SALON TODAY RECOMMENDS: 5 Steps for Building A Salon Culture Where Stylists Thrive

What does your salon culture say about you and your team? Essentially, a salon culture is its values put into action. A strong, positive culture creates a salon environment that enables stylists to grow and feel enriched in their careers, resulting in better customer service and a more successful business. We found a few articles on that recognize salon owners who have built strong environments for growth. Here are 5 steps from culture champions to create this environment in your own salon.

1. Help shy stylists connect with clients by laying out dialogue they can use for the consultation, discussing pricing and recommending products.

Stephani Wolfe, a stylist at Breeze Salon and Day Spa (four locations in the Austin, Texas, area) always struggled with talking to clients, feeling awkward around familiar clients and anxiety ridden when a new client came in. She went through the Qnity program and embraced tools like the 9Grid and Q cards to write down what she wanted to achieve. Once she saw it in writing, it felt doable.

The first goal she addressed was improving her ability to talk to clients about pricing during consultations. Instead of asking what a client wants to spend, she began laying out the plan for the client’s hair during the consultation, then saying, “Let’s go over pricing before we get started so you know what each service costs.” Wolfe noticed that communication between her and her clients got clearer after this and soon she began seeing quantitative results. She receives many more referrals and compliments and at her last review found out that her services sales have jumped about $10,000 over the last year her retail sales have jumped from 35-40 percent to 60 percent.

To learn more about giving stylists tools to better communicate with clients, check out the Aveda Means Business article, “Helping Shy Stylists Connect with Clients.”


2. Make your salon an enriching place to work by listening to stylists’ goals, giving them the resources to grow and rewarding their successes.  

Aveda Means Business talked with the owners and managers of three salons honored with “Best Place to Work” and asked them why their stylists love working at their salon. All answered with examples of the ways they ensure that their stylists can grow in their artistry, continue to make more money and have room for a home life.

Laura Ortmann, owner of two Ginger Bay Salon and Spa locations in the St. Louis area, discusses her salon’s focus on education. They pay for in-house education and even offer elective education like financial literacy classes, self-defense classes or CPR. These are just for the personal benefit of stylists and are chosen based on employee feedback.

Ortmann also reveals while stylists choose to work in the employee-based environment Ginger Bay Salon offers, though booth renters make up about 85 percent of stylists in Missouri. She offers competitive compensation and benefits, including vacation time, health insurance for employees and their dependents, dental, vision, flex spending, life insurance and a 401k program with a match. The salon also just added a company sponsored gym membership. Plus, employees who have been with the company for more than 10 years are granted additional benefits, like more vacation time and additional money for education in acknowledgement of their tenure with the company. Perfect attendance is also rewarded.

Learn more about other ways salon owners are making their salons great work environments in Aveda Means Business’ article, “How Salons Won ‘Best Place to Work.’”


3. Teach your stylists to overcome bad work habits or improve in areas where they struggle by investing in them so they learn how to invest in themselves.

Jessica Martindale, a stylist at Insignia Hair and Body Studio in Nottingham, Maryland, struggled with being chronically late to work. When her boss presented her with the opportunity to participate in a Qnity workshop, Martindale eagerly signed up, excited to take a class with a focus on business, rather than technique. The tools she received helped her learn to track her important benchmarks, particularly two she was struggling with – retail and prebooking. Writing everything down on a 9Grid and keeping close track of her numbers has made Martindale feel more in tune with her business. She has kicked the habit of showing up late, realizing the value of starting off the morning refreshed and prepared. She’s reached her goal of a 17-percent growth rate and has been promoted to the position of manager.

Martindale’s advice to fellow stylists who are struggling with meeting their goals is to write them down. “Record what is working and what isn’t,” Martindale says. “It’s important to sit down with yourself on a regular basis and reassess the behaviors that aren’t working. Then, figure out new behaviors to promote change.”

To learn more about guiding staff to overcome obstacles, read the Aveda Means Business article, “The Power of the Written Goal.”


4. Convert booth renters to team members by providing tools and benefits that ensure they are benefitting from a team environment.

When Karie Bennett, owner of two Atelier Salon locations near San Jose, California, set out to open a third location with her partner, Rob Willis, she bought an existing salon with employees that were all independent contractors. For her business plan to work, she needed to convince them all to stay with Atelier and convert to a traditional salon environment and commission pay.

Bennett was nervous about meeting the staff and showing them the value of working for Atelier. So before giving them a presentation she did some research.  She and Willis went to the Professional Beauty Association’s site to research renters versus commission. They calculated different scenarios for the different business plans and found that each time employees benefited from working for Atelier rather than being an independent contractor. This was because Atelier pays taxes, credit card fees, takes care of benefits, overhead and other expenses. Bennett and Willis were able to easily convince the independent contractors to stay on because they made it clear what they would gain as Atelier team members.

Read more about how Bennett and Willis worked through this transition in Aveda Means Business’ article, “Buying a Business: Converting Booth Renters to Team Members.”


5. Make a plan to achieve a healthy bottom line so that your salon is financially able to implement culture-building programs and benefits.

Aveda Means Business gathered some expert advice from the winners in the Planned Profitability category of Salon Today 200. Five salons share their secrets to profitability, beginning with the importance of planning and systemizing with a consultant. Centre Salon in Denver worked with a company called World Class Financial Services, that makes sure that owner James Pacifico is aware of spending trends that are meeting his plan in a certain category, and also celebrates the salon’s successes that are in line with goals. Pacifico says this service has been essential for deciding in what areas the salon should cut spending to help the overall health of the business.

Kendall Ong and Beate Assmuth-Ong, owners of Mane Attraction Salon in Phoenix, recommend that all salon owners think through a succession plan. In 2009, they planned 2023 as their retirement date. At that time their salon was still fashionable and up-to-date, but they knew it wouldn’t be in 15 years. So, they budgeted for a major remodel in 2013 to update the salon to last for the next 10 years. This type of long-term planning ensures that the salon is not caught off guard with major, unanticipated expenses.

For more tips on staying financially strong so salon goals can be met, check out the Aveda Means Business article, “5 Tips for Profitability from Salon Today 200 Honorees.”

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