By Donnie Nemitz, Chief Operations Officer, The Hair Specialists, Stow, Ohio
Yes, I borrowed the title from the ’70s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band Sly and the Family Stone. It’s a great song and an appropriate title for my message.
To introduce myself, I am Donnie Netmitz and I have spent the past 25 years building a career in manufacturing and IT operations. My wife, Kelly, is the founder and owner of The Hair Specialists in Ohio. She is also a certified Master Hair Loss Specialist and sometimes wears that cool white jacket.
Maybe like many spouses, at first, I did not completely understand her profession or the whole hair thing. I just assumed it was all about extensions. However, over the years I have grown in both appreciation and amazement for her, her team and professionals in the hair loss and restoration industry. Even though a significant other typically would have zero skills, I feel we can play a huge role for our partners, but more importantly, those men, women and children out there searching for and needing a solution.
But here I am and hope you — actually your significant other — may take something valuable away from this viewpoint. Or at minimum, I at least stuck a song in your head for the rest of the day because you googled the title.
My core message centers around the reality that hair loss is not a solo act by the professional in your circle. You can have an impact simply by being able to break down a barrier with a client or prospective client simply by being an unexpected source of information. Being passionate, supportive, and engaging with folks goes a long way. Hair loss is super private, and I feel it means something to clients when you are just as excited about their hair as they are. (Even if you have no idea what a topper is).
Allow me to explain by providing some real-life examples. Imagine meeting anyone where the formality of introducing each other’s occupations is in process. Typically, when I explain what I do, there are not a whole lot of “oohs and ahhs” that come back my way. It is a whole different story when I get to introduce my wife. But this is the critical moment where simply saying “hairdresser” is the wrong response.
“Your wife and her salon do what? What does a hair restoration salon mean?” “You mean … like the stuff on TV commercials?” “Whoa. Man, I would never do that; I would just shave my head.”
This is usually my signal to keep going and explain. Maybe show some before and after pictures, drop some knowledge around DHT, and genetic hair loss, and try to explain alopecia as best as I can … and as passionate as I can. I am not sure the exact reason why, but the next 30 minutes become a seminar on hair. Men wearing cowboy boots like me start sharing their feelings, women become excited, and everyone pauses when they learn that hair loss does not spare children either.
We then have a shift in comments.
“No way . . . that is really possible?” “You cannot even tell that is not their real hair.” “Yeah, what options do I have? I am experiencing (insert a condition.)” “My (insert name) is having issues. Can you help?” “Can I have a card?” “Where did you buy your boots and is your hair real?”
“Normal” cosmetology services alone are essential. Those services have super value and do bring happiness. Heck, it took me three years to “break up” with my barber after I met Kelly. And yes, pretty sure the last thing my ex-barber said to me was, “It’s her … isn’t it?” We both knew it was over.
I feel the importance of change brought to clients experiencing hair loss elevates everything. Your role goes beyond “another client” because you can directly help that person looking for a solution to feel whole or bring some normalcy.
Those solutions are an essential, and even critical, part of a client’s overall being and self-confidence. The line separating the client and friend blurs. I am sure I am not the only one to experience emotion in the shop. I must admit, it is cool to see the passion, professionalism and shared excitement no matter the “why” there was a hair situation in the first place.
Back to the whole spousal and significant other part of this. You (the other one) can make an impact as well. I feel the industry itself is a family. I see teamwork across and people working together to improve client experience.
■ Learn, pay attention to what is going on while you are fixing that sink in the salon. Figure out “hair loss basics” around genetic, conditional, and medical. You are obviously not the practitioner, nor can advise on the specific solution. But learn some basics to have a conversation about the commonality of hair loss.
■ Talk to people. Just be open with that newfound knowledge. It breaks down barriers with people who otherwise would not share. For example, at a family event, another dad shared with me that his daughter battles trichotillomania. An excellent seminar I attended with Kelly at last year’s AHLC conference in Charlotte provided some ability to simply be another dad with the understanding that his daughter is not alone.
■ Put up with the erratic nature of the business as best as you can. Hair emergencies do happen at 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. If you happen to be the cook in the house, I suggest investing in storage containers and having that wine and cheese tray ready.
■ Respect why clients exist. You may be cool with the bald spot or shaving. But hair equals wholeness for lots of people. Why not guide them to professionals who can provide them guidance and make them look awesome as possible? Seems cool to me to be a part of that process.
■ Attend a conference, training, or some event with the spouse. Yes, you may be close to a beach. But you gain an appreciation for folks in the industry working to provide the best hair solution.
Again, to quote Sly Stone, by simply making it “A Family Affair,” you can be a part of really helping someone out there simply because your significant other has the ability.