When you work together every day, you become like a family. Everyone who works at a salon knows that. But you also have your own family, and sometimes your role as a salon family member conflicts with your role as a spouse, parent, sibling, son or daughter in your private life. You may have to be in two places at once—at work and also picking up your kid, tending to an aging parent or supporting your spouse during a serious illness. Time management begins to take up more energy than the tasks themselves.

It helps when your family is led by an owner who gets it. Graciela Nowik, owner of Hair Base in Chicago, definitely gets it.

“I’ve had young children, including a child with a life-threatening disease,” says Nowik, a member of the board of the Professional Beauty Association (PBA). “Recently I had a grandparent die. When you’ve lived through these life events yourself, you’re more tolerant as an employer.”

Unfortunately, that tolerance does not always extend to the clientele. When a stylist is unexpectedly out with a sick child, the client may empathize, but not enough to want to reschedule her appointment. To finesse that situation, Nowik makes sure that clients have the opportunity to work with a variety of team members. The client’s regular stylist may refer her to another staffer to do a spur-of-the-moment conditioning service, for example.

“We always tell our clients, ‘You need backup!’” says Nowik.

Nowik recalls the five months that a team member took off to care for her dying mother, and everyone on staff had to cover for her. When she came back, it took more months for her to build her clientele again.

“You just have to make it work,” Nowik says. “If you’re a good human being, you just do it. When a stylist is unavailable, clients might seek another salon, and it’s hard to get them back. From a dollars-and-cents perspective, that’s a concern. But if that team member has been honest and true and has been good to the salon, then you owe it to her to work it out.”

Nowik feels that, ultimately, the salon benefits from this approach.

“In our industry, we’re such ‘people people’ that I think we have a little more compassion,” she says. “For a lot of staff, the salon is their second home. They’re happy to walk in the door. No one wants a culture that doesn’t make you happy.”

Read more about Graciela Nowik and coordinating your work life and your home life in the Healthy Hairdresser section of the April issue of MODERN SALON.