Welcome to the Salon Owner’s Podcast, Phorest FM Episode 39. Co-hosted by Killian Vigna and Zoé Bélisle-Springer, this show is a mix of interviews with industry thought-leaders, roundups of our most recent salon owners marketing tips & tricks, all the latest in and around Phorest and what upcoming webinars you can join. Phorest FM is produced every Monday morning for your enjoyment with a cup of coffee on your day off.

Phorest FM Episode 39

iSalon Coach Richard McCabe is an advocate of working smarter, not harder. A salon owner himself for over 25 years, it’s safe to say he’s got quite a lot of insight into the industry. On this episode of Phorest FM, he discusses building a salon culture and systemising the business operations, two topics of a great importance, yet often overlooked.



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Killian Vigna: Welcome to Phorest FM, Episode 39. I’m Killian Vigna.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: And I’m Zoe Belisle Springer.

Killian Vigna: This week’s episode is an interview with salon owner consultant Richard McCabe of iSalon Coaching, a specialized, online coaching program aimed at the hair & beauty industry, providing marketing and business strategies for hair & beauty salon owners.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: And as always, we top off the show with our upcoming Phorest Academy Webinars.

Killian Vigna: This podcast is produced every Monday morning for your enjoyment, with a cup of coffee on your day off. Now, let’s get into the show! So we’d like to introduce Richard to the show and like we just said in our spiel there, Richard McCabe of iSalon Coaching. So welcome to Phorest FM, Richard, it’s great to have you on the show.

Richard McCabe: Hey, it’s great to be here!

Killian Vigna: So Richard, the reason we’re having you on the show is because that, obviously, you’ve a wealth of knowledge yourself. I mean, not only are you a salon consultant, oh and if anyone else has seen, you have a YouTube channel. Where you put up weekly videos and stuff like that. But you’ve been a salon owner yourself for over 25 years and you’ve built three salons in two different countries.

Richard McCabe: Yeah, that’s correct. I started my salon journey way back in the UK in a place called [inaudible 00:01:20] that was my very 1st salon at the age of 21.

Killian Vigna: 21? Wow!

Zoe Belisle-Springer: You were quite young.

Killian Vigna: I’m trying to think of what I’ve accomplished at 31.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yeah. Not much for myself anyways, yet.

Killian Vigna: I was breezing through college.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: So how did that all come about? How did you get into building a business at 21?

Richard McCabe: I married my childhood sweetheart. So I married a childhood sweetheart at the age of 18. I had children by the time I was 21. I knew that hairdressing was never going to give me the lifestyle that I needed unless I was my own boss. So I was forced to go and get a salon at a very early age. And for the next five years, I was earning what I thought was fairly good money, but actually running a disastrous salon. I didn’t make that much money at the end of the day. And my staff had full control over me. And five years in was the big turnaround for me.

Killian Vigna: So you were saying that you set up a salon at 21 and you thought you had control, but your staff did. How long had you been practising hairdressing before you set up the salon? So how much experience did you actually have first?

Richard McCabe: Yeah, so I went straight from my apprenticeship. I started hairdressing at the age of 16 and I did a four and a half year apprenticeship. And I literally, when I got my papers and they said, “you’re qualified”, I left there and then and went and opened up my own salon. So it was literally weeks after I qualified.

Killian Vigna: Wow! Essentially you went straight into it. So, I suppose, what was that journey like? I’d say that was fun, was it?

Richard McCabe: For me, I’ve never worked apart from a salon where I was trained at. So, the day I became that senior, I guess, but in my day, you would work on the floor the 1st year, so it’s quite normal. I was cutting hair from my very 1st year as a hairdresser, and it just became very normal. Then by year five, I realized that I’d probably reached my potential earning capability of working in a salon. So I had to take that gamble. I went to my dad. I promised him haircuts for life if he’d lend me the money to set up my hair salon. But I left him in England, so he’s upset because he doesn’t get free haircuts for life anymore. See ya!

Zoe Belisle-Springer: So what happened? I’m just going to go back on when you said you had no control in the end in your salon. When did that epiphany moment happen? And like, what changed?

Richard McCabe: I came to Australia for holiday, the first time. And I left my salon alone with my staff, which was it was running pretty smooth. I thought I had it systemized. I came here and went back and I had this one staff member that really took over my salon. I was scared to let him go because he had big clientele. He was a big earner. And I was scared that if I disciplined him, he’d walk and I’d lose my money. And when I came back from this big break, I was away for nine weeks. And when I came back and I walked in the salon, the salon didn’t feel like mine anymore. I looked him all around and I just thought, “you’ve got to go.” And I knew that if he went, I’d lose thousands. And I just thought, I’d collapse and burn.

Killian Vigna: Because we’ve thought that way, like it’s all well and good that staff having a big client base and transparency and stuff like that. But at the end of the day, it is your salon and you have to keep a hold on that.

Richard McCabe: Yeah. That big holiday, really when I came back in, after that break, I realized it. But obviously, I didn’t see the decay while I was in it. I forgot to discipline him way back then, but I didn’t and I was scared to. He was running the show. I was lending him money. It was quite strange because I paid myself what I believed at the time was a good wage, so I didn’t have anything to complain about. But I think that when I came back in there, it was actually the demise of me. And I blame myself that I got him into that state because I should’ve lifted up my game. I had no leadership skills. I’d just went straight into a salon. So, yeah I was pulled all around, except for making money.

Killian Vigna: And I’m sure that exact situation you have right there is what a lot of salon owners are experiencing, where a staff member does take it over. Could you share with us just how you did deal with it in the end and how did you move on from there then?

Richard McCabe: I did what most owners won’t do and I always when I coach them, I tell them they should do. You’ve got to draw a line in the sand and for me it was, if I’m going to crash and burn, I want to crash and burn on my own terms and not somebody else’s. I drew that line and I said that “He has to go”, and I want my salon running a certain way and I had a big meeting with all my team and said, “This is how I want my salon to be. This is my dream. Are you gonna come with me? Or you gonna be left behind?” And I made that journey. I started the walk.

Killian Vigna: And you shared that dream with your staff members, which was the most important part. You’re either on board or you’re not.

Richard McCabe: I shared in that meeting. In this country, July 1, I started a year. In England, I get my salons all have to do exactly the same thing as me, January 1, they do a big team meeting, then explain a three-year plan, a one-year plan, and how they’re gonna get there. And the team are either choose to come with me on this journey or they get left behind, which I believe that you don’t get to sack in anybody anymore. The people get to sack themselves.

Killian Vigna: Yeah. That’s pretty solid voice. Like you said, coming home to find out someone else has taken over your salon, not the easiest to deal with.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: No, definitely not.

Richard McCabe: I was still paying the bills. I was still paying the checks. But he was full calling the shots. And the best thing I did was let him go because I didn’t lose the clients that I thought I was going to lose. It was quite amazing.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: That’s amazing. And how did iSalon Coaching come into all of this? When did it come into play and how did it come about?

Richard McCabe: I came up to Australia, my big move, I came to Australia. I opened a salon again, with the attitude of I’m going to be the best in the area. I want to prove it to everybody. I’m gonna train the best team. And I started my business and got a salon that was taken over making some really decent money, really good money. And I got to year six and I thought I’d expand and get salon #2. And when I was out there with salon #2 realizing that there was too many salon owners that I’d met that were making no money at all, like zero. So at the time, six years in, I was only working two days a week at my hair salon and I decided to start coaching people for free. So I had two salons, I didn’t really work that hard in. I got a bit bold, so I just decided to pick a handful of people and another handful of people and I just coached them for a year, just to help them. Just for a bit of fun really, as a hobby.

Killian Vigna: Just on your own accord sort of thing, was it?

Richard McCabe: I was doing someone’s hair, this very clever dude. And I was gonna write a book on how to have a successful salon, and the man went, “Why can’t you just coach people what you know already?” So I put them into modules, hid them in the Cloud, and then I just decided to coach people and that’s how it was born.

Killian Vigna: I find it so funny that you were saying it was while you were talking to a client. Because we did have a conversation like that earlier, where your clients, like hairdressers and stylists, are the therapists. But sometimes it just flips back and a client will give you advice and stuff like that.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yeah.

Killian Vigna: So you’ve just kind of… you’ve swapped it up.

Richard McCabe: So I tell people the two great bits of advice I got was if you launch too late, then you’re too late. And don’t look at the imperfections. One man said to me, “Do it now. Just get your website out there.” It was a rubbish website and I had rubbish marketing, but you have to make the first steps. And I did. So, that was really good advice. And then, of course, he was saying what do you want to do in life? And I wanted to help people. So hence, that’s how I started iSalon. And how iSalon became a real business, it was a Thursday morning, it’s a strange story. I was on the way to work and one of these clients from Alabama called me up and told me she had a mass walk-out and she was in dire need and needed to talk to me.

I drove to work. I did nine hours straight, and no lunch breaks and I came home and said to my wife, “I couldn’t help this lady anymore, because, for nine hours, I couldn’t even get on the phone to her.” And that day, I put my salon up for sale. I put it online and I sold it to a lady in Dubai, four days later. She flew in the next day. Gave me the money in cash and I walked in four days.

Killian Vigna: Wow!

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Jesus! I was not expecting that story.

Killian Vigna: Just like that? Because, yeah.

Richard McCabe: It was great. I put it online. I had four offers within 24 hours. She contacted me from Dubai, and I said, “I’m not going to sell you my salon unless you work it.” She was on the plane, she landed, I got her to work on that day on a Friday night she came in, she worked on that Saturday, she went in and bought on a Monday. Paid a whole lot, in cash. And that was it. She went back to Dubai. I looked after the place for about three months, but I sort of went, “What am I gonna do with my life now?” It was okay while I was coaching as a hobby. Now it has to be a real life and I have to take it seriously. That’s how it was born. It was born on a glass of wine and silly post on the Web, how it ended my salon journey.

Killian Vigna: All good ideas start with a glass of wine.

Zoe Belisle: Usually, yeah.

Killian Vigna: Then, kind of moving on to topics that covered, we were looking at your YouTube channel and it was some topics that came up over and over again, that we can relate to. And we wanted to see if you could share them with our audience. It’s basically attracting clients, systemizing your salon, and creating a lifestyle. These were big issues that we’re always getting clients coming in and looking for help with. And that’s really why we have you on the show because there’s no better man to talk about it than yourself.

Richard McCabe: Yeah. I’ve started three salons from scratch and I didn’t know at the time, with my 2nd salon, what I was doing. But I know what I’m doing now. I knew what I was doing then, but I just didn’t know the results I was getting. In 2016, 2017, and 2018 you have to follow a certain code, I believe, to get clients. I think there’s a new clientele there and most salon owners that I speak to don’t know how to attract clients. They know how to put specials on Facebook. They know how to try and attract cheap clients, but they don’t know how to find their real clients. And it’s so easy if you do it the right way.

Killian Vigna: So you’re saying like that it’s not all down to ads. What small steps just to kind of I suppose, kick the topic off? What small steps would you advise? You’re saying tone back on the ads, is it?

Richard McCabe: The client at the moment is so well educated with Google and all the Facebook groups that they’re a part of. They know the answers to everything. And what they’re looking for at the moment, the same as staff, they’re looking to belong. So what they’re looking for at the moment, about 67% of the people at the moment are looking for a new salon. They’re sitting there. They’re waiting. They’re watching. They’re Googling. They’re Facebooking. They’re Instagramming. And they’re waiting to make sure they feel like home. They’re looking for somewhere they can call home. So, the messages that most people must salon owners are sending out to the world are not the “I get you.” And that’s the big key here. They need to get that client. And that client wants to know that you’re the #1 authority in town. The salon owner now is not price conscious enough to go and spend their money on the cheapest. They want to go out and feel like they belong somewhere and they’ll pay a bit more for that.

So what they’re after, they’re after the #1 salon in town. And in my day, you have to win awards for that. And in 2017, you can actually be your own media mogul and tell the world what you’re about.

Killian Vigna: It’s like you were saying, you have to be the #1 on Google. We’re seeing the likes of the reviews and stuff like that. It’s really important to get reviews. But I suppose to appear #1 on Google, it’s all about SEO and the quality of the reviews you’re getting in. To get those five-star reviews, you have to provide the service. You have to provide, I suppose, a culture, somewhere that clients are going to enjoy coming.

Richard McCabe: Yeah. It all starts off with knowing that client’s problems. So if you know that client’s problems, that’s all they care about. They don’t even care if you can fix the problem. They just want to know that you get them. So when they know you exist, they’ll sit there and they’ll watch in the distance. Like 3% will be now and 30% will never come. But 67% are sitting there waiting. So you gotta a massive audience that are watching you very silently and quietly in the background. But when they walk in the door, that need to feel that what you’ve said and what you’ve done and what you’ve told the world is home. Which means that the salon becomes the destination and not you. Which means if you systemize your salon, it means that when they walk in, it means that every staff member that touches them in their client journey, we call touch points, will give them the love and the comforter there so they’re wanting to be part of the hair salon now.

Killian Vigna: So just for our listeners there, what do you mean by the systemize your salon?

Zoe Belisle-Springer: I was just about to ask the same question. Exactly.

Richard McCabe: So systemizing salons, is very much like McDonalizing the salon. If McDonald’s, if they wanted to put a restaurant on the moon and they could. They’d get 15-year-old spotty teenagers to make the perfect coffee 24 hours a day. And we can’t get our 15 year-olds to make their beds in the morning. So, I hear a lot of salon owners say to me that they can’t get their staff to do what they want. But the problem with systemizing the salon is that the staff of today, the Millennials out there, they need tox belong to the salon. So to systemize the salon, they need to know why it’s important to them or why it’s important to the salon. And why it’s important to the client. But, they need to build the systems with you.

Years ago, we used to have a leader/follower model, where we used to build the systems and the staff were told what to do. Nowadays, the staff have to feel part of that. They want to sit in the coffee shop with their friends and go, “I belong at Judy’s salon. I work at Richard’s salon.” So to get that feeling, they’ve got to build the systems and if you build it, then they’re going to own it.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yeah, they’re proud of being there. Yeah.

Richard McCabe: Yeah. So then you almost need to feel like it’s their salon. That’s what they need to do. And we have touch points. So when you enter, it’s Touch Point 1. When you have a consultation it’s Touch Point 2. When you go to basics, it’s Touch Point 3. When you come back to get the work done, it’s Touch Point 4. And then the receptionist is Touch Point 5, and then 6 is the take home Touch Point. So when you have a 6-point system that we teach, you systemize each section. And the importance of systemizing, years ago was just to have good customer service. But nowadays there’s too many people out there that drive BMWs and Audis and Jaguars, that they expect a higher level. And you’ve got to keep lifting that game because, the rest of the world’s lifting theirs.

Killian Vigna: Wow! Yeah.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: It’s so true. I’m just thinking about all my friends that are starting businesses and things like that and they did so because they didn’t feel like they belonged anywhere else than in their own project. And it’s something the reoccurs so often. People need to feel like they’re a part of what’s going on, you know? In where they’re working.

Killian Vigna: Well, the way I’m looking at it is when I was in college, I was working at a shop part-time. And working in the shop it was, you do this. You do that. You do X, Y, and Z, basically. You never felt involved. So to me, you were always just doing and absolutely no interest in the job. So, like you’re saying there, by getting your staff members involved, and then I suppose, provide ideas to your plan or to your dream. So they’re actually attributing to your growth. So they’re going to feel rewarded and stuff like that then.

Richard McCabe: Yeah, well I think Millennials now, the one thing that they have no interest in, is money. Most Millennials I know don’t want money. They don’t want to work for money. They want to earn money. And most Millennials I know don’t want a job. They just don’t want to work. They want to belong to something bigger. They want a purpose in life. So, if you explain your big dream, and then you find out their dream. And if you could get on the same path with their dream and your dream, your salon will grow fast, really fast. And you’re gonna attract the right clients. For this to happen you’ve got to systemize your salon, so they know exactly why and what needs to get done.

And you build all this together. You have weekly meetings and that’s how it is. That’s the new world in 2017, if the owner needs to attract the clients, you and your team need to build the systems that are inside.

Killian Vigna: So, just as we were talking about staff there, what would your recruitment process be like? Would you tend to hire mostly just for the skills and how experienced you are? Or would be looking at your potential staff as more kind of…

Zoe Belisle-Springer: The culture.

Killian Vigna: Yeah. Would they fit my culture? Are they people people? Will they get on with staff and clients? Or is it just that they’re the best…

Zoe Belisle-Springer: At what they do?

Killian Vigna: At what they do?

Richard McCabe: Yeah, cool. I never employ anyone on skills. So I have a 20-point system that I interview with. The 1st five is on personality. It comes down to the fact that can you smile for eight hours a day. Are you a people person? Do I actually like looking at you? Do I feel happy when you’re in my vibe?

Killian Vigna: Yeah.

Richard McCabe: So, the first five to me is all to do with their personality. Do I think that the clients gonna love them? Anything else I can teach? Any skill that they need, I can teach them that. I can’t teach them attitude. You’ve either got it or you haven’t. And also there is a tick which I always do, is when you become a good salon, you become the employer of choice. So when I advertise, I get about 100 applicants to come to my salon. And I give everyone their five minutes of fame.

I don’t do mass interviewing. I don’t do weed them out before I actually get to see them. I will see 100. I’ll see the lot. I need, as a person, I need to see them all, because I’m looking for that rough diamond that no one else can spot. And I believe that if I get to see 100, I get to see the good, the bad, and the ugly. And the diamond will shine. Where most people try and hack the resumes too short, and then you’ve got no judgment when you just interview six or seven.

Killian Vigna: Yeah, it’s a great idea. Because that’s actually like right there, you’re actually investing, because you’re investing your time into all 100, as opposed to just skimming through the CVs, which a lot of companies do. They’re just checking for the skills and they’re skimming through. But you’re not seeing the person behind that. Just because they’re not the most experienced, they might be the best person to talk to and deal with your clients.

Richard McCabe: I think the one thing that we forget when we become an owner of a salon, and I need to, I’m going to talk about myself now, not to disrespect anybody else that may be listening to this, is that most hairdressers that leave school usually with zero grades, they’re usually slightly delinquents. They’re usually slightly troublemakers. And they usually will come across very inept, in themselves, because that’s me. I was very shy. I was very inept. And most hairdressers I know, because of the way we work, we’re creative, we don’t come with a great CV. So, if these salon owners are trying to work with the CV, and this person comes and sits in front of them, they’re not going to get that right person. You need to look at that rough diamond. I was gonna go off topic for two seconds. I’m going to explain to you why it was.

I left school with no grades. I didn’t want a job. I was a bit of a dropout. And I remember walking into a man’s clothes shop in the city centre and this man said, “You’ve gotta get a job.” He gave me a quick interview skill. Then he said, “Go and [inaudible 00:20:26] hairdressers, and go to the interview and see if you can get the job.” And I walked in there and I thought, “Who would employ me?” I don’t even want to be a hairdresser. And they gave me the job there and then. They said it was exactly what I was looking for. And I became this mini superstar for them. I became their top earner while I was there.

So I always say to people that you never know who’s going to walk through your door. You’ve got to try and see their personality. I was a real people person. And I loved to care and give. So that’s what I always look for when I employ.

Killian Vigna: It is great to hear that. Especially with the recruitment process, because we’re just coming off the back of… Like for the last few years, when I was looking for jobs, you nearly needed Olympic medals to get you a job. So, it is great to hear, no doubt. It is switching back to hiring people, as opposed to hiring skills. It’s still good to have the skills, but it’s not all of…

Zoe Belisle-Springer: But you can learn. You can always learn, yeah.

Killian Vigna: Yeah, you can learn the skills. And a good salon owner will invest in you if they actually see that potential.

Richard McCabe: I agree. I think that we live in a world, especially now, I’ve just come back from the UK and so I’ve seen two sides of the world. Everyone seemed quite miserable behind the till, it was just a job to them. It needs to be like a passion and excitement. And I think that most people that I’ve ever dealt with, they do business with people they like. And if you can employ someone who’s likeable, clients will always like them, no matter how good their skillset is. And I think 10 years ago, I had a coach that said to me, “You don’t need to be a superstar. You just need to be average, with your customer service, experience, and you’ve got to be likeable. And that’s where the money is.”

Killian Vigna: Well, you’ve definitely taught us a thing or two. So for anyone that wants to check out that YouTube channel, it’s Richard McCabe iSalon Coaching, YouTube. And you have Ask iSalon Coaching, every Friday.

Richard McCabe: Yeah. Every Friday I do three important pieces of information, that I will send out to salon owners around the world, hopefully just to get them to get their ‘aha! moment’, and realize that there’s some great money to be made for salon owners. I’ve always made fantastic money. And people I know make really good money. So, there’s money to be made there.

Killian Vigna: And then the Facebook group is, do you want to call out the Facebook group there Richard?

Richard McCabe: Yeah, it’s the Tribe of Revolutionary Salon Owners.

Killian Vigna: Well, Richard, thanks a million for joining us on the show today. Definitely opened up some areas there for people to look into.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yeah.

Killian Vigna: And some really good resources there that we’re going to link. So, thanks a million for joining the show today!

Richard McCabe: Awesome! Loved every minute! Loved it!

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Amazing. Thanks so much!

Killian Vigna: So, that was Richard. And first off, about that hiring a staff, I thought that was brilliant. And the second thing, it’s like he had his 1st business at 21 years of age.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: I know right! I mean, it’s amazing to see his path.

Killian Vigna: Yeah.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Just like, “I was thrown into it. This is what happened. I had my first salon. And I crashed and burned, but it’s okay. And I opened the 2nd one. And a 3rd one. And I just moved on to coaching.” It’s amazing to see the personal growth, you know?

Killian Vigna: Yeah, because like you just said there, we were talking to him for a few minutes just off the air, but it was a case of he got put into the hair industry. And for him, it was sink or swim. And it’s a classic case of he’s still swimming. Well, still swimming, he’s not struggling. He’s absolutely loving his life. He said it’s worked the better for him. And again, it comes back to recruitment. He’s hired people that he can trust and get along with. Which makes his life happier, makes their life happier, and everyone’s following that one dream.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yeah, exactly. It’s all about the culture in the end. And a lot of people ask how do you reach Millennials? Culture.

Killian Vigna: Culture.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: It’s just that one word.

Killian Vigna: Yeah.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Culture.

Killian Vigna: Like you said, they don’t want to just do. They want to be involved. They want to think that their ideas are being heard. Because, talking about we as a collective, I don’t feel it, but Millennials do feel like they’re not being listened to and stuff like that. I don’t know about that now. I know with us here, anytime we have an idea, we’re told just go do.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yeah.

Killian Vigna: Like that’s your idea, go for it, yeah. And that’s what you need to be inspiring on your staff, as well. Give them, not give them free range. Just give them an inch.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yeah. It’s all about inspiring your staff. And once your staff is engaged with you, then you’ll see the impact rolling onto your clients automatically. Because they are watching you in the end like Richard was saying.

Killian Vigna: Yeah, exactly. So we’re just going to move over then, to our webinar, Zoe. Upcoming webinars.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yep, we do actually have one tomorrow. But you know more about it than I do.

Killian Vigna: Yes, so this one is more kind of client focused. So for Phorest Salon Software clients, it’s the Salon Growth Series. Basically, every month, we’re going to focus on a new topic. This is the 3rd of the August ones, so How to get clients in more often, spending more. So it’s on the 22nd and there’ll be another one next week on the 29th. And the way you can access those or register for them, is if you go to Phorest Salon Software facebook page, go to Events, and then check out the Salon Growth Series. So you can pick which one you want to register for. And things that we’re going to cover then, is obviously how to get clients in more often, spending more. We’re going to show you why it’s important to reward your clients. We’re going to go through what works for other salons. Then we’re going to show you how to increase referrals and promote client retention. And finally, we’re going to have a little tip and trick of how to increase your revenue, by a minimum of 21%.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Amazing. So if you have suggestions of people, who you want to hear on the show, or anything like that, don’t hesitate. Leave us a comment, review on iTunes, if you want to hit us up on Facebook or Instagram, anywhere you want really, you can do that! Otherwise, we’ll catch you next Monday.

Killian Vigna: All the best.

Thanks for reading!


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