10 Techniques to Beat the Holiday Hassle

byJoLynn Vensel | November 1, 2006

Ah, the holidays — a time of peace and joy or chaos and contentment? As a salon owner, you have the power to keep yourself and your staff sane and sensible during the frenzied days of December. For starters, a positive, can-do attitude amid the mayhem associated with the holidays will help create a cheerful salon atmosphere.

We asked a group of salon owners and nail techs how they keep things running smoothly during the busy holiday season, as well as how they find time to pamper themselves.

 1. Plan Ahead
Because the holidays come around the same time each year, you have plenty of time to plan for them. In general, you should begin your preparation in September. If you haven’t already done so, now’s the time to take inventory. You’ll want to place orders, decide what retail items to carry for the holidays, stock up on gift items (such as body washes, candles, jewelry, and perfume), decide if you will be sending out seasonal cards or giving a gift to each client, and reserve the date and location for your staff holiday party.

This year, salon owner Reneé Borowy of V.I.P. Salon & Spa in Riverview, Mich., is planning something different for her staff holiday party. “The salon is closing early one day in mid-December, and I am booking our 50 techs into two different spas for treatments,” she says. “Each one can pick a service such as premium pedicures, facials, body wraps, or massages. I’ve hired an Executive Line bus and we will have drinks and food along the way.”

To cope with the volume of clients around the holidays, Borowy hires another shift during the busy hours and designates a greeter. She has also decided to add online gift certificate purchases this year, which will take a huge amount of pressure off of front desk staff and make gift-giving easier for clients because they are printable 24/7, she says.

2. Display and Discuss
You can start displaying your holiday retail items as early as October. As November rolls in, you should talk with your staff about holiday hours and added services, remind regular clients to schedule their holiday appointments early, decide if you want to hire extra help during the holidays, schedule an open house, and order any extra retail items.

To help relieve stress during the busy holiday season, Lynda Ward and Lisa Kirkland, owners of A Perfect Pair Nail Salon & Spa in Dunedin, Fla., have all their bases covered and leave nothing to chance. Their thorough preparation includes:

  • holding a team meeting before the season to discuss a plan of action and brainstorm ideas on how to have the most-productive season ever. This gets everyone motivated and excited about the weeks to come and gives staff a chance to create new services or treatments such as Peppermint Pedicures and Gingerbread Facials.
  •  scheduling staff work hours and making sure they mark off important holiday events they want to attend, so all hours of the salon will be covered.
  • creating a client wish list by asking clients what services and/or products they would want as gifts and then contacting their loved ones with their wishes.
  • planning a menu for the last two weeks before Christmas in which team members take turns bringing in their favorite entrees, appetizers, and goodies to share with staff and clients; the salon has done this for so many years that even clients will bring in their favorite foods to share.

During the holidays, Sandra Casanova of Chicago’s Havana Nights Nails & Spa brings in one or two students from the local nail schools to help put the towels in the warmer, disinfect tools and pedicure stations, sell gift certificates, keep the salon clean, and offer refreshments to clients, so her staff can concentrate on its work. Casanova says these students are properly trained, and most of them are offered a position at the salon after they graduate.

 3. Enjoy the Camaraderie
December is the time to send out your holiday cards, have goodies — such as flavored coffees and teas, wine, and cookies — available to clients during their appointments, and give clients their gifts. Remember to confirm each next day’s appointment.

Because the holidays are a time of sharing, offer any edible gifts you get from family and friends to clients. Besides, eating all those sweets yourself will make you feel sluggish.

When it comes to her staff, Kim Setzer, owner of Allure Salon & Spa in Algona, Iowa, eases the holiday pressure by planning potluck lunches on days she knows they will be super busy and may not have time to go out and grab a bite to eat.

For clients, Setzer keeps the salon open on December 23 and 24, so last-minute shoppers can purchase retail products and gift certificates.

4. Decorate, Write, and Wrap
By the beginning of November, you should have your salon decorated and gift packages assembled and displayed. Also, begin writing and addressing holiday cards, wrap your client gifts, and hold your scheduled open house.

A nail technician at Nail Sensation in Columbus, Ohio, Mary Seitzinger gears up for the holidays by posting a sign the first week of November that reminds clients that if they want holiday nail art, they need to start scheduling it now. The sign also states that clients who are more than five minutes late will not get their nails polished. Seitzinger says this is usually not a problem, but during the holidays she doesn’t want to run late because everyone is trying to get in; she will be there all night if she isn’t firm with this policy.

Rhonda Kibuk, owner of the Purple Pinkie Nail Salon in Ford City, Pa., says the biggest holiday events her salon prepares for are school Christmas dances, which keep her and her staff extra busy for about four weeks. “We not only have our regular clients during this time, but we have all the school girls in for pedicures and party nails,” says Kibuk.

Since most of these girls frequent the salon prior to the holidays, Kibuk and her staff write down the size of each nail tip during their appointment. Afterward, they will select each size and tape all 10 tips in a line on individual cards. “When they come in, all we have to do is prep, apply, trim, shape, and polish, which saves a lot of time and stress,” says Kibuk.

Barbara Lee, owner of Country Nails & More in French Creek, W.Va., says decorating her salon for the holidays helps create a stress-free environment for clients. Playing Christmas carols on CDs or turning on a radio station that plays continuous Christmas music also helps clients unwind and get into the holiday spirit. Keeping holiday scents in the air with candles or aromatherapy is also a great relaxer.

5. Put Yourself First
With long hours and tight schedules, many salon owners and nail technicians neglect themselves and end up feeling run down or get sick during the holidays. With so much extra time and energy dedicated to your business, it’s important to tend to your needs and pamper yourself, too.

While in the salon, take care of yourself by getting up and stretching between clients, drinking plenty of water, and eating foods high in protein, which give you energy. When you don’t eat, your stress level skyrockets. Kirkland and Ward also suggest taking time to meditate because even five minutes of quiet time will help balance your mind and soul.

After 21 years in the business, Kathleen Smelser, owner of Finishing Touch Salon in Palos Verdes Estates, Calif., knows every November her clients will start scheduling additional services. “My 12-hour days turn into 13- and 14-hour days,” says Smelser. “I know it is only two months of the year that are nutty so I just go with the flow.” To prepare for the nuttiness, Smelser takes her vacation in September or October to rest up. She also does her holiday shopping for family and clients during this time, so she doesn’t have to fight the crowds.

Maisie Dunbar, owner of M&M Nails and Wellness Center in Silver Spring, Md., splurges on hiring a personal shopper to tend to her gift-giving needs.

Kirkland and Ward suggest helping shop for coworkers by bringing each others’ Christmas lists to the stores and picking up the gifts for them.

The following five tips can help you survive the holiday hustle and bustle during your off-hours

6. Exercise
Even if you’re not a star athlete, physical activity keeps stress from getting the best of you. Finding something physical you enjoy will help release some of your holiday tension. Smelser tries to exercise at least three or four times a week, whether it’s a short walk or a quick workout because it “still gets the stress out and keeps some of those pounds away while eating and drinking at holiday parties and enjoying the goodies clients bring in,” she says.

7. Get enough sleep
Not only will getting plenty of sleep help you endure the long days at the salon, but Kirkland and Ward say that as a professional in the beauty business, you should always look your best and feel refreshed.

8. Take a bath
During the holidays, Dunbar creates her own escape on Saturday nights after working a 12- or 13-hour day by taking a long, candlelit bath and drinking a soothing cup of tea before bed. Like Dunbar, Setzer finds taking bubble baths after working extra hours is a simple, pampering pleasure.

9. Get a massage
Kirkland and Ward recommend treating yourself to a massage “because it’s important to relieve tired, aching muscles and keep your body in line.” While there, you can also purchase gift certificates for presents.

10. Go to parties
Force yourself to get out and go to holiday parties, say Kirkland and Ward, because once you’re there, you can unwind, enjoy good conversation, and take in the holiday cheer.

Casanova and her staff ward off the stress of the holidays by putting their dancing shoes on. “We enjoy going to different places for fun, and no matter how cold it is in Chicago during December, we still go out to celebrate,” she says.

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