WHAT ARE THE THREE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FACING SALON OWNERS TODAY? THE ANSWERS MIGHT SURPRISE YOU.
Owning your own salon has always been a challenging proposition. Managing and motivating staff tops the list of issues facing salon owners. Can you be a boss without being bossy? Can you teach a reluctant beauty professional to actually sell the products you stock? All pressing issues, of course, but finding talented people to work for you is another one. For celebrity colorist Brad Johns, it’s all about creating buzz on social media today, and it works both ways. Do great work and post it on Instagram, attract a following on Facebook or create a buzz-worthy blog that becomes your calling card, and eager young stylists will come to you. Johns also suggests searching Instagram to look for work that resonates with you. “When you find someone whose work you really like, ask them to come in for an interview,” he says, “but once they come in, ask them if they’re here to create art or to make money. If the answer is money, send them on their way. You want artists. They’re the ones who will work the hardest and make money for you.”
We asked some successful salon owners who’ve been at this for a very long time for their take on the subject and narrowed their responses down to the three biggest challenges in addition to hiring and retaining the right team members, they feel salon owners face in today’s changing market.
- Shrinking Retail Sales: Carla Gentile is co-owner of Harper Salon in Los Angeles where she stocks three or four high-end product lines. “I rely on the profit from retail to provide education for my staff,” she says. “We choose the right products for each client and teach them how to use those products at home, but you wouldn’t believe how many of them have asked if they could take a picture of the products so they can buy them cheaper online.” Recently Gentile and her partners sent an email to clients telling them that when they buy products from Harper that they are supporting education, which is to their benefit in the long-run. “The truth is,” says Gentile, “they’re not saving that much online anyway, and we try to point that out.”
- Overhead: Ted Gibson and Jason Backe are two of the most sought-after hairdressers in the country. Less than a year ago they closed their salon in New York City and relocated to the West Coast. Their new salon, Starring By Ted Gibson, is scheduled to open in Los Angeles later this year. This time around they plan to do things a bit differently in order to reduce overhead, which they believe is the bane of any salon owner’s existence. Gibson is talking specifically about the sheer amount of inventory a salon has to keep on the shelves despite the fact that so few stylists make an effort to move that inventory.
“It’s been our experience that if you have 10 employees, only one or two sell products,” he says. And like Gentile, Gibson has also watched in disbelief as clients took photos of products he recommended so they could buy them on Amazon. His solution was to partner with Amazon, which now offers Starring, the line Gibson created two years ago, on its site. “It’s the first professional product line to be exclusive to Amazon,” says Gibson, who also allows independent salons to carry the line. “We send our clients directly to Amazon to buy the products we suggest, and they give us a commission.” For Gibson, it’s a win-win.
Don’t have your own product line? Not to worry. The Amazon Associates program allows independent salon owners and social influencers to connect and collaborate with the brands they love. Just enroll as an Amazon Associate, select the products you want to promote and create links to your website to drive customers to those products. When a customer shops Amazon and follows your link, you earn a referral fee.
- Profitability: Walter Claudio owns an eponymous and highly successful salon in Santa Barbara, CA. “There are so many costs of doing business, from liability insurance, which can be very expensive, to payroll, which eats up about 70% of the money we bring in, that it’s getting harder and harder to keep up,” he says. “Now over-regulation is really starting to hurt us.” Recent changes to the law in California require salon owners to pay time-and-a-half if a hairdresser works more than eight hours in one day. Since he can’t pass those additional costs on to the client, Claudio has had to schedule double shifts, which means hiring more employees, which means a bigger payroll and additional insurance. “Not exactly a sustainable business model,” he allows.
Claudio worries that while these new laws were enacted to protect employees, they are actually hurting them. “When I started in this business, I was working 12 hours a day, six days a week,” he says. “I was hungry and ambitious, and I built my clientele that way.” Now many of his employees have had to take second jobs like waiting tables in order to make ends meet so they can do the job they want to do, which is hairdressing. His greatest fear? “That we’re training a whole new generation of hairdressers to work less and not as hard,” he says. Again, not exactly a sustainable business model.