For anyone that reads the Salons Direct blog regularly, you’ll be aware that the hair and beauty industries are full of inspiring men and women. Not only are these people some of the most skilled in their craft, but they are astute business owners and community leaders.
In our most recent interview, we were lucky enough to speak to Jo Hansford – a pioneer of hair colour, a successful business owner and, to top it all off, an MBE. We asked her a series of questions around how she got started in the industry, what advice she’d give and discovered the story of her Jo Hansford salon in London.
Salon Expert Questions:
What is your first memory of appreciating/noticing really great hair?
Vidal Sassoon in the late 60s. His work was like sculpture; it was beautiful and incredibly inspiring.
When did you decide that the business of hair was for you?
I wanted to become a makeup artist but had to fill in four years before I could take up the apprenticeship, so the career officer suggested hairdressing as I would need that for television makeup!
What do you think has contributed to the success of your salon?
I think being a colourist has set me apart from other salons because when we first started colour was still seen to be less important! We have a team of 10-14 colour experts within our business as well as 16-18 stylists and having a large team means everyone works together and continues to learn.
The training is of an incredibly high standard and we work continuously to keep the highest standards. Our staff are a tribute to us and without them we would have nothing!
What advice can you give to anybody starting out in the business of hair?
I would suggest you always aim high. It is really beneficial to work in a salon whilst doing your NVQ as you gain so much more experience from being on the floor and watching what goes on around you every day.
Find out which salon is the busiest and has the best reputation in your area or in a central location depending on how far you can travel and try to get employment there. It can be very hard work initially but stayed focused and you can end up living your dream! With hairdressing you can do such a range of things from travelling to show work to weddings and events, the sky’s the limit.
What is your career highlight to date?
Getting my MBE was a definite highlight.
Where do you find inspiration to keep your work fresh and innovative?
My young team never fails to inspire me.
What can we expect to see from you in the new year?
We will be celebrating our 25 year anniversary so will be doing a lot of exciting things around that next year.
More on the Jo Hansford salon…
Tell us about how the salon began?
After an acrimonious split from a business partner I felt it was time to go it alone. I felt I had I a niche in the marketplace and was offered lots of fabulous positions within other salons but my husband gave me the confidence to start my own business.
How do you remain competitive within the salon industry?
High standards, bespoke work and personal recommendations.
How do you think social media has benefited the salon industry?
I think social media can really enhance what you do in your business and gives clients an idea about your brand and your creativity. It gives everyone more insight which you cannot see purely from PR or a website.
How do you use social media to promote your salon?
I think personally, in our business, it is more of a lookbook for our clients and showcases what our brand stands for. We make sure everything is on point so if a client was viewing any of our social media channels they would relate to each other. We do not advertise through it but we do have clients who come in asking for a particular look or style that they have seen on there.
What is your most popular service, why do you think that is?
All types of highlighting and lowlighting because of our unique technique and colour correction.
How have you seen hair trends evolving over the years?
I think hair trends go in circles but evolve each time in the same way fashion does.
What advice can you give to anyone thinking of opening a salon?
I think you need to be very focused, really concentrate on your costs and overheads. You only get one chance to make it work so it is imperative that you have everything operating at the highest level when you open.
Think about your marketing and where the clients will come from and the competition in the area. What will set you apart from everyone else and why would they come to you instead of your competitors? You have to be absolutely certain you are doing everything to the highest level and you have a niche.
Where do you think the future of the hair salon is headed?
Hopefully hairdressers will never be replaced by robots!! I think clients love the interaction they have when they visit a salon and the communication between everyone – this is irreplaceable.
How do you keep your staff motivated and how do you deal with difficult clients?
It can be hard to motivate staff but you have to consider what they personally need from their role and sometimes you need to ask them the question. We motivate them with very good salaries and a structured training and development programme. We also offer flexibility and freedom where possible so they are treated like humans and not numbers. Communication is essential and understanding what makes them tick.
I think client complaints are incredibly hard to deal with nowadays and there is the constant threat of people writing bad reviews on websites or social media. Unfortunately, clients feel it is their prerogative to be right when that is not always the case. We always try and be as diplomatic as possible though and accept mistakes when it’s appropriate as at the end of the day we are all human and not always perfect.
I think the most important thing to do is respond as quickly as possible and listen to the client as being ignored will make the situation 10 times worse.