You love being a nail tech and are happy with your career choice, but how do you keep the momentum building and avoid the proverbial rut? Knowing what motivates you, creating a positive work environment, and communicating with team member are just a few ways to ensure you don’t hit too many bumps along the way.
Keeping people motivated is big business. From hiring motivational speakers to hosting team-building events, companies are willing to lay down big bucks in hopes of positively affecting the work environment. If you are a salon owner, keeping your employees happy and challenged takes purposeful planning — and if you are self-employed that responsibility is left to you. Learning how to remain passionate about your job will ensure success now — and later.
You have to consider internal and external factors as you evaluate the momentum of your career.
Internal factors are all about you — and are the asiest to change and control. External factors are less controllable, but with strategic choices and the right attitude, you can have a significant influence on them.
First, decide what motivates you. The answer to this will differ as your life changes. When you first become a nail tech, working in a quasi-glamorous job may be the appeal. Within a few months of working behind the table and seeing your paycheck and tips increase, money may be the motivating factor. When you have children, the flexibility of your schedule may be what keeps you satisfied with your job. Whatever it is that motivates you, you need to define it. People are satisfied with their job when it fulfills a function beyond paying the bills. Warren Beatty provided a good definition of job success: “You’ve achieved success in your field when you don’t know whether what you’re doing is work or play.”
Once you find what motivates you, pursue it. Don’t let life happen to you — make it happen. Boredom is the seed of discontentment. If you find yourself getting bored, set a new challenge. That doesn’t necessarily mean a certain number of new clients (although it could); it means challenging yourself to up-sell or challenging yourself to make the client’s appointment more personal or relaxing. Whatever challenge you have, you have to continually aim for the next thing. Don’t get stagnant.
The challenge can be a financial goal; you may want to be earning a certain amount within a year’s time. To do this, educate yourself, improve your work, increase your services, or even begin to compete. By improving your knowledge and your skills, you will have earned the right to increase your prices. But beware! You could easily begin to see clients as profit and not people. This will undoubtedly affect your work. You more than likely will rush appointments, be less interested in clients’ personal successes and failures, and be less accommodating in your schedule. The drive for money can become consuming, so remember to balance the desire to make a satisfying income with the commitment to serve your clients.
Many challenges are not at all financial in nature. Techs can infuse their career with variety and keep their momentum at a high level by donating their time or services to help others. Call a local nursing home and offer manicures to residents or call the women’s shelter and offer free manicures to women before their job interviews.
In addition to donating services in this way, you could also donate your expertise by training a new-hire in the salon. This could be very satisfying for a number of reasons. First, it provides you with a way to invest in an industry that has given you so much, but also, you can enjoy and celebrate the improvements and growth of the person being trained. Professional mentoring has long-term payoffs. The tech will be grateful for your investment in her career and will develop an open, helpful attitude. Under your guidance, the tech will develop your work ethic and application style. This means you are grooming a perfect back-up for when you are on vacation or want to begin to cut back your hours. Plus, if you find that you are especially gifted at teaching and training, a whole new career track could open to you.
Redefine Your Positive Self
In the book The E-Myth by Michael E. Gerber, the author notes we are really three people in one: a technician, a manager, and an entrepreneur. As nail techs, we often get stuck in the technician mode, which could lead to early burnout. When we begin to develop the manager and entrepreneur in ourselves (and these are in everyone according to Gerber), we find challenges and stimulation in other areas of our lives and can focus our energies on something other than the task of creating nails. This could lead to marketing yourself in a new way, taking on more responsibility at the salon, or even developing your own product line.
Surround yourself with positive people and motivational or inspirational attitudes. It may sound ridiculous to you, but your thoughts are powerful. If you don’t believe it, do a test. Refuse to complain for one day. When someone asks how you are, tell them only good things. Even if you aren’t particularly happy about the subject you are discussing, find something about it that is positive. You will be amazed at how much energy you have at the day’s end.
Decorate your desk with things you love: bright colors, pictures, and empowering sayings. When you are feeling down, allow these things to redirect your thoughts. When you choose to focus on the big picture instead of looking at the hassles of today, you will be better able to handle the small setbacks.
Validate yourself. You may compare yourself to your wealthy clients who try to fit a nail appointment in between tennis, the gym, and lunch, and view yourself as “only a nail tech.” This self-image is destructive. Choose to view yourself not only as a professional who excels at her job, but as a person who helps others. It comes naturally to most techs, so often they don’t see how important their attention is to a client. You are patient to the senior who society disregards; you offer advice to the teen or college student who is uncertain about a decision; you listen to the woman who feels neglected by her husband. You make a difference in their lives. Physically, they walk away with beautiful nails. Emotionally, they walk away feeling important — because of you.
Where you work, the people you choose to trust at work, the pay scale you agree to, and your customers are all external factors. Your career momentum — that drive that pushes you to accept the next challenge — will be influenced dramatically by these outside factors. But notice you can choose the first three! (Most of us aren’t in the position to choose our customers.) You want to work in an environment that continues to encourage you to not only succeed, but to excel.
The type of atmosphere you create can motivate or discourage your staff. Once the rules of a salon have been established, most nail techs don’t like to be micro-managed. It’s a big de-motivator. Conversely, our work is a reflection of us personally, so praise goes a long way.
“Some of our essential inherent needs are recognition and acknowledgement,” says John Edwards, a motivational consultant based in Vestal, N.Y. Edwards notes that even as adults we are not immune from peer pressure; we want to be respected and accepted by our peers, so positive reinforcement from coworkers and bosses makes the work environment more motivating. As a tech who is making it happen, not letting it happen, be sure to choose a salon where the staff functions as a team and celebrates the successes of one another and the owner supports your growth.
To support her staff, Karen Latta, owner of The White Rose in Vestal, N.Y., often runs lengthy ads in the local newspaper filled with accolades and a picture of a tech or stylist. It’s good advertisement for the spa, but it’s also wonderful affirmation for the person featured in the ad. The tech’s friends are excited to see her picture in print, and clients bring it up in conversation during the appointment. Additionally, Latta posts the ad in the reception area to bring extra attention to that tech.
Creating a Positive Environment
Salon owners can create an environment where each staff person will have an opportunity to be challenged — personally, financially, or professionally. That could mean offering commission scales that reward extra effort, encouraging further education and possibly paying for classes or organizing charity involvement so techs have a way to use their talent to help others. By creating an environment that offers different ways for techs to achieve and succeed, each one will be able to find a challenge that is personally meaningful.
Louise Moore has worked to build strong sales teams for a national retail chain for over fifteen years. She says motivating staff is essentially the same regardless of career industry. It begins in the hiring process. Salon owners need to choose techs who are not only excellent in their trade, but who are positive thinkers. Look for problem-solvers who are good under pressure and who understand that their job goes beyond the interaction with the client — being an approachable team player among coworkers is mandatory.
Moore notes nothing discourages other staff members like a vocal complainer. Salon owners need to be alert to grumbling and discord. Large salons are especially susceptible to the division caused by complainers, but small salons aren’t immune to the effects. What happens is that the salon begins to have an air of negativity and discontentment. Techs may begin to complain in front of clients. Even techs who aren’t directly hearing the complaints begin to feel uncomfortable and dissatisfied. When salon owners realize this type of stormy atmosphere is building, they must address it or the whole staff could become demoralized.
Once you have a staff full of people with positive, can-do attitudes, do all you can to strengthen the team. Celebrate birthdays. Buy lunch during the busy season when techs are hard-pressed to get a break. Encourage camaraderie among the staff so they feel accepted and appreciated. Salon owners have a challenge to give a tech room to direct her career in a way that her career momentum continues as she personally grows and changes.
Regardless of whether you are the salon owner, or the nail tech working on staff, if you find yourself in a position where you are enjoying your job but you doubt you can maintain enough momentum to stay in your position long-term, begin to prepare for your next career move now. That doesn’t mean you have to get out of the industry! The beauty industry offers many opportunities for growth and mobility so techs can keep the momentum of their career moving steadily forward.
Michelle Pratt is a freelance writer and licensed nail tech based in Johnson City, N.Y.