At Salon Visage in Knoxville, Tennessee, Stylist Allie Baird observes as Creative Cutting Instructor Priscilla Brown performs a cut on guest Kendra Howe. The vast majority of people who enter this industry are not classroom learners. You can’t expect new associates/assistants to come into a classroom, watch an artist execute a cut or perform a massage or facial technique, and take that new skill into the salon and spa and perform it on their next guest.
In a market leader salon, you can teach the techniques in the classroom, but then the associates need to spend all day, every day, in the process of practical learning by working side-by-side with the best of the best in your organization to put what they’ve learned in the class into action under a mentorship relationship.
When salons don’t have a mentoring programs in place, what tends to happen is that the new people just starting out have nothing going on, so where do they hang out? In the break room or the back room, right, with all the other people who tend to not have enough appointments. Unfortunately, that breeds mediocrity. Instead, you want to pair new associates up with the people in your salon who are performing at the highest levels.
A critical component of a successful mentoring program is that you structure it so each associate rotates from mentor to mentor in a predetermined interval—let’s say once a month—so he or she is exposed to multiple viewpoints and talents. In our industry, the norm is for a salon to identify a successful service provider and pair her up with an assistant and those two become almost a ‘mini-salon’ within the salon. The stylist’s mentality becomes, ‘This is my girl, this is how we do it, and we have our own thing going on here.’
The problem with that is, it doesn’t create a well-rounded experience for the associate, because she only learns how one person does things. And, everyone isn’t great at everything. So you really want to move associates around strategically so they can learn from everyone’s strengths. Bottom line, we are big believers that every system in your salon has to be brand driven, and in order for that to take place, the owner has to direct exactly how the education and the mentoring will be delivered.
In fact, as part of that education program and before associates even start with their first mentor, we suggest that new hires spend a week in a salon’s guest reservations or the call center answering phones so they can truly appreciate all the nuances of the your customers’ requests. Then, we believe they should spend some time stationed at the front checking guests in and out. This helps the new talent truly embrace the concept of the guest experience. When they are 100 percent prepared to meet and exceed the expectations of any guest who walks through that door, then you have set your people up to succeed.
In our view, the ultimate career path for your employees is not what you pay them or what you tell them to do, it’s what you do to prepare them to succeed at highest level. Just like parents want their children to succeed at a higher level than themselves—a successful mentor wants to see his or her associates succeed by developing full books for themselves.
For market leaders especially, owners need to realize that the expectation of every single guest is dramatically different than they are at the average salon, because of price point, location, environment, and even your product lines. Your coaching process has to prepare people to meet those expectations and to serve people who in actuality they have very little in common with. As the owner, it’s your job to create a system that prepares associates to be successful as quickly as possible.
Frank Gambuzza and Scott Missad. Frank Gambuzza is the owner of The Visage Group with four salon and spa locations in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Scott Missad is the new CEO of Gene Juarez, with 10 salons and two academies in Seattle, Washington. For more information about Strictly Business, the live education seminars founded Scott Missad and Frank Gambuzza, contact Julie Oeffling at 800-718-5949.