I own a nail salon with five techs (employees) and everyone gets along pretty well. The problem is one tech who takes off the entire month of December every year. (She takes the time off unpaid.) Her husband also has time off and they visit his parents in another state. Of course that’s our busiest time and we can barely accommodate our own clients let alone hers. It’s a strain on everyone. The other techs are resentful and they threaten to do the same thing. (I don’t blame them.)

Can I tell her she can’t go? How should I handle the situation?

Dear Short-Staffed: I find a good way to resolve a problem with someone who is causing a conflict is to give her choices. Let her know that taking the entire month off during the busiest time of the year is not working. Tell her she can pick a solution: 1) She can take five days off; or 2) The salon will need to get a replacement to take over her table and clients. She will need to pack up her supplies from her table to make room. Then you will see how things are when she returns.

Another solution is hiring one or two salon assistants for the holidays. You, as the salon owner, can hire an assistant for the entire salon or the techs themselves can hire a part- or full-time assistant. For example, a nail tech may book two clients in two hours. With a helper, a tech can book three people in two hours by allowing the assistant to start the client’s initial prep work and do much of the filing. Ease client’s hesitation at having someone different working on them by having the assistant start out with a fantastic hand massage. If the assistants have some free time, they can perform free mini pedicures, paraffin treatments, or other special services the clients have never tried to create more business for the salon.

Tiered Pricing

After five years of doing nails, I finally increased my fill and full set prices by $5. I wrote a really nice letter explaining why I was raising my prices and that the raise applies to everyone. Unfortunately, when I started out I gave quite a few people special deals on their nails, but now that I am fully booked, working 60 hours a week, I can’t afford to do that anymore.

My problem is the old clients either didn’t read the letter or don’t think it applies because they are friends so they are paying me the same amount or adding $5 to the discount price they were paying me before. I am such a wimp that I can’t seem to tell them they owe me more money. It took me two years just to get the nerve to raise my prices. What can I do?

Dear Too Timid: When it comes to money, sometimes you have to push the issue. When I raised my prices, I did not give any explanation. I simply took an index card, folded it in half, got a calligraphy pen and wrote, “As of January 1, there will be a $3 increase in fill prices.” I set it to the edge of my towel so it would be noticed by all my clients. If you are trying to get all of your clients to pay the same price, a quick simple solution is to post a sign saying, “Fill-ins are now $28.” You can expect to lose about four clients, but making an extra $50 a day will make it less painful for you. Those clients who didn’t honor your letter may figure it does not apply to them until you say it. If it’s too difficult to speak up, you could try pointing to the note when they pull out their wallet. They may growl a bit, but so far, from my experience, no one actually bites.

A Moving Story

I recently left a salon I worked at for five years and opened my own small salon. Most of my clients came with me, but I wasn’t able to let all of them know about the move. My problem is my old salon owner. I’ve heard through others that when my old clients (or even just friends) call she won’t give out my new phone number or even tell them that I’m working somewhere else. And she’s been really rude to some of the callers. Is there anything I can do? Does she have an ethical obligation to let people know where to find me?

Dear Out of Touch: Every person has a different set of ethics and morals. The problem is you want her to be a kind person like you, but she is not.

If someone wants to find you, with a little effort on your part, they will. Use this situation as good motivation to start a “relationship marketing campaign.” Let the residents of your town know you not only moved, but now own your own business. Hold a grand opening or an open house for friends and clients. Make fliers and pass them around town—post them on bulletin boards and ask clients to hand them to their friends. Ask local businesses if they would like to swap gift certificates and have some drawings at the event.

Also consider running an ad in the local newspaper with your photo in it. You will need to run it for about six weeks for maximum impact.

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