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A cut above – Brad Ngata

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As many companies looked to cut costs during the downturn, hair great Brad Ngata went out of his way to grow his business, buying into Sydney’s fabled Ivy to open a second salon.

Ngata opened his first salon – Brad Ngata Hair Direction Downtown – in Darlinghurst close on a decade ago. His business strategy was simple – get noticed.

And he wasted no time in doing so. In less than three years, Ngata had scored every award he entered, both creative and business, earning him the coveted Australian Hairdresser of The Year in 2005-2006. He’s also done time as KMS Haircare’s Australian artistic director, hair director at Fashion Week both here and internationally, and is a regular commentator in the local and international press. Today, Ngata also has a hand in creative agency Nest.

In a time when most entrepreneurs are scaling down their business or simply concentrating on treading water, you have not only started new ventures, but are looking to grow them. Why so?

Our flagship salon at Ivy opened the day after the GFC happened. It was hard but I have a strong belief in my brand and have worked without PR agents for the past three years to build solid relationships with the media to inform potential new business where we are and what we do.

Glenn [Chaplin, the company’s director] and I are risk takers – we are strategic, we built our original salon from one chair and one mirror and four clients to what it is today, we are very good at what we do and we work together on the same path with the same goals and it was a chance to take our brand to the next level.

What was the deciding factor in opening the Ivy salon?

When the opportunity presented itself to open at Ivy, Glenn and I decided it would be a massive undertaking but also an amazing chance to build a salon that we have always dreamt of owning. Glenn's tenacity and drive made this dream a reality and it is our proudest achievement. We had a walkthrough of the complex at an early stage and then realised how this concept was of a global standard and too important not to take a risk to be part of.

Why (and how) did Nest come about?

I also work in a freelance role working with the countries’ top photographers, fashion designers and celebrities and Nest is my agency that is a channel for clients to book me separate to my salon business. My agent Nev Stevenson looks after all of the details in regards to any requests made.

Why is diversification in your industry so important?

In Australia, you need to have fingers on many pulses. Our population is smaller; it's important to be able to change hats to meet the needs of the various types of jobs I am requested to do.

What is the secret to growing your business in tough times?

Glenn is the business director of our companies and he is immaculate with all of his projections and is always connected with how the business is travelling. Yes, it has been tough this year and we have had to make some tough business decisions. We have streamlined our business, jobs have been lost due to unsatisfactory performance, we have been working on these issues well before the GFC hit and productivity is at the forefront of every decision made. It's not personal, it's business.

What keeps you awake at night?


What is the one piece of advice you wish you'd been given earlier?

When building the Ivy salon, I wish we had more time once the salon was completed to tweak all the systems. Glenn and I left the next day for a global conference in Paris and came back to a lot of problems, which now have been sorted out. Recruiting the correct staff also took a long time. We are there now but it’s an organic process.

The best advice I got was ‘a new business is like a baby. You can't afford put it down; you have to nurture it to grow big and strong’.

Who do you look up to and why?

I am Glenn's biggest fan and I look up to him. He is fair, smart and runs our business with an ethical, professional manner and is a kind person.

In your opinion, what makes a good leader a great one?

A good leader is someone in touch with their team and business, who can trust the opinions of key staff about the daily happenings and who can make the hard decisions when need be.

How do you stay motivated?

Life experiences and creative visualisations.

How do you achieve a work/life balance?

I work hard and I can enjoy all that commitment it brings and I am in a happy, loving relationship and have a secure home life. I am a nurturer and a homebody and I love my friends and, when not at work, am at home living my dream and being great at what I do. I do not take anything for granted and thank the universe daily for allowing me to have this incredible life. I like me.

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