INTERVIEW: Robert Lahman - Making It Happen!

We catch up with Robert Lahman, MD for the getfunkd group of salons in Wellington. Having known Robert for many years, long before either of us entered the Hair & Beauty business, I can tell you that he has always been a very special friend with an absolutely bubbling personality!

What do you think Robert Lahman stands for?

Professionalism, Passion, Honesty, Integrity, Visionary, Philanthropic, Competitive

Would the Day of Reckoning agree?

Depends who is at the Gate, I suppose!

Born and Bred?

May 1946 in Wellington Hospital and in Newtown until four years old; elder of five children born to William and Lydia (aka Ida, nee Burns) Lahman

Childhood?

Parents and siblings moved to new State-housing area, Taita aka Pomare, Lower Hutt. Educated at Taita North Primary (latterly, Pomare Primary); Taita Intermediate; Taita College

What do you live for?

The NZ Thoroughbred Horse – I have a long standing and deep passion for analytical breeding to produce the very best New Zealand Racehorse. I enjoy racing horses I breed. The Royal New Zealand Ballet – quite simply the ‘best little ballet company in the world!’ And the performance arts in New Zealand generally.

What was your involvement or participation in the performance arts?

From my stage debut aged 6 when I played Joseph the Carpenter in a Sunday School Nativity Scene where I was dressed as a carpenter and had to sing and dance... I loved the applause! Pantomime and ballet dancing became a favourite scoring lead roles as I enjoyed singing and had a good voice! Tried jazz and tap dancing too, a bit of classical voice (loved it but not disciplined enough.

I met my future wife in the Dolores Thomas Ballet Studio in Lower Hutt (thanks Dolores) – Did Cabaret work singing at The Majestic, The Pines, and the like as BOBBY JAMES – the boy with the golden voice! Yeah right, but I’ve got the photos to prove it! I very much enjoyed the administrative management side of the national opera company and the ballet company here. Such dedicated and passionate teams working all the hours of the week to get it all on stage on time!

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

At this later stage of my life I am always pleased when I can open my eyes, swing the legs out of bed and stand upright! My brain is constantly active 24/7 plotting and planning, dreaming, scheming, strategising. When running out of energy during the night I often reach out and rest my hand on my partner and draw lots of energy from him – great to plug in to that generous power source.

I enjoy the challenges presented to me each day as they usually come from an unexpected source, but that is the stimulation, as everything has a solution, you just have to work through the challenge before you can enjoy the resolve.

Your favourite drink?

Flat White (made well) then a Veuve Cliquot for the right occasion; straight Whisky as required!

How do you like to spend your time, like on vacation for example?

Just hanging-out amongst my fabulous family; my Life-Partner Glenn, our two sons and their two Moms; my former wife and our two sons, their gorgeous wives and my six Ab-Fab grandchildren. Live doesn’t get better than that!

What is your bestest wish for your family?

My greatest wish is that each of my children and grandchildren know that they are loved and that they walk through the reset of their life knowing I’ll always be there for them anyway I can. That they each strive to live full, honest, happy and safe lives enjoying good health and having FUN! That they look out for each other. That they strive to be the best positive community leaders as they can be! I am extremely proud of each and every one of them!

Career Highlights?

*As the Administration Manager of The Royal Visit Office under the late Genevieve Jordan covering the 1986 Royal Visit, the 1986 Papal Visit, and a few minor Royals during my time.

*Being with the Royal New Zealand Ballet on opening night at Sadler’s Wells UK – historic and unforgettable!

*Arranging the attendance of HRH The Prince Edward to the Opera New Zealand’s Royal Gala Performance of Die Fledermaus at the Aotea Centre.

What music is on your iPod at the moment?

Avid fan of all the great belters like Garland, Minnelli, Merman, Streisand when doing the weekly ironing but generally pretty eclectic broad spectrum stuff depending very much on my energy levels at any time. Got Janis Joplin on the go as I write this.

What book/s are you reading presently?

*Just finished New Zealand author Julie Thomas’ debut novel - The Keeper of Secrets - seven years in the writing and worth every word – intriguing! Want the next one now!

*International and New Zealand Hairdressing Industry magazines including IMAGES – I so look forward to that arriving en salon!!

*A trilogy of novels authored by Ken Follett – exciting!

*Christopher Pugsley’s GALLIPOLI – The New Zealand Story is taking time to get through but is so like being there – amazing and with B/W pictures to boot!

*A third reading of the James Barke’s trilogy (its actually five books) on the life and loves of Robert Burns, the Scottish Bard – one of my heroes, and I live in hope the Peter Jackson would do a movie on him!

Sadly do not get enough time to just sit and read, so many good literature abounds and surrounds!

Why Hairdressing in your life?

Always liked playing with hair from the earliest days of brushing my Mom’s long dark hair each day and night, learning how to braid it and then wrap in a snood for night time. In those days Sunlight soap was de rigueur probably because no-one could afford shampoo then even if it did exist!

Started barbering apprenticeship on leaving school at 15 as my Day was enduring health problems and out of work, so family income had to be supplemented. Enjoyed that until the trendy unisex Salons came into being and my father decided to put me into commerce (in those days you did what your Father dictated) and jobs were two-a-penny. But unknown to my parents and family I worked in, or was associated with, a number of hairdressing salons in the Hutt Valley in those early years, and latterly Wellington.

I ‘came out’ really when we designed, built and opened the successful Rodney Wayne Manukau City hair salon and also a Rodney Wayne Shampoo’n’Things at opposite ends of the same Mall complex – great entrée into franchising. My sons Jarrod and Daniel were in charge respectively while I continued working in the arts administration arena in the City.

Now, about getfunkd?

Our getfunkd brand strap lines tell best what we do - a few examples

CUTS | COLOURS | CURLS

YOUR HAIR | OUR BUSINESS

BEST BRAND | BEST PRICE | BEST ADVICE

After about three years of Manukau City a number of things occurred together that brought about the reluctant selling of the Manukau Mall operations; my Life-Partner’s relocation to Wellington for business reasons; my younger son’s desire to return to Wellington; the anticipated arrival of my first grand-child in Wellington; the Opera company’s desire to have someone in Wellington to assist in the merge of the two major opera companies; and things like that.

My younger son, Daniel, and sat around the table to decide what he was going to do in Wellington to support his increasing family. It was going to be within the hairdressing industry – he was under apprenticeship then – and he wanted something to reflect having FUN in the working day!

So eventually The getfunkd Group was conceived and we opened a small four-chair salon tucked away in the back of the historic James Smiths Building in 2001; relocated into larger space next door and this became our flagship getfunkd Manners Hair Salon; then we invested into a licensed operation by creating and establishing a further two or three strategically placed salons throughout Wellington, including one into neighbouring city of Lower Hutt; each becoming independently owned and operated under the Group guidance.

It is with some pride that I reflect on the number of youngsters who have started their careers with us and developed following their graduation, become senior|lead stylists, salon managers, salon owners, hairdressing educators and examiners – it has all been very rewarding indeed!

The brand is well established in Wellington and has seen us survive the toughest five years in the capital city retailing sector I have experienced. The brand has also continued to attract strong, identifiable, and highly talented creatives for its styling teams with many of then staying with the brand for 7+ and over ten years even! Must be doing something right! We tend to focus a lot on internal training of our selected apprentices as we believe any salon operation is only as good as its style team and the competence of its junior team of technicians, colourists, apprentices, etc.

The getfunkd Group has always supported and been strongly represented in the Regional Hairdressing Competitions organised by the various branches of the NZARH – and with great success! The WARH has this year introduced the inaugural Robert Lahman Apprentice Challenge which demonstrates the strong commitment of this Branch to encouraging, promoting and rewarding promising young hair creative who have a strong desire to be great hairdressers! This really stirs my juices, to see such eagerness and hope in the faces and eyes of the young!

2009 was a highlight year for our Group activity but the next five years have been really tough in the image retail market – only the strongest have survived. We are all grateful to our stylist teams, and our loyal clients, for that!

The getfunkd Group has an exciting future, with lots of development under planning presently now I am back in the Chair after a disastrous past twelve months health-wise! Lots happening, that is how I like it. I believe 2015 will be another GREAT year in which to celebrate our Group success with a repeat 2009 celebration – we so deserve it!

Who are you icons in the hairdressing industry?

Locally, one of the best around is Michael Beel from Wellington – the best on so many levels. I am only sorry I let him get away when I first espied him as a promising apprentice, but then my other icon from an earlier era is Derek Elvy. Man, what an imaginary creative is that boy! Superb!

The newbies coming through like Brad Lepper, Mana Dave I find stimulate the old creative juices, but you know there are so many and so much talent within this industry, it blows me away that it all comes from such a small lightly populated islands in the Pacific Ocean but we hold our own very well across the oceans!

Internationally, I am a great admirer of New York’s Anthony and of course Australia’s own Tabitha who has been glorious enough to tell me she wished she had conceived the name getfunkd Hair – she loved it!

When it comes to the craft of hairdressing updo’s who can surpass the great Patrick Cameron! Sensational, I recall watching him as a youngster in New Plymouth and thinking, that is a Hair Rock Star! Then there is the wonderful Sharon Blain from across the Tasman – who constantly produces unique craft in her particular way of working hair. What a visionary creative.

Locally, there is an exciting (small) group of young talented stylists hitting their straps here in Wellington and it will be interesting to see who develops into stars from that lot. I do not gamble but would like to think that my punt always comes through. The next year or two will tell!

What is your philosophy?

Putting it Together | Making it Happen | A Solution to Everything!

Does your Philosophy work?

Sure Does!