In any industry, financial compensation, appreciation, acknowledgement, and being valued as team members are part-and-parcel of job satisfaction. As a salon owner, you have the power to compensate team members fairly and instill feelings of self-worth in each member. The process of developing a powerful team begins the moment someone is hired.

At Fandango in Santa Rosa, Calif., newly hired nail technicians are introduced to all the salon’s clients. In addition, no matter the skill level of the technician, owner/nail artist Nanci Soltani takes time to show the new team member how to perfect her services to the Fandango level. “This is very important because we share clients,” she says.

When a nail technician is hired at Pro Files Hair•Nail•Skin in Cape Coral, Fla., she goes through an extensive training program. “Because we only do sculptured nails, there is a lot to learn,” says co-owner Traci Dungan. “It takes about four months to train a junior nail technician properly before she can work on acrylic clients. Becoming a senior nail technician requires attendance at in-salon classes, which are held about every three weeks for two hours.”

New hires at Natural Beauty in Twinsburg, Ohio, take part in orientation week, where they shadow someone in their position. They also go through an apprentice program, says 30-year beauty industry veteran and salon owner Millie Haynam.

An in-depth training program is also done at Rare Accents in Palm Harbor, Fla. Heather Goodwin, manager and nail professional, says, “Our salon works on the level system, which ranges from entry to ‘4A,’ which means you work with an assistant. When we hire someone new, we assess her technical and customer-service skills and develop goals for each level.

“We also hold biweekly one-on-one coaching sessions and monthly technical training,” adds Goodwin.

Because a lot of time and dedication is spent on perfecting (and maintaining) their skills, offering incentives to team members helps indoctrinate good work ethics.

At Rare Accents, each level has its own guidelines and goals and offers higher commission, higher prices, vacation, 401K, and education dollars. “We also have in-house contests six times a year offering cash awards and prizes,” says Goodwin.

Commission is on a sliding scale at Natural Beauty, so the more team members earn, the more they make. “All benefits are directly related to performance,” says Haynam, “so each person has the opportunity to receive above and beyond traditional benefits by reaching performance goals.”

Haynam also hands out anniversary necklaces after one-year of employment — full-timers receive a diamond, part-timers receive their birthstone, and both get an additional stone each year.

Team members at Fandango receive 10% back on retail sales. Soltani encourages the nail technicians — who are booth renters — to get a resale license, so they can retail their favorite products at their stations.

Offering Recognition

Having a salon recognition program is also a valuable tool to acknowledge and show appreciation for your team. Fandango holds a star-technician-of-the-month contest. Voted on by her peers (the salon has 18 nail technicians), the winner receives a $50 gift certificate for the local mall and a plaque.

In addition to having a plaque with her name on it placed in the front of the salon, the employee of the month at Jenniffer & Co. in Mentor, Ohio, receives a relaxing day at a spa.

Each month, the “Go Give” award, which is voted on by all team members, is bestowed on the greatest team player at Rare Accents. Also, everyone whose average service and retail tickets have gone up from the previous month is recognized at each staff meeting.

Conducting regular staff meetings helps stimulate and inspire your team. Lead by the owner and both managers, Rare Accents holds its salon meeting the first Monday of every month. “We always begin with acknowledgements and announcements,” says Goodwin. “Sometimes we cover technical education or theory; other times we will offer ongoing business-skill training.”

Both Dungan and co-owner (and sister) Ami McClure lead the monthly meetings at Pro Files. Besides discussing the appointment book, products, and classes, other topics include price increases, dress code, upcoming shows, and travel plans. Team members are encouraged to give their feedback and share their concerns.

Keeping the Peace

A responsible salon owner also holds the title of peacekeeper. No matter how close-knit your team members are, conflict is destined to happen. This is where your skills as a fair mediator, sympathetic listener, and problem-solver come into play.

When it comes to handling conflict, “we usually butt in long enough to mediate, listen to both sides, sympathize, and then try to steer them back to talking things out,” says Dungan. “When 25 women work together, there is bound to be ‘she said, she said.’ We certainly don’t expect everyone to be best friends, but we do expect everyone to respect each other. To clients and others outside the salon we present a united team.”

At Jenniffer & Co., owner Jenniffer Pealer holds a roundtable discussion with the techs who are at odds to come up with a solution. Disciplinary action is also taken, if necessary.

In many cases, salon gossip is the trigger for conflict among team members. “We try to stay out of it as much as possible,” says Dungan. “Little stuff is OK, such as, ‘Can you believe so-and-so is late again?’ or ‘Where do you think she got the money for her new car?’ Again, we are girls, and in some respect, it’s a little group therapy — we giggle, we joke around — but nothing hurtful or hateful is ever tolerated.

“Bad apples have a way of bringing others down,” Dungan continues, “and because we are such a tight-knit group, no one will tolerate it, and the bad apples get weeded out.”

Rare Accents uses a counseling memorandum sheet in each employee’s file to keep track of any written or verbal warnings on any matter, including salon gossip. Says Goodwin, “We remind employees why gossip is not tolerated and ask them what was the outcome they were looking to produce as well as the motive in saying what they did.”

Beyond conflict resolution, having an open-door policy is key in keeping the lines of communication open between yourself and your team. At Pro Files the door is always open, says Dungan. “We are like a family. When you work with people day in and day out, it tends to get more personal.”

“We always have an open-door policy at Fandango,” says Soltani. “Because we genuinely care about each other, I check-in frequently with every technician to make sure things are going smoothly. If there is a salon issue, I’ll put it on the agenda for the next meeting and let the group solve the problem.”

Building Team Spirit

Team-building activities are a great way to motivate your salon team and encourage camaraderie. To help achieve this, Rare Accents recently formed a mission statement. “We had everyone circle a list of her most important core values as well as a list of action verbs,” says Goodwin. “We came up with the three most popular of each and separated the team into groups to form a mission statement and then voted on one, which is framed and hanging in our break room.”

At Natural Beauty, team members are required to work together to set up outside events to promote the salon. “I typically sit back and let the team put together the event themselves,” says Haynam.

To unite her team, Soltani holds a couple of events each year that involve all salon members and clients. This year Fandango will be sponsoring a Christmas in July event to collect socks and underwear for a local children’s charity. “These events bring us together as a salon and also involve us with our community,” says Soltani.

At a recent team-building activity, Goodwin divided the Rare Accents team into two groups by picking numbers out of a bowl. Each team was given the task of being the first one to hit $5,000 in retail sales that month. The salon owner treated the winning team to dinner.

Adds Goodwin, “We also raise money twice a year for cancer research by designing a raffle basket and having the entire salon participate in the Relay for Life fundraiser.”

Once a year, Pro Files sells raffle tickets to clients for $5, and they can win prizes such as free nail services for a year or a free Dell laptop computer. “Every year we raise enough money for hotel and airfare to attend the big nail show in Las Vegas,” says Dungan. “This allows people who couldn’t really afford it to be able to go. We actually close up the salon and go as a team.”

By far, though, what motivates a salon team is acknowledgement, says Goodwin. “We make a big deal whenever a team member moves up a level. We design a certificate for her workstation and decorate her area with balloons and a banner,” she says. “We also have a red carpet ceremony in January to recap the salon awards given out the previous year.”

In Dungan’s experience, what motivates most people is making good money. “We get to do something we love, work somewhere where we are all equals and respect one another, and make great money,” she says. “According to the statistics I’ve read about the industry, our nail technicians place extremely high on the pay scale. Our top techs are making between $1,000 and $1,200 a week, and that’s on commission. They work 40 or so hours a week, get two days off, and don’t have to answer phones or book appointments.”

Cementing the Team

Once you have created a strong team, be cognizant of the difficulties you may face in keeping the team tight. Different personalities, job responsibilities, and hierarchies can cause dissension.

“As owner and head cheerleader I wear many hats in the salon,” says Soltani. “I try to keep us all on a level playing field. Working with nine artistic personalities is definitely a challenge, but with careful team selection and hard work, the Fandango team will continue to set the standard for salon excellence.”

Planning social events outside of work is also a great way to keep a team connected. “Our Christmas party has become quite the event,” says Dungan. “We knew that last year when some of the techs’ husbands opted for our party rather than their company’s. I believe healthy relationships outside of work make for smoother days in the salon.”

The winter holiday season is also a fun time for social events at Fandango. “We all go out for a fancy, dress-up dinner, exchange gifts, and talk about our goals for the New Year. It is a special time for all of us,” says Soltani.

“By coaching our team members rather than managing them, we have definitely learned more of what they respond to and what motivates them,” says Goodwin. “Keep talking to your team. Ask their opinions. Everyone, including team leaders, should be held accountable. This is how our salon has grown to doing $85,000 in service sales and $18,000 in retail sales in a month.”

“A happy team is really the backbone of a successful business,” says Dungan. “When you walk into a business establishment to purchase services or goods, unhappy employees are very obvious. This is a reflection on upper management, not just the employee. How happy can a person be if he or she doesn’t feel appreciated or fairly compensated? If you take care of your team, it will come back to you tenfold.”

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