Illustration by Lucie Crovatto
Editor’s note: Sometimes we get questions from readers in need that aren’t exactly technical questions, but they’re not exactly business questions, either. For those nail techs dealing with difficult issues involving self-esteem, office politics, work relationships, and the like, we aim to offer guidance and perspective.
This month, we turn to nail technician Karen Hodges for advice. Hodges, who works at Salon Key West in Key West, Fla., holds a bachelor’s degree in business and comes to the nail industry after 18 years in business and finance.
I have owned my own salon for almost four years. During this time, I’ve had five booth renters and only one has lasted close to a year. I try to give them clients — that’s easy. But they don’t understand that keeping the client is up to them. If they can’t build up a clientele, they get stressed and leave.
I feel that I have done everything in my power to assist them. I have now decided that I don’t want anyone to work with me anymore. Do I give up or do I try again?
Dear Loner Owner: First, I’m wondering why you are “giving” them clients. Just be sure you’re clear about your role as a salon owner in this situation: You are the landlord and not the employer. You need a good contract spelling out the relationship between you and your renters. Make it clear, in writing, that they are running small businesses within your business. As small business owners, they should be clear they not only have the freedom to run their own businesses as they see fit, within the guidelines you set forth as their landlord, but they also have the responsibilities other business owners have for the various aspects of their business.
Then, if you really want a salon full of flourishing colleagues, help them with things like inventory control, target marketing, and proper advertising and promotions of their services. Teach them these things in weekly training meetings that can eventually be replaced by monthly clearing-the-air and brainstorming meetings.
The Eternal Question
What do you reply to a client who says, “The price is lower at that other salon?”
Dear Speechless: The best way to reply to this type of comment is to demonstrate the value you are providing, rather than playing down another technician or salon. Simply tell the client about your superior products, extensive training, and ongoing education. Explain your sanitation procedures and care for their health and safety. This is, of course, assuming you’re providing these things for your clients!
As you set up your price structure, you need to decide what level of services you are going to provide and what type of client you hope to attract, and then set your prices accordingly. Keep in mind that you will not appeal to all levels of the market, and don’t worry about that. Be yourself and stay true to this “marketing strategy” and then you will attract the clients you want to work with. Those who don’t appreciate what you can give them will simply move along, leaving room for someone else who will appreciate you.
I have a client who married a real creep who treats her badly and takes advantage of her. I love my client, but she’s got the self-esteem of a fern. It’s so hard to hear her putting herself down for an hour every other week. She puts up with this loser because she is convinced that this is the best she can do.
She knows exactly how I feel about her situation and what I think she ought to do about it, but she just sits there and tells me that she wishes she was more like me. I know I can’t change her, but how do I deal with her lack of confidence in a way that doesn’t make me want to jump off a bridge?
Dear Fern Friend: First of all, unless you are a trained counselor, you may want to limit your input to being a supportive listener. My thinking on this is you should be a sounding board who provides a safe place for your clients to vent. You can be sure they have plenty of people in their lives who will tell them what to do: their girlfriends, their mothers, their coworkers, and certainly their spouses will tell them what to do. For situations like this, you could keep information on hand about some of the support agencies and other resources in your area, but be careful about dispensing “pop psychology.”