Dario’s passion for perfection and his uncompromising attention to detail has seen him become one of Australia's most successful hairdressers. His sophisticated and sexy hairstyles have featured in the likes of Harpers Bazaar, Singapore Elle, New Woman, and Cosmopolitan. Dario Cotroneo shares his tips on salon success.

Dario Cotroneo on Salon Success

Born in Darlinghurst and raised in Sydney, Dario Cotroneo first started dabbling in the world of hairdressing in the late 80s. 27 years later, he’s made an international name for himself due to his international education program around Australia, New Zealand, London, and America.

The eponymous DARIO Salon opened in the year 2000 and is a haven tucked away in Kings Lane, Darlinghurst. With its resemblance to a back lane in the exclusive fashion districts of Milan, the unique minimalist loft-style salon has become a showcase for the small and talented team of hairdressers.

Dario travels every week, educating many of the best hairdressers via his business DCI Education, which caters to the global hairdressing industry. Dario consistently designs and innovates new refreshing techniques for the salon team, which is then passed onto hairdressers around the world.

Dario is an extremely innovative hairdresser, and has become an inspiration to many.

What do you love most about the hair and beauty industry?

I love connecting with our salon guests because guests become like family to me. Life has a bigger meaning to it when you’re a part of people’s lives and not just about looking after their hair. I believe my role is about lifting self-esteem and ensuring when a guest leaves they look rejuvenated, inspired and happy. This process is so addictive if done well.  

My philosophy is that hairdressing is a lifestyle. You can decide what lifestyle you want based on how much you invest in your training, as well as how hard you want to work to create your desired lifestyle. It’s not about seeing the return on investment now, it is about changing your life in the next 10 years which will lead you to be a very successful hairdresser long term, not just a fad hairdresser that you never hear about after 1 or 2 years. 

“I truly love hairdressing and our ability to change people’s lives one appointment at a time.”

When and why did you get into the industry?

In 1989, my father would not allow my 2 older sisters, who were hairdressers, to go to a hairdressing seminar in the city at night. My sisters begged me to go with them. So at 14, I rather reluctantly escorted them to the seminar. A hairdresser named Frank Burgemeestre was presenting the seminar and I was just taken back by how inspiring he was. The way he transformed his models was magical.

It was a life-altering moment for me. I never thought of becoming a hairdresser until that moment. As we were heading home that night I asked my sister’s boss Silvia for a job, on the condition she did not pay me, as I did not want to get fired.  

I started working there part-time. I then heard through one of my sister’s hairdresser friends, that the best salon in the area was looking for a part-timer, so I applied for my first paying job. I got it and until this day that boss, Tanya Mancini is one of my closest friends. Tanya taught me how to style hair without fear and I am truly grateful for the hours she invested in my training as it laid down the foundation for my career.

Dario Cotroneo on Salon Success

In your coaching experience, what is the biggest problem salon owners face? What can they do to solve these issues?

Many salons don’t have a training plan in place to help staff grow and excel. In my experience, having a training plan creates a growth mindset culture that is very powerful for a team.

Most salons look to their product company for education, which at times can be biased as their main objective is to sell products. Product company education plans may not be suitable for your team or for the direction you want to head in, hence why we started DCI Education. DCI Education focuses only on providing salons with what they need, what’s happening now and where our industry is going in terms of new trends and new techniques.

Ask yourself, what “experience” do you want to bring into your business or your personal career to help you and your team thrive to the next level? Also, look at the amount of education you need throughout the year. Ultimately, monthly training keeps you and your team motivated and inspired throughout the year, hence why we started our Mentor Program, to help hairdressers stay fresh and rejuvenated all year long and not get stale and bored.

What is your number one tip for providing excellent customer service?

My number 1 tip for excellent customer service is to care more!

We love using Timely to connect with our salon guests at the end of each day by sending them an SMS note such as “great seeing you today and have a great holiday.” I think we are now living in a world where we have to connect and engage with people, as most people are overwhelmed and not feeling loved.

I also recommend sending your salon guest a message after 3 weeks to check how the colour/cut is looking.

Also, send a guest a message after 6 weeks if she has not booked in to remind her she is due for a colour touch up in 2 weeks time. This shows you have her best interest at heart and this creates a growth culture and a growing business.

Lastly, if you haven’t seen your salon guest for 10 weeks send them a picture of what they looked like after their last appointment with you (it’s great to take a pic of your client’s hair each appointment!), and say in the message “just thinking of you”. At this stage, she may have gone somewhere else however you have shown her how good she looked at your salon last time and possibly she has just made a mistake going somewhere else. This may help you win her back.

Can you tell us about your proudest career achievements so far?

My proudest career achievement was starting DCI Education back in 1998 and taking that leap of faith as I believed we could do education in a more simplified and powerful way. Another proud career achievement was winning the 2017 AHFA Excellence in Hairdressing Education. To be recognised by my industry peers meant a lot and to accept the award with my wife Veronica on stage was a truly beautiful moment for us both.

What are your predictions for the future of the industry?

I see the future of the industry moving to an online platform hence why we created our Mentor Program & Elevate Program online, so hairdressers can access new learnings and inspiration anywhere anytime.

To me, I think it’s all about being flexible on how we take in information differently from our busy lives and schedules.

What’s next for you?

I am excited about DCI Education’s 2018 Education calendar. It looks to be another very busy year educating as well as working in the salon treating all of my guests to our personal Lux experience they are accustomed to!

I have introduced a new program to our education calendar, the Elevate Program.

The Elevate Program is an exciting new program aimed at apprentices and seniors who are looking to learn the technical foundations of hair cutting, by adding more structure and control in their work, throughout the year. It’s highly recommended for apprentices & seniors looking for inspiration & direction and is a personalised journey of learning like no other, in which you will build confidence on the salon floor without fear. Each month for 10 months, students will attend a 3-hour workshop, working through each session with other like-minded hairdressers within our beautiful DCI community.

We also have our very successful Mentor Program returning in 2018 and is designed to bring a new direction in haircutting and styling. DCI’s unique techniques and methodology will inspire you to lift your haircutting game to another level with a fresh new approach in haircutting. You will gain confidence and consistency with progressive cutting skills plus learn the very best client engagement and communication techniques, to help your work be understood and respected. It’s highly recommended for stylists, high achieving apprentices & seniors looking for oxygen and inspiration every month.

In February, DCI will also launch its online programs. If you can’t travel to the classes each month within the Elevate or Mentor Programs, you can subscribe to the online subscription via the DCI website.