A few years ago Rodney Wayne decided to leave the salon and do a stint in the country - building stone walls, working on his boat and working with livestock. While it was fun at the time, Wayne says it also made him realise "I love people, I love fashion and I love the city".
Wayne expects that most career people entertain thoughts of giving it all up and doing something else, but "sticking to the knitting" for 40 years has proven a successful path for the 60-year-old.
Rodney Wayne was a household name before he started franchising the business in the late 1980s.
Now with a turnover of $50 million, 600 staff and 62 outlets, he is regarded as one of the biggest names in hairdressing in Australasia.
Wayne, the son of a logger from Nelson, was born Rodney Wayne Cheeseman - he officially cut off the Cheeseman 12 years ago.
Deciding he wanted to get into business, Wayne trained as a butcher and looked into setting up pie carts in Melbourne. He did end up in Melbourne but decided instead to channel his artistic ability, as one of a handful of men among hundreds of women at hairdressing school.
"It wasn't done to be a male in hairdressing, especially not a straight man in hairdressing," he says.
But being a bit different means you get noticed and Wayne was the only trainee who the instructors would allow to cut their own hair.
After setting up his own salon in Victoria, Wayne built on his training by travelling to London each year to work alongside industry leaders Vidal Sassoon and Jean Louis David.
He was drawn back to Auckland 10 years later, and in 1978 set up a plush, candy-red salon in Victoria St in Auckland's CBD. Within a year it was one of the city's largest with 15 stylists.
Wayne soon realised that his customers were travelling to the city from the suburbs and saw the opportunity to take high-end salons to them instead. He prides himself on being the first to take "chic city style" to suburbia.
Within six years Wayne was operating eight salons in Auckland and Wellington. Then Auckland's classy fashion malls arrived which provided the next business opportunity: franchising.
When Wayne met French hairdressing icon Jean Louis David, who he describes as being "to hairdressing what Yves St Laurent was to fashion", David had 800 franchised salons.
The spread of American fast food joints led many to believe businesses lost control and style when they franchised, but David taught Wayne that it was possible to maintain high standards, and work in the mid- to upper-bracket stores.
At first he tried to convince Wayne to rebrand under the name Jean Louis David, but Wayne decided against it when he hired a research firm to ask people in Manukau, where there were no Rodney Wayne salons, which hairdresser first sprung to mind. The overwhelming response was "Rodney Wayne".
"You are the brand and the brand is you. The biggest names in hairdressing were people who built their business around their brand because hairdressing is a very personal business."
Wayne decided it would be crazy to switch to a name most people couldn't pronounce, and believed his systems were as good as David's anyway.
Wayne has high standards - before he even hired staff he had written a manual dictating standards for greeting customers and picking up the phone - but says he does not describe himself as a perfectionist.
"I do know that to be successful in business, you will never ever achieve absolute perfection. All the time people are going to let you down; it's a fact of life and I suffer my knocks as much as anyone," he says.
But he does believe his business has perfected the art of consultation. Rodney Wayne was one of the first New Zealand salons to have a dedicated consultation room - void of scissors and brushes - for the hairdresser to sit down eye-to-eye with the customer, and nut out what they were going to do.
"I always say that if someone stuffs up with the hair it's because they didn't get the consultation right," Wayne says.
Customers are encouraged to let the salon know if they are not satisfied, and of the 6000 hair appointments the stylists work on each week, Wayne says the business receives about three letters. It comes back to consultation every time.
Listening and travelling the world observing helps Wayne adapt to trends in fashion and business.
He says the hairdressing industry is well-placed to sail right through a depression.
During the Great Depression, "beer, chocolate and hairdressing held up well because you could make yourself feel good with relatively little money", he says.
What threatens the business is rising rents. Wayne says they shouldn't be above 10 per cent of turnover, but many of his Rodney Wayne salons are facing double that.
Nevertheless the brand, and the size of the business is growing. Average store growth is around 10 per cent and this year the business is starting two salon chains to appeal to niche clientele.
New venture Rodney Wayne Man is catered to image-conscious yet time-poor men, and the high-street brand Blaze, which opened in Newmarket six months ago, appeals to the very young fashionistas who would never go to a Rodney Wayne salon.
Wayne intends keeping Blaze detached from the Rodney Wayne brand.
"My brand is Rodney Wayne and I am passionately in love with that and I'm going to look after it," he says.