If you’ve ever undertaken training with salon business expert Liz Mckeon, you’ll know she tackles everything from how to double your re-bookings to bringing your salon back from the brink with enthusiasm and vigour. Her latest venture, as UK and Ireland ambassador for Shear Haven’s domestic violence awareness salon training, is a whole different ballgame and a cause close to her heart, as a survivor of domestic violence herself.
McKeon came across the online training while browsing social media in February of this year. “The training really resonated with me because it was short and to the point. As someone with personal experience of domestic violence, I thought it really hit the spot and brought me right back to when I was in that position myself,” she says. “It tells you how to be a safe space for your clients and to have the contact details for your local refuge handy, should somebody ask for it.” McKeon has been witness to domestic abuse in the beauty industry in many ways over the years, and says it took completing the Shear Haven training to realise just how prevalent it is. “There have been occasions where I’ve been in hair salons and the stylist has said ‘I don’t like the look of my client’s alopecia’, and I’ve had to tell them that that person has had their hair pulled out of their head,” she explains.
“On another occasion, I noticed a man patrolling up and down outside a salon while the therapist went to speak to him between every appointment and on every break. I had to explain to the salon owner that what was going on was controlling behaviour and abuse.” McKeon confirms that her experience isn’t unique. “Since we launched the training in the UK and Ireland, not one owner I’ve spoken to has said, ‘I’ve no experience of this’. Everybody has seen domestic violence as part of their working life in the industry,” she says.
During the first lockdown, McKeon saw posts circulating on social media from therapists telling their clients that they were there if they needed them, and to reference a certain eyeshadow on the phone or in person if they needed the authorities called. It made her realise that therapists are a lifeline for their clients.
How to spot the signs
“The social media posts, and my own personal experience, accumulated in my mind and I realised I needed to spread the word about Shear Haven’s training,” she says. Knowing the size of her database, McKeon sent out an email with details of the training, asking salon owners to add it to their list, telling them “you might just save a life.” Following her message, several thousand people undertook the course.
Anyone working in the industry will know how special a relationship the bond between beauty therapist and client is, which is why Shear Haven’s domestic violence training is so valuable to the sector. “The salon is a safe space. For people in domestic abuse situations,it might be the only place they’re not escorted into, and if you put your certificate up where your customers can see it, then someone who’s vulnerable might feel a little bit safer in your salon business.”
McKeon wants beauty therapists to understand how important they are in their clients’ lives and says the Shear Haven training encourages them to realise this, especially post-lockdown when therapists have realised that they are so much more to their customer than just a nail tech or facialist. “We’re in a privileged position because people trust us
McKeon sharing her wisdom with salon owners and tell us so much,” she says. McKeon points out that as well as helping out vulnerable clients, you could be a lifeline for members of staff too, which is why it’s important training for people who manage a team to notice those crucial signs.
The 20-minute Shear Haven course explains what to look out for in clients and staff, and explains the signs to spot. “It doesn’t tell you what to do or what to tell them,” McKeon explains. “It explains what that person is going through and tells you to listen – not to judge and not to be disappointed if the client doesn’t do the obvious and leave the situation.” There’s a simple questionnaire at the end of the training and you come away with a certificate.
McKeon is no stranger to virtual training; she has long offered remote courses and was impressed by how the industry embraced virtual learning during lockdown, but is quick to explain how excited she is to get back in the classroom. “As an industry, we’re touchy feely people, we enjoy interaction with one another,” she says. It’s the meeting people McKeon is most excited about when it comes to Professional Beauty London this autumn.
McKeon implores how important it is for the beauty industry to get back to trade shows. “It’s critical people get themselves to Professional Beauty London in October.
We’ve become far too isolated. You can get tunnel vision when you’re in your salon day-in, day-out, so to come out of your own environment and network, meet other people and chat is so important,” she says. “Every step we take forward is a step away from the pandemic.”
This autumn, McKeon will be taking to the Business Skills Stage at Professional Beauty London, which is happening at ExCeL on October 17–18, to deliver her informative session “Get ready to finish the year strong and successful”. Much of McKeon’s work since the start of the pandemic has been pulling beauty business owners through and reassuring them they will get through these times, and this is reflected in her talk.
She explains that when we’re in cruise control and all is well in our business, we don’t tend to learn a lot. It takes trying times to grow as a person and become more resilient. “We’ve had to dig deep to keep going, so now I want us to look at all we’ve learned during this and ask ourselves how it can be of use to us in our businesses going forward,” she says.
McKeon’s session “Get ready to finish the year strong and successful” is taking place on Professional Beauty London’s Business Skills Stage on Sunday, October 17, at 12pm. Book your ticket: professionalbeauty.co.uk/londonstages