Most hairstylists dream of being in control of his or her own beauty path in some shape or form. Where that road of control may lead, is anyone's guess. Especially considering beauty professionals are creatives by nature and typically, there are two types...
There's the micro-managing type of creative. They are what I like to refer to as," Creative A." This is the type of creative that craves control but despises it at the very same time. This is the type of creative that feels like the only type of control they have over their life just happens to be over their business. They have no control elsewhere, so why not control what goes on in their business; what colors they create, who they create them on, and the culture of the salon in which they work. These creatives generally become self-employed because the idea of someone else being in control of their livelihood is daunting. But at the same time, do they really know what they're getting into by choosing to own and manage their own business? I' m not referring to building a clientele and appearing to have it all figured out. I am referring to being a true by the book business owner. I'm referring to knowing numbers, where the dollar signs are coming from, where are they going and why are they going there? If I were a betting woman, I'd say probably not.
Because let's be honest, there are hundreds of avenues in the beauty industry. The question is which avenue is meant for us to take and how many avenues will betaken only to realize we took the wrong one or would it make sense to follow more than one beauty industry path? Why not? It is your future, and you're the artist. Let your masterpieces create themselves. My guess is that you despise control in all aspects, so it is suppressed. Perhaps you are the creative that chooses to rebel against control in your craft because if you don't allow the color to organically fall, are you truly creating art? Let the creativity flow with no rhyme or reason. It is art after all. Art is merely perception and not meant to be restricted. So, this creative will typically let the color fall where it may; figuratively speaking. I refer to this hairstylist as "Creative B."
ACCIDENTAL SALON OWNER
Who am I? Well, I am the accidental salon owner. Stating that I love control more than most anything in this world is a vast understatement. I love control. I am good at being in control. I had envisioned creating "the holy grail" of hair salons in Mississippi. But although, I have been blessed more times than I can count in my first year as a salon owner, it didn't come without at least a dozen lessons and being served quite a few pieces of humble pie. I am a very humbled "Creative A."
I never actually wanted to be a salon owner. I "managed" a salon for years and never saw any growth in the stylists or the salon itself. So obviously, I could not see where I could benefit from the stress of owning a salon.
I decided that my next move would be to open a studio of my very own but to do that I needed to take business classes to ensure that my studio would be successful. I was certain that I could handle my own business. Plot twist: I had a lot more to learn than I realized. But that's ok because I will forever be a student.
I had my studio for eight years and it gave me so many career opportunities that I never could imagine having otherwise. I eventually grew out of my studio and needed a larger space which is also something that I never thought would happen but in making that realization, I knew that I needed more education on running a larger space. Within about two years' time of outgrowing my studio I had two assistants, too many clients to have in such a small space, and a new brick and mortar establishment that needed to be renovated into my dream salon.
I had been taking business courses of all types because no one should ever wake up one morning with the idea, "I think I'll be a business owner today." That must be at the top of Careless Business Moves 101. I had all the right ideas on paper, all the necessary tax forms needed to run my salon legally and all the right moves in place to protect my stylists. I had print outs of every new CDC regulation for salon guidelines and more PPE than most warehouses. I was ready, or so I thought.
WHAT I LEARNED in TEN LESSONS
I also learned that I had no idea what the hell I was doing because I wasn't just in charge of me anymore. I would be overseeing a total of six commissioned hairstylists, (most had been out of school for less than three years,) and it is my responsibility to guide them and set them up for success no matter the beauty industry avenue they choose to take. I was most confident in a few things that would help me along the way. I can create amazing custom hair color and I can teach eager colorists the tools needed to succeed in the hair world. I am a natural educator; its who I am. I may be a natural educator, but I had to be taught how to educate and to my mentors along the way, thank you. I could never express my appreciation enough. And finally, The Magnolia Parlor is as education based as you can get apart from an actual cosmetology school.
Lesson #1: Throw your ideal renovation budget out the window and keep a stash of your favorite wine. You will need it.
We will begin by jumping backwards 10 months from the "soft opening" of The Magnolia Parlor. I purchased the establishment simply because it had previously been a hair salon. So naturally, I assumed that proper plumbing and electricity for a salon would not be an issue. These are two major tasks that I had removed from my mental list of renovation concern. So, I guess you could say that it was the major selling point for me. I was incredibly wrong!
Neither the plumbing nor the wiring was up to code. In fact, this situation was considered a major fire hazard. This was only the beginning of many other problems, discouragement, tears, and bottles of wine before I felt like progress was being made. The decision was made to gut the entire building and begin from scratch. The renovation process included but was not limited to brand new plumbing and electrical work, the discovery of a gas leak, the discovery of a significant water leak with the presence of mold, exposed gas piping under a termite infested platform, a leaky roof, cutting through eight inches of dry wall, 2x4's, more drywall, old paneling and the exposure of brick. We exposed the steel beam ceiling, replaced, and relocated the entire heating and air system and duct work. You get the idea. So, my first lesson was that no matter the budget that you "think" you may have in mind for renovations, double it. Bear in mind, calling on the landlord/lady for help was not an option. The pro to owning your brick and-mortar establishment is that the sky is the limit. You have all the creative freedom to execute the vision of your dream salon. But the con is, all the repairs fall on you.
Lesson #2: Be prepared to be a strong owner, even when you feel weak.
Be 100% certain of the type of salon that you want to be known as. Remember, you set the vibe of the salon and as the salon owner, you are the core. You must be strong enough to keep the vibe in a place of balance. It only takes one bad vibe to upset the culture that you have worked your butt off to create. Think of it like this. If you are the head of your house, you want to stay strong to keep it in check, because just as soon as you let go of maintaining the core of your home, it takes a very long time to bring it back to order. Your salon is like your home in many ways. We as stylists work insane hours, not a secret. We are probably with our salon family as much if not more than our significant other or children. You are the core. You set the vibe. Do you want to set the tone for your stylists to work blindly? Or do you want to set the vibe to thrive? Obviously, we want our salon to thrive, so be prepared to maintain your strong core.
Lesson #3 Do not hire in a hurry. Be very selective of your staff.
Hiring a hairstylist as a warm body to fill a station in the salon is one of the worst mistakes a salon owner can make. Especially in the beginning. One of the best pieces of salon advice I have ever received was "Hire slow, but fire fast." It only takes one negative vibe to upset the culture of your workspace. Don't think twice about sending that negativity out the door. You'd be shocked to see how quickly your Zen space begins to level out. Not every personality is going to agree 100% of the time. But consider the culture of the salon during the hiring process. Personalities make a huge impact on the salon itself, the staff, and even the clients in your chair.
Lesson #4 You can't rely on other stylists in the salon to be your main source of income for your business.
This probably seems like an absurd statement to make but hear me out. There are other factors to this, but I did not make the firm decision to open my salon unless I knew that I could carry all the salon bills on my own and still make a profit. Keep in mind that my salon isn't as large of a space as others and there are plenty of salons with more chairs than mine as well. Me being the "Creative A" control loving stylist, you better believe that I know all my numbers down to the penny. My point behind this is that your salon may not always be completely staffed. There may be times that you may only have 4 stylists instead of 6. You may even have 3 full chairs and an hourly paid assistant. Whether you are a commissioned based salon or booth rent, you must always be prepared to overcompensate for lost income until those chairs are filled again.
Lesson #5 Save. Whether you own your space or leasing it, save!
It's very important to have a business savings account along with a business checking. Saving for a rainy day (such as overcompensating for empty chairs) is never a bad idea. If something needs repairing or replacing and you are the owner of the space, guess who the expense falls on? That's right my friend, you. And you certainly don't want to be stressed as to how these expenses might be covered. Consider these suggestions to help build your business savings.
- Deposit the profit remaining after sales commission from retail products have been deducted.
- Automatically transfer x amount of dollars (20% of every dollar earned is ideal) into business savings from business checking monthly or bimonthly.
- Make it a habit to keep enough in savings to cover 3 to 6 months of expenses. But I feel like the infamous year of 2020 taught us that perhaps we should extend our savings nest egg to cover 6-12 months of expenses just to be on the safe side.
- Business Funding IRA
- Salon should be formed as a sub-chapter c corporation.
- Corporations sponsors a qualified employer profit sharing or 401(k) plan, depending on your specific needs.
- -IRA information courtesy of Safegaurd Advisors.
Lesson #6 Marketing is King and Social Media is Queen
Marketing is incredibly important! However, marketing looks much different than it did when I was a young stylist. Marketing opportunities are endless! Consider cross promoting. This is a great way to get involved in your community and build relationships with local businesses. Exchange small discounts with your chosen local businesses. Team up with a realtor. Provide product samples, a new client discount card, and a referral card to welcome the new homeowners into the community. If the new homeowners book an appointment in your salon, it should be considered as a referral from the realtor, so don't forget to do something special for them as well. Social Media can be daunting, scratch that. It IS daunting. I can speak from personal experience. I didn't have social media until 2017 nor did I have the desire for it. I saw it as an online diary for everyone to go too far into their personal business and I'm very private, so it never made sense to me to use it. let's revisit personal business. Now concentrate on "business." I quickly realized that I could be business only and leave the personal out of it. I began taking photos and posting them. I would create a giveaway on occasion and post more of my hair world. Where do the majority of your ideal clientele hang out? Do they hang out on lnstagram, Facebook, or even TikTok. Take advantage of that. Once I began using social media, my clientele tripled within two years! Now that I am a salon owner, I'm marketing digitally and guess what? I have learned a lot, but I've learned that not only is it useful, but it is also crucial to growth as a stylist and salon owner.
Lesson #7 Celebrate your team of amazing stylists
Celebrate and celebrate often. As my salon is education based, I am always teaching. They are amazing, so naturally I want to celebrate their wins whether big or small. It keeps them motivated.
Lesson #8 Non-Compete Agreement
A Non-Compete Agreement is basically a contract signed between a salon owner and employee or independent contractor. If a stylist has signed a contract of this sort, they're committing to work at "ABC Salon" for however long the contract may be in place. If said stylist chooses to leave said salon during the period agreed upon in the contract, they are basically forbidden to work within so many miles of the previous salon for a certain amount of time. This could be anywhere from 6 months to 1 year or even longer. I honestly thought it was a joke at first, but then I realized that this type of contract isn't an unusual business agreement. I knew this existed in other industries, but in the beauty industry? I was honestly shook to my core.
After learning this information as a salon owner and a stylist, I researched this a little deeper and then conjured up my feelings on as situation such as this. Having now been on both sides here, a Non-Compete Agreement isn't ideal for a few reasons. In my own opinion, forcing someone to work in your salon if they don't want to be there is a recipe for disaster. The stylist would be miserable which causes negative energy. Negative energy causes disruption with the vibe of your space and a good salon culture can honestly make or break your business. The hostage stylist will likely be producing poor or mediocre work because they aren't in a positive mindset. It's not just your work that reflects your salon, its everyone's work. As a salon owner of 6 stylists, I do my very best to create the best salon environment possible for them. I provide several amenities for them, not just the guests. I find it important to celebrate their wins, big or small. Any win is worth celebrating. Take care of your team and create an environment that a Non-Complete Agreement can't touch.
Lesson #9 Come to terms with the fact that plans never go according to plan.
I opened The Magnolia Parlor in the middle of the pandemic. Obviously, that wasn't my intention, but that's how it happened. Technically, I was ready to open around February 2020 right before the you know what hit the fan. But I was waiting for, get ready for it ... a shampoo bowl. The original bowl arrived shattered, so I was waiting on the replacement. And during that time is when the shutdowns began. Texas shut down before Mississippi and that just happened to be where the warehouse was located. Mississippi shut down within days of Texas so at that point it didn't matter. Fast forward to May. Beauty Professionals in Mississippi were allowed to open the doors of the salons. Everyone but The Magnolia Parlor because we were still missing vital equipment. Finally, we received the shampoo bowl and opened in June. I can confidently say that not one thing went according to plan with the creation of The Magnolia Parlor. Here we are a year later, thriving and I wouldn't change anything about the journey.
Lesson #10 It's ok to ask for help
This is one I am still struggling with. A salon owner needs help, especially if they're also working behind the chair. I wear many hats from salon owner, national educator for multiple manufactures, and the most obvious, hairstylist . I can do it all, but not really. For my hair world to run smoothly, I had to convince myself that I need help. That meant delegating, which means forfeiting control, and a manifestation of high anxiety because I know that realistically, perfection isn't possible. But I can promise that I will do everything in my power to reach borderline perfection. Remember the humble pie I was referring to in the beginning? I tasted all the flavors. I delegate, ask for help (sometimes,) and I have forfeited some control. It wasn't by choice, but I did.
I succeeded. I know perfection doesn't exist. But with my team of stylists, it does. I have always enjoyed learning. Even as an educator myself, learning is a huge portion of my career.
But learning how to properly manage a thriving salon, with a full staff, during a pandemic, all during the first year of operation? That is a new level education my friends, but it was absolutely worth every tear, glass of wine, feelings of defeat, and moments of complete mental exhaustion. And as absurd as it seems, I wouldn't have it any other way.
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.