Paula Gilmore

Paula Gilmore

It’s not always easy to network with other salon owners, since all of us are so busy, and many of us keep our business dealings “close to the vest.” So when the opportunity arose to help Maggie put together a salon owners roundtable, I was very excited. Maggie thought I could give them some good marketing and management advice based on my book and my seminars. She invited a diverse group of’ nine salon owners and asked them to bring some of their best salon materials. I created the agenda for the evening and acted as facilitator.

Let’s meet a few of the panel members:

Vaughn Wilkinson owns A Perfect 10 salon. He’s 28 and has been in business 12 years.

Tabatha Wynne owns Tabatha’s Beauty Clinic, and although she’s just 19, she’s been in business two and half years and has six employees. Her salon offers facials, massage, manicures, pedicures, nail enhancements, and nonsurgical facelifts. She pays her staff an hourly wage plus commission.

Sharon Fowler, owner of Nail Affair, is 35 and has been in business 10 years. She employs three other nail technicians and pays a salary plus benefits.

Marianne Burrell is the owner of Marianne’s Beauty, with two locations and a total of 12 salaried estheticians and nail technicians. At age 50, Marianne has a wealth of experience with 34 years in the beauty business.

Everyone was a bit nervous at first, but as the introductions were made, we relaxed and began to see how much we had in common as salon owners. The goal was to give salon owners a chance to get acquainted, even though their salons might be hours away from each other.

Putting Issues on the Table 

We began our discussion with the big question: What is your No. 1 business challenge?

As I began to hear the concerns of these salon owners who operate around the world from me, I realized that we share the same major challenge — finding and keeping a good staff. Salon owners Down Under, though, must also deal with no licensing and a large number of trained technicians who operate home-based salons.

The reasons the owners thought they were losing employees to the home-based salon were varied. Some owners believe that these nail technicians simply want to be their own boss and don’t have the financing to open their own salon. Others aren’t properly trained or qualified in business skills to keep clients in the salon environment.

We discussed ways to keep a good staff in the salon. Most technicians in Australia work on commission or salary-with-bonus. There is practically no competition from bargain salons, and the service fees are high so the opportunity for success in these salons is good. Education provided within a salon environment seems to be a good motivator to keep technicians in the salon, Wynne explains. “Providing ongoing education for my staff keeps them interested in improving their skills which they wouldn’t get working out of their home.”

I suggested they try using a weekly report to track the number of new clients, the number of repeat customers, and weekly income from both service and retail dollars.

I also suggested to the group that they create close relationships with the private schools so they can get referrals for new technicians entering the business.

Another hot topic was the question of whether an esthetician should be allowed to offer nail care without nail-specific training. Skin care seems to be more accepted and sought after in Australia, and it is not unusual for an esthetician to also offer nail services. Most of the salon owners rely on newspaper advertising or walk-ins for hiring estheticians and nail technicians. We discussed the benefits of a consistent training program, which would make training quicker and more efficient, and would ease the burden of staff turnover.

Everyone agreed that salon meetings and customer retention were important factors to salon success. Fowler says she-pays close attention to her staff and knows who keeps their clients coming back. Others are computerizing their reports. I shared a copy of the TIPS Nail & Image Center Salon Meeting Agenda as a guideline for future meetings.

We discussed service pricing, although the Australian market has not experienced “bargain basement” nail service fees that have impacted the United States. My best piece of advice still works for my salon in Redwood Shores Calif., and I’m sure it will work for them as well. Listen to what the customer wants. I showed them our Tips Testimonial and Customer Survey sheet that we use to stay in touch with client needs. I also advised them to keep adding value to their services rather than engaging in a price war with lower-priced salons.

A Network Is Born 

Our two-hour networking session flew by quickly and everyone was in deep conversation about their business when it was time for a break. The group was treated to wine and a delightful light supper as they continued to visit and trade ideas.

I have been involved in a salon owners’ group before and am now on the board of directors for The Salon Association (based in Phoenix, Ariz.). These alliances have always been a positive experience for me, and I recommend them for you as well. There is plenty we can share with and learn from each other that will only enhance the industry as a whole.

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