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What Should a Stylist Look for in an Assistant?

Lauren Salapatek | July 23, 2011 | 10:28 PM
Top stylists and salon owners are only as good as the people they have working for them. What should a stylist look for in an assistant? How do you “groom” them to be able to eventually move on as successful stylists within your salon? As the owner of three award-winning New York City-based salon & spas, a premium hair care collection, three private gentlemen’s salon & barbershops and a thriving retail business (www.PaulLabrecque.com), Paul Labrecque shares his tips and tricks to finding and nurturing his assistants, many whom move on to become top stylists in the NYC beauty scene!

In the words of Paul Labrecque:

Passion
I knew at a very young age, after working in my Aunt's wig shop that I wanted to be a hair stylist and colorist. I have always had a deep passion for making people look and feel their best and it is imperative that anyone who joins my apprentice team has the same dedication and enthusiasm for their craft.

Patience
All my assistants have been to beauty school and have the basic skills and licenses required to work in a salon. Our program perfects what they have already learned, in addition to teaching them more difficult techniques and services. The process can be long, tedious and demanding at times, so patience is key! This of course will come much easier for those who have a passion for what they are doing.

Visual Learners
Our business is very much an art, so it is important to not only listen, but to really see what we are trying to teach you. The salon is always so busy and loud with clients chatting and blow dryers running that it’s hard to give direction with words. I’m always impressed when an assistant can pick up on something without me having to say anything.

Expert Advice

It is important to know what is in style and have good instinct for consultations. Clients always ask for our recommendations and we need to be able to think on our feet and immediately tell what color or cut would work best based on hair texture, skin tone, face shape and current trends.

Personality
I look for people who are easy to talk to because everyone knows that a hairdresser is a part-time therapist too! Clients need to feel comfortable in your chair so they can tell you exactly what they like and don’t like in terms of their look, while they also dish about the latest string of affairs at their office. My staff is attentive, friendly and open, because you never know what your client might say next!

Presentable
People come to our salon to look good and feel good. Clients are more comfortable handing over their hair to someone who is not only knowledgeable, but clean and put-together as well! While I think it is important for everyone to show their individual style, I ask that they do so in a polished and professional manner.

When an assistant exudes confidence and I see that all of the above is there, they gain more responsibilities. After the two-year program is completed, we allow them to handle their own clients and we begin the process all over again with a new crop of aspiring stylists.
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