How hairdressers can balance their creative panache and business savvy for a long, successful career.
In an industry known for captivating, beautiful works of hair, can “real” artists do business, too? Managing business and unleashing creativity have long been considered polar-opposite skills, but in order for salons to be successful with their bottom line, Andrew McAleese, owner of La Luma Salon in Guelph, Ont. and Eufora global team business educator, saw the need to marry the two.
To find out how to make this crucial connection, McAleese and inspiring student-turned-instructor, Mandy McGill, share their tips.
#1. Know the difference between fine and commercial “art.”
Hairstyling thrives in two environments: in the salon with a full appointment book and inside a stylist’s mind when conceptualizing beautiful hair. “The biggest complaint I hear is that clients cannot duplicate what’s been done in the salon. It’s important that clients can take care of their hair at home, because that’s how you get booked and get referrals,” says McAleese, who sees hairstylists as designers who are able to sell a product—the hairstyles—as commercial art. “There’s a difference between commercial art and fine art, and sometimes to hear a stylist say, ‘I’m an artist’ is a cop-out for a bad haircut,” adds McGill. Commercial art is reproducible, both for the stylists behind the chair and for the clients who style it everyday at home. Fine art is for competitions and photoshoots, McGill and McAleese say.
#2. Develop your eye for design.
McGill teaches art history, architecture and fine art to cosmetology students, with the goal of letting that knowledge flow into the shears, colour tubes and products in their hands. “We train the stylist’ eye through art and then they’re given full artistic licence to apply what they’ve learned about art into a photo-shoot with a team of makeup artists and clothing stylists,” says McGill. This allows graduates to go to work with an eye trained to assess a client’s hair, clothes and eye colour—just as they had learned with a painting or a sculpture—and recommend artfully and skillfully, according to a client’s lifestyle. Having an eye for design also provides stylists with the confidence to recommend products and retail and service sales will benefit, says McAleese.
#3. What kind of artist are you?
“Business is founded on relationships, great consultations with clients and creating a design,” says McAleese. The real need, he says, is how to create consistently high-quality hair for business and knowing when it’s time to be totally creative. Today, people are looking for customized looks that make them feel and look great, so it’s important to deliver the kind of service that leads to rebooking and referrals. Instead of a clash between business and art, McAleese says, “it’s about understanding the kind of artist you are—commercial or fine art—and knowing how to be successful and thrive. The outcomes of a photoshoot and hair behind the chair are different, and it’s important to make that distinction.”