6 Questions for Salon AKS on their 20th Anniversary

Stacey Soble | February 24, 2017 | 8:25 AM
A gorgeous row of styling stations at Salon AKS.
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The color bar at Salon AKS takes the form of the Color Circle.
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Salon AKS' reception area, the hub of this busy salon.
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The shampoo area at Salon AKS.
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An image from their vault: Alain Pinon, Susanna Romano and Kao Hui, owners of Salon AKS.
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Kao Hui, Susanna Romano and Alain Pinon today.
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This year marks the 20th business anniversary of Salon AKS, which is located on 54th and 5th Avenue in New York. In celebration of the anniversary, SALON TODAY had the opportunity to interview the salon’s owners, Alain Pinon, Kao Hui, and Susanna Romano, on their continued success.

ST: What is your strategy for retaining staff?

Salon AKS: “What maintains our staff is being consistent and cohesive with our vision and creating a work environment to support growth. We train, we educate, we guide and promote from within. Receptionists have grown into assistant managers, full managers and senior managers. Ninety percent of our stylists and colorists have been homegrown, some from the beginning of the salon 20 years ago. Clients and staff members love to witness and be a part of this process. The three of us really care about our team on a personal level, and we enjoy watching each of them blossom in their professional careers as well as their personal lives. What this does is have employees know that they have a future within the company, which in turn results in retention. We also never forget that we also are hair designers and part of the team. At the end of the day, our mission is and always will be to build a dedicated team that delivers impeccable customer service and builds a future for each one of them.”

ST: In a world of clients hopping around, what are the keys to keeping clients coming back to the salon?

Salon AKS: “Consistency of great customer service, being on time, and running a tight, professional ship from the moment you walk in the door to the moment you leave. We’re lucky to have had long-term clients for many years, and for some, we’re now doing their children’s hair and even their weddings! It’s the history, in-salon experiences and of course great work that keeps them coming back. Our goal is to make them feel fresh and beautiful each and every time.”

ST: You have a unique partnership. How do you keep it going and keep peace after 20 years working together?

Salon AKS: “Our history and open communication is what keeps us going. We all have the same vision and the want to keep it going. We all bring something different to the table, but at the end of the day, it’s one vision. For the past 20 years, we’ve had an hour and a half breakfast meeting every Friday which is our platform to tackle any issues of the week. Each of us had to learn that our ideas could be changed and evolve to better the business along with the future of the team. We’ve experienced so much together and have a true dedication to our team. Plus, one of us is always at the salon and present. Don't sweat the small stuff!”

ST: How do you keep staff inspired and educated?

Salon AKS: “We give our staff members the tools to evolve by including them in the process. We support continuing education. Every Tuesday evening from 6-9pm, we host a class taught by one of us. Each class has a specific focus and theme, and they are graded on their performance. It’s up to each person how serious they want to take that their career and growth- we notice that and in turn make an investment in them.

“In addition to in-salon, we’re a L’Oreal Professional elite salon which has opened many doors through education. We travel around the world, and even send team members, to check out the latest trends to bring back to our team. We also participate in fashion shows, editorial shoots, and different opportunities to keep our staff inspired and engaged. We create a culture where each person on the AKS team can trust the three of us with their future.”

ST: What is your advice for preventing staff drama?

Salon AKS: It starts from the top down. The three of us set that tone. We stay focused so there’s no time for drama and more time for work. We create an environment and a management team that helps staff members communicate to resolve small issues on their own before they blow up. We run a management system that is preventative and proactive instead of extinguishing fires all the time where those issues turn into drama. We hold monthly meetings to communicate and share. However if there ends up being a bad apple, we let them go.”

ST: What inspired you to create the Salon AKS product line?

Salon AKS: “Our clients – and listening to their needs and wants. We wanted to create an answer for their hair care needs- anti-frizz, color care, volumizing and even baby/toddler care. We also wanted to create a star product—the first product we created was our serum for all hair textures.

“As we come up on our 20th anniversary, we strategized that by starting a hair care line, it reinforces the image that the three of us have built with our clients and our team. This will take us to the next level by reinforcing our brand and business image.”

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