The longer you’ve been in the nail business, the harder it is to change your habits. Should you be worried? That depends on a little thing called obsolescence. According to Josh Berin’s thoughtful essay, “Are You Ready to Become Obsolete? What I’ve Learned About Continuous Reinvention,” half of all professionals believe that their current skills will need updating or even a complete revamp … in three years.

Keep in mind that every industry is different, and obsolescence may rear its head within months in some cases (think high tech) and not for a decade in others. But even an industry as old as cosmetology can be tough to keep up with, especially if you are particularly resistant to change. The main thing is to recognize when your dedication to the tried-and-true is hindering your business or even (perish the thought!) is contributing to a declining reputation.

Check out the scenarios below and circle which one describes you best—either A, B, or C. We’ll show you how to score yourself at the end.

1. The Classic Manicure —Here’s What I Do:
A. I don’t really have a classic manicure. Instead I examine each client’s hands and offer a service based on her needs. She may have some “problem” nails that I can focus on, or maybe her skin needs extra care. Clients always wash their hands before a service but I don’t always use a manicure bowl because nails are porous and too much soaking makes them expand.
B. For a long time my classic manicure was patterned after what I learned to do as a student. Now my clients are asking for different things (especially new clients) and I’m starting to adapt. Some of them want to hear about products that will help them smooth out ridges or keep their nails stronger. I’m thinking of getting more education on new products, which I may even want to sell to my clients for home care.
C. I’ve got it down to a science! Hands washed, nails filed smooth, then the hands are immersed in a bowl of warm water to keep them soft and to soften the cuticles. This seems to work for all of my clients; at least no one complains about it.

2. My Service Prices
A. My salon is large and has five nail techs, including me. The pricing is established by the owner and I think it’s on the low side. Clients love my hard gel extensions and more and more of them are asking for me by name. But every month I can barely pay my rent and make expenses. Maybe it’s time to move on and take control of my pricing.
B. I try to stay competitive with the other salon prices in my area. There are a couple of new salons that are really beautiful and they offer fancy extras like nail art and hot stone pedicures. People seem to really like these places and their prices aren’t much higher than mine! I wonder if it’s time for me to step up my game.
C. I’ve been doing nails for 10 years and I’ve increased my service prices twice. The only time I raise prices is when my product costs go up. My clients are mostly on fixed incomes and they will stop coming to see me if my prices go too high.

3. I Use Business Cards:
A. Not sure what those are really useful for — all my networking is done through my blog and Facebook page
B. To promote my services and bring to tradeshows
C. As my main form of advertising — I don’t have a website

4. How I Handle Financial Transactions
A. Square has changed my life. I have a cash register made with a card swipe base and a tablet. My clients pay with their credit card or with Apple Pay (contactless payment). I also get real-time info on my salon’s sales, inventory, and manage online appointments.
B. I have a really great relationship with my local bank. They gave me a merchant credit card account and helped me set up Quickbooks, so I can easily manage my accounting and payroll. It does almost all of the work for me.
C. Most of my clients have been coming to me for ten years or more. They’re used to paying me with cash or even a check. I make careful records and provide receipts to all of them, keeping a copy for myself. I work with an accountant, who makes sure all of my books are accurate and up-to-date, especially for tax time.

5. What I Know About UV Rays
A. It’s exciting to see the new technology in gel curing. Even though most of my clients want natural nail manicures and traditional polish, I’m trying to convert some of them to gel-polish and even hard gel. I just need to be careful about cure times and keeping my product application thin and even.
B. I still have a UV lamp but after dragging my heels (and saving up some money) I finally invested in an LED lamp. I love how fast and evenly it cures! I’m reading up on the UV light spectrum and how it works with gel products so that I can give knowledgeable responses to my clients’ questions. They hear things in the news sometimes about the safety of these lights and get worried.
C. My UV lamp is a few years old (maybe five?) but it still works fine. My clients don’t mind relaxing in my salon just a few minutes longer and besides, it’s safer than LED lamps. I don’t trust the newer lights.

6. Silk, Fiberglass, Linen, and Paper Wraps
A. I’ve never really done anything with wraps since nail school. None of the salons I’ve worked at had them on the menu. Sometimes I’ll use a silk wrap to reinforce one or two nails during a natural nail manicure. I sort of like having it as an option and am thinking about signing up for a class so I can really apply wraps expertly.
B. Does anyone offer these anymore? I haven’t done a fiberglass set in forever — but it’s too bad because they’re great for a lot of different nail types.
C. Too much bother — I never got the hang of these and clients kept coming back for repairs after a couple of days. I’m sticking strictly to gels and acrylic.

7. Sculpting Acrylic and Gel
A. Shortly after nail school, I signed up with a manufacturer whose product I really liked. Through taking classes and a lot of practice I have developed considerable skill applying hard gel. I form the extension as perfectly as I can, using my brushes. That way I keep my filing to a minimum.
B. I consider myself a master e-filer and learned how to create great-looking pink-and-white acrylic nails over the years, no matter what product I use. E-files are great at correcting misapplication and crooked edges. Some of my clients don’t like the feeling and sound of an e-file so I tell them they should just stick with a gel-polish manicure.
C. I’ve always had trouble getting the ratios right with liquid and powder. I always seem to have one or two nails that need a lot of filing after they set. If acrylics weren’t such a big part of my income, I’d probably stop doing them altogether. I watch the educators do great work at tradeshows but I’m too busy to take the time to learn new techniques.

Give yourself 5 points for every A response; 3 points for every B response; and 1 point for every C response.


How You Walk the Earth

7-15 points = Nyasasaurus, the oldest dinosaur

You tend to operate by the mantra “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This has served you well for years but are you really operating at the best of your abilities? If you’re just trying to coast through until retirement, that’s fine but keep in mind how much more enjoyable retirement could be with additional savings. You’re never too old to learn new techniques, or switch to more efficient ways to run your business.

16-24 points = Tyrannosaurus rex, late Jurassic period

With one foot in the “that’s how I’ve always done it” past and one foot in the “I think I can do better” future, you are balancing on the cusp of evolution! You’re beginning to evaluate what is working in the way you do nails and where you could use some improvement. Seeking education and dedicating time during your busy days for testing new ideas could pay dividends.

25-35 points = Archaeopteryx, a bird-like creature thought to be the link between dinosaurs and modern birds

There’s no question you aren’t afraid of change and of trying new things. This openness frequently works in your favor, as the nail industry continues to evolve. Just one hint: Make sure you aren’t dismissing methods or traditions that might seem “antiquated” but continue to have value in your business. Professionalism and impeccable customer service never go out of style.

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