Rent A MentorSteering staff toward outside advanced education has always been a strong component of Ginny Eramo’s salon ownership mentality, so much so that she frequently covers the education fees and airfare for the staff at Interlocks in Newburyport, Massachusetts, while she asks them to take care of hotel and food costs. But as her staff grew from 10 to 16 and beyond, sending staff away for education became more and more costly. “Especially when they were taking classes in London, Milan and even California,” she says.

A few years back, Eramo’s salon director was researching education opportunities online when she discovered Mike Karg and his in-salon dry cutting class.  Recognizing a great opportunity to educate her entire staff at once, Eramo paid Karg’s $2,000 fee, plus airfare and hotel, and brought him into the salon for an all-day class instead of sending her staff out one by one. “It’s an arrangement that tends to work well,” says Karg. “I’ve found stylists tend to be more comfortable in their own surroundings—more eager to try new things. And, most stylists have families or work that makes it challenging to travel. It’s easier and less expensive to fly in an instructor that to fly all the students to a class.”

Three weeks after that first class, Karg called Eramo to tell her what a great salon she had and about another opportunity he offered, “Rent A Karg.” For the same $2,000 day rate, Karg could come to Eramo’s salon as a celebrity guest artist, cut hair for between 10 to 15 clients, using two of Eramo’s stylists as assistants. In exchange, Eramo could charge the client and keep whatever price she felt her market would bear, and her stylists would benefit with some additional hands-on training with real clients. Karg would do all the consultations, the cutting and the final finish, while the stylists would do any supporting color work, as well all the shampooing and blowdrying.

Eramo decided to give it a try and put some good publicity behind Karg’s first visit as a celebrity guest artist. She communicated to her client community through social media and linked to Karg’s website to take advantage of his great photography. She displayed huge in-salon posters, and for the first time, she even purchased some Facebook advertising. “I was surprised by the results,” she says. “You can really control the demographics with the Facebook ads—I only spend about $300, but we got 5 valuable, new clients off of it.”

Rent A MentorKarg’s first visit was a huge success with both clients and staff members, and Eramo has brought him back about 10 more times over the past three years. Each time,Eramo charges clients $175 for a cut with Karg (no tipping allowed), and usually has him come in for a two-day stretch, working with two different staff members each day. She pays the stylists a flat rate to be assistants for the day and she covers Karg’s travel expenses. In the end, she still ends up paying about $500 for each of Karg’s visit, but she considers the investment well worth it.

“These events really attract a very different kind of client—someone who’s willing to spend the kind of money to do something really special. We’ve attracted many new clients to Interlocks this way, as well as encouraged some of our spa clients to become regular salon clients ,” says Eramo. “While some will rebook with Karg on a subsequent visit, most end up becoming clients of one of the stylists who were assisting that day.”

That’s by design, stresses Karg. “During my appointment with the client, I’ll tell her to come back and see Kelly here, she’s watched how I cut your hair today and she’s been trained in this method.”

In addition to having the opportunity to have the hands-on opportunity to watching Karg’s cutting techniques in action, the stylists benefit by observing his consultation and conversation skills and the way he interacts with clients, says Eramo. “He’s such a charmer, and he makes each client feel magnificent,” she says. “He’s never lost his passion behind the chair, and they simply enjoy being in his company—that kind of mentoring goes a long way.”

Eramo says her staff members are ‘biting at the bit’ to work with Karg for a day, “And it’s not just the junior staff, my senior and master stylists are just as excited.”

Rent A Mentorbelieves one of the greatest benefits to the program is the overall changes she’s seen with the staff. “We’ve definitely gained a strength in haircutting and there’s more consistency and cohesiveness with everyone trained in the same method. They have more confidence,” she reports.

“Each event serves as a big morale booster,” she continues. “And we do things like serve light bites or gourmet cupcakes to make it special, to make it an event.” That being said, Eramo says it’s also important not to do the events too often. She believes two to three times a year is about right, four or more would take away the ‘special’ factor.

But Eramo is taking the next step in her professional relationship with Karg. She’s planning to open up her salon on a Sunday and inviting stylists from other Boston-area salons to come in and enjoy Karg education. “I’ve chosen a path as an educator, and there’s nothing more satisfying than when I can pass on my knowledge and my simplicity in cutting hair,” says Karg. “I get a kick out of it, and I love traveling around the country and broadening my own knowledge through each experience.”

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