Less than 15 years ago, computers were cumbersome, mysterious pieces of machinery that usually sat in huge rooms on the floors of office buildings. Stories and movies portrayed these monstrous inventions as intimidating, menacing competitors that threatened to take away human jobs and turn our society into programmed button-pushers.
But slowly, through the years, computers have become smaller and friendlier, and people have discovered these hi-tech machines are as necessary and helpful as washing machines, microwave ovens, or other twentieth-century inventions. Today, it’s almost impossible to enter an office – and increasingly any business – that doesn’t use at least one computer.
Although many people still harbor a fear of working with computers, few can argue their merit. They have proven to be invaluable tools that save time for salon owners and technicians by completing tasks quicker. Salon owners report computers help them dig out from piles of paperwork – allowing them to find ways to expand business, increase profits, lessen waste, and even take vacations.
Yet despite the obvious plusses of computerizing, most nail salons don’t even consider it.
“Half the time, I have to convince shop owners that a computer doesn’t bite, and if you touch it, it doesn’t blow up,” quips Kent Crabtree, software designer and president of Innovative Business Computer Solutions (IBCS). “But, once people overcome their fears, they discover how helpful computers are, and how easy they are to use.”
Many salon owners don’t consider computerizing because they feel their salon is too small to justify the expense. Deborah Soloway, vice president of marketing and sales at Pro ˆ Trak, Inc. says. “Is your business small or are you just thinking small? I’ve yet to find a salon that couldn’t improve its business by using a computer Steve Colon, vice president of Elite Software, says one of his customers operates a one-woman salon, and she believes her computer is instrumental in helping run the business properly.
“The way this customer puts it,” Colon says, “is whether you are a one-person salon, or employ 20 people, as a salon owner you have to keep track of your sales. You need to keep detailed records of client information, inventory, accounting data, etc., and all this paperwork takes a lot of time. A computer helps you complete this work a lot quicker, while giving you a handle on how well your business is operating.”
There are so many benefits to buying a computer, it’s hard to find anyone in the industry who advises against it.
“The only time I ever tell someone not to computerize,” says Fred Dengler, executive vice president of the Mikal Corporation, “is if their salon is a disorganized mess. If a business runs poorly manually, then, of course, a computer will make a bigger mess – and faster. Otherwise, computers benefit the small shop owner who can’t afford to hire help, and the large shop owner who works 18 hour days trying to complete the work a computer can do in a matter of hours.”
Dengler says he’s found the main reasons salon owners don’t computerize are:
- lack of direct knowledge of computers
- fear of not receiving proper training
- fear that computer equipment will become obsolete
- fear of the cost of equipment and training
- fear of “fast buck” sales people
- fear that the staff won’t be able to learn how to run a computer
- fear of not seeing a return on the investment
- fear of buying the wrong system
NAILS Magazine looked at these and other fears and came up with ways salon owners can overcome them.
LACK OF KNOWLEDGE
Ultimately, you are the best judge of whether a computer is right for your salon. But don’t decide against it because the very word “computer” makes you run the other way.
“We spend as much time educating salon owners about computers as we do selling them,” says Steve Colon of Elite Software.
All the computer/software companies NAILS interviewed for this article (all of whom specialize in working with salons) agree with Colon, and say a lack of knowledge about computers is the major reason salon owners don’t computerize.
They advise owners to take a good, hard look at their businesses. Make a list of all the positives and negatives of running your particular salon. Do you find yourself swimming in paperwork? Do you know exactly how much money you’re making on a manicure or pedicure? Do you know the amount of nail polish and other products in stock at any given time?
Industry experts also suggest you learn about computers by finding someone who owns a computer and asking if you can see how it works, and by learning basic computer terminology so you feel more comfortable when buying a computer. For instance, do you know the difference between hardware and software?
“If you can kick it, it’s hardware,” Dengler says. “Hardware is the physical parts of a computer.” Another way to understand the difference between the two is to think of the computer’s hardware as the body of the computer and the software as the brain that tells the body what to do.
FEAR OF NOT RECEIVING PROPER TRAINING
Instead of worrying whether you’ll receive proper training, think about how you would prefer to be trained. Are you the kind of person who likes to learn by herself? Are you good at following directions in a book? Do you like being counseled on the telephone? Or do you prefer one-on-one, personal contact, where someone guides you through each step?
Once you determine how you learn best, find a company that offers what you want. There are companies that offer free on-site training with the purchase of a system, while others offer free telephone support. Still others have a detailed training manual, and other companies provide all three.
With fierce competition existing between computer companies today, you should be able to receive the type of training you desire. So if you’re doing business with a company that offers no training, or offers training at an outrageous price, simply try someone else.
FEAR THAT COMPUTER EQUIPMENT WILL BECOME OBSOLETE
Computers are getting more sophisticated all the time, and a few months after you buy a machine, chances are a newer, more powerful model will be introduced on the market. But so what? As long as you buy hardware that is compatible with the software you choose (and powerful enough to run it), it should be years before you need ot buy another machine. Besides, all the companies NAILS spoke with offer upgrades on their software programs – either free or for a low price, so your system can remain up-to-date.
FEAR OF THE COST OF EQUIPMENT AND TRAINING
Because most of us are ignorant about the computer field, we feel like sitting targets for cunning salespeople. But salon owners have the advantage of buying software and hardware from companies that specialize in developing systems for them. This means you can attend state and national shows, talk to exhibitors and find out average costs. Chances are you’ll find some low prices, a few high ones and quite a few right in the middle.
Talk to other salon owners. There’s nothing like learning the ups and downs of buying a particular system from someone whose needs are the same as yours.