “what keeps you awake at night regarding your business”? And the most common answer by far is “Staff”! And more often than not specifically “finding good qualified seniors”.

So on goes a discussion around this, I generally ask, do you have any apprentices and this is the disturbing bit of this phenomenon. Over 80% of the time I hear answers like these: “We don’t have any, never really thought about it”… or “We just don’t take on apprentices”… or “Who needs the headache of the young ones attitudes these days”, “We’d rather get them after they’ve qualified”, “we can’t afford an apprentice”, “they’re a drain on resources”, “who can afford one”? “Why should we – we’d rather get them after someone else trains them lol”… can you see a trend here?

Now, I’m not known for always laying down and saying nothing and this time is no exception.

For (I could use a MUCH stronger word here but in the interests of politeness I won’t) heaven’s sake, just where the heck do you think you’re going to get that well-grounded, salon trained, hands on experienced confident and competent qualified stylist from (that apparently we’re all looking for) if you don’t flaming well start them off as apprentices to be trained from the bottom up just like you probably were?

To adapt a phrase my mother used to use about money… “They (apprentices) don’t just grow on trees you know!”

I’m absolutely astounded that salons who have the ability and the knowledge and experience to pass on to an apprentice (after all that’s the path most salon owners took when first starting out!) are too goddam selfish and lazy and short sighted to see that unless you do something and participate in your industry through training new hairdressers – soon all that will be left to choose from are people who’ve done a short course and are looking for a job – and people with no passion and a dullness behind their eyes! You know the type I’m talking about the third group out of the three types of people in the world – what’s that you don’t know the three types of people in the world – group one are those that make things happen, group two are those that let things happen and group three are those that say – what happened! (By the way, which group would you put yourself in?)

You’ll be lucky to find someone who’s been through the year of sweeping the floor and making tea and rinsing perms (I hear they’re making a comeback!) and colours off, just to understand that hairdressing is a career that needs to be developed and nurtured – someone who can’t wait to get their hands on dolly head to create their first “look” you know what I mean… that nervous laughter when they first hold the scissors the right way for the first time and make that first cut on dolly. The one who interacts with your clients daily slowly learning the art of conversation and communication, gaining confidence and being encouraged by understanding clients… what about the rest of the team who nurture and cajole them giving them confidence that they are going well and doing it right – even if it’s not perfect… and not to mention what you get – you get the privilege of watching a flower bud slowly opening up and growing to full bloom as an active and contributing member of the salon and society – and you had a huge part in that development and your sense of pride and admiration for what YOUR apprentice has become is part of your reward… and just how do you think you got to where you are today without someone giving you the chance, someone urging and encouraging you along the way, being supportive when needed, being tough when needed through all that formative training and perseverance?

C’mon guys, think about the future of your industry, think about 10 – 20 years from now and ask yourself… will there be enough qualified AND salon experienced staff around to take the industry over when you retire? Or will it just be a case of a whole lot of people who can cut hair working out of back bedrooms, kitchens and little shops on the street pumping out mediocre haircuts giving mediocre service and living mediocre lives therefore giving back at best “mediocre” to the community and world we live in?

I for one am getting tired and a little distressed at the state of attitude displayed by salon owners not being fully (or even partially) engaged in the industry that has provided them with their lifestyle and career and through this short article hope that I’ve stirred an inner pang of guilt or frustration in you that that makes you think, and think hard about the future of hairdressing in New Zealand and the pride that should prevail an industry full of professional artists and business owners.

If I’ve made you feel guilty then good, even better if I’ve got you asking the question…”how can I change things”? And fantastic if you’ve agreed with my sentiments and are deciding that an apprentice is probably a good thing to do for your business.

To help you see just what value an apprentice can add to your business I’ve pinched a list from HITO website.

  • Clients receive consistent and high quality service
  • It’s cost effective as apprentices can ‘free up’ senior stylists
  • Better staff retention and more motivated staff
  • You can ‘grow your own’ senior stylists just the way you want them.
  • Helps your salon grow

“People who train their own staff do much better in this business. Their stylists have better relationships with clients and their salons are more successful.” Phillip Millar

“I always have up and coming apprentices. People do move on, and people do retire, but by taking on a new person every two years we are overcoming the problem of not having enough skilled people.”

We need up and coming hairdressers with high skills. To get that, we need to put in the right training, it is vital for my business and vital to the industry. Carleigh Frisby.

“Having apprentices is a win-win as it helps me stay in touch and keep my skills where they need to be to stay on top of my game. Apprentices are sponges for information and they help ensure I am on my game too.” Cheryl Schofield

“Training is an investment in the future, for both the salon and the individual. You need to invest in your team and it will pay off in the long term.”

“The less time I’m on the floor looking after my own clientele the more profitable my salon has become.” Diana Beaufort

Am I arguing for or against certain types of government led apprenticeships, or private training enterprises – no I’m not, what I’m saying is if you don’t get off your bums and start passing on your knowledge and experience to our young through some form of training/apprenticeship, then an industry that was built on the pride, blood, sweat and tears of our forebears through training and education will fall to the wayside and we’ll be left with the hollow shell of what once was a proud profession.

I’d be keen to hear what YOU think and welcome your comments, click here to message me.


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