The owner of four salons in New York City, Rodney Cutler is also Redken’s Brand Ambassador, Ratner Companies’ Artistic Director, and a longtime veteran of Fashion Week New York, but what you might not know is that he wrote a men’s grooming column for Esquire. In other words, he’s on top of his game. Nevertheless, he knows his limitations.
“I’m not a tech guy,” he says. “It just isn’t in my wheelhouse.” Still, he has strong opinions about the subject. “For me, technology exists for one reason and one reason only: to support my art and let me be behind the chair more and behind a desk less. I just want to know what it will do for me in terms of my bottom line and our ability to do great hair.” And that’s why he was so impressed with the new LaRu color management software from SureTint Technologies. “Technology should support you, not control you, and LaRu does that in three significant ways.”
The first is how LaRu has helped him manage inventory. “Now, our staff takes ownership of the amount of product that’s wasted,” says Cutler, who was equally impressed by the fact that LaRu allows him to manage formulation. “If we have people on vacation or out sick, we can still provide consistent results no matter who does the color because we have the data at our fingertips.”
But Cutler can’t say enough about how LaRu has impacted education. “This is significant in terms of how it enables me to identify weak spots and correct them. For example, the software lets me track the number of services someone does, so if I notice that one of my colorists is not doing a lot of redheads, I can find out why,” Cutler says. “Maybe the customer is not returning because their red faded too fast or maybe the stylist doesn’t feel comfortable doing red shades. Whatever the reason, I can target it and provide the education required to fill in those blanks, and it’s all because of the data I get from LaRu. Now that’s technology that supports you instead of controlling you.”
While Cutler allows that technology has been a steep learning curve for him, he’s
smart enough to understand the importance of having a robust presence on social media, which is why he hired Alexandra Ciraldo (an editorial beauty agent with a background in fashion PR) as Cutler’s Brand Director. As such, she manages his Instagram account. “She has amazing taste, and she really understands hair,” says Cutler, who used videos to build his brand from the start much like hairdressers use Instagram now, hiring renowned stylist and videographer Dean Holcombe to produce the buzz-worthy videos at Fashion Week that were consistent with the Cutler brand and aesthetic.
“Our brand has stayed current because of our social media presence,” he says. “Take Instagram, for example. The staff we’re hiring now is building their clientele through social media. In fact, it’s the first time in 25 years that we don’t have a publicist. Instead, we’ve created our own voice through all the platforms that are available to us.”
Cutler admits that Instagram is the most influential platform in terms of building clientele, yet he’s old school enough that he hasn’t completely given up on Facebook. He also has representation on his website and has done a new series of videos called In the Chair that run on his YouTube channel. “I think of it as having multiple layers of digital interaction,” he says. “We’ve done gazillions of TV shows, which I think are all well and good, but we get way more clients through Instagram, which is why I wanted to hire someone who’s dedicated to our Instagram account.”
All of the stylists on staff at each of the Cutler Salons have their own Instagram accounts, and Ciraldo monitors the content. If it’s good enough, she might pull photos from their individual feeds for Cutler’s Instagram. “That way we control the narrative and the aesthetic,” Cutler explains. “We don’t want everything to look the same—all beach waves or unicorn hair. The idea is to have a common thread that runs through our accounts, and while we want to celebrate the diversity of the hair we do, the quality of the image is paramount. Having someone like Alexandra oversee the site gives us a lot more consistency.”
With the way technology has exploded in the past three years, Cutler admits that the hairdressers he hires today understand that it’s their responsibility to take photos of their work and post them on Instagram, and because some of them have become frustrated when their work isn’t curated for the Cutler Instagram account, he’s begun offering classes on how to improve the quality of the work they post. Still, he points out that while Instagram can help you attract new clients, they’ll drop you like a hot potato if their expectations are not met when they come into the salon.
“There’s simply no loyalty,” Cutler says. The implication, of course, is that perfecting your old-school skills, like cutting and coloring, may be more important in the long run than posting a breathtaking photo.