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The Road – Instyle

The Road – Instyle

Many of us share the same sentiment that the last few years have been among some of the most challenging yet. As Tracey Hughes reminds us, from every trial and bad experience comes the opportunity for something much better, writes Cameron Pine.

We must recognize that one’s highlight reel on Facebook is not their reality and a true journey takes courage, persistence and strength before you can get to those breathtaking moments and earn respect. As we have learnt and thanks to Tracey Hughes for sharing her insights, just as hard as you work to get the top – it can all come crashing down even quicker, simultaneously forcing a new path.

After 18 years at the helm of Mieka hairdressing’s two salon’s – Collingwood in Melbourne and Nobby Beach, Tracey decided to sell her salons to the now defunct Evolve salon group and take on an education contract with the company.

“I sold Mieka into Evolve purely to grow the brand further and to be part of something bigger. However, Evolve made the decision to make me redundant immediately after settlement of my salons,” Tracey said.

“I continued to work diligently with Evolve as a consultant to protect my team, however the management practices and decisions of the company were a constant stress to me so in the end I was forced to walk away from Evolve and Mieka before the company folded,” she said.

Tracey admits she spent 18 years building a business, only to learn a valuable life lesson in the end and that was to be let down by people she had always considered her closest. At the same time, proving that when a business loses it’s most passionate driver – it will never be the same again.

Following the November announcement that the Evolve group had accrued millions of dollars of debt, Tracey was not just left financially scathed, but emotionally too. “I was let down greatly by the person closest to me which proves you can’t always expect those who you think you know best to honor loyalty, honesty and integrity,” Tracey said.

On a personal level, to make matters worse around the same time, Tracey was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder, which then added further anxiety to the already stressful situation. A continual awakening for Tracey who has also lived with epilepsy her entire life – managing everything became as much about staying positive as it did about making life- changing decisions.

Despite the overbearing onset, these challenges didn’t slow Tracey down as she still managed a hectic travel schedule of education events worldwide. This made it even harder for her to keep both her physical and emotional wellbeing on track.

“What has continued to get me through is the belief that everything happens for a reason so I’ve certainly grown from these experiences and have come out the other side, positive, bright and ready for a new journey,” Tracey said.

It’s nothing new that throughout her life in hairdressing Tracey has made an impact, having garnered an awards portfolio to be envious of – her foundational approach to education and her immaculate aesthetic in everything she does is a rare global commodity.

“One of my strengths is my attention to detail and I’ve always battled with the frustration that others don’t have this level of attention to detail,” Tracey said.

“So my biggest lesson in all of this has been to learn to be more accepting of things I can’t always control. Patience is a lesson we all consistently learn so I strive to be patient and understanding in all aspects of life.”

2016 is set to be a big year of change for Tracey as she splits her time between Australia and the US in a bid to further grow her network. With such a high- demand for her signature education style in America, Tracey has decided to live up to her worth and expand her American contacts with her feet on the ground.

“I have always embraced new challenges and thrived on change and no longer having salons has given me the opportunity to expand my education company further,” Tracey said.

Tracey admits it is both a financial decision to recuperate some lost income with no longer having the salons and the shares she envisaged in the Evolve group. Being fortunate enough to work all over the world in various countries, especially in America – makes this an easy transition for Tracey.

“I love Australia and I’m proud to call it home, however the market is fairly small here, so I’ve now got a permanent USA Visa and have set up an American company.”

Tracey has engaged an American agent to manage her schedule and opportunities as well as collaborating with a well-established educator that will have equity in her education business as well as drive programs for the American market. Having already set the tone with various headlining appearances at American Beauty Shows – the future is looking stronger than ever.

“Our key strategy for 2016 is to present at various major events to gain maximum exposure to promote our programs,” Tracey said.

On top of this high visibility Tracey continues to nurture solid relationships with the trade magazines in the US which will continue to drive her programs.

It’s no surprise that the American market is much bigger and therefore the opportunity is there, however according to those who have travelled extensively globally for education just like Tracey – the standard is not usually as high as it is here in the ‘lucky country.’

“In America there is a big focus on stylists with a massive following on social media providing education, however they are not all highly skilled or experienced educators so this is affecting the quality and diversity of what’s on offer,” she said.

America is home to some incredibly dynamic trade shows however there is evidently a considerable shortage of real education offerings that work on the skill set and their personal development – cue Tracey Hughes to revolutionize the offering and capture the best of the best in one of the world’s most exciting markets.

For Tracey it’s certainly not about turning her back on the market here either, she is very hands-on with her business and Australia will always be
a priority for her. From the companies she works with to the culture present in salons, she affirms it’s a passion that will continue to inspire her to share ideas, no matter the locatilon.

Providing more leadership and business programs to help salon owners to grow their businesses using education as a means to get them to the next level is a priority for Tracey both here and abroad, and after 18 years owning salons, Tracey understands the rollercoaster ride that is the need to continually gain more expertise and knowledge. Streamlining this education process Tracey promises will gain far more traction than learning from many different sources. Ultimately it’s all about stimulating creativity and streamlining the approach to knowledge retention. “Learning from too many different sources can create a lack of consistency in business due to too many different methods that may not just be conflicting but ultimately confusing for stylists,” Tracey said.

It’s no surprise that digital education is already part of our lives – due to the sheer scope of internet inspiration and free education, we have continued to see a shift with traditional education providers converting to more live streaming and online tutorials. “There are so many education quick fixes of inspiration that don’t provide results for the business – these can be super creative looks that are not wearable and don’t translate into a commercial environment.”

Ultimately this accessibility has made it more difficult for training providers to make a profit. Regardless of the technology evolution, nothing will ever replace foundation education that guarantees real results. The same goes for the intricate human touch that continues to define our industry in the face of other industries continuing to take a hit. It’s no surprise we are still one of the last high- contact industries.

When times are tough or cost-cutting becomes a necessary evil, education is usually one of the first cuts to be made – quite simply many businesses don’t invest enough into education to remain sustainable through even the most difficult times.

What Tracey believes to be her biggest point of difference is that her team invest a lot of time into personal development and a bespoke approach, resulting in a standard of work that exceeds most attendees expectations. Notably, “Our industry is about people so I love learning about people and human interaction and connecting with different people and cultures through travel stimulates my creativity.”

“When times are tough, this is when you should be increasing your education commitment to drive your business further and offer a wider scope of unique work and higher quality. This is how salons need to grow in a competitive market,” Tracey said.

The development of an internal training system is undeniably one of the best ways to create a strong team culture and an atmosphere of like-minded hairdressers. “If your culture is powerful then team members will seize every opportunity presented to them. Opportunities are only missed when the drive to succeed is not embedded into the physiology and the brand ethos.”

Not only does education benefit businesses to an unparalleled extent it continues to fuel a journey of self discovery – one that should be a constant in life. Every leader or awarded visionary will agree that it’s important to never stop learning.

The benefits of which continue to be more than just an increased skill set, but a boost of confidence and motivation that provokes individual growth and a greater sense of self worth. To become the best version of yourself and add value to the team you work on – education is imperative .

Wonder how the stand-outs in a salon make their mark? Often the common thread is their willingness to go above and beyond from an education standpoint – they’ve attended optional education classes and thrust themselves into as much as they can regardless of the financials.

Article has been taken from Instyle Magazine Jan- Feb 2016