Obituary: beauty industry pays its respects to Habia’s Alan Goldsbro

Former Habia chief executive Alan Goldsbro sadly passed away on November 16 after a battle with hodgkin's lymphoma. Friends and former colleagues in the beauty industry come together to remember his legacy.

Growing up in Leeds, Goldsbro started his working life as a bricklayer. He worked for Sheffield-based construction company, Henry Boot, becoming an instructor, and soon rose to become the business development director, growing the company to 63 training centres across the UK by 1990.

Feeling he had achieved all he could, Goldsbro then persuaded the Hairdressing Training Board that he was the best man for the job of developing the new National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs). He navigated an often-tortuous path between ever-changing Government training policies and meeting industry needs. At the request of the Government, Goldsbro formed the Beauty Industry Authority (BIA), an industry-led standards and setting body for beauty therapy.

In 1994, BIA merged with the Hairdressing Training Board to form the Hair and Beauty Industry Authority (HABIA) – a Government recognised body responsible for setting occupational standards, which formed the basis for UK qualifications, apprenticeships, learning programmes and codes of practice in the sector, continuing to promote skills and continuing professional development at all levels.  

Under Goldsbro’s guidance, the organisation achieved significant milestones, including the first National Occupational Standards for hair, beauty, nails and spas, the launch of NVQs and SVQs for the sector, and the development of frameworks for apprenticeships. He retired from the role in 2012. 

The beauty and hair industry pay its respects:

"Alan was a big-picture visionary and could see opportunities constantly. Like other exceptional leaders, he built a talented and loyal team around him to crystallise these ideas. As he saw it, the best way to predict the future was to make it happen.

"Often challenging, he made Government sit up and take notice of the hair and beauty industry and led the creation of internationally recognised industry standards for all training and qualifications that he licensed overseas to invest back in the UK. An entrepreneur with his heart in the right place."
Andrew Darby, former deputy chief executive of Habia 

"It’s impossible to overstate Alan’s legacy on the hair and beauty industry, particularly when it comes to its reputation for training and world-class standards. Alan was integral in bringing people together – employers, training providers, associations, manufacturers, industry professionals – to work with Habia, and raise the levels of professionalism and training provision across the board. Ambitions were achieved and aspirations met for businesses, employees and learners alike, thanks to Alan.

"What’s more, Alan played a crucial role in making sure the hair and beauty sector was taken seriously by Government, guiding it through some of the biggest reforms to training and standards in the past 30 years. Often in challenging circumstances and in the face of often indifferent ministers and Government departments, Alan made sure that the industry’s training and beauty issues were listened to.

"In fact, he demanded it was listened to. There is no doubt that UK hairdressing and beauty would not have the well-earned and well-justified reputation it does around the world without the work of Alan Goldsbro. He is someone who will be sorely missed, both by the wider industry and by those who knew and worked with him."
Jackie Holian, former business development director of Habia

"I remember it as if was yesterday, the other Hairdressing Training Board (HTB) Board members saying, 'they’ve only gone and appointed a bricky'. I knew that if Arthur Nevy had chosen Alan then he would be good for the HTB.

"Before meeting Alan I’d heard he was a 'Leeds Lad' – as I was too. We got on well right from the start, two 'raggy lads' from different rough areas of Leeds. We were without doubt a force to be reckoned with for many years and more than anything we completely trusted each other. Alan was a great man, he would help anyone and everyone, and was extremely generous with his time. I learned so much from Alan over the 20 years we worked together on the various committees.

"I could never have imagined when Alan and I met that we would go on to become best friends, but that was exactly what happened. Long after Alan retired from Habia with parkinsons, we continued to speak regularly, meet-up often and take holidays together with Jane and Bernadette. One of Alan’s favourite stories was to tell people the he and I were identical twins. Alan has a mischievous sense of humour.

"I never thought the hairdressing industry realised just how much we owed Alan for the massive contribution he made to our industry. That said, I found the kind words that people commented on Facebook in the past couple of days gave me a huge amount of comfort and showed me just how much Alan was loved and respected. Another testament to his leadership is the great respect the teams of HTB and Habia had for Alan. I’ve never heard a bad word said about him from the team in Doncaster. Right now, they are all devastated.

"We will all miss you Alan, but your memory will live on for ever. RIP my dear friend, love you to the moon and back mi old mucka."
Bill Shaw, best friend and former Habia chair and treasurer 


Session tech Maria Newman pays tribute to “the architect of the modern professional nail industry”:

"Just a few weeks ago, October 7 to be exact, a message popped up from an old and dear friend, Alan Goldsbro.  It said: 'I’ve just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and I have weeks rather than months left. So, it’s bye from me. Love Alan.'

"Alan died on November 16 very peacefully and surrounded by his family. I know that during those few weeks he was very busy and supported, as always, by his wonderful wife Jane.

"Alan was diagnosed with parkinson’s in 2010 and shortly after, retired from the post of chief executive of Habia – a role he had for more than 23 years. He did a lot to support other sufferers of this horrible disease, so how cruel to then develop cancer. So, let me explain why I have called him 'the architect of the modern nail industry'.

"Several decades ago, I was doing some work with Wallace Sharpes who created the Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy Training Board and was the founder of VTCT. The work resulted in the beginnings of the National Occupational Standards (NOSs), which lead to the structure of the first National Vocational Qualification’s (NVQ’s). The framework of adult education was changing.

"The Beauty Industry Authority (BIA) was created and the Hairdressing Training Board also existed. Alan was originally the training and development director of the HTB and later the chief executive. In the 1990s, Alan was instrumental in merging the two bodies, resulting in the creation of the Hairdressing and Beauty Industry Authority (HABIA). He had proved his expertise in hair, and now his might was brought to bear for the wider industry.

"Habia started life with a couple of staff in a house in Doncaster. I travelled up there many times to discuss nail industry qualifications. Under Alan’s guidance, Habia grew, bringing in a big team of hard-working people to make Habia a global standards setting body that provided qualifications to many countries.

"I met Alan at the start of the potential merger. He was a feisty, outspoken Yorkshireman but with a heart of gold. I had tried for a long time to bring nail qualifications out from the beauty therapy umbrella as a career in its own right and Alan was the first person to see the value of this. After sitting in on endless meetings as the nails representative, Alan, with his usual determination, managed to get the Government to provide the funding to develop a sector of NOS just for nails.

"He made me the first chair of the first Nail Services Forum. Between us we had fought long and hard to make this happen and he had done it. Nowadays, we have a recognised career for nail technicians that didn’t exist before. That is why I have titled this piece, 'The architect of the modern nail industry', because that’s what he was, and we have so much to thank him for. He believed in us when others didn’t.

"I, personally, have a lot to thank him for also. He persuaded vocational publishers to commission a textbook for nails, got the support of the awarding bodies and then persuaded me to write it. It didn’t take much persuading and the first book was published in 2001, it is currently on its fourth edition. While Alan was still in office, he wrote the foreword in each of my books, words that I treasure. So, he was also one of the architects of my career from all those years ago.

"Clearly, Alan wasn’t about just nails. He and his team achieved amazing, elevated standards for all, while managing to keep to the very strict guidelines of OFQUAL. He opened new opportunities and collaborations in the UK all over the world making us a leading voice in the quality of education and standards."

"Jane, all our thoughts are with you and your family. I am so happy to be able to explain a little of what he did for all of us in our wonderful industry that we are all so passionate about. Marian Newman"

Many great people worked with him over the years and Marian Newman has invited some to say a few words:

"Alan was a tenacious visionary. He knew by joining beauty with hair and forming Habia that the larger footprint would give both industries more clout with Government. He fought for excellence in educational standards and qualifications delivered in the UK and was also feted internationally.

"He also created a board made up of hair and beauty industry leaders who believed in what Habia was trying to achieve, as well as Alan’s ability to achieve it. Alan will be remembered as a dedicated and driven man who all our industries have much to be grateful for, and who gave the nail industry its own identity."
Gill Morris, founding and board director of Habia

"I have had the privilege to work Alan over a number of years, having been a board member of both the BIA and Habia. Alan was passionate about the hair and beauty industry and campaigned tirelessly for recognition and raising of standards within these sectors.

"Under his leadership, Habia became an international standard setting body and seen by Government as the voice of the hair and beauty industry. He will be sadly missed."
Penny Turvey, former chairman of BABTAC and Habia

"We met Alan on many occasions at Habia HQ. A warm, humorous guy who embodied what Habia stood for. Without Alan and his forward-thinking and listening, we never would have had nails as a standalone treatment within our industry. We’re very sad to lose him and wish Jane love and respect at this sad time."
Samantha and Samuel Sweet, founders of Sweet Squared