I was blown away by my recent visit to North Haven Academy, a Paul Mitchell Partner School in North Haven, CT, where I met a group of wildly motivated and professional future salon pros. Having won a school fundraising contest set up by Winn Claybaugh, founder and co-owner of Paul Mitchell The School, they got to select someone as their educator for a day; I was fortunate enough to be chosen. Standing before this extremely energetic group—with scissors in hand—I became a student all over again.
I also felt welcomed like a celebrity, because the school has created a culture that is positive, goal-oriented and inspiring. Being successful is in the air they breathe, as shown by the $22,500 in donations they raised from planned events such as a Day of Beauty and a Kids Fashion Show for two very important causes: The Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation, which helps support individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related memory disorders (www.memoryfoundation.org), and the Andrew Gomez Dream Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides educational experiences—such as tuition and transportation to a three-day haircutting class miles away, or a chance to assist backstage at a major fashion show—to new salon professionals who might otherwise lack the opportunity for years to come (www.paulmitchelltheschool.com).
I did several haircuts throughout the day, showing sectioning patterns and different techniques that can be used to achieve more than one look. I showed pictures highlighting moments of my career, and talked about working hard and following your gut. But the best part of the day was learning from the students, whom I consider to be so inspiring. They're passionate about learning their craft, being the best that they can be and dreaming big every day.
As I toured the facility with school owner and Dean Mario Landino, learning how it operates, I kept thinking, This place is unbelievable. I asked about developing similar systems within my own salon that would help to create such an amazing culture, where students not only learn about operations but take a leading role in the salon, from running the front desk to managing the floor to cleaning and folding towels; they have such respect for the salon manager because they, too, have had to handle the job. Upon entering the school, not only did the clean, colorful interior catch my eye, but also the staff's caring attitude.
For those of us who dream of creating or being part of such motivating environments, we need to remember that it's all about the fundamentals: being accountable for your success and failure, living by the golden rules (that means no gossiping), and running positive and upbeat meetings. And it's about being excited, not waiting to be. It's about being the person you desire to be, rather than waiting to become that. It's really an inside job: Everything I say and do goes out into the world as a message. I get to choose what that message is, be it one of stress and anxiety or one of love and encouragement. Today's students remind me that I am the one responsible for what I have in my life. Wow, what a wake-up call that is for me.