When I first started in the nail industry and began building my reputation, I reached a point where having an assistant became a necessity. As business increased, I had to hire more staff. But after receiving several complaints from clients about unfamiliar procedures, I realized that although I had the manpower to serve more people, I hadn’t trained them to do the services as I would do them. It was time to develop a training manual. The quality of service was not an issue; what needed to be addressed was the service sequence and application. Since the majority of my clientele is from my early days, it was awkward for these clients to adjust to someone new. But as a single parent and company educator, I needed flexibility in my schedule more than ever.

The majority of my clients chose to wait until I was available, giving me no reprieve. So in order to instill my clients’ trust in my employees, I developed a system detailing my services complete with product knowledge and time frames. My staff could now deliver the exact level of service I provided — combined with their own personal flair — and there would be no loss of revenue due to my absence.

Why a Manual?

Developing a training manual will provide your staff with a solid foundation, enhancing the level of services your salon has to offer. As a salon owner you will create a strong team atmosphere when everyone on your staff is equipped with the same fundamentals. A manual — with step-by-step procedures on the services your salon offers — will produce consistency in each staff member’s service. This “service branding” allows your clients to know exactly what to expect when they enter your door.

Cindy Hill, nail department manager for the five locations of Minnesota-based Cole’s Salon For You, feels this is one of the most important benefits of a written manual. “With our five salons it is crucial that our services are uniform as many of our clients move between our locations,” says Hill. Consistency also helps create a loyalty to your salon. Instead of a client being loyal to a specific technician, your entire salon is building a prominent reputation.

Gene Juarez Salon and Spas have seven locations in Washington as well as two schools. Linda Green, the director of operations and nail technicians, agrees with this concept. “Our guests can go to anyone and expect the same five-star experience at any given location,” says Green. “Gene Juarez Salon’s focus is to create an experience for our guests while they are being serviced. Our reputation is based on a consistent and quality service experience.” Your new manual will inform your staff of your exact expectations. It will also list any important salon rules or procedures, such as taking vacation time, pay periods, bonus or incentive programs, customer service, product knowledge, product control, and any other important salon issues you may choose to include. A manual will provide employees a structured guideline with procedures and references, making their job and your business more productive. It also serves as an excellent tool for technicians fresh out of school, allowing you to mold and develop their skills and work ethics.

Implementing New Systems

When implementing a manual in an existing salon environment, it is always best to notify staff members in advance to ensure a successful transition. You may wish to post the date you will initiate application, as well as mention it at staff meetings. Let the entire staff know this is a tool that will benefit each and every one of them and build your salon’s reputation and client base.

Provide your staff members a copy of your new manual to study with sufficient time prior to your launch date. Ask for their input. Employees will be more likely to jump on board if they feel they were included in the process. Schedule training and practice dates, then follow up with a verbal or written quiz at a staff meeting. Allow enough time to go over any questions your staff may have. Post signs for clients and distribute a salon newsletter informing them of your exciting new service procedures. This, in itself, will build intensity and curiosity among your clients. Hosting a salon demo day party with refreshments will build morale and excitement among staff members and provide them with an opportunity to discuss your new manual procedures with clients.

With existing staff members, it is essential that time is set aside to discuss, train, and test your new manual. Set up a training schedule a few months ahead of your launch date to ensure enough time for everyone to be properly trained. Staff members should perform enough test services to be completely comfortable before actually servicing clientele. On your test date invite a few regular clients to model for your staff. In order to receive feedback, provide your clients with evaluation forms to complete. Angi Wingle, a Creative Nail educator, stresses that management must be serious about executing new service training and must let existing staff members know that this is not optional. Old habits may need to be adjusted to conform to new ideas and regulations.

Implementing a training manual in a new salon is a much simpler process. Encourage new hires to take their manual home to study. Schedule training days with your management or a lead staff member. Perfect their techniques during test services and schedule a final testing date before the new staff members provide services to clients. It is crucial with new staff to have everything consistent and everyone positive before you open your salon doors. As new recruits are being hired, follow through with the same basic procedures. Green has new hires at Gene Juarez audition for a place on the staff. Upon acceptance, the new hire is taken through an intensive 12-week training session before she is able to begin servicing clients.

Put It in Writing

Of course every training manual will be different since every salon is different, but certain general guidelines can be followed:

  • Begin your training manual with a brief company history. Gene Juarez gives a background on the origin of its salons, including the founder’s humble beginnings.
  • Follow your history with your company mission statement. Give a short description on what your mission statement means to you as well as what it will mean to the individual staff members.
  • This will be followed by your table of contents.
  • At this point you may list any salon business, such as payment schedules, vacation days, scheduling, punctuality, holiday procedures, personal days, incentive programs, continuing education requirements, salon rules, salon benefits, and insurance information.
  • If your salon plans on holding employee evaluations, this is the place to list time frames and criteria for evaluations. This section will vary in content, depending on the size and number of your salons. Provide a clear and concise explanation of perks and benefits that are available to your employees.
  • The next section will contain a section on work ethic. Include a detailed description of appearance guidelines and dress code. The purchase of professional implements and tools will be specified in this section.
  • Follow with a section on employee attitude that lets staff know what behavioral standards are acceptable in your salon. Include points on maintaining a cheerful and positive attitude, respect for fellow staff members, dealing with personal issues and phone calls, and handling dissatisfied clients.
  • Customer service requirements follow next. Hill initiated a six-step customer service profile which encourages staff to build a following. Basic topics to cover here are: greeting your client, consulting with your client (this should include filling out a client profile), servicing the client, educating clients on products and procedures during the service, incorporating uniqueness and individuality in each service, and closing the service by suggesting retail purchases and rebooking the client. It is imperative that you establish dialogue to educate clients on your services, retail items, and home maintenance products. Clients are your sole source of income. Be crystal clear on what your expectations entail.
  • Include a copy of your full service menu, followed by a complete listing of products and retail items, describing features and benefits.
  • Inform staff where MSDS information is located or include copies.
  • After covering product knowledge, sanitation requirements, including safety and infection control, must be thoroughly covered. You may wish to include your individual state guidelines. A properly prepared sanitation and safety portion of your manual will aid in protecting your business against any type of lawsuits that may arise.

    Service Procedures

    When listing your step-by-step service procedures, follow the format listed in your service menu. Title each service, providing recommended service time. Pre-service procedures will list items and products necessary to perform each individual procedure as well as your sanitation requirements. For example: “Begin your service with properly cleaned and disinfected tools and service area. Sanitize your hands and the hands of your client.” Follow pre-service procedures with step-by-step instructions, communicating points where the technician will educate clients and suggest home-maintenance products. Finally, incorporate post-service procedures. Post-servicing includes the client paying for service and retail items, putting on coat or getting out keys, and booking their next appointment.

    Continue compiling the service portion of the manual with each of the services your salon offers, including maintenance services. Begin with your natural nail manicures, followed by pedicures, spa services, and polish changes. Next, include a section on each of the enhancement services you offer, their maintenance requirements, and repair services. If offering nail art, place a section at the end of your enhancement procedures with suggested time frames, products available for creating art, and suggested pricing for nail art services. Offer a portion containing add-on services, such as paraffin, describing what is available and how to incorporate these services to boost sales. Supply a troubleshooting guide at the end of each service area.

    A troubleshooting section is an excellent resource to assist new technicians with addressing issues that may arise during busy salon hours.

    Conclude your manual with a motivational section targeting the team members with goal-setting ideas, daily planning procedures, and self-evaluation. Include methods on gaining and retaining a steady clientele. Create a personal motivational phrase for your staff and conclude your manual with this phrase.

    Your manual will become an essential tool in building your business and developing team spirit. As you implement the manual in your individual salon, you will constantly add to, edit, and upgrade the content. Your training manual will convey a superior level of originality and uniqueness that will keep your staff as well as your clientele informed of your growth, creativity, and constant efforts to benefit them and the nail industry.

    Patricia Yankee Williams is the owner of Pattie’s Place in Baldwin, N.Y.

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