Amy Carter
Amy Carter

“One of my clients is an owner running a $2 million salon and also running her local parent-teacher organization,” says salon business consultant Amy Carter. “She’s been leading the parent-teacher group for a long time and says that people are counting on her. But you can’t be a good employer to a staff of 50 and still say ‘yes’ to all of the school-related requests. Give yourself permission to say ‘no’ to some things.”

As director of finances and business operations at Empowering You Consulting and Training, Carter sees a lot of stress among the stylists and owners who hire her to straighten out their business problems. “Women especially are not tapped into their own needs,” she observes. “We’re usually third or fourth on our own list of priorities, when we should be number one.”

As a solution, Carter suggests creating more structure. Lay out your clothes the night before a workday. Prepare meals ahead of time. Schedule regular workouts. All of that is structure, and then you have to stick to it—even when a client asks you to make an exception. Stop being driven by time and money, she urges.

“In our industry, either we don’t have enough time or we don’t have enough money,” continues Carter, a co-owner herself of Salon Solaris in Evansville, Indiana. “Our time issue is rooted deep inside of us, and money makes people wacky! I tell my consulting clients never to take a 7am client. Owners are so scared of clients going elsewhere, but we need to stop the madness!” Try donating to a charity all the money you earn before and after your posted hours, Carter suggests. That may keep you from putting clients’ needs ahead of your need to sleep, exercise or be with your family.

If you own a salon and are the major producer, Carter says you can make more money by using some of your time to coach your team than by working long hours behind the chair. Something as simple as designating a trusted team member to go to the bank for you every day will add time to your day. Strengthen your core team, implement a small price increase and then start taking time for yourself. Do it in baby steps—take off one Saturday a month at first, or take a short, but real, vacation.

“I have a coach, too, who told me that I needed an executive assistant,” Carter reports. “I thought that sounded too fancy-pants, and it took me two years to do it. I thought that no one would want to pick up my drycleaning or do my billing—my billing is a hot mess! But the right person will be able to do it better than you can, leaving you free to do what you love more. When I finally hired an assistant, my revenues increased so much because I was out getting business.”

Carter offers three tips to start building your structure:

  1. Do what only you can do. “Think about that!” Carter says. “If you do what only you can do, you’ll delegate the things that other people are capable of doing.”
  2. Create a life that you love. Once you’ve delegated some things and eliminated others, how will you put yourself first on the list? Would you wake up and write in a gratitude journal, do some yoga, stop by your favorite coffee shop? “I carve out time to go to my spin class and listen to my music,” Carter reveals. “I call it ‘Amy time.’”
  3. Get accountability buddies. Even when we try to change, we tend to let ourselves off the hook, according to Carter. “We’re in a creative industry, so why do we come into work deflated, lethargic and unhealthy?” she asks. “There’s no creativity in that!”

Create a new structure to get yourself unstuck. “We make our days all about rack ’em, pack ’em, ’stack em,” Carter notes. “It’s hard to reprogram that, but we have to make a change and stop being suffering machines.”

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