Starting Up

No Bad Hair Days

A story of resilience, hard work, and dedication to a good head of hair

Stella Arnaldo

Starting Up

Toni&Guy Philippines' premier branch at SM Aura, Taguig. The company will be opening two franchised locations before the end of March 2019.

In good times and bad times, Filipinos will always make sure they have a good head of hair. Having just broken up with a significant other, women will cut their hair. Happy to be invited to a party on the weekend, we immediately head to the hair salon to shear off a few centimeters off our locks, then get them colored.

The resilience of these establishments is not just anecdotal. Data from the Philippines Statistics Authority’s annual survey of Philippines Business and Industry showed that income of the beauty salon and personal grooming industry’s surged by 40 percent to P11.2 billion in 2016 from 2015. This was from a survey of 3,661 beauty salons and barbershops. (Other establishments in this category include computer repair shops, gyms and slimming salons, spas, and miscellaneous services.)

Beauty salons and personal grooming establishments also spent for the highest compensation at P2.6 billion, and employed the most number of employees at 27,815. This resulted in the industry generating the highest labor productivity at P446.9 thousand per worker in 2016.

It’s no wonder Toni&Guy, an iconic chain of hair salons in the United Kingdom, is on an expansion mode in the country. It has five branches (TriNoma, SM Megamall, SM Aura Premier, Mall of Asia, and Discovery Primea) but Cherry Reyes, managing director of Toni&Guy Philippines, and a renowned hairstylist herself, said they are looking at setting up more branches this year. 

 Starting with just 20 employees then, Toni&Guy Philippines now has a staff complement of 100—from nail technicians, massage therapists, and stylist assistants, to hair stylists, makeup artists, and color technicians. 

 

Shooting for the moon

“Suntok sa buwan (We were shooting for the moon)” was how Cherry describes their franchise application with T&G in London in 2002. She also had to undergo a rigorous two-and-a-half months of training at the salon’s academy—covering hair cutting, styling, and coloring. Normally the training lasts six months but because she impressed her trainors and passed the qualifying exam with flying colors, she and her husband Vincent Reyes (aka Coach Chot to basketball fans) were granted the franchise for the Philippines.

With an initial capital of P10 million, sourced from five investors—the Reyes couple plus four other partners—the first local T&G branch opened its doors at the posh 6750 Retail Arcade along Ayala Ave., in March 2003.

“The capital paid for everything,” Cherry said, “the franchise fee, nine weeks of training in London training and three months local training, advanced rent and security deposit, construction, and equipment.” (Her senior stylists also attended a six-week training course at the T&G Academy in London before they were allowed to touch a client’s hair.)

Starting with just 20 employees then, Toni&Guy Philippines now has a staff complement of 100—from nail technicians, massage therapists, and stylist assistants, to hair stylists, makeup artists, and color technicians.

A number of Toni&Guy’s clients are well-heeled Filipinos, many of whom have followed Cherry since her hairdressing career started in the 1980s, as well as celebrities and VIPs like former President Benigno S. Aquino III, Vice President Leni S. Robredo, Korina Sanchez, Pia Guanio, former Rep. Erin Tañada, Mons Romulo, among others.

Business challenges

Cherry admits, one of the most challenging experiences of running a hair salon is having a few dissatisfied customers. In the first salon, for instance, a hairstylist’s scissors accidentally nicked one female client’s ear as he went about trimming her hair. She and her partners were of course worried that this one incident would mar the good name of the salon, leading clients to pull out.

Fortunately, the incident was contained. Cherry advised those working in services sector that in similar situations, one must immediately reach out and listen to the customer. “Show genuine interest and concern. Apologize and try to help if you can resolve the issue.”

From the very first year of T&G Philippines’ operations, that one salon at 6750 was quite profitable. The location was almost too perfect with both foreigners and well-off Filipinos living and shopping in the area. But Cherry acknowledges it still took four years for the company to get back its return on that initial investment.

Profit from the initial salon operations were plowed back into the business, essentially expanding the number of T&G branches.

Expansion mode

By the first quarter of 2019, two more branches will be opened this year, but under the franchising business model.

“It took us almost 15 years before going into franchising because we wanted to make sure we had a solid track record to speak of. It also gave Toni&Guy UK the confidence to award us the Master Franchise that now allows us to sub-franchise, because we feel this is the right time to expand the business at a faster pace,” Cherry explained.

She assures the would-be clients in the new franchise locations of receiving the same quality as the main company-owned branches.

“To become a Toni&Guy stylist or technician,” she said, “it is essential that the full training program is followed. Our intensive training system maintains our consistently high standards, enabling us to deliver an exceptional customer experience to a level our clients expect in every salon in the world.”

She added, “Our commitment to our staff is that they will work with the best and they will be trained by the best. We are backed up by the Toni&Guy Academy in London,” giving flesh to the salon company’s concept of “Educated Hairdressing.”

Cherry advised would-be young entrepreneurs to “work in the corporate world first, under a great boss, even if the pay is not high and the company is not as glamorous. A great boss will mentor you and teach you things you did not learn in school—how to face irate customers, how to have difficult conversations with peers, superiors, suppliers, strangers—and the most important thing—how to deal with rejection, failure, loss of business.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma says stay for three years. There is value in the patience, the discipline, and the grit you will learn by doing something you may not really like. After that, go out and do what it is you really want, but prepare to be rejected—to fail, but to fail fast. Get up and go at it again.”

About the Author

MA. STELLA F. ARNALDO is currently a special senior correspondent for the BusinessMirror, the widest-circulating business daily in the country, specializing in tourism, aviation, and travel. She also writes a weekly column on relationships in the paper's lifestyle section. As Business Editor of the former Manila Standard in the 1990s, she started the very first personal finance page among broadsheets, which published pieces on investments, entrepreneurship, and other money matters.



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