As an instructor, when Doug Smith sees nail technicians in his audience playfully slug each other in the arm, he knows he’s made his point. Smith, a San Diego, Calif.-based educational sales consultant for Creative Nail Design Systems, says nail technicians are “starved for professional education. They’re tired of just opinions.” So when he explains, in technical terms, how a certain product works or how to combine products to extend the life of a nail enhancement, he says, “I can see the light bulbs go on. They start hitting each other on the arm and saying, ‘I knew it! That’s how it works!’ You can see the excitement level rise. They really do want the facts.”

Few have a better background for presenting those facts than Smith, an experienced stage actor and former nail technician. Combining his entertaining presentation style with the technical training he received at Creative Nail Design Systems, he holds audiences’ attention at sales meetings and classes across the country. “We certainly have a great time, and the audience is really absorbing a lot of good, technical information,”‘ he says.

Smith trains his students to do more than old-fashioned “cookie-cutter nails,” he says, adding, “It’s important to custom-design enhancements for each client.” He stresses that every nail technician should do a thorough consultation before working with a new client. Does the client have young children? Does she play tennis? Does she need a glamorous look for her job? “Much like a doctor does a consultation and then makes a recommendation, we need to know about the client’s lifestyle and what image she wants to project with her nails,” he says.

Before the client leaves the salon with her new, personalized nails, it’s important to talk with her about how to care for them, Smith emphasizes. “Home care can really prolong the life of nail enhancements,” he says. “For instance, we’ve learned that cuticle oil, by winding its way down into the molecular pores of the product, can increase the life of nail enhancements by 30%. We call it ‘turning detailing into retailing.’ We encourage the nail technicians to always suggest home-care items.”

Working at the high end of the nail care business, does Smith worry that discount salons will hurt his students’ businesses? Not a bit. “The smart technicians don’t even worry about it,” he says. “The way I look at it there will always be K-Mart shoppers and there will always be Nordstrom shoppers. No one owns the industry.” Noting the less-than-wonderful coverage the nail industry has received in the press on occasion, Smith says he thinks nail technicians’ best response to articles about poor sanitation and discount salons is to “rebirth themselves and rise to a higher level.”

Speaking of higher levels, what’s it like up there on stage, speaking to crowds at big-city beauty shows? Does ail that acting experience — roles in “Grease,” “West Side Story,” and “The Sound of Music” — make it easier to “perform” in his current role? “I still have my moments,” Smith says with a laugh. “At a recent show, I was up on stage with a model, and I had to walk a runway with her. I had to concentrate really hard on not falling off!”

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