Salon Today | Paths to Wisdom | Kien Hoang for Umbrella Salon

By Laurel Nelson | 02/26/2013

Who is your mentor? It’s a question successful people get asked all the time. From actors to CEOs of major companies to hairdressers, there’s always somebody, or even a few people, behind the success story.

  At Umbrella Salon in San Jose, California, owner Kieng Hoang uses every opportunity to mentor an associate, including preparing a model for a fashion show or an atelier.

At Umbrella Salon in San Jose, California, owner Kieng Hoang uses every opportunity to mentor an associate, including preparing a model for a fashion show or an atelier.

These extraordinary professionals acknowledge family members and friends as being supportive, but the person who mentored, advised and instructed them is usually someone in their own field.

Talk to any successful hairdresser and you will find even though they may have had an amazing experience in beauty school, a supportive family and a spouse who stuck by them through thick and thin, it is their mentor who really helped pave the path to professional success. And smart, successful salon owners know it.

Top salon owners across the country are incorporating mentoring programs into their education curriculum because they’ve seen the results—more confident employees, a more cohesive staff and management who feel empowered. But just like every salon culture is different, so is every mentoring program. SALON TODAY spoke to several owners about their formulas for creating successful mentorships in the salon and found each had a unique approach for promoting positive mentor relationships.

Creating a Program

Mentorships often develop organically from training programs already in place at the salon. Pairing up new talent with seasoned stylists is an obvious way to enhance training; however, the salon owner needs a specific plan in place before adding mentors into the mix.

At Umbrella Salon in San Jose, California, owner Kien Hoang took a structured approach to building his mentoring program—it’s built right into his education and is even a part of his three-part interviewing process. Candidates initially come in for a meet and greet, then move on to doing a hair cut or color demonstration before step three: getting paired up with another stylist, or mentor.

After a candidate is hired, they rotate with a new stylist every four months as they go through the core curriculum at Umbrella (product knowledge, technical skills, color classes, etc.). It takes a year to 18 months to complete the program, but at the end, stylists have a consistency that Hoang creates his salon culture around.

“All stylists service clients similarly across the board, use the same products and color line and get the same education,” he says. “The program keeps everyone—apprentices and veteran stylists—consistent and on the same page.”

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