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Salon Smart LIVE 2021: Time to get personal

Jordanna Cobella, owner of Cobella salon, on stage at Creative HEAD Magazine's Salon Smart Live 2021

NO HARD FEELINGS – Jordanna Cobella
Opening the second ever Salon Smart Live with a presentation based on research undertaken for her book, The Mindful Hairdresser, Jordanna Cobella, owner of Cobella salon, highlighted the importance of emotional intelligence (or EQ), which she described as the ‘hidden intelligence’ of the hair industry.

“‘Your vibe attracts your tribe’ is no longer enough,” Jordanna explained. “You need to market yourself and appeal to everyone. That takes high emotional intelligence to do well,  and very few companies manage to communicate the ‘why’ behind what they are selling.”

But why is the ‘why’ so important? How does that resonate differently with clients? Jordanna revealed that providing a reason for your business’s ethos and actions communicates directly to the limbic areas of clients’ brains, powering a strong emotional connection between them and your business.

Jordanna Cobella, owner of Cobella salon, on stage at Creative HEAD Magazine's Salon Smart Live 2021
Jordanna Cobella, owner of Cobella salon, on stage at Creative HEAD Magazine's Salon Smart Live 2021
Jordanna Cobella, owner of Cobella salon, on stage at Creative HEAD Magazine's Salon Smart Live 2021

Drawing on her experiences in the police force prior to embarking on her hair career, Jordanna explained how within law enforcement, EQ is treated as a valued asset and included in official training. “Particularly in the earlier stages in our hairdressing career, we’re so fixated on doing things ‘right’ and devoting so much of our attention to honing our new skills that we tend to overlook all things EQ,” she added. “We should make social skills part of the NVQ level training, as they constitute 50 per cent, if not more, of our daily skills as a hairdresser.”

“So I urge you all to build on your emotional intelligence,” she added. “Consider your ‘why’, as that is what will empower you to take your hairdressing skills to the next level.”

Ricky Walters, owner of Salon 64,on stage at Creative HEAD Magazine's Salon Smart Live 2021

IMAGINE THAT – Ricky Walters and Stuart Whitelaw
As the reigning The It List ‘Entrepreneur’, Ricky Walters excels when it comes to both client-pleasing EQ and business intelligence. The city-sleek chic of his space, Salon 64, attracts the glitterati of Soho, but Ricky and his staff offer so much more than just a hair experience. With spaces to work, champagne on tap, and a bar after dark, the salon concept draws on all his experience in top-tier service.

His MWIT20 win is evidence of his out-of-the-box thinking, and Ricky is only just getting started. He’s relentlessly pursued opportunity, from his first job sweeping floors to his first major step at John Frieda in Mayfair, before searching out more opportunity Daniel Galvin at the Corinthia hotel.

Fast forward a few years and Salon64 is the result of that drive for more. “You can’t just find your USP, you haven’t lost it,” he told the Salon Smart LIVE audience, explaining how the questions he continually faced in the hotel salon helped to shape his own space. “Don’t pluck ideas out of thin air; solve problems in your working salon life,” he advised.

Ricky implored viewers to never get too distracted by the ‘Hollywood’ version of your salon concept, comparing it to the reality of seeking out derelict shop spaces and cold-calling land registry offices. “Be relentless, be ruthless, keep knocking on those doors. That speaks far louder than being a bigger brand name.” He insisted. “And when you doubt yourself, or lose sight of what you’re doing, never forget to keep asking ‘why’ to go deeper, to go further.”

Stuart Whitelaw, owner of Mesart, on stage at Creative HEAD Magazine's Salon Smart Live 2021
Ricky Walters, owner of Salon 64, and Stuart Whitelaw, owner of Mesart salon, on stage at Creative HEAD Magazine's Salon Smart Live 2021
Stuart Whitelaw, owner of Mesart, on stage at Creative HEAD Magazine's Salon Smart Live 2021

On the other end of the spectrum, Glasgow salon Mesart is a sprawling space with a raw feel. Part art-gallery, part hair salon, combined pure bliss and escapism, Stuart Whitelaw has created salons that feels like no other. It’s little wonder he scooped the Most Wanted Awards ‘Best New Salon’ 2020 title for his second Mesart salon location, which has been freshly revamped and re-launched.

Stuart joined Ricky on stage and credited the culture that he has built with his team as being key to the brand’s success. While the salon name combines elements of his first and middle names to give it meaning, he was keen to avoid naming the salons after himself. ‘It’s ultimately all about our clients and what they have to say,” he explained.

Every journey has its obstacles, whether it’s jumping through hoops for building regulations or facing a roadblock the size of a pandemic, but Stuart credits his team for helping him get this far – not just their support, but also their interaction, their thoughts and ideas. His team have a say in everything. “It’s a shared vision, not just my vision,” he insisted.

Harriet Stokes, owner of Humankind Hair,on stage at Creative HEAD Magazine's Salon Smart Live 2021

CHANGING LANES – Harriet Stokes
The last slot in the trio of morning sessions belonged to Harriet Stokes, self-employed artist and now co-owner of Humankind Hair. “The world is changing, and so is the way we work,” she explained as she gave her perspective on the pros and cons of salon versus self-employed life. A thought-provoking reflection on our industry and the way we’re working, Harriet discussed how the world is changing post-lockdown, reinforcing why salons should adapt to changing needs and wants of staff members. 

During numerous lockdowns, many in the industry used the time at home to reflect on their careers, Harriet included. In one such lockdown, Harriet asked her Instagram following on Stories ‘has the pandemic got you thinking about the direction you want your career to take?’ Over 2,500 people responded, with over 94 per cent replying ‘yes.’ Harriet said that when she asked what direction people had considered, most people said to go freelance, shut their salon or start working in a whole new way.

Harriet Stokes, owner of Humankind Hair,on stage at Creative HEAD Magazine's Salon Smart Live 2021
Harriet Stokes, owner of Humankind Hair,on stage at Creative HEAD Magazine's Salon Smart Live 2021
Harriet Stokes, owner of Humankind Hair,on stage at Creative HEAD Magazine's Salon Smart Live 2021

An incredibly candid account from Harriet, who is continuing to tread new paths since becoming self-employed, during the session she addressed the reasons why many make the decision to go freelance, along with how salon owners can support their staff long-term. “Train people well enough so they can leave but treat them well enough so they don’t,” she explained. “There will always be salons and there will always be apprentices coming through in those salons, while freelancers are paving their own way for what is possible in the future. It shouldn’t be a competition, there is room for all of us. Embrace the change and work together.”

The team from Nashwhite salon on stage at Creative HEAD Magazine's Salon Smart Live 2021
TEAM TALK WITH NASHWHITE
Nashwhite co-founders Rob White and Lee Nash-Jones were joined on stage by three of their team – Lauren, Molly and Sophie – as they shared some key insight into building a successful business, along with some of the obstacles they’ve overcome. “Whether building a team of three or 38, it’s not always plain sailing,” said Lee. “We are two guys who set up a brand and have grown a team, with endless challenges along the way. Fundamentally, we wanted to create an environment where clients want to be, and staff want to work.”  

Having joined the salon 11 years ago as its first apprentice, stylist Molly is proof of the importance of nurturing relationships with team members in order to develop their career journey. “Rob and Lee allow us to have freedom with what we feel are our strengths,” she said. With Lauren now running the Stratford Upon Avon salon, the team also spoke of the importance of having three pillars within the business to keep things running smoothly.

from Nashwhite salon on stage at Creative HEAD Magazine's Salon Smart Live 2021
Lee Nash-Jones and Robe White of Nashwhite salon on stage at Creative HEAD Magazine's Salon Smart Live 2021

With the way we work shifting, Rob and Lee also discussed supporting staff with changing needs and reiterated how vital it is to adapt. “Many salons right now need to listen to what their team are saying. We identified at least two years before COVID-19 that time was precious, and we had it in our minds we needed to adapt to have a work/life balance,” Lee explained. “Listen to what staff need and adapt where you need to.”

As well as discussing their strengths, the team also spoke openly about mistakes they’ve made – addressing everything from growing their salons to dividing time between different locations. “With those challenges, it’s only ever a failure if you don’t learn from it,” said Rob. 

For more from Salon Smart Live, click here >