Her day begins at 6 a.m. and ends around midnight. After making breakfast, a school lunch, and usually something for her family to eat that night—just in case she’s not home on time — Faith Glionna rushes off to open Cuticles Nail Salon in Indialantic, Fla.

During the eight-plus hours she puts in at the salon six days a week, Glionna wears many hats: nail technician, janitor, bookkeeper, promoter, order clerk, interior decorator, gofer, technical trainer, personnel manager, and yes, business owner.

“I can afford a manager, but if s easier to do it myself — less headaches,” says Glionna, who admits to being a control freak. “It was much worse seven years ago when I opened my first salon. I felt that if I wasn’t there every minute of the day, everything would fell apart. Now I have a wonderful team and I’m learning to let go.”

Glionna’s dilemma is a familiar one, particularly for first-time business owners who are astute enough to realize that you must be a “hands-on” manager of your staff and business to get ahead. Understanding that hands-on sometimes means “handing off” responsibility is a learned skill essential to business growth and success.

Delegation, for the control freak, can be a difficult balancing act that requires constant reinforcement. Some masters of the technique have learned through professional training classes, some have learned through their experiences in the salon, and still others confess it’s taken a little of both.

The Delicate Balance

Salon owner and nail technician Karena Clatterbuck says, “Finding that balance can be exasperating, but it can make or break your business.”

When Clatterbuck opened her first salon six years ago with two employees, she was determined to do it all herself — and she did—for a while. But when her business grew so quickly that she felt herself heading toward a nervous breakdown, the 23-year-old entrepreneur realized something had to change.

“I’d like to think that the reason I started delegating salon duties was because I was a savvy businesswoman. But, the truth is a little less gratifying: While I was running the salon and taking business classes at a local college, my salon grew so fast that push came to shove and I didn’t have any other choice,” admits Clatterbuck, owner of Karena’s Hair & Nail Designers in Elgin, Ill.

It wasn’t just circumstantial for the young business owner, who valued the importance of networking. Clatterbuck first joined the local chamber of commerce, then another organization called Women in Management. It was the latter group that greatly helped her build relationships with other business women.

“The women I met there became my mentors. They gave me advice that I still use today, including the value of delegating responsibilities. They shared their experiences, giving me the tips I needed to get started.”

Today, as a recovering control freak with 21 staff members, Clatterbuck remembers the most common symptom: feeling and believing that if she wanted a job done right, she had to do it herself.

A Difficult Concept

Although every aspect of your business is ultimately your responsibility, you can’t do everything yourself. A successful business owner must be able to delegate some of the work and authority without giving up control. Learning to assign certain responsibilities, especially those that you have nurtured while working hard to build your business, does not mean that you are losing control.

“We all feel the stress of handing off an important duty to a staff member and worrying about the eventual outcome,” says salon owner Mary Metscaviz, who recently opened her first salon. “But if I don’t delegate some of the duties, I’ll never reach my long-term goals.

Once I learn how to do something myself, I train the appropriate staff member and then move on to tackle my next project.” In the six months since she opened Awesome Nails in Grayslake, Ill., Metscaviz has doubled her staff, from two to four nail technicians.

Learning to Trust

To be an effective manager, you need to learn how to best utilize your staff member’s time as well as your own. Finding employees who you can trust to do a job to your satisfaction is the first step. Selecting the right person for the right position will help you transfer responsibilities more than any other factor.

Before hiring your staff, develop a plan outlining the kind of person you want to work for you. Don’t just hire someone because she has a full book. Make sure that she shares your goals and work ethic, then ask the right questions to find out if she’s a team player.

If you’re a bona fide control freak—let her know. Explain that you are in the process of training your staff to take over more of the established salon duties, and that you are open to new ideas. If you say this to a new staff member who ends up performing under your terms, you will be committed to listen and more apt to respond to a solid idea she might present.

“If you have faith and trust in someone, you will give them the chance to make a mistake. After all, we all learn from our mistakes. Sometimes employers and managers, particularly those who don’t allow their staff to make decisions or participate in the operations, forget that making a mistake doesn’t constitute failure,” says Metscaviz, who believes that accepting imperfection in others, as well as herself, is another key to successful delegation.

Chelly Eric, owner of Total Image, a home-based salon in Winthrop Harbor, Ill., learned the hard way. “I don’t think I relaxed once during my first two years in business. Although the salon became a success, and I could have easily hired an assistant, I shied away from it because I didn’t think anyone could handle things as well as I did,” she says.

When Eric wasn’t with a client, she was busy doing the bookwork, updating client lists, or planning her next promotion. It wasn’t until her husband started to complain that she took notice that the salon was taking valuable time away from him and her children.

“Being in control meant doing everything myself, so when I hired my stepdaughter, Jennie, as sales and service coordinator, I was very apprehensive. But she knows how I like things done and usually gets the job done right. Luckily, she also knows how picky I am and is willing to redo something that’s not quite right,” says Eric, who considers herself a recovering control freak since hiring an assistant.

The Next Step

Once you’ve learned to be selective in hiring staff members who you can trust and delegate tasks to, you need to promote team work among those members. Establish regular staff meetings where you can all talk and listen. This forum should be used to recognize good works, suggest areas of improvement, vent frustrations, and brainstorm new ideas.

Glionna, who once insisted on working 10-hour days so she could be there to both open and close her salon, says that that staff meetings are the glue that holds her team together. “I can learn more about my staff in one good meeting than I do all week long in the trenches. Really listening and sharing builds confidence and a team spirit that is ultimately felt by our clients,” she says.

Learning to Relax

Delegating tasks and cutting your hours back is hard enough, but how does a control freak learn how to relax — especially in the salon?

“I try to relax during lunch and dinner,” says Rebecca Moore, owner of All About Nails in Northampton, Pa. “It’s hard for me to relax during business hours because I’m always remodeling or adding something to the menu — after all, the salon has only been open for two years,” says Moore.

Darlene Johnston, owner of Shear Heaven in Hagersville, Ontario, relaxes in a tanning bed when she gets a break. So does Eric occasionally when a client forgets her appointment.

Glionna schedules a day of beauty— once a year, but admits that she’s learned to escape to a nearby gym when she feels the urge.

A true control freak sees the irony of finding it hard to relax in an establishment that is designed for relaxation. It’s a natural for salon owners who should encourage their staff members to take time out for relaxation as well.

The need to be in control is not exclusive to salon owners. Independent contractors and employees often fit the bill as well. Nail technician Faye Read-Huber has been renting booth space from Glionna for three years but apparently hasn’t learned a thing from her boss.

“I work about 12 hours a day, six days a week—but I love my job and never complain. The day just flies by?’ she says, “Better her than me,” Glionna says with a giggle.

Tips for Taming Control Freaks

Paula Gilmore of Tips Nail Suite in San Mateo, Calif., suggests some strategies to help balance the need for control and the art of delegation.

1) When you find yourself becoming overburdened you need to loosen your need for control — and delegate.

2) Make “to do” lists and assign tasks proportionately to staff members. Now comes the hard part Let your staff know that you expect these jobs to be handled in a timely manner and that you will not be “happy to finish the job for them if something comes up.” You may want to set a firm deadline for certain duties.

3) Recognize each staff member’s assets, talents, and strong points and make use of those attributes in the salon.

4) Don’t wait until the day before your vacation or for an emergency to have your systems in place. Make sure you are not the only one in the salon who can put out fires.

5) Compensate staff members who take on extra responsibilities, through monetary means and recognition.

6) Organize monthly staff meetings so employees can contribute ideas, progress, complaints, and goals. Don’t let meetings slip — this is your opportunity to communicate.

7) Rotate positions (for example, opening and closing the salon) so that your entire staff is trained in key areas.

8) Dedicate yourself to taking regular days off. This will help you avoid burnout Encourage employees to do the same.

9) Don’t be afraid to let someone go. If someone isn’t pulling their weight, find out why, talk to them, reiterate your expectations, and if this doesn’t affect their job performance — weed them out.

12 Steps to Recovery

By Faith Glionna & Faye Read-Huber

  1. Take time not to smelt the acrylic!
  2. A vent a day keeps the fumes away.
  3. Two manicured hands make for no housework!
  4. A nail saved is a dollar earned
  5. An apple a day doesn’t take the clients away.
  6. A watched nail never sets.
  7. A nail fixed in time saves the other nine.
  8. You can lead a foot to water and then paint the nails pink.
  9. Every wrap has a silk lining.
  10. Nail techs do cry over” spilled monomer.
  11. So many clients, so little time.
  12. A good nail tech is worth her weight in acrylic dust!

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