Although not related to Bill Gates, Ron Love has been an unlikely early adopter of technology in the beauty industry, recognizing back in 2002 that software was the future. While the majority of salons at the turn of the century where still wedded to their paper appointment books, Ron was looking for more than the old two-dimensional systems. Since then he has used and abused his software, bending it to his needs, using it to build up and service the requirements of three very different brands. His newest venture, Griffs, will require even more from his software and he has made sure it can deliver.
“I first started using Shortcuts back when it was called Surebiz! We started by installing it in my luxury salon/spa concept Salon Rébelle, and I quickly realized how it could help me grow my business,” he says. “So when I began development for what would become 18|8 Fine Men’s Salons with my partner Scott Griffiths, I knew not just how technology could drive my business, but also new service opportunities that we could apply to a completely new category for the gents.”
The guys were ahead of the mark, launching 18|8 in 2002 in the vanguard of the barbering renaissance. A decade-and-a-half later, 18|8 is now an established brand with more than 100 locations across the country and growing. Ron is convinced his ability to adapt and grab opportunities in the market as they happened was strengthened by his software.
“With Salon Rébelle, I needed technology that enabled a much deeper, closer relationship with clients than previously possible: superb record-keeping, automated marketing systems and excellent reporting that allowed me easy access to the financial health and potential of the business. And as Shortcuts Software continued to develop and introduce new functionality, we were able to evolve with it, moving into online booking and mobile communications via apps,” he explains.
18|8, like Salon Rébelle, is also an appointment-based luxury brand, but it is a multi-location, franchise-driven business. Ron turned to his software for features such as centralized reporting, global clients and nation-wide gift cards, as well as to create open communication between each salon and head office, and the ability to create marketing campaigns on a local and entire-brand basis.
“You need a five, 10 and even 50-year plan for your business. You need to think, how is it going to keep evolving and keep up with changes in society and in technology? Over the past decade we’ve seen technology revolutionize every aspect of our lives and business, with innovations flooding in. It has helped our industry become more professional and stable. But it can’t just be led by what the tech guys think up and believe we need. We are in a new era, where the industry is telling the tech guys what we need.”
Ron and Scott’s new brand, Griffs, is a more traditional walk-in barber, servicing men who demand the same level of expertise for their cut as 18|8 clients but within a faster paced environment. Ron and Scott recognize this makes software is even more important, not less.
“Although these guys still want a precision cut, they want fewer bells and whistles than the white glove service at 18|8. That doesn’t mean that technology is less important; quite the opposite. What’s interesting is that some of our operational procedures are actually now led by the technology as we look towards a new walk-in model. Griffs is fast-paced and personal, so instead of receptionists we have online check-in which can be done through the app or by dropping into the shop. We then have waitboards in reception showing clients how quickly they will be seen and if they have time to do some shopping first.”
Over Ron’s four-decade tenure in the beauty industry he has been in a prime spot, thanks to his long-term partnership with Shortcuts, to cherry-pick the best ground-breaking innovations as they’ve appeared and he’s been able to adjust as needed, to keep his brands relevant and successful. As he once again starts on a new venture in response to trends, his confidence to adapt to what clients expect is down partly to experience, to the training he gives his teams and to his grasp of how he can bend technology to suit his needs.