Are your salons in the hands of children?

by | Farr Factor

A candidate for the district manager position at a salon chain recently told me in an interview that when it comes to successful salon operation, “Someone in each salon has to be the adult.”

Every day without fail, I interview candidates for salon jobs who have neither the background nor the maturity to run a lemonade stand, and yet they apply, saying “I like to tan and I like people,” as if that says everything I need to know about their ability to sell! To some extent, we have only ourselves to blame for this sorry state of affairs.

Fifteen years ago in this biz , it was commonly said that you didn’t have to be good at managing retail and people to be successful … you just had to have your doors open. Early owners relied on the dearth of competition, their availability of beds (mostly entry-level back then) and their salon location. It was as if the famous movie line, “If you build it, they will come” applied, and all you needed was a warm body behind the counter whom you could pay minimum wage plus a five percent sales commission (woo hoo!). In most cases where the salon was the only game in town, having young first-job-level staff was cheap and flexible. And if the current crop of non-skilled salespeople didn’t work out, you just reached into your “applications” folder and called five new candidates who quickly rushed down to a job that had the reputation for being easy and whose principle benefit was a free tan! That reputation continues today, with many who think being a “tanning consultant” means merely turning on tanning beds and checking Facebook on their cell phone between those annoying salon guests.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why some owners pay a boatload of cash for sunbeds that look like something from NASA, make long-term commitments to landlords and pricy leases, finance great-looking build-outs with union electrical contractor fees, and then put all of that fixed cost investment into the hands of children – those who don’t yet have the mature judgment needed to serve retail consumers. You’d never find Macy’s employing an 18-year-old bed-cleaner type at their fragrance counter! If this sounds like the frustrations of an old fart tanning business consultant, you’re right.

Want to take your business up another level or two? Staff your team with at least two “adults” in each salon who will become the anchor of your business. They’ll show up on time, have less boyfriend drama, find reliable means to get to work and actually work when you’re not there to watch! The other – and more important – result is that your reputation with your salon guests will improve: they will believe that your salon cares enough to give a unique, quality experience to everyone who walks through the door. Of course, the EEOC says that we’re not to use age as criterium in hiring and management decisions. I don’t look for age necessarily, but I do look for maturity and, like many other things in life, maturity TENDS to increase along with years spent on this planet. There’s no guarantee that a 25-year-old woman will have fewer relationship issues or excuses than a teen, but odds improve when you employ adults, or at least people who act like adults.

Lastly, why do we think we can attract and hire that adult salesperson at minimum wage? You pay the price for great equipment and locations. Why do some owners think that great adult staff come at rock bottom prices? Still thinking of how it was done 15 years ago?

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