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What's more important for a newly licensed tech to build her business: technical skills or people skills?

With required school hours varying across the country, and some states requiring less than 100 hours to graduate from a nail program, we asked a cross-section of the nail industry — from school instructors to salon owners to veteran nail techs — a timely question: For newly licensed nail techs, what is more important initially in building your business: top-notch technical skills or top-notch people skills? Why?

Here in Florida, 240 hours is not nearly enough time to have top-notch technical skills. That is an almost impossible expectation. People skills on the other hand can be taught in under a week. It just takes a lot of practice and re-training your brain to remember that it's not all about you. That leaves you approximately 200 hours to bust your butt with your technical skills. And (as someone getting ready to open a nail school and a former instructor) statistics say that people come to you 70% just because they like holding hands with you for a couple of hours, and only 30% because of your skills. — Lauren Wireman, Wildflowers, Cape Coral, Fla.

I have been a nail tech for 30 years and a salon owner for 15. I've worked with seasoned manicurists and a few right out of school. People skills are great but if you don't have the technical skills you will not have the repeat clients. I have mentored several techs but many come out of school with rose-colored glasses on.They have the attitude that they know everything and are not willing to learn the proper techniques. Some of the seasoned ones have brought their personal lives into work and their clientele has dwindled. I tell my stylists to look in the mirror...this is what your client sees. Think before you speak....Is it positive? Would you wear the work you just performed? The school here doesn't focus on nail techs, and I find this frustrating. I feel it's up to the new techs to seek further education after graduation. Seek out manicurists that have a large following. Ask if they will mentor.Take classes offered by companies. It may cost you but in the long run you will profit from doing so. — Nancy Lane, Studio West Salon, Ventura,Calif.

Assuming a student is given the necessary skills to start a successful career, I'd say people skills are definitely more important for a new nail tech. Building a clientele takes awesome people skills. Without them, it doesn't matter if you can perform great services and know a lot about what you do. It takes a lot to gain the trust of your clients enough for them to tell their friends and family. Customer service and people skills training builds confidence and should be a core part of any nail tech program. — Kimiesha Jackson-Taylor, Cayman Beauty Academy, Cayman Islands

If a tech does not have a true love for people in general, then no amount of skills or training will ever be enough. This is true for so many industries, but especially this one. — Brooke Gilliam, Salon Cosabella, McKinney, Texas

I am a Illinois licensed nail technology instructor. I have taught for four years and I would have to say that top-notch technical skills are important. People skills come more naturally within the field of nails and if you can not create beautiful nails then people will not come back to you. They're there because they want nails, not a therapy session. Although most nail techs and clients talk with each other about everything, we first must keep our clients with our top-notch technical skills. My way of teaching is to encourage my students that it's all about dedication and practice. When teaching, it's important to explain the correct, "state-standard" way of completing services and also explain to the students that there are other ways that other technicians may utilize. Shortcuts are not always right nor wrong. I always remind students that in school you learn the basics and depending on the school and instructor, you may learn more advanced skills. But we are all our own instructors. It is up to us as professionals to obtain information from all sources. Overall, the reason top-notch technical skills are important for building your business is because clients want to trust their nail tech and if it is a tech that just likes to talk due to having top-notch people skills, it may not bring a client back. Education and knowledge is important along with proper techniques. — Angie Roman, Chicago

People skills are very important. If you clash with your customer and do wonderful nails they will get sick of you and your attitude. I have watched as coworkers pay more attention to their personal lives and less attention to their customers but do a wonderful job at nails and lose clients. It is sad but true. There are millions of nail techs and thousands of good ones, so clients don't have to stay with someone who treats them like they are nothing more than a paycheck. That being said, if you are just starting out it's important to show up early, sit to build clientele, watch other nail techs and how they work, and be someone the salon and customer can rely on. Always ask your client questions during the service and before finishing ask if there's anything she wants you to change. — Jennie Braley, Serenity Spa, St. George, Utah

Having both excellent people skills and application are equally as important and not stressed enough in school. I've been doing nails for only six months, but I was quick to learn that having excellent people skills, including a happy attitude and enthusiastic personality and making people feel important, will keep clients coming back with their friends and family! But application is also important and it's difficult when you're not properly taught how to polish correctly. Schools should take the time to teach students more about lump-free gel application. Schools can teach you the basics but not about all the new products coming out every day, so when you're done with school you're not done learning. You'll teach yourself more then you know! — Jessica Jenkins, Cizo Magik, Grand Falls, Neb.

Definitely top-notch technical skills are more important. Clients are willing to excuse a lack of people skills during a service--something that can easily come with time and experience. But certainly they will not excuse a bad set of nails. I strongly feel the lack of technical skills in students comes from a lack of such skill from instructors. Properly educated teachers will produce a more educated student. — Patrice McNeal,  WildSide Nailz Art Studio, Lancaster, Calif.

Most important are people or customer service skills. The problem is you can only teach these to a point if the individual techs don't care or aren't cut out for service. Here's my solution: Schools and licensure should be held to a national standard, to get solid basics and include customer service training. But schools also need to screen prospective students better. If they aren't able or willing to learn customer service skills, they shouldn't be granted a license. — Rachel Jackson, Provo, Utah

Weigh in! Leave your opinion in the comments.

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Keywords:   building your clientele     client retention     continuing education     customer service     schools  

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