How to build a salon business with authenticity and longevity

September 29, 2022

Steve Rowbottom, Co-Director, Westrow and Revlon Professionals Business Development Ambassador discusses how to build a salon business with authenticity and longevity.

Westrow celebrated 35 years in business on 1 April 2022 – 35 years since my business partner, Marc Westerman, and I opened our first salon in Leeds. Since then, our brand has gone on to survive two recessions, a global pandemic, a rapidly evolving consumer landscape and continually evolving staff needs, with nine Yorkshire-based salons, 150+ staff, and a multi-award-winning educational academy secured along the way.

But the journey to today’s business destination hasnt always been easy. Its taken a huge amount of risk to get the reward, with continual challenge and change, in terms of thought process, evolution and execution.

It can be daunting starting out in business, it takes a huge leap of faith, especially given that the statistics dont work in your favour (its estimated that around 20% of small businesses fail in their first year; 60% within the first three years). The critical objective is of course longevity, which relies heavily on forward-thinking, strategy and long-term vision. The evolution of any business is complex, and if youre in it for the long haul youll require an extraordinary breadth of thinking, discipline and determination to avoid the potential pitfalls along the way.

According to a survey by CBInsights, these pitfalls, (and the top 12 reasons business start-ups fail) are cited as a mix of no market need (42%); running out of cash (29%); not having the right team to run your business (23%); outcompeted (19%); pricing and cost issues (18%); poor product offering (17%); lack of a business model (17%); poor marketing (14%); ignoring your customers (14%). As salon owners, we’re fortunate in that there will always be a market need for our services, which removes almost half of the problem. Still, the other areas of concern need to be continually addressed to ensure your business can flourish, long-term.

So how did we create a business with longevity? For us, it was a marriage of entrepreneurial skills and discipline fused with a passion-before-profit approach. What weve found over the last 35 years is that its important to surround yourself with the right people, who share your passion and beliefs. Energy and enthusiasm go a long way in driving any business, but forward planning, flexibility and adaptability are also key to ensuring everything runs smoothly and your business and methodology can grow, adapt and react to meet the ever-changing needs of the marketplace.

Growth doesnt always equal sustainability, however. To achieve longevity you need to think differently, operate differently and crucially, lead differently. You must be commercially aware, self-motivated, disciplined, innovative and business-minded. Here are some of our tried and tested techniques for a long-lasting love affair with hair:


Clients need to be at the heart of any salon business, but their needs are rapidly evolving. To stay in line with this, your strategies must align with their requirements. Competition is fierce, so place them at the heart of everything you do.


Know exactly what your business is and does. You need to live and breathe it; dont fall into the trap of thinking it can look after itself. After 35 years, we both work in (and on) the business. There wasnt a shortcut to success and weve evolved as our business has, too. If it was easy everyone would do it. Stay strong to go the distance.


Avoiding mistakes costs more than making them. We always say we have made mistakes so our team and franchisees dont have to. Not every business decision you make will be the right one. You always figure out the best route while youre on the journey.


Sometimes a shift in mindset is all you need. Rebrand the elements often perceived as negative. For example, stress and fear can be paralysing for some, but with a PR spin can be renamed focus and motivation. Im always looking for a solution to a problem and this has helped me stay on track, rather than waste time worrying about outcomes Im unable to change.


You cant be everything to everyone. Bring others on your journey, leading with integrity and purpose, without deviating along the way. While others will look to you for answers, dont be intimidated by what you dont know, instead see it as an opportunity to do things differently.


Sustainable businesses have serious substance. They deliver on promises and fulfil expectations. Theyre trustworthy, accountable for their actions, and consistent in their approach. Ensure you build a reputation to be proud of, as dependability (for your clients, staff and suppliers) is often a marker and predictor of long-term success.


Opportunity can be hard to recognise as its often coupled with challenges, so always look to step outside of your comfort zone to reap the rewards.