Like every great success story, there’s a beginning, an opportunity, and a series of deliberate actions that make everything come to life. Andrew Finkelstein is one of those success stories.
The Founder of Busy Salons, creator of A-Game Mastery Coaching, and the President of Salon Ninja, Andrew Finkelstein is a successful New York City based entrepreneur, author, speaker, and coach. He works with people in the professional salon business, helping them learn, grow, and succeed in creating the businesses of their dreams. He has successfully owned and operated salons, and through those experiences, he has learned a great deal about business marketing, management, and people skills.
This is how his story began:
When the Business of Beauty is in Your DNA
Andrew grew up in a large family, and to Andrew, life was family, and family was life. His family owned and operated an international beauty business, where a dozen or so family members worked. Andrew didn’t intend to go into the family business; instead, just after graduating from university, he went into retail by joining what he dubbed ‘the greatest retail program that existed in the United States,’ to learn to be a buyer.
In the large department store in New York City where Andrew worked, it just so happened that there was a hair salon. And as a young assistant buyer, he would pass it, ‘while schlepping dresses’ as he put it, as he went about doing his job. He really didn’t think too much about it at the time. It just so happened that his family’s business was running that salon as a concession. And then, one day, the call came. One of his cousins, who worked for the family company, asked to speak with Andrew at the corporate offices.
“They told me that they’d love to have me as part of the business,” said Andrew. “I thought to myself at that moment, ‘wow! I get to work with people that I love while and do work with people, which I love to do. And I can help be with family and help build something…build a future.’ So, I said ‘yes,’ and was off to the races.”
Little did Andrew know that they’d put him behind the desk of a large, full-service New York City salon – learning “the salon business” from the ground up. He found working in the salon both challenging and exhilarating, completed the company’s training program for young executive trainees, and began to work his way up the ranks – from assistant salon manager, then to manager, and eventually to group manager. Andrew was happy as he was helping his family grow the business.
“I eventually became responsible for the company’s worldwide marketing, something that I’d gone to university for. And it was there I had the privilege of working with some of the world’s greatest hairstylists, as well as with amazing people in the advertising field.” At that point, it was a substantial company with more than 10,000 people working in over 1100 salons in 10 countries. While the company was large, and highly-structured, at its core it was a “family business.” The company had a heart and a soul. You felt the family and the people knew one another. And that‘s what I really loved about it,” added Andrew.
The Days of Salon Ownership
As things came to pass, one of Andrew’s uncles passed away, and with that, the family sold the business. Andrew opened up his own shop, intending to create a franchise. It was a beautiful environment-friendly salon, one of the first in New York City, possibly even the world. It was called T’sers an acronym for “to save the earth requires sustainability” and was about serving the Earth and helping to save the environment. The salon served a lot of people and was quite successful.
So successful, in fact, that “one day, two guys walked into my shop – they were like Frick and Frack,” explained Andrew. “One turns to the other and says, ‘Marv, I haven’t seen one of these things run this way, since 1955 when we opened our first franchised shop’ They turned to me and asked to buy my company, just like that. I said, ‘No, but if you like what you see, I can help you design one for your company.’ So, while my business partner ran the operations, I went off and worked with these guys to design a terrific new franchise prototype, and helped them get it off the ground.
Andrew found salon ownership to be a lot of work, but joyous work at that. After many years on that side of the business, he no longer owns salons. However, he does stay in contact with many former employees who have gone on to open their own successful salons all over the world.
Coming out of the salon owner side, Andrew went into business coaching, which was a natural fit. In the late ’90s, he started working with a world-renowned small business guru, Michael Gerber, author of the seminal best-selling book called The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About. For three years, Andrew studied with him and became a Senior E-Myth Coach, and introduced Gerber’s complete business-building program to the salon industry, as ‘so many salon owners lacked the systems thinking as well as the structures that are essential to sustainable salon success.’ The thing about Gerber’s system is that it is “tried and true” and works across any small business, including salons.
The same holds true for Andrew’s A-Game Mastery Coaching©, in which he uses a unique and Certified High-Performance Coaching program that is a scientifically tested and proven approach rooted in decades of research. “The thing is that the program is not just pulled out of thin air, there is a ton of research that backs it up, showing that there are six habits that every high performer has: clarity, energy, necessity, productivity, influence and courage” Andrew mentioned.
Andrew’s story of salon ownership is not the usual path. When asked how most salon owners came to be, Andrew said, “Well, they were hairdressers, and they learned here and there about business, and they had what Michael Gerber called the “entrepreneurial seizure.” They said, “if only I owned my own business, I’d make a lot more money.’ At the time, they thank that anyone can do this, so they jump in, without any training, without any real knowledge; they step into the role of ownership. That’s why there is such a high failure.”
According to this seasoned industry coach, salon owners need to realize running a successful salon is more than showing up every day. One of the essential things in business is getting your metrics in place and keeping score daily. They must create a plan in writing.
Back in the day, Andrew’s family had 1100 salon outlets, and 95% had a manager or a district manager who was a hairdresser. And for those salons that weren’t large enough to have someone stand behind a desk, they worked the chair. And in each and every case for every year, every one of those salons had a plan.
“We can tell a lot about our lives through our calendar. When we walk into the salon and look at the appointment book, what does it tell us? We could tell by the book that this salon’s busy. But how can you really tell how effective that owner is? You go into the office, and you look at their “business development” book. It’s their diary of what they’re doing in those times when they do not have clients on the appointment book. When they have time on their hands – how are they filling it? If someone marks off time for marketing, promotion, financial, study, I can tell that they are on the right path. If you’re that business owner, you need a plan as well as work the plan. Planning is not that difficult.”
Andrew finds it essential to enroll your team and get them involved in your plan. “When you work with people, and they know you have a plan, and you communicate that plan, they get involved. That’s how you create buy-in. That’s leadership. Also, people will only act when they can get their fingerprints on things. Many owners are terrified of that, for a number of reasons including, but not limited to losing control, not wanting to share the numbers if they’re bad (as well as not wanting to share the numbers if they’re good). But what is there to really lose? You can’t control people. You can’t manage people, but you can manage systems and processes. You try to manage people, and what do you get? You get resistance; they move away from you, not towards you as you’d like them to. You get an us-versus-them situation. The divide becomes very deep, and you can’t bridge the gap. You have dug your own ditch just by trying to control people. But a system you can control. Instead of trying to control people, you have to learn how to persuade and influence people, which is one of the things I work with people on, their persuasion and influence.”
When Creatives Do Business
When asked why creative types have such a hard time with business ownership and making a plan, Andrew responded, “Because of fear. It’s fear of the unknown. I stay step into it. Because if you want to be in business, do business. It doesn’t matter if it’s a creative business or not. If you want to do something, and you see the benefit of it, and if you can get a grip on your own insecurities that creative types keep telling themselves, well, I’m a creative type, and I don’t know how to do this. Therefore I don’t know how to do that. Who says you’re not good at it? Who says you need to be an accountant? You can hire an accountant, but you are the only one who can create a vision for your company, and out of that vision, you can create a plan. I’ve helped dozens of hairdressers create something called a One-Page Business Plan – and after they finished, they’re thrilled that they actually have something written down.
“I’ve met along the road, some amazing hairdressers. Perhaps some of the best in the world. Frankly, I have been honored and privileged to have met and worked with many of them. Many of these world-class hairdressers, whose work is renowned, turned themselves into amazing business people. Believe me, it was not by the seat of their pants. They came up against themselves, and they learned. They were determined to learn what they had to, so they could create what they wanted to.
“If you want something and you truly desire it, something where you can truly be creative, you can do it. I’m not saying it’s easy to do, but you can do it. Ask yourself if you always want to struggle with your business because you didn’t take the time to learn and think about it? I know that it’s a big cop-out. After all, who is going to do it for you?
“Want to create an infrastructure of personal support? Find yourself a coach.”
Life Coach and Mentor
“I really love doing what I do. And I love the people, always have. That’s a really big deal for me. But something was missing for me, personally.I would see these owners try and get their own way and create a successful business, but their lives would fall apart. And it was tragic. A couple of years ago, when I met my granddaughter as she came into the world, something came over me. At that moment, I decided that I wanted to make a big contribution to this new little person in the world – I wanted to make a difference in other ways to people’s lives. That’s why I recently became a life coach.”
Andrew feels that at the end of the day, people work to build a successful salon so they can be happy to live productive and rewarding lives. “Everybody wants to be happy, feel great, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and lead their best lives. That’s what really enticed me, got my juices flowing, I wanted to get involved on another level to bring it to salon owners because there are so many business problems that don’t have to be.” Too many salon owners have a lot of baggage that they bring into work every day, and that affects the team’s lives. And so I really want to have an impact so that these owners can be their biggest, brightest, boldest self when they step into that role as a person both inside the business and out. So that they can bring their all to their life because life is very short.
“I’m not a shrink. I’m not a priest; I’m not a rabbi. I’m just a guy. I am a coach. I am here to help challenge people to become their best, and the work that we do together is not easy. You really have to want to do this work. But if you do this work and devote yourself to it, you will surprise yourself. You will become that person you wanted to be”.
The Whys of it All
“I said at the beginning of this whole Covid-19 thing, that when we look back at this point in our lives, and we take stock of how we have been, are we proud of how we were? How we were as a parent, as a spouse or partner, as a salon owner, as a leader, as a team member. When were we really proud of the things we said and did? Did we reach out? Did we contribute? Can we honestly say we showed up as our best selves? Because it would be a tragedy if you didn’t do all that you could to become the best that you could be,” he said in closing.
Andrew has been in the beauty biz for a very long time and knows a thing or two about success. He’s done almost every area of the business, except to stand behind the chair. And it’s this experience that has led him to a path of coaching others in the industry both professionally and personally. He has much to share on the business, marketing, and performance side of the salon industry and now with life coaching, on the personal side.
Andrew Finkelstein is a wholistic, Certified High-Performance coach, from which many in the industry have benefited. Over the years, he has worked with Frederic Fekkai, Jean Louis David, Oribe, Garren, Scott Cole, Nicholas French, Beth Minardi, Rodney Cutler, Mr. Kenneth, and many other well-known salon owners and hairdressers.
Words of Advice to Salon Owners
As one of our Friends of Rosy, we recently asked Andrew what salon owners can do to survive mentally during these challenging times. Here’s what he had to say:
- Stay centered amongst the chaos, meaning we must maintain some sort of distance to be centered. It’s there, but you don’t have to engage with it.
- Establish and stick with a morning routine. I really encourage people: the more routine our lives can be, and I mean purposefully routine, the better off we are because stability in an unstable environment is really imperative.
- Try not to be scrolling on social media. It sucks emotional energy away from you. It drains you, literally. If you must check in on the news, try to keep it to no more than twice a day. Remember, you’re the one who chooses how much to check-in.
- Part of life coaching is all about energy. We are bringing on energy, and it spreads. We can act without spreading fear and panic to people around us.
- Don’t complain – it doesn’t help. It’s possible to describe a reality without complaining. Be aware of the tone that you have when you are communicating. This is especially important in the salon – owners and employees, tonality.
- It’s essential to understand where fear comes from. We fear loss – losing what matters to us. We fear process pain – this is going to be too hard, too difficult. And then the last is outcome pain – even if I do all of this, the grass may not turn out to be greener on the other side. Understand your fears – don’t get paralyzed by them. Because if we’re paralyzed, we won’t take any action.
- Slow Down But Take Action – We are building our future right now, so be aware of it. Steadiness during times of uncertainty is critical. We can’t let our minds play tricks with us. Slow and steady. When you take action, what you’re doing is minimizing your downside. So we want to be in action. We do not want to be overcome and paralyzed by fear, but we have to move through this. As Horst Rechelbacher, founder of Aveda, once said, “you must take ‘very specific action.’” Then just stick with the 80/20 rule because 20% of what you do is going to give you 80% of the outcome.
- My best advice is to establish and stick to a daily rhythm. You want a daily routine that moves the needle forward. It’s so important to have a daily routine because when you do, it gives you confidence, and it gives you momentum.