Business Featured Interview

Hooker&Young | ‘In Conversation with…’ Returning to Work Special

April 06, 2021

In anticipation of salons planning their ‘return to work’ we thought it a great idea to catch up with some of hairdressing’s leading names – all salon owners, and all who have previously featured in our ‘In Conversation With’ series.

We have all definitely been through tough times together, although for many it can feel that you’re on your own and isolated in your personal situation. In these conversations we get to ask the important questions that we’re all feeling and in doing so we are united in our mission to get back on top!

Hooker&Young | 'In Conversation with...' Returning to Work Special
How do you think salon businesses will be affected by the months of closure?

I think as salon owners we are all apprehensive about what we are walking back into when we
re-open – it feels like we are starting again! For me, it’s really important that we are energised, excited and motivated to walk back through our doors and lead our teams with the right state of mind. In the six weeks leading up to re-opening I’ll be working closely with some of our team –developing ideas, education, and forward thinking planning so that not only I’m mentally prepared but also my team. I feel like we may be walking into a busy few weeks and then the hellish drop off that we experienced before – but who knows? The long-term effects for us are going to be about adapting to an unknown situation – being prepared to make changes and going with the flow – it’s about hard work, keeping our cool and knowing that we will get through it.

What are your hopes and fears for the future?

My hopes for the future are…

● that there will be positive changes in the industry, and we will all be there to support one another.

● that the new normal will work for us all and that our clients will value the service that we as professionals deliver.

● that there are exciting platforms to keep pushing this industry forward and that we can continue to value the word ‘TEAM’ and promote the ‘salon’ hairdresser that is key to the world of hairdressing.

My fears are…

● that we find a lot of potentially incredible artists dropping away from the industry who are not being given enough of a platform for them to develop as artists.

● that the number of followers that people have on Instagram is going to take away from talent.

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Do you think lockdown will drive more stylists into becoming ‘self-employed’ and stepping away from salons?

I’m nervously excited about returning to work, the daunting task that comes with these re-openings is always tough at the start, but once we’re back in pedalling away, I know we will be fine. I really hope that this is the last time we have to do this as it can be soul destroying for us all. I do have concerns mainly about the industry as a whole, in terms of how employed salons can continue going forward if we have any more lockdowns. I worry that such devastating times will put pressure on many salon owners to move their business model to a self-employed model. The last year has been such a headache for all of us salon owners/employers and it would be a massive shame for this to happen as we’re the ones who really invest in credible and high-end training with the best educators. I’ve seen too much of ‘sub-standard’ education online whilst we’ve been in lockdown. I can’t wait to get our lives back on track now, to start and rebuild all working relationships on a personal level.

How do you plan to get your team back on track in terms of education?

So, we are doing Zoom meetings to kind of let everyone touch base with each other – we have already been discussing the changes to be made in learning from the last two returns to work, which makes life easier for us all. When we return on the 12th we’ll be in the salon, but having a team building day – so no clients. As well as implementing any changes to training, this is also a chance for team to get their own hair done, have a pizza and just really reconnect.

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How are you preparing mentally?

I have tried to maintain positivity throughout all of the lockdowns, but this one has been harder. It’s definitely made me reassess what I was doing prior to when all this happened and what I am prepared to do moving forward – ‘balance’ is the word that I will be using. I am going to think about me and my needs  and balance those with the needs of my team and my clients. I say “start as you mean to go on”.

Has the long period of closure given you a different perspective on how you will work and the pressure you put yourself under?

Without a doubt I will be kinder to myself, I will no longer say “yes” to everything and I will prioritise my value. If what I am doing is not being appreciated, then I will stop whatever that is immediately. I feel that I will then value myself a lot more.!

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How do you prepare the team for re-opening after a long period of closure?

This return is an interesting one. The first time we returned we were all entering the unknown – this time, while I don’t feel there’s quite as much anxiety from the team, I still think there’s a bit of nervousness around going back because we know we’re going to be rammed. Now that’s great, but when you’re trying to create a wonderful experience for your clients while having to work under the pressures of PPE and back-to-back appointments all day every day – it is tough!

I think this lockdown has been tougher for the team because they’ve been struggling to stay motivated and stay engaged – it’s been a long, drawn-out period of not knowing. I think they’re a little bit nervous about what’s facing them when they do go back. However, it’s a means to an end and all of these emotional feelings of anxiety and concern will be short-term – we will come out the other side stronger with more stability and without the fear of future lockdowns looming.

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Do you think the long periods of closure we’ve endured will affect apprentice education in salons?

It’s totally understandable for young people in the hair industry to feel nervous about returning to work – they’ve had such a long time away from the salon environment in what is a crucial time in their career. It’s so important that salon owners protect their apprentices and do their best to make the return to salon life as smooth as possible.

Apprentices are the future of our industry, and we can’t lose sight of this and leave them behind. After each lockdown, the more established stylists have been able to bounce back as they already have a loyal client base, whereas some of the younger ones haven’t got that and they’re reliant on finishing their training and getting busy in the salon to build their clients up.

It’s been a tough year for a lot of businesses, and salon owners have had to make some really difficult decisions, and sadly apprentices have been affected in terms of job losses and a lack of job opportunities.

We have really encouraged our apprentices to use lockdown to educate themselves as much as possible. There is so much free educational available, not only from manufacturers, but also from established industry professionals via social media and platforms like The Knowledge, from The Fellowship of British Hairdressing, that there’s no excuse not to learn. !Apprentices will never have an opportunity like this again to upskill, which will mean they can return to the salon with the skills and motivation to kickstart their career in the best possible way.

In a funny way, lockdown DIY hair colours and cuts have been a great opportunity for apprentices to learn advanced techniques in colour correction! There’s never been so many dodgy box dyes to correct, so apprentices are learning some really valuable skills post lockdown!

What do you hope for the future?

I really hope that we all get back to a consistent way of working – the ups and downs of lockdown has been really difficult. There are also lots of positives we should take from this past year – we’ve all learnt to adapt, be more flexible with each other, ourselves, our teams, and also about the industry as a whole. This experience has been a great leveller for the industry – we’ve all been in exactly the same situation and experienced the same challenges. For me, the last year has really made me appreciate everything about hairdressing and what we love about our business – from our staff to our clients and of course the loyalty we have received.

I don’t think we can ever underestimate, as hairdressers, what an important role we play in people’s lives – we’ve really been missed and I hope our amazing, vibrant and exciting industry is valued more than ever before when we’re on the other side of this. I hope the future is one of excitement, passion and enthusiasm for our industry and I am sure that when we are finally back together, we’ll have so many wonderful conversations around our lockdown experiences.

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Do you think as an industry, there will be any long-term financial impact from the multiple lockdowns?

100% we are going to feel long-term damage to our business. Firstly – we are never going to recoup the losses and so many hair and beauty businesses will be returning with a financial debt to carry. Thousands of hair and beauty salons have already gone bust because of this.

When we return as in previous lockdowns we will have two to three weeks of a boom in business, but then normality kicks in – with less foot fall, meaning fewer clients due to the state of the high street and there’s definitely been an increase in ‘home hairdressing’ which also drives clients away from the salon.

When you look at the stats with all the PPE restrictions and government guidelines, less clients, more time needed, higher expenses, more space needed (two metres distance) which will continue to be a massive issue with clients – I personally think we will instantly lose 15-20% of our business turnover.

Has your perspective/outlook changed on how you’ll operate the business?

Yes definitely, we will all have to revaluate how we are going to move forward in business, with longer opening hours, teams working split shifts and working different hours. All salon owners will have to rethink the way they do things – it’s not how it used to be.

Do you have any concerns about the long-term impact of the pandemic on business?

100%. We were a cash-rich, debt-free business to begin with which has allowed us to stay trading, but the impact of the loss of revenue and the loss of team and clients for various reasons means that we have hit debt and are no longer cash rich. We need to navigate our way out of that which will mean making some extremely tough decisions to keep cashflows prominent – while at the same time still being able to trade well to pay off the debts we have incurred. We missed out on a lot of the grants because of our size, and that has had a serious impact on the business.

Do I believe we will come out of this well? I am hopeful, and I will give it my best shot, but I don’t think it will be a quick recovery and I feel that’s the same for the industry as a whole. Hairdressing has been hit hard, both individuals and businesses, and we face a long road ahead. However, I believe if we stick together – we can do this!

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