ep04 – Cole Thompson

This week’s Headcase is one of Vidal Sassoon’s youngest creative directors, and founder of Elevation H. Cole Thompson’s passion for educating is evident in his work. He has travelled the world to educate professionals at all levels on hair cutting technique.

Join Chris and Cole as they discuss how he ‘fell into’ the hair industry, and what really drives him to succeed.

  • Government initiative, Cole talks about apprenticeships in the UK and his original goal to be a soccer player.
  • How did hair become your profession? Cole discusses how he fell in to the hair industry and his dedication to be the best at whatever he puts his mind to.
  •  ‘Give it a week and see’, the journey to Creative Director at Sassoons. Cole talks about taking it day by day and his work ethic that got him that title.
  • What holds people back? Cole talks about not being afraid to fail and how to make yourself better by facing your insecurities and going for it.
  • What is Elevation H? Cole explains the meaning behind it and how it came to be.
  • There is a future in the industry, even if you’re on the wrong path. Cole talks about his wish for people in the industry for people to reach their goals.
  • Cole tells a story about his time working in South Korea.
  • Working alongside the industry greats. Cole gives an insight to working with some of his hair heroes.

Complete Transcript

Chris Baran (00:00:00):

When I was working my way up, I always wished that I had the chance to be able to have a little chat with the people that I looked up to, the ones that I saw on stage and really wished that I could be like, well my name is Chris Baron and I have been now probably about 40 plus years now couple of hair awards behind me. And I figured I’ve got the opportunity that I can bring to you the hair heroes that we look up to and admire and let you have and listen in while we have a conversation and find out their mistakes, find out what they did right and wrong. Welcome to Chris Baron’s Head Cases.


I’m thrilled about this week’s episode. Just ask me why. It’s because I’ve got on a young gentleman by the name of Cole Thompson now, he was actually the youngest creative director with SAOs uk. Actually worked with them for 12 years. And here’s what I found really interesting is that in one of the Viel Sun’s commercials that he was in, he was described as a salon genius and that’s pretty good in my eyes. And he actually came to America, started Elevation H was a company that is about the art technique and the business of hair. So I can’t wait to get into this with my good buddy Cole Thompson. So let’s get into this week’s head case.


First of all, Cole, it is just such a distinct honor in here because, and I have to tell the public the little story is I’ve always been a fan. You have seen your work, I’ve seen what you do. I know you and trust you as the disciplined haircut from SISOs. And as we talked about in the opening who was the youngest creative director. But I just want to say that it’s such a pleasure to have you on board here. But I want to just dig in a little bit of history just so that people know a little bit about where your history is from. But I have this philosophy that I think that there’s two type of people that get into our business and they’re the ones that they did hair rate from day one, the kids next door, the dogs, if they were playing with dolls, the dolls, haircuts were dolls, hair was cut, et cetera. And there’s those kind of people, they knew it. And I think when you ask people in the audience, some of the people raised her hand, but then there’s the people like me who just fell into it.


My mom was a hairdresser and I kind of fell into it. Where do you fit in there? How did you get in the business? Which area were you a part of? Did you want to do it from square one? What’s your story?

Cole Thompson (00:02:56):

Great question. I never wanted to be her stylist. It was never in the cards for me. It wasn’t something I was interested in. I’d never cut anybody’s hair or anything like that. One of my aunties was kind of like her stylist, but not really. She just did little old ladies on a Tuesday, like a roller set and stuff. So it was just something I absolutely fell into. It was just by chance and almost instantly I fell in love with it and I had no idea what an industry it was and how amazing it was.

Chris Baran (00:03:30):

So I mean, I firstly agree wholeheartedly because that’s where I came from. The only time my mom had a beauty salon and the new fashion beauty Shopee two peas, two E at the end, very colonial. I might add pink and blue shock wallpaper. And the only time that I ever went in was to ask my mom for some money just to go for chips and gravy at the local cafe. But I had that same kind of thing. But it’s an interesting that how some of us who never wanted to start up, never really wanted to get there, ended up here and ended up really dipping our feet into that passion pool of hairdresser. And then the story, how did you get from just getting in your auntie gave you that bit of thing, you went to school or whatever because the UK is very different than the US wasn’t it? What was it like when you went, where did you go to a school? Did you do an apprenticeship? What was it?

Cole Thompson (00:04:40):

Yeah, the UK is very, very different. It’s more apprenticeship based. There’s more like it’s government funded. So salons will get paid to take on between 16 and 18 year olds and train them in any sort of trade. So that could be herd hairdressing being a brick layer or plumber or anything like that. So there’s a big government initiative for young people to get into work, which is great. So I left high school at 16 and again, I always wanted to be a soccer player. That was my thing. But nobody told me if you wanted to be a professional athlete at something, you actually need to be pretty good. Yeah, I just presumed I’m going to be a soccer player and it didn’t really work out and materialize for me. And then when I knew that that wasn’t really in the cards I wanted to go to college and maybe work with a sports team or something.


And I wasn’t really good at sitting in a classroom and listening. And typically now that’s what I do for a living. I teach and I’m in classrooms all the time, which is kind of weird. And I quit this course that I’d signed up for and I didn’t tell my parents that I quit. And I remember about a week later of doing absolutely nothing, my mom came home from work and again, this is definitely the polite PG version here. She said, why aren’t you at college? And I said, oh, well I didn’t really like it. I quit. And she <laugh>. And again, this is the polite version, she said excuse me, you did what? And I said, oh, it was boring. I didn’t want to do it. And she’s like, okay you have one week to either find a job. Cuz I came from a working class background and my parents, even to this day, they’re both 150 years old and they still like to work.


So I even need to work to be able to provide money and help with groceries for my brothers and our family or my parents will only support me if I’m trying to get a better life for myself by being educated. I was doing none of these things. So she threw the local newspaper at me cuz this is pre-internet if anyone can remember that. Right. So the only way to find a job really was going door to door or in the local newspaper. So she threw the newspaper at me and said, find a job. I opened up the newspaper and I just panicked in a panic called the first number on the page. I didn’t really look what it was. And it happened to be her salon. And again, the town I grew up in, this is 20, 21 years ago, not many guys became her stylist. And a guy answered the phone and he was like, you’re a guy and you wanna be her stylist. I’m like yeah sure. He said, what soccer team or football team do you support? And I said, Manchester night. He said, you start tomorrow. And that was it.

Chris Baran (00:07:22):


Cole Thompson (00:07:23):

So random, that number on the page, it could have been for a plumber, it could have been anything. And that I would’ve, I’d have been the best dressed plumbing you’ve ever seen. But yeah, that’s how it happened.

Chris Baran (00:07:36):

Yeah, what, you hit something right on the head there, Cole. Is that, see for me, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. My mom said you need to do something. And I said I either wanted to be a mechanic or I wanted to be a mechanic cuz I loved cars, but I knew I couldn’t get fired. So I said to my I mom okay good, I’ll do hairdressing. And then she said cuz she needed somebody. Obviously we lived in a really small town and she said I said, why I wanna take the summer off cause I just got finished with school. Then she said, no, no, no. She says that was June 28th. July 1st I was at the beauty school taking my training. But you said something really, really interesting there. You said if you would’ve been a plumber you’d have been the best damn plumber that there was. Because I think that’s something that’s inherent in people is that this drive if you had to put that down in, what do you, I, and I know the word is passion or whatever, but what is it that drove you? What is it that drives you?

Cole Thompson (00:08:43):

Great question. I mean even before I had a kid and stuff like now my family drives me, but even from when I was very, very young, whatever it is that I was going to do, I always wanted to make sure that whenever people met me or was around me, they’re left thinking That guy works really hard. That guy showed up today whatev whatever it is. So going back to your original question about apprenticeships in the UK you start an apprenticeship. So you get trained one day a week and the rest of the week you work in the salon, you sweep floors, you shampoo people’s hair, you just kind of do make cups of tea. But I wanted to make sure if I’m sweeping these floors, I’m going to sweep the floor better than anyone who’s ever done it. I’m going to get the first and the last. And again, I wasn’t really interested in being a hairstylist, but I wanted the people that were around me to think this guy, this guy guy works really, really hard. And my parents installed that in me even from a really, really young age. So I guess it’s just kind of built in there a little bit. And I guess it goes into passion, but it’s more of a work ethic that anybody that I spend time with, I would like them to either remember me or have a really positive impression after the fact.

Chris Baran (00:09:53):

Yeah, I think that’s critical too. Just what cuz people’s impression of you are so important. Now I’m curious as, so the, I’m taking that wild assumption here that the place you went to work for first, was that Saun or was that someplace different? And if so, what prompted, where did that transition happen from there to SAOs?

Cole Thompson (00:10:21):

So it was basically one of the nicest salons in the little town that I grew up in. And it’s funny cause I’ve got an identical twin brother and he ended up working there as well. And we still work together to this day we have a business together, he’s still in the uk. But once I knew I was kind of serious about it, I then got a year into it and I remember around the holidays my mom and my parents would take us into Manchester, which was the closest big city to us. And we’d always get off the train or close to the parking lot and we’d always walk past this two, it was probably about 10 stories, but on two stories, completely glass on the corner. We’d walk past this her salon. And I’d always remember even as a kid walking past that and thinking that, I don’t even know what that place is, but it looks cool.


And you had big images in the window and there was always, everyone was dressed amazing in there and it just looked cool. So I remember walking past the WA one Christmas time when I was still working in the town I grew up in and I thought, oh my god, that’s her salon. Maybe I could go and work there. That looks incredible. So I applied and maybe eight, nine months later I ended up getting a letter back and saying you can interview and you have to go to London for the interview. And I don’t think I’d ever been to London at that point. So that was really scary. And I was maybe 17, 18, maybe, I don’t know, something like that. And I went for the interview and maybe four or five months after that I ended up getting the job. So I just captured my eye and there’s something about it that was so magnetic.

Chris Baran (00:12:02):

Yeah. So now the journey I so that we were clear, I went from Manchester seven months later you are, you’re going to London scared walk into this salon and I’m assuming this was Sassoons that you applied for. You go in, you get hired. Now there’s this time, what was it like when you first got there, number one? And then you were the youngest creative director for Sassoon’s. So I’m assuming that somehow by the time that you walked in that front door, it wasn’t a very short distance to all of a sudden becoming a creative director. Tell us about that. What was that? What spurred it? I can’t even imagine because I, I’ll tell you, I’ve a soon junkie, I never worked for them but that was all my classes. That’s where my background is. That’s why I credit my skills from. But that must have taken a great set of coones. I always say to go in there and then put yourself out there because you know that you are being judged when you’re going into apply and then you’ve gotta get those, now you’re working from there to the creative director. I’m curious.

Cole Thompson (00:13:18):

It was definitely a hell of a journey. But I remember my mom is, she’s amazing but she is notoriously negative, right? So I remember going for the interview in London and again I was a kid with it at the time. She’s like, you don’t wanna do that. You work two minutes from where we live. You don’t wanna be going into the city. So she kinda kept talking me out of it. But there was something in me and I had a couple of really great supportive friends were just go and see, just go and go and try it. And then when I got the job in Manchester, I remember on my first couple of days cuz you go directly into a training program that they call Tering, which is you train five days a week and you’re almost instantly expected to get three models a day, just find people.


And so you’d have to go out in the city and convince people to let you cut the hair. And I remember on my first day watching some videos the ABCs and it was so different from the training that I’d originally got, it was much more structured. And I remember going home that night and just saying to my mom, I don’t think I can do this. There’s no way I can ever cut her like that. And she’s like, well don’t go back, you can just get your old job back. And then I remember going to my friends that night and he’s like, no, just stick it out. Just give it a week. Give it a week. And see. Then by the end of the week people had warmed up to me and they was teaching me the methods and stuff and even though it was still scary, I’m like, okay, I’m go, I can do this.


And then from there again, I just showed up every single day and I knew if I’m going to do this, I have to work really, really hard. I have to find the models I want to produce. And I’d get at the second that the shop opened and I’d stay later than I needed to. So they kind of saw that work ethic and very, very quickly they would start to do they collections or events at the Weller studio or wherever and they’d always bring assistance with them. So they, they’d just ask me like, Hey Cole, do you want to come in on Sunday on your day off and help me out on this photo shoot or whatever. I be like, yep, I’ll be there. So I just kept showing up. I’m almost that annoying guy and ask questions all the time and just wanted to <laugh>. Sure.


I was very annoying. I’d want to be there. And then what ended up happening is cuz I kept going to all of these things, people kept seeing me and they just presumed I was more experienced than I actually was. And then maybe a year and a half after being there I kept hearing that they were opening up a new salon in Liverpool and nobody wanted to take the creative director’s job in Liverpool. I dunno why, I have no idea. And my boss, his name was Bruce Mayfield, he was a UK creative director at the time and he’s like, Hey, I think you’re great. You’ve got a really great work ethic. He’s like, how would you like to go and be the creative director in Liverpool? And obviously nobody else wanted to do it. I don’t know what’s a great city. I don’t know whether it was timing or fate or whatever.


And I was like, oh my god, really? And he is like, I know it’s quick but I know you can do it and you want to do it. I’m like absolutely. So it was definitely the right place at the right time. So I just moved over there and you become an assistant creative director for a little while and kind of cut your teeth a little bit. But there wasn’t a manager at that time. I was there on my own with a brand new, in a brand new song and a brand new team. So I had to do all of the roles, which was terrifying. I had no idea what I was doing, but it definitely made me kind of step up a little bit. Lots of mistakes but I just went for it.

Chris Baran (00:16:53):

But you know what, you just said something really interesting. I was terrified. But the interesting thing is you are terrified but not frozen by it. And I think if there’s anything that I think nowadays that I see is that there’s so much judgment that’s going on out in our industry and I don’t know what it is, I don’t know quite how to put it. If it’s just that people are just too afraid to do anything new and they just become paralyzed with this fear that they can’t do anything so they stagnate and sit where they are. It’s

Cole Thompson (00:17:31):

True. It’s absolutely true.

Chris Baran (00:17:33):

Do you feel, is there a difference between, and I don’t want to go into the then versus now in the good old days and all that, but do you find now, is there something in there when you go out and you teach all the time, what is it that you notice that people so that are either afraid of or hold that holds people back now when you see them in your classes?

Cole Thompson (00:18:02):

Really good question actually. And one thing that just came to mind, I work with I do a lot of work with Hanza. She is, and one, the guy that runs the education department over there, he is called Andrew. Amazing guy. He is the most energy all the time. And a lot of the time when I’m on the phone to him or we have conference calls, he’ll start it like, this is really powerful. He’s like, okay guys, who’s ready to fail today? That’s kind of how he starts it. And when he first said, I’m like, what do you mean? And he said, well if you don’t do anything, you can’t fail. But the only way you can fail is if you actually do something and failure is good cuz that’s the only way you can improve and we can learn it better. And he said most of the time you’re not going to fail but then at least you did something.


And I just got chills then even saying it cuz it, it’s so powerful like that. And not being afraid to fail. And there’s definitely areas in my life more recently where I’ve realized I, I’m letting myself down in certain areas, I can be better in certain areas and it’s if people that help you to see that, for example with social media or having maybe more of an online presence and insecurities, I don’t really walking around talking on a camera and things like that, but you just have to do it. And there is no excuse in terms of there’s no excuse but you’re making them. Yeah. If you know what I mean. I make things like that all the time. So I think you’ve just gotta do it. And in terms of your question, in terms of classes, people all the time like, oh I’d like to be a platform artist or I’d like to teach or you just gotta go for it, ask questions, utilize your social media, reach out to companies, just go for it.


Cause I think we are live in such an amazing time right now that things are accessible. Connection is like we’re doing this now. All of my family lives in the uk. I speak to ’em every single day. I don’t feel the disconnect. So I think right, we’re in such an amazing time where you can share, you can connect, you can communicate where it is much, much harder pre-internet like for people to know who you are, you need to work for a huge company or whatever. And I think there’s some amazingly driven people out there. I just kind of use your resources. I hope that answers your question but I really

Chris Baran (00:20:26):

Yeah, no it does. Cause I think that I guess what I’m really trying to not get towards whatever, but it’s just that I just find that it’s such an interesting time in the classes we teach versus the real life is everybody in real life comes in with the same parameters of judgment and fear that they have all the time. I just feel that so many people are always they’re so used to being judged and unfortunately we have this we just know in society if you just make a lot of mistakes, you’re seen as lower ranked lower. If you do a lot of things well you’re ranked higher. And it really is craziness because the only way that we learn is by failing is by making mistakes. And it’s interesting, I often at the start of a class, I’ll just say to everybody, give everybody pair up and and I would pair up and then we’d say, okay, get out a piece of paper and then I’d say, okay, here’s what I want.


I’m going to give you 30 seconds and I want you to draw each other’s face, hair, glasses, if they wear them, et cetera. You got 30 seconds you have to be done at the end. And the reality is the groans that you hear in the audience just because of the people always come up and you’ll see them drawing real quickly and then they’ll turn the picture to the other person and the first thing they usually say is, I’m sorry. And what I say to them is, it’s interesting, isn’t it? You’re, why was it that you are so afraid? Why was it when I said draw somebody else’s face? Well we’re not good at it, we haven’t done it before. All of those things. But they’re so worried about being judged that they turn around and say, I’m sorry I didn’t do a good job. Here it is.


And that’s the same way as when we go into a class, isn’t it? You’re teaching something that you’re really good at and they might be doing it for the first time and yet they’re so worried about the perfection that it takes that they hold themselves back. They’re so afraid of just trying something new and they’re trying to make it exactly the same way as you made it look. And it’s just ridiculous cuz it can’t happen. It’s not going to be that way. When you see a child and they hold up a picture, they saw say hold up this picture and show it to you. And you say, oh that’s amazing and we celebrate it and then we say what is it? Right? We don’t do that in real life somehow. And I think that if when people came into the classes that they could just bring more of that childlike persona, just that willingness to just do whatever because it’s that, yeah, I don’t care if I make a mistake. Obviously if you’re doing it on a live person it can bring a whole new fear level into it. But the reality is that’s the only way we learn. The only way we learned.

Cole Thompson (00:23:30):

It’s so true. And for example, when teaching everything that I’ll present or talk about in a class is things that I’ve learned from other people. So I’m just basically sharing things that I’ve picked up along the way. I didn’t invent any of this stuff. Maybe I have analogies or ways to break it down that might connect or not with different people to simplify. But in general, all I’ve done over and what all of us do is we see something or hear something, we try it and it works and we keep on using it then hopefully in a class Lords encourages to be open to whatever you see, just try it and if it works, keep using it and then it’s a be benefit to. And if not then, and I think we’ve, when if anybody out there is wanting to get into education or presenting or anything like that and if there are behind the chair, her stylist, they present every single day on every single client. They’re doing it already in front of the biggest critics, people who are paying them to make them look good. So doing it in front of her stylist is much easier just sharing what

Chris Baran (00:24:42):

Yeah no, I agree a hundred percent is that it’s such a shift out there and I think that there’s so many people that are still out there working behind the chair that has that same kind of gift that you have that could get out there and help, really help to change some other people’s lives. I think that’s the biggest thing that I think spurs educators on is when you help somebody and you see them change, I’ll bet I’ll, and I always don’t know if this is a Canadian expression or whatever it is, but I always say, I bet you a dollar to a donut. I don’t know of anybody else that uses that expression but me. And I don’t even know what it means. But I’ll bet that there’s people out there that really would love to go out and help to change somebody’s life. And I’ll bet you like I I’ll bet and I’m, I’m going to say something that I know you’re going to agree to right away because I’ll bet there is people that have come up to you and they’ve said, Cole, I watched you do X, y, z and you changed my life when you did that and you might not have even remembered that person being in the class. True or false.

Cole Thompson (00:25:58):

Yeah, it’s happened. Absolutely. Yeah, it does happen quite regularly I suppose as well as bragging a little bit. But it does happen. But what happens a lot as well is, cuz I do a lot of work in beauty schools across the US and what happens a lot is I didn’t know whether that this was the right job for me or career. But your presentation, either speaking about your career or the way that you broke it now, whatever it is, I think that this is going to be a really good fit for me. I feel like passionate now and honestly that is the biggest, most amazing compliment that I could ever have. Cuz again, all I’m doing, I’ve been very, very lucky to be put into a situation where I can educate other people in the education area was definitely not something I even wanted to do. But it’s a privilege and it’s such a big responsibility to talk to the future of our industry and I definitely don’t take it lightly and I absolutely love it cuz that’s the people who are going to keep it going well after long us and they’re going to be better than us because we’ve taken everything that we’ve learned up to now and then we’re going to hopefully give it to them and then they’re going to continue. And I think it hopefully can just keep on getting better and better and better.

Chris Baran (00:27:15):

Yeah, we always stand on the shoulders of the people that taught us. So that I leads us to an interesting point here because okay, when now we did the thing with Sus eventually, I’m hoping I can go back cuz I still have one more question about that that I want to talk about later. But you made a shift in your life and your career. You started a company, you started a Ovation h h and so tell us a little bit about what Elevation h exactly for the people who may not know it, what exactly is that?

Cole Thompson (00:27:51):

So I’ll tell you about who we are and what we do and then I can definitely touch on that, how it came to be the fault process. But we are an education company. We’re based out of Beverly Hills, California, but we work globally. What we specifically do is training and apprenticeship programs and support systems for schools and salons. So we focus specifically on salon readiness. So if you’re a school, we’re an add-on service to pivot point Armor lady, we have a full online university. We focus on decision making, confidence, speed, things that are specific to behind the chair. But we’re purely technical. We don’t do business building things, we’re just how do we bridge that gap between school and salons? Yeah, so the students focus specifically on salon readiness and then we also have a full teacher training university. So when we give our program to schools, we educate, we train the trainer on how to present and how to do board lectures and demonstrations and all that.


So that’s a huge part of our business is teaching people to become educators, our presenters. So that’s kind of what our school program does. And then the students have lifetime access. So even long after graduated cuz it’s a scurry time when they first get a job we can help with placement, we can help with making sure that they’re confident behind the chair. We can communicate with them if you’ve ever got any questions. And then for the salons we do an apprenticeship type program. So the salon lets us know how long they want it to be. If they want to do one day a week training, one day a month, whatever. And we specifically and personally design it for that business. And again we make sure that the students graduate salon ready and we just make sure that we fill in that gap. Cuz what we found a lot of the time, if you’re a salon owner, you’re the busiest person in the shop, you’re responsible for everything, make sure everyone’s busy, you’re making sure the lights are on. You’re also responsible for training the team. We just basically train people’s teams for them and they can be involved or not up to them. So that’s what we do. And then we have a subscription based learning for individuals and mentorships.

Chris Baran (00:30:00):

That’s awesome. First of all, I’m going to do this and I’m taking my hat off to you. And the reason I do that is that I really think that we’re at a place in our world right now where we’ve really gotta make sure that our industry is seen on a higher light and the school systems that we have are great. Not taking anything away from ’em, but we have to, there’s things that we can do to add on to make them salon ready when they leave. Cuz that’s probably when if we hear the biggest complaint is that when we get out we’ve gotta retrain. So what are being involved in the training systems in the UK and seeing, being a part of the training systems that are involved in America and the rest of the world. But I think we probably define that in North America there. The training systems are a little bit different than the rest of the world because of the school systems. Great, great schools, please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying anything bad about ’em. As a matter of fact, there are some phenomenal schools that there are out there.


If you say the biggest difference between schooling in the UK and here, what would you say the biggest differences and then after that, the biggest similarity, the similarities that there still is between the two of them.

Cole Thompson (00:31:26):

I think that the difference really is time. So every state has that you, you’re on a ticking clock to when you’re done. So some people will excel in that timeframe and some people just might need a little bit more support and a little bit more time. Were in the uk you’re done when you are done. So it’s on a very individualized basis and you have a loose, okay, it’s going to be 12 months, 18 months, whatever it is. Yeah. But it’s based upon application confidence and ability. So once you can do a certain haircut really, really well, boom, done, now you can start to do that and okay, now you can apply this color, you can do it to a really high standard, you can do that. So it doesn’t really hold people back as much, but it also gives ’em the time if they need a little bit more support.


So that’s kind of a gap that we saw is what happens if again, there’s some phenomenal schools, some absolutely incredible schools, but if the student finishes the 1600 hours, a thousand hours and they just maybe need a little bit more work on a specific hook or whatever, it’s kind of is what it is. So that’s where we fit in and either they’ll bring our program towards the back end of the curriculum or they’ll even give it as a graduation gift to be like, okay, I know that you’ve finished here now I don’t want you to keep calling me every week. When you get a client with a problem, you can’t really do that. I’m sure some students do call their instructors a couple of months later like Oh my god, this client’s asking for this, what the heck do I do? But it’s not really realistic long term.


So they kind of give our program a lot of skills will do it as a graduation tech thing. If you run into issues this company, you call them, you can reach out to them, they can walk you through your issues, you can share them what you work with them. So we kind of hold the hand a little bit. So we’re a huge enrollment, top talking point for us with schools. It’s like, hey, when you finish, if you need more support, we work with this specific company that we’ll kind of send you over to. And what we’ve found over the years is it does help with placement. It does help with staying in the industry cuz there’s a resource they don’t feel so along. Which is, which is awesome. Yeah, it’s great.

Chris Baran (00:33:42):

Yeah, I think that if you hit on a really interesting part there, which is community, I think that is, we always say that there’s three areas that accountability is really keen on and that’s the first one is self, the next one is to your teachers. And the third one is community. And reliably the community is the highest level of accountability that people will work towards. So what I love what you’re saying is if you can have networks of people that work with you in somebody you can call someplace you can go some place you can fall back on a video you can watch or whatever people within there that are like-minded, even if it’s another student that knows something. The community is such a huge, huge, huge part of this. So I always think of it like this, I don’t know, always kind of dream about God. Would it be nice to have a magic wand and if you could just shake this magic wand and wave it and change something about our industry or wish for something that our industry would have or do, what would that be? If you could wave that magic wand Cole, what would you want to change? What would you wish for?

Cole Thompson (00:35:01):

Oh my goodness, that is a fantastic question.


I would wish. Cause I think there’s so many just wonderful areas to our industry now. There’s a big focus on that independence where that’s definitely a new wave of you don’t have to go down the traditional route, you can have your own schedule, create your own things like that. I think that that’s amazing. I do love the traditional commission based salons and support and training. I think overall I would just wish that everybody got the help and support that there might be. And I would like to see more people stay in the industry long term. Cuz I find I’ll speak to a lot of students once you’ve graduated from some of the schools we work with and they might not be a hairstylist anymore and usually they might have got into a job that just wasn’t really the best fit for them. Maybe they would like to be an extension specialist or a kohl specialist.


But they got a job in a barbershop that doesn’t even offer color, offer color extension. So they kinda give up on their goal and dreams. So yeah, I think it would be great to let everybody know within this industry there’s so many areas that will be a great fit for you and know if you end up in a job that you don’t love or you don’t see a future in a slight pivot, whether that’s working for a product company or you could even be a sales rep for a company or you could work whatever it is. I think that to let people know that the, there’s other areas within the industry that can support you and help you achieve dreams, whatever that is.

Chris Baran (00:36:38):

Yeah, I, I’ll tell you what mine was and I think you’re helping me shift my magic wand a little bit here cuz mine was always, if I could just take away in the classes or whatever, if I could made this magic wand and just take away the fear that everybody had of trying something new. But I think I wanna change mine to the fact that there is so much, there’s such amazing opportunity in our business where you literally can make any any kind of money that you want. It’s interesting, and I may have said this in other podcasts we’ve had, but I can remember saying this distinctly to somebody that came up to me when their children were going to go into hairdressing and they said to me, what can they expect to make? In other words earn how much money can they expect to earn?


And I put it to them this way, I said exactly what they deserve because I see so many people that I know people in our industry that don’t apply themselves and hard have a hard enough time making rent. And I know people that are in our industry that are making six figures and more and they might, they have been a high school graduate just but because they got into what you said, you said you put it written, you hit the nail right on the head, they didn’t get into the right salon. If you can get into the right salon that has an education manager or has an education program, has an owner that is a visionary and is more worried about growing the people within than their name on the shingle, if you know what I mean, that I think that that’s happening is our businesses need to become more visionaries and more business people. They need to be more entrepreneurs than just my name is on the front door, therefore people need to come and see me because it’s my name on the front door and I’m the best one and I don’t want anybody to surpass me. I think our jobs need to be is to train everybody else so that they do surpass us so that they’re better than you are. Yeah,

Cole Thompson (00:38:57):

Definitely. And I think the wonderful thing about our industry in terms of dollar amount it could be potentially be endless if you get involved with products or talking volume or whatever it is. But also the other side of that I think what’s so wonderful about what we do is it’s considerate to whatever your life is. So if you would like to have a family, if you would like to work part-time and spend time at home with the family or whatever it is there, there’s a way in this industry that can support that. It’s such a flexible and yeah of course dollar amounts is a really important thing but I think in terms of life balance and happiness, that it’s such an open industry like that of whatever it is. I know a lot of people that work, they make great money, they spend time with the family, they’re at every birthday party and they’re happy. And I think there’s an area of in this industry that can support that unlike almost any other industry

Chris Baran (00:39:58):

And well can’t really hard to do in any other profession. If I wanna work two to three days a week but and I still in that timeframe can book myself so that I’m earning a very good living and still have time with my family and still work the amount of hours that I want to do. That’s where this industry comes from or is in. And I think that would you agree from me looking on the outside in with my magic crystal, if I think that that’s the thing that’s hurting a lot of commission-based businesses, that they’re not shifting with the times and they’re not shifting and allowing people that you’ve gotta work five days a week, you’ve gotta be here for eight hours, you’ve gotta start at nine, you’ve end at six. I think that if our industry as commission-based businesses or salary-based businesses, whatever they’re going to have to shift. They’ve gotta shift and do something different now to accommodate. Cuz our world has shifted in the last two years. I’m not going to go down that rabbit hole, but we know there’s lots of people out there that say, look, I want more life balance. I wanna be with my family more. I wanna do X, y, z and only do that but still earn a good living. So if the more that we can shift our businesses to accommodate that when life changes, I think the better your thoughts.

Cole Thompson (00:41:22):

Absolutely. And I think, cuz I get asked this question all the time cuz we won’t be businesses all over the world and no matter what country, no matter what background, same conversation that they’re struggling with, dealing with maybe younger people or a newer generation. And I think it’s wonderful actually. I think we have to embrace, cause you can’t change things, you can’t change the world by complaining about things. But we can adapt and we can to our benefit. So I think that the key thing that I’ve found with dealing with a slightly newer generation and I love this, is very singular meaning okay, well you’re right, I would like a good work-life balance. I’d like to make this amount, I would like to do this or whatever it is. And I think we should think that absolutely we should. And I think that you can use that to create very loyal people.


So we speak to a lot of our businesses about have regular check-ins and have an interview type thing at the beginning and find out what is your ideal salary, how much would you like to make working here? Yeah, what would your ideal work week be? And it might be like, okay well I go to watch football every Saturday so I don’t wanna work Saturdays or I need to have Tuesday evenings off because my kid whatever. Find out what’s an ideal salary, what’s an ideal work week, strengths, weaknesses. But I’d say, are you okay to share your strengths with us and are you open to showing your weaknesses and are you open to letting us help you improve those weaknesses? Yeah. And then also from there is what are your goals? What would you like to achieve? And then go away and figure out, okay well for to get that salary, you’re going to need to do 10 clients a day and you only wanna work four days a week, so maybe you need to do 12 clients a day.


And then you just present them with this is your plan. Yeah, this is how you’re going to achieve all of this. This is how you’re going to get that work week cuz it having that, okay, you have to work five days a week. My first boss on my first day said to me, he said, I’ve never forgotten this is 20, 21 years ago. And he said, Cole, I hope that you’ve just signed up for a job in an industry that you are never going to have a Saturday off ever again. And it just was, I was like, what the hell? I don’t wanna work Saturdays but I’ve not worked a Saturday for 12 years now. So again, you can have whatever it is that you want, but it has to be a plan and it has to be a work ethic and clarity. And I think that business owners run into an issue where the business owner’s thinking this and the person who works with ’em is speaking the other and like, oh well they just wanna take all the money they’re making and they don’t really wanna work. But it’s like, let’s just be cards on the table. What do you need? What do you want? This is how we’re going to do it. I love it. People become loyal like that.

Chris Baran (00:44:17):

Yeah, I love it. I wanna kind of shift a little gears here too that is in your career. First of all, I wanna start with this one. I remember being at you and I the way where we first really connected and I still hold this moment very dear, and I know you’re, the moment I’m talking about was you and I were doing a panel for beauty Changes lives. And I remember we were talking about the stuff that came up in our lives, the missteps that happened in our lives. And I remember you talking about doing a show in South Korea and they couldn’t speak English, obviously you couldn’t speak Korean but you were doing a model. Do you remember the incident?

Cole Thompson (00:45:09):

Yeah, yeah. <laugh> very well.

Chris Baran (00:45:12):

Tell everybody about that cuz I found it absolutely number one hilarious but also something that we can all relate to.

Cole Thompson (00:45:20):

Yeah, it was it’s kind of a crazy story really. But I had the privilege for maybe about two or three years when I was working at Susu. We were working very closely with an amazing salon group out there called Juno, Juno, her J U N O, her huge. We would go out and train the trainers, we’d work with the students, we would do big seminars for them. And I remember the first time going out there and again they make such a big deal of it, they picked us up from the airport and they’ve got posters and Hi Mr. Cole. And it was incredible, absolutely incredible. Just amazing people. And we landed and we went straight from the airport after flying all these hours to a model call and all of the models that they chosen came in and they all had heard down to the waist one length, perfectly straight, no color, no nothing, just black, perfect, gorgeous hair and <laugh>.


The interpreter’s talking, okay, what do you want for your hair? And they’re like, oh, just a trim. I just kind of want to keep it like this. And we’re like, okay, but we want to soon. We want do to cut people’s hair right now the floor is over here. We’re not going to do trends in front of 500 people. And this went on for maybe half an hour and we were like, well we don’t have any models. What are we going to do? And we said to the interpreter, you need to find those people that are relatively open cuz people are paying a lot of money for this show. We can’t assure them trends. So then suddenly after this conversation, the next girl is open, she’ll do anything yet, Eddie. I’m talking to her and she, she’s talking to him, she wants whatever you want, do whatever you want.


I’m like, okay, this is great. So then every girl from there, suddenly after we kind of reprimanded this guy a little bit, every girl was open, she’ll do whatever cool you want whatever haircut. And we’re like, okay, great. Our looks changed. So the day after we’re doing the show, and again I’m up there, there’s a camera and it’s on a big screens for the whole audience can see a looking right at my hands. And I remember I took a section, I calmed it down and I just cut this short little line on this girl. And I never forget, I just saw a tear



On the big screen and the whole audience was like, and then the interpreter started saying something in Korea, really energetic. And then the all just started clapping and whoa, oh my god. And I just kept on going. And when I got off the stage afterwards, I said, what the hell was that? And he said, oh yeah, she wasn’t that open, but I knew you needed to cut some hair. I said, well what did you say to the audience? And he said, she’s so privileged to have somebody from Sasoon cut her hair. These are tears of dry

Chris Baran (00:48:21):


Cole Thompson (00:48:24):

And the funny thing was she ended up loving it and all of the other girls were like, oh my God. And they just loved it. And we did a big photo shoot and made a big thing about it. And it was ended up being really successful at that moment. And I was quite young at the time when I saw her cry. I’m like, oh my God, what am I going to do? Yeah, this is an absolute nightmare We just rolled with it. Just had to keep on going. But this interpreter, I mean this guy, geez, he must manipulator.

Chris Baran (00:48:52):

Yeah, I was, I’m sure that we’ve all had those, what I call butt pucker moments when that happens. And it sparked in my brain. I remember doing, this was just a hands-on class I was doing, but I remember doing, and I was doing this broomstick shape. Everything combed down very blunt, very broom sticky on the ends. And then at the very end, just on some of the top layers, I was just layering the top. And so I’m talking to the audience like this and I just noticed sometimes when you’re cutting really dark hair and the hair chips fall down on the scalp. And so I took my comb and I was just trying to brush away those hair chips on the scalp. And so I noticed that these wouldn’t let go. I mean I kept brushing it and it wouldn’t move. So I took the hair strand and I kind of lifted it up and these legs just grabbed onto the hair shift and I realized that there was was on the head or this bug of whatever kind.


And I just realized that I had my hands in her hair the whole time. And so now I had to blow dry the hair. And it was interesting that I was I think I said something off mic to the person beside me. And then they were commenting out in the audience trying to, they saw I was sweating and I’m blow drying the hair, trying to make all this, get this hair dry and get this broomstick going, but not put my hands back in the hair. And now the hair chips that were on her shoulders were flying out onto this, my compadre that was in there and he was sort of talking to me and doing this. It was probably, that was one of the most fearful moments I think that I had <laugh> as well.

Cole Thompson (00:50:49):

That’s the worst, isn’t it? Cause you’re in it and people are looking at you and you just gotta kind of just roll with it.

Chris Baran (00:50:54):


Cole Thompson (00:50:55):

Thinking about it, oh my God,

Chris Baran (00:50:57):

Yeah. The best way to blow dry this broomstick is to do X, Y, z. And I was doing not to do it again. Oh good Lord. Oh,

Cole Thompson (00:51:06):

That’s so crazy thing things happened like that. I remember my first ever trip teaching a class again. I was maybe 21 at the time, and somebody got sick. So they called me to go to Barcelona to do a two day like hands-on seminar in at the Weller studio in Spain. And I remember the first section on the first model and I was just about to layer it and a lady behind me lent in to see what I was doing and pushed me and I caught and I just, my knuckle just popped off into this spin in the air and just drop on the phone. And this is the first S snip. And everyone just looked at me, just froze. And it just started pouring with blood.



Just, so these things happened and I had to bandage it up and just keep on going.

Chris Baran (00:52:05):

Yeah, we didn’t know about crazy glue then. Wow. Yeah. Those are so great. We’ve all had those moments. And that’s on stage, lowered almighty. I remember, I think it was in Switzerland doing a gig and that’s when everybody was taking their scissors and twirling their scissors. And I figured, well that’s, I’m going to do that too. So I twirled the scissors, but I twirled them the wrong way so that when the scissors came back down around, instead of it closing, it slashed me across the side of the finger. And I was working on some avant garde hair doing this hair. And so I just went to the backstage and I was going bandage, bandage. And they looked at me and were going, so they couldn’t understand what I was saying or didn’t hear me or whatever. So I’m going back on stage trying to wipe my hand off, trying to do a, oh my God, I have not twirled scissors since then, but <laugh>,

Cole Thompson (00:52:59):

That’s the worst. Oh my goodness. And like you said, the lost in translation is the hardest thing cuz you’re trying to keep on going. And even just when you work behind the chair and you cut your finger, you like, I don’t think my client knows. They always know by the way. They

Chris Baran (00:53:14):

Always know. Oh yeah. There’s no way no. Of hiding that. Yeah. So listen I, I’ve got a couple more here just, but I want to take you back to one that I was thinking was really no for any of the people that are out there that are suso freaks, et cetera. Cuz I remember just watching all the greats cut hair yourself included. But what was it like when working with that group, when being around people like Mark Hayes and people like Tim and those kind of people were, was you around when Tim was there? I mean know you were there when, obviously when Mark was there. Yeah. I can’t remember if Tim had left by that time or not.

Cole Thompson (00:53:57):

Yeah, yeah. Sorry, continue.

Chris Baran (00:54:01):

No, no, no. I’m just saying what was it like, cuz obviously you had your skills, you got it from those, but you have these greats that are around you. What was that? What was it like for,

Cole Thompson (00:54:11):

It was incredible. Tim left probably about a year after I started and then Mark took over and then that’s when Bruce, who was my crypto director who taught me. So Mark ended up taking over from Tim and then Bruce stepped up to be the UK creative director. It was incredible, absolutely incredible. And again, just watching these guys the so disciplined, serious, passionate, it’s an obsession for them and absolute obsession to be better, to grow to it. It was really inspiring. Terrifying as well. Absolutely terrifying. And I was really lucky to spend a lot of time with Mark, especially when he started. He’d come over to the US and I just think probably the most beautiful haircuts I’ve ever seen. And obviously everyone’s amazing. But for me, mark, the way he worked and handles with her and he’s got the ridiculously long fingers and it’s just so elegant and incredible. So he was probably the biggest inspiration for me, Bruce. And then definitely Mark. Just incredible. And the thing that I love so much about Mark, he never turned off. So even if you’re out having a drink after a presentation or whatever, he’s talking about it, what are you into, what music are you into? And he, he’s always into something and into something new in incredible. Yeah.

Chris Baran (00:55:33):

Wow. I love the word you said, terrifying because that’s how I think we feel when you’re around these greats where, and they’re got such an incredible set of hands, et cetera. And I wanna go back and for anybody who’s watching and listening right now, if you don’t know, if you need to Google, get on the GGE and look up like Mark and Mark and Mark Hayes and Annie Humphrey’s and Tim Hartley and look at the history there. And even going back to mys from my era was Roger Thompson. And when Christopher Brooker, when you look at their work, I mean I was just an absolute awe, but I would’ve been terrified to be in a class with them because they were just such greats, how they changed our industry.

Cole Thompson (00:56:30):

Absolutely incredible. And I think just the level of commitment, dedication, and passion was just unparalleled. Cuz again, honestly, a lot of these guys had social lives and families and stuff, but their absolute life was being just so good at what it is that they did. And to push forward never seen anything in that realm. The dedication is just incredible. It’s very intense. And for me especially, it’s as soon I love being around it and it helped me to learn a lot and achieve what I’ve done in my career. But I know that it’s very, very intense. So for me it kind of had an expiration date type thing. I want to go in a slightly different direction, but that kind of obsession is incredible.

Chris Baran (00:57:23):

And Lee, what I want, I wanna make sure, cuz I want leave you with a final question here just in a second. But I want to bring up Lee, if we can bring up that QR code. So when people wanna connect with you, they want to get a hold of you through Instagram, et cetera. We’ve got this QR code right up now. Right now. And listen out loud for people that are just going to be listening it is what give us your handle for Instagram verbally so that they it’s what?

Cole Thompson (00:57:54):

Sure. It’s underscore Cole, c o l e and then underscore Thompson, t h o m p s o n. But if you just type in Cole Thompson, it should just pop up and I appreciate the follow in advance. Yeah, yeah.

Chris Baran (00:58:08):

And for anybody, if they’re for the watching this, just take out your phone and concentrate it on that QR code to automatically take you there. Cole, our tagline that we have for the head cases as this is this about, we always feel that you have to be a bit of a head case in order to get to this point in your career. But we were talking about this at the very beginning. We were talking about the show and we were talking about what form of success that people have. And they said to me, what is the form of success? What do most successful people in our industry do? And I said, well, I always put it down to what I call the Goya method. And no, I’m not talking about the beans. If you’re from America, there’s Goya beans. I’m not talking about those different method, different results.


But Goya is to me an acronym that it stands for something different. But it stands for get off your, I’m just going to say assets and get off your assets. That’s not the true definition of it, but you, in order to do something, you gotta get off your assets and do something. So if you were to tell somebody that’s watching this and some of the people that are listening, what do you think get off their assets? What do they need to do? What should they be doing to get off of in order to move forward in their career? What is it that you would suggest that they do?

Cole Thompson (00:59:40):

For me, I live by show up. Just show whatever it is that you’re doing and you want to do. You have to show up every single day. And the, believe me, there’s been times where I’ve had to go to work and I’ve, in my mind or in my heart, I’m like, I’m really, I’m not feeling good today. I’m sad today. O something’s just happened personally. But just you have to show up in order to be success. And this is any industry, show up every single day. If you’re selling something, maybe people don’t buy something today, show up tomorrow. Maybe they don’t show up tomorrow. Show up show. If you just keep showing up every single day turning up, things will happen. There’s no alternative to that. And I make excuses, we all do. No excuses show up and great things will happen.

Chris Baran (01:00:31):

Probably some of the wisest words I’ve heard in a long time. Just because that’s just what you need to do. You’re not going to get anywhere if you don’t show up and be present and be you and be authentic. That was awesome, Cole. Thank you. I just wanna say I can’t wait till I hope like hell that it’s not doing a gig together somewhere that it’s going to be the next time that we get to chat. It has been an honor and a pleasure. Again, people check out his work, check out his company is, I always say there’s plenty of room in our industry for everybody and I just want everybody to be super successful and I wish that on you, my friend and I can’t wait till you and I can get together, share a bevy and te tell more, more great war stories,

Cole Thompson (01:01:20):

 And thank you for having me. Thank you for your time. I appreciate everything you do. You’re a huge, huge inspiration for us as well. And thank you.

Chris Baran (01:01:28):

Ah, thank you. So listen everybody I always say thank you guys for playing along. Thank you for being here. I can’t thank you enough for listening to incredible Cole Thompson and his stories, our stories. In the meantime, thank you all. Good luck. God bless, cheers and Headcases out.

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