Learning On A Dime

I’m sure, by now, you’ve heard me stress the importance of education in our industry. And by that, I mean education for everyone, not just employees. Even after 30+ years in the biz, I make an ongoing effort to look, listen, learn, read, and share…and to surround myself with colleagues who truly inspire me.

I realize, though, that education—vital as it is-doesn’t come cheap; so I thought I’d “pay it forward” with some budget-minded tips to help you expand your professional knowledge, and help your employees do the same.

Identify your immediate needs: If you can afford to spring for only one big hair event a year, spend some time reflecting on the topic that is most critical in building your business right now, before you book a trip. Maybe you need financial or small-business guidance; maybe it’s how to focus on social media or staff management; perhaps it’s the nuts and bolts of color or styling. Then, pinpoint the show that will give you the most bang for your buck. It might not be the biggest show of the year, but the most applicable to you. (On the flip side, you might also consider a really broad-scale show-say, the International Beauty Show in Las Vegas-that encompasses a wide range of topics.)

Take advantage of professional rewards-for-education programs: Some hair-care companies, like Joico, trade retail points (not unlike airline miles) for a host of benefits that include attendance at high level educational events. Your perk here? You’re already spending money on product—might as well make it count!

Go the video route: Video education is such a financial boon for small salons. Plus, gathering your gang together to watch a good educational DVD is not only a learning experience, but also a great bonding opportunity that builds team spirit. (Even better, it ensures that every employee is on the same page.) Having trouble coordinating schedules? Allow staff members to take home a DVD for a day or two, then return it so others can follow suit.

Never hurts to ask: For discounts, that is. Every owner should routinely ask for a group discount on tickets to educational events so that multiple staff members can attend. If prices are still beyond your reach, consider bringing one key employee with you—someone who is a leader and a teacher—and schedule a staff meeting afterwards to share notes and materials you picked up at the event.

Go online: Webinars are an amazing new forum for learning. So convenient and easy to attend from your office or home. (Another benefit: They are available for replay so you can share with others.)

Cash in on classes: Always ask your distributors and sales consultants about good, local education opportunities. Even if the product or technique doesn’t spark your immediate interest, you’d be surprised at how many fresh ideas you can still pick up; concepts and techniques that will give your work a new twist and keep you fresh.

Pay it forward: Become the best teacher ever by bringing a wealth of knowledge back to the salon and sharing the love. Like any good instructor, keep your “classes” short, relevant, and try to involve your staff. (Shining the light on a particularly skilled employee, by allowing them to present a segment, is a good idea—it helps build your team’s self esteem.)

Remember, beauty school teaches us how to pass a state board test. But being licensed is really a license to continue learning…hopefully, for the rest of your career!

Have you found a novel, affordable way to educate yourself or your staff? Tell me about it…