Business Management

By The Book - Creating a Salon Policy Manual

Putting salon policies and procedures in writing helps both salon owners and nail technicians know what page they’re on.

Whether your salon has two or 10 nail technicians, a salon policies and procedures manual can ensure smooth operation.

“When my salon grew beyond one other nail technician, I realized that we had to have a written core policy to work around,” says Gina Marsilii, owner of Perfect Ten Nail Salon & Tanning in Wilmington, Del. “It is especially important to set policy standards in a nail salon because everyone works so closely together every day. Without a core understanding of everyone’s responsibilities, chaos could result.”

“With eight nail technicians, an esthetician, and two receptionists, it’s too difficult for me to tell everything to everyone,” says Wendy Coleman, owner of Distinctive Touch in Hamilton Square, N.J. “So we grouped everything together and made a set policy.” Why else does Coleman recommend having a policy manual?

  • Fairness. A manual provides an objective means to solve unforeseeable problems. If an issue is not addressed, the manual can be modified for the next time that problem arises.
  • Legal reasons. By following the manual, it ensures there’s no favoritism by management.
  • Professionalism. It creates standards to follow and outlines employee responsibilities
  • Objectivity. It puts solving all issues into an impersonal context.
  • Focus. It allows a sharing of visions.

“Even though Distinctive Touch is run democratically, the more employees you have, the more you need to define the areas where you need control – which may vary from staff to staff,” Coleman adds. “It helps you keep the business running smoothly and keeps everything consistent from your perspective and from the clients’ point-of-view. For example, there’s no question that everyone here must wear a lab coat all the time, we all have the clients pay before their polish, everyone always walks the clients to the nail drying area and carries their purse. As a result, we always run on schedule.”

“We found a big need for a manual because when an incident would occur, the nail technician would immediately say, ‘You never said that,’ even if she had worked here for a year,” says Michelle Barna, owner of The Nail Clinic in Lorain, Ohio. “It’s a good point of reference so everyone knows exactly what is expected all the time and time and it ensures that everyone maintains the same level of professionalism and the same team-oriented attitude.”

Candice Kopp, owner of Candice, Place for Nails, in Pompano Beach, Fla., concurs: “After being in business for six years, I introduced a manual last year because we were beginning to have some problems with staff members saying ‘I didn’t know I was supposed to do that.’ I should have done it a long time ago.”

FORMATTING YOUR P&P GUIDE

Your salon’s manual can be as simple as three to five photocopied pages in a simple folder to a more extensive guide ranging from 20 to 40 pages that you have printed and bound. The format that’s right for your salon depends on how detailed and comprehensive you want to make it, as well as what you and your staff are comfortable with and can live with day to day.

To get started, Barna suggests borrowing manuals from other businesses and customizing them to meet your own needs.

“First, I read my accountant’s manual, and we patterned ours after it,” she says. “I liked the way it specifically outlined the path of advancement in the accounting firm, so I adapted that to the salon. The local library is also a great resource.”

“My attorney recommended writing a salon policy manual and showed me his as an example,” Marsilii adds.

If you don’t have a word processor, Barna suggests tapping into your clientele to get your manual produced professionally.

“The daughter of one of my clients was an English major at college and she needed some hands on publishing experience. So, she took on our manual as a class project and actually got graded on it. As a result, we got a very professionally produced manual.”

Kopp also suggests asking everyone you know for examples of their manuals, from your spouse to your clients to your employees who might have worked outside the salon industry.

WHAT TO INCLUDE

What you decide to include in your manual depends on how formal you want it to be and the tone you want to set. Many salon owners include a welcoming letter to new employees or a general letter of introduction to help set the tone of the manual and the salon workplace.

You’ll also want to determine if there are specific problems in your salon that you need to address. The number one issue for many salon owners we talked with for this article is the dress code.

Distinctive Touch’s manual opens with a welcoming letter telling employees that the manual was prepared to assist them in their work, then immediately addresses dress code, employee purchases, employee benefits, hours of operation, lunch policy, pay day, personal data, probationary period, sick days, snow days, resignation, termination, and vacation policies, and penalties for failure to comply with the policies in the manual.

Says Marsilii, “My goal was to have something in writing, but I didn’t want it so carved in stone that it was inflexible. We don’t hesitate to modify the manual if the need arises.” As a result, Perfect Ten’s policy manual includes basic salon policies on operations, sick days, lateness, materials and supplies, payroll, benefits, salon and station cleanliness, proper sanitation procedures, salon ethics, and – a sign of the times – the salon’s recycling policy. Recently, Marsilii updated it to include dress code and policies prohibiting gossiping.

“I try to cover anything that the staff members could not otherwise figure out for themselves,” she says. “This way, there’s no ‘trickle-down’ explanation and it eliminates confusion.”

At The Nail Clinic, the 17-page manual addresses basic issues, but goes further to define the three levels a nail technician can achieve – new tech, mid tech, and high tech – and the criteria that must be met in order to progress to the next level. It includes the minimum time employed by the salon, the number of classes that must be attended, the time it takes to do a full set, the number of requests that the technician has, and the retail sales required. With each higher level comes a higher commission on services and retail.

“Since we put everything in writing, the nail technicians have advanced much more quickly because there’s no question as to what they have to achieve,” says Barna.

The Nail Clinic’s manual also contains a specific dress code.

“With all of the styles available today, we had to be very specific as to what is appropriate for in-salon wear and what is not,” says Barna.

“Everyone seems to have a different idea about what is acceptable.”

In addition to dress code, Kopp’s manual addresses absenteeism, drugs in the workplace, smoking, gum chewing, phone privileges, and having friends come in.

“Now, everyone knows what they can get away with and what not to try,” she says.

Coleman is currently redoing Distinctive Touch’s manual to make it even better. “I’m combining the policies and procedures manual with performance reviews, as well as a checklist of dos and don’ts for conduct in the salon,” she says. “By integrating the manual with our six-month performance reviews, employees will have a reassurance twice a year that they are in compliance. It will also turn each person’s handbook into her own personnel record.”

Keywords:   policies and procedures  



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