Notice and Cindy Durbin Wible worked together for 10 years at a salon, then left to open their own rental business in a strip mall. The co-owners had two other renters and it worked for 11 years. But when Salon House opened rental suites just 3 miles away, they jumped on the chance to check it out. The deal was sealed when they saw they could get a double suite for two.
“We had reached the point in our careers where we wanted to downsize—as a new mother, I just wanted do hair and go home,” says Notice. “The suite concept was new to Champagne, IL, 1½ years ago, and it was a great answer for both of us.”
The advantages, she says, were manifold. They could keep salon’s name (Ciree’—a combo of Cindy and Renee, which in French means polished) and phone number. Even though they both incorporated their own businesses, they could split the rent. There was less overhead (each pays $247.50/week), and no more headaches, like un-repaired leaky ceilings and renters who did not pay on time or left the door unlocked. Retail? Simple. Whoever sells it gets the money and replaces it.
“We’ve worked together for so long and it works great now, but couldn’t I have adjusted to a smaller space with anyone else,” says Noice. “The upside is that it has a salon-like atmosphere and my clients already know her. Also, we’re not always in the suite at the same time.”
With years of experience and a loyal clientele, Noice had zero business-building to do. “First, we had to get out of the current lease, which allowed me to alert clients for three months in advance that we’d be moving soon,” she recalls. “When it happened, we had six weeks to move, and all my clients came with me.”
In fact, in keeping with her plan, she cut back to a 32-hour work week, so naturally, she was immediately booked-out far in advance: “I haven’t accepted any new clients for 4 years.”
Noice credits client loyalty to fact she is very consistent in her work and always listened to clients—in more ways than one.
“Back in my first salon, I’d overhear clients say that they got a good or bad cut, depending on what was going on in their stylist’s life,” she says of old-fashioned eves-dropping. “I made sure that didn’t happen with me. Also, I’m appreciative of them! I want them to look forward to seeing me and leave happy—I take a lot of pride in that.”
Noice adds that the goal of all stylists is to maintain a clientele, not to always be building. She does very little marketing and gets referrals organically. Long ago, she notes, she trained her clients to reschedule, so they would “never hate their hair.” The point: stress your clients’ self-interest in keeping up appearances.
“Right now, I have a base of 170 clients who see me every 3 to 6 weeks,” says Noice. “There are just 10 who don’t pre-book, and 15 of them book a year in advance.”
As a result, every January, she sets up her book and marks off the vacation time and Saturdays that she wants off. The downside, she says, is that because she is committed to client appointments that she has missed wedding invitations and baby showers, if they overlapped with a client who booked a year in advance.
But on those rare occasions when a client absolutely must get in on one of her pre-planned days off, she has a friend to take over. “It’s a great back-up system,” says Noice. “When Cindy had surgery, I just added a day to my schedule and helped her clients. When she returned, they went back to seeing and paying her. But this only works with the right person, who you get along with and trust.”
Great Starts: In 1992, I won a Zotos scholarship for $2,500 to go to beauty school. There were 10 winners and I always wondered where the others are today.
Favorite Education: In the early 1990s, I went to Boot Camp with Michael Cole. It was based on his book “A Little off the Top.” This class shaped and guided my entire career.
Favorite Educator: Right now, Leah Freeman with L’anza Healing Haircare.
Fun Fact: I once did hair for the Women’s Fighting Illini basketball coach, and traveled with the team. Doing hair in a locker room was fun, and I even got to go to Hawaii with them.
Last Price Increase: January 2015, a $5 increase on most services.
Best Money Saver: The decision to move from our 1200 sq. ft. store-front salon to a Salon House studio. This significantly lowered our overhead, stress levels and time spent on book keeping and maintenance.
Favorite Tool: My CHI Flatiron
Best Way to Discover New Products: Stay connected with your favorite companies online. They are always excited and eager to share.