Business Management

Not (Just) Another Meeting

Turn time wasters into productive sessions.

Staff meetings are becoming as popular among successful nail salons as they are among large corporations, and for good reason. In the busy climate of most salons, it’s difficult for all employees to get together informally at one time. Somebody always has a client, or a phone is ringing, or something is happening to distract somebody. Add that to the fact that in many salons schedules vary from employee to employee, and it becomes apparent that it’s difficult to ensure that everyone receives information.

Communication is vital, however. Unless everybody in the salon is aware of what’s going on, it’s difficult to assure uniform quality of service.

Consider, for example, an embarrassing incident that could occur as a result of poor communication. One day, the receptionist calls in sick and Janet, a part-time nail technician, is asked to fill in for the afternoon. Unbeknownst to Janet, it is the first day of the Bring a Friend for Half-Price promotion on pedicures.

Two clients come to the reception desk after their pedicures to settle their bills. Janet takes their service tickets, which just say “pedicure” and rings them up at the regular price. The women tell Janet that the price is not what they were quoted. Janet, unaware of the special promotion, assures them there must have been a misunderstanding, because she is charging the correct price. By the time Janet manages to contact the technician who performed the services, the clients are angry and resentful.

It’s virtually impossible to inform every employee in a large salon about all details of a promotion or other special project unless staff meetings are held. A meeting gives the salon owner or manager access to the entire staff at once. Not only is everybody made aware of what is going on, but any questions and concerns can be addressed at that time.

All too often, however, regularly scheduled staff meetings are considered a waste of time. Unfortunately, they often are a waste of time, due to lack of planning and preparation.


Every staff meeting should have a sated goal---be it to explain a new promotion, announce company changes, plan an advertising campaign, or set sales goals for the week. Employees should be made aware of the meeting’s goal ahead of time, along with what is expected of them so they too can be prepared to contribute.

For example, if you want to meet with your staff to address lagging retail sales, let the staff know ahead of time and ask them to come prepared with ideas, both for why sales have slowed and for how to increase sales.

In order to employees to contribute ideas to the meeting, it is up to management to make them comfortable doing so. I once worked for a boss who gave lip service to the idea of group participation. She encouraged all her employees to speak up, to offer their opinions, to make whatever suggestions they could think of. Most people took her at her word. Although she solicited input from us, most suggestions were met with “That’ll never work,” or even worse. “That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.” Needless to say, before long only new employees were offering input at meetings.

How does a manager make her employees feel comfortable speaking up at meetings? By doing everything in her power to keep the meeting from feeling intimidating. Think about the physical setting. When you hold a staff meeting, do you have all your employees sit around a long table with you at the head of the table? That sitting arrangement singles you out as the one who will issue decrees, the one who is in charge. You don’t want your staff to think of you as issuing decrees, and you don’t need to be singled out as the one in charge. You are in charge. You are the manager and you called the meeting. Everybody knows that, and nobody’s going to forget it just because you give up the seat of power.

Depending on the size of your staff, as well as the design of your salon, you may able to meet in the break room, sitting informally around the table there. Or, since meetings should be held when the salon is closed, how about gathering in your waiting area, where everyone can make themselves comfortable on the couches and chairs you provide for your clients?

Once you’ve decided where to hold your staff meetings, you need to determine when to hold them. Some salon owners find it best to hold meetings on a day when the salon is closed. However, this can get in the way of employees’ personal lives. If your salon is closed on Mondays, it is also one of your staff’s days off. If they’re required to attend a meeting, it cuts into their personal time and they’re likely to resent it.

Perhaps an alternative is to hold the staff meeting early in the morning, before the salon opens. Not only does this make it easier for everybody to be there with a minimal schedule disruption, it also provides a built-in deadline. If the staff meeting is at 8:30 a.m. and the salon opens at 10:00 a.m., everybody knows the meeting must be limited to about an hour. This knowledge will help keep everybody focused on the business at hand. Another idea is to hold the meeting after hours.


It’s important that you, as chair of the meeting, keep things focused. It’s all too easy, especially in a brainstorming session, for people to digress from the original subject. If the meeting is called to address slumping retail sales, all it takes is for one technician to suggest that general attendance is also on the decline and the entire focus of the meeting can be changed. Suddenly, rather than discussing new sales techniques, everybody’s talking about their less-than-full appointment books. Naturally, this is another subject that needs to be addressed, but not necessarily at this particular meeting. It is your responsibility to say, “Yes, attendance has been low for the past couple of weeks, which is a good topic to discuss at our next meeting. For now, however, let’s continue to try to find a way out of the retail slump.

Everybody’s participation should be encouraged. Once a lot of ideas are available for consideration, they can be more fully developed and modified. Good ideas can evolve into great ideas after everyone has a chance to provide input.

According to Dale Carnegie, author of “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” answering the following four questions will make your meetings far more effective:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. What are the causes of the problem?
  3. What are the possible solutions?
  4. What is the best solution?

In our example, the answer to the first question is that retail sales are not as high as they should be. This established in your memo to your employees about the meeting. In this memo, ask them to answer questions two and three---what do they think the causes of the problem are and what solutions do they suggest? When you meet, all the possible causes and solutions can be reviewed and the best possible solutions can be determined.

One vital aspect of this problem-solving process is that everybody’s ideas be taken seriously and weighed evenly. One of the best ways to do this is to start the meeting by restating the problem then launching into a general brainstorming session. Once all ideas are out in the open for consideration, everybody can work together to determine what will work best.

Assign somebody to be “scribe” for your meeting. You may have the receptionist or another employee fulfil this role at every meeting, or you may ask a different employee to do it each time. Whichever way you handle it, this person’s job will be to write down the problem and all the possible causes and solutions as they are suggested. Of course, the scribe is entitled to equal time and participation as well.


In a brainstorming session, no idea should be discounted. No matter how off the wall it sounds, write everything down. It is the chair’s responsibility to ensure that no idea is met with “That’ll never work,” “No, I think we should do this instead,” or even “Great idea! Let’s go for it!” This is not the time for discussion---that comes later. It helps to put a time limit on the brainstorming session. If everybody has come prepared with possible causes and solutions, 15 minutes should be sufficient for getting all ideas down.

Encourage everybody to participate. If one employee seems reluctant to say anything, the chair may ask that person directly if she has anything to add, but should not press the point Nor is it a good idea to go around the room and expect a contribution from each person. Ideally, everybody will volunteer information, but putting people on the spot is not effective in directing positive meetings.

Once all the possible causes and solutions have been written down, they can be evaluated one by one. Chances are there will be quite a bit of overlap. Overlapping or repeated suggestions can be weeded out. Then each suggestion can go up for group discussion.

Although at this stage some ideas will be rejected, the discussion should focus on the positive rather than the negative. Don’t let anyone get involved in a lengthy discussion on why a certain suggestion won’t work; instead, focus on what will work. Remember, the staff was hired because they are talented and can contribute to the team effort. Therefore, everybody’s ideas have merit, even if the group consensus is that a particular idea won’t work. Nobody should ever leave a staff meeting feeling unmotivated or devalued because her idea wasn’t chosen. For the same reason, make sure that nobody is interrupted and that everyone gets a chance to speak. Often, one person will get excited at a meeting and cut somebody else off in her eagerness to contribute. This enthusiasm is commendable, but needs to be restrained so everyone gets a chance to speak.

Frequently, the solution you arrive at will actually be a combination of two or more possible solutions. This is the beauty of brainstorming. One idea can “build” on another, creating an even better idea.

For example, we’ve identified the problem as lagging retail sales. Under possible causes, our scribe has written the following:

  1. Prices too high.
  2. Quality of products too low.
  3. Not enough promotion.
  4. Retail display not attractive.
  5. Technicians not actively selling.

        Under possible solutions, she has written:

  1. Reduce prices.
  2. Re-evaluate products offered for retail.
  3. Spend more money on advertising and promotion.
  4. Rethink retail display area.
  5. Have all technicians take a sales course.
  6. Offer bonus incentives for retail sales.
  7. Set a retail goal for each technician.
  8. Offer a prize for the technician who sells the most in a given period.

First of all, each possible cause should be backed up with evidence. If a technician feels the salon is selling retail products of interior quality, where is she getting that idea?

So, let’s say it’s been established that some of the retail products need to be re-evaluated, but our technicians need some sales support as well. Part of the problem may be solved when the technicians feel they can stand behind the products they sell. And, an incentive or bonus program may help as well.

If all these ideas are agreed upon, you have a two-part cause and a three-part solution. And, since everybody was involved in the decision-making process, everybody is more likely to work on implementing the solution.

Once staff members realize that you value what they have to offer and need their input to make the salon successful, they will most likely be eager to participate. And an enthusiastic, happy staff working together for the benefit of the entire company is the most valuable asset any company can have---Anna Morgan.

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