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Great artice about Jennifer Cheyne, the secret millionaire

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This is a great article about Jennifer Cheyne, the millionaire that was shown on last night 'Secret Millioaire' show. What come accross is some sound business advice about looking after your staff, business and clients.

From The Sunday Times
November 9, 2003
Start Up: How I Made It - Jennifer Cheyne, founder of Cheynes Hairdressing
Success is a snip for stylist

Victoria Masterson

JENNIFER CHEYNE knew when she was still at school that she wanted to cut it as a hairdresser. The Scots entrepreneur entered the industry aged 13 as a Saturday girl and earned £2 2s 6d in her first full-time job. Her company, Cheynes Hairdressing, now has six salons, 160 staff, two training schools, profits of about £1m on £6m sales and an international product business.

Cherie Blair, the Duchess of York, Cliff Richard, Ruby Wax and Kirsty Hume, the model, are on her books but Cheyne insists her feet are firmly on the ground.

“I used to go to Buckingham Palace to do Fergie and I was flown to America to do the popstar Paula Abdul, but to be honest we don’t get carried away with superstars. I’m not just saying this but I really believe every single one of our customers is equally important.”

Cheyne has has the same attitude toward employees while building the business. Her staff have one-to-one meetings each quarter — one to talk about personal goals and issues, the other to discuss work performance.

“It means that things never fester because whatever’s happening they can speak about it. If something’s not good in their lives or they want to talk about an issue such as training there’s an opportunity to tell someone.”

Cheyne’s loyalty record suggests the system works. Fifty staff have been with the company for more than 15 years, five senior managers have stayed for 20 years and one of her salon directors, Gail MacNamara, started when the business opened 27 years ago.

Positive feedback from her parents at a young age determined Cheyne’s mindset.

“They made us believe we could achieve anything we wanted to,” she said.

Her father, a sales rep and newspaper sports reporter in his spare time, encouraged Cheyne to talk to her brother’s then girlfriend, a hairdresser, about a possible career in the trade.

She left school at 15 to start training full-time, after agreeing with her parents to do short-hand typing and book-keeping at night school as “something to fall back on”.

“I never thought I’d use those skills but now I have no problem understanding accounts and everyone needs typing skills for computers.”

Her basic training in hairdressing and business management was at Stewarts, a former family-run company which, in 1969, took up a seven-floor building on Edinburgh’s Princes Street. It ran another five salons but failed to evolve.

“When blow-drying became fashionable they didn’t keep up with the times. Weekly clients started to come every six weeks until they didn’t have enough clients to fill the books.”

At the age of 18, Cheyne became Britain’s first female barber at His Hair, a hugely trendy 1960s salon run by two other successful Scots hairdressers, Charlie Miller and Charlie Mearns.

“I would go to work at 9am in my mini skirt and trendy little mini car,” recalls Cheyne. “There was a queue that went right down the stairs and along the road. It was the most fantastic set-up and very trendy.”

The His Hair team coiffured the Bay City Rollers for their first TV appearance. It started precision cut styles for women when Vidal Sassoon and Mary Quant were all the rage.

History is littered with famous hairstyles and Cheyne has lived through most of them — Princess Diana, Lulu and David Beckham.

“All it would take now is for Victoria Beckham to get her hair cut short and we’d be bombarded with people wanting a similar look because she’s so much in the public eye.”

After three years with His Hair and four years with Brian Drumm, another established salon, Cheyne borrowed £2,000 from her father to set up the first Cheyne’s salon with her ex-husband in 1976.

“We did it up very cheaply, started off one day and that was it.” She paid her father back in six months and only added new salons when existing ones were 90% full and would not lose out to another site.

“I’ve watched loads of people over the years who think it sounds good to say I’ve got two salons but all they do is weaken the other one. They end up dividing one income and doubling the overheads. I wanted to do the opposite of that.”

Cheyne recently promoted five senior staff to take on more of the day-to-day running of the business and free her up to look at other opportunities. She already runs a company that buys and leases commercial and residential property in Britain and Spain.

She said: “The biggest kick for me is looking at the people in the company. One of my senior staff just bought an amazing new house this week and I thought, ‘my little business helped to do that’. That’s quite satisfying.”
 

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