Skip to Main Content
Get started
Starting a business

Cutting it in hairdressing

Last updated: 10 May 2022

Cutting it in the world of hairdressing is just like any business – it takes determination and lots of hard work, but have you got what it takes to build your vision into the reality that is a successful salon?

The first step is to be honest and decide what it is you want to offer and to whom. It’s ok to concentrate your business on doing blue rinses or quick ‘in-and-out’ barbering and similarly if you dream of styling the locks of the rich and famous you can aim for that, but if you are unrealistic in your goals you could land yourself in hot water.

Thomas McMillan of McMillan Hair Salons and Academy said: “Know your market place. Are you the best? Do you deliver high quality? Be honest with yourself and stick to it.” Once you know where your place is in the market and what you have to offer, then you can set out to achieve your goals.

Thomas started his salon 12 years ago with £2,000 of saved money and an overdraft from a long-standing client after finding it difficult to secure a loan. “This type of ‘retail’ is seen as high risk and the banks are not keen to give you money” he said. With this in mind you might consider finding an investor or going into partnership, but as Thomas rightly points out, if you have a partner you’ll end up working for them but then should you become a success you will be stuck with them so you need to consider this avenue carefully.

The same goes for people with money to invest as they could steal your business away before your very eyes. “Be wary of investors looking for big stakes in your business… don’t negotiate with a millionaire successful business exec with 25 years experience when you haven’t reached day one.” But in this day and age when you could be looking at nearer the £50,000 mark to start out, do you have a choice? If you are serious about your ambitions then you could consider a franchise. Thomas said: “We promote franchising, we pay for the fit out and setting up of the salon meaning the biggest concern for the franchisee is raising cash flow, although this is an area we have also secured for them if required.”

The next thing to think about besides capital is, are you the right kind of person for this business? Remember that hairdressing is a people-focused profession and as salon manager you need to set the example to your staff. Hairdressers ideally need to be good listeners who ooze self-confidence and good communication skills. Patience, reliability and the ability to work as part of a team are also of high importance. Customers won’t be laughing if your staff fail to turn up for a 9am appointment because they were partying the night before and it will be you they look to.

When it comes to the legalities of running a business such as hairdressing it is advisable to get yourself a good lawyer and pay for employment law cover. Thomas admits that this is an “ever changing terrifying minefield and best left to those who know”. Having this set up essentially means that should someone make a claim against you and your salon you will be covered for legal protection and have someone to fight your corner along with the insurance to pay for it. Also, make sure you have a staff member who can act as your ‘HR’ representative and note that Health & Safety Representatives (contacted via your local council office) will be appreciative of your making an honest effort.

The profession of hairdressing carries the label that it is a career chosen for the love, not the money, but this is a bit of a myth and as we all know, the cost of living does not run on love alone so pay your staff well. If you fail to offer a good package you will not be able to retain loyal and talented staff and if your aims are high, it is important to have a reliable and steady workforce. At McMillan hair salons it is about communication and team involvement. Thomas said: “if people feel they are part of the bigger picture then they will become actively immersed in the collective goal.” This means that both good and bad news must be shared and rewarding in public is always a way to boost staff morale. “We have an annual awards ceremony at which this year we gave out 35 trophies and £12,500 in cash bonuses. We also have a wage (& bonus) structure which is almost entirely built around personal and collective performance” he went on to say.

Staff feeling valued will mean they will stay and as long as you have a secure team then you have something good to offer customers and when it comes to marketing your salon to potential clients, do remember that if people don’t know about you, they can’t use you. Take advantage of local press and do ‘recommend a friend’ or ‘new stylist discount’ promotions. This way you can also measure the success of the advert.

The main thing to do is to keep your dream at the forefront of your mind and push on. Thomas McMillan is not only recognised as a Hairdresser but he has built a reputation as a Business Mentor and his advice is “don’t over promise and under deliver, keep a clean and happy working environment and don’t take it personally when you get knocked to the ground. Dust yourself down and stride on!”

With two McMillan salons in Glasgow, two sister salons in London, a teaching academy heralded by the City and Guilds as offering “the highest level of excellence ever afforded” and dreams of a product range sometime in the future, Thomas McMillan is proof that dreaming big can pay off. Who knows, maybe you will soon be giving him a cut for his money!

Popular articles