Salon Today's 2015 Total Salon Makeover Winner Estelle Bouras (center) with Strategies'...
Salon Today's 2015 Total Salon Makeover Winner Estelle Bouras (center) with Strategies' President Bruce Hourigan and Founder Neil Ducoff at a recent four-day Incubator training session.

As the winner of Salon Today 2015 Total Salon Makeover, Estelle Bouras, owner of the Jon Kailey Salon in Wilmette, Illinois, is the recipient of prize valued at more than $30,000. The prize package includes a full retail collection, fully stocked backbar and Color Therapy product portfolio from Keratin Complex; a complete salon management system, including hardware and software from STX; a new front desk or furniture/equipment for the salon provided by Takara Belmont; and a business assessment, makeover plan and coaching from Strategies.

A few short weeks after being surprised via a Periscope tour of her salon by Modern Salon Media’s Alison Alhamed, Bouras found herself in Connecticut attending a 4-day Strategies’ Incubator training program.

“As Estelle is discovering her company’s true potential, and she’s been such a joy to work with,” says Strategies Founder Neil Ducoff. “Over the last four days, Estelle learned about how to read financials and critical numbers, drive productivity and conduct huddles and scoreboard. And, she built her company’s very first 12-month cash flow plan.”

We asked Bouras to give us her own view of Incubator experience, and how she believes it will shape the future of her business...

Estelle Bouras: It's so difficult to put in a few words, or sentences, what is taught at Incubator.  For me personally, it was such a wake-up call!  There are so many pieces of the puzzle that need to be put together in order for a salon, or any business, to be profitable and continue to grow.  Simple concepts like sharing scoreboards with my staff or starting our day with a team huddle can have such a huge impact on our team.

Reading my financial numbers was all very new to me, as we are not yet computerized. We currently order and spend money based on what we want or need rather than what a cash flow plan shows we have budgeted for.  Moving forward, I am looking forward to implementing the STX software and using the information along with all I learned at Strategies to run a more efficient and profitable salon!

Team-based pay is truly a brilliant concept, and although it scared me a bit at first, I was surprised at how many of the salon owners I met are already using this method of pay.  In the salon industry, past thinking was that owners hire at extremely high commissions in order to attract busy, experienced stylist.  But then you're running on the hamster wheel trying to constantly keep up with high salaries.  I will definitely consider team-based pay in the future.  

My next staff meeting is scheduled in two weeks and I am excited to share Incubator material with my staff.   Of course, four days of material cannot be covered in an hour, so my game plan is to discuss and introduce a few new concepts at each meeting.  I have decided that my first meeting, "Phase 1" as I call it, will cover Pre-Booking, increasing retail sales through Incubator's "Happiness System" and client retention.  My staff was actually EXCITED when I called for this meeting.  I think they sense the excitement that I came back with. Sometimes as owners we need something like Incubator to get us recharged!!!

QuickBooks and STX will be set up soon.  It will be a lot of new material for me.  It makes me a bit nervous, but I'm positive that at this time next year I'll look back and wonder how we ever ran our business without these tools!   It will help me be a better leader because with the right tools I can help my stylists see their current productivity, client retention rates, etc., and find ways to help them improve.  I have such a great team ... some of my girls have been with me more than 18 years.  They have trusted me and I believe they will have the confidence in me, as a leader, to guide us to the next level!   

The most eye-opening aspect of attending Incubator?  I hate to admit this, but it was the realization that I have run this business a bit blindly.   The second day of Incubator covered a lot of inputting of numbers—it was so overwhelming to me and yes, even tears were involved.  I think that's when it truly hit me that it's time for some MAJOR CHANGES at Jon Kailey Salon!  

Finally, I would like to say that Neil Ducoff is such an amazing person and mentor.  The amount of work and effort that he has put in with me in the last few weeks is above and beyond what I expected when winning his services as part of the prize package. He’s looked up tax questions and forwarded me links, he tackled accounting issue by setting me up with a QuickBooks expert on their staff. He has set me up with four books to read, and so much material it kind of makes my head spin! I am so excited to chip away at this project one step at a time .... and look forward to seeing what this will do for Jon Kailey Salon's future!

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Originally posted on Salon Today