All of my business and life and my clients businesses and advices are built around THE AFS METHOD Friend

It feels like everyone is saying the same old things these days. No one has anything new and no one has anything in an email I’d want to read. I’ve thought about this so many times and even asked myself am I now one of those endless ranters that want to sell something to anyone that wants to buy?

So today I wanted to tell you a story. Yes it’s about marketing but it is also about something that repeats itself time and time again in my life. It can affect everything you do in business. I know that because it literally has changed everything not just for myself but for my clients and partners.


Today I called it … THE AFS METHOD because of what I have seen this effect do but in the early years all I knew was something didn’t work and now because of this it is.


In 1989 I opened my fits high street business. It was a hairdressing salon. I can remember the day I signed the 7-year contract for the lease with my landlord Peter Rimmer. I was nervous about doing it but at the same time I never really gave it a lot of thought. This was a year when I was just married for two years, I was spending a lot of time putting a new home together and my first child – Christian – the mad one - would arrive just months after the new salon opened.

Before the salon I had spent my first few years of adult life getting fired from jobs. That was fine because I hated being told what to do. Before my job I had walked out of school life when I was just 15 years old so education in those days wasn’t something I had a huge encounter with. Stick with this because it's relevant for you.

So let me take you forward again to late 1989 because things were about to get more dramatic.

I opened the salon in May 1989. I assumed that everyone would want to come and use my services because at that young arrogant age I thought I was the best at what I was doing (nothings changed). By the time Christian my son arrived and arrived more chaos  where I was suddenly in a position where I couldn’t pay the bills. The reason was very simple – more was going out than was coming in so clearly there wasn’t enough cash.

Now very easily on I was behind on my rent, behind on my tax, behind on my rates and generally behind on everything. This also meant the only way to no longer be behind was to double my income and double it fast.

Within 18 months of working what always felt like 25 hours a day I decided to move into a bigger place. This was a shop that took me from…

2 staff and 250 sq. ft. of working area to 16 staff and 2000 sq. ft. of working area. Now I had only just survived the small salon so how the hell was I going to survive the huge place? My ego was bigger than anything so I just took the risk. Within a couple of months I had so much debt it was terrifying. I could pay nothing. My first weeks outgoings were around £3,000. My first week taking was around £700 if I remember right. Week one and the debt was starting.

Now during all of this time I kept reading in the hairdresser’s journal about a course that Paul Mitchell was running in London about salon management. I wanted to go but couldn’t go because I didn’t have the £2,000 to pay at the time.

Then one Saturday while my salon was packed two men came into the front of the busy reception and asked for Alan Forrest Smith. Obviously that was me. I went to the desk where around 10 clients were sitting. The guys told me they were from the Revenue services and I had two hours to pay over £10,000 or they would remove the equivalent value from the salon.

All the clients heard this and I just wanted to die. They took a small payment and some post-dated checks and left. I can tell you for the next couple of hours the salon was silent.

After I went home I kept wondering if this course in London would help me or not so I called the telephone number in the hairdressers journal. An agreement was made to pay in monthly payments but this was to be a payment I had a feeling would help me, my business and my life.

I had one small son and another son had just arrived. I had also moved home and I also had a young wife that enjoyed buying new things for her new home.

So I finally went on the training. At the first course I learnt everything I was doing wrong from a management and marketing perspective. I also learnt how much I need to do to get things right.

I drove back from London very late that Sunday excited to make sweeping changes. They helped me to believe I could really do this and I started to believe it also.

When I left my salon on the Saturday before the course I was charging £6.95 for a haircut. Two days later on Monday I decided to take their advice and charge a higher rate. That rate went to £18.95. That was a rise of £12.00 in two days. How would my customers react? They really never mentioned it. In fact it was one tool that created strong positioning for my salon.

Within months I had discovered something called marketing and on the back of that by 1992 I had also discovered that sending letters to my customers made them loyal customers rather than just fleeting customers.

Now what you need to know is this; in those days unless you did your direct mail printing at the printers doing it at home or in the office was not easy when you had 500 pieces to send each week because you simply didn't have the same computing tools like we have now.

As far as I knew I was the only hair salon in the UK actually doing direct mail or sending letters but the problem I had was in those days unless you spent a fortune on a laser that would cost well over a grand I only had a dot-matrix printer. This meant that all the letters were on one roll and all had to be torn off but had perforated edges like a stamp. Not slick but it did do the job at the time.

The effect of what I was dong was now becoming massive for the salon. We had opened in a town of 35 established salons and had positioned ourselves from a new start-up to number one in just 18 months!

There was a reason for this and that reason had been hard, continuous and relentless at the time. Baby number three was on his way so I failure wasn’t an option and there was no way I was going to go and get a job working for someone else.

The EFFECT that was taking place was starting to get noticed by others outside my business. Companies would call and ask who was doing my marketing. Clients would ask who was doing it and some would even start to call, ask for me and ask if we could meet to talk about their business and how I could help them. The effect was becoming clear I just couldn't see it at the time.

One day a guy from a company I had been dealing in my salon had noticed all the marketing my salon had been doing and asked if I could help him. We did a deal for a ton of salon products and I helped him out. His product was new and he had been sending letters to 5000 salons on a regular basis. This was costly and frankly was getting him nowhere. He was out of cash and almost out of his wife. She had told him if it carries on she would leave him.

He knew about the effect of what I was doing and asked if it would work for him so I put together a system for him that I felt would work. Now let me remind you of the numbers here.

He was mailing 5000 salons at a cost of around £7000 a campaign. His response at this point had been zero! Not a bean!

My suggestion was to send just 100 mailers to 100 carefully chosen salons along with a specific offer and a system of mailing.

The effect was huge. Not only did I create a record-breaking direct response sales letter with a 47% response rate but I created a monster that eventually generated my client over £800,000 in sales! I got paid nothing at the time apart from product!

Another salon client that owned a car showroom asked me to do something very similar. I repeated the system but bespoke the process at the same time. This time the product was an Audi TT sports car. This company would send literally tens of thousands of mailers to sell a single car. I created a handful of mailers that sold £1.5 million in Audi sports cars in less than a month. Again the EFFECT was huge!

Word started to spread as others heard about the EFFECT that was changing things for people and their business and of course their lives.

Now don’t forget at this point I had now two salons to run – yes I had grown my own business – I had another baby arrive (Oliver) and was now in the middle of building my own house whilst myself and my family lived in a mobile home in the middle of a field.

On the back of this I had accidently created something that would have a startling EFFECT on my life and ultimately my future and the future of many others.

Even I was shocked and still am shocked with what I am about to tell you next.

Part 2 coming next.