SALON TODAY RECOMMENDS: 5 Tips for Effective Salon Leadership

Salon owners juggle more roles than many may realize. From mentor to business strategist, marketing guru to customer relations expert, they have many hats to wear—without even considering any work they may do on the salon floor. As impressive as this multitasking ability is, it is all for nothing if a salon owner overlooks the critical factors that keep clients and stylists happy and inspired. SALON TODAY found a wealth of effective leadership strategies in the articles on Here we compiled five tips for prioritizing those things that determine the overall character and attitude of the salon. 

1. Make culture-building central to your management strategy.

About eight years ago, Lorraine Lillis, owner of Salon 2000 in Fleming Island, Florida, hired a manager and put her full focus on her employees, a decision that changed her business for the better. Previously she was working as a stylist, running the front desk and trying to do everything else at the same time. Now, her time is spent as a motivator and the salon’s culture has flourished.

Lillis is careful and deliberate in choosing new stylists to join the team. Interviewees spend time shadowing in the salon before they are hired. Once stylists do join the team, they enter a 90-day training program to hone their technical abilities and retail skills. “When they start with us, everyone has a defined path of growth with benchmarks,” Lillis says. “There are never any questions—it’s blueprinted for them.”

In addition to the extensive education new stylists receive, Lillis offers benefits, too. “We have health care, paid vacation and this year, added a 401k plan,” she says. “We also offer a new perk: Stylists who have $100,000 in services and $25,000 in retail receive an extra day of paid vacation for every year they achieve this.”

Lillis goes over all these benefits before a stylist is hired and then encourages them to visit other Aveda salons. “We want them to know this is where they want to be,” she says.

Read more in the Aveda Means Business article, “Be the Place They Want to Be.”


2. Ensure clients receive consistent service.

Salons often have strategies for bringing new guests into the salon, but Jessica Greene, owner of Elements Salon in Fernandina Beach, Florida, also has a strategy for keeping clients coming back. Elements is an Aveda salon and sets itself apart as a luxury experience with Aveda services like complimentary hand and scalp massages. However, these services only keep clients happy if clients actually receive them; Greene once found out that a client watched another client in the chair next to her receive a complimentary Aveda ritual but wasn’t offered one herself. Greene sends secret shoppers to all of her stylists to ensure that consistent, quality service is being offered to all clients. This has allowed her not only to discover who needs some extra coaching, but also to notice the stylists that are doing really well.

“I have a guy who nails it every time, which was a real eye-opener,” Greene says.

Learn more about client retention strategies in the Aveda Means Business article, “Keeping Clients Coming Back.”


3. Show stylists how to make hairdressing a career, not a job.

Aveda Means Business spoke with three seasoned hairstylists who shared their top tips for newbies. Crystal Wakitsch, senior stylist at William Edge Salon in Nashville says honing your skills is something to do continuously, no matter what your level or how many clients you see. “I’m a visual person, so practicing foundations over and over again was key for me,” she says. “Even after 11 years in the business, I still take home a mannequin and practice.”

Jessica Donmoyer, stylist at Aura Salon and Spa in Jacksonville, Florida, emphasizes the importance of education and recommends finding a salon with new talent or assistant programs when looking for your first job. “You can learn so much from the people you work with,” she says. “When you have down time, go around and watch people. Ask people why they are formulating this way, or why they are cutting that way. Never be afraid to ask for someone’s help or even their opinion.”

According to Michelle Yates Ferrell, stylist at Lyndon’s Salon and Spa in Clarksville, Tennessee, when it comes to growing as a stylist, asking questions and really listening to the answers is key. This means seeking guidance from fellow stylists and learning to ask clients the right questions during consultations. “I feel the best way to become successful is to make sure you are constantly learning, and you must ask questions of other stylists to continue to learn,” Ferrell says. “And for clients, you have to ask questions in order to achieve their expectations.”

Get more tips to share with stylists in the Aveda Means Business article, “Lessons Learned: Seasoned Stylists Share Advice for Newbies.”


4. Focus on the quality of your salon rather than the quantity of locations.

The goal of salon growth often leads to the decision to open a new location, but for Jerry Gordon, the late owner of J. Gordon Designs in Chicago, bigger wasn’t better. Gordon pioneered the concept of split (or double) shifting in the salon, which enabled him to increase revenues and accommodate clients while continuing to personally oversee the quality of people, products and environment.

Split shifting allowed Gordon to keep the salon open longer hours without burning out his team. His wife, Karen Gordon explains, “It’s basically a six-hour shift that allows everyone to make the same amount of money in 30-35 hours a week instead of 40 because they are booked solid. They have time to do things outside the salon.”

Of course, change is difficult and for many stylists the news that their salon was adopting this system would sound like they just had their hours cut. Chris Murphy, co-owner of three Maximum FX locations in the Austin, Texas area, implemented split shifting in his salon and found that communication was the key to making his stylists feel comfortable with the transition. By working with his stylists to plan their new schedules, he ensured that they felt in control and were able to see the possibilities within the new parameters.

Learn more about implementing split shifting in the Aveda Means Business article, “Split Shifting: An Avenue to Growth.”


5. If you do think it is time to open a new location, first make sure you know current business.

Heath Smith, co-owner and director of operations for Ruiz Salon in Austin, Texas, has opened a few locations over the years and has become familiar with the many things an owner should consider before making that leap.

“A lot of owners think they need to open a new location, but maybe all they need to do is take half your break room and make three new stations,” Smith says. “Sometimes you can find a new location within the space you already have by restructuring,” he adds.

If ultimately opening a new location is the right move, there are many things to consider, like choosing the right location and getting a loan. Even more important is to ensure that your salon’s culture stays intact. To maintain your brand and company culture, Smith says you have to work at it every day in all your locations.

“You work on it through the org chart of the company from top to bottom—managers, trainers, supervisors, team leads, etc. Everyone has to be on the same page with regards to the brand,” he says. “And it starts at hiring. You really shouldn’t hire people who don’t enjoy embodying your values.

Check out the Aveda Means Business article with Smith’s “Six Tips for Opening a New Location.”

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