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The ultimate guide to salon management

Whether you’re a new salon owner running the show in the background or a manager-slash-stylist in the trenches alongside your salon team, chances are that your daily operations won’t run smoothly without you. 

You may have rave reviews and spot-on branding, but long-term success (without the burnout!) is hard to achieve without a set of effective, repeatable salon management systems for building a strong, engaged team that knows how to operate when you’re not around.

And with manager burnout being an even bigger problem than employee burnout*, you need to make sure to create salon management processes to help maintain profitability, team satisfaction, and your own personal peace of mind. So, in our ultimate guide to salon management, we’ll cover:

  • Five best practices for managing your salon
  • What to consider if you’re running a booth rental salon
  • Additional expenses to consider, like payroll software and overhead costs

*Gallup, 2021

What is salon management?

Salon management — which typically rests with salon owners or salon managersincludes all the day-to-day operational tasks associated with successfully running a beauty salon. Salon management responsibilities can include improving the customer experience, marketing, monitoring quality and performance, scheduling staff, hiring, and creating a great work environment.

5 tips to help you manage your salon

Effectively managing a salon means striking a balance between satisfying your clientele and maintaining a great professional atmosphere for your team. Oh, and making sure all your marketing, inventory management, and administrative operations are running smoothly behind the scenes. It’s not without its challenges, but here are some of our recommended best practices.

1. Communicate with your salon staff

Social interaction is a big part of the salon experience: there are always conversations happening between customers and stylists and among staff members. Making social connections and friendships is part of what makes the salon-going experience so enjoyable for clients, so why shouldn’t the same communication philosophy apply to how you manage your staff?

Encouraging good salon communication, in fact, is a big part of your duties as a salon manager. Effective team communication ensures that everyone’s on the same page about your standard salon policies and best practices, and it’s key to resolving conflicts between staff members or between stylists and clients.

Here are some of the most important ways you should communicate with your staff. Make sure your team members know about them and how to use each of them effectively:

  • Formal policies and rules: Be intentional about getting your policies into your staff members’ hands. One of the best ways to do that is with an employee handbook.
  • Daily communication about logistics and operations: This includes all the practical things you need your salon staff to know from day to day, like scheduling conflicts or special offers you’re promoting.
  • Regular meetings: Monthly staff meetings are a great way to talk about less urgent matters and serve as a platform for employees to ask questions and address their concerns. They can also provide forums for employees to review policies and flag any rules they feel need to be updated.

Celebrating staff member successes: Recognize your salon employees for their hard work in creative ways, like making an announcement every month about stylist sales figures or wins with customers. You can also encourage staff members to recognize and shout each other out at meetings or spotlight a different staff member at every meeting and talk about what they do and why their clients love them. There are so many ways to have fun with team recognition, but the key is making celebrating each other an essential part of your salon culture.

2. Build a strong team as a salon manager

Effective communication is foundational to building a strong team, but communication alone won’t create more employee engagement and retention. You also need to incorporate creative, team-oriented activities that show your employees you care about their performance and well-being. Here are a few examples:

  • Employee shout-outs on social media: This works especially well if you run a booth rental salon and your stylists use social media to market themselves. Every month, you can spotlight a different employee, highlight the services they offer, and explain why their clients love them. You can even throw in a couple of client testimonials.
  • Educational group events: Have your team attend a conference or workshop on a specific technique. This can be a form of team building but also doubles as continuing education to enhance your stylist’s skills.

Semi-regular team events: This could include a celebratory night out at a restaurant, paint-n-sip classes, or sporting events. You can also make your events consistent with your salon brand. So, for example, if your salon brand is known for being pet-friendly, you could treat your employees to a day at a cat cafe.

3. Take your time when hiring your salon employees

The cost of hiring new employees isn’t cheap, and replacing them is even more expensive — by some estimates, it can cost one and a half to two times their current salary or earnings in wages.

[Find more quality candidates for your salon with Homebase. See how it works.]

Hiring for a service position, especially in the beauty industry, is also more personal because the services employees provide are much more unique and personalized than in other industries. So, you’ll want to do standard background and reference checks but also approach the hiring process as an extended tryout to make sure your new employee meets your customer service and quality standards.

It’s also the case that, while some applicants look great on paper, they may not fit in with your company culture. Those who don’t look so great on paper but knock it out of the park when you meet them in person may be your missing link. Have an open mind and try to look beyond the surface during the resume-gathering phase. If you’re unsure, a quick phone interview is a great way to screen potential candidates.

For those that pass an initial screening over the phone, bring them in for an in-person interview and have them execute a specific task. If you’re satisfied with the results, the next step could involve working out a schedule and bringing them back on a contract or trial basis to get a real feel for their professional techniques and people skills. This will help you determine if they’ll be a good fit for your business in the long term.

Last, don’t be afraid to take a chance on a recent graduate. It’s the perfect catch twenty-two: ”How can you gain experience without opportunity?” While school and formal training are good, real-life experience is what’s going to make them great. 

4. Stay current with salon tools, trends & processes

Trends in cosmetology are known for changing quickly and even on a seasonal basis. What looks good today can make you a meme tomorrow. And while any good manager will keep their salon in line with current beauty trends, you’ll also want to make sure you’re on top of the latest innovations when it comes to your business processes.  

  • Be active on Instagram and yes, even TikTok: You probably already know you should use social media to market your salon and gain followers and customers. But it’s not enough to post client “before and after” photos during appointments. Social media is also a great place to solidify your brand and showcase your team. For example, do you want to make your salon a safe space for queer and underrepresented clients? Then highlight your commitment to things like gender-neutral pricing and creating an inclusive atmosphere on your social media platforms.
    Social media is also a perfect place for you to research similar salons and learn about some of the tools, trends, and processes they use.
  • Read salon industry magazines: Salon magazines are still relevant in the industry, so staying up to date with publications like HJi (Hairdressers Journal Interactive) and Professional Beauty will keep you informed about broader trends in the salon business.
  • Join a salon networking group or Facebook group: This is a perfect idea for new salon owners or managers who are looking for other salon owners in their area who can share how they stay on top of the latest techniques and find new customers.

Attend hair shows, salon cons, and beauty events: Hair shows, expos, and events happen regularly in big cities all across the country, and they’re a great place to network in person, find new talent, and get up-close looks at some of the latest tools and techniques for salons and barber shops.

5. Keep your salon neat and tidy

Business owners and salon managers know a sparkling clean salon is paramount to building your clientele. It’s a reflection of your management style: When customers first set foot through your doors, one of the first things they’ll notice is your shop’s cleanliness. 

To keep your salon clean and pristine, create a detailed cleaning procedure with a clear list of tasks. Make sure staff know what your cleaning practices are and where to find them for reference, assign tasks to team members, and make sure everything gets done on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

  • Have a process for cleaning and disinfecting different materials: Make sure you know how to clean and disinfect porous vs. non-porous materials. For example, porous materials like furniture, towels, and capes need to be cleaned with soap and water or wipes, but you shouldn’t disinfect them like you would materials made of glass, metal, or plastic.
  • Create a procedure for every area in the salon: You’ll have to disinfect and wipe down your washing station, drying station, and styling booths after every client and, of course, sweep up any and all hair you see. Your waiting areas, however, probably don’t need as much cleaning and can be wiped and disinfected at the beginning and end of each working day.
  • Specify how to clean and store materials: For metal styling and cutting tools, consider investing in a disinfecting cabinet to clean and store them overnight and between uses. Clean towels and capes should be stored in a closed container to keep them as sanitary as possible, and you can wipe down and store your hair care and styling products in a disinfected drawer, particularly if you know you’ll have to share them with another stylist.

What to consider when running a booth rental salon

Running a booth rental salon is a great way to maximize your clientele — and revenue — without the challenges of managing your own staff or launching your own marketing campaigns to bring in customers. But a booth rental salon comes with its own unique set of responsibilities, so here are a couple of things to keep in mind when you’re running your own.

Booth rental expenses

While booth renters are essentially stylists that work for themselves, it’s your job as a salon owner to decide what equipment and spaces you’ll charge your renters to use and what you’ll offer for free. For example, will you charge them an extra fee to use towels, cleaning supplies, and salon products? Will you ask them to pay for client refreshments and conveniences like WiFi or salon software? 

If not, you’ll need to be aware of your own overhead costs and adjust your booth rental fees accordingly, or determine how many booth renters you need to keep your salon turning a profit.

Communication & scheduling

You may want your booth renters to feel as independent as possible, but you still need a system for communication and scheduling so that you know who will be at your salon on any given day.

If you need a communication and scheduling solution, try team management software that helps you track your stylist’s schedules and communicate with them by text so that everyone who works at your salon — from your receptionist to your techs and trainees — can stay coordinated. This will help you avoid things like double-booking booths and stylists and keep your salon running smoothly every day.

Salon payroll & other expenses

A lot of work goes into running a profitable salon and creating a healthy team culture. There’s a variety of tools that can help you to streamline this process — including software — but it’s ultimately up to you to decide how much of your time and resources you’re willing to invest in them.

Salon payroll

It’s not that managing your salon payroll with a spreadsheet is impossible. But it’s not an ideal solution for salon owners who want to scale their businesses and make sure they’re staying compliant with local, state, and federal tax regulations and labor laws. And if you want to keep your salon team happy, don’t treat payroll like an afterthought.

A great salon payroll software lets you sync time tracking tools with timesheets so you don’t have to add up employee hours yourself and helps you stay on top of things like overtime and paid time off (PTO).

Salon payroll software is an expense to consider on its own, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. And if you give Homebase payroll a try, you’ll also have access to tools for scheduling, time clocks, and team communication too.

Other salon expenses to consider

So, beyond payroll software, what are some other common costs associated with salon management? Here are some of the usual suspects:

  • Salon studio rent
  • Utilities like electricity and water
  • Computer equipment
  • Point of sale software (POS)
  • Client scheduling software
  • Accounting software
  • WiFi
  • Cleaning and maintenance expenses
  • Salon products for the use of stylists
  • Salon inventory
  • Liability insurance 
  • Property insurance

And if you’re just starting out, you may decide there are some non-negotiable expenses and some nice-to-haves that you can wait to invest in once your salon is more established.

How Homebase can support your salon management

From team communication to employee scheduling and payroll, you’ll want a way to streamline and align your core business processes so you can spend less time buried in paperwork and more time managing your salon and growing your business.

Your growth is our priority at Homebase. We designed our tools just for small business owners like you who are tired of dealing with administrative tasks on their own and need easy-to-use tools for scheduling, time tracking, payroll, and communication. Our tools don’t stop there — we also offer features for employee happiness, HR and compliance, and hiring and onboarding, so you can manage your team from the ground up.

Salon management FAQs

What does a salon manager do?

Similar to a salon owner, a salon manager is responsible for daily operations like opening/closing, scheduling, inventory management, marketing, and other business-related tasks to ensure profitability. They also oversee the hiring and scheduling of new staff, as well as dealing with customer feedback and complaints.

What skills do you need to manage a salon?

To be a good salon manager, you need:

  • Great communication skills
  • Knowledge of business management best practices
  • Customer service skills
  • Leadership and coaching skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Basic accounting knowledge
  • Product knowledge
  • Understanding of marketing trends and how to do industry research
  • A growth-oriented mindset

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