Sunday, March 29, 2015

How to hire an honest employee

Part of being a successful business owner is knowing a handful of dirty little tricks that will help make your life easier. These dirty little tricks (or D.L.T.s, as I like to call them) are especially handy when it comes to hiring.

It has been said that out of any 10 given people, you'll find 1 dyed-in-the-wool thief and 1 truly honest human being. The other eight, they say, can go either way depending on the circumstance. According to the United States Chamber of Commerce, 75 percent of employees steal from their workplace. And, according to me, that's a damn scary thought.

The best way to prevent employee theft, obviously, is to hire honest employees. And the best way to hire honest employees, I've found, is to subject them to a good old-fashioned honesty test.

Here's how I like to conduct this test. Before interviewing a potential new employee, I set up a hidden camera inside my office. Some states have strict rules about video surveillance in the workplace, but setting up a camera inside your own office is perfectly legal in all fifty states. For less than a hundred dollars, you can buy a variety of hidden cameras disguised as everyday objects, many of which are wireless and can be viewed from any laptop or desktop computer in your business.

Next, take a $10 bill and drop it on the floor of your office, preferably under the edge of your desk, where the candidate you are about to interview will be able to see it. I've found that $10 bills work the best-- any larger, and the applicant may sense it's a set-up, and any smaller, the applicant might not bother to pick it up.

When the candidate arrives for his/her interview, have another employee them into your office and tell them to have a seat. Your employee will tell them to make themselves comfortable and that you'll be back in a minute. Now, watch the real-time surveillance footage and see what happens.

Who should you hire? Well, you can rule out the applicants who pocketed the cash. Some applicants will see the money but will refuse to touch it. But, every once in a while, some good-hearted and honest individual will hand you the $5 bill and tell you that someone must have dropped it on the floor. Regardless of that person's qualifications, education or credentials, hire that person immediately!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Choosing the right sign for your salon

Do they sell haircuts or pornography? Hard to tell.

What does your salon's sign say about you? The answer is: a lot more than you think. Business signage is intended to create an immediate reaction, but it is up to you to decide which type of reaction you want to create. Within a fraction of a section, a potential customer will be able to look at your sign and determine many factors about your business without even setting foot inside your building, such as how expensive or affordable your services are.

This is important when it comes to branding your business. Do you want to attract an affluent crowd, or do you want to appeal to those who are cost-conscious? Whether your goal is to be the most affordable salon in town, the most expensive, or something in the middle, your sign will convey this message swiftly and clearly. In other words, choosing the right sign for your salon will be one of the single most business decisions you will ever make.

You can also get your eye exam here!

Much of the "reaction" your sign creates comes from the use (or misuse) of color. As you can see by the above picture, it is never advisable to use red lettering. Sure, a bright red sign will attract attention (that is why you see so many red firetrucks, after all), but from a standpoint of consumer psychology, the color red suggests "cheap" when it appears on a sign. There's a reason why just about every sign you see for a clearance sale at a store is red; it sets off a person's internal cheapskate alarm.

A haircut for under four bucks? How could you possibly go wrong?

The color yellow also creates a similar reaction, especially when used as a background color. Red lettering on a yellow background will either make you look like a Chinese restaurant, or the cheapest hair salon in town. Of course, this very well may be your goal.

Old signage for Great Clips

Because the color red is associated with low prices, chain salons and franchise salons, such as Great Clips and Supercuts, have traditionally used red lettering for their signage. However, over the past decade, there has been a shift toward darker and/or more monochromatic color schemes as most salon chains are attempting to raise the bar, trying to brand themselves less like McDonald's and Arby's, and more like Panera Bread, Chipotle Mexican Grill, and other "fast casual" restaurants.

Newer white-on-black signage
Old signage
Newer signage
This shift toward black and white lettering suggests a higher level of quality, since monochromatic color schemes have long been a fixture in the world of fashion, hair and beauty. Of course, no one is going to mistake a Great Clips for the Privé Salon in SoHo, but the updated color scheme certainly helps elevate the brand. Take Bubbles Salons, for instance. Even though Bubbles is a chain salon, the company distinguishes itself from its lower-priced competitors by using simple black lettering for its signage

With so many low-end salons and budget-priced salons updating their signage in order to attract a more affluent demographic, it's no surprise that many upscale salons are abandoning their traditional white-on-black, gray-on-black, silver-on-gray, and other monochromatic color schemes and opting for more vibrant colors.

The key to using bright colors for signage is to keep it minimalistic. Lettering should be clean and easy to read, with plenty of negative space (the portion of the sign that is left unmarked by lettering and logos). Notice the exceptional use of negative space and minimalism in the sign below.

Now, let's turn our attention once again to the lousy, hideous, and tacky signage I talked about earlier. Compare the above picture to the dreadful red lettering below, and you will easily see how the right combination of colors effectively delivers the message you want to convey about your salon. Which salon would you rather own?

If this is "upscale", I'm afraid to see their interpretation of "downscale".

The truly shocking part is that there really isn't a whole helluva lot of difference between the cost of a tacky sign and the cost of a sign that is beautiful, modern and elegant.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What the NFL's Carolina Panthers can teach us about public relations

Let me dispel an age-old myth about business. You don't have to be great at customer service or public relations in order to be successful. In fact, there are hundreds of successful businessmen (and women) out there who are first-class, Grade A, bona fide jerks, running companies that are raking in the moolah while paying their employees pissant wages and contributing absolutely nothing beneficial to society. You don't have to be a "good guy" when it comes to business. But it helps. And when it comes to being a good guy, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is a shining example.

Earlier this week, an article appeared on the ABC News website that speak volumes about public relations. It is the touching story of Cade Pope, a 12-year-old boy from Oklahoma, and his spirited mission to find an NFL team to root for.

Unlike the rest of his football-crazed family, Cade didn't have a team to call his own, so while he was home from school the week before Christmas recovering from the flu, Cade decided to write letters to the owners and CEOs of 32 different NFL franchises. His letter read: "My family and I love football. We play fantasy football and watch NFL games every weekend. My parents are St. Louis Ram's fans. My brother is a Kansas City Chiefs fan. I don't have a team to cheer for yet. I am ready to pick an NFL team to cheer on for a lifetime!"

Out of all the owners he contacted, only one took the time to reply. It was Jerry Richardson, owner and CEO of the Carolina Panthers. Although the Panthers were hard at work preparing for the playoffs, Richardson took the the time to reply to Cade Pope's letter with a handwritten letter of his own.

Jerry Richardson

"'We would be honored if our Carolina Panthers became your team. We would make you proud by the classy way we would represent you," read the first line of Richardson's reply. To prove his point, the package sent to Cade contained not just a letter from the team's owner, but a helmet signed by members of the team.

After the story appeared on ABC News, it wasn't just a 12-year-old boy from Oklahoma who had found a new team to root for. Undoubtedly, this classy move by Richardson attracted a plethora of new fans, which proves why public relations matter, and demonstrates how a small gesture of kindness can go a long way in the world of business. Professional sports franchises spend millions on building their brand through marketing and promotion. Jerry Richardson got the job done at a fraction of the cost, while looking like the classiest owner in the NFL in the process. It's a win-win situation for everyone involved.

I followed up on this story, and came across the reactions from several of the 31 teams who didn't respond to the young boy's letter. The prevailing sentiment was something along the lines of "We would've like to have responded, but we get thousands of pieces of mail each day and it's impossible to reply to all of them." In other words, the usual song-and-dance routine.

Richardson proved that it wasn't impossible to respond. After all, don't forget that the Panthers were pretty themselves, preparing for their playoff match-up against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, after beating Arizona in the NFC wild card game. Many of the teams Cade had written to didn't even make it to the playoffs.

This just shows how beneficial it can be to go out of your way to impress a potential customer. You see, it's quite easy to roll out the red carpet for a walk-in client when your reception area is empty. Anyone can do that. Customer service skills are much more impressive, however, when both lines of the phone are ringing and all of the chairs in your reception area are filled with clients who are grumbling because the rest of the staff is running 15 minutes behind schedule. Grace is one thing; grace under fire is a horse of a different color.

However, it must be pointed out that Richardson wasn't driven by an ulterior motive. He didn't pen his letter to Cade Pope knowing that it would be a stroke of public relations genius-- it just turned out that way. Richardson really is a classy guy; on the same day the story about his letter to Cade made the news, Richardson once again made national headlines, this time for donating 1,000 tables, chairs, stools, sofas and mini-fridges from the 158 luxury suites at Bank of America Stadium to Habitat for Humanity, who plans to sell the items to the public. The proceeds will go toward building homes for low-income homebuyers.

The moral of the story is this: That it never hurts to go the extra mile.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The importance of a mission statement

Except for when it comes time to apply for a business loan, most salon owners give very little thought to creating a mission statement for their business.  However, much like a lighthouse on a rocky coastline, a mission statement serves as a beacon, faithfully guiding the ship's captain (you) into safe waters.

What is a mission statement?

A mission statement does not need to be lengthy or complicated. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The best mission statements are succinct and concise. A mission statement is a sentence or two which sums up a company's core values and guiding principles. A mission statement tells the world- your employees, your vendors, your clients and your lenders- exactly what you stand for.

Not every type of salon needs the same type of mission statement. For instance, an upscale luxury spa will require a completely different type of statement than a family-friendly salon which caters to cost-conscious consumers. For instance, a luxury salon may have a mission statement that reads something like:

At (name of business), we strive to offer each and every customer the highest quality of service in a refined and elegant atmosphere.

Conversely, the mission statement for a family salon might read something like:

At (name of business), we are committed to providing our guests with exceptional value through reasonable pricing and prompt and courteous customer service.

These statements may seem trite and insignificant, but they are anything but. Your mission statement is your mantra, and every employee should know it by heart. Mission statements are important because unless you take the time to define your mission, you'll never be able to accomplish your mission.

Imagine a platoon of soldiers aimlessly wandering through a battle zone without a set of directives from their commanding officer. Mayhem would ensure and it wouldn't be long until it's every man for himself. Obviously, this is no way to run a military mission. It is also no way to run a salon or spa.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

When salon owners won't accept responsibility

Of all the complaints I've heard from stylists during my fifteen years as a stylist, educator and salon consultant, the most common frustration among employees is the owner who fails to own up to his or her mistakes. Salon owners are a rare breed; they love to take credit for everything that goes right (even if their role in successes are minimal), and they seldom take responsibility when things go wrong (even if they played an instrumental role in the failure). This behavior leads to a decline in staff morale, which, in turn, leads to a decline in productivity. Left unchecked, the snowball of irresponsibility can quickly grow into an avalanche of dissension.

When a salon owner refuses to "man up" (or "woman up", whichever the case may be), the consequences can be fatal to a business. A high rate of employee turnover is the most common symptom of what I like to call SOIS, or Salon Owner Irresponsibility Syndrome. If you happen to suffer from this syndrome, you will find recruiting new stylists to be all but impossible (for they have heard all about you from their stylist friends and are giving your salon a wide berth, regardless of how much you offer to pay them). As a result, you will always be short staffed, which means the rest of your staff will be chronically over-booked and over-worked. The snowball of irresponsibility will come back to bite you in the rear end once these over-worked employees decide to abandon ship.

Unfortunately, owners who suffer from SOIS don't even realize they have a problem, because those afflicted with the syndrome naturally pass the blame on to someone else. You will never realize you have Salon Owner Irresponsibility Syndrome unless someone else tells you, and even if they told you, you still wouldn't listen. And, even if you did listen, you still wouldn't believe them.

So, how do you fix this problem? The short answer is, you can't. Those who are incapable of accepting responsibility have been that way their whole lives. However, sometimes hitting rock bottom serves as a wake-up call for the irresponsible owner. This is the primary reason for staff walkouts. While a staff walkout is sometimes effective, it should be used as a last resort, and only when there is enough evidence to prove that the owner is the problem. Then, and only then, should a staff organize, mutinize, and walk off the job.
And how do you obtain enough "evidence" for a conviction? That is where exit interviews come into play.

Usually performed by management, an exit interview is essentially an interview with employees who have quit or have been fired. It is a valuable tool, useful in finding out "what went wrong". If you are a manager planning a staff mutiny, your first step should be to make a list of all former employees and then ask them for confidential feedback about their experience working for your salon. Ask questions like: "What did you like least about working here?" Or, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how would rate (insert name here) as a business owner?"

If a dozen former employees respond with something along the lines of "I didn't like the choice of toilet paper in the restrooms" or "the microwave in the break room wasn't powerful enough", then maybe the owner isn't really the problem after all. On the other hand, if the majority of departed employees point the finger of blame at the owner, then it just may be time to organize a staff walkout. When the smoke clears and the dust settles you may find yourself out of a job, but, then again, a staff walkout just might be the wake-up call an irresponsible owner needs before he can mend his ways and learn to accept responsibility in the workplace.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Where are the updates?

In response to the numerous messages I've received about the lack of blog updates, I'd like to take a moment to update all of my subscribers and readers on the current state of affairs.

As many of you know, over the course of the past 10 years or so, I've published over 2,000 articles on beauty, haircare and skincare for a variety of online and print publications. Of these, approximately 1,800 articles were published on and Yahoo Voices. In early May, it was announced that Helium Publishing will be closing its doors; a few weeks later, Yahoo Voices made a similar announcement.

With a typical article running about 500 words, this means there are 900,000 words out there in cyberspace with my name attached to them; 900,000 words that need to be copied, pasted, and saved before they are deleted from Helium Publishing and Yahoo Voices. Copying and saving all these articles is a monumental task- 900,000 words is roughly the equivalent of the King James Bible and Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities... combined! Or Tolstoy's War and Peace and Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, combined.

All of these articles- more than a decade's worth of all things beauty- will be re-published on a new blog, The Beauty Bible, while this blog, Successful Salon Ownership, will continue unchanged. However, new posts will be scarce for a while as I continue collecting and archiving my previous work.

Thanks for your patience!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Few Words on How to be Successful

The secret to success is business is this: There is no secret.  Find out what your customers want and give it to them at a fair price while having a smile on your face.  That's all there is to it.  This strategy may sound overly simplistic, but it is how successful businesses have been operated for centuries.

The fact of the matter is that most problems have simple solutions.  Dieting? If you want to lose weight, burn more calories than you take in.  The economy?  Spend less money than you bring in.  Do you want to be respected?  The treat other people with respect.  It's as simple as that.  Most of the time, the common sense solution is the best solution.