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 Helium.com 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.