Synopsis: The Question & The Answer.
I have recently been reflecting on this mind-‐bending question: “What makes a great Wig Company great”? I thought I would share it with you as a catalyst for continuing dialog, care of the American Hair Loss Council, of which my firm is a proud
member. Let’s start at the end and work back to the beginning. My conclusion – the answer to the title question -‐ is that we have to be “All In”, from the Founder/CEO to the person responsible for shipping. Our heart, soul and mind need to be serving our direct and indirect customers. Our business practices must follow our ethics and core beliefs. We must define and live by our mission. We need to be open to criticism and strive for continuous improvement and ultimate excellence. We can’t just talk the talk; we must walk the walk. If you are thinking that you might agree with me, how do we get there?
Before I became a “hair man”, I would have best been described as a “serial entrepreneur”. I have done a lot of different things in my life. I studied advertising and marketing at a university in England. I came to America as a marketing executive for the world’s largest hotel company in Memphis, Tennessee. I then moved to Los Angeles and became a consultant to and, soon after, chief operating officer of a tech company, from start-‐up to taking it public on Wall Street, before I was 35. During the tail-‐end of the dot.com era, even while it was melting down, I was fortunate enough to raise more than $50 million on Wall Street to fund a leading edge fiber optics company, which continues today. After that, I was the catalyst for countless strategic alliances, mergers, acquisitions and “restarts”. But, all of that was nothing compared to the satisfaction I get from my life in the “hair business”. Let me explain.
I have to say, the first time I discovered a true passion in my professional life was when I visited a Hair Replacement Center customer, where the owner introduced me to one of their Clients, announcing that I was responsible for providing that beautiful European hair wig that was now on the Client’s head. That Client turned to me, crying, gave me a hug, and told me that I had changed her life. Just by providing her with a new head of hair and returning her smile to her, it changed mine too. It hit me hard. I will always remember that. Then it happened again. And again. And again. And again. I realized that my life would never be the same again. My future was to be about giving a woman back her “best hair day” when she thought she would never ever look in the mirror and smile again. It sunk in. This was real. This was important. My belief expanded into helping parents realize the same smile in their children who had lost their hair. I remember the first time I witnessed a 7-‐year old girl having her head shaved prior to cancer radiation treatment. Her parents were sobbing loudly, but that courageous little girl just kept staring at the mirror watching every hair fall and never shed a tear.
So, how did this happen? You all have your own story of what led you to this wonderful calling. I know some of them, and they amazingly go back, in some cases, more than 50 years. To explain how I got here, we also need to go back in time. All the way back to 1984. It was then that I first met the man who became like a second Father to me, “Papa Rene”. He may be better known to you as “Rene of Paris”. Many of you (of my generation) met Rene in person. He was unforgettable, larger than life, a true “Peter Pan”, until he finally succumbed to throat cancer, after a valiant fight, 1st January 2013. Rene always knew what he wanted and, this time, it was to see in the New Year. He is dearly missed. My wife is only my wife because Rene introduced us to each other in 1985. Rene was an industry visionary and larger than life. He was loved by many thousands who had the good fortune to meet him in person, always an unforgettable experience. He took me to many fascinating hair trade shows in the eighties and nineties, even though it took me until 2007 to become directly involved in the industry. That led me into a 7-‐year adventure creating a new branded wig company with a leading wig manufacturer, founded by Rene’s son.
The Next Chapter.
According to many of you, we defined and created the best women’s wig and hairpiece company the industry has seen, at least until now: product, quality, service, smile. For those of you who told me that, a sincere thank you for the accolades, but we could not have done it without you. In my opinion, the Hair Addition/Replacement Professional Members of the American Hair Loss Council made that company what it became. Over 5,000 women and girls of all ages got their smile back. And, along the way, I met and became friends with some of the nicest, most professional and caring hair replacement center owners, and hundreds, if not thousands of “Alopecian” women and children (both Alopecia Areata and Androgenic Alopecia) as well as countless cancer patients.
Today, I find myself starting a new adventure, with more joy and passion than ever, with a wonderful core team, who has been with me since the beginning of this adventure, a new vision and a broader choice of manufacturing resources. To have the opportunity to create a new way of serving this industry and your hair-‐impaired clients, is a real privilege. I am excited, because today’s challenges are more complex and harder than ever and today’s hair wearer is the most informed consumer of any high-‐end purchased product. Most of them walk in your door having done countless hours of research, Google searching and blog reading. We need to love a challenge and learn something new every day to do this right JJ
The Components of “All In”.
So, what does it take? I define the component parts of being “ALL IN” as:
- The Professionals network (needed to deliver all of the above to the ultimate hair-‐wearer).
If you like, these are the building blocks of what it takes to make a great wig company.
This is the essence that makes it all come together and makes the personal sacrifice worthwhile. It is the belief we can do something good in the world. It is the belief to risk investing, the belief we can make a difference, the belief we can create something new that is important, belief that the personal sacrifice of time is a worthy cause. And it is the belief that we can achieve all of this within the parameters below.
Whatever we do has to be driven by nature’s beauty. Your Clients want to look beautiful regardless of the reason for needing added hair. Beauty is the ultimate delivery. A smile in the mirror is a confirmation of its receipt. All of the design work, choice of hair, materials and workmanship, has to combine perfectly in the delivery of beauty. The hair must necessarily be excellent hand selected, cuticle intact, ponytail hair with natural shine and movement. The materials must combine correctly to deliver the right hair addition/replacement application. And the overall presentation of the finished product must create the perfect canvass for you to create an individual masterpiece.
Quality is measured both in initial and long-‐term delivery. The delivered product has to be fit for purpose. And it has to stay that way for a reasonable period of time.
What is “reasonable” is the firing line that you stand on every day. We all know clients that have brought back wigs after 6 weeks, or 6 months, or 6 years believing that what has happened to them is your fault. And a reasonable time period clearly depends on them visiting you reasonably often for inspection and proper maintenance. The important thing is for your supplier to be willing and able to support you by providing a quality product up front and standing behind it when things, occasionally, inevitably go wrong.
“Service with a smile” is not just an expression. It has to be a core belief. Responsive service is what you should expect as the norm. And when you do not get what you expect, you need to have a clear path to your supplier’s management to give them a chance to put it right. If they fail the test, it is time to choose another supplier.
Value does not mean “cheap. Value needs to be a desirable reflection of the beauty and quality delivered. It is personal. One person’s perception of “value” may not be another’s. It is also closely related to Choice. The important thing is that the product you are offering reflects well on your own core values. As a Professional Added Hair Specialist, you have the ability to offer your Clients many different products from many different companies. If it is a branded product from a company that correctly supports you with that Brand and what it stands for, then that is Value delivered.
Choice is closely related to value, because a wig or hairpiece is a truly personal product for a specific individual. They want it how they want it and within the budgetary parameters they can afford. The closer that it meets their idea of their hair, the more likely it is that they will consider it to be “good value” at a higher price point than if it is a “one type fits all” choice. So your supplier needs to provide you with choice in a way that is flexible, reasonable, and communicated in such a way that you know what you can do while you are in a consultation, without risking having to face a nasty surprise after you have already committed to your Client.
This is all about you. There are many ways to “deliver” hair. And we are increasingly challenged by the dark shadow of low cost, online, sell direct, hair anything. But that is not you. And – if it is your Client – they are not really your Client, just a mirage.
Your Client comes to you because they trust you, they need and want a personal experience, and they need your expert help and judgment. They believe in you and in your choice of which products you are prepared to supply them from which companies. You are putting yourself out there and you need to know that your supplier is doing the same thing. Maybe a faceless online company, or a factory-‐direct come-‐on from China can provide a good product. But what happens if it doesn’t fit, or something goes wrong. Your real Clients know that. And, as a supplier, we trust that our customers – you – have the experience to only recommend and sell our products to those who understand and need them. THAT is a true Partnership.
So that is my view on what it takes. What about yours? There is no magic; what it takes is real. Maybe the adage of 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration holds true here. But all of that will be useless without:
- The Professionals network needed to deliver all of the above.
THAT is what it takes to make a great wig company.