Understand the New Competition

Last year we made a very significant shift in the competition-from focusing solely on salon growth to opening it up to 11 different best management practices. Applicants were only required to enter one of the categories, but were encouraged to enter as many times as they desired. As a result, some salons were honored in multiple categories. This year, the best practice competition categories include: Growth, Recruitment and Training, Salary and Benefits, Advanced Education, Retention, Customer Service, Marketing, Retail and Merchandising, Salon Technology, Environmental Sustainability and Philanthropy.

Assess Your Strengths

Gather your management team and have a candid conversation about your salon's strengths. In which areas do you shine? How do you do things differently, better or more successfully than others? How do these areas fit with the SALON TODAY 200 competition categories?

Put Your Heart into the Essays

In year's past, when the competition focused solely on growth, winners were determined by the value of a single number--their percentage of growth from year to year. While the essays questions were important, they really played no role in the selection process. Well, that's no longer the case. For most of these best practice categories, there is no industry standard or benchmark for evaluating success, so our much more of the focus shifts to the information provided in the essay responses. I received many calls last year from owners whose salons can made the list in former years who were surprised to not make it in 2010. When we reviewed their applications together, more often than not it came down to the lack of information that was included in the essays.

Less is More

I noticed with last year's competition, the applicants who fared best were the ones who carefully selected two or three categories that best reflected their strengths and put their time and attention into those categories. When owners tried to complete the entire application, more often that not, less work went into each essay and they ended up not placing high in any category. 

Prove it To Us

It's one thing for someone to say they are successful, it's another to demonstrate it. Wherever possible, infuse your essays with your own measurements. For example, if a marketing program resulted in 500 new clients, say so. If your philanthropy raised $10,000 for a local charity, let us know. If overall salon retention raised a certain percentage based on the salon's new customer service practices, say so. The more you can demonstrate results, the better.

Cross Your T's and Dot Your I's

Every year, a percentage of applications are disqualified for things as simple as not completing the required questions, submitting the $60 application fee, or signing the application. While our Editorial Coordinator Joyce Alverio tirelessly calls negligent applicants in an effort to give them another chance, sometimes we still have to disqualify an application. Make sure you review it carefully before you submit.

Don't Miss the Deadline

Applications must be postmarked by September 1. That doesn't mean you have to wait until that date to send them in! 

Tell Us, Then Show Us

As part of the process, applicants are invited to submit images, including profile shots of the owners, group shots of the entire staff or exterior or interior shots of the salon. Although these images have no impact on the selection process, it certainly makes telling the SALON TODAY 200 story in the January issue much more compelling. Over the years, applicants have gotten very creative with the images they submit. The better your images, the higher the changes that a picture will make it into our January issue, if you are selected as an honoree.

Click here to download the ST200 application. Got a question, don't hesitate to call us! We're very used to fielding questions about the SALON TODAY 200. Call Joyce Alverio at 847-415-8037 or myself at 805-709-1837.

Good Luck! Got any advice to share with others? Make a comment below.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.