The X-factor

Have you ever been to a restaurant where the owner is physically present? I mean the kind where the owner walks around from table to table stopping to greet you and make sure that you are enjoying your meal. In all likelihood they will be a great character, full of charm and wit. They will get to know you and you will get to know them and your experience of their restaurant will be very much tied up with their prescence.

As a patron of their restaurant you will get to experience the essence of their vision. You will get to taste (excuse the pun) just what it is that sets them apart from the rest. You will get to experience their X-Factor. The more colourful they are the more “X” you will experience.


What is the X-Factor?

The X-Factor can be defined as a quality that someone possesses that is often actually difficult to describe but makes them different or special. Most of us will know about the TV show the X-Factor, which seeks to look for performers that possess a special something (apart from the pure technical singing talent) that makes them different and memorable to an audience.


When we consider famous people like actors and singers it is easy to see the X-Factor at play. Someone like Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Swarchenegger, who (let’s be honest) are not the greatest actors the world has ever seen but both possess qualities that people will pay to see. There are also many singers, who do not necessarily have the greatest voices, but their stage presence is enough to have audiences eating out of their hands.


At the same time, however, there are many who many have brilliant voices but lack that special something that sets them apart and keeps them from becoming stars.


The X-Factor in hair salons

I would argue that the X-Factor is present in many hair salons. I would say the reason for this is that in many hair salons the owner is present. I don’t think I know of any other industry with as many businesses named after the owner as in the hair industry and I think the reason is exactly that, to advertise an inherent X-Factor. By going to his or her salon you are promised something different, something that is linked to the fact that that particular person is the owner and you will get to experience their vision, their personality and their passion and this will be different to other salons because different people own and run these salons.


Benefits of the X-Factor

I think that one of the major benefits of having the X-Factor is that people are often willing to overlook other shortcomings because you have something else that is more valuable to them.


In sport the fans make be willing to overlook a sportsmans lack of ability to do the basics well because they know that this particular person has the ability to singlehandedly change the outcome of a game. A singer might be forgiven for missing a few notes because their very presence is enough to transport the audience to another place. To use my earlier example, a restaurant may get away with a mistake in the order or food that might not have been the best on earth if the overall experience of being in the restaurant outweighed the food itself due to the X-Factor.


For a hair salon I suspect the same will exist. If there is something special about the salon and the salon experience then clients will be more likely to be forgiving of other shortfalls. These could be high prices, rude staff or stock shortages. Because of the fact that the X-Factor is so often tied up in the owner and the client feels loyalty for reasons other than traditional service expectations they will be more willing to overlook the more traditionally expected things. Stylists will also be motivated (as well as kept in check) by the presence of the owner and this will be passed on to the clients as well.


Now, with regard to your salons shortcomings being overlooked, I make this point with a disclaimer. The shortcomings of the salon need to be within reason. A sportsman who never is able to catch a ball or a singer who is hardly able to hold a tune will need a lot of X-Factor to survive and in all likelihood they will lose favour with their fans.


So it is with a salon. If clients walk out of the salon looking like their head was mauled by a raccoon every month then the chances are, no matter how charming, extravagant or artistic you are they will probably not return. So there needs to be at least a minimum standard of service in place.


Downside to the X-Factor

The reason I am writing this article is because of what I have observed when comparing the beauty industry to the hair industry in South Africa and wondering why there are so many more franchises and groups appearing in the beauty industry than in the hair industry.


Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some very successful hair groups in South Africa, however, there are not as many franchised operations. This got me thinking about what it would take to start a successful hair franchise in South Africa and what makes so many of our existing hair salons successful and the thing that came to mind most was the idea of the salons identity being wrapped up in its owner and how this would be missing in a pure franchised hair operation.


If you visit a beauty salon there is the possibility that you will be very loyal to a particular therapist, I guess in the same way that you may be loyalty to a particular hair stylist. However, a beauty salon is often (not always) more of a neutral environment. Patrons simply expect a high standard of service and a relaxing atmosphere. In many instances the owners of beauty salons are not even from a beauty background, whereas outsiders to the hair industry often find it very hard to be involved in the daily running of a hair salon (again this is not always the case).


For a hair salon to simply be a neutral environment is possible but the quality of the experience itself will have to be the X-Factor else it will be very difficult to compete with the flair and character of an owner-run salon.


The other problem is that if a salon is owner-run and does have an X-Factor because of this, it is difficult to expand because how can you be in more than one place at once. Therefore your second, third and fourth salons will most likely have a diluted version of your X-Factor. At best you will work at each of the salons for a short time throughout the week but you will need to start focusing more on the operational activities of your business and this will distract you from being the X-Factor.


What to do with your X-Factor

The question then, which is not a new one, is how you can pass your X-Factor on to your salon? Whether you own one salon or more, how can your X-Factor be passed on because without this taking place your business will lose momentum whenever you leave the salon.


The exercise therefore would be to try and identify if indeed you do have an X-Factor and at least be aware of what that is (even though by definition the X-Factor is difficult to define). Once you have identified it see what you can do to pass it on.