The year is 1982, the place is Vienna, Austria. Neither a time, nor a place for much activity on the European scene of sculpturing acrylic fingernails. In fact, hardly anybody knew about those luxuries, and the ones who did were convinced that such things were not meant for the city of Strauss waltzes and famous pastries.

But it was the right idea at the right time, that made it happen there, too Hermann Loew, the founder and president of Onyx Nails, was at that time residing in California with his wife-to-be, Elfie, and was making preparations to move back to his home country after having lived in the United States for the last 17 years.

Elfie wanted to have her nails done for the wedding; this was her first introduction to artificial fingernails. She immediately suggested that this would be a great novelty for the Austrian market, and that they should investigate this opportunity and take some products back home.

This was done, and upon arrival in Vienna in the fall of 1982, they immediately started looking for a suitable location for a nail studio. Their friends all laughed at the idea, commenting that this is something for the “crazy Americans,” but here in conservative Austria? No way.

Elfie kept practicing by sculpting acrylic nails for her friends and neighbors. When the shop opened, it was not long before the word got around and acrylic nails became more and more accepted, even by the sceptical Viennese women.

Meanwhile, another nail shop opened on the other side of town, owned by a man who is now Hermann’s partner in Onyx Nails, which, according to Hermann, is Austria’s first and largest manufacturer/distributor of artificial fingernail products. Acrylic nails caught on surprisingly well; within a year, the studio was booked solid, and Onyx Nails had established itself as a wholesaler, offering a complete line of high quality fingernail products.

By 1984, approximately 150 to 200 nail studios and hairdressers were offering acrylic nails to their customers, and most of them were doing a booming business. Of course, with growth and success always come the problems. Some people started sculpturing acrylics without having been properly trained or informed, and problems such as fungus, infected nail beds and the like started to surface in the media. This somewhat damaged the reputation of the industry, and it took some effort to overcome this temporary setback.

Hermann and his partners continuously visit major trade shows in the United States and try to keen abreast of all new developments and products for the benefit of their European customers.

“Onyx Nails has a current market share of an incredible 70 percent in Austria, and the company is well on it s way to expanding throughout Western Europe,” Hermann reported. “It is the first European manufacturer/wholesaler offering a complete line of high quality private label products, having a distinct price advantage over its competition in Europe, which is still ‘distributing’ products that are manufactured and labeled in the United States and by U.S. companies.

This year Onyx Nails will be exhibiting at several international trade and beauty shows throughout Europe, such as Duesseldorf, Germany, London, England, Verona, Italy and others, and will complete setting up its distributor network throughout Western Europe.

The company purchases raw materials and finished products on a large scale basis to assure favorable price breaks. Finished goods are stored at the Vienna duty free port to save paying duty and handling for those goods which are being re-exported to other European countries. Packaging and labeling is all being done in Austria and on a large scale basis.

Meanwhile, the downtown nail studio is also being used to hold classes for the ever-increasing number of people who are interested in participating in the rewards of this fast-growing industry. Of course, three employees of Onyx Nails are still sculpturing acrylic nails there for Vienna’s ladies, who by now have become so used to acrylic and other types of artificial nail tips, that they have become a permanent part of their lives.

Onyx Nails also teaches regular courses at the local trade schools, thus helping to raise a young generation which recognizes and accepts artificial fingernails as a natural part of beauty care.

Facing difficult situations and personalities in the shop is never an easy task. But when those situations and personalities are those of your supervisors and/or managers, you may get the feeling that you’re in a hopeless, winless predicament.

Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.

Within this month’s issue is an article written by Wanda Salyard specifically outlining that most nerve-wracking, frustrating and annoying of all personalities ... the impossible boss. Written to the technician, Wanda’s approach is to identify the basic personalities encountered in a shop and to offer specific examples of how to effectively deal with them.

Of the advice offered, the most helpful may be the observation that yours is not a unique situation. “You are not alone,” Wanda writes. “Impossible bosses can be found in any business and under any circumstances.”

Ms. Salyard, a human resource consultant for small businesses and contributing writer for NAILS, was particularly interested in this topic, to the point of working the assignment into a very busy and impossibly overcrowded schedule. At the time of its writing, Wanda was in the throes of a hectic rehearsal and taping schedule for a local television show, in the midst of moving as well as staying on top of her consultant demands. The result, however, is concise, and educational ... and finished several days ahead of our deadlines.

No doubt Wanda has faced the types of personalities that she writes about, although at this point, as a consultant, she is very much on her own. So in a certain sense, she is lucky she is her own boss, and not having to put up with one ... except herself. Perhaps the most impossible boss of all.

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