- Malaysia-born Sham Adam pursued a hairdressing course in ITE to help him earn a better living and he started working in salons thereafter
- Rose through the ranks to become a key stylist at Salon Vim, a leading salon in Singapore
- With over 16 years of experience, Sham invested $300,000 to start up his own salon
- It wasn’t a smooth start at all and Sham was plagued with renovation nightmares, causing his launch to be continually delayed
- His loyal customers showed their support throughout, which is a testament to his business mantra to always provide good customer service
- Be Salon is now on track to breaking even, and it serves 25 to 30 customers in a day
Born in Malaysia, Sham Adam came over to Singapore right after he graduated from his high school.
With neither high educational qualifications nor any strong skillsets, he had no choice but to take on odd jobs to earn himself a living. From serving dim sums to being a soldering technician, Sham has worked all sorts of laborious jobs.
“Eventually, I decided to pursue a career in the hairdressing industry as I see it as a job which requires a special set of skills that can help me earn a better living. I studied in ITE to attain a locally-recognised certificate and started working in a salon shortly after,” said Sham.
But the thing about being a hairdresser is that earning a skills certificate alone is not enough. They need to accumulate necessary experience first before customers can trust them with their tresses.
His very first stint in a salon was more of an apprenticeship — he worked as an assistant which helped him to hone his skills. Through daily conversations with his clients, Sham said that he also learnt a lot of other things that he otherwise wouldn’t have picked up from school.
Many salons later, Sham ended up at Salon Vim, a leading hair salon in Singapore, where he rose through the ranks to be a leading stylist.
Being His Own Boss At Be Salon
To date, Sham has been in the hairdressing industry for over 16 years.
With such a vast experience under his belt, Sham figured that it’s finally time for him to stop working under someone else’s wings. He went on to quit Salon Vim, and invested $300,000 to start up his own salon.
Called Be Salon, it’s a new concept of 99 Percent Hair Studio, which is a local salon famous for its beautiful hair colouring creations.
I’ve worked hard for someone else for such a long time. [It’s time] to work hard for myself instead.
He added that he wants to give back to the industry and impart his knowledge to the new generation of hairdressers.
“In my years of service, I realised that the fundamental skills of the new generation are not strong enough. I hope to help them improve by teaching them not only the hard skills (techniques), but also the soft skills (communication).”
But being his own boss wasn’t as easy as he thought.
After he secured a spacious 1,200 square-feet unit at Millenia Walk, Sham was faced with renovation nightmares.
If you think about it, renovation works aren’t going to help you make money. The more you spend, the longer it will take for you to earn back your capital. Due to budget constraints, we went for the [most cost-efficient] option. But you know what they say, ‘pay peanuts, get monkeys’.
“It’s not that our renovations were cheap, but we went with the one which gave us the best price, [but we later] realised that the cost kept increasing as the work progressed.”
“We actually faced many delays during the renovation process. Every other day when I went down to the unit, nobody’s working. The ID kept pushing back the deadline, time and time again, giving us false hopes that the salon would be ready for business [soon],” he lamented.
He added that many of his clients were anticipating the launch of his new salon and had booked advanced appointments with him. But due to the delay in renovations, he had to forcibly push back client appointments.
Towards the end of the renovations, his ID even went “missing” for 5 days, stirring more worry and anxiety. Eventually, Sham and his team decided to just go ahead and open for business as they couldn’t afford to delay appointments any longer.”
“I felt so bad for my clients that they had to wait for so long. During the first few weeks of business, we still had missing tables and people coming in to paint the walls. It was disruptive, but I think our supportive clients would rather bear with that than to postpone their services for another few weeks.”
The problems don’t just end there, however.
“Everyday, there will surely be new challenges. It’s like an endless problem-solving process — from water piping issues, to leaking aircon and washing machine drainage,” said Sham.
“All these issues happen when I have clients to attend to, so it really wasn’t easy to be the stylist and manage the salon at the same time. Moreover, I also have a whole team to take care of as well [so it gets really tiring].”
Customer Loyalty Is King
Despite the turbulent start, his loyal client following helped greatly in paving for a good sales kickoff.
When he quit Salon Vim to start up his own hair salon, his regular customers actually flocked over to show their support (the same goes for his team’s clients).
Throughout his long tenure there, Sham said that his relationship with his customers had inevitably blossomed into friendship.
“One of the issues with starting your own salon is not knowing who is going to follow you to a new location. Some people get used to going to certain locations, and they might find it troublesome to travel to a different place.”
“While there are clients who have come and gone, I’m very grateful for those who have continued to support and followed me from the very start.”
Although he has gotten his customer base down pat, Sham knew that he had to differentiate his hair salon to help it stand out from the crowd of existing competition.
He recounted a time when he stepped into a hair salon in Japan for the first time three years ago: “I observed their working attitude, their gestures, and their culture. It was hands-down the best service [I’ve] ever experienced. Most of the [existing players in] Singapore’s service industry pales in comparison.”
I feel that Singapore is lacking in good service. Everyone here expects good service, but how many businesses [actually] practice it?
Inspired by their attitude, Sham wants to elevate the hairdressing industry in Singapore with excellent customer service.
True to his vision, Be Salon’s service and welcoming atmosphere will exceed your expectations.
Besides being treated to complimentary beverages and relaxing head massages, customers can also count on the staff to help them buy food from restaurants in the vicinity if they ever get peckish during their hair treatment.
Beyond good customer service, Sham emphasises that great hairdressing skills is a given. Ultimately, Be Salon’s mission is to help “transform” his clients to be a better version of themselves with their skills and craft.
“With so many salons in Singapore, I would say that our focus is on the entire consumer experience. I personally think that to hold the title of a hairstylist, he/she is supposed to be well-equipped with the techniques already. That is one of the reasons why we are only recruiting senior stylists for our salon. So when everyone already has the skills, we can pay more attention to the fine details in creating [a holistic] salon experience.”
Presently, Be Salon has a team of five hairstylists and three technicians working at the outlet, but Sham said that he intends to expand the team with more “strong” hairstylists.
Good Service Helps To Sell The Business
Be Salon is on track to breaking even, and they receive around 25 to 30 customers in a day.
Among its pool of customers are local celebrities like rapper Shigga Shay, Miss World Singapore 2014 winner Kimberly Lam, social media personality Eunice Annabel and musician Hashy Yusof, among others.
While the business has been growing steadily over the past 12 months (more so during the year-end season), Sham is concerned about building the salon’s portfolio and attracting more new clients to their salon.
“This is a competitive industry. What is the fastest way [for us to] tell people that we exist and are good at what we are doing? So many people face issues with hairdressers in salons, and some has already lost faith in finding a good hairstylist to take care of their tresses. How are we going to reach out to all these people to help them?”
I put all my heart into my work, and that is how I win my clients’ hearts. [Customers] can feel if you are [sincerely] helping to solve their hair concerns, or just doing it [for the sake of] business. I instil all these values and working attitude to my team so that our salon can provide a [holistic] service.
“Word-of-mouth [is a very powerful tool], and when clients feel our sincerity and seriousness in our work, they will readily share the good name of the salon with their family and friends.”
One key lesson here is that when you harness the power of the people, it can help to build brand awareness and customer loyalty. Good service helps the business to sell itself, and this very strategy is what helps keep the business going all these while.
Featured Image Credit: Be Salon