Judging the SALON TODAY 200For most salons and spas, December is their busiest season as they help clients look their best for holiday festivities and find the perfect gifts of beauty for everyone on their shopping lists. For the SALON TODAY editorial team, it’s also our busiest season, but for us, it’s about judging the avalanche of SALON TODAY 200 (ST200) entries, picking this year’s honorees and sharing their wisdom with our readers through our most celebrated issue of the year.

Recently, one of the ST200 judges snapped a few pics throughout the judging process and sent them to me. That got me thinking about the habits and the habitations of our judges and what personally works best for each one as they carefully absorb thousands of pages of essay responses and data tables. So I invited each one to send me a snap or two that represented their judging process. And, this blog is my big THANK YOU to them for all their hard work.

But first...a little background on the ST200. When we launched the program 17 years ago, we had a number of goals. We wanted to create a competition that celebrated salon and spa business, launch a forum where salon owners could share their best business practices with one another, and harness the data of that competition to create benchmarks that all salons and spas could measure themselves against. We did just that, and the SALON TODAY 200 has become a hallmark for salon business ever since.

From August through September, the bulk of this burden rests on the shoulders of our Editorial Coordinator Joyce Alverio. She meticulously goes through each application—whether it came in the mail or through our online application process—and catalogs it in our system and makes sure each applicant submitted any required documentation. For any applications that are missing information, she contacts the owner and lets them know what else we need. For any applicants who applied in our Growth category, she sends information to our independent researcher Brenda Bryan, who inputs the sales growth information and picks the honorees in that category.

Applications in the other ten best practice competition categories are distributed among MODERN SALON and SALON TODAY editors who serve as our judges. This year’s pool of judges included myself, Debbie Ogilvie, executive managing editor; Jan Hillenmeyer, news editor; Lauren Salapatek, web editor; Anne Moratto, west coast beauty and markets editor; and Chandler Rollins, associate editor. And because we still required a bit more judging help, we invited Laurel Nelson, a past editor for both SALON TODAY and MODERN SALON, to guest judge.

Each editor is assigned a best practice category (or two) to evaluate, and it is their responsibility to read all the applications entered in that category, including the data points and the essays. They are asked to score each application, and get back to me with a ranking of applicants in that category from highest to lowest. I then use the rankings to name the 200 honorees. Because this judging process requires quite a bit of focus and concentration, we allow editors who work in our corporate office to work from home while evaluating the applications. We've found even those of us who work from home offices on a regular basis have developed some hermit-type behaviors to get the job done. Flip through the slideshow at the bottom of this story, to see each one. I want to thank this team who give it their all year after year to not only evaluate each application, but who help compile the information from the 200 honorees to create our special January/February issue and all relating digital stories and email newsletters! We couldn’t do this without each and every one of them!!

On December 2, we sent an email alert to each applicant, letting them know whether or not they made the SALON TODAY 200 list this year. And, starting on December 3, we will be celebrating the “12 Days of the SALON TODAY 200,” when we post each category—one by one—revealing this year’s honorees in that category. Log onto salontoday.com or check our Facebook page daily to see the winning salons and spas in each category.