Business Management

10 Ideas For Handling Rapid Expansion

This is what you’ve been waiting for. You have a full book and clients waiting. So, what’s the problem? The problem is you need more space for nail tables, a way to manage a heavier workload, and capital to fund the expansion. Fortunately, solutions are near at hand.

1. Take Advantage of Systems

Systems include everything from how you handle laundry to what you use during services. Think of systems as the gears that keep the salon business moving. You will have many different systems functioning at any one time. The trick is to periodically examine how things are done and look for opportunities to improve.

“Structure is critical,” says salon consultant Bryan Durocher. “As the salon grows, it needs to be able to rely on these systems. Employee manuals and job descriptions are a must for every position, along with performance evaluations and regular meetings with team members.”

2. Cozy Up to Technology

Those gadgets may look like toys but they just may be your key to increased productivity. Computer software programs allow salons to track appointments, inventory, sales, bookable hours, profit and loss, etc. Online booking is available to free up receptionists and capture business while the salon is closed. The computer and cell phone revolution has made it possible to carry all of this info with you when you are on the go.

Bob Cordisco, information technologies manager of Glen Ivy Hot Springs Spa in Corona, Calif., is quick to sing the praises of Millennium software. “We now have a central reservation center with more than 25 scheduling agents. My job is information. Millennium software allows us to manage multiple locations, the reservation center, and a warehousing facility in real time.”

Whether you are operating just a few tables or getting ready to franchise your nail salon, if you haven’t computerized your salon, the time is now.

3. Stay in Touch with Clients and Staff

It’s crucial that salon owners, managers, staff-members, and clients stay in touch with each other. Staying in touch is more that a newsletter or an e-mail blast. It is garnering honest information your business needs to grow. You are really busy and don’t have a lot of time for chit-chat. Don’t let the lack of time hamper communication.

In an effort to facilitate better communication, consider this advice from Meryl Runion, president of SpeakStrong Inc. and author of “How To Say It.” She suggests management members refrain from the use of “poison phrases” such as “I know that already; that won’t work; you’ve got to be kidding; or, I don’t have time to talk about this (unless you set another time).”

To get the ear of management, she recommends using language like, “I need your help” or “I have an idea that can help efficiency.”

“The main thing is to make the communicator glad she spoke, even if the ideas aren’t adopted.” Runion points out that “if management isn’t generally accessible, it’s important they go out on the floor from time to time for casual interaction.”

4. Assistants Create Time

Assistants are common in business. You may choose to have a licensed assistant who can perform services or an unlicensed assistant who carries out duties such as sanitation, stocking, mailings, phone calls, etc. The idea is to delegate duties that don’t directly generate large portions of your income.

Amber Edwards of Nail Education Group in St. Charles, Ill., shares the benefit of hiring an assistant: “Having an assistant is growing in popularity for good reason. First, the nail tech can train the assistant to be able to take over when the tech is sick or on vacation, ensuring the client will receive the same quality service while the tech is away. Second, the tech can open up time in her book. For instance, if the tech has 10 clients booked an hour apart (working a 10-hour day) an assistant to prep and or polish can free up 20 to 30 minutes per client. That will give the nail tech four to five hours to take other clients.”

5. Keep on Training

Formal advanced training not only keeps staff up to date, but gives them a sense of accomplishment. Training programs build client confidence. It also helps team members stay on target, refresh their memory, and avoid building bad habits.

According to Ladd, “Front desk/reception staff members need the most initial training. They are the first contact the public has with your salon. They need to know the products, services, and policies, even if they don’t provide services. Customers will get a feel from the first phone call and decide if they want to make an appointment.” Ladd holds regular training “to make sure that the procedure is the same for services. Of course the touch will be different from technician to technician. We try to make it a fun day of learning about the products, their features and benefits, and the experience we want clients to have.”

To round out your in-house training program, consult manufacturers. Robin Gibbons, a business development consultant with CND, regularly travels and works with salons to supplement training. She advises salons to visit manufacturer websites for training dates and locations.

6. Revisit Pricing Periodically

When was the last time you adjusted prices? Price is a delicate balance between your actual expenses and what the market will bare. As you expand, your overhead changes.

“When you look back at your previous 12 weeks and see that you were at least 80% booked for your available hours and you can look 8-12 weeks into the future and 80% of your time is already pre-booked, it is time to raise prices,” says Durocher. Computer software can help with this analysis.

Lotus Day Spa was only open for a short time before they figured out that their price-point was too low. Fortunately they hadn’t printed all of the brochures and menus. Ladd stresses the importance of effectively evaluating the true costs of doing business.

7. Staffing for the Long Haul

Pick up any newspaper in almost any town and you will likely find a help wanted ad for a nail technician/manicurist. The supply is short; the demand is constant. How is a salon owner to find qualified help? Where should she start looking?

Dawn Ladd of Lotus Day Spa & Boutique in Kitty Hawk, N.C., was lucky enough to know many local technicians. She was able to put the word out and pick from the best of the best, using on-call staff during the seasonal high. Some of her staff members also work outside the salon. One of her summer receptionists is a moonlighting school teacher. She also credits a generous commission schedule for luring staff.

Renee Borowy of VIP Salon & Spa in Riverview, Mich., cross-trains staff members and participates in apprenticeship programs. “Cross-licensing allows staff to be able to perform more than one type of service.”

Expert tips on staffing:
• Be willing to train applicants who have a great attitude
• Get involved with local schools to find recruits
• Emphasize what’s in it for them when advertising positions and you will get a wider field of applicants
• Consider apprentices
• Network at professional trade events in your area to find fresh talent.

8. Space to Grow

Real estate agents know the number-one secret of a successful business: location, location, location. Obviously, there are factors beyond square footage to consider.

Durocher tells salons to assess traffic flow, anchor stores (to draw people), neighborhood demographics, and possible rebates for “build-outs” from the landlord.

Ladd recently expanded and is already thinking forward to future expansion. Her biggest challenge was finding a location that was central to most of her existing clientele. She was really lucky that family and friends were able to help out with the build-out and decorating, keeping expenses down.

9. Review Your Business Plan

As your salon business grows, your business plan needs to grow too. Whether you are adding a few more tables, a fresh pedicure area, or a second location, a detailed plan can help gauge your salon’s future needs. A thorough business plan also increases the chances that banks and other lending institutions will lend you the capital you need for expansion.

Heather Goodwin, the owner of A Totally Unique Nail Boutique, in Palm Harbor, Fla., says, “By having a solid business plan in the beginning, one can plan ahead on decisions based on hard facts and hard numbers. Owners should keep a very close pulse on their overhead, product waste, pricing, service caliber, and retail opportunities.”

10. Maintain Your Focus

It’s important to maintain focus on your goals as you grow. What was your main reason for opening your salon or entering the nail business? Keeping a journal may give you a glimpse into what you were thinking when you made crucial decisions. Journaling also let’s you work through tough issues as you ponder them on paper — with no outside judgment. If the initial goal was to open a salon and spend more time with your family, then managing a salon sixty hours a week is inconsistent with your goal. Your focus would need to include finding a suitable manager. As you look for solutions, choose only those that fit your unique model. The beauty industry is the last place you would find one-size-fits-all anything. So, continue to be what you do best — you!

KEYWORDS: Idea Issue, top challenges, consultants, salon management, growing your business

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