Business Management

Salon Swap

Two brave techs traded spaces — and clients and product lines — for one day. Here’s their account of what happened…

Inspired by the reality TV show “Trading Spaces,” NAILS thought it might be interesting to have two nail techs switch salons and clients for one day. We found two brave volunteers in Maggie Franklin of Attitudes Salon in Visalia, Calif., and Lois Kuntz of Trendsetters in Lemoore, Calif.

Kuntz is the owner of Trendsetters and is the only tech there while Maggie rents a booth at the medium-sized Attitudes Salon. Both are located in small northern California towns, but Kuntz’s city is slightly smaller and home to a naval base.

Though each had their own worries and second thoughts about the project, they jumped in with both feet and recorded what happened during the day. Encountering everything from new product lines to different client preferences, these techs made it through the switch day and found it to be an enlightening and eye-opening experience.

Getting Two Techs Onboard

Maggie: When I got the call from NAILS about doing a “Trading Spaces” article, I thought it was a great idea. It sounded like fun and I enthusiastically volunteered.

I recommended my friend Lois as my counterpart. I’ve known Lois for several years now; we met online through the networking forums. She was my model for my very first nail competition, and she opened her own salon a few years ago in a town only 30 miles away from me. I’d never been out to visit her, but I knew she did incredible nails.

Lois: When Maggie called and asked me to participate in this experiment, I thought it sounded interesting, but having never watched the show “Trading Spaces,” I wasn’t sure what the goals would be. Nevertheless, I eagerly agreed to take part for the pure adventure of it.

But later that night after talking with my family, I began to worry about the possible outcomes of such a switch and the drama that might be associated with it, like it turning into a competition of who does better nails and who gets paid more and why. But after discussing my worries with NAILS, I was confident it would be a positive experience.

The Nitty Gritty Details

Maggie: I typically work three, 12-hour days a week, seeing between eight to 10 clients a day. I offer acrylic, gel, powder glaze, handpainted nail art, acrylic toenails, and pretty much anything else that can be done on a nail. But the vast majority of my clients opt for handpainted nail art.

Lois sees about four to five clients a day, and does primarily acrylic nails, pink-and-whites, and glitter tips with a gel top coat and no polish. And she charges about twice what I charge for the same services.

Lois: We decided our clients should pay the same amount as they usually do even though they would be receiving services from a different tech. Naturally, not all of our clients went for this, so we had to screen them. I got five clients for the switch day, and surmised that all but one would probably participate (and I ended up switching that client for another who would).

Maggie: I ended up having a much more difficult time than I thought I would in finding four of my clients who would want to participate. I guess I underestimated their devotion to me. (I was really surprised by this.)

Lois: Maggie told me about having trouble finding clients who would let another tech work on them, and I had to laugh because I was encountering the same thing. My fifth client was only participating under duress from her mom, my fourth client, and they both were just doing it for my sake. My own daughter, who doesn’t even pay for her nails, wouldn’t even do it for me. (My daughter is a self-proclaimed nail snob and partial to her mom.)

Maggie: During our planning phase, Lois and I also discussed what equipment and products we would bring with us. I held out for a more purist experience on this one, believing that the spirit of the article was nail techs switching places, not clients switching places. And if we were to haul all our own equipment and product with us, it wouldn’t be quite as much fun. But Lois did hold out for hanging on to her electric file, so I took mine with me too. Other than that, she had to use my product line and I had to use hers.

The Big Day

Maggie: On the morning of the big day, I noticed just how dusty my area was, and I thought, “I can’t have another nail tech working here when it’s so filthy.” So I went on a cleaning spree and decided to dust everything. In the process I knocked over a shelving unit that holds my seasonal polishes; it came crashing down and broke my OPI “Boris and Natasha” polish.

I wasn’t able to clean up the deep purple polish before it dried and I couldn’t use acetone on the tile floor because it would damage it. My salon owner says she can replace the tiles, but it just figures I’d break a bottle of polish and make my station look like a kindergarten classroom right before someone else comes to work in it.

Anyway, I embarked on my journey to Lois’ salon (and had brief moments of getting lost and worrying about running out of gas) to meet her. She showed me around and gave me a quick tutorial on her routine, and then showed me how the satellite TV/radio worked, complete with surround sound and extra remotes. She assured me that her daughter would be stopping by later to check on me and lock up when my day was done. Then she left to start her end of this adventure.

Lois: When I met Maggie at my shop and opened up for her, I could sense her nervousness and excitement. We went over where everything was and how it worked, and then I proceeded on my way to Visalia. Unlike my normal two-to three-minute drive to work, this was about 30 minutes away, but it wasn’t a bad drive. It gave me time to drink my coffee and think about what I might encounter during my day. I was excited to meet new people and work in a different environment.

Tackling Clients

Lois: I enjoyed the buzz of activity at Attitudes. Now that I own my own salon and work as the only nail tech, a full-staffed and busy salon brought back fond memories. I felt very comfortable back in those familiar sounds, and I had to laugh because I noticed that conversations between operators and clients are no different than any of the other salons I’ve worked in. The banter is still the same.

Maggie: Working alone was nothing new or scary for me; I had previously owned and solely operated a salon for several years, and I think it worked out as a positive experience for the switch day. It gave me a chance to get familiar with the salon without worrying about getting in anyone’s way or stepping on anyone’s toes. And it also gave me an opportunity to bond with the clients.

My first two clients were Joelle and her mom Janet. Joelle came in first, and was extremely nice and very patient with me. I didn’t find out much about Joelle, as I was still feeling nervous about doing a good job, but by the time I got to Janet, I started relaxing and feeling more at home.

My third client, Theresa, also went well. It was a little difficult because during the service she got into an animated conversation with Tiana (Lois’ daughter), and wiggled around a bit, but I still think her nails turned out well.

My last client Betty was the only one I don’t feel I did my best work on. Following Lois’ guidelines, I finished each client with a UV-cured gel top coat. But I noticed on Betty I had applied the gel too thickly to a couple nails and the gel had run into the cuticle area. I spent some time filing it down after it cured and then redid those nails. I just hoped I caught it all so the nails would hold up until she saw Lois again. I’d hate for Lois to look at my work and think, “That Maggie sure does lousy nails.”

Lois: I ended up servicing three of Maggie’s clients — one had to cancel. They were all very nice and great to work with. They watched me drop a drawer full of nail art supplies and fumble around reading labels trying to identify solutions and polymers. I had been warned that they might jokingly give me a hard time and start with the “Maggie doesn’t do that” and “Maggie does it this way” routine. But they were all cooperative and didn’t say anything negative during their services.

Maggie had already composed a written outline of who my clients would be for the day and the kinds of services I’d be performing. This included two regular fills, one with polish and art, and then two glitter French styles. No backfills though, which is my normal procedure at my station. I found it difficult to stay within these instructions, as I ended up replacing the acrylic on the first, backfilling the second, and partially backfilling the third. I realized that I’m accustomed to doing nails a certain way and struggle to do them differently. My clients are all three-weekers, with the exception of four two-weekers, so I’m used to giving the complete overhaul.

I had my fair share of technical mishaps during the day, too. It was quite a learning experience. Working on my first client, Brenda, I forgot to apply cuticle oil when buffing. (I normally use gel top coat, so I missed this step in the buff and polish). And as a result, I had to dust off my polishing skills. Even though I was a little rusty, it all came back rather quickly and seemed to work out fine. (Although swirling came back to me a little slower).

But I continued to periodically slip back into my old routine. My second client, Jolene, probably was wondering what the heck I was doing backfilling, and the third and last client, Beth, looked puzzled as to why I was taking off parts here and there.

But overall, I think it went well and I hope they were satisfied.

Maggie: Lois called to tell me about pulling the drawer out of the cabinet. She apologized and told me the contents of the drawer had been entirely discombobulated and I’d be returning to a disorganized drawer.

Over the course of the day Lois called me two more times. I teased her that since she had called me three times and I had only called her once, this meant I was winning.

Final Thoughts

Maggie: All in all, it wasn’t as nerve-wracking as I had expected it to be, and I have actually walked away from this experience with some good new perspectives. I’ve realized how we as nail techs are really ambassadors of the professional industry to our clients.

A few years ago, before I purchased a PDA, I had an appointment book with photos of some very incredible competition nails. But when I showed them to my clients at the time, the majority of them, (which included all the clients Lois just saw), informed me they were not interested in deeper smile lines. They preferred the nails as I was doing them at the time, and some clients even told me they thought the deep smile lines were ugly. But now that they have seen Lois’ smile lines, they really like them.

It just goes to show that we as nail techs have a responsibility to keep our clients informed on what is going on out there. It’s up to us show them what is “in” each season, and what is “out,” and it’s not enough to simply tell them, they need to see examples and experience what we are saying.

Four years ago my clients may not have favored deep smile lines, but obviously their tastes have changed. I have since been doing my smile lines much deeper and have been receiving all kinds of raves and compliments for the results.

I know some of my clients also liked some of Lois’s extra touches, like the hand massage at the end. But I wonder if they know what Lois charges for her services. Because I’m more than willing to kick my services up a notch if my clients kick up their prices too. (I kid.)

Overall, this was a great experience. It reminded me that if my clients don’t find out about new trends and techniques from me, they may never — or worse, they may find out from someone else.

I have recommitted myself to making sure my clients can rely on me to keep them up to date, even if they tell me they don’t like something the first time I show them.

Lois: I felt warmly received at Attitudes. The owner Janet and her staff, Ginny, Christine, and Debra were a pleasure to work with. The salon was clean and nicely decorated. The biggest thing I took away from this experience is that we as nail techs all feel the same about our relationships with our clients, and they with us. The dedication and respect is there all along, but it’s wonderful to be reminded of it. I love my clients and I love my shop, and I like having everything in its place and knowing exactly where to find it. This project has reminded me of all these little things that we unwittingly take for granted.

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