Success Stories

Hilary Hall, Secretary-General of the National Hairdressers’ Federation, on apprenticeships, the high street and pensions

Hilary Hall is the Chief Executive of the National Hairdressers’ Federation (NHF), the largest employer-led organisation representing hairdressing, barbering and beauty salon owners in the industry.

Her own hair is short, wavy and neatly coiffed. Soon after taking over at the NHF she went on a mystery shopping expedition to several hairdressing salons to see how they performed as businesses. The results were mixed, “a fair reflection, I suppose, of the varying standards that exist across the profession and across the high street”, she commented during a special interview for us.

Hilary arrived at the NHF in April 2013 as the latest stage in a career that’s been all about training, standards, qualifications and leadership – she had previously undertaken several roles at the Institute of Leadership and Management. She has a host of ambitions and objectives for the NHF, all focusing on raising standards in the profession, and ensuring the profession’s concerns are heard at the highest levels.

Education is a major target, particularly given the changes the government is now implementing on the way Apprenticeships are managed and funded. Hair and Beauty has ’Trailblazer’ status in developing Apprenticeships and there’s now a new, much shorter Standard for Apprenticeships in the profession.

The NHF has been in the forefront of representing the industry during this process. “We’re very concerned that the interests of small businesses, such as all our high street salons, are fully taken into consideration”, says Hilary. “Under the new Apprenticeship model, the focus will be very much on what employers want from Apprenticeships. That’s great, but if it also means that every employer has to contribute to funding Apprenticeships, that could hit many of our salons hard.”

Hilary is also committed to putting the membership at the heart of the NHF. There have been a number of surveys of members’ views and new initiatives to enhance the services the NHF provides, such as training days on how to increase profits, deliver a great client experience and managing your team plus seminars on legal matters.

And there’s also pensions. As Hilary says: “One area that is a real problem for the profession is pensions, especially with the new auto-enrolment process. It can be very difficult for small business owners and freelancers to make any provision for their retirement or for their employees.”

In response, the NHF has recently launched its own pension scheme for salon owners, offering guaranteed acceptance to Federation members, free software and a discounted introductory fee until August next year.
Two other areas of Hilary’s focus are the high street and health and safety. She’s on the Government’s Future High Streets Forum – with Mary Portas and other leaders of the retail and business community – looking into ways of reducing ‘red tape’ and making the high street retail experience more attractive. And she’s on the Board of IOSH, the occupational health and safety professional body.

Hilary Hall’s ambitions for the NHF are not modest: ”I want us to help salon owners to run profitable businesses that provide consistently excellent customer service and successful careers for their staff.”
It’s quite an ambition, but Hilary Hall’s quiet but steely determination means she’s certain to give it her best shot.