1. The Products. Distributors showcase and bring you the best professional beauty products. Professional products are one of the pillars that support our business — products such as the advanced technology liquids and powders, gels, and UV top coats we have come to depend on. Also turn to them for retail home-care products and distinctive spa products culled from around the world that you can use to expand your salon’s menu of services and retail options.

Distributors are one of the first lines of defense against diversion, protecting brand integrity by ensuring our favorite products can only be found in licensed salons. Here’s a standing ovation for having our backs!

2. The Education. “Education is the greatest tool distributors can offer nail technicians,” says Sherri Scheele, director of esthetics, nails, and spa services for Peel’s Salon Services. “We teach everything from product knowledge and application to business-building and marketing classes.” Many distributors host in-house education, bringing in the best in the business from major manufacturers. Ask about any discounts that might be available the day of the events; it’s quite common to find additional product on hand. A little planning could help increase profits on sales for the next several months if you can stock up on discounted items.

3. The Reps. Sales representatives not only assist with ordering, but also can bridge the gap between other specialized services that the distributor offers. Let your sales rep know the best time to call on you. If you don’t, she will drop in any time and you might miss out. Try to schedule a time when you will be uninterrupted by staff or clients. Make a list of any questions you have and copy it for the sales rep to take with her. Invite the salesperson to make suggestions and inquire about what other salons have had success with. Having a great relationship with the sales rep is vital to staying on top of changes in the industry. Distributors put a great deal of time and effort into sales meetings and training. Perhaps you are in an area that is covered by phone. The same applies. Make a special time to discuss salon orders. If the rep phones at a bad time, don’t hesitate to ask if she can call back at a more convenient time.

4. The MSDS. Material Safety Data Sheets, commonly referred to as MSDS, are available from your distributor. These handy information sheets list proper storage, handling, and disposal of the chemicals we use. OSHA requires that MSDS be maintained on premises and be available in the event of spills or accidents. Your favorite distributor might even maintain the data online. Start your binder today and update it each time you try a new product. A hard copy is advised because during an accident or emergency, computers could be down, or you may be required to leave the premises.

5. The Fundraising Support. Community support in the form of fundraisers, charity events, and public outreach programs exists at every distributor we talked to. Look for events such as Salons for the Cure, which benefits the American Cancer Society. Interested in hosting an event in your salon? Contact the distributor and they may have an event you can participate in. The obvious advantage is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. The distributor will already have done the ad slicks, promotion, and much of the legal research required and can give you great input on how to run the event. Interested in starting your own event for a favorite charity? Your dealer can still be an amazing source of information. The beauty industry is well-known for coming to the aid of those in need.

6. The Rewards. Rewards programs put more purchasing power in your hands. Programs such as The Edge, at Columbia Beauty Supply, and BSG Rewards, available at Beauty Systems Group Distributors, reward purchases and provide additional support such as samples to help drive client sales. Ask a staff member if the company has a rewards program. Usually member salons are alerted to special sale days and bonuses.

7. The Newsletters. Sign up for newsletters. Whether they come via snail mail or e-mail, they may contain little nuggets of information about marketing and promotion, as well as product knowledge. Does the newsletter feature other salons? Ask how you can have your salon mentioned.

8. The Business Plans. Need help constructing a business plan? Distributors realize this plan can be the foundation for getting a commercial loan, business start-up capital, or expansion plans and have professional staff that may be able to assist. A great plan can get you off on the right foot.

9. The MultiLingual Support. ¿Se habla español? An increasing number of distributors have multilingual staff members to assist with ordering and answering questions. Some are even offering special multilingual classes. Pick up a show brochure and you are likely to see several non-English classes listed.

10. The Catalogs. Full-color catalogs (in print as well as online) can be thumbed through between clients. Looking for the perfect brush or color of enamel just got easier. Distributors also list many services in the catalogs, along with pertinent contact numbers and dates to remember.

11. Round-the-Clock Ordering. Most distributors offer convenient 24-hour online ordering. Most will require you to register and provide proof of licensure before issuing a password to fully access the site. Rather fax or phone in your orders? Distributors have you covered. Sharda Anand, a phone support specialist with Davidson Beauty Systems, doesn’t wait for the phone to ring; she calls her accounts regularly to stay in touch.

12. The Financing. In-house financing and account terms help you stretch the salon’s spending ability. This can be a wonderful solution for new salons that have not established a company credit card. Check with your distributor as this is usually reserved for big-ticket items.

13. The Leasing Options. Check out leasing options for salon furnishings to help preserve capital and position for a possible tax advantage. Talk to your tax professional or financial planner to see if leasing could be a better option.

14. The Computer Software. Computer software implementation and training may streamline your business and help you track income and purchases. Let the professionals teach you how to track everything from production to client birthdays and anniversaries. Use the new information to strategically target clients with your marketing efforts and increase client retention.

15. The Product Knowledge. Distributors employ staff members who fully understand the products you work with in the salon every day. Peek into a classroom at RMD Products Co. Inc., and you might just find its founder, Matt Roberts, facilitating a nail class.

16. The Shows. Distributors showcase products and education at beauty shows. Find product demos of all the latest trends, nail competitions, and manufacturer classes at these events. Bring comfortable shoes and a desire to learn and be prepared to stay the day. Take notes and get up close to watch.

17. The Marketing Assistance. Need help developing your salon brand? Need to develop a website or create service menus, posters, or brochures? Call your distributor. If they don’t offer this service, they can point you in the direction of an experienced professional who has experience working with salons. Heather Heiderer, brand manager with The Nailco Group/CIE (Center for Industry Excellence), points out that services provided by CIE “are some of the most under-utilized by nail professionals. We even have technology in-house to take care of small-run printing needs or do design work and provide the art on disk.” Incidentally, CIE also helps salons develop house brands, more commonly known as private labeling. Ask about assistance with logos, labeling, and small-quantity product purchases.

18. Quick Shipping. Express shipping can get items to your door lickety-split when you are in a pinch. For a small fee, most suppliers have a shipping option that is faster than the standard shipping. Nails Express, a division of Barbara’s Beauty, offers same-day shipping of in-stock items if your order is placed by 3 p.m.

19. Design Services. Want to redesign your salon and maximize its efficiency? Consult one of the design centers available through distributors. Some can even help plan cost per square foot and profits accordingly. Opening a new salon? Make sure you don’t miss out on any of the bells and whistles when planning your build-out. Salon design services range from furnishings-only to full plumbing and electrical build-outs. According to RMD’s Roberts, “A salon can get everything to achieve a turn-key operation or pick and choose specific services, including building plans, space design, and complete blueprints.”

20. The Individualized Assistance. Distributors can support your individual salon needs in ways you never thought of. Have an industry question? Pick up the phone and call. Support can come in all types of packages. Scheele recently attended an open house for a salon that had upsized to a new building. She had worked with the client for 10 years. She says, “It’s so inspiring to see a customer grow from a basic salon to a million-dollar business.”

Erin Snyder-Dixon is a freelance writer, nail technician, salon owner, and best-selling author based in Newport News, Va. She is currently an educator for Nail Systems International. Her new book Salon Success, Tweaks & Tips can be found at www.OrderSalonSuccess.com. She can be reached at Erin@SpeakingToTheNation.com.

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