Put time on your side

March 8, 2011 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

“There are never enough hours in the day.” That’s a thought that most of us have had at one point or another.

Some people never seem to have enough time. They’re always running late, acting as though they’re drowning in mountains of paper or talking about how much they have to do with so little time to do it.

The problem is often managing one’s time. With Facebook, Twitter, the Internet and cell phone plans with limitless minutes, it’s easier than ever to waste time, even while grumbling about being oh-so-busy.

Start taking control of the hours in your day with these time-management tips:

  1. Track your time. Yes, it’s tedious, but for one week write down everything you do in 15-minute increments. Be honest! It’s better to know that Facebook takes up two hours a day, than to wonder where the morning went. Just being aware of how you spend your time is the first step in getting your day more organized – and getting more done with less angst.
  2. Prioritize. Now that you know what you do and how long it takes you to do it, it’s time to decide what’s most important to do. That’s going to be different for everyone, and will vary day to day. Some tasks are urgent and must be completed by a certain date or time. They need to go to the top of the priority list. Others may be delegated to a staff member. And you might even find yourself deleting some items from your to-do list altogether.
  3. Make a list of goals you want to accomplish each day. Just as you would add extra time for a home-improvement project, make sure you schedule a bit more time than you think you need for each task. Things usually take longer than we anticipate. When we are truthful about how long things could take, it is much easier to stay on schedule. You won’t feel behind from the first task.
  4. Plan for the unexpected. Be sure to leave some open space for the unforeseen, such as staff questions or an appointment that runs long. And schedule in a break or two – it’s vital to clear your head, so go for a walk, have lunch, run out for a coffee. You’ll find yourself more focused when you do.
  5. Remember, it’s a process. When you lose track of time or are struggling to finish things up at 10 p.m., it’s easy to give up. Instead, review your day and try to figure out what happened. Maybe you didn’t allow enough time for a job or perhaps a genuine crisis threw your day out of whack. Whatever the cause, don’t beat yourself up. Just keep working on it – tomorrow is another day.

Success is in the details

February 15, 2011 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

We’ve all heard the saying, “Worry about the little things and the big things will take care of themselves.” While no one would necessarily advocate skipping the mortgage payment because you’re making sure there’s plenty of soap in the dispenser, there’s quite a bit of wisdom in the adage.

Too often, we get wrapped up in the big issues that frequently are out of our control. We truly can’t personally jumpstart the economy, stop a competitor from setting up shop nearby or keep that storm from hitting just on our busiest day.

What we can do is take control of the myriad details that customers notice every time they’re in your business, the type of details that might be easy to let slip through the cracks, especially when crises arise.

Start by adopting these practices:

  1. Say what you mean, mean what you say. Whether you’re speaking to a client or an employee, choose your words carefully. Don’t speak in the heat of anger or make promises you can’t keep. Your words are a tool. As someone in charge, you can be certain that what you say will be remembered and dissected. Choose words wisely.
  2. Make sure every hair is in place. There’s a reason that became a phrase to describe someone who is “put together.” Your client’s experience is more than one facet of your business. Don’t think that a great service is going to make up for a difficult front-desk encounter, a messy bathroom or being out-of-stock on a favorite product. Every detail needs to be in place – every time.
  3. Getting by isn’t good enough. Sometimes it seems as though no one is going to notice if you cut corners, just this once. The trouble is that someone might take note of that missing detail and not come back. Plus, it’s really easy to let “good enough” become the new standard. Insist on excellence. Show your staff how it’s done.
  4. Put the systems in place. It’s much easier to excel when there are systems to help you get there. Don’t make your staff reinvent the wheel every day. Systems save a lot of unnecessary questions, a lot of unnecessary guesswork and a lot of unnecessary mistakes. Get the details down once and train the employees who need to know. More things will get done right, every time. The result? Smoother operations and less wasted time.
  5. Don’t use the details as an excuse. The “little things” are important, for sure. Don’t confuse “busy work” with taking care of the details of running your business. When you find yourself color-coding your filing system for the fourth time or changing your Facebook status again or alphabetizing the herbal teas, you must ask yourself if you’re just putting off a bigger task. Chances are that you are. And don’t chalk it up to being a “perfectionist.” Some details are worth fussing over; others aren’t.

Paying attention to the details is what separates the ordinary from the extraordinary. True, the major issues won’t just take care of themselves; however, the small day-to-day details certainly won’t, either. And those could be the make-it-or-break-it details for your business.... Read More

New Year is the perfect time to review, define company values

December 29, 2010 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

Values might seem like an old-fashioned word. Really, values are about the principles and ethics that guide our everyday choices, whether at work, home or dealing with others. It’s not about religion or political affiliation or the like, although certainly, those may help us develop our personal code of values.

It may sound strange, but a business has values, too. They’re what guide the staff of the company in its dealings with employees, customers, vendors, the community and others. When leadership doesn’t delineate and express the company’s values, staff members are left to try to figure out for themselves what the right thing is to do in any situation. And that might not be the same as what the owner would do.

Does your business represent the values you want it to? Get started on the right path by doing the following:

  1. Figure out what your own personal values are. Many of us have a vague idea of what moral code we live by and what we consider ethical. Formalize yours and put it in writing. Come up with situations you face regularly and decide what helps guide you in choosing the right path. What traits are intolerable? What type of behavior is mandatory?
  2. Ask your staff for input. Have an open mind. Your team may come from different backgrounds than you. Ask questions to see how people would deal with various ethical situations. Find out what values are most important to your staff and how they incorporate them into their decision-making. Ask each person to make a list of his or her most important values, and how they incorporate them into their lives.
  3. Define the terms. With your staff’s assistance, come up with definitions for the terms on the list, such as honesty, truth, kindness to all, and the like. Is there a difference, for example, between lying and telling a half-truth? Come up with the definitions together.
  4. Make a final list of your company values. Use your staff’s input but understand that this is your business. The values you choose are ultimately the ones you most believe in and want practiced in your salon or spa. Make the list easy-to-understand. Don’t have too many. Make sure that you can explain how each can be lived in day-to-day life at your business. That way, everyone knows what behavior is acceptable – and why.
  5. Review the list with your staff. Post it prominently. Keep the conversation open and ongoing. Review it at staff meetings. Discuss how certain actions exemplify the values on the list. Be proud of your values.

        Having a set of values is more than just a list on the wall. You don’t want to live by one code of ethics at home and another in your business. It’s important to live your values every day, and make sure that your staff does, as well. It makes for less stress, less conflict and more balance, at home and at work.... Read More

        Cultivate an awesome workplace

        November 5, 2010 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

        Every year Fortune magazine compiles a list of the “Best Companies to Work for.” While everyone likes a big salary and loads of vacation time, most of the companies that make the list offer a number of intangibles and seemingly insignificant perks that all add up to an exemplary work environment.

        If you find that the atmosphere in your business is sometimes less than ideal, try the following make your workplace one to be proud of:

        • Choose your mindset. A great workplace starts with the attitude of the owners and managers. Employees take their cues from those in leadership positions. Our moods are contagious. Even when times are tough, smile. Offer encouragement. Pay a compliment. Laugh. Your employees will follow suit. And that makes for a much more pleasant work environment. Your customers will notice the difference, too.
        • Think like an employee. Or even better, ask your staff members what makes a difference to them. Maybe you can tweak the way you do the schedule so your staff has more weekend time off. Or perhaps they would like a change in dress code. Bring in breakfast one morning or have a potluck dinner and brainstorm together. You might be surprised that some of the things that make the biggest difference don’t involve a lot of money. And you might discover that you and your staff have opposite ideas about what kinds of incentives really matter.
        • Empower your employees. Frustration often grows when people feel as though they don’t have any say over their destiny. Give up control whenever possible and let team members work things out by themselves. Give them a voice in major decisions, as well. Even if you don’t always agree with them, listen with an open heart and acknowledge their opinions.
        • Think about the little things. Every day is made up of countless small tasks and moments. Come up with ways to make the ordinary extraordinary. Say thank you for something you usually take for granted. Buy bagels, pizza, candy, fruit or other food – just because. Leave notes of gratitude for your employees. Never assume that they know they’re appreciated.
        • Have fun. It may sound simplistic, but fun workplaces are great businesses to work at. Yes, there are deadlines and difficult clients and orders that don’t come in on time. But people who laugh together and enjoy each other’s company weather the difficult times more successfully. Look for the humor in everyday challenges. Find ways to make mundane tasks fun. You and your staff spend a lot of time at work. Making that time enjoyable will go a long way toward having an awesome workplace.

                It takes a lot of effort to ensure that your business is a great place to work. The result is worth it. Extraordinary workplaces feature employees who are excited to be part of your business and who are fully invested in your company’s success. That’s the type of place that customers will want to return to again and again.... Read More

                Prepare for the worst of times

                October 26, 2010 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

                From oil spills to hurricanes, flash floods to tornados, the news is full of frightening headlines. The truth is that disaster can strike anywhere, at any time. Even scarier, you can’t be fully prepared for a catastrophe. However, there are certain steps that will help make a disastrous situation less devastating.

                While no one likes to think about the worst that can happen, planning for disaster may be the difference between losing a business and re-opening in a timely manner. These tips will help you be better prepared, come what may.

                • Expected the unexpected. True, you never know when a disaster will strike. Floods, earthquakes, ice storms, landslides, oil spills, fires, employee illness or death, and terrorism are just a few of the catastrophes that can befall a business. You can be fairly confident that, sooner or later, you’re going to have to deal with some sort of troubles. Certain parts of the country have higher risks for hurricanes or other natural disasters. Learn specific risks for your area, so you can take appropriate preventative action.
                • Have a disaster plan. Decide information such as what records need to be stored off-site and where to keep them, and how to notify your staff in case of emergency. Make sure that all your insurance is up-to-date, including flood insurance, which many people neglect to purchase.
                • Know your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to coping. Some of us like to take charge right away, while others show their strengths as the crisis wears on. Know where you might need help and secure a co-commander ahead of time, someone who complements your skills and style of leadership. Remember, your employees will need lots of direction and reassurance.
                • Get your staff involved now. For example, enlist your team in developing an evacuation plan, putting together safety kits and marking emergency exits. Make a point of reviewing the plan on a regular basis and be sure to go over it with new hires. Make sure your staff understands the plan. Talk to your local police and fire officials if you want more assistance.
                • Be prepared for small crises, too. A broken dryer or temporarily closed road certainly doesn’t have the same magnitude as a fire or extended power outage. But such small crises can have significant impact on your business, as well. Have a plan for these extraordinary incidents, from how to pay for them to how to notify staff and customers.

                Crises are a fact of life. Whether you have a few hours warning or it takes you totally unaware, remember that your employees will take their cues from you. Breathe deeply and stay calm. Your staff needs to see the competent leader you are, through the difficult days and as you navigate your way back to more ordinary times.... Read More

                Negotiation doesn’t have to be win or lose

                October 14, 2010 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

                From the time we first tried to wheedle a later bedtime from our folks, we’ve all been negotiating in one way or another.

                Salon/spa owners and managers do a lot of negotiating – with employees, customers, vendors, landlords, family members, other businesses – well, you get the picture.

                Life may not be a cabaret, but it certainly can feel like one negotiation after another. Not every negotiation is about closing a big deal. However, similar techniques apply, whether an employee wants an extra day off or you’re working on a multi-year lease.

                Keep these tips in mind to ensure you’re getting the most out of your negotiations:

                1. Everybody wants something. That’s what gives each of us leverage in a negotiation. Knowing not just what you want, but what the other person wants, helps both parties reach a mutual understanding.
                2. Try to understand the other person’s mindset. It’s sometimes not enough just to know that Mary wants Saturday off. It’s often important to understand the “why” behind the “what.” There’s often more to the situation that what’s visible. Ask questions to uncover what might be going on behind a request. Walk a mile (or at least around the block) in the other person’s shoes. Two people may want the same outcome but have different motivations. You’ll be a better negotiator if you take the extra time to understand why someone wants what he or she does.
                3. Think win-win. Negotiation implies a winner and a loser. When you reframe that to give a little, get a little, you might get exactly what you need to get, while the other person (not your “opponent”) also gets what he or she needs. Try to leave everyone feeling good, even when certain aspects of a negotiation don’t go their way. Help the other person see why you’re making the decisions you are. Make it a positive experience all around.
                4. Know what’s most important to you. Because it’s no longer about winning and losing, you can give in on things that don’t matter so much to you. Perhaps you need someone to work late, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be Kate. Or maybe you can change a deal so that it works better for a customer. It’s not about always being “right.”
                5. Don’t be stubborn for the sake of being stubborn. Sometimes we just dig in our heels and forget to listen to what’s being said. It’s not a sign of weakness to change your mind if a well-reasoned argument is made, or if you decide something simply isn’t that crucial. Knowing when to bend is the sign of an experienced leader. Of course, it’s all right to stand your ground, too. Just remember, though, ceding on a small point will often get you the majority of what you want.

                Negotiation is a big part of the life of any salon/spa owner or manager. Keep in mind mutual goals and stay positive. That will go a long way toward negotiations that are upbeat, positive and will get the results you need.... Read More

                Prevent and resolve conflicts for smoother operations

                October 6, 2010 | By Bruce Hourigan | 11 Comments

                Put two or more people in a room and, sooner or later, they’re going to disagree. The more people and personalities you add to the mix, the greater the opportunity for conflict.

                Salon/spa owners and managers can either fuel the flames of conflict, or help keep the peace, which in turn keeps the business operating more smoothly and with less stress for all parties.

                Try these tips to help keep conflicts at a minimum, and resolve disagreements quickly when they do arise.

                1. Share information. One of the biggest sources of conflict is people simply do not receive proper direction and therefore, make assumptions. When their assumptions do not coincide with yours, wham! Conflict occurs. Unless you work at the “Psychic Hotline,” make sure you communicate frequently and consistently.
                2. Put it in writing. Job requirements and expectations, such as dress code and time off, should be in an employee manual. This will eliminate many a discussion about whether or not so-and-so is due for a break or is defying the rules. Have a detailed employee manual, give each staff member a copy and enforce it without fail.
                3. Don’t create firestorms. While it’s fine to comment on behaviors that are out-of-line with the standards you’ve set for your business, don’t let your emotions get in the way. Hold your temper and handle issues calmly and objectively. Once you’ve lost your temper, you’ve lost control of the situation. Your staff (even those not involved in the situation) will remember your actions long after the initial conflict is forgotten.
                4. Nip squabbles in the bud. Resolve conflicts among staff members as they arise. Petty bickering often escalates to all-out war. Keep your finger on the pulse of your staff. Many conflicts become “he said, she said” affairs. It’s not about taking sides. It is important that these conflicts don’t start to affect the customers and other employees.
                5. Keep a positive atmosphere. The best way to deal with conflict is to keep it from occurring in the first place. When team members are happy and working toward shared goals, conflicts are far less likely to arise. That attitude starts at the top. Work on attaining and maintaining an upbeat attitude (yes, even on “bad” days), and making your salon or spa an enjoyable place to work.

                When you’re constantly putting out small fires, you’re left with less time to do the important work of running your business. And ongoing conflict keeps your employees from focusing on reaching their highest potential. Handling conflict promptly and trying to avoid it in the first place will keep your salon or spa a happy place for clients and employees alike.... Read More

                How does your salon/spa grow?

                September 22, 2010 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

                Growth is a topic on the minds of most owners and managers. Bigger isn’t always better, however. Growth needs to be profitable in order for a business to be successful.  And being a big company isn’t necessarily the right goal for every entrepreneur.
                As you plan for the New Year, keep these tips in mind to help clarify your goals for the growth of your business.
                1. Know your vision and follow it. Sure, it sounds basic. But many owners are vague on exactly where they want their companies to go. Ask their missions, and they respond, “To be the best salon,” or “To offer our spa clients a special experience.” Truly know what your vision is and decide what path you need to take to achieve that.
                2. Understand the numbers. Numbers may not be the most glamorous part of being a business owner. The truth is you won’t know if you’re on track to profitability if you don’t know where you stand financially. Even if you have a bookkeeper or financial officer, understand what the numbers mean – both now and in the future. How else will you know if you can afford to achieve your vision?
                3. Hire people as passionate as you are. Some hard skills are relatively easy to teach, but your staff either shares your passion for your vision, or they don’t. And if your staff doesn’t understand where the company is going and where they fit in, well, why not? It’s your job to communicate that and to ignite that passion in each employee. Don’t hire people who are content with the status quo. Look for people who can share your dreams and help you achieve them. Don’t forget to reward them along the way.
                4. Know what kind of sacrifices you are willing to make. Every business requires sacrifice along the way. Be aware of which ones you’re willing to undertake. It’s OK if you don’t want to give up all your free time or invest every penny in the business. There’s not one right way to grow. Just be honest with yourself.
                5. Plan for profitable growth. You won’t grow profitably if you don’t plan for it. How will your expenses change as you grow? Will you need more staff? A larger space? More equipment? Put it all on paper and see how it fits in with your vision. If it doesn’t, rework the plan.
                Wanting to grow is a natural part of being an entrepreneur. Being the biggest isn’t the only goal. Make sure that your long-term goals are realistic and fit in with your values and overall life plan. While your business can be all-consuming at times, it is just one part of the puzzle that helps you form a balanced life.
                Ready to dig in and get ready for 2011? Register today for the Strategies 2011 Salon/Spa Game-Planning Retreat.
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