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. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Should You Open a Home-Based Salon?

Choosing one’s home is an attractive idea for many hairstylists interested in owning their own business.  There are many distinct advantages in having a home-based salon, such as convenience, lack of rent, and other reduced expenses.  However, there are quite a few extremely important steps a hairstylist must take in order to make this dream a reality.

The first and most important consideration is compliance with state regulations.  In most states, hair salon businesses are regulated by a State Board of Cosmetology, whose duty is to ensure sanitary conditions as well as public safety.  These state boards are responsible for issuing a salon’s shop license, which differs from an individual’s cosmetology license.  While a state-issued cosmetology license is necessary to work as a stylist, a shop license is necessary in order to gain classification as a hair salon.

What are the risks of doing business without a shop license?  In most states, the owner of an unlicensed salon can be fined a significant amount of money.  In Pennsylvania, for instance, anyone in violation of state regulations can face civil penalties ranging from $500.00 (for operating an unlicensed salon) to $2,000.00 (for practicing cosmetology in an unethical manner).  Repeat offenders are also at risk of having their individual cosmetology license revoked.

The State Board of Cosmetology also requires salons to have the necessary amount of equipment, the proper tools, and adequate facilities.  Failure to adhere to these regulations may also result in stiff fines and civil penalties.  After all state regulations have been met, it will be necessary to follow all local business and zoning regulations.  Additionally, a salon which sells retail products will need to file for a federal tax identification number, also known as an EIN (Employer Identification Number).  An EIN is necessary if a salon wishes to hire employees or to collect sales tax.

For a home-based salon, obtaining the proper licenses is the most important step.  Once a home-based salon is legal, the day-to-day operations are quite simple.  Since most home-based salons do not hire additional employees, there is no need to worry about payroll, healthcare benefits, or worker’s compensation insurance.  The only major expense, aside from utilities, is the purchase of salon inventory.

While running a home-based salon may not be as glamorous or luxurious as operating an upscale boutique salon in Manhattan or Beverly Hills, it can be a good decision for a hairdresser with young children, since the stylist will never be too far away from home.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

How to Choose the Right Manager for Your Business

Just as every coach has his or her own method of leading a sports team, every manager has his or her own style of taking care of business within the salon.  There is no "ideal" style of management, just as there is no ideal style of coaching a football, baseball, or hockey team.

In the world of sports, a championship season is the result of having the right coach and the right combination of players at the right time.  It's all about chemistry.  Bill Belichick- arguably the greatest football coach of the modern era- has led the New England Patriots to 3 Super Bowl victories as head coach; yet, during his five year stint as coach of the Cleveland Browns, he had but one winning season and finished his stint with a 36-44 record.  In 1997, the Detroit Red Wings- one of the most storied franchises in NHL history- won its first Stanley Cup since 1955 with Scotty Bowman as coach.  With Bowman at the helm, the team went on to win the Stanley Cup in 1998 and 2002.

The Right Person at the Right Time

The reason why Belichick is so much more successful in New England than he was in Cleveland has absolutely nothing to do with the talent level of the players (his Browns included such stars as Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testaverde, and Pepper Johnson).  The reason who he is so successful in New England is because he is the right man for the job, he has the right combinations of players, and came along at the right time.  The same applies to Scotty Bowman, who won Stanley Cups as coach of the Red Wings, Canadiens, and Penguins, but could not lead his Buffalo Sabres to a championship in spite of chalking up six consecutive winning seasons.  Bowman is perhaps hockey's greatest head coach, but even he could not get the job done in Buffalo.  He just wasn't the right coach with the right combination of players at the right time.

The sports world is full of great coaches who have never won championships, and it is equally filled with mediocre coaches who have won many championships.  However, upon close examination of every championship team in every sport, one thing becomes apparent: Championships aren't won by having the best coach or the best players, but by having the right coach and the right players.  Not every coach who gives great inspirational pep talks becomes Vince Lombardi, and not every every coach who methodically dissects the weaknesses of the opposition becomes Bill Belichick.

How to Choose the Right Manager for Your Business

As a salon owner, it is imperative that the right person is chosen to lead the team as the manager, and this doesn't always mean the best person.  Your duty isn't necessarily to find the best qualified candidate for the job or the most experienced or the most accomplished; your duty is to find someone whose management style will lead your team to a championship.

The first step toward this goal is to take the time to closely observe and study your team of stylists and employees.  What is it that they lack?  What skills, traits, and characteristics need to be improved for the betterment of your business?  Your chosen leader should be someone who has the ability to meet the particular needs of your business at that particular moment.  If your team lacks discipline, then it is a bad idea to install a manager who has trouble showing up for work on time and who tends to run late for appointments.  Even if this employee is an amazingly gifted stylist and has a terrific head for business, this is not the right person for the job.  Likewise, if your team has strong technical skills but lacks passion, you are better off with a manager who is exuberant and has a fiery personality than you are with a manager who is passive but can rattle off the names of every ingredient in a bottle of shampoo.

It's All About the Chemistry

In essence, chemistry is a matter of reactions.  When certain elements and compounds are mixed together, you get a chemical reaction.  Effective management is also a matter of reactions.  The right manager has the ability to determine which reactions need to happen in order for your business to be successful.  If the desired "reaction" is increased productivity from stylists, an effective manager will find ways to increase efficiency while eliminating or reducing idleness.  If the desired reaction is an improvement in the staff's technical skills, an effective manager can produce this reaction by scheduling in-salon education or advanced training.

Great managers, like great coaches, are adept at identifying which aspects of the game need improvement and then finding ways to make the necessary adjustments.  This is how championships are won, not just in the sporting arena, but in the business arena as well.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Maximizing results from social media

A few years ago I wrote an article for a salon industry publication on the importance of social networking, which proved to be a very popular article.  So popular, in fact, that my inbox was flooded with questions from salon owners, who wanted to know why their social media efforts were falling short.  Most of these emails could be summed up thusly:  I'm already on Facebook and Twitter but I'm not getting results.  What am I doing wrong?

This, of course, is a difficult question to answer, since there are far more ways of doing something incorrectly than there are for doing something correctly.  Unfortunately, while my aforementioned article was chock full of statistics and figures intended to illustrate the importance of social media, I neglected to explain how to properly use social media in terms of salon marketing and promotion.  In essence, the article only served to illustrate what we all know already: social networking is important.  So now, two years later, I've finally decided to give specific directions on how to maximize results from your social networking efforts.

You see, social networking is not a solution to a problem; it is merely a tool.  As we all know, tools only get the job done when they are used correctly.  Just as it is ridiculous to try to fix a leaky faucet by whacking it with a hammer, it is equally ridiculous to try to turn potential customers into repeat customers through the improper usage of social media.  Here are five ways you can use these tools effectively in order to promote your salon.

1. Engaging your audience isn't the same as selling to your audience.  Know the difference.

Take away the social aspect of social networking, and all you're left with is a commercial.  Think about your own personal (non-business) Facebook profile.  Imagine that you have a Facebook friend who constantly clutters up your newsfeed with posts like: "Pepsi is on sale at Walmart this week!  Get a 2-liter bottle for just fifty cents!" or "Try Hoover's new vacuum cleaner and experience its amazing cyclonic action!" or "Keep your breath minty fresh with Altoids!"  Chances are, you would unfriend this annoying person pretty darn quickly.  Now, ask yourself... aren't you doing the exact same thing with your salon's Facebook profile?

The key to getting results with social media is, well, to be social.  Stop trying to "sell" to your audience.  Instead, focus on building and strengthening relationships by engaging your audience on a personal level.  Post photos of a celebrity's new haircolor and ask your audience what they think of it.  When your audience comments on you post, be sure to comment back.  This is called having a conversation and, believe it or not, it goes a long way in winning over potential clients.

2. It's called social media- not anti-social media. 

There's a reason why some salons of hundreds of Twitter followers and others have only a handful.  Chances are, salons with a large Twitter following utilize the service on a regular basis, while other salons may post only the occasional tweet.  Some of you may have even signed up on Twitter years ago but haven't sent a single tweet.  Here's a nugget of business wisdom:  If you want to be successful, emulate the habits and behaviors of others who are already successful.  Make a personal Twitter account and follow the top salons in your area.  When they tweet, then you should tweet from your salon account.  If they tweet their Valentine's Day specials on January 3rd, then you should do the same.  If they tweet three times a week, then you should tweet three times a week.  Sure, many of us dream of being leaders, but sometimes it's not a bad idea to be a copycat.  We all want to be winners, but finishing in second place is a whole helluva lot better than coming in last, especially when you have your own horse in the race.

3. Link it all together.

I've seen this happen so many times I've lost count: Your salon has a website, but the website's URL isn't printed on your business cards.  Your salon also has a Facebook page, but there's no link to your Facebook page anywhere on your website.  Your salon has brochures, but your brochures do not mention your website's URL or your Facebook page.

Always, always, always make sure that your salon website's URL is visible on all marketing materials, from business cards to newspaper ads to email signatures.  And be sure to include "Like us on Facebook" or "Follow us on Twitter" where applicable.

4. Stay Organized

Remembering your log-in info for every social media site can be a real pain in the behind.  One site requires you to have a password of at least 5 characters with at least one number.  Another site demands 8 characters and a combination of numbers and symbols, while still another site wants a password with no less than 6 characters consisting of a combination of both upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and non-numerical symbols.  As the need for security increases, websites require increasingly complex password combinations.  At this rate, it won't be long before you'll need to devise a password with a minimum of 20 characters, with at least 3 numbers, 4 upper-case letters, and no less than one of those funny symbols that Germans use over the letter "u", just for good measure.

Yes, if you're like most people, you've got a handful of different passwords and have signed up for a handful of websites for which you've forgotten your username and/or the email address you used to sign up with.  The easy solution is to change all of your passwords to one single password that meets every site's security standards.  Unfortunately, all it takes is for one shady character to obtain this password, and before you know it, some jerk in Akron has bought a Toyota with your credit card and large sums of money have been transferred out of you bank account and into the account of some prince in Nigeria.  Make life easy by keeping all of your log-in information for various websites written down in a notebook and keeping that notebook in a secure location.

5. Keep it simple, and don't go overboard.

A lot of salon owners have a habit of going overboard with their social media efforts, especially at times when business is slow.  At 9:30am, you may post on Facebook: "Book a haircut today and get 10% off!".  After an hour passes without any phone calls, you decide to post: "Book a color appointment and get 15% off!"  By noon, you find yourself tweeting: "Today only, 50% off all perms!".  By 2 o'clock you're offering to throw in a free trim with any highlight service and by 4 o'clock you're offering 15% off all retail products when a client comes in for her 50% off perm or 10% off haircut... unless the client gets highlights, of course, in which case the trim is free (but if she wants a blowout, she'll still have to pay extra).

Yes, I'm exaggerating, but not by much.  The point is simply this: Don't confuse your clients.  Pick one promotion and stick with it.  Don't go changing horses midstream.

By following these five guidelines, you can not only expect to see immediate results, but you'll be spending more time with clients and less time in front of your computer.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Myths About Rebooking

Peruse the pages of any magazine geared toward the salon industry and you're bound to come across some blowhard business guru extolling the importance of rebooking.  Rebookings are the life blood of a salon, they state, in bold capital letters.  Rebookings are the single most important things in the universe and, without them, your salon will go belly up faster than a goldfish won at the county fair.  If your clients don't rebook, the buiness gurus would have you believe, then you should just close your garage door, turn on your car's engine, and breathe deeply until the lights go out.  Rebook.  Rebook.  Rebook.

Most salon owners have heard the rebooking mantra loud and clear.  Some owners require stylists to meet a certain rebooking percentage in order to be promoted to the next level.  Some owners might even fire a stylist if his or her rebooking percentage is too low for too long a period of time.  But, is rebooking as critical as the so-called beauty industry insiders would have you believe?  The answer, perhaps surprisingly, is no.

Don't get me wrong- every client should be encouraged to rebook their next salon appointment, no question about it.  However, the experts who claim that a low rebooking percentage is the "kiss of death" for a salon are not only doing a disservice to business owners, they also fail to comprehend basic client psychology.

Theoretically, even a salon that rebooks 0% of its clients can thrive- as long as the client keeps coming back, of course.  All too often, rebooking rates are mistaken for client retention rates.  Client retention is what matters, not rebooking percentages.  If you don't believe me, take a look at any barber shop.  Barbers don't give a hoot about rebooking, yet there are plenty of barber shops that have been in business for thirty, forty, fifty years or more.  How many hair salons can make the same claim?

When it comes to client psychology, salon owners need to understand that there are two types of clients- those who are appointment-oriented, and those who are not.  Clients who are older, career-oriented professionals love to rebook, because schedules rule every aspect of their lives.  Parents also love rebooking, for the same reason.  Younger clients and single clients, on the other hand, tend not to be very schedule-oriented.  The same applies to the average man, who doesn't want to make an appointment for a fifteen minute trim- he simply wants to stop in when he has the time.

What happens when too many of these clients are goaded into rebooking weeks in advance?  Your no-show rate will go through the roof, thanks to missed appointments.  Even giving clients a confirmation call won't guarantee that they will show up for their scheduled appointment.  Too many of these no-shows and last minute cancellations will leave gaping holes in your appointment book, and not enough time to fill them.

The moral of the story is this.  Don't fall for the hype that a salon must have a high rebooking percentage in order to survive.  All that matters, in the long run, is client retention.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

How to Use Giveaways Effectively

There is a famous business adage, known as the "Rule of Seven", which states that a person must see an advertisement seven times before becoming a customer.  Throughout history, many business experts have re-written this rule, which is technically known as "effective frequency".  In advertising, effective frequency is the number of times a person must be exposed to an ad before a decision is made. 

As early as the 19th century, studies have been conducted in order to determine this magic number.  Some sources, such as such as Business Dictionary, claim that this magic number is three.  In 1885, a British businessman named Thomas Smith penned a guide entitled "Successful Advertising" which stated that the magic number was twenty. 

It doesn't matter whose theory of effective frequency is correct, because the underlying truth is the same: A potential customer must be exposed to a company's name and message several times.  Savvy business owners accomplish this task by using giveaways, which ensures that a company or business is remembered.  These giveaway items (known as "premiums") are generally cheap and easy to produce, and can include everything from mugs and refrigerator magnets to calendars and ballpoint pens.  If a company's name or slogan can be printed on an item, that item has probably been used, at one time or another, as a giveaway or premium.

In order to use giveaways effectively, the most important rule is to choose an item which will be in plain sight of the customer on a regular basis.  In decades past, some of the most popular promotional items handed out to customers were wall calendars and books of matches.  However, as times have changed, these types of items have become largely ineffective.  Cellphones and electronic organizers have made wall calendars obsolete, and matches have been replaced by cigarette lighters.

Today, business owners must find new items to emblazon with their company's message.  Computer mousepads, for instance, are a popular item because many customers use computers on a daily basis.  Mousepads have another benefit- they are rarely replaced.  Few people wake up in the morning and say to themselves, "I think I'm going to go shopping for a new mousepad today."  A computer mousepad bearing a company's name and logo will be seen hundreds, if not thousands, of times before it is replaced.

Cellphone and laptop "skins" can be used the same way, since personalized skins and protective cases have become a hot must-have item in recent years.  There are several companies which manufacture personalized skins for electronic devices.  In 2010, Nokia conducted a survey which found that the average person looks at his or her cellphone a whopping 150 times per day.  If a company wishes to be remembered, giveaway items related to personal handheld electronic devices will be much more effective than wall calendars and matchbooks.

Of course, many of the tried-and-true giveaway items are still effective promotional tools and should not be ignored.  After all, people still need coffee mugs, refrigerator magnets, and ballpoint pens.