This is a real estate agent somewhere in Iowa City, Iowa, who didn’t know what she was in for when she meet Rachel Mathes. This particular agent – friendly, well dressed, with beautiful nails – was perfect, Mathes decided, as she put into motion the plan she now recommends to salon owners all over the world.

The plan was simple: “I told her that if she would carry my business cards and give the name of my salon to anyone who asked about her nails, I would do her nails regular for free,” Mathes explains.

“It’s great,” Mathes says with a laugh. “She sees people when they are first moving into town. She sees the wives of the new moms at home, and the working women.”

It’s just type of “grow your business” thinking that has made her so popular on the lecture circuit as an OPI guest artist and speaker. While Mathes, owner of Class Act Nails in Iowa City, travels around the world demonstrating the latest powder-and-liquid and gel techniques, her true love is teaching salon owners how to build their clientele.

“it’s very important to run your salon as a business,” Mathes tells her audience. “Too often, that’s not what happens. You need to provide manuals for each employee,” she adds, stressing the importance of consistence standards.” It’s also important to spend time with each employee,” she says, nothing that she holds a monthly staff meeting followed by individual time with each nail technicians. “I spend one hour with each employee,” she says. “We go over what she’s doing right and talk about setting goals for the next month.”

Mathes, who worked with OPI for six years as an educator before becoming a guest artist and speaker five years ago, says it’s important to warn salon owners about becoming too chummy with employees. “You can be their friend,” Mathes says, “but you have to remember that you are also their employer. It’s a fine line.”

For example, it’s important for an owner to be understanding if an employee is having trouble at home, Mathes says. “But there comes a time when work is work. If home life hasn’t been so wonderful lately, you have to get her pumped up to go to work.” Salon owners and managers need to know, she says, “that employees really want attention and time.” It’s a difficult balancing act, she admits, when the owner is busy trying to juggle all the other aspects of the business.

While keeping employees motivated is certainly a high priority, making clients feel valued is crucial, Mathes says. No matter what else you do in a day, she stresses, don’t forget who’s footing the bill. “I always remember they’re paying for my time,” Mathes says. “Every client I have is a new boss.”

While that extra hand massage or hot oil soak may take a customer feel pampered, it’s the extra bit of acknowledgment that keeps her booking appointments, Mathes says. “Just walking out into the waiting area and smiling and saying, “Good morning, how are you? to the customers who are waiting can go a long way toward making customers feel valued and appreciated.”

Everyone treats new customers well, Mathes says. But what about the old reliable regulars? “It’s so easy to put a customer off after she’s come in four or five times,” she says. “The secret to keeping regulars – and keeping your business growing – is to treat them like new customers.”

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.