Strategies for Designing a Successful SALON TODAY 200 Entry

Each January for the past 21 years, SALON TODAY has honored 200 salons in North America for their market growth and best business practices through its SALON TODAY 200 competition. The program was established to celebrate salon business and to provide a forum where salon owners and managers could share successful business strategies. In addition, the magazine hoped to begin developing business benchmarks that all salons could measure themselves against.

Originally, the competition only examined growth—honoring salons with the highest overall sales from one year to the next. But when the economy took a nosedive in 2008/2009, making it harder for all salons to grow, the program branched out and developed separate categories around different business practices and allowed applicants to customize their own application process by picking and choosing the categories they wished to compete within. For example for 2019, the competition categories will include growth, compensation and benefits, retention and referral programs, customer service, employee education, salon culture, inventory management, philanthropy, technology, retail and merchandising, and profit center.

While the eight-page application can seem daunting when first reviewed, don’t get discouraged. Remember, it’s not necessary to complete the entire application to compete, nor are you expected to—the process offers flexibility, allowing you to choose the areas you feel best showcase your best business strengths.

Want to earn your place in the spotlight this year? SALON TODAY’s Editor in Chief Stacey Soble offers the following tips for preparing a stronger SALON TODAY 200 application:

  • Start by Accessing the App—Visit and examine the application and determine if you are up for the challenge. There are two versions of the application and you need only pick one. There’s a downloadable app which you can print out, fill in by hand and mail in OR there’s an online application. Decide how you want to apply and please note the application fee varies depending on the application you choose. It’s $75 for the online application and $125 for the downloadable application which covers additional research processing fees for the magazine to enter your submitted data.
  • Choose Your Categories Wisely—Remember there are 11 different competition categories and you get to pick and choose the ones you enter. Salons that focus on their strengths and enter 3-4 categories tend to fare better than salons that attempt to enter all 11 categories but who skimp on each essay section.
  • If You Have the Numbers, Enter Growth—Of the SALON TODAY 200, 100 of the honorees are profiled in the Growth categories and the remaining 100 are divided among the 10 other best practice categories. How high you need to grow to capture a growth title in 2019 depends on how the economy performed in 2016/2017 (the years we’re examining for this year) and how many salons enter in the competition this year. But on average if you grew at a rate of 10 percent or higher, you’ve got a good shot, so go for it. In the growth category, winning salons are chosen strictly by the numbers, so if you’ve got them, it’s easier to win here.
  • For All Other Categories, Focus on the Essays—With the exception of growth, the essays play the biggest role in impressing the judges. It’s your chance to shine, so don’t skimp on your responses. Review all the questions asked in the essay portion of the section. While you don’t have to answer every question asked, they are designed to help guide you through your response. But, remember you’re competing against all the other salons that entered in the same category, so focus on things that you did in this area that are unique or different. Before you write your essays, brainstorm your chosen categories with your team—they may suggest ideas to highlight that you would have missed.
  • Focus on the Ideas, Not the Writing—we don’t expect your responses to be perfectly written and grammar perfect. We are judging the ideas expressed in the essay, not your writing style. As an analogy, I know quite a bit about cosmetology, but I can’t cut or color hair—I leave that to the experts. We aren’t expecting perfect writing. But we are looking for original and successful ideas.
  • Use Your Numbers—SALON TODAY loves data, so if you measured the Return On Investment on one of the programs you are writing about, share the data. Prove exactly how your great idea paid off.
  • Submit Pictures and Collateral—While your application will be judged solely on the data and essays on your application, samples of your menu or any promotional materials you referenced is appreciated and may help you tell your story. Also, should you be selected, photos of salon owners, salon teams and salon interiors help us put together a better January/February issue—so send them in.
  • Don’t Procrastinate—The deadline for the 2019 SALON TODAY 200 is August 31, which means the downloadable application must be postmarked by that date and the online application must be entered into the system by midnight that night. Don’t wait until the last minute to apply. Pace yourself and give yourself plenty of time to prepare a solid application.
  • Watch for Communication—Should your application be incomplete for some reason, the magazine makes its best effort to contact the owner through email information and the phone numbers provided on the form. Watch for any communication and respond as soon as possible. You wouldn’t want to be disqualified for something as simple as neglecting to sign the form!
  • If You Aren’t Selected, Don’t Be Discouraged—We save the applications for an entire year and access them for sources when creating editorial content for our magazines, website stories and email newsletters, so you still may hear from one of our editors throughout the year. Also, several owners have told us that the process of filling out the application served as a good annual planning exercise even if they didn’t win.

To access this year's application, CLICK HERE. 

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