In my years of coaching I've come to realize that we are in an industry of haves and have nots. 80% of hairstylists spend their lifetime living paycheck to paycheck while 20% somehow thrive and seem to effortlessly succeed. Most of us will spend our lifetime aspiring to one day make a six-figure income while some stylists drive six-figure cars home to their beautiful multi-million dollar homes. So what is the difference? What sets these hairstylist superstars apart from the rest of us; the answer may surprise you.
It's funny to me when stylists are shocked to hear that 80% of us won't be able to successfully retire. The 80/20 rule actually applies to most industries so that has never shocked me. What I do find perplexing is who these top 20 stylists are. We put them on these pedestals and do our best to follow their every move, but let me be the first to tell you, that isn't the path to success.
As somebody who has met hundreds of hairstylists, listen to me when I tell you that many of these top 20 stylists are terrible at doing hair. And I mean TERRIBLE. Talk about sloppy haircuts, bleeding hi-lights, disappointing balayage and hot roots galore. This is because it isn't the precision haircut most clients crave, it is the incredible experience they have sitting in the chair.
When I ask newly licensed cosmetologists whose career they'd like to emulate I often hear the names of social media moguls or platform artists. While these hairstylists do certainly have talent, it's 80% personality and only 20% skill. If you've followed me for a while you know my "dirty little secret" is that I gave some of the worst haircuts on the planet and my clients still loved me and referred their friends over. We are in the industry of creating and nourishing emotional relationships.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that you should quit sharpening your technical skills. If you have been hanging in my Flourish community for a while you've heard me say that all hairstylists at every level should commit to spending a minimum of $500 annually on advanced education. I love that the beauty industry is ever changing, however it does create the unique challenge of keeping up with current trends. What I am saying is that you should worry a whole lot less about offering the worlds best balayage and worry a whole lot more about offering an incredible client experience.
I know an amazing colorist who sells retail really well and she will never build a strong clientele because she focuses way too much on the hair and forgets to speak to her clients. I know another stylist who does decently well, however he bleeds out new clients because 70% of the appointment is spent telling the same stories about himself over and over. And we've all met the stylist who thinks that we should feel honored to be in her presence and that her years of accomplishments should allow her forget to go above and beyond for her clients. Then there are the thousands of stylists out there who have all the potential in the world but it will go completely wasted because they don't have the confidence to put themselves out there and hand out their business cards. Is this starting to sound familiar.
I've shared with you before that there are two reasons why clients leave; their stylist has poor time management or their stylist stops making them feel special. We'll talk about your poor management skills another day, but if you aren't trying to make your clients feel special every day, your retention is probably paying the price. If you need some inspiration, try these super strategies that will have a huge impact on your business:
- Send hand written notes: I know what you're thinking, nobody uses the postal service anymore. I'm here to tell you that you are totally wrong. Think about how excited you get when you go to the mail box and amongst the bills and flyers is a handwritten greeting card. In fact, you sort through all of the mail before opening a single piece just to see if there is something more interesting in the mix other than bills. 95% of hairstylists will never mail their clients anything. Be the 5% who does. Send thank you notes to new clients, follow up cards when a client purchases new retail products and holiday greeting cards to your clients.
- Consult with every client, every time: When you have a new client coming in hopefully you set aside at least 15 minutes to talk to them before the start of a service. I encourage you to set aside 5 minutes with your current clients every single time. Your clients are so excited to see you and tell you what has been going on in their life. When you first see them, gush for a minute or two and just connect with them emotionally. You may talk about their family for 3 minutes and their hair for another 2 minutes, or maybe it will be 4 minutes of hair talk and just a quick 1 minute catch up. Either is great, so long as you have both components and you make the time every time.
- Tell your client about the latest and greatest: Your clients want to see a stylist who loves their job. Be an expert on all things hair and share your excitement with your clients. Talk about current trends and share new styling tips whenever possible. I surveyed our clientele recently and over 80% of our clients said they would like us to mention new retail options at every single appointment. Be excited about what has just arrived and enjoy the boost in retail sales.
- Have fresh ideas: Maybe you've been doing the same thing on the same client for the last 5 years. You see her on your books over and over and over and think "oh good, there is Angela coming in for her roots again" and you don't think much more about it. There is a chance that for the last six months Angela has been dying to try something new but every time you see her you say "Angela hey! Just a touch-up today, right". Not all clients will speak up when they crave a change and instead of telling you they'll eventually just go somewhere else for a fresh start. Always offer fun new ideas to every client. They may not take you up on your ideas, but they'll love that you are always thinking about them and they will feel special.
I challenge you to make a plan for adopting at least one of these techniques as you move into 2016. Bonus points if you apply all 4!