Why our clients book eight months ahead

Paul Watts owns Paul Watts Hairdressing Salons in Kettering, Uppingham and Oundle. A relative newcomer, having first launched in 2007, he has already won numerous awards and been labelled a ‘hairdressing young gun’ by Hair Club Live. He is currently in the finals for the top UK colourist award.

Why did you decide to become a hairdresser?

I studied creative design at university but was frustrated that the results weren’t immediate enough. Inspired by Lee Stafford’s TV programme, I went to night school and started training as a hairdresser aged 21.

What are the biggest business challenges you face?

The poor standards of training and apprenticeships don’t support what progressive salons are doing today. The government makes it easy to take on apprentices who are over 18, but it’s so expensive to train them. Moving forwards, I will be taking on 16 year olds and training them up myself.

How do you build your team?

In interviews I look for people who are progressive and who want what I want, such as taking part in competitions. I look for edginess. I have always been a bit different, including in the way I dress and I want people like that. I have to be able to click with my team. Right now there are nine of us. It’s a great team.

What are your goals for the future?

I want to open two more salons in the next three years. I will probably spend one day a week in each. My fifth salon will be the biggest and will have an academy. I love education and inspiring people through platform work. I also plan to carry on visiting schools and colleges to encourage young people to move into the industry.

To what do you owe your success?

Hard work, an innovative approach, making each of my salons look a bit different and staying humble. I am also a huge advocate of social media and PR. This is how I built up my freelance business to 90 clients in three months. I am very active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

We are always looking for clever solutions, trying new things and not being afraid to talk about what we are doing. I run a small PR company which I use to promote my sister’s dance company and my work. If I contact press teams myself it has less clout. It’s much more effective through a third party company. I get a lot of coverage in all the major magazines.

My Dad works with me and has done all of the salon refurbishments and the behind the scenes work. I trust him implicitly. Having him on board also keeps our costs in check.

What is your relationship with Ego Professional and Unite?

I have been on the Unite team for a year. What I like about Ego and Unite is that the products are designed so that the consumer can maintain their hair style themselves. If you have a good hairdryer and the right products, you can get a great look.
I only sell to my clients on request. I don’t like being a salesman, I prefer to prescribe. This is because I care about the client, and they value integrity and our relationship. I’m often invited to my clients’ birthdays and weddings.

What advice can you give about opening and running a salon business?

Keep it real, work with your client to build a relationship and take a consultative approach. Consultations have been watered down too much. Some salons actually charge for consultations. For new clients, book in an extra 15 minutes to talk about the clients’ hair and needs in depth.

We get our clients through word of mouth and 92% of our customers are re-books. We have so much demand that in April we already start taking bookings for Christmas. People are booking 3-4 appointments in advance. I think this is because people enjoy coming in and speaking to everyone. We talk to them, relate to them, play good music and we aren’t pushy. 
Also, it’s really important to get your pricing right. 
Finally, I think it’s important to always be learning.

Why do you think competitions are important in the industry?

Winning competitions gives such a buzz to our clients and team. It sets you apart - no one else does competitions locally. It reflects very well on the business.

How does NHF help your business succeed?

The main reason I joined was for the security and stability you get from having access to well-written contracts bolstered with the NHF legal helpline. It is important that both employer and employee know what is going on. A good contract gives both parties something to refer back to.

When one of our stylists left and we had some problems, I was in a strong position thanks to the NHF contract. In the end it was all resolved amicably and the NHF helpline was worth its weight in gold during the process.

Part of my plan for the year is to get some formal business training, so I will be attending the NHF seminars to help me develop the business further.
The contracts alone make it worth joining the NHF and combined with the other membership benefits, such as SalonFocus magazine, it really helps to keep my finger on the pulse. It’s invaluable.