Future-proofing your salon

By Hellen Ward on March 3rd, 2020

Future-proofing your salon

I was recently reading an article in the Daily Mail highlighting the town of Ashford in Kent. Residents are up-in arms, by all accounts, as their high street is saturated with 28 salons. The locals are complaining that with a dearth of hair salons, barbers, beauty salons and nail bars, they’re swamped by our sector. They’d far rather see a sprinkling of the traditional shops that are rapidly disappearing – butchers, greengrocers, ironmongers, newsagents and the like – than see another salon open up. Even the cartoon that accompanied the article made a joke with a sandwich board outside a salon reading ‘last chance to have your hair done for 0.001 miles!

The trouble is, Ashford is not an isolated case. Where my father lives in Banstead, Surrey there are over 20 salons, and it’s a relatively small town.

Conversely, I was at a recent industry event where a prominent salon owner was asking me what I thought about the struggle to get young people into the industry. He told me he’s been trying to find a decent stylist to recruit for months to no avail.

It got me thinking that the two are intrinsically linked. Just imagine if another sector was in our situation. Let’s just say that every other shop on the high street was a butchers. Wouldn’t the butchery industry say that finding a good, highly skilled butcher was like looking for rocking horse manure? Of course they would!

What with the growing trend of freelancing and working from home, the plethora of salons increasingly gives potential new recruits a unique opportunity to pick and choose where they work.

So what can we do to future proof our businesses? It’s a question I get asked a lot, as (fingers crossed) we haven’t lost any of our team to any ‘hub’ working salons, nor do we struggle that badly to recruit young people. I think there are 5 key elements to consider:

  1. Create a commission based, performance related salary structure  – I’m sorry but I still find it ludicrous that some of the very salon owners who complain about their grade of senior operator are paying piddling salaries and minimal commission rates. What’s the point of losing someone who just might be irreplaceable because you’re listening to an accountant who knows nothing about our sector? Good salons benchmark their pay rates amongst the industry leaders and therefore obtain a better class of operator.
  2. Champion a friends & family recruitment policy – when I look at our apprentice team, word of mouth is responsible for most of our intake. Cousins, friends, relatives – employing people through recommendation is not only advantageous to the team spirit but largely contributes to the family atmosphere we’ve marketed as our brand’s point of difference.
  3. Effectively communicate employee benefits – being freelance or self-employed may suit some people, but aren’t we forgetting to shout about (and remind people of) the benefits that stable, solid employment brings? Job security (especially if you are looking to buy a property or settle down and start a family), paid holiday, flexible working, maternity & parental leave benefits, pension and for senior team members, private health cover and bonuses – all of these have a huge value. How can the headache and insecurity of working for yourself possibly compete?
  4. Promote Team spirit – above all, my team come to work not just for their job roles, but for each other. Working in a large, luxurious space isn’t just ergonomic, it’s social (especially with a fully licensed bar). Romances, friendships, banter and a good laugh should never be underestimated and can become as big a part of the workplace culture as the work itself.
  5. Grow your own future stars – my best employees are undoubtedly the ones who’ve trained with us. They ‘just get us’ in a way no new recruit ever could. Watching our fledgling trainees of yesteryear develop into serious money takers who are commanding huge clienteles and are getting paid accordingly is always the best part of my job. Taking them on a journey to success is hugely rewarding, and being able to market our amazing length of service as another USP is so valuable.

It’s easy to focus on the lack and the negatives, but our industry has grown hugely and beyond all comprehension in the last two decades, and that growth will inevitably impact our ability to recruit and sustain senior team members. Future proofing your salon by getting this right now will undoubtedly pay dividends in the future, especially if we continue to dominate the high street.

Hellen Ward

Hellen Ward is the Managing Director of Richard Ward brands, Salon and metrospa. Hellen is a Hair & beauty industry business consultant, as well as an author and columnist. She is also the Vice President, Director and Trustee of The Hair and Beauty Charity. Hellen has been pictured on This Morning as well as GB News.

All articles by Hellen Ward

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