Top tips from one of the highest grossing salons in the UK 

In 1992, Hellen and her husband Richard took on a bankrupt salon and built it into the award winning Richard Ward Hair and Metrospa, one of the largest and highest grossing salons in the country. Today, 80 staff attend to a thousand clients per week. Hellen is the Managing Director and oversees the sale, distribution and product development of the company’s brands. She also educates in the UK and overseas for companies such as L’Oreal and Unilever and has authored the ‘Ultimate Salon Management’ book series, available from the NHF website. Hellen has also recently been elected the first ever female Chairman of the Fellowship for British Hairdressing.

What are the biggest business challenges you face today?

There has been a big change in consumer habits and what they are willing to pay. Today’s shoppers like to save money by stocking up on the basics from Asda or Costco, but they still go to Waitrose for more exclusive items. This is also happening in the hairdressing sector. Your brand and the experience you offer have to match the price point. This challenge did not exist 10 years ago.

Our prices reflect this trend and range from £60 to £295. Our clients are willing to pay for an expert, often booking several appointments in advance. Pricing is an ongoing test-bed and being in touch with the customer mindset is vital. The key is listening to customers and establishing whether they want a Poundland or a Fortnum & Mason’s experience.

To what do you owe your success?

The key is to build an excellent team. We invest in the salon’s future growth by funding our own training – 70% of our styling and technical team have been trained by us. We are crystal clear in our communication so that everyone understands what is expected of them. As a result, the average length of service in our salon is an unparalleled 14 years, compared to the industry average of four years.

What are your goals for the future?

We have never wanted to open more salons – what we do is so bespoke it wouldn’t be very easy to ‘cookie cutter’ it and roll it out. We have however branched out into manufacturing with our brush brand, Tangle Angel and our product ranges with Waitrose, both of which are growing nicely and above our expectations.

I am also committed to my role of Chair of the strategic group on hairdressing for the Government’s Trailblazer Apprenticeship Scheme, which we hope will make a significant difference to industry apprenticeships in the future.

It is a chance to input into the framework of what training should be and how Apprentices shouldbe assessed.  NHF represents the 36,000 salon owners who are paying for the education of future talent.

I’ve also just been elected Chairman of the Fellowship for British Hairdressing which is an honour and a privilege.

What advice would you give to salon owners who want to grow their business?

The best way to get new bums on seats is to look after the old ones!

If you do open several salons, keep them consistent. Focus on what your customer wants. Know your brand, your USPs, price point and where you sit in the marketplace. Don’t scattergun. People like to have an understanding of the brands they purchase from – they need to relate to them and if you don’t know what you stand for, your customer is equally confused.

I recommend attending as many lectures and events as you can. It is a labour intensive industry and being a boss can be lonely. Network with other salon owners and learn from their experiences. The NHF organises excellent events across the UK - tap into them.

You’ll find more advice in my books, which are available on the NHF website! 

Why are you an NHF member?

NHF is unique in that it supports the UK’s salons and gives employers a strong voice. I fundamentally agree with what the NHF stands for and the role that it plays in shaping the future of the industry – such as its involvement in Trailblazer, alongside Habia.

Whenever I talk at educational events for salon owners, I always advocate NHF membership. The NHF gives you practical and legal advice, very good employment contracts and excellent business networking opportunities, which help take you beyond the artistic standpoint.