Sam Villa “Drives” Students at the BTC Academy

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Portions of this article were also published in behindthechair.com On Paper

All aboard the BTC Express! Tuesday, March 25th at the BTC Academy (aka Fuga Salon) in ChicagoSam Villa stopped by to “drive” 23 students to upgrade themselves—and their skills—further than they thought possible.

As the self-proclaimed ‘bus driver’, Sam encouraged students to follow his lead and let themselves be pushed. “Not off a cliff, of course, but pushed to do something more,” Sam said. It’s all about the quality of work that you, as a stylist, can produce for your clients. Because no one in your chair will seek out the same old thing, time and time again.

If something is easy, it’s time to push past what you already know and pump it up; whether that be the style you are doing, the texture, or the look; the key is to challenge yourself.

“If I can do a haircut, I will figure out how to do the haircut ten different ways,” said Sam. Variety is the key to good hairdressing—and keeping a full book.

So how do you push past your limits and extend the bounds of what you can do and accomplish? How do you become the very best hairdresser that you can possibly be? By learning, of course, and doing so in ways that help you actually retain the information that you are trying to absorb. Sam broke down different ways of learning and showed that the best way to truly grasp a new concept is to do it yourself! After his first demonstration, the students broke away to get hands-on, or “scatter and chatter,” as Sam liked to say.

The First Stop on the BTC Bus: Braids!

Sam went through several different types of braid how-tos on his “braid parade”. He showed fresh takes on plaiting and a slip knot braid, stressing that the most important aspect of creating braids is to do them on clients in the chair. Make the hair eye-catching and innovative; it will attract strangers to ask about the braids you’ve created. Your happy clients will answer that they got their new ‘do at YOUR salon and that you took the time to show it to them. These personal testimonials can do wonders for your business, and for attracting new customers.

Another great tactic mentioned was to bring out a mannequin to the salon floor for an even more in-depth demonstration for your client—and everyone else in the salon. After all, who wouldn’t stop and take notice when a stylist is showing a how-to? Everyone will be intrigued, so make sure your skills are spot-on.

When trying to master new types of braids, Sam reminds his class to let frustrations go and not to overthink what they’re doing. “Silence that inner voice that says you’re not good enough,” he reminded them. As with anything else, practicing braiding, whether on a mannequin, friends, or even with colored cords while watching football (Sam’s go-to method); practice really does make perfect. The “finger aerobics” of braiding are a learned skill; the more you do it, the faster (and less frustrated) you’ll be!

Next Stop: Cutting and Styling Tricks!

“Communication builds wealth,” said Sam. Besides wealth, good communication between clients and stylists is essential to delivering great results to every person in your chair—every time. Before even thinking about beginning to cut, Sam advised reevaluating the way you talk to your clients and phrasing things in ways that would help keep you both on the same page and assured that clients are open to what you are suggesting. For example, instead of proposing an “asymmetrical” cut, suggest a “tilted” cut; instead of “versatile”, talk about a look’s “double identity”. When styling, don’t ask a client if you can “thin” out their hair; instead, explain that you want to do something that will help cut down on blow-dry time. Easy changes like these assure that the person in your chair isn’t scared away by the negative terms they’re hearing.

Once your consultation is finished, it’s time to break out the shears—and a host of other tools to stock your belt with. Sam went on to demonstrate texturizing techniques done with a “sleeker” or flat iron, before the heat is even turned on. Using the iron as a pseudo backcomb, he ran it down the hair from tips to roots, building a “pad” of hair at the crown.

Once you’re ready to continue styling and turn your iron on, Sam warns not to ever go above 392°—especially for color clients. This ‘magic number’ is the maximum heat that hair can withstand without diminishing any color treatment, not to mention more damage to untreated hair.

“Slow down to speed up!” Sam says. When styling especially, he stresses the importance of using a “sleeker”, curling iron or blow dryer slowly and deliberately. By only going over a single section once or twice instead of multiple times in fast succession prevents unnecessary damage and effort. Create a style in one pass speed up your process!

After lunch, Sam continues to “drive” students: now, to a better haircut, and to a better business overall. He tells a story about a little boy who has enough money for two scoops of ice cream, but instead chooses to order just one and leaves the rest of his money as a tip for a cranky waitress. Every client is important, and you can’t make assumptions about who walks in the salon door. He advises the class to treat each and every client with 150% effort. The people who come to see you are important, valuable, and their feedback to their friends and family can either help—or hinder—your business in a big way. Treat them right.

As the BTC bus reaches its final stop, Sam encourages students to write themselves a letter of encouragement to “fuel” their own “busses”. Once finished, Sam collected the sealed letters and promised to mail them back to each student in one month’s time. Everyone collects their things and heads out; the students are now the new “drivers”; of their development, skills, and ultimately, their futures.

Originally published here.

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