ST200 Deadline Fast Approaching, Are You Ready?This Labor Day weekend might find some procrastinating salon owners laboring over their SALON TODAY 200 applications. The deadline for the 18th annual competition which celebrates salon growth and best practices is August 31st, 2014.

We launched the SALON TODAY 200 nearly two decades ago for a number of reasons. First, we wanted to start a forum where salon owners could share best businesses practices. We also wanted to start benchmarking some of the most important indicators of salon success so salons of all sizes would have something to measure themselves against. And, while other competitions celebrated the great artistry in our industry, we wanted to celebrate our industry's best business minds.

CLICK HERE to either enter the online application system or download a copy that can be mailed in.

We realize that our application is a more challenging to fill out than most, but owners that take us up on it tell us it's worth it in the end. Most find it a valuable comparison tool, analyzing where they were planning to be this year versus where they actually are and what they need to do to get to where they want to be next year.

Nevertheless, I get quite a few calls and emails this year grumbling about the process of filling out the application. Typically my response it, "If the process was easier, would the reward be worth it?" Every owner who has ever won in the past has always told me very enthusiastically, 'No!'

That being said, every year we hear from owners who have life challenges, such as a flood in the salon, a death in the family, a walkout, who need a little extra time with the application, and Joyce and I are always happy to give them an extension of a few days up to a week. If you need a bit more time, please contact Joyce at

And, remember, after Labor Day, the hard work will be on us!

Here's a few of my quick tips for putting together a great app:

If you've got the numbers, go for growth. If you've got at least 10% growth in gross annual sales in 2013 over 2012 you should definitely enter the Growth category. We select 100 honorees in Growth, then 10 honorees in the other 10 business practice categories so your chances are better if you enter the Growth category. Now, 10% isn't a guaranteed win, it all depends on how many people enter each year and how the overall economy is doing. Sometimes our lowest percentage for growth is 12 to 13%, sometimes it's 2% -- but I'd always enter if I have at least 10%. Also, this honorees in this category are strictly selected by the numbers, so while we need you to write an essay, the quality of your essay doesn't factor into your selection.

Go for quality, not quantity. Every year, I see salons who try to enter all 11 categories in the ST200. That's not necessary--you only have to enter one category to be honored. It's better to select the two or three areas in which you really excel and spend your time on submitting detailed essays than it is to enter all the categories but only submit a few sentence for each essay question.

Give us details, but not novels. Remember our time is valuable, too. Each year, we have a few people who literally write us novels--pages and pages of prose on their programs. While we admire their passion, it bogs down the judging process. This year, we implemented a 1,000 word minimum count on essays.

Leave the editing to us. We don't cut hair, and if we came into your salon you wouldn't expect us to. We don't expect you to submit essays that have perfect spelling and grammar. We just want to have the facts of your business -- short and sweet. Please bypass all the flowery prose, and give it to us straight.

Give us facts. In your essays, if you can demonstrate that you measured something, show it to us. Even if the measurement showed that something was less than absolutely successful. Believe me, we'll be impressed that you measured it, because most salons don't. We're always impressed to see any Return on Investment, but any demonstration that you measured an idea is great.

Stress Your Differences. Remember in the ST200, you are competing against all the other salons that are entering that year. And where your essay may win you an honor one year, it might not the next, just because the pool of salons entering changes from year to year. The best way to increase your chances is to really distinguish yourself from the crowd. Show how you are really different than all the other salons out there. For example, if you are using a manufacturer-suggested program for one of the areas you are entering such as referral programs, make sure you are demonstrating how you are making it your own. Otherwise, you are risking sounding exactly like a hundred other applications out there.

Make it a Team Effort. We know that filling out this application is a daunting task, so we suggest making a team effort. Read the essay questions to your team and gather their thoughts. Chances are they remind you of great things your salon has done that you've forgotten or give you a different perspective.

Pictures, Please. While your pictures don't impact the judging process, they certainly help us tell a more colorful story if you win. Please submit portrait pictures of your owners for cover consideration and fun pictures of your team for our pages.

If you have any questions this week, please call Joyce at 847-415-8037 or Stacey at 805-709-1837.



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