Bartenders have barbacks, helping to keep glasses clean and bars well-stocked, and hair stylists have assistants, helping to clean and prep the hair for styling, so what about nail techs? Can hiring cosmetology students or new graduates as assistants help your salon make more money?
Assistants Can Be Good Investments
Zimmer says one of the benefits of having assistants is once they receive their license and complete the training course, the salon owners know they now have a qualified nail technician as a new part of the team.
“It’s very, very difficult to find quality nail techs, nowadays,” says Zimmer. This sentiment is also expressed by Nassar, who says she has had a hard time finding good nail technicians.
“I’m always hesitant to hire people without experience because we have such a high standard of service here,” says Nassar. The notion is students fresh out of schools lack real-world application techniques and are primarily just taught how to pass state exams.
Though Nassar does not have any nail assistants, she does see the value in what the role can offer. If owners use assistants who are in cosmetology school, they are actually cultivating an important relationship.
“In an industry where there is a pretty high turnover rate, I think there is a lot to be said for investing in your personnel,” says Nassar. “I think if your staff sees that you are going through the effort of training them, educating them, and nurturing them, then they are far more receptive to being loyal on a long-term basis.”
According to Zimmer, the apprentice program has played an integral role in the growth and development of the Mario Tricoci salons. “It’s essentially how our company was built,” says Zimmer. “When I started here 18 years ago there were only two locations and now we have 21. I think for smaller salons it is really important to cultivate somebody who is going to help build your business with you.”
Zimmer says assistants who come back as nail technicians already have an understanding of the salon’s procedures and culture, and often carry a strong tie to the salon that first gave them a chance.
The Benefits of an Assistant
For the Salon
• Allows nail technicians to focus entirely on their craft — doing nails. This can be used as a recruiting tool for hiring new technicians, since they won’t have to worry about dealing with cleanup duties.
• Allows appointments to be scheduled closer together, thus creating more appointments per day and more revenue.
• An assistant relationship can be cultivated into a future loyal nail technician.
• Training time for nail techs that were once assistants is greatly decreased.
For the Assistant
• Allows the assistant to get a first glimpse into working in a nail salon.
• Allows the nail assistant to establish trust and build clientele.
• Gives the assistant an opportunity to practice techniques and protocol under the helpful eye of senior nail technicians.
• Gives the assistant good experience and a possible job opportunity once the assistant receives a license and becomes a nail tech.
Setting Up an Assistant Program That Works For You
If you decide that you would like to explore the possibility of creating an assistant position in your salon, there are some things to consider. What type of assistant would you like to have? There are salons that use assistants as trainees and possible future nail techs, and there are also salons that hire assistants merely to keep things tidy and attract customers.
Maisie Dunbar, the owner of M&M Nail and Wellness Center in Silver Spring, Md., says she uses her assistant program as a way of recruiting and training future nail technicians.
“I have had a total of about 10 assistants who have gone on to become nail techs here,” Dunbar says, “and it has really helped our business out a lot.”
Dunbar usually staffs one assistant for the four full-time technicians, and she trains them and pays them well so they will one day become nail technicians. Dunbar says in this line of work, being a nail assistant can be a big head-start for budding technicians.
“In the line of work we do, people have to develop trust, and the more people see you, the more likely it is they will start coming to your chair,” she says. “So by taking off polish and setting up clients, assistants have already started a relationship with the customers, and then once they get their license they will have an easier transition.”
Cassie Piasecki, the owner of The Nail Lounge in Costa Mesa, Calif., uses assistants in a different way. She hires “preppers,” who fill the role of overall cleaning and disinfecting, but they do not usually have aspirations to pursue a career in nails.
“They are typically younger high-school age or college-age kids,” Piasecki says, “and I’ve only had two who actually came in while they were attending cosmetology school.”
For Piasecki, the primary goal for the preppers is to keep the salon clean and help the technicians focus on their clients.
Piasecki also uses her preppers as clever marketing tools. During prom and winter formal seasons, Piasecki has hired high school boys as preppers to help bring in female clients.
She says, “It was fun for me to have the boys, because they were usually cute high school boys, and the girls liked seeing them on the weekends, and the ladies liked seeing them during the week.”
And to keep the preppers coming in, Piasecki’s nail technicians allocate some of their tips toward the preppers, thereby increasing a minimum wage salary by about $8 an hour.