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If we worked together to take a snapshot of your salon’s culture, what would we find? If we examined the series of people, events, and decisions that led to your current situation, would we discover something planned and cultivated or something that, “just happened”? If you had it to do over—or better yet—if you were to be more proactive in the future, where would you start?

Lead by setting standards of performance.

I continue to find four key areas that we must proactively manage in order to drive a very large piece of our salon culture to ensure our long-term viability as an organization. Each of these areas must be a priority, they must be constantly explained, examined, and shared by every employee and manager, and they must be executed to a certain level of excellence. In other words, there must be standards of performance against which we all must measure up.

Revenue. Many, if not most, salons are not generating basic income-expense=profit/loss reports. Even fewer pay attention to them as fundamental decision making tools for planning their viable futures. I am not exaggerating: it would be better to redirect any/all money that you spend on coaching, consulting, and seminars each year and spend it on a bookkeeper every month. The two standards of performance we should work toward regarding revenue are:

  • Leadership: To understand and communicate the amount of revenue required to be profitable—down to a daily basis.
  • Team: To understand the share of revenue each person is directly (or indirectly) responsible to generate—down to a daily basis.

Technical Skills. This is the first thing it takes to make revenue. Our stylists, and other practitioners, must perform services if we expect our guests to pay us. All our schooling, apprenticing, and ongoing technical education must be in service to our technical skills. If you think about an assistant, recently graduated and licensed and newly hired, she wouldn’t claim to be a “stylist” just because she learned our shampoo bowl ritual. Similarly, we wouldn’t consider her a stylist if the only service she could perform were a blow out. Two standards of performance we should work toward are:

  • Breadth. To satisfy the broadest range of potential guests, in the most convenient way for them, every stylist should receive education to enable her to create a minimum set of cuts, colors, and styles. Then, with practice and eventual mastery, each of our stylists must be able to handle women’s short hair, women’s long hair, up-do’s, single process color, highlights, men’s short hair, and so on. The idea is to set a minimum performance standard around how many different types of looks each of our stylists can create.
  • Depth. This is about developing true mastery. Hearing about how to do a chin-length bob is different than attending a hands-on class. Attending the class is different than practicing on a mannequin, and that’s different than doing it for a model or a paying guest. Set a performance standard around the number and types of education, practice, and live performance each stylist must complete—and then measure his results on a consistent basis.

Guest Experience. This is the second thing it takes to generate revenue. In my opinion it is also the area that is talked about the most—with the least to back it up. Most salons I’ve worked with have a technical training calendar which they refer to as education. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a guest experience or people skills training calendar. We need to set these standards of performance.

  • Leadership. Since it’s likely to be a new activity for us, the first thing we need to do is set a standard for how many guest experience and people skills classes we will conduct each and every month. The idea would be to start with one and then grow it to two, then three, etc. until we find an optimum number of “soft skills” training to balance and enrich our technical training.
  • Team. With virtually the same intent as our technical training, we set standards around how many types of classes each team member must complete in order to measure up to our people skills and guest experience expectations. The basics could be chosen from a list like: Intro to People Skills, Active Listening, Building Rapport, Making Conversation, and then move into experience stages such as Phones, Greeting and Check In, Shampoo Bowl, Consultations, and so on.

Personal Strengths and Development. Just because I’m writing doesn’t mean you’re reading. The same goes for setting performance standards—just because we set them doesn’t mean our team will take them seriously. This is hard work for everyone involved and it requires long-term commitment. The best way to start is by listening and communication not by dictating. I’ve always found that people are naturally motivated when they get to spend a great deal of time in areas where they feel strong. Let’s find out what those strengths are.

  • 1:1. One-on-one meetings are a must. They need to happen 3-4 times a month, last at least 30 minutes, and be guided by an agenda. Among other things, the agenda must include time for us to listen to, and get to know, each of our team members. Find out where they believe they are strong and compare that to your observations—and to the standards of performance you have set for the organization.
  • Development Plans. Listening and learning allows us as leaders to choose the best path for improving our team members’ performance from where it is to where it needs to be. Whether that’s revenue generation, technical skills, soft skills, or organizational behavior, try to avoid “fixing” everyone’s weaknesses, rather, start from a position of strength and build them up until their comfort zone expands and their improving confidence inspires them to take on new challenges.