Building a successful salon business is a challenge for any stylist looking for something more out of their profession. Maximize your odds of success by understanding the biggest mistakes salon owners make and how you can avoid them.
1. Becoming the “Star” of your salon
As stylists, we all want to be the “Star” of our salon. We want our clients to feel privileged to be one of the owner’s clients. This, we tend to feel, makes us command a certain respect and admiration from clients and employees alike. This makes us feel personally valuable. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
The real indication of a valuable business is when your salon runs smooth when you’re not there. This is the point at which you can go on vacation and still make money. At this stage, the hard work you have put in to start and develop your salon begins to pay off. More importantly, when it’s time to sell your business, the buyer will intuitively know that when you walk away, all of the salon’s clients aren’t going with you. The buyer will actually see something of value, truly worth paying for. That “thing of value” will be sustainable cash flow. This will never be the case if you insist on making yourself the star.
2. Working in your business rather than on your business
As a salon owner, whether you like it or not, you have transcended from being an artist to being an entrepreneur. This step has inevitably changed your role. Now, you must dedicate at least a great portion of your workday to building a business. No matter how much you like your time behind the chair, it is now necessary for you to work on different problems and only reward yourself with some time with clients.
What do you work on? For starters, building a great staff. So many salon owners decide to invest in great space only to “rent booths.” In many cases, they are missing the big picture. In a “booth renter” salon, the salon is only as valuable as the renter’s payments and has little to no additional upside. On the other hand, salon owners that hire stylists and create great training and mentoring programs are investing in human capital, which almost always pay off. Sure, there will be stylists who build up clientele on your back and then leave to rent a booth in the salon down the street. It’s inevitable, but when you focus on building a great team that thrives in an environment where they can earn a good living, have fun at work, and enjoys a fulfilling creative outlet, then the great stylists will be with you for a very long time. The best part is, so will their friends, families, neighbors, and loyal clientele they pick up along the way.
Take your time interviewing and hire slow, but be willing to fire fast. Focus as much time and energy on culture, shared vision, and teamwork as you do on your salon’s image. Not only will your employees notice, but so will your clients.
3. Not having a marketing strategy or not measuring marketing returns
Gone were the days when you can simply find a good “high traffic” spot, stick your sign on the door, and wait for the clients to roll in. In today’s competitive salon environment, you have to go in with a solid marketing strategy.
- Make sure you have a website and be sure your website is registered in Google+ Local, Yahoo Local, Yelp, and YP.com. This is essential and is the modern day phone book.
- Build up a referral network with “Invite a Friend Nights,” free product or services for those who make referrals, and local business employee discounts.
- Attend community events and talk to everyone about your salon. There is no shame in being proud of what you do, and if you offer great service, people want to hear about it.
- Advertise in your local paper.
- Sponsor high school or community college plays by doing hair for the actors.
- Take advantage of social media. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter are the new age print ads, so make sure your business is visible on these platforms.
Whatever you do, have a plan and get out there and do it. Never rely on people just finding you, it will rarely happen that way.
But for any marketing strategy to be effective, it has to be executed. For any marketing strategy to be sustainable, it has to be measured and evaluated. Make sure you ask every client how they heard about you. Keep track and write it down. Spend more time and money on those things that bring you more customers. Calculate a cost-per-new-client (CPNC) based on how much time and money you spent on each marketing activity and how many clients you received directly from it. Do more of activities that have a lower CPNC than others. In the long run, you’ll have a marketing machine that runs as efficiently as possible bringing you a constant stream of new clients at the lowest cost possible.
4. Picking the wrong product lines to carry
So many stylists get starry-eyed by all of the fashion and glamour of big beauty brands. After all, we are in the fashion industry, aren’t we? Isn’t the greatest achievement of any stylist to be cited at a fashion show or be on the cover of big magazines? The answer is an unequivocal “no.”
Here is a little-known secret that is easy for you to test. The secret is that, unless you’re using a small boutique niche brand, none of your clients know what hair color you use on their heads. Want to test it? Pick up the phone right now and dial 5 of them at random and ask them. It will be shocking if 4 of them have guesses that are even close. All professional hair colors are the same to them. They only care about the results. This means that what they are really paying for is the colorist’s skills.
Here is another little-known secret: You lose credibility with your clients every time they see the same products you sell in your salon being sold at Target, Walmart, or CVS for half the price. They may have heard all of the stories that your Sales Rep has told you about them not being the same product and not being “guaranteed” unless they are sold from a salon. But do you think they believe that? Everyone in the salon industry with any knowledge of business knows that only product manufacturers can get shelf space directly at Target, WalMart, or any big retailer. Do you question whether your “salon exclusive” products are sold in retail stores for half of what you sell them for? Simply go to Google and search for them. If they are listed on Target, Amazon, WalMart, CVS, or Walgreens, chances are they’re the same products. You’ll be shocked to find Aveda, Pureology, Wella, and Redken, as well as so many others, are sold in stores everywhere.
Find a brand that is unique to your salon and is professional only. Do your research online before you commit. Identify a niche line that appeals to growing trends of people. We, obviously, recommend Organic Way. If you do choose Organic Way, test out how much we mean to your clients. Five months after converting to us, phone 5 of your clients at random and ask them what color you use on their heads. It will be shocking if at least 4 of them don’t know.
5. Not understanding the business that you are REALLY in
It’s not just styling hair, applying nails, make-up, or skin care. The business you’re really in is making clients feel good about themselves. Many clients, especially the affluent ones, can pay for plastic surgery and drugs to make themselves look young and beautiful. This, however, will make them feel unhealthy or unnatural. For many women today, beauty is not just about looking good, but it is about “feeling” good about how they look. Confidence, self-esteem, wellness, and pride make up the glow of a truly beautiful woman, and the moment you understand how to create this is the moment you have truly evolved into something greater than a beauty professional.
This starts by having great products. Very few women can feel good about looking beautiful unless they know that their well-being is intact. Employ organic, natural, and nourishing products in your salon to instill that feeling of overall wellness and holistic beauty. Get the ammonia and formaldehyde fumes out of your environment. Don’t use products that have been tested on animals or loaded with animal by-products. Cleanse the soul as well as the scalp. Create beauty in your clients’ image while nourishing their hair.
Once you master the art of creating positive emotion along with beauty, your salon will be a magical place cherished by your clients.