You hear the chatter, you hear the laughter, you hear the hum of the blow dryer, you smell the aroma of fresh coffee brewing mixed with the scent of hairspray; you are at the salon. It’s the place where we come to renew ourselves, to treat ourselves to some “me time,” and to share our woes and our celebrations. Yes, the salon is a wonderful place to be. Not only can it change a person’s hairstyle, it can change their perspective, even change their life. It is a great business to be a part of.
Yes, it’s also a business – which, from time to time, is something that salon managers and owners forget.
I deal with over ten reps from different distributors, and each time I see them we always end up having the same conversations about salon manager/owners, who:
1) Don’t order retail product.
2) Have no rhyme or reason to staff attire or behaviour.
3) Don’t have their orders prepared.
These are always followed up with the same complaints from the salon manager/owners: business is slow, they have no idea about how to make their staff behave, and don’t know what they need for the salon.
Ladies and gents, I know beauty is fun, and you always dreamed of owning a salon and changing people’s lives. But guess what? It is also a business and it takes work, effort time and attention. When taken care of and done properly, it can be awesome and not even feel like work. When not taken care of it’s gonna feel like you are on the chain gang. If your salon is struggling and your staff isn’t performing up to par, as a salon manager/owner, well, it’s your fault.
Yeah, I said it. I am a manager of a salon/shop and when something isn’t going right, I look at what I am doing first. (It’s not my favorite thing to do, admit a wrong…but this is what I signed up for). I lead by example, and I am fair, but firm. I do not ask anything of my staff I would not do myself, from sweeping the floor to washing a baseboard. If you show up late for a shift, you are getting a verbal warning. As managers/owners, this is what we signed up for. We cannot be the “friend.” Yes, we can be friendly, and a friendship may bloom after years of working together, but at the end of the day, we are the manager/owner, not the friend. If you want to be the “friend,” you may want to rethink your position.
Salons, as all businesses, need structure, process, and leadership. Your staff needs to know the ground rules, and where the line in the sand is drawn, so that they aren’t always wondering what is going to happen next. They need to know that their manager/owner is taking care of the orders so they know if there will be enough color for their clients this weekend. When a salon has structure it will blossom, because your staff only has one thing to think of their client in their chair and the customer walking through the door. Staff meetings are also a must for salons—whether there are with two or 10 stylists. And it’s a meeting, people; not a gossip-fest about the juiciest news from your last client, or a whine-fest about someone not washing the towels.
A staff manual is always an awesome idea. It doesn’t have to be a novel. It should be a few pages outlining the salon’s procedures for client care, the cash register, reception, pre-booking, retail sales and commissions, opening/closing procedures and dress code. Make two copies, one for the employee and one for their file. Have the employee sign both copies, for two reasons: 1. So you know they have an understanding of what is expected of them and of the salon and so that 2. if by chance, for example, the dress code is not being followed, you can show them that you know they know what is expected of them. (If it happens again, then you know you have a problem!) As the manager/owner you MUST follow the dress code, at all times. Lead by example.
As managers/owners, we also MUST know our inventory. We need to know how much stock we need, from color to gloves to coffee for the clients to disinfectant for the tools. There are many awesome salon management programs out there. At our shop we use SAM by Milano, and it is amazing, especially for retail. All you need is your client’s name and number and this gem tracks all of their purchases. An AWESOME tool for retail–in case of package changes or if you can’t remember the last hairspray they bought, it’s there in their file.
You have to do the work. You need to be present and professional. A salon will not run itself, but with the right procedures in place, respect for your staff and clientele, it will begin to feel like it.
Sara Stancu is the manager of a salon and retail shop, and has over 20 years of experience in customer service and sales. She blogs regularly as “That girl in the red coat” with the aim of educating and enlightening clients, stylists and salon owners. Her plain and simple approach to telling it like it is when it comes to all things salon-related comes from her experience as a customer and a decade of working in the beauty industry. She also used to be that woman who could not stand her hair (but now it is fabulous).