A new salon owner shares her hard-earned wisdom to help make the process of striking out on your own a little easier.
I knew when I was16 years old that someday I would own my own salon _ it only took 25 years. When I finally made the decision to open my own place, I was thrilled, but stressed. I pressed forward to get it open. So why was I so stressed? This was supposed to be the most exciting time of my life.
Now that my salon is finally open, it's a dream come true, but opening your salon can be a harrowing experience. With good planning (including stopping, looking, and listening) and a little bit of luck, you can avoid many of the pitfalls that can stop that dream in its tracks. Here are nine things they DON"T tell you when opening a salon.
1. Not everyone will be as excited as you are about your new venture.
Deciding to brave this new uncharted territory may leave friends, family, and associates wondering what to make of your decision. Some may even try unconsciously to sabotage your efforts. They may wonder what will happen to your relationship if your become a business owner.
So, first, you need to surround yourself with what I have termed the "balcony people"_ those supporters who cheer you on, yelling "bravo" all the way. Negative thoughts will creep into mind at night and wake you in a panic without any help from your negative friends. Remaining positive and certain of your decision is very difficult, but it is crucial when following through with a project of this magnitude. Set up a hotline of believes who you can call for reassurance. I always felt much better after speaking to one of my “balcony people.” They believed in me, told me so, and worked hard to bring me back to a positive frame of mind.
Another way to battle the doubts is to develop a success wall. Pin notes and accolades from clients, friends, and family members on a wall where you can see them while working and immediately feel their support. Save every inspirational note and e-mail you receive_ you will need them all. Become a sponge for inspiration. I found inspiration in a Disney movie of all places. In “The Princess Diaries,”her father, the King, gives the young princess a note about courage. He writes,”Courage is not the absence of fear, but the understanding that some things are more important than the fear.” The dream of opening your own salon must be that important as well.
2. Be prepared to listen to the journey.
The journey will tell you the right path if you open yourself to the signals. When I pursued s salon several years ago, everything that could go wring did. I wanted my own salon so badly I disregarded many signs telling me the time was not right. I almost ignored advice that a business should feel right. Which there will always be struggles and challenges with a new venture, not flags need to be recognized and heeded.
I had several things hit all at once to give me the insight I needed to understand that right then the salon was not going to happen. First, while working on the salon renovations, the city wanted a $5,000 tap-in fee per sink before I could open. I had eight sinks. Second, my boss discovered I was opening a solon and fired me without warning, leaving me with nowhere to service my clientele for the next three months during the remodel. And lastly, I was offered a very good job that I couldn’t refuse. There events forced me to listen to the journey I was taking. It was a warning that this was not the right time to open my own salon.
You must have the courage to listen to what is happening and back down if the timing is not right. I listened, albeit reluctantly, and am gold I did. Opening my own salon has been a totally different journey this time.
3. There are easier and more cost-effective for everything — if you are willing to seek them out.
I learned in a sales position that everything is negotiable. From locations to equipment, know that some choices make better economic sense than others. In pursuing my location, I had two guidelines I was determined to adhere to. Obviously, I wanted a great location in a growing area. But, I also wanted to find a place that I could support totally by myself if necessary – leaving out places like expensive mall locations. I found a beautiful new office building that fit these requirements. I fell in love with the space. It was an upscale building in a great location with a beautiful courtyard and huge windows. The Price per square foot was higher than I wanted to pay, but the land-lord was willing to give me a “build-out” allowance of $18,000 right off the top of a five-year lease, bringing the price back down to my range.
This all was so attractive to me that I quit looking at any other locations and started lease negotiations. My consultant stopped me short, saying,”You can’t fall in love with the space, your will lose all leverage. It is a business decision and you must view it as any other piece of property,”she told me, encouraging me to continue looking and let the landlord know that I was.
So I did pursue other locations. I looked at retail strip centers, and other lower-end office building; I even looked at renovating a house. All the While I kept in touch with the leasing agent at the original office building. And every day that passed his numbers got better and better until I knew, finally, it was the right move.
Another area to examine for cost-cutting is equipment and furnishings. You can look from Ebay to message boards, Target to IKEA, and even your local newspaper. Scouring these sites may turn up just what you‘re looking for. Consider the benefits of purchasing well-made, used equipment and renovating it yourself or having a carpenter relaminate the pieces. I am lucky to have a husband who is a carpenter, but the cost of renovation can be cheaper than brand new furnishings, if you find the right pieces. It can be a great opportunity for awesome savings.
I incorporated my business on the internet for a nominal fee with the help of an accountant. Attorney fees are $500 and up for the same service. Attorneys are necessary to your business, just make sure you use then wisely.
4. Feeling overwhelmed and unsure is totally normal.
I have said to friends that I could write a book on how to open your own business and go crazy in three months or less. Be prepared to strap yourself into an emotional roller coaster and hang on. Your emotions will change on a daily—sometimes hourly—basis. There are so many options, so many decisions. And so many details to think about. You find your self gritting your teeth and pacing the floor as each decision has a domino effect on the next one down the road. It is an experience like no other, and you will sometimes want to pull the covers up over your head and go back to your old boring life. This is the time for your hotline! Call your best supporter so she can calm you down.
5. Determine a theme right from the start.
A theme for the salon environment and services will help you stay focused. If you build your mission statement around that theme, you will find that decisions become much easier to make. Things either fit or they don’t, plain and simple. My salon is called Natural Beauty Salon and its theme is focused on natural products and holistic services. I look for product lines with natural ingredients and design salon services to follow this theme.
6. You really do need to write a business plan.
The exercise of formulating and actually writing out your business identify helps to ease the panic that might otherwise take over .It is crucial to identifying your market and to determine a viable working model. It won’t hurt when securing a bank loan either. The more information you can provide them, including financial forecasts, the better. Susie Fields carder, an industry business consultant and founder of your beauty Network, recommends business software for this purpose. Business plan pro by Palo Alto Software has a “wizard “which guides you through the entire process. There is a sample salon business plan that is helpful as well. This exercise forces you to take a magnifying glass to your proposed business. It’s better to look before you leap than when it is too late. You’ll find there may be some surprises you had not planned on.
7. Work ON your business, as well as IN it.
Michael Gerber, author of the E-Myth Revisited and a business consultant, emphasizes the need for business acumen prior to and while owning a business in his book. You must continue to work on your business for it to grow and thrive, he says. Too many times the technician part of you makes the decision to open a business out of sheer enthusiasm, without first considering if you have the business skills required to run it. Business skills must be learned and developed over a period of many years.
More help is available today than at any other time in history. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has courses and seminars to decipher the small business code, but you still need to do your homework. Alethea Eatman, owner of Nail Techniques University in Cleveland, Ohio, teaches continuing education classes, including seminars on opening your own business.
I took advantage of an SBA microloan program, which has a maximum loan amount of $25,000. My application was my business plan and I had to work with a microloan liaison/representative. I did not go before the approval committee myself to sell my idea, but was represented by my liaison who also served as a committee member. What my representative failed to tell me was that 25% of my loan amount went to her for “processing fees” and that my monthly loan repayment amount would be more than my rent. Find out all the details of these helpful programs before you sign on. TSA (The Salon Association) offers seminars and forums throughout the year, providing outstanding business education directed solely to salon owners. Also consider using and industry consultant. Most consultants are worth every penny they charge. Usually they are former owners who can guide you away from mistakes.
8. You must continue, now more than ever, to network.
Your sales consultant can be your new best friend. When I worked for a manufacturer I was somewhat amused by the owners who used to run and hide when their sales consultants would walk in. After the amusement faded, I felt sorry for these owners. Developing a good working relationship with your sales consultant can be one of your best resources. Most are from the industry and many have made themselves so familiar with it that they become a second pair of eyes for your business.
“I can see what the owners may not see about their business,” says Jennifer Mc Mellon of Barnum Beauty Systems. Jennifer is a great example of a true sales consultant. She zeros in on the salon’s niche market and doesn’t waste time wit h things that won’t work, Jennifer regularly schedules owner lunches, gathering several owners together once a month to discuss some of their similar struggles, challenges, and triumphs. Building these relationships helps everyone succeed. Remember, it is in the best interest of the sales consultant that your salon businesses do well.
Also, it can be very beneficial to partner with salon owners in other cities or communities to build a support network. Seminars and industry shows provide opportunities to meet and partner with other owners. Gaining as much information as you can in preparing to open your business is key.
9. Don’t forget to take care of yourself.
The exhilaration of your business coming together can mask your mental and physical exhaustion. Allow yourself the breaks you need to recharge. I got great advice from a good friend and fellow business owner, Chelly Eric of Total Image, in Winthrop Harbor, III: “Take long, hot spa baths with candles essential oils, and dim lighting, often,” she said, “And don’t forget a good glass of wine.”