CHAPTER 12:

NAME CHANGE TO HAIR BY ALAN D.…1991

Ok, it’s late 1991, we’ve taken over a failing business, & now my son, Edward, tells me he doesn’t want to work in a bank, he wants to go travelling. My response to that was fairly succinct. “If you think I’m gonna let you finish up lying in a gutter somewhere on the Indian sub-continent you’ve got another think coming”!

It just so happened that the salon in Regent Street was still pretty busy at the weekend & we could always use an extra pair of hands around the desk. It was run at the time by a lady called Iona, known for her rather brusque attitude to both clients & staff. In fact, when she left us after a couple of years, she went on to teach hairdressing at one of Her Majesty’s prisons. Good decision!

Anyway, one Saturday morning Bonnie & I managed to get Edward out of bed before five in the afternoon ( his usual weekend routine) & off he went to help in the salon. This monumental event was the beginning of his career, because as fate would dictate, he fell in love on that first day.

Let’s explore this a bit further. He actually fell in love with a décolletage (for those not familiar with the term, her ample bosoms) that belonged to one of our stylists, a beautiful French girl called Natalie. He came home from the salon that night absolutely buzzing; we sat down for dinner around 8-30 pm & he didn’t stop talking about his day until he went to bed. I should also point out that he would normally go out around 10 pm & we wouldn’t see him again until Sunday afternoon.

The following morning he got up bright & early & launched into it again. We couldn’t believe it. We’d never heard Edward that enthusiastic about anything in his whole life. It just shows you what raging hormones do to a young man! Anyway, the following Saturday there he was, bright & early, working in the salon & completely sold on a hairdressing career. He started training at our School in February 1992 & never looked back.

There is one story I must relate before I move on. Edward reminded me of his first lesson in customer service. A client came into the Regent Street salon one day & asked about a Kerastase product. I must have got fairly irritated after a while because, after going through the entire consultation process, the lady said something like “you can buy shampoo much cheaper in Boots”. My immediate response was “go & buy it in Boots then”.

Remember, it’s not what you say, it’s the way you say it! More about Edward later.

Meanwhile, we got on with the business of changing the name. I had a graphic designer draw some designs & I hit upon the Alan d name. People always ask how it came about & what does the small d stand for. In truth, the word “designer” was very popular at that time. We had “designer” clothes, labels, & anything else that was supposed to be fairly exclusive. Therefore, Alan d, the “designer” was born! Some hopes! Eventually, the legend changed to “Big A for Alan & little d for David”. Our salons were titled “Hair by Alan d” with the tag-line “shaping hair for the 90’s” & the School was re-branded “Alan d incorporating the Morris School of Hairdressing”. Catchy wasn’t it! It was lucky that the premises in Dean Street had a very wide shop-front. The School was very busy & because we had two well-established names both at home & abroad I made a decision to try & drum up business in the Far East, travelling to Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan & anywhere that we had some connection with in London. The idea was to franchise the name throughout the East. Little did I know someone had beaten me to it! ’Let me explain.

By this time, 1992/3, we’d hit on a great way to market the school. Video! We researched our enquiry sources which were in the main coming from the HJ & various other magazines that we advertised in, but our literature (brochure) was fairly restrictive as to what you could say.

I was chewing the fat with my best friend who had, & still does, a street furniture business. He’d hit on the idea of selling his street signs, litter baskets etc. by video. I listened to what he had to say & took on board the fact that he made these inanimate objects look really interesting by creating moving images around the product he was selling. I thought that if you can do that with a park bench, you can do it with hairdressing training. We created a 5 minute video & used a well-known DJ, Pat Sharpe, to do the voice-over & right at the end he also made an appearance. It was great even if I say so myself!

It changed the way we marketed ourselves & gave us the opportunity to get to the powers to be at Schwarzkopf & Wella, the major product houses we were working with at the time in the UK. Our aim was to take our training methodology abroad, targeting the Far East & using our connections with the product houses to get us there. We were also starting to become pretty well known in both Italy & Spain & I’m convinced that our original promo. video moved us on much quicker than the printed word ever could.

So, why don’t I get on a plane & visit some of the countries we’re well known in? I advertised my visit to Singapore & Malaysia in the Straits Times, the best known newspaper in that area, asking to recruit agents to help market our school courses back in London. I made some appointments & off Bonnie & I went to face one of the worse situations of my very naïve business career.

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