We caught up with Dominic Pratt, Kao Salon Division’s new president, to discuss how his past experiences have prepared him for his new role with the company, his goals for the brands and what he thinks education in the industry will look like moving forward.
Can you tell us about how you got your start in the beauty industry?
I studied organic chemistry and honestly, I never expected to be working in the salon industry. Luckily for me, I was assigned to Hair Care Research at P&G in 1995 and then joined Kao Salon R&D in 2000. I quickly realized that haircare is a hugely challenging research area, and that stylists are perfect partners for scientists. Over the last 20 years, I’ve had the pleasure of working closely with stylists to develop numerous new technologies, products, services and tools, and I’m continually amazed at what can be achieved through the combination of the creativity and skills of stylists with our products. This fusing of science and creative art is truly unique to the salon industry.
What are you passionate about when it comes to our industry?
The thing I am truly passionate about is people—whether it’s our own people at Kao or the stylists we’re partnering with. Our success is completely dependent on our ability to help salons be successful. It’s so important to form strong partnerships with salons by putting the salon owners, stylists and their clients at the heart of everything we do. Only then can we truly understand the needs, challenges and opportunities salons are facing today and make sure we provide the best technologies, products, services, education concepts, tools and general support to allow salons to grow. This has never been more important as the pace of change accelerates and salons are constantly facing new challenges but also opportunities. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought seismic changes to the salon industry and so our number one passion and priority is to support salons to recover their business and to thrive and grow again post pandemic.
What do you hope to achieve in your new role with Kao Salon Division? What are you most looking forward to?
First, I have to say it’s great to be back in the salon world and back with the Kao Salon Division team. Working together with the talented and passionate Kao Salon team and connecting again with salons all over the world are the two things I’m most looking forward to.
Secondly, we want to partner with salons to establish meaningful social and environmental advances within the industry. I believe the pandemic has helped society recognize the value that salons provide to people’s wellbeing, and this is a great platform for the future contribution to society and the environment.
How has your time leading the division’s research and development efforts, along with serving as a member of the executive salon lead team, prepared you for this new position?
Being part of the Kao Salon Division R&D team taught me many things that I trust will stand me in good stead for my new role. The starting point for any R&D project is to talk directly with stylists to understand their needs. Through any R&D development, we work closely with stylists. Therefore, I had the opportunity to talk to many stylists all over the world to learn from them and be inspired by them.
In addition, being part of the leadership team allowed me to get a good grounding in all aspects of the industry and develop an excellent working relationship with the whole leadership team. This will be a huge help in preparing me for this new position and ensuring an important level of continuity during the transition.
How are you feeling about leading the Goldwell, KMS, Oribe and VARIS brands from Germany?
Although I will be formally based in Germany, we already operate on a truly global level. Our brands are supported by teams throughout the world including Americas, Europe and Asia. We have fully embraced the huge advances in digital tools to strengthen our global operations and communication. This allows us to make sure that we have the right mix of global representation to understand and meet the needs of salons all over the world.
Any goals that you have for the brands that you could share with us?
Under the leadership of Cory Couts—Kao’s former global president, we have set clear strategies in place that have contributed to the success of Kao Salon Division and our salon partners around the globe. My goal is to continue this success story in close partnership with salons and evolve our strategies as needed to make sure we are responsive to the changing needs of salons around the world.
How would you say the pandemic has impacted the professional beauty industry?
The pandemic has caused real pain—both financially and mentally for salons and stylists—which will be felt for many years to come. As in many other industries, the pandemic has been a magnifying glass bringing both the strengths and the weaknesses of the industry to the forefront. One positive aspect has been that many people have come to value the work of stylists even more than before. We need to support salons and stylists in bringing this unique value to their clients and to navigate the challenges and opportunities caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, to recover their business and to thrive and grow again.
What is Kao doing to help their salons/hairstylists during the pandemic?
Kao Salon Division is doing what they do best: Being close to our stylists and having an open ear for their needs and concerns. Our sales teams have been constantly on the phone talking to our clients, we’ve reworked our education programs in an incredibly short period of time, we’ve been active on social media and have worked with salon owners to find individual solutions where there were financial problems to solve.
What do you think the future of education looks like for our industry?
Education is one of the most important things we do for our Kao Salon Family as we believe that it’s a driving force of how we maintain our relationships with the salons and stylists, and of how we can empower them to be successful in their business. During the pandemic we have been incredibly successful with our virtual and hybrid education approach, and this will continue to be part of our offering next to face to face education as we are trying to provide salons with the most convenient way to meet their future needs.
Any big plans or exciting initiatives/changes we should be expecting from Kao in the next few months as you settle into your new role?
We are working on a lot of exciting initiatives. The next big thing is probably our Global Creative Event on October 3rd and 4th, which has really set new standards for virtual events in the industry when we piloted this for the first time last year!