To get ready for the reopening of her two salons—The Studio Aveda Salon and Studio R3 in Hattiesburg and Laurel, Mississippi, Owner Lisa Cochran put together an advisory board made up of clients from both locations who held expertise in safety protocol and invited them in to audit her new policies and procedures.

“Instead of just looking at the salons in our industry who opened first, we looked at companies outside of our industry that have been open through the pandemic and have dealt with social distancing and safety protocol the longest—to put together our advisory board, we started by looking at our client base and thinking about who would make us the most nervous should they inspect us,” Cochran says.

“Naturally we thought of OSHA, and we have clients who work at local poultry processing plants (who have has the lowest COVID-19 infection rates for line workers in the US) and deal with OSHA on a regular basis,” she continues. “But we also looked at lawyers, public relations officials from local hospitals, office managers who have set up medical safety protocol in two surgery centers, a board member of the governor’s health care team, a cardiologist, a nurse practitioner and a member of the Mississippi governor’s reopen task team.”

Cochran invited all these expert clients in for a soft reopening on the Friday morning before her public reopening on Monday. The team gave the advisory clients salon services in exchange for their advice.

Each client received a series of documents about recommended protocols—one from the governor, documents from the mayors of both towns, one from the state board of cosmetology, as well as the salon’s hold harmless waiver. The advisors proceeded to audit the salon in everything from curbside check in to check out, looking for any slip-ups or vulnerabilities, and offering suggestions.

“One of our clients is really savvy and she’s going to try and get you,” said Cochran. “She came in with her purse and her newspaper (which they are not supposed to bring in) and our receptionist politely asked her to take her purse and newspaper back to her car before coming in for her service. Immediately the client lit up and said, ‘Ooooh, I was testing you!’” Cochran says.

The advisory council offered Cochran several suggestions:

  1. They suggested the salon add a clause into its waiver that if the client is a minor, a parent or guardian must sign the waiver.
  2. The salon had three visible sanitizing stations throughout the space, but the committee suggested with the paranoia everyone is feeling, hand sanitizer should be at every station.
  3. Even though the salon was sanitizing pens used at the front desk, the committee suggested implementing two jars for pens – one marked “Clean” and the second marked “Used.”
  4. The committee suggested the salon use surgical tape for securing mask in place when clients are having color applied or color washed out—this helps prevent getting color on the mask while continuing to keep the client safe.
  5. They also suggested changing the order of the salon’s check in steps, having clients sanitize first, before the salon takes their temperatures.

“The audit really gave me a sense of security, and it really did a lot for our staff,” Cochran says.

On that Friday afternoon, the salons’ team huddled, going through the COVID-19 training in general, and reviewing the suggestions and implementing new protocols.

“These clients have been on the COVID-19 front lines since the beginning and they had so much information to share,” Cochran says. “They were so impressed with our safety measures that one of the public relations professionals contacted the local media outlets on our behalf about our plans—that was unexpected, but certainly an added benefit.”

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