IN CONVERSATION WITH CHARLIE COLLINGE

Charlie Collinge

Andrew Collinge Hairdressing is a successful family business based in Liverpool. The first salon was opened back in 1940 in West Derby, and now there are eight salons across the North West. I talked to Charlie Collinge, son of Andrew Collinge, who became the Managing Director in 2015 about running a family business, his motivation and future plans for the company.

• Could you tell me about your background before becoming the Managing Director of Andrew Collinge Hairdressing?

I studied Three-Dimensional Design (product and furniture design) and most recently worked for a furniture-manufacturer called Vitsoe. I initially set out with the idea of being a designer, but in time, realised that I wanted to be more involved in the decision making process, prior to receiving a design brief. I was given a great opportunity at Vitsoe and loved working for the company. While I was there, we opened shops in New York, Munich and Tokyo and also developed new furniture.

• Could you share any major changes that you implemented or big milestones that you achieved since becoming the MD in 2015?

Our focus hasn’t been on making big changes, more on evolution and achieving a successful transition of the leadership of the company.

We have launched a new product range in the last 18 months, called CO by Andrew Collinge. The launch had been in the pipeline for a couple of years before I joined, naturally being a family business, I was well aware of the development of the range and of some of the key decisions along the way. Having the opportunity to work on a new product launch and being involved in its continued development was an exciting proposition on joining.

Perhaps much of the work in my first couple of years has been behind the scenes: less visible, more structural.

• Is working with your family harder or is it easier?

It’s both. Vitsoe was also a small family owned business. Whilst working there, I feel I was able to empathise with the owners from the perspective of growing up around a family business. Now, I hope that has given me the ability to empathise with our employees better. Above all, you still have to manage professional relationships with your family the same as you would with colleagues. The harder part is to stop talking about business outside of work.

Small family business owners are passionate and deeply involved with their business; they know it inside out. There is a lot of personal pride to making sure that the business does well. The main challenge for me has been coming in as the Managing Director, as a family member and as an owner. I have not had that added responsibility before.

• Have you ever wanted to be a hairdresser yourself?

If I am being honest, I never wanted to be a hairdresser and I never planned to join the family business.

For many years, I was passionate about something else, I wanted to do my own thing. As far as I was concerned, my parents were doing a job like everyone else. I didn’t feel that I had any responsibility towards the business. But the more experience I gained and the more I understood about businesses, my attitude started to change. I was having conversations with my father and realised that I did care and that I had something to contribute. Previously, I thought that I am not a hairdresser, so how can I contribute? In time, I realised that I could give my business knowledge.

• What motivates you?

Regardless of what I am doing, I want to do a good job. There is nothing in particular externally that motivates me other than enjoying seeing a job done well.

I am interested in small details – my belief is that if you worry about the small details, the bigger picture will work itself out. Partly, I think this is down to my design background and my interest in the work of designers such as Dieter Rams and Enzo Mari, which continue to motivate me in my daily approach.

• What is the best advice you have ever received?

My dad gave me some advice when I was a teenager when I was agonising over my future education choice. He said “just try to be the very best at what you do and success will follow”.

You have got to have a goal and believe in yourself. I also think that the majority of believing in yourself is just working hard, knowing the hours you put in are worthwhile.

• Can you share some future plans for Andrew Collinge Hairdressing?

We want to develop our product range further. We currently have a small styling range, and we are in the advanced stages of developing a wash and care range to go alongside it.

There are big changes in Apprenticeships and our training division is relishing the chance of being part of something that we believe will make big improvements to hairdressing apprenticeship training. We have also just created a governance board for the training side of the business. It will include apprentices, employers and tutors, as well as directors. We hope it’s a great step in wider involvement of making strategic decisions in the business.

Words by Jurga Skeiryte