We’re interviewing the best in the industry on how they got to where they are–and how you can get there too! This week, we speak with Alain Laroche on becoming a director of education. Laroche is currently serving as director of professional development for L’Oréal Professionnel, and Pureology, and here, he shares from his experience of more than fifteen years as an educator.
Put yourself out there.
When I started out in the industry, I was a hairstylist in Toronto. I had the desire to teach, to share my knowledge and my passion with other hair salons. So, I started calling companies to see if there were any openings on a part-time level. And that’s how I got started in education. The work was more contractual; on a needs basis. But it is a great way to get into the corporate world, understanding exactly how it works and getting the latest information.
In the part-time position, I would visit accounts and give them education based upon the product I represented. I would get a phone call from the sales rep, and they’d say, “Alain, we need you to go do a class for this salon because they just purchased a brand new colour and they would like to know how to use it.” And that’s what I would do. I would show up at the salon, show the client how to use the product, teach them the exact theory behind it and demonstrate the colour result on a model or mannequin.
Then, I took the opportunity to join Matrix as their full-time director of education, and I did that for four years. I was there to answer any questions from reps who had an education demand. It’s offering salon support on an education platform.
Make the link with transferable skills.
When I applied for the job at Matrix, they were looking for someone with industry experience for many years, and someone who was knowledgeable about colour. That was very important because I was representing a colour company. Although Matrix supplied me with a good foundation and training, I was qualified for the position because of my part-time role, which gave me credibility.
To teach, be teachable.
The reason I went into education was because of a passion to teach. I’ll tell you that the best way to learn something is to teach it. To teach what you know made me so strong and confident, and I was getting better and better at it, and I enjoyed it.
What I’ve learned the most, as an educator is to know your subject. That is the number one key thing that will set you apart with the manufacturers and will help you gain the respect of the salon. That was my biggest learning curve: making sure I know what I was talking about.
Usually, when we have a brand new product launch with a client, the international department gives us plenty of time to test the product on the models, go through extensive workshops and then we have time to train our staff. So that when it’s time to hit the road to see our client, we’re comfortable with what we are representing because we have tested the product. We have to master all the kinks, so that we can learn to present it properly. This training can take as long as four to six months, depending on the size of the launch. You have to persevere and be patient because this takes time.
To be effective, reach above and beyond.
When it comes to finding information and researching, always go above and beyond. It’s important to really master your skill and the product you’re representing, because it only adds major credibility when you go into a salon. You’ll feel more comfortable and you’ll be better equipped to answer all of the questions you’ll get in the salon.
To find these answers, I would often go above me, asking a technical manager or education manager, or even talk to the chemists.
Talk with your sales consultant.
The first thing I’d suggest to a hairstylist who is interested in advanced education is to partner with their sales consultant. They’re the people you meet with every month. Say to them, “I’d like to further my education and I would like to know what you offer, what are some of the programs available to me.” The sales consultant’s role is to guide you through the process, and afterward, the hairstylist can either take an academy program or a special education event to get the training they’re looking for.