Lightbulb Moment: Mark Doherty of SitStil

Mark Doherty of SitStil on colour theory and bad braids.

When did you realise this was the career for you?
When I was in fifth year in 1988, the master insisted some of us got a suitable haircut. While everyone else went to a barber, I went to a salon in Booterstown and had coffee, cake, a head massage – the works! I was an hour and a half late getting back to school but had my first taste of the luxury side of hairdressing and I never looked at any other career after that.

What training course helped you most?
The Joico European guest artist program – the educators and the team were both inspiring and
tough. It forced me to think outside the box in a controlled format. Very early in my career, Dolores McEvoy, owner of Reds, taught me the theory side of colour. She made the numbering system and the science stuff great fun and I will be always grateful to her for that.

What defines an effective consultation?
Consistent honest enthusiasm is the key to an effective consultation. It is becoming more and
more difficult to get clients in the chair. If we are not enthusiastic about their hair, offering ideas and solutions honestly and consistently, why would they want to stay? I consider myself to be a hair nerd so it is easy to fill people with facts about their hair.

What parts of the business do you struggle with most and why?
Time management is always a struggle. Being the most senior member of staff, at quiet times, I feel like I get stuck behind the chair. This takes away from my time for everything else. My home
time is very important to me as I have four kids and also I try to play badminton two to three times a week.

How do you deal with these challenges?
My wife Gail is an integral part of the business. She deals with more and more of the financial side of things. We have scheduled meetings with each other once a week where we are only allowed talk business and nothing about the kids. We have recently employed someone to look after social media and someone else to do PR. While I keep an eye on how these run, this frees me up a lot.

What do you look for when hiring?
Being a small salon, one individual can easily have a negative or positive impact. Attitude and willingness to adapt to situations are vital. I am very particular about customer service so all new staff have to meet certain standards. Good hair is a given. How we treat people needs to be consistently excellent, and if a staff member cannot do this then they will not fit in.

What is your top tip to encourage repeat business?
Inspire and educate. People read a lot of stuff about hair. They will have certain ‘facts’ that are not true. If we empower them with knowledge, they remember it and if they remember us, they will
come back.

Is there anything you would do differently in your career?
When I first started I didn’t really appreciate the business properly. It was the early 1990s and my focus was not in the right place. Life is too short to have any regrets but being able to focus on my initial training and realise the importance of it earlier in my career would have made me a better hairdresser and a more successful salon owner.

What do you want to learn next?
Believe it or not, some of the basic skills are lost on me. I spend so much time cutting and colouring I never learned how to braid hair properly and with two young girls growing up at home I need to catch up with them. Otherwise, with limited space in SitStil, I would like to expand the usage of the salon to develop more than hair. ✂