Motherhood Enriches Salon Career

The same TLC that working mother Cindy Fairchild uses to nurture her family life makes her employees and clients feel cared for as well.

Cindy Fairchild (far right) poses with Fancy Fingers N' Toes employees.
<p>Cindy Fairchild (far right) poses with Fancy Fingers N' Toes employees.</p>

Cindy Fairchild doesn’t do nails. She doesn’t do wraps, she doesn’t do fills, and she doesn’t do nail art. Fairchild is the owner of Fancy Fingers N’ Toes, a full-service nail salon in Tucson, Ariz., with a reputation for quality. But what does a 31-year old nail salon owner do if she doesn’t do nails? At work, she runs the salon, and at home she runs the household—and according to employees, customers, her husband, and her 1-year-old son, she runs a very tight ship.

Running a busy nail salon and tending to the needs of an infant would take a lot out of anybody, but Fairchild has always planned to do it this way. Determined to persevere as a businesswoman while becoming a new mother, Fairchild decided that when her baby came, she would continue to work, but instead of doing nails, she would focus her energy on administrative duties and keep her salon running smoothly. She concentrates her energy on keeping employee morale high, maintaining good PR with the salon’s vast clientele, and setting a good example for her technicians.

Having a baby didn’t disrupt or discontinue Fairchild’s career; in fact, she made sure that motherhood would enrich her work. A lot of women aren’t able to make the transition from technician to salon owner, Fairchild says, but she’s been determined ever since the irresistible idea to open a salon occurred to her.

In 1978, Fairchild started her career in cosmetology as a hairdresser, a job she says she didn’t like because communication with her clients was sometimes awkward and difficult. In 1981, Fairchild discovered nails—and fell in love. Talking to customers was so much easier, and the camaraderie between salon employees and customers was so enjoyable to watch and take part in that Fairchild didn’t really see it as work. But like most employees, Fairchild dreamed of opening a salon and running things her way.

In October 1987, Fairchild finally took the big step: She and a partner opened Fancy Fingers N’ Toes. (Her partner has since left, and Fairchild is the sole owner.) For three years, Fairchild concentrated on nails and nails alone, and then she got the news that would change her career—and her life: She was pregnant. “I decided it was the perfect time to make the transition from being behind the table to strictly being the owner and receptionist,” says Fairchild.

Fancy Fingers N’ Toes is a full-service nail salon that offers facials and waxing in addition to a line of clothes, earrings, accessories, and hair and nail care products. Though Fairchild initially added the retail area to the salon in an attempt to lower overhead, retail sales have dropped while overall sales have steadily risen since the salon opened four years ago. Fairchild attributes this ironic trade-off to the recession and to the special attention she pays to clients’ wants and needs. “I have a very strong service orientation in the salon, and it goes to prove that if you meet your clients’ needs, they won’t give up their nails, even in the hardest of times.”

Customer loyalty is an important asset at Fancy Fingers N’ Toes. When a client visits the salon for the first time, she is sent a thank you note to let her know that her business is appreciated, and also to open the lines of communication. Customers are strongly urged to give feedback about their experience at Fancy Fingers N’ Toes, so that any snags can be smoothed out immediately. Keeping everyone happy is at the top of Fairchild’s list of priorities.

The six nail technicians who currently work at Fancy Fingers N’ Toes enjoy the many benefits the company offers them; life and health insurance and paid vacations, even for part-timers. That must be, at least in part, why Fancy Fingers N’ Toes has always experienced such a low turnover rate. Fairchild thinks that turnover problems can be deadly to any business.

High turnover is hard on your customers,” she says. “They’re constantly trying to get used to somebody new, maybe trying to make them feel comfortable, maybe feeling a little threatened.” Because she realizes this is a potential problem, Fairchild does whatever she can to keep her employees happy on a day-to-day basis. Of course, having great employees doesn’t hurt, either.

“All our technicians work well together,” says Fairchild. “If a client is not comfortable with one technician, we strongly encourage her to try another until she finds the tech she works well with. Even though technically we all achieve good results, personalities work differently, and everybody has their own style of work.” Fairchild makes it a point to let employees know they’re as important as she is to the business’ success. She also tries to instill in them a feeling of challenge and change so that employees don’t ever feel like they’ve learned all they are going to learn.

“A lot of technicians and salon owners hit a certain level of success, and they become fairly complacent about not growing. I feel that, whether you’re a technician or an owner, if you become complacent you won’t stay successful.” To encourage staying on the cutting edge of new techniques, Fairchild makes periodic in-house training sessions mandatory for all employees and encourage attendance at seminars and trade shows.

Aside from good, honest business strategies and healthy employee and client relations, Fairchild thinks that there’s no big secret to running a successful business. “If people would pay attention to detail, they could make their business very successful,” says Fairchild. Citing Fancy Fingers N’ Toes as a shining example, she says her efforts have spurred a 35% growth of the company over three years. “It just keeps compounding every year, and this is during a time when everybody is bemoaning the state of the economy. I think that speaks for itself. It pays to listen to your customers. You may not see immediate gratification, and yet those people return consistently, and they’ll refer you business.”

Fairchild knows what she is talking about. Her employees, her customers, her husband, and her son all depend on her, and she’s got the perfect formula for keeping them all happy: one part hard work and nine parts TLC.

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