You could be making your first tentative steps into the beauty industry, or your book may be so filled with penciled-in names there’s no white space. Either way, if you’re uncertain what your next steps should be, it may be time to turn to a consultant.
Recently, Laura Adamski, owner of Amazing Face in Fort Myers, Fla., participated in a phone conference on the topic of how to handle no-shows. “It was the most informative thing I had ever done,” she says. The speaker was consultant Lisa Arnold of Spa and Salon Solutions. After listening to that phone conversation, Adamski hired Arnold to be her business coach. “One hour with Lisa gave me more information than I had learned by trial and error in three years,” she says.
While many industries see the need to hire consultants, it’s still a fairly new concept in the nail business. The term consultant or coach may cause you to visualize your bank balance depleting, while the benefits might be less clear. What is the purpose of a consultant? What are the costs? Who is in the position to hire one?
Why Hire a Coach
There are many different services offered by beauty industry consulting groups, but sifted down to the common denominator, they all offer one basic thing: business-building tools. A tech may create the most beautiful set of nails. She may be able to fill her book to the point where she has a waiting list. She may even expand her salon and hire, or rent to, other techs. But offering a great service and building a loyal clientele is only part of the story, and for many techs, the rest of the story is a gray cloud of confusion.
The idea of charting sales receipts, dealing with staffing issues, and producing a marketing campaign is so foreign it appears unachievable or unnecessary. Worse, once techs are in the position of having a full clientele, they usually work a 10-hour day and reach a plateau in their career. Techs who have achieved this level of success may think there is no place to go, leaving them feeling stagnant, discouraged, and bored. Sometimes you have to step away and get outside help. A salon consultant (or coach) can be exactly what you need to move forward.
Jill Wilson of Snips SpaSalon in Bloomington, Minn., remembers those days. “I couldn’t take referrals, I couldn’t cut my time,” she recalls. It appeared she had reached her financial ceiling. Instead, Wilson found a consultant and made a one-year commitment to the KRS Consulting Group. Now, five years later, Wilson recently closed a nine-hour day where her personal sales and services totaled more than $900.
Wilson said she was able to generate this level of income by following a “level system” set up by KRS. Each level gave her specific goals to achieve, and each level had to be maintained for three months. When she reached the final level, she was able to get an associate. This associate acts as a second set of hands for Wilson, which allows her to say yes to add-on services like paraffin treatments and pedicures. Not only has the level system allowed Wilson to increase her receipts for the day, it also benefits the assistant. She is hired into the salon and immediately introduced to a 10-year career track. “It’s very motivating,” says Wilson. “You are given goals, and when you hit all your goals, you move up a level.”
Maybe your book isn’t full, in which case the coach might be hired to build your business. Karen Latta, owner of The White Rose Day Spa in Vestal, N.Y., says she hired Lisa Arnold when her spa first opened. “I found her to be very helpful,” says Latta. “I owned my own booth, so you think you know everything, but you don’t.” Arnold taught Latta about salon tracking, how to set up her pay scale, how to handle staff problems, and how to retain clients to the salon. “She helped us avoid serious mistakes that would be difficult or impossible to correct later,” says Latta.
What Do You Want?
What’s the commitment? Maybe the better question is: What’s your goal?
Would you like daily/weekly/monthly/yearly goals set for you with accountability each month, or do you prefer to listen to the experience of others and pick and choose what you want to apply? Do you like the idea of a consultant setting yearly goals for you, and letting you arrive there by your own method, or would you prefer to have a coach by your side for that year?
Your needs will determine the length of your relationship much more than the consultant forcing you to sign a contract that obligates you to a set time. Most will suggest a three-month commitment, which gives you time to set goals, set up an achievement plan, and interact about the obstacles and results of implementing those changes.
Louis Mattassi, consultant for Salon Training International, describes what a tech could expect during his “Coaching Club,” which lasts 12 weeks. “Once a week, five participants from anywhere in the U.S. meet for a business call. It’s a set structure, so the first five weeks we talk about how to make money. We learn systems of how to make more money and double our day. The next five weeks is about how to keep the money, and in the last two weeks we talk about dreams and goals. By this time we are celebrating our accomplishments,” he says. Mattassi, a former nail tech himself, says the Coaching Club is designed for individual techs and small business owners.
Anna Maria Paty, owner of Perfect Ten Day Spa in Melbourne, Fla., has grown from a two-person to a 15-person salon. She wanted to continue her growth, so she hired Salon Training
International to help her visualize her goals. She says of her coach, Steve Gomez, “He required photos, a business plan, the area demographics, and the last three months of sales and retail. He wanted to know how I managed my time — in other words, how much time is spent away from the table and running the business.”
It’s questions like these that techs and large salon owners need to be ready to answer. “We are not about the whoo-whoo that makes you feel good,” says Gomez. “We provide concrete systems that will produce financial abundance.”
Coaches provide their clients with weekly or monthly phone meetings to review the results of implementing the projected goals, hold the owner accountable, and set goals for the next month. During these calls, any and all subjects are discussed: problems with employees, retail, advertising, hiring staff, creating employee handbooks, and how to create profit and loss statements to really understand your finances.
Beyond the scheduled calls, consultants send literature and are available by e-mail. Some offer supplemental items such as interactive CD-ROMs that include downloadable or printable material to advertise the monthly promotion. By combining the graphics produced by the design team with the conversations provided by the techs, the client has “a visual and verbal experience” that helps techs achieve their sales goals, says Gomez.
What’s the Cost?
The price of a coach varies widely, but don’t let the cost be the determining factor for two reasons: One, almost any consultant or coach will be able to tailor a plan that meets your needs. Whether you are a booth renter or an owner of a large salon, there is a program that will fit in your budget.
More important is reason two: A coach is hired to make you more money. So the investment should pay for itself. Randy Kunkel, owner of KRS Consulting Group in Minneapolis, says that after hiring his group for 90 days, his clients’ business increases an average of 22%.
If cash output is a serious concern, there are other options available. Many distributors offer free consulting services to salon owners. Sherri Martens, owner of Elite Salon Systems in Miami, says her consultants are trained to help owners promote and build their business. She provides a business-building book with a six-month planner. She helps them set goals and shows them how to offer product promotions and sell more retail.
Larry Oskin of Fairfax, Va.-based Marketing Solutions says more techs should take advantage of this service offered by distributors. “Most salon owners don’t know the distributors are educators for marketing. Sit down with them and let them know your challenges.”
Another option is Your Beauty Network (YBN), an online resource that provides interaction with techs from all over the nation. YBN offers techs advice from industry experts and business-building tools without the price tag of a personal coach. YBN is utilized as a pre-coach decision, or as a continuing education decision to enforce what has been learned from the coaching experience.
Which One Do I Want?
A consultant should be hired like any other person you would hire. Check out their resume; investigate their experience. Some offer PR and marketing services, while others teach client retention and service add-ons. Still others claim to be one-stop shopping. However, even within these specialties, ask questions about their experience with your demographics, your salon size, and your personal vision and goals. If you are a four-station, nails-only salon, you probably won’t need the same consultant as a 2,500-square-foot day spa that is getting ready to expand. It’s important to remember there are consultants and coaches for each level of the industry.
There are other issues to consider as you evaluate coaching options, and these have to do not with what the consultant brings to the table, but with what you bring to the table. Hiring a coach involves more than a financial commitment; it requires tenacity and courage. A coach is evaluating you during the interview as much as you are interviewing him or her. Each of the coaches we spoke with said there is an initial meeting during which changes are recommended and expectations are discussed. If the coach sees that you aren’t committed to confront the obvious problems and work toward change, she knows the relationship is destined to fail, and is more than likely going to suggest a different route for you. “Consulting is not for everyone,” Gomez says.
If the relationship seems comfortable and positive you may agree to a three- to six-month commitment with the coach. During that time, many personal issues are going to come to the surface. “We work with overcoming fears about time, about money, and about approaching staff,” says Gomez. Owners will need to look at what is and is not working. They’ll need to understand numbers, and then figure out how to grow sales, decrease expenses.
As you ruminate if consulting will be a part of your future, begin making a list of what you hope to gain from the experience. Pinpoint your expectations, and then prepare a list of questions: Will this coach be able to meet your needs, will you get the results you want, does this person understand your goals? If you aren’t ready to make the commitment to a personal coach, begin with your distributor. “At the free price, you can’t say no,” says Oskin.
Should You Consider Hiring a Consultant?
Not every salon owner is in the position to hire a coach, but if you agree with the majority of points in this checklist (provided by Steve Gomez of Salon Training International), you may be ready to investigate consulting services.
• You are working too many hours.
• You aren’t making money.
• You bring in more than 60% of the salon business.
• You have difficulty delegating so you do everything yourself.
• You’ve heard of a profit-and- loss statement, but you aren’t sure what it is, so you hand everything over to your accountant.
• You don’t know what you did in sales last year, by the day or by the customer.
• You know there are important conversations you need to have with your staff, but you avoid having them.
Where to Find a Coach
Although different coaches offer many of the same services, they each have their own style. Research which one will best help you reach your goals. Here are a few names to get you started. Go online to www.nailsbigbook.com and search for consultants under Company Type.
Services: Psychotherapist Alpert provides telephone consulting and workshops on business issues and personal challenges.
Lisa Arnold, Salon & Spa Solutions
Services: Offers coaching, business-building tools, and marketing plans.
Contact: (724) 444-6903
Bonnie Canavino, Spa Specifics
Services: Designs PR programs and business policies; offers advanced education training and business strategies.
Ken Cassidy, Kassidy’s Salon Management
Services: Writes, lectures, consults, and educates on business options, employee/booth rental relationships, front desk management, and retailing.
Bryan Durocher, Durocher Enterprises
Services: Offers coaching and consulting, business plans, PR, e-commerce and website development; specialty coaches for individual techs.
Randy Kunkel, KRS Consulting Group
Services: Offers on-site consulting and a tiered growth plan for salon owners and individual employees.
Contact: (800) 718-5949
Lisa Louison, Strategies Publishing Group
Services: Provider of salon and spa business educations through print, educational seminars, and coaching services.
Liz Mace, The Nailco Group
Services: Business plans and consulting, e-strategies, house branding design.
Melinda Minton, Minton Business Solutions
Services: Offers business plans, books, management tools, training, and equipment to keep spas a step ahead.
Salon Training International
Services: Offers a variety of consulting programs for spa/salon owners and booth renters tailored to clients’ needs.
Contact: (760) 929-2600
Geno Stampora, Stampora Consulting
Services: Provides salon education; specializes in salon team spirit, communication skills, salon construction.
Contact: (540) 338-7747
Kristi Valenzuela, Crystal Focus Inc.
Services: Offers workshops, training sessions, and coaching designed to provide simple solutions to complicated challenges.
Contact: (877) 378-8212, www.stepbystepsalon.com
Michelle Pratt is a freelance writer and licensed nail tech based in Johnson City, N.Y.