Fifteen years ago this month, our sister publication SALON TODAY launched the inaugural issue of an annual program celebrating salon business growth. I was the editor in chief at the time, and named it the “Salon Today 200.”

Little did I know how powerful and inspiring a program we were creating. I was just hoping (praying, really) that at least 200 salon owners would enter the first time. And, that they would be brave and generous enough to share concrete numbers, benchmarks and snapshots of what they had learned on their journey to build a successful salon.

I was not disappointed, then or now.

Today, as I witness current SALON TODAY Editor Stacey Soble and the entire MODERN SALON Media team putting the finishing touches on the January 2012 special issue, I am still as thrilled and proud as I was that very first year—when, at the last possible moment, hundreds of applications fl ooded in exactly on deadline.

As times and the economy have changed over the years, so has the SALON TODAY 200 evolved. In the mid-’90s, “rapid growth” was the buzz and Fast Company magazine was my editorial bible. So we honored “fastest growing salons.” Today, the key is sustainability. What service, product and marketing decisions must you make, what actions do you take to retain clients, to nurture them into a higher average ticket, when they are watching every dollar more closely?

Today’s SALON TODAY 200 still honors growth, but also 10 other categories of best practices, all critical to developing a healthy salon business and thriving team. You don’t have to be a member of the SALON TODAY 200 to benefit from the stories they tell, the numbers they share. If you do not already subscribe to SALON TODAY, I encourage you to do so, and to experience the SALON TODAY 200 online at salontoday.com.

In the meantime, I also invite you to support your own business with two new columns launching in this issue of MODERN. On page 74, you will see contributor Victoria Wurdinger’s first installment of Biz Builders, with a focus on goal-setting. Since planning ahead is a business essential, we also launch our new Promo Planner on page 76. It’s not too late to get your Valentine’s Day ideas in order.

Congratulations to all the salon owners and salon teams honored by the SALON TODAY 200 this year and every year since January 1997. Here’s to a beautiful year of growth for all of us!