In 2002, Eric Leonardos started doing makeup for Ruiz Salon in Austin, TX.  Recently, an interview he conducted was featured on Huffington Post.  He shared his tips for how a new stylist, fresh out of school, or someone looking to make a change of salons, can make an informed choice about where to work. The interview is excerpted below but the full interview can be read here.

As a hairdresser and makeup artist, how do you find a salon you want to work for/with? Do you audit salons? Do you base your decision on the type of clientele you see in the chairs?
I would absolutely advise rising stylists and makeup artists to audit salons. Maybe even go in for a service once or twice. It's very common for salons to have drama among its stylists and owners. I hate to say it, but a lot of salon owners can develop a real ego over the years. That's not the kind of salon you want to end up at. You should interview them as much as they're going to interview you. Try not to jump at the first offer. If you are confident in your work, let them know that you have options and don't necessarily take the first opportunity that comes along. Know yourself, know your limitations, don't oversell but definitely don't undersell. I interviewed at 7 different salons in one week before I accepted an offer. A lot of salons will allow you to come in and shadow another stylist for a day after the first interview. It gives you a real sense of what the energy is like and allows you to form an educated and informed opinion. Like any job, these people are going to be your work family. You want to respect them, get to know them and make sure you're compatible.

Also, you should absolutely take into consideration the clientele in the chair and where the salon is located. If you want to work with the client that appreciates a real experience during their time in the chair then you might look at a more upscale salon like Planet Salon. If you prefer the client that wants to be in and out in 15 minutes then you might want to look at chic barbershops -- there is something for every taste in this industry.

Can you offer new salon owners a few tips to make their client experience as pleasant as possible?
One of my biggest recommendations would be to get your clients into the habit of booking appointments instead of just walking in. When clients stop by without an appointment, it's unlikely that they're going to get the stylist they want on the spot and the clients are just going to leave feeling irritated.
1. Tell your clients when you want to see them next and try to pre-book the appointment.
2. Provide a confirmation call a day or two before the appointment.
3. Ensure that you educate your clients on the salon cancelation policy. Your time is valuable, they should be held accountable if they waste it and no-show for an appointment.
4. Invest in salon software like SalonBiz to give your stylists the power to book appointments from their cell phones and never miss a booking opportunity. A lot of clients have a personal relationship with their stylists and feel more comfortable shooting them a text vs. contacting the salon receptionist. In addition, it provides confirmation emails and allows you to record notes in your client's profile, among other helpful features. It's great software.

Alright, break it down for the readers. What does a high-end salon offer its clients with an $85+ haircut vs. a $30 cut at a less upscale salon?
If a salon is charging you $85+ they should be providing an experience with your cut. It's not really about getting you in and out in 15 minutes. They cater to the client that enjoys being pampered. In my experience, working for Planet Salon, a few of the things you should be able to expect at this price point are:
1. Location, location, location; Salon should be in an upscale area.
2. The level of customer service should be top notch, with a greeting, t-shirt or robe and even coffee or tea if not champagne.
3. Wash and dry.
4. Neck, scalp, hand massage.
5. They should block off an hour for your cut and there should be no time pressure.
6. Complimentary neck and sideburn trims in between cuts.
7. They should be using quality hair products on each client... not just selling them.
8. The space should be aesthetically pleasing with newer/modern décor and equipment.
9. Stylists should be continuing their education to keep abreast of new cuts and trends.

Ultimately, beyond the experience and the pampering, and the customer service, a high-end salon should have remarkable stylists that will provide the customer with results. Just because you have a fancy salon doesn't necessarily mean you will get a good cut, color or makeup.

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