David Charlton is a hair dressing expert and the CEO of David’s Salon, the most recognisable salon in the Philippines. Born in Suderland, England, David, who came from a family of hairdressers had undergone years of studying and training before moving to the Philippines to manage a salon at a young age of 22. From being manager to building his own massive chain of salons, David talks about the challenges of running a business in the Philippines, in general and as a foreigner, and the future of Davids Salon.
If you’ve been in the Philippines for a while, chances are you’ve come across and even stepped inside one of David’s Salon hundreds of local branches. This highly successful salon now also offers a wide range of beauty and hair services in Dubai, Hong Kong, and the United States
How did you end up in the Philippines all the way from the UK?
I ended up in the Philippines because I applied for a Salon Manager’s position in Rever Salon Hong Kong, but during the interview they said they wanted me for the salon in Manila at the Mandarin Hotel. So I thought that sounded exciting and accepted, and after a couple of months in HK I came to Manila.
What made you decide to start a salon business in a completely different country from the UK?
I came with the intention of fulfilling my 2 year contract with Rever then going back to UK. However, that obviously didn’t happen.It was a bit difficult in the beginning because hairdressing then was not as fashionable as in UK so I had to rein in my “high fashion” desires. Plus working with a young staff was a bit challenging, but we learned together.
Did you have a hard time dealing with cultural differences? What were the difficulties you encountered running a business in a different country?
Well I had never really run a business anywhere as I was only 22 years old when I came here so it was a big learning curve. However, I did find out that you really need a messenger to deal with all of the red tape as you can literally waste days getting various permits.
What were the first years like setting up your franchise in the Philippines? How did those experiences push you to succeed?
As I said I came to manage the salon but after 2 years they made me into a partner and eventually I bought them out. So I started slowly, and then we had the Edsa Revolution, attempted coups, earthquakes, volcanoes, floods so frequently it has been two steps forward and one step back. It was a struggle at times and just when I thought of giving up something interesting would come along and I would be trying again.
I think that having a lot of setbacks for one reason or another and not of your own making (usually) makes you appreciate it more when you succeed. It is very humbling when you are flying along and then something pulls the rug out from under you.
Looking back, what would you have done different and why?
I don’t know that I could have done very much differently, perhaps saved more money earlier. But it is difficult to plan for a volcano blowing up or a flood when they are (hopefully) once in a lifetime experience, and all of your businesses are closed so there is no cash flow for days and weeks. It does make financial planning for a business a bit difficult, especially when you don’t have deep pockets.
What things can still stress you out within your business?
Stress is usually brought on for me in dealing with staff sometimes and partners sometimes, and cash flow as well as we are still expanding. So money often goes out faster than it comes in. Other than that I have great staff that have been with me for years that handle most of the daily stress, which gives me a break. Plus I have learned not to worry about things I have no control over.
Are you still a ‘hands-on’ kind of guy now that David’s Salon is successful and well known in the Philippines?
Yes I am still in the office or training centre every day, although as I said I have great staff that take care of the daily details. But I still need and want to know what’s going on.
What are the top 3 things that you’re most proud of?
I guess I’m most proud of how staff that started with me have become successful in their own right, and like me came from humble backgrounds but now have their own houses, cars and very nice lifestyles. I am proud of our training centre which I think is the best here. I am also proud that we have built a business that is recognisable throughout the country.
What are your plans/vision with Davids Salon in the upcoming years?
My plans are as they always have been: to continue growing our company, expanding our salons and making each individual salon a success in its own right, and to continue being a leader in the hairdressing industry. It is a plan still in progress.
What words of wisdom would you like to share with salon owners and hairstylists worldwide?
I think that we all have our own reasons for doing what we do, but my motive was always to be the best hairdresser, have the best staff in the best salon, use the best products, and give the best service to our clients at an affordable price. When you reach that goal then the financial and corporate side will take care of itself. Everything else just follows if you love what you do. A cliché but true.