Let the Ideas Flow

byErin Snyder Dixon, contributing writer | October 1, 2007

Whether you are a salon owner or staffer, ideas are currency in business. What can you do to grease the wheels and get the ideas flowing? And, how do you make networking pay off? Creating an environment that fosters the sharing of ideas may directly impact the willingness of employees to participate in the process as well as the quality and frequency of those ideas. If generating ideas isn’t a task in the job description, quickly change it. No, all of the ideas won’t be keepers, but you will have a bounty of good ones to choose from.

Physical Location

Milady’s Susie Carder finds ideas flow more easily at the beach

Have you ever taken a much-needed vacation, only to be flooded with fresh ideas while you are away from work? Crank up creativity by varying the location of meetings Susie Carder, an executive director at Milady, shakes things up a bit by having meetings at the beach or at a park to foster more creative ideas. Carder’s leadership style relies on two-way communication to accomplish goals. Year-end strategy meetings require fresh eyes looking to the future. This is accomplished by a radical visual change from the salon. “We rent a hotel that overlooks the ocean,” she says.

Take a cue from Carder and out together a group salon retreat. Visit a beautiful or exotic location. Spend time out-doors. Try a new sport or activity. Enrich your life, feed your mind, and reward your spirit, then watch the fresh ideas begin to flow.

Understanding Communication Styles

The Myers-Briggs personality questionnaire

( identifies 16 personality types.

Our personality and how we communicate directly affect our interactions. Understanding the different aspects of each staff member and management team lets everyone communicate on a deeper level, appreciating each other’s strengths and weaknesses, attributes, and internal motives. Carder explains how salons can generate and use this information. “We use several different profiles from This allows our management to understand each team member. It is a blueprint for their communication, listening, and learning style. It allows us to understand and appreciate our differences.” Understanding what’s important to employees lets managers hear suggestions more clearly.

Make More of Meetings

Establish ground rules early on. Team members should feel unthreatened and welcome to share ideas. Bryan Durocher of Durocher Enterprises encourages salons to create “clear expectations of how members should speak with one another” in their employee manuals. To be successful in creating an environment of open communication, “there should be zero tolerance for verbal abuse or disrespect,” he adds.

Tammi Regan, director of business development at American Male, says, “Be sure to recognize and acknowledge creative ideas. When you recognize people effectively, it reinforces the actions and behaviors you most want them to repeat.”


Carder uses one-on-one meetings to generate ideas centered in individual performance. She asks, “What three things do you like about the salon? What one thing would you improve about the salon? What are three things you feel you are doing well? What is one thing you personally would improve upon?” This method of probing emphasizes the positive while giving the employee an opportunity to offer up ideas for improvement.

 “You would be amazed how this simple technique solves 95% of communication breakdown. The thing they offer up for improvement is usually the thing that drives you crazy about the team member,” she says “Also, if you are getting consistent feedback about needs for improvement in the salon, you can discern what the real issue is.”

Questioning in a balanced, safe, and positive manner is a great way to get staff to share ideas in a more private setting.

Managing Up

Managing up should never be confused with empty flattery or “kissing up.” Managing up is a delicate balance of making yourself indispensable, while making your boss or the team look good as a whole. It’s a way of navigating the business waters and knowing when to offer solutions, and much less often, complaints. It is the art of developing a fruitful relationship at work. While most of the actions on the surface appear to be shouldered by the employee, salons can play a role in allowing staff members to take a more proactive role.

Regan encourages staff-members to commit to the team process, add energy and enthusiasm, and have a willingness to take responsibility. This is done through one-on-one coaching, group meetings, and interoffice communications/newsletters. In her article “What Makes a Good Team Member?” she guides staff at American Male in the intricate nuances of managing up, or making yourself pleasantly indispensable. She advises that “team members provide systems that improve overall team service,” taking groups that work together and turning them into teams. “If you are to be fully valued by owners and every member on the team, you must be committed to the success of the team,” she writes. “If you agree to take specific actions, there is an automatic expectation that these actions will be implemented. If the team notices you are not following through with your commitment, there is a danger they will lose trust in you.”

If team members and management know you deliver more than you promise and can be trusted to make the organization look good, you will always have their ear and your ideas will surely be taken seriously.

Get Connected

Networking is all about creating connections beyond your current environment and learning from the expanded knowledge-base. Your clients benefit indirectly from professional networking when the nail technicians and stylists are able to implement ideas in the salon-ideas like that great new specially pedicure or the fantastic variation of your regular hand massage. You can’t expect great ideas to be spawned in a vacuum; there needs to be an impetus of change, so get out there and experience new things!

 “Most people think of networking as some kind of boring meeting or lackluster social event. Networking should be fun and interesting. One of the top new ways to meet people is through business networking events. These types of events are held at stylish clubs or restaurants and are designed to combine business networking with social fun. Google business networking events in your area,” says Regan. She also advocates volunteering as a way to make contacts and garner new business ideas to bring back to the salon. American Male creates networking opportunities by holding socials for pick up an idea or two.

Online networking opportunities:

Face-to-face networking:

  • Local Chamber of Commerce
  • Professional trade shows
  • Business mastermind groups
  • Volunteering in the community

Encouraging Feedback

Feedback is a two-way street. Feedback feels good when it is positive, but even negative feedback can create a powerful force of change-if you let it. When we get an immunization, the initials shot hurts a bit. But the long term effect of preventing disease is quite positive. Feedback is the same way. If you create an environment where open an honest feedback is appreciated, you have a powerful tool to correct deficiencies before they become bigger problems. Change the wording and change your mindset. Erase the word “complaint” and replace it with “feedback.” Do this in your salon literature and in your day-to-day interactions. Good feedback is not only a pat on the back but a way to know when things are headed in the right direction. Negative feedback is an opportunity for improvement. It’s like having a second chance to get it right. Whenever a salon receives negative feedback, it should always be followed by the question, “How could we have done things differently?”

Place feedback cards in client areas. Have a contest where every feedback card entered into a drawing for a prize at the end of the month. Use direct mail or e-mail to distribute feedback cards (offering a discount on a new service for returning the card filled out).


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