Dr. Leon Alexander
Dr. Leon Alexander

We are living at a moment of profound and rapid change, where new technologies are transforming how people live, work and communicate. With all the doom and gloom that is going around our industry, the barriers preventing people from pursuing a big idea or making a new business model has never been lower. We now have the capacity to experiment and we need to use it!

Salons can’t build the future with legacy thinking. We have to design salons around the emotional needs of the consumer, accommodating the functionality of service.

We live in extraordinary times. 140 years ago, a very small period in world history, there were no airplanes, cars or antibiotics. 40 years ago there was no Internet, or mobile phones. The progress we have seen in the last 10 years will not compare to the imminent future.

Because of technology, we are about to embark on a monumental shift, change and evolution of the consumer and this will have a major impact on the Beauty Industry.


History has shown us that those that master technology control their destiny.

Romans created an empire because they built roads. The British had an empire because they built ships. Amazon have grown so fast because they mastered Internet sales. Apple is the most successful retailer per square foot because they explained what they believe in. People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.
We have to look at things from the consumer’s perspective. That’s what serious retailers and service providers do outside the beauty industry.

Assuming is one barrier that stops us moving forward. Mindsets are another!

On a cold January day, a forty-three year old man was sworn in as the chief executive of his country. By his side stood his predecessor, a famous general who, fifteen years earlier, had commanded his nation’s armed forces into a war that resulted in the defeat of Germany. The young leader was raised in the Roman Catholic faith. He spent the next five hours watching parades in his honor and stayed up celebrating until three o’clock in the morning.

You know whom I’m describing right?

It’s January 30, 1933, and I’m describing Adolf Hitler.

The point is, we make assumptions about the world around us based on sometimes incomplete or false information. In this case, the information I offered was incomplete. Many of you reading this were convinced that I was describing JFK until I added one minor detail: the date.

The details above are the same for both Hitler and JFK. It could have been either. Assumptions, even when based on sound research, can lead you astray.

How we view our business is a mindset that will need to change. If we are to evolve, we have to change our form, appearance, nature, character and thinking. This is the first decade of 21st century thinking, because we barreled into the 21st century with legacy thinking of the 20th century.

We need to emulate the best practices of service companies, retail providers and marketers outside our industry, because the same consumer that visits Starbucks and Apple, come into our salons and we think of them as guests or clients. If we think of them as consumers, we adopt a consumer strategy and maximize the potential of our business and fulfill their expectations.

Consumers think of Starbucks as a coffee shop. By offering food and now wine and beer, 48% of Starbucks revenue is from sales other than coffee. CVS is a pharmacy, but since they changed their business model, cosmetic sales have increased from 6% to 37% of overall sales. Another example is gas stations with retail revenue now a major part of their overall sales.

If coffee shops, pharmacies and gas stations are selling products other than their main core business, why aren't salons doing the same? For most it’s fear and our comfort zone that stops us reaching our full potential.

I Want to Hold Your Hand

Fear is one of the most powerful motivators. If someone were to hold up a bank with a banana in his pocket, he would be charged with armed robbery. Clearly, no victim was in any danger of being shot, but it is the belief that the robber has a real gun that is considered by law. Knowing that fear will motivate them to comply with his demands, the robber took the steps to make his victims afraid. Fear, real or perceived, is arguably the most powerful motivator.

We use fear to raise our kids, motivate people to obey a code of ethics and when politicians say that their opponent will raise taxes. Businesses also use fear to agitate the insecurity we all have in order to sell products. When anyone attempts to sell you something and warns you to fear the consequences if you don’t buy it, they are using a proverbial gun to your head to help you see the value. Or perhaps it's a banana. But it works!

When fear is employed, facts are incidental. It’s deeply seated in our biological drive to survive, that emotion cannot be wiped away with facts.

Come Together

The future is codependent! Every day we learn things that disrupt our sense of self-importance and realize that our lives and business is codependent on other people or things we cant always control.

In one centimeter of your lower colon, live more microbes than the total number of people on this planet that have ever been born. So we think we are in charge of what’s going on but you to the microbe are a dark anaerobic vessel of fecal matter. If you get them upset, then they are in charge. They will send you to the bathroom every twelve minutes.

So we realize we have a codependence on one another. You exist because the microbes do your digesting. They exist because you provide a vessel for that to happen. We cant think of ourselves as separate and in sync anymore.


The beauty industry world is changing, whether it likes it or not. There’s barely a salon today that customers can’t get the same service for about the same price and similar quality. If you ask most salon owners why their customers are their customers, most will tell you it’s the superior service, standards, quality or price. In other words, most salons don’t know why.

Rapid globalization, fierce competition, social change, and technological breakthroughs are the reason the salon industry needs to reinvent itself continuously to cope with this string of challenges. Technical, commercial and financial innovations tend to be the focus of attention, innovative partnerships less so. And yet the latter are no less indispensable than the former.

All Together Now 

The future of the beauty industry also needs to be seen through the prism of new partnerships that are expanded, creative, and atypical. Joint ventures that bring together salon owners, staff and manufacturers that cover unexpected topics and are a source of growth, innovation and legitimacy.

But it will also be written by new partnerships. In this new world in which no position can be considered definitive, salons that do not build new synergies with the economic and social players around them are likely to miss out on strategic breakthroughs, overlook emerging markets with growth potential, or be left behind. For salons, the future has always been a frontier experience. Today, new partnerships constitute one of those frontiers.

An insane acceleration of technology is occurring at a pace we can barely keep up with, even for those who work in design and tech.

The routes to solve the industries problems are really diverse and to get anything done in that framework you need to have collaboration at the core. You have to figure out what is driving good collaboration and what you can do about it.

With A Little Help From My Friends

Salons need to work in an environment that fosters collaboration and team building. To solve the issue of empathy, you have to open up, and it starts at the space you operate in. The salon space itself is actually expressive of how your salon thinks and acts.

To truly be collaborative, salon staff requires a culture of a shared experience. This is especially key when people have a different function or expertise. Its essential to recognize that a team culture fosters a creative and collaborative environment and all can contribute.

All You Need is Love

From the stranger sitting beside us, to the person driving next to us on the freeway, to our children, husbands, wives, parents and colleagues, they all come to us as teachers. The key to being effective in our lives is to be students rather than teachers. We must view them all as someone who has something to teach us; otherwise they would not be there. When you begin to look at it that way, you take away some of the supercilious attitudes and elitist kind of thinking.

Most of us define who we are and how we are doing and even humanity on the basis of some very artificial criteria. Those criteria, most of the time, are considered by people to be the ultimate. They are things like success. How much money am I making? How much stuff comes into my life? There certainly is nothing wrong with that, but as a criterion for your very humanity it is a very low point.

It Won't Be Long

Technology in the future will affect all our lives! In the next 5-10 years, software will disrupt most traditional industries. Because of IBM Watson, you can now get legal advice within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans.

Watson already helps nurses by diagnosing cancer, four times more accurate than human nurses. Facebook now has pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans. In 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans.

A medical device is being built to work with your phone, which takes your retina scan, your blood sample and your breath. It then analyses 54 biomarkers that will identify nearly any disease. It will be inexpensive, so in a few years everyone on this planet will have access to world class medical analysis, nearly for free.

A company in Germany is developing a permanent color machine that takes a strand of hair from your scalp, along with a strand of hair from a shade chart and mixes the perfect formula for you. It takes away the skill of the colorist, analyzes whether the hair is processed and correctly mixes the appropriate amount of color for the texture and length consistently.

If you think of a business opportunity in the future, you will have to consider if it works with your phone. Any idea designed for success in the 20th century is doomed to failure in the 21st century.

We Can Work It Out!

There are fundamental changes to the new informed consumer and it must effect how we will do business today and in the future. Today’s initiatives are tomorrow’s minimum standards with increasing rapidity. I believe these changes should be celebrated. History has shown us this, previously in science and technology, from Copernicus – “We're not the center of the universe” --to Darwin – “we're related to all other creatures.” With a greater sense of understanding, comes a greater sense of wonder, and a greater realization that we are part of and not apart from the rest of nature.

The pioneering salons must view things from the consumer’s perspective and the salons strategic blueprint should incorporate entertainment as a prerequisite. It will include an alluring cocktail of digital presentations, mobile technology, personalized data and hands on experiences, presented in a collection of areas that will both entertain and educate the consumer.

The industry has evolved from service to experience. We need to take one giant leap to entertainment and implement a new business model designed around the emotional needs of the new and savvy consumer.

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