As the old adage goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The problem is, for many salons navigating today’s changing landscape, it is, in fact, quite broken. Many salons are losing the great war—money, clients and even staff—for a multitude of reasons. While some may blame the pandemic or inflation, others are looking within themselves and their businesses to see how they can address some of these issues at their core. “For owners, one of the biggest challenges is that it’s more competitive than ever, so they’re not only fighting with other salons to hire staff but also fighting with other jobs that are easy for staff to do and with independents, who want to go out on their own,” says Jason Everett, co-founder of the High Performance Salon Academy, based in Roseville, Calif. “There’s a lot of poor leadership going on out there, so a lot of stylists are burnt out and looking for something better but end up going out on their own because they don’t want to work for another bad leader.”
Since the pandemic, the importance of having a work-life balance has been paramount for many stylists. While some are still happy to double-book and work long hours to generate extra income, others realize the toll it’s been taking on their physical and mental health. To help stylists work flexible hours without disrupting their salon’s flow, some owners are implementing shared styling stations to accommodate their part-time staff and offering extra incentives, such as unlimited time off, to empower their stylists to make their own schedules.
“Some owners think that stylists won’t work if they have unlimited time off,” says Cyd Charisse, co-founder of Destroy The Hairdresser. “It’s such a fear-based belief system, but what we’ve actually seen is that productivity is so much higher. For example, a stylist might work two 12-hour days and take the rest of the week off.” To ensure that offering unlimited time off doesn’t disrupt the flow of your business, Charisse says it’s important to always be hiring. Since some salons may have stylists who work five days a week and others who work one day a month— depending on their personal preferences and other commitments—sharing stations can be effective in ensuring that there’s a constant flow of clients in your chairs. “If the stylist doesn’t have a client booked, they can go home,” says Charisse. “Oftentimes, stylists will just sit there and wait for clients or walkins, but our world can’t work like that anymore.” With that said, it’s also important to be proactive about these ideas and not consider them to be a band-aid solution to a larger issue. “These are often treating the symptoms instead of treating the root cause,” says Everett. “The root of the issue is, do you have something inside your business [that we call] a ‘code of honour’? It’s a set of rules that your entire team agrees that your entire team agrees to operate by. The difference is that when you have issues, instead of resolving them with a global policy for everybody, you create a new border and new set of rules. These rules are set up by the owner and the team at the same time, and they can help employees stay longer—the right employees will stay and the wrong employees will go.” “Instead of just giving people what they want, it has to be good for the stylist, guest and owner,” he adds. “Unlimited time off is good for the stylist, and the assumption is that it will eventually benefit the business because it keeps the stylist happy, but that’s not always the reality.”
Higher Demand, Higher Prices
While increasing or changing your prices has always been up for debate, the importance of having a solid pricing structure is key. Whether you offer hourly or flat-rate (à-la-carte style) pricing, the idea of implementing Uber-style pricing—with some days and times that are priced higher than others—is an innovative way of offering flexibility while maximizing revenue. For Everett, he refers to this pricing model as “Prime Pricing” and says it can offer the flexibility that may stylists are looking for. “Some coaches are preaching about not forcing staff to work on Saturdays or to even be closed on a Saturday,” he says. “The reality is, guests want to come in on a Saturday, so how do you make sure staff is incentivized to work on a Saturday? Implementing higher prices for evenings and weekends gives staff a choice of working in higher-priced, prime windows of time to earn a bit more, which also makes the salon more money.” “Everybody is trying to be affordable, but I don’t think that needs to be the goal,” adds Charisse. “We’re hitting different economic brackets as we raise our prices, and that’s okay if your clients can’t always afford you.” Before making pricing changes, Everett warns that it’s important to carefully consider the pros and cons, and how these changes will impact your business. “Any time you create and roll out something new, have leadership teams in place to test things out and vet things while working with your team so they understand and support the ideas,” he says. “Raising pricing incorrectly can damage your reputation, so get advice from people who have done this before.”
With so many advancements in technology, salon software has come a long way in providing detailed insights into your business. For Phorest Salon Software, the brainchild stems from when its founder, Ronan Perceval, was working as a receptionist in a Dublin salon more than 20 years ago. “This was a long time ago, so they weren’t using any software,” says Perceval. “It was just a pad of paper, and it was my job to book appointments. I noticed how many no-shows we were getting. I added up how much they were worth and it was like $20,000 a year. It’s a lot of money, so I suggested that we send clients a text message reminder for their appointments. I got a friend to build a piece of software and within about four weeks, we got rid of nearly all of our no-shows.” Today, Phorest works with thousands of salons around the world to provide key insights into your business and help with everything from managing appointments and point-of-sale, to offering in-depth reporting and more. For Michael Anthony, director of operations for RedBloom Salons, which operates four locations in Calgary, he says working with Phorest has been a game-changer. “We’re blown away by how much data is available in one single platform,” he says. “The information and insights we can get on the operations of each salon location is staggering. We have insights into productivity of every stylist and every location. We also set up our own KPIs on things like salon usage rate, pre-booking rates, stylist utilization, profitability, retail sales and average ticket pricing.” While RedBloom has only been working with Phorest for two years, Anthony says they’ve been tapping into the full range of features and are using the software’s services to handle everything from scheduling t o point-of-sale. “All of our point-of-sale checkout experience is run through Phorest to track our transactions, save credit card info on file, loyalty program and manage all of our online booking,” he says. “From a management perspective, it allows us to be a lot more efficient in our operations.”