Highly-regarded within the industry and a great source for all things hair in national press, we caught up with salon owner Edward James to find out more about his three salons in London and the secrets to his success.
First up, tell us about your role?
Believe it or not I still work on the salon floor 40+ hours per week. I really love my clients and am still incredibly passionate about doing hair. On top of this, I consistently work on driving the business forward while continually improving the look and feel of the salons as well as marketing the business – both through editorial work and working with national press. I work together with our General Manager, Finance Manager, Operations Manager and our two Education Directors (one for Trainees and one for qualified Hairdressers) to plan the direction and growth of the business and to ensure our team are happy, educated and inspired. Happy Team = Happy Guests!
What took you into hairdressing?
Growing up I had pretty unruly hair. I always dreaded getting my hair cut and found it difficult to find any hairdresser in any salon who could ever tame it. The only solution was always to shave it off! I started to cut my own hair, and made lots of mistakes but eventually figured out a way to make it work. It was then I knew I could help other people with unruly hair to have good hair days. Couple that with a desire to always make people feel good about themselves and hairdressing seemed like the natural progression. I grew up in a single-parent household where trips to the salon weren’t easily affordable so my mum was my first (and favourite) client and very much my learning curve when experimenting with colour changes!
What’s your favourite part of your job?
I would say the business planning and working together with my team. I have a degree in Business Management with Accountancy so find it so rewarding to have found a career where I am able to utilise both skills in one environment. I get really inspired working with my team as they are so creative, talented and enthusiastic. This is one of the reasons why I reinvest profits to make sure the salon interiors are always updated, feel fresh and our team are developed and rewarded for their effort. I love providing a beautiful salon to work in where the team can take pride in where they work.
What’s your biggest achievement?
Hard to answer! We won Salon of the Year 2018 at the British Business Hairdressing Awards last year and we were finalists at the Creative Head Awards for Best Salon Experience this year. The whole team are buzzing! Seeing our new salon in Balham fully booked within the first week was also incredible. The business awards we have won over the years and the recognition we have received within the industry have been truly amazing and I’m obviously so proud of those, however coming into the salons day after day and seeing the team work so hard to together to bring to my vision to life makes me extremely proud. It is for this reason our team have earned their excellent reputation and we see the results through this kind of productivity. I really believe it is all about celebrating the small wins – making individuals feel special; from the new skills learnt in training to helping a client go through chemotherapy, teaching them to manage their hair over the course of treatment and feel better about themselves.
What have you found most challenging?
The company has really grown over the last year and has changed dramatically. It is a real challenge to have genuine interactions with each member of the team and I’m extremely passionate about making sure I know each team member and that they know me. We operate 7 days a week so co-ordinating entire groups of people is a challenge in its own right. We have found that using technology has improved our internal communications but we see the importance of dedicating time to get the team to bond in person. I would also say that time allocation can be a struggle. Each domain in the business is as important as the next and I believe they all require the same amount of dedication.
Who or what inspires you?
So many people! However, the creatives who have inspired me often come from the fashion world. I studied Cristian Dior and how he created a brand that has allowed so many other incredible individuals to share their creativity. Fashion and hat designers Lee Alexander McQueen, Philip Treacy, furniture designer Eileen Grey and architect Zaha Hadid are all hugely inspiring to me – how they create something through materials, form and colour. But I am also hugely inspired by people’s energy and personality and this will often reflect in how I do things, from designing our salons to cutting hair.
The person who I look up into business is Jack Welsh; an American Entrepreneur. I relate to his vison of leadership and how he gives his people the ‘WHY’ and what is in it for them. You can have a great set of goals but unless people understand the why behind them you may never reach the level of success you know you’re capable of.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
My Grandmother always said that you should do something that makes you happy, something you love and always make sure you have an unusual skill set. I’ve never forgotten this and try to send the same message out to my team.
What upcoming hair trends are you excited about?
It has to be the revival of healthy hair! We play such an important role is ensuring our salon guests have hair that makes them happy between salon visits – both in the time it takes to style and the way in which is looks and feels. We constantly hear our guests ask for healthier hair and are delighted there is such a buzz at the moment around creating healthy, manageable hair that requires minimal heat styling. We love the new technology available for hair smoothing treatments, ensuring we see an end to formaldehyde and other nasties in Keratin and Brazilian treatments. They are really helping to change clients lives in terms of manageable hair and are a profitable tool for our stylists to help our guests realise their dream hair.
Favourite hair trend ever?
Brigitte Bardot. The way she wore her hair in the 60s can just as easily be worn now. Her hair is iconic; the colour, the styling and all of its tousled sexiness. Her fringe is still the most versatile and sexy fringe ever – it can be worn as a full fringe as it is shorter in the middle, or swept to the side for a different look. She was and still is the epitome of hair goals!
Spill! What’s your no.1 secret for great hair?
A great hairdresser! Find someone who understands your hair type, who is knowledgeable and who really listens to you. When you find ‘the one’ your hair will never look better!
Do you have a mantra?
Keep it simple and be honest. Whether it is building a business, carrying out a colour correction, make sure you refer to what the end goal will be, be open about how you are going to get there and manage expectations if you think there will be bumps in the road.
What’s your advice for a hairdresser starting out today?
Be honest, work your socks off, be open to all feedback and document your work (the good, the bad and the ugly)! Be sure to seek out opportunity and never reject an opportunity presented to you!
When you’re not at work, where would we find you?
By the coast in Ramsgate (it’s my little piece of heaven) and spending time with my dog Marley. I’m also hugely interested in design, whether it’s fashion or interior design, which is why I have studied both. I believe it is so important to keep learning and evolving.
Finally… What’s the one Aveda product you couldn’t live without?
Enlightener – hands down!
To book an appointment please search ‘Edward James’ in our salon finder or call 0208 789 9639 for Putney; 0207 223 6225 for Clapham; 0203 978 4415 for Balham.