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Insights from the L’Oréal Professionnel 2017 Sydney Business Forum

It’s usually held the day after the Australian Hair Fashion Awards (AHFAs), but with the after party filled to capacity, there would’ve been a fair few attendees grateful that L’Oréal Professionnel changed their annual business forum to the day of the AHFAs instead. Held just prior to the big awards night (which the brand sponsored), L’Oréal Professionnel invited a group of salon owners and industry members to hear a list of inspiring speakers, sure to change their mindset about psychology, social media and business insights in the current hairdressing landscape. We were there on the day to capture the best takeaways.

The proceedings began with an introduction from L’Oréal Professionnel General Manger Olga Zanetti, who introduced the first act, the Hot Glue Creative Agency, as represented by Nick Smith and Angela Brand. The pair discussed social media and how to be one of the few stories your followers both see and remember on their news feed, out of the thousands of stories relevant to them each day. The key takeaway was the power of telling stories, versus just pushing ads. Quality content matters over quantity, and trends, celebrity news and runway styles that are relevant to your clients’ interests, will grab their attention more than just generically promoting your salon. The duo also told salons to measure success as defined their online growth and engagement and pointed to the future of social media – video, live and virtual reality, which is on the horizon.

Next, Sharlene Lee of Circles of Subiaco came on stage to discuss her use of ambassadors, and the difference they have made to her business. Circles of Subiaco have multiple contracts with ambassadors, which has been an important factor in their growth over the last couple of years. Sharlene said it’s important to know where your clients are coming from, reply to social media responses immediately (yes, even on a Saturday night), consult your younger staff for social media help and manage the contracts of your ambassadors in explicit detail (for example, how often they have to post in exchange for free services) and on your terms. In her experience, the benefits of ambassadors far outweigh the costs.

The third seminar was courtesy of psychotherapist Lisa Franke, who spoke of the Art of Relating. She taught how to (importantly) deal with clients that drain you in order to look after your own mental health (key tips: stay in control, sway the conversation, bring the topic back to hair and find an excuse to leave the chair for a few moments if necessary) and instructed on conscious sharing and listening mindfully. She also advised (respectfully) keeping other co-workers and staff members in check, with a system to ensure no staff member is accidentally partaking in relationship-breaking behaviour (for example, topping your clients stories or assuming facets of them or the relationship). Her final (visual) presentation evoked baggage – that of clients and your own – and advised addressing your own baggage to keep it out of the salon.

Notable speaker Michael McQueen closed out the day, asking the audience how businesses lose their edge, and noting the most important disruptors for the current hairdressing industry. The main three come in the form of empowered consumers (the clients giving your salon negative ratings on online forums and dictating the service based on what they’ve learnt online), unconventional competition (for example international and online retail options that are only newly available) and emerging generations (your difficult to manage millennial staff and clients). He advised businesses to weather these disruptors by making changes before you are forced to, bridging the generation gap, being clear about the problems you need to solve, leveraging the high-tech and personal elements of your salon and embracing fresh eyes when looking at your business.

Attendees left the Swissôtel Sydney after the forum with fresh, practical business ideas they could take straight back to the salon. Heed this advice and make real-world changes to your approach to social media, business development and staff and client relationships. It could be the difference between merely surviving or flourishing.

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