Just Another year?…. Not Likely!

I remember being told that in economic recessions one of the first budget cuts small businesses will consider making is on training and advertising. …..This of course may seem an obvious way to save money in the short term but of course it is it crazy. Assuming the business had a budget in place for this in the first place and they have  priced their service to include education and advertising it is short sighted to strip this down and call it profit unless of course it is the last resort

Looking Back

When I started Combers Hairdressing salon  in 1982 my first market strategy was what I later learnt was ‘Differentiation’ . I did not even know it was a strategy but I instinctively knew that we not only needed to be better but different to our competitors. Not only be different, but behave different, talk a different story, walk a different path. This is not some strategy  that I learnt from a book but what I came to realise was a core belief that developed at the age of nine when I was taken  to Ghana, West Africa by my parents to live for  2 years.  I attended an international school with over 26 different nationalities. I learnt so much about different cultures and attitudes to life in that short time. It was not until later on in my life that I was able to reflect on its influence and impact. I made the connection that being different was not something to be scared of or  suppress  but rather develop and celebrate.

Getting off the ground I needed an instant team of hairdressers and looked for an instant remedy. I learnt the hard way that employing other salons stylists was not a shortcut to success. Asking someone to adopt challenging new ideas and have the courage to be different from the crowd is hard enough without the added problem of asking them to unlearn old ways. Of course being  younger than many of my early employees at only 20 years old did not help!

So I decided to grow my own team and educate and train them from scratch, straight from school. It was the only way. Remembering my early experiences in Ghana, I sought the assistance of other like minded organisations and companies from different walks of life and countries. I came to realise that nobody had the monopoly on good ideas! often the best ideas came from the most unusual sources and I learnt that most people are only too happy to share their wisdom if  I had the courage to ask.

So from then on Combers have always built education Into their price

I always remember someone saying that I will only be educating my competition, meaning that stylists would leave someday, and work in competition to Combers, as if that was a reason for not investing in Training?? I am very proud of the fact that over 100 people have left school and learnt far more than hairdressing at Combers. They have gone on to have interesting lives both in and out of hairdressing.

In the hairdressing and fashion business, education and training is a continuous investment if you wish to lead people and have success  and even more so in an economic  recession. The truth is that without it, creative hairdressers become stale and uninspiring and like water, slowly, often imperceptibly go down hill, losing customers along the way. Without it, quality does not stay the same thats for sure. The other thing that I have learnt is that anyone in the team can only be as good as the best in that team, as everyone stimulates, inspires,motivates or demotivates  each other. So if any one ever leaves Combers to work elsewhere their skill and attitude to hairdressing and many other things beside will ultimately mirror their new team and only grow in proportion to the ongoing investment in their education, which in the case of single operators’ and surprisingly some salons is very little. This is of course why we never really train our competition as in a vacuum of inspiring leadership, encouragement and goals, a nurturing team culture and ongoing education they are not the same people within a year of leaving. While the talented individual personalities that continue to work and develop together as a team at combers move onwards and upwards.

So Combers are committed to increase their education in 2012

•   Because I know everyone else will be cutting theirs it’s an ideal time to increase the measurable distance by which we can continue to justify the claim to call ourselves Taunton’s leading Hair Salon.

•   Our customers do not recognise the ‘something for nothing’ culture and therefore are not looking for cheap hairdressing at the expense of their stylists success and happiness as they understand it’s undeniable link to the quality they can expect from the product and service they receive. However they do and will increasingly expect better value for money.

•   The difference between one hairdresser and another is not whether they can cut a good haircut but whether they cut the right haircut for their guest. The one thing that sets the best from the rest is knowledge. Our guests are not just buying a haircut or colour but what we know. Our ability to listen, advise, share latest technology and style tips and the confidence to give our opinion and  of course execute  the agreed hairstyle with skill….  More knowledge and experience will mean higher prices but because the local market place will always have a price threshold, increasing a stylists knowledge will always have the ability to grow positively disproportionate to the price that can be charged and therefore create even better value for our guests. This is probably why we see a growing number of new guests that would have normally continued the treck back to their previous city salons coming to Combers.  Expecting to pay in excess of £100 for a top hairdresser in the Uk’s major cities  makes our service fantastic value.

Education for the first quarter of 2012.

•   Balmain of Paris….Hair Extension Education class for 4 new technicians and new updates for our  2 experienced certified technicians…..Sunday, 22 January.

•   New hair colour education theory and practical participation….. For all Combers hairdressers and apprentices on February 14th…  from 11am – 3pm only open for making appointments with Guest Relations and shop sales

•   Principles of advanced Cutting & Design Practical session for all Combers hairdressers and apprentices on March 19th . Salon Guest Relations open for making appointments and shop sales.

For more infomation contact simon willetts at simon@combers-old or leave a comment below.

Simon Willetts Director of Combers hair salon is the hair columnist for  the ‘Limited Edition Society’