Salon Management

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Salon Management

Management of any business is much more than just determining the overall job to be done and then delegating duties to employees. While delegating duties is a major task, the actual task is much more involved.

Before knowing what has to be done, the manager first must determine the short- and long-term goals of the salon in order to formulate a clear idea of what is to be achieved. With the specific goals in mind, the manager can define the actions that will best achieve those goals. Next, the manager must clearly and effectively communicate to the employees what is expected of them and how their actions contribute to business’ overall goals.

Effective delegation can be the hardest part of personnel management, especially if one is accustomed to doing the entire job oneself. It is not uncommon for a new manager to have difficulty adjusting to the new role and allowing employees to do the work they were hired to do. Such people must work to resist the temptation to continue to do the bulk of the job themselves simply because that way they know it will be done the way they like it. Teach your employees to do the job the way you like it and then let them do it.

The best way to train employees to handle specific jobs in a certain way is to explain what is to be done, how it is done and why, and then step back to allow the employee the room to accomplish the task. At the same time, a manager must stay involved enough in the process for the first few weeks to lend assistance and constructive advice when it is needed. To some, this process is instinctive and comes as naturally as walking or breathing; these rare people are born managers and a real asset to any business. Most people must work at it consciously, and develop the skill only after much trial and error.

To add to the difficulty, personnel management is only one part of the typical tanning salon manager’s job. In a small business such as a salon, the position carries many responsibilities.

On any given day, the manager may be called on to train a new employee, placate an angry customer, order a new supply of retail products, take the day’s receipts to the bank, update payroll and many more of the dozens of recurring tasks involved in running a salon. In short, if there’s something to be done, odds are the manager will have to do it at some point in time.

However, management should not be taken lightly, and it is not something that comes easily to everyone. Many professionals who are outstanding at their jobs have a difficult time branching into a management position, even when it’s in the same field. As one such professional put it, “I like doing my job, I just don’t like making other people do theirs.” However, unless you’re very fortunate during the hiring process, you’ll probably have to spend some time doing just that. Look on it as an investment in the future. Once your employees are trained, and you’re accustomed to the role of manager, things will run more smoothly.

Since there is a finite limit to the amount of work any one person can do effectively, salon operators must be effective managers in order to achieve maximum success in their businesses. The ideas in this section are intended to act as a guide in many aspects of salon management.

Hiring And Training Employees 

Almost everything in your salon business depends upon the competency of your employees; therefore, the people you hire and the way in which you train them is critical to your success. The idea is to find employees who are going to earn their wages, not just collect them.

Hiring individuals with good personalities and good work ethics truly can increase your sales. Customers feel more comfortable, secure and happy when someone who is friendly and capable is aiding them. The employee becomes even more important if you add retail merchandise to your salon.

Finding Good Employees 

The most common way to find employees is to place a newspaper advertisement. However, in order to attract the type of people you want to hire, you must stipulate your high standards in the ad. Mention that you are seeking an inside sales person with flexible hours in a pleasant, business atmosphere.

Mentioning the word “business” right off the bat indicates to a potential applicant that he or she will need a professional attitude in order to land this job.

It is also good to indicate that good phone skills are needed, as well as having excellent rapport with clients. Mention the importance of appearance as well. Being in the beauty/health field, it is important to have attractive, neat, fit employees. This alone can create a salon image.

Keep your eyes open for potential employees. Health clubs and beauty salons are good places to find people who can convey the image you desire.

Employees have been known to quit without warning, so when you come across someone you like and they express an interest in working for you, take their name and number and begin a file. Then it will be easier to find the right person without going to the trouble of advertising when you need to.

Waitresses also are good candidates for potential employees. If they work in a restaurant that’s only open for dinner, there’s a chance they might need a daytime job. So if you’re out eating and encounter a waitress who’s attractive, neat, attentive, personable and provides good service, ask her if she’d be interested in discussing employment with you.

If you come across an exceptional employee while shopping your competitors, make an offer, but keep in mind that there may be some drawbacks.

If your operating style is drastically different from that of your competitor, you may encounter unexpected difficulties. The employee may have been trained to work a certain way, and old habits are sometimes hard to break. The employee also may have been trained to operate and explain different equipment.

Always conduct interviews in your salon and allow the potential employee to take a session as part of the interview. Even if you don’t hire the person, you may gain a customer. By doing this, you also may see how they react to the equipment and how well they understand its function.

Make sure you go over your requirements and expectations; they must be perfectly clear from the beginning. A lack of communication is the most common source of problems in an employee-employer relationship. Prepare a written job description and emphasize selling retail items, as well as tanning and/or add-on services as a primary responsibility.

Allow potential employees to do some of the talking because this is one of the best ways for you to get a feel for their personality and ideas. Do some role playing; pretend you are the customer and let them interact with you. Act as a customer coming out of an initial tanning session, and let them try to sell you a package or a product. This can give you an idea of how well they will function on the job. If they are excessively timid when role playing, it’s likely that they will act the same way when it comes to the real thing.

The Training Process 

After hiring, break the employee in slowly. Pushing too hard may cause a person with excellent work potential to become frustrated and discouraged.

First, give employees a package of literature from the manufacturer or manufacturers of your tanning units. They also should be given copies of your ads, fliers, customer cards, daily record sheets and any other forms they will be expected to fill out. Have them read chapters of this book and copies of the trade journals and explain that it is imperative that they read all the information carefully. Review each form step by step and have them spend the day studying them, preferably in the salon so they can ask you questions at any time.

Allow them to listen, on an extension, to inquiries you handle on the phone, and explain why you said what you did immediately afterward. Remember, there is no better teacher than hands-on experience. Don’t expect them to get the hang of it the first few times—you probably didn’t even do that. Allow them to go through the phone procedure with you for the first few days as practice makes perfect and builds confidence.

Supply the new employee with a list of the questions most commonly asked by customers, and give them the answers, along with a detailed explanation of why they are answered that way. You may want to give them a quiz at the end of their training period, just to be sure they are capable of being left on their own in the salon.

Cleaning duties can be a touchy subject, so be sure to specify your expectations in the very beginning. Don’t wait until after you’ve hired the person to explain that some cleaning duties are required. It’s possible they wouldn’t have been as interested in the job if they had known this and, if that’s the case, concealing the fact won’t make them any more receptive to it.

Employees always should clean equipment thoroughly after each use. The cleaning may sound simple, but you must emphasize that it needs to be done carefully and properly. Explain why it is necessary and what the possible consequences are if it is done improperly.

Go through the procedure a few times for the tanning units, then have them do it while you’re watching. Don’t be afraid to criticize; it is important that this procedure be done right.

Let your employees know that you expect them to keep the reception desk as tidy as possible since this usually is the first impression clients get when they enter the salon. If it is messy or dirty, the client automatically will jump to the conclusion that the rest of the salon is the same way.

Be sure to stress to your employees the importance of enforcing the salon’s rules. Tell them they are never to extend tanning times or to allow clients to tan without protective eyewear. Make sure they understand why, and are able to explain the dangers of such practices to your clients.

The dress code for the salon is up to the individual salon owner. If you are trying to portray an image of individuality in your salon, your employees should do the same. You may want to set certain guidelines, like khaki shorts and pastel-colored shirts, just to keep the general image the same, but it’s not usually necessary. Clothing can be fun, but should never be risqué. Also, keep in mind that it should be loose and comfortable enough to allow ease of movement when cleaning equipment.

If you find a good employee who you feel will stay with the salon for some time, consider taking the employee to one of the trade associations’ training programs. The depth of knowledge that is presented, as well as the opportunity to network with other salon owners and employees, is invaluable. If you can’t justify the travel expenses for any of your employees, still give serious thought to going yourself. The knowledge you gain, as well as the training manual, will be an asset to your in-salon training program. Another, less expensive alternative is a correspondence training course offered by some of the associations.

Employee Relations 

Rapid employee turnover is something all businesses want to avoid. In addition to being costly in money and time, it also can cause problems with other employees and client relations. In order to minimize this problem treat your employees well.

Being considerate and generous to an employee will encourage him or her to do more for you. Treat your employees in the same manner in which you wish to be treated—with fairness and dignity.

However, if an employee has become very negative and doesn’t seem receptive to reconciliation, get that person out of the salon. The negative attitude will be transferred to other employees and to customers, causing a great deal of damage to the salon’s morale and image.

An open communication policy can solve many problems before they develop into major issues. Talking to your employees is of primary importance, and let them know how you feel about their performances. If they are doing a good job, tell them. If their performances are slipping a bit, let them know you are concerned, and would like to know if there is some way you could help get them get back on track.

If you have students working in your salon, school usually takes precedence over work. Make every effort to accommodate their special needs and try to develop a schedule that will work smoothly for them. If this is not acceptable to you, don’t hire students. However, at the same time, they should be made aware of the special needs of your salon, and that you are operating a business.

There is a fine line between being friendly with your employees and still maintaining your authority. Socializing after work hours should be limited. However, eating lunch together, when possible, is a good way to bridge any communication gaps that may exist.

Try to be at the salon as much as possible since this lends itself to better employee relations, as well as better client relations. Employees generally are more responsible, and clients feel more secure when there is an authority figure present, and it creates a more professional atmosphere.

Allow your employees to tan free. This offers incentive to them and gives them real experience with the equipment, while helping you maintain salon image. You also may want to give their family members a 50-percent discount. If you spell out a policy on how much family members pay, you avoid having your employees “guess” what it is. If you sell lotions and clothing, give your employees a discount. They will probably wear the clothes while working in the salon, and this gives your retail side a boost. Your clients are more likely to notice the clothing on your employees than they are on the racks.

Motivating Your Employees 

Motivation seems to be big money these days. In fact, a huge industry revolves around it. There are tapes, seminars and in-depth clinics devoted to the subject. Some help devise programs to motivate a sales staff, others teach managers to motivate their employees and still others coach people in all walks of life to motivate themselves. None of this is free. Motivational assistance, be it taped or in person, commands a hefty price. Why is that? It’s simple: motivation is big money because it can help a business bring in big money.

No matter what business you’re in, it’s a proven fact that motivated employees are more productive than their ambivalent counterparts. People who want to do something and want to do it well will do a better job than those whose main interest is just getting it done. Motivation is very important because motivated employees make the salon money.

However, experts warn that a motivation program must be more than just a reward system for exceptional sales and customer service efforts. Although rewards should play a role in the overall program, it’s crucial for the working environment itself to be motivating.

One thing often overlooked in creating such an environment is the existence of detailed job descriptions. Because it’s much easier to do a job when you know exactly what is expected, it’s important for employees to know what they can and can’t do. Poor understanding of what is expected will tend to detract from the quality and quantity of work produced, as will job descriptions that require an employee to be doing two things at once.

In a tanning salon, no assistance is required while customers are using the equipment, so one or two employees can handle customer service simultaneously and many administrative and maintenance duties.

However, if you offer ancillary services such as nails, day spa amenities, hair services or nutritional supplements, the necessary work can be broken down into two and possibly three specific positions, and one person is going to have a tough time doing all three. After all, one person cannot be the ideal front desk receptionist, properly attend to clients and conduct salon tours and program explanations, all at once.

Another element to creating a good, motivating working environment is you, the salon owner. One of the best things you can do is be there yourself, setting a good example. In addition to being there, you should make the employees feel that they are a part of the business. If they can see how their job fits into the overall function of the business, they’ll be much more likely to want to do a good job.

And even better than just letting them see how the overall salon goals are set and achieved is having them take part in the process. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that employees are only working for a paycheck; feelings of involvement and accomplishment actually may be more important considerations. Motivation comes from belief in a process or product. The more involved the employees are, the more they’ll believe.

Incentives And Rewards 

When designing an incentive program for your employees, don’t limit yourself to cash or percentage rewards. Although they can be effective, money isn’t always the best incentive. It is important to appreciate employees in the way they want to be appreciated. Non-monetary rewards can be aimed at three different kinds of personalities: feeling, logical and action types. Each type will be best motivated by a different reward.

The first group—the feeling type of person—is best motivated by recognition and by some demonstration that they are valued. Rewards that provide the best incentive are things like a plaque on the wall in the salon, employee of the month awards, mention in a customer newsletter, flowers and similar approaches.

The second group—the logical employees—need to have quantitative goals to achieve. They like to see exactly where they stand, be it on a board or graph in the office or whatever. Then they can mark their progress against the chart, striving to reach a clearly defined target.

Finally, the active type of employee isn’t motivated by money so much as by what it enables him to do. That is to say, money is a means, not an end. It makes sense that the way to focus this person on a goal is to reward its achievement with fun, active things. A few examples might be tickets to concerts or sporting events, mini-vacations, restaurant gift certificates and similar activities.

The key in all cases is to make sure the reward is something that the person values. If you don’t present the goal and reward in the employee’s language and value system they either won’t see it or will become confused.

Also be aware that few people fit exactly into one category; most are a combination of more than one. Take some time to observe and evaluate what kind of people your individual employees are before structuring an incentive program.

Yet, your employees should be made to understand that their paycheck is their reward for meeting their job requirements. Be sure to set their goals beyond that minimum. That is to say, they are only entitled to a bonus reward if they go beyond what already is expected.

Finally, you can’t motivate your employees to achieve specific goals until you have some for the salon yourself. A problem in the tanning industry is that many salon owners never define their mission. The salon’s goals may be to reach a certain dollar figure in accessory sales.

They may be to achieve a certain percent occupancy. They may be to increase the number of three-times-a-week tanners by a specific amount, or even to increase the number of referrals by a set factor.

Hopefully, the goals of your salon touch on all of these areas. In the course of achieving them, however, keep the salon’s focus consistent. If you’re adding accessory lines, make sure they fit in; don’t dilute your purpose.

The importance of setting up a detailed program to motivate salon employees cannot be denied. In so doing, the salon owner makes a statement about what is valued, be it increased sales, improved customer service or, better still, both. It’s been demonstrated time and time again that motivated employees are productive employees. Productive employees will, by definition, bring more income into the salon, and that’s what it’s all about.

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