Are you losing Marla?

by | Farr Factor

A recent counseling session I had with a salon chain operator regarding his best manager, Marla, revealed a few reasons why the salon may soon lose her – a four-year company veteran and top performer for the company. Marla’s store has the highest per customer average, the highest per session average and usually the highest lotion per session average. All are above industry standards. She’s a bright young lady devoted to her four-salon company, but she’s nearing the end of her patience. Where do we start the list of her frustrations?

First, Marla has not had a raise in four years of meritorious service. In that period, her sales have always been excellent, as have those of her five-member staff. She’s missed only two sick days in four years and is the new idea “initiator” among the salon managers. If there is a new way to get to a salon best practice, it’s typically Marla who finds it. All that being said, why has Marla not had a raise in pay to reinforce her performance and efforts? “John, I can’t afford to give raises in this economy; bad first quarter and the price of lamps and maintenance keeps going up,” says the chain’s owner. Getting some owners to realize the importance of a happy and motivated Marla is critical for any consultant who has a passion for improving their client’s business. But it’s tough for a consultant to convince Marla that the owner’s cost issues are real when on top of the “no raises” issue, the owner and his mate spend three weeks in Costa Rica every year – usually during the peak season! What’s wrong with this picture? Is there a Motel 6 in Costa Rica that I don’t know about? Did the boss fly there with frequent flyer miles?

Our industry continues to evolve into a mature sales model, yet we’re not adding tanners in double-digit figures, so it’s a key objective to retain customers and the few Marlas we have. These are individuals who love the tanning business and remain dedicated regardless of having to cover shifts, put up with complaining customers and coworkers, being bombarded at times by questions from friends and family about the health risks associated with indoor tanning, in addition to receiving no recognition of their importance to the salon guests’ “experience and continued patronage.” By the way: Not only has Marla not had a pay raise, but there is no bonus structure in place for membership sales (EFTs), a less-than-inspiring two percent commission on “selected” lotions (Those that are over $100 per bottle – “Wow, I make $2 on a $100 bottle of lotion, lucky me!”)

After more than 23 years of consulting tanning salon operators, I’m simply amazed that some are still missing the real value of going to a tanning salon – the interaction between the tanner and the person they should have complete trust in… the tanning professional behind the counter. Great equipment and name-brand lotions don’t sell themselves! We NEED the Marlas of the world who still think that running a salon is a cool thing to do with one’s good work ethics. A meaningful and defined compensation and incentive approach can help you keep the Marlas and even “clone” a few more.

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