Business Management

From Manager to Leader

Have you ever felt like your salon is running you instead of the other way around? You can change things and create a positive, nurturing work environment where your employees are more than willing to follow your lead.

No one ever said running a salon was easy (see “Handing Over your Business” in April 2002 for some reasons on why salon owners go back to being nail techs). Your mind is constantly racing with the everyday ins and outs of running the business. That may mean everything from trying to handle a clientele of your own, managing your employees, keeping track of your inventory, and trying to provide some sort of leadership to your staff.

In the process, you begin to lose focus of what your rule in the salon really is, and slowly but surely, the salon begins running you instead of the other way around. Simply put, you’re not putting your best leadership skills forward.

When that starts to happen, it may lead to other problems, such as employees becoming disillusioned with their jobs because they don’t have someone to aspire to. Not only that, you can also start becoming disillusioned with the business yourself, simply because you’re trying to take on one too many roles.

“A salon starts running you when your daily activities become reactive. Situations like “We ran out of polish and acetone. Why did that happen? Become all too common,” says Lisa Starr, a spa and salon consultant for East Coast Spa Services in Runnemede, N.J. “You’re dealing with yesterday’s business and not thinking about tomorrow.”

And if you’re not thinking about tomorrow, then you’re not acting like the leader you should be. Thinking about tomorrow, says Starr, is what every salon owner should aspire to. “If you ask salon owners if they’re being leaders, they’re likely to say yes. They’ll say that being a leader is simply being in charge,” says Starr, who recently discussed the importance of being a salon leader at IBS/Long Beach, in a class titled “Are You Running Your Salon, Or Is It Running You?

The truth is, being a leader involves a lot more than simply overseeing employees and looking after day-to-day tasks. If you’re devoting more time to managerial tasks like scheduling enough people and ordering more products, and not enough time to establishing direction, motivating, and inspiring, you need to take a good look at your priorities.

Running a successful salon requires a talented and eager staff. And the only way you can achieve that is if you offer strong leadership and a clear focus of what you expect of your staff, not to mention what heights you’d like to take you salon to.


Leader or Manager: What’s the Difference?

For many salon owners, one of the common problems with running a shop is knowing when to let go of the management side of the business. Oftentimes, they get confused about the difference between being a leader and a manager or perhaps don’t recognize there’s a difference in the first place. They try to take on both roles at once, but only wind up getting burned out in the process.

“It’s exhausting when the salon is running the owner,” Starr says. “They are the ones who can’t even tell me how much money they’re making. They become disenchanted with the industry and with the business, and they start to question why they become owners in the first place.”

To put simply, management is getting people to do what needs to be done. Leadership is getting people to want to do what needs to be done. “Managers push.  Leaders pull. Managers command. Leaders communicate,” say Starr.

Managers exist to carry out the vision of the leader. And although Starr say you can be both a manager and a leader if you’re working in a small salon. The best situation is one in which you leave the managerial duties to someone else.

And it’s especially important to be able to hand over the management reins if you’re working in a large salon. “When your business starts getting bigger, managing and leading it becomes too difficult,” Starr says.

She suggest snot handing the managerial duties to your top nail technician, but instead to the employee who’s always the first to open a box of new products, or the front desk receptionist. If your top nail tech is already good at her job and has more than enough clients, don’t burden her with more work.

The good this is that management role isn’t important. Quite the contrary. “Being a manager is a good thing,” Starr says. “We need both in a salon. It’s just that people unlikely to be good at both things. Leaders are visionary, and that vision should be translated in the day-to-day process by the manager.”

In fact, leaders and managers share a few common goals. Both establish policies and procedures that create consistency without creating barriers to efficiency and creativity. “Both managers and leaders provide personal growth opportunities with the support to be successful,” Starr says. “They involve people in decision making process.”

Starr is quick to point that if you’re an owner, then you absolutely must be a leader. There’s just no way of going around it. “You can’t go to someone else and ask her to lead the business,” she says. “If an owner realizes she’s best suited for the role manager, than it’s rare that she’ll have a successful business in the long run. If you don’t have any inspirational skills, then your business won’t go very far.

Leading the Troops

When you’re a true leader, other are more than willing to work with ou and for you, and it makes owning a salon less complicated. Of course, that doesn’t mean that everyone will buy into your vision, but you can at least let everyone know what your vision is.

What kind of attitude should a leader have? A leader encourage others to grow and reach their potential, helps make connection between what they can contribute to the job and what their larger purpose is, and inspires others to see the opportunities and possibilities that come with change.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that you shouldn’t treat to keep in minds is that you would like to be treated, Star says.

“Treat your staff the way they want to be treated,” she says. “Build a climate of trust by encouraging freedom, keep it fun, and communicate.”

Also, make sure you expose them to a realm that exists outside of beauty. It’s all too common for salon owners to immerse themselves in beauty, and forget that the world around them is bustling away. Starr recommends that owners and their employees read business publications and understand how the economy works.

“I find many salon owners who are good at doing hair and nails and read trade magazines, but they’re not clear about going on with the economy my,” she says. “It’s important to read about other types of business and leaders. They help give you new ideas for running your salon and help you develop perspective.”

But unlike a manager, you can’t train to become a leader. It’s an instinct that exists inside of you. And that’s why most people become salon owners in the first place – because they recognize that ability and use it to their full advantage. Of course, you can try to work on things you’re not naturally good at, and send a message to your staff to let them know you’re trying. “If you’re someone who’s not detail oriented, but you try to work on that, your employees are more apt to work on things they’d like improve about themselves,” say Starr.

The important thing to remember is that if your salon has a solid infrastructure right from the start and you reward and help your staff grow, then you’ll be able to distinguish yourself as a true leader.

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