Many entrepreneurs get stuck in a rut, going about business in their usual manner, content with the status quo. When they have a problem or hit a bump in the road, they often rely on their standby solutions. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always benefit your business. In a salon setting, there are times when the customer isn’t always right and the phrase “time is money” can lead you astray.
“Rules are often nothing more than convention or what’s worked in the past and sometimes [they] no longer apply,” says Alan Weiss, PhD, president of based Summit Consulting Group in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. “In an age of instant communication, you should always charge for an appointment that was not canceled when the customer did not show up.” You want clients to value your time; the ones who don’t respect you aren’t clients you want to keep anyway.
To be successful, you must think outside the box, forge new ground and detach from what conventional wisdom tells you. Here are 10 common rules, business clichés and misconceptions that, when strictly followed, can lead to disaster. Read below to find out why they hinder success and determine how to adopt sensible standards instead.
Rule 1: The customer is always right.
Why you should break it: It’s sad to say, but no matter how good you are, there will always be difficult clients—just plain flakes that routinely “forget” appointments, those looking to get freebies or ones who threaten to ruin your reputation. According to Weiss, thinking that the customer is always right is a sure route to bankruptcy these days. “Customers can take advantage,” he explains.
Don’t put up with the bad behavior. When an opportunity presents itself, calmly confront the ornery customer. “Point out the damage done to your business,” Weiss recommends. For instance, when a very late customer demands you fit her in immediately or refuses to pay for missing her appointment, say something like, “By not showing up, you forfeited your appointment. I turned other customers away who wanted your time slot, which caused me to lose business.”
Rule 2: Nice girls finish last.
Why you should break it: For some busy techs, it would be so easy to cut corners on services (like shortening the pedi massage) or treat customers like a number (one in and one out), not to mention using inferior products, double booking, etc. Time would be saved and entrepreneurs could pocket more money, right? According to Horowitz, the answer is no. “Nice guys actually build a loyal fan base,” he says. “Companies that excel at service turn customers into brand ambassadors.”
Refine each of your services. “Give the best service you can—something so extraordinary that people will talk about it, reporters will write about it, etc.” says Shel Horowitz, green and ethical marketing consultant in Hadley, Massachusetts, and author of “Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green” and GreenAndProfitable.com. When everyone’s talking about what a nice job you did, it’s word-of-mouth advertising at peak performance.
Rule 3: Being green is too expensive.
Why you should break it: Initially, disposable items and low-cost consumables may seem like the cheapest option. But thinking that green technology is too expensive can actually block business owners from making improvements that lead to increased loyalty and new customers.
It’s been decades since thinking green was just for hippies. Horowitz suggests going with environmentally sustainable improvements first—the ones that save money. For example, take a little extra time to cut down your buffing blocks that you already have to smaller, individual-sized squares—and then market that to broaden your base. Small changes can make a big difference to your clients.
Rule 4: Go with the flow.
Why you should break it: With so many daily responsibilities, you may push aside mundane tasks like fixing a leaky sink in favor of time consuming ones, such as interviewing new techs to fill an empty station, or complex ones, such as implementing new strategies for increasing revenue. “Putting off for tomorrow what can be done today is not a good idea in business,” says Deborah Sweeney, CEO of Calabasas, California-based MyCorporation. “Many people want to only deal with the here and now, but fail to foresee problems and opportunities in business.” When you procrastinate for a couple of days, those days could quickly turn into weeks and even months with unforetold consequences.
“When running a business, it’s easy to get caught in a situation where you’re always dealing with the day-to-day; but to grow the business and make it a success, you have to look forward and work toward the future,” Sweeney says. Make time in your schedule to tackle daily tasks and have a set time to work on projects you’d normally put off.
Rule 5: Treat all customers equally.
Why you should break it: When you first start your business, you may want to reel in as many clients as possible to build up your clientele. You offer special promotions, free service samples and discounts on retail items. Over time, your efforts will pay off as some clients tell their friends, others bring in family members and another group become lifelong guests. As your business grows, you’ll start to realize who the good clients are and who the not-so-good ones are. The downside of offering freebies and promos to everyone is that it can also bring in clients who are just looking for a deal, rather than a favorite salon.
“You must invest the most in the customers who provide the most business and referrals,” says Weiss. “Otherwise, you over-invest in poor customers and under-invest in good ones, like a bank going out of business on bad loans.”
Rule 6: Focus on what you do best.
Why you should break it: Some techs hone in on a special niche (say nail art) and don’t spend time learning the craft of enhancements or wraps. When clients walk through the door requesting services other than that specialty, they’ll walk right back out because their options are too limited. “Customers want full service from one person they can trust,” says Weiss.
“While many people try to be the Jack of all trades, they are often the master of none,” explains Sweeney. It’s important to strike a balance between your expertise and current nail trends. The goal should be to broaden your talents (not negate your artistry) so that you effectively manage your time and gain further business options.
Rule 7: Bigger is better.
Why you should break it: Expanding your business or going big out the gate doesn’t guarantee more money and satisfaction. It does promise more planning, delegation and managing. Often, salon owners may increase their scale without realizing that what they enjoyed most about it (performing services, working with clients, their autonomy) was compromised due to the added responsibilities of expansion. The costly obligations of growing are easily overlooked when eagerness, optimism or impatience override realism, resulting in a net profit that is no greater than your smaller business.
A larger area may be necessary if you’ve outgrown what you have now, need more privacy or have solid plans for a full-service spa. Cozy might be just right if the surrounding competition is fierce, you don’t have the means to sustain performance by adding employees or your aspirations spread you too thin. You would be better off spending your time becoming a distinctive salon with enormous talent.
Rule 8: Time is money.
Why you should break it: Every minute in the salon is not created equal. In addition to “billable” services, time is spent on inventory, accounting, marketing, website development, social networking and more. If you allot all of your time to the tasks—big or small—that bring instant money or services and forget to spend time on the other tasks to build and grow your business, you’ll be left in the dust. “Value is money,” says Weiss, who also recommends that techs charge for procedures not by the hour. “Real wealth is discretionary time, the ability to do what you want when you want. Do you really want to work eight days a week, eight hours a day? Or do you want time with your family and loved ones? Maximize your most lucrative procedures, then accept some “down time” to market your services. In other words, focus on the services that increase your bottom line and allocate time and energy to promote them.
Rule 9: Look at a problem from the 30,000-foot level.
Why you should break it: Issues arise in every business, be it customer complaints, employee altercations or financial woes. How you deal with them is what has the biggest impact. “It is often the case that looking at something from a ‘removed’ perspective can be too distancing,” Sweeney says. “It may be too difficult to actually see and understand the problem.”
Baby steps and a fundamental understanding of the issue are the keys to resolution. “More often, it’s important to dig in, understand the circumstances surrounding the business and try to make small changes,” Sweeney advises. “With small changes can come big impact. If you look to make sweeping changes all at once, sometimes it’s difficult to know what was most impactful.”
Rule 10: Marketing is expensive and disposable.
Why you should break it: When you have a limited budget and mounting overhead expenses, it can be challenging to make your budget stretch for an “extra” line, like marketing. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of hoping that passersby (a.k.a. potential clients) will simply pop into their salon or they waste time on useless marketing tactics instead of going for the gold. “Bad marketing is expensive and disposable,” says Horowitz. “Good marketing is essential and includes far more than advertising.”
Set aside a dollar amount and time each month for reaching out to new and existing clients. “Market with a variety of affordable, effective and ethical strategies to position your salon as the best—maybe the only—place for your services,” recommends Horowitz. “Good examples for salons might include beauty seminars, partnerships with complementary businesses and a customer-centric blog or e-newsletter.”
[Images: FreeImages via Raphael Pinto, Helena Ruiz]