Running three bustling nail departments is not an easy task, but Sherry Williams seems to have it down to a T-as in training.
TRAINING, TRAINING…: When nail technicians start working at a Mitchell’s Salon and Day Spa location, they go through a regimented training program whether they are hired right out of school or have years of experience. And the reason for this is simple: “At ball three locations, the clients are very loyal so we want to see consistency in the services,” says Sherry Williams, managing nail director of all three locations.
“Everyone has their own techniques of touch and feel, but we want to make sure that each client is getting the same quality of service. So there is a general guideline of procedure as far as shaping, buffing, soaking, massaging, etc.”
So how does the training program at Mitchell’s work? It all begins with the basics. “We like everyone to learn basic manicure and pedicure procedures the way Mitchell’s does them,” says Williams. “So when we start our training program, we immediately train them on these.
“We like to have them on the floor, working on commission doing just manicure and pedicure services during their third week of training,” she continues, adding that those first three weeks are full-time training and the technicians are paid on an hourly basis.
After they have mastered the basic areas, new technicians are put on the floor to work on paying clients while completing the rest of their training one day a week on all artificial services. “They will still be in training one day a week depending on how long it takes them, usually between six weeks and six months,” says Williams. “Basically until we feel like they are doing the quality work that we expect and they have learned all the artificial services. And that just depends on each tech.”
“We used to have them train full time until they had completed all of the areas, but we found too many people getting discouraged,” adds Williams. So she decided to put the techs on the floor sooner. “I found that getting them on the floor, working on commission, making a little bit better money, and also getting them acclimated to the customer service end of the business has worked out really well.”
New nail technicians at Mitchell’s are priority booked their first three months on the floor—meaning any client who calls and does not request a specific tech is automatically given to the new tech, as long as she is available at the time requested and has mastered the service booked. This not only helps a new technician gain more experience, it also allows her to begin building her clientele.
…AND MORE TRAINING: “We also train on retailing. We do a little bit of it during the initial training, but I also bring in most product manufacturers at least once a year to do a retail sales class,” says Williams. “And we usually do a lot of contests in conjunction with our retail training. We will have a contest after the training class for big prizes.”
In addition to retail training with product manufacturers, Williams also provides her techs with at least 16 hours a year of continuing education in the salon. She says that most of the techs attend.
“We try to make the training fun,” she says. “And it is at no cost to them; we provide food during training. This year I have changed it quite a bit. I have talked to product manufacturers and we have broken it down into advanced and beginner classes, so that people who have sat through so many classes are getting more hands-on technical training and then the beginners are getting the basics, which is what they need.”
One other special thing that Mitchell’s offers after the nail technician has completed her training and is on the floors is one-on-one education. The way it works is that any time Williams or another nail director feels that one of the techs is not as good technically as they feels she should be—or if the tech herself is insecure with her technical abilities in a certain service—Williams will pay one of the directors or artistic directors to work with the tech one-on-one until she feels comfortable.
“We can do all the training we want, but it is the practice and experience that teaches you,” she stresses. “So we continually back that up by making sure that each tech gets that education before the client comes in.”
As if all this isn’t already above and beyond what you see in may salons, Williams has also set up an education fund where the techs submit a form stating what they are interested in doing and then they receive financial help for such things as trade shows, competitions, and additional outside education.
“We do a lot of incentives and motivational stuff,” says Williams, noting that Mitchell’s also offers its employees medical, dental, life, disability, 401 (k), and paid vacations. “I think that in the past few years our reputation has grown tremendously and we are getting to the point where we can start being a little picky in terms of our employees. We have built a great rapport with the schools. Working with the administrators at the schools, they know the quality of employee we are looking for and they basically send them to us. So we have been very lucky there, but we have worked very hard at it. And I believe that our success is due to the fact that we have made a commitment to these schools and we keep on it.”