7 Steps to Understanding & Navigating Confrontation in the Salon/Spa

October 23, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Ever encounter a leader wandering around like a mad dog looking for confrontation? Chances are, you haven’t.

And if you did, why would you even tolerate, or allow yourself to be subjected to, such demeaning and abusive behavior?

Confrontation isn’t something that well-intended owners seek out. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the delivering or receiving end, there’s nothing about confrontation that feels good.

FACT: Confrontation is something that all leaders must deal with.

The question is: How do you confront confrontation?

Most leaders openly admit that they don’t like confrontation. However, dealing effectively with confrontation is a responsibility leaders must make “peace” with.

In a leadership role, the first step is to accept confrontation for what it is. It’s a conversation that seeks to resolve a problem or situation that has the potential to become emotional.... Read More

Service Consistency Defines Your Salon/Spa Brand

October 17, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

In a service business, consistency is beautiful to behold. It’s what makes great companies truly great. It’s about your salon/spa’s commitment to getting it right not some of the time – but all of the time.

Consistency is also one of those quests worthy of the quote, “Careful what you wish for.”

Going for consistency means that, as a leader, you are prepared to do what others will not.

You are prepared to do whatever it takes and define your salon/spa’s reputation and brand identity.

Consistency is about the execution of work and systems to exact standards. It defines world-class service.

Consistency can only occur when it’s embedded in the thinking and behavior of a company’s culture. Anything less than consistency is a compromise.

But it’s the journey to consistency that most leaders underestimate in terms of the degree of difficulty and time. Consistency is something a company chases for a long time. Only those committed for the long haul stand a chance of catching it.... Read More

How to Implement a Major Salon/Spa Price Increase

July 18, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

In last week’s blog post on Why Salons/Spas Should Raise Prices Now, I delivered this reality check on the need to increase service prices:

“The combination of limited service hours available for sale, high customer demand, high productivity rates, and a tight labor market, means it’s time to raise prices. The industry is experiencing a “perfect storm” period for price increases.”

THE CHALLENGE: The industry suffers from price increase phobia out of fear of losing clients. In the process, too many salons/spas struggle with cash flow and creating profit.

Here is our hit-list of strategies to successfully implement a major price increase:

  • The proverbial “What’s the best way to raise prices?”: The answers are all over the place from put up signs, send email notices, tell clients the price is going to increase on their next visit, to front desk telling them at check out. The most logical solution is to inform clients when booking appointments and have service providers inform clients of the price increase at the beginning of the service.
  • The Fix: When it’s time to raise prices … set the date, raise prices, and get it over with. Dragging out the “let’s try to inform everyone so no one complains” is pointless. Guess what? Some clients are going to complain — the majority will not. You need gas and the price at the pump went up overnight … you still buy the gas. You’re a business owner that needs to make business decisions regarding price. Clients know this. If they appreciate the consistent quality you deliver, they’ll pay the new price. If not, it is the client’s choice to accept the increase or go elsewhere. There is no need for price increase phobia.
  • Will all clients who are not paying the current price please stand up? Maybe one reason you need to raise prices is that there are existing clients that still haven’t been charged the last price increase … or two. That’s right, and you know it. There are probably clients with appointments and/or receiving services at your salon/spa that are still paying old prices. This is pure insanity and a 100% compromise of your business. If you and your employees are true professionals, respect the value of your skills, experience, and quality of work, and charge the appropriate prices.

  • The Fix: I’m just going to say it, “Get a new backbone if the one you have is a rubber band.” Clients are NOT your friends. They buy your time to receive services. When the value of your time and cost of business increases, you raise prices, and they pay the increase that all other clients are required to pay. If a client doesn’t want to pay your rate — he or she is not a good client. I bet you’ll see better cash flow just by enforcing your existing pricing structure.
  • Pricing based on assumptions: You know how much to mark up a retail bottle of shampoo based on its cost. How do you know how much to mark up a service if you don’t know what an hour of service costs? The answer is you don’t know … so you guess. It’s downright scary how many salons/spas set service pricing based on WAGS (wild-ass guesses) — or what the competition is charging, that’s also based on a WAGS. Maybe your pricing is based on some level system you installed that has set price ranges for each level, but are those prices based on your company‘s cost per hour or someone else’s?
  • Discounting away profits: Are you driving gift card sales by offering big attractive discounts? It’s great to see all that gift card cash add up, but you may be setting your company up for a cash crisis at redemption time when the cost of fulfilling those pre-paid services is going to exceed their purchase price. The cash crisis is going to be even more painful if the gift card cash was spent and not held in reserve. You’ll not only be busy fulfilling gift card services at a loss due to excessive discounting … you won’t have the cash to cover the fulfillment costs. Discounting dependency kills cash flow and destroys profit. Groupons, and the like, are about the worst discounting practices any salon/spa can engage in.
  • The Fix: There’s nothing wrong with occasional and selective discounting promotions. When discounting becomes a crutch to drive sales, your service business is in trouble. Stop the discounts and focus on quality, delivering extraordinary experiences, giving value, pre-booking, and client retention. As for discounted gift cards, stop the practice. It will come back to haunt you at redemption.
  • Going for the tip vs. charging the right price: This is extremely common and probably alive and well in your salon/spa. It’s when service providers intentionally give away or don’t charge correctly for services, to receive a bigger tip. It’s also when service providers fail to charge clients a price increase because they think they’ll lose clients and miss out on tip income.
  • The Fix: You must have a system in place that monitors the price that clients are being charged for services. Some software systems can alert you whenever a price is adjusted. In a service business, educating your team on proper pricing and pricing policies is non-negotiable. Inspect, verify, and correct. Otherwise, the leaks in your pricing system will eventually sink your company.

Here’s my challenge to you: Prices on damn near everything have increased since the pandemic. It’s time to raise yours.... Read More

When You Keep a Bad Employee for the Money He/She Brings In

May 30, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

Everything was going great. You couldn’t be happier with this employee.

Maybe you hired this employee right out of school, trained them, and helped them build that “big book.”

Maybe you hired this employee for their experience. And maybe because of the clients that would follow them to your business.

But over time, things changed. Teamwork was replaced with attitude, indifference, and entitlement. They would come in, do their clients, and leave.

At company meetings, they would radiate an unsettling funk that everyone could feel. In the break room, it was non-stop complaining about anything and everything.

You had a few quasi-fierce conversations with them about their attitude to no avail.

So why not fire them? The answer is obvious. They’re busy as hell and bring in a ton of money.

As a salon/spa owner, you can relate to the above scenario and likely have your own “employee from hell” stories.... Read More

How to Keep Salon/Spa Employees Motivated to Achieve Goals

March 28, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

Goals are essential in business. Achieving those goals requires leadership, information flow, determination, and accountability. More importantly, goals demand teamwork.

There’s something about goals in the salon/spa industry — and working to achieve those goals — that too often creates more frustration than wins.

To illustrate, here’s what an owner posted on Strategies Salon, Spa Business Idea Exchange Facebook discussion group:

Goals — I love them. But not everyone is driven by them. It’s like an elevator trying to motivate employees to hit a goal. I coach. Motivation goes up … then down … and, after another meeting to get their heads back in the game, it goes back up again.

We do bigger staff meetings at the first of every month. A quicker mid-month meeting to keep everyone on track. Then we do one-on-one’s every month plus a 15-minute one-on-one mid-month to check on goal progress.... Read More

What are Your COVID-19 “Out Sick/Can’t Work” Policies?

July 27, 2020 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

When it comes to salon/spa business challenges, COVID-19 is the virus that just keeps on giving. It’s like you solve one problem and two more instantly appear.

In last week’s blog post, I gave you six strategies to address the recent increase in last minute cancellations and no shows.

This week, I’m going to address employees calling out with little to no notice and other challenges due to COVID-19.

Andrea Birst is a Strategies Coach and the owner of Glance Salon & Spa in Bismarck, ND. She offers this caution, “Due to the surge of COVID-19, salons/spas need to be prepared to deal with employees that need to stay home. It doesn’t matter if it’s a cough, sinus issue, fever, exposure and/or testing positive for COVID — we cannot have sick, or potentially sick, employees at work.” ... Read More

A Salon/Spa Owner’s Checklist for 30-45 Days After Reopening

June 29, 2020 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Depending on the state, some salons and spas have been open since the end of April. Salons and spas in eastern PA and NY are just reopening … or about to. Salons and spas in certain counties in CA are still waiting to reopen.

For most of you, it’s been a mad dash to get your salon/spa reopened. You had to figure out all the safety protocols, acquire PPE, get your employees off unemployment, sanitize everything, reschedule client appointments … phew.

No matter where your salon/spa is in the reopening timeline, checking all the boxes in all those reopening checklists is a daunting task. It’s easy to miss a few. It’s easy for a new system or protocol to become inconsistent, ignored or forgotten.

More importantly, there are to-do’s that should have been on your checklist that you didn’t know about, or feel were important, or just didn’t want to deal with.

At Strategies, our mission is to help owners lead and grow salons and spas that are capable of delivering service excellence in the most efficient, productive and consistently profitable manner possible. To do so requires the right leadership approach, systems and team-based culture.... Read More

Salon/Spa Client Info: “It’s Not OK to Take My Personal Information When You Leave”

February 9, 2020 | By Neil Ducoff | 4 Comments

Retired Strategies Coach, Mary Walker, was a client at a salon near her home. As is standard practice at any salon with a computer system, she provided her contact information that included her mobile number and email address.

As a former salon owner, Mary expected that her personal information would remain secure and only be used by that salon for communication, appointment confirmations, and to maintain her service records and history.

Mary recently posted the following account to our Strategies Salon & Spa Business Idea Exchange:

Yesterday, I got to experience how a stylist leaves a salon from a client perspective. As a former salon owner and retired Strategies Coach, my personal ethics kicked into high gear.

I received a text from a number I didn’t recognize giving me the day and time of my next hair appointment, but at a salon I never heard of with no stylist name. At first, I thought that the salon I’ve been going to had its system hacked. ... Read More

Where Your Salon/Spa Would be Now?

October 27, 2019 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

“A business moves at the speed of its leader.” That’s what Strategies Coach, Daryl Jenkins, says when an owner asks how long it takes to implement change.

There is so much truth to Daryl’s statement because every salon/spa owner is a unique collection of thinking and behavior, strengths and weaknesses.

Owners have their own tolerances for financial risk taking. In the coaching business, it’s pretty common to work with owners that have amassed a mountain of debt. Likewise, we work with owners that strictly manage debt and many that are debt free.

When it comes to decision making, there are owners that weigh every detail multiple times before making a decision.

Some owners procrastinate on decisions hoping the problem will fix itself or just go away. Business problems never fix themselves.

Of course, there are those owners that make decisions based what they feel in their gut. Sometimes, gut decisions work out. Most times, that “gut feeling” is just gas.... Read More

Quest for the Best Salon/Spa Daily Huddle

October 20, 2019 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

We’ve been coaching and teaching the importance of daily huddles in the for over 26 years.

While many salons and spas have found their huddle groove, others seem to struggle with consistency and getting the right information to flow naturally.

We often hear owners say, “Our huddles aren’t exciting,” or, “When we go over the numbers, all employees seem to hear is ‘blah, blah, blah.’”

We see huddles crash and burn where no one pays attention.

And we see daily huddles that are best described as “on certain days huddles.”

Daily huddles may not be rocket science, but there are huddle rules and disciplines to make them a key factor to keep information flow flowing.

Why Huddles?

  • Everyone needs to be on the same page — in the same playbook. If you’ve ever asked, “How can I get everyone on the same page?”, then daily huddles are a big chunk of the answer.
  • Information flow tells the what, why, how and when of what needs to be done today. If information flow at your salon/spa is best described as a trickle, your critical numbers are paying the price and are far from what they can be.
  • Teams of employees cannot perform their best if they don’t know the score. Monthly scoreboards are non-negotiable because they communicate daily progress to goal. More importantly, scoreboards must show the service and retail goal of the company. If you’re reluctant to share your company’s total revenue goal with employees, because they’ll know what the “real” sales are, your business thinking is stuck in the dark ages.
  • Celebration and appreciation for team achievement and extraordinary individual employee performance. Being recognized for going above and beyond reinforces team and employee fulfillment and accomplishment at work. Even a quick “happy birthday” to recognize a fellow employee’s special day makes a difference.

Here are my ten No-Compromise Leadership rules to make your daily huddles consistent, relative, and results oriented:... Read More

Is Your Salon/Spa Consuming Your Life?

August 11, 2019 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

FACT: The state of your salon/spa company determines your state of being.

If your employees are productive, clients are happy, and the company is profitable, you feel good.

Likewise, if you’re constantly fighting fires, employees are driving you crazy, and cash flow is barely flowing, you feel stressed and overwhelmed.

We brave entrepreneurs work and fight hard for our companies to succeed. And when they are successful, we continue to work and fight hard to sustain that success and drive growth.

Building a successful salon, spa, or any business, is a roller coaster ride of wins and losses, good times and bad. Because we believe in our vision and risked damn near everything, we find a way persevere.

As we try to figure out the complexities of “leadership,” we begin to relate to terms like workaholic, micro-manager, moody, stressed out and overwhelmed.

Without even realizing it, our companies become part of who we are. We willingly sacrifice our time, our thoughts, and too often, our well-being, so it can succeed.... Read More

Why Those Dreaded Conversions Are So Vital

May 26, 2019 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

We don’t go into business or a leadership position because we want to have those dreaded conversations with employees.

A dreaded (or fierce, or crucial, or difficult) conversation is about addressing and fixing a problem.

It could be a problem with the salon/spa business that can only be fixed by implementing change, so significant, that it requires buy-in from all team members.

Because there will always be certain team members that push back on change, these “change” conversations can be dreaded and stressful events. And dreaded conversations almost always occur long after they should have taken place.

Most often, the most dreaded conversations are with a specific employee. You know, the one that doesn’t take constructive criticism well, or blames everything and everyone except owning his or her personal behaviors or performance.

The problem with dreaded conversations has very little to do with the conversation itself. It has everything to do with how long it takes for that conversation to take place.... Read More

Prebook Starts at the Beginning of the Service

January 14, 2019 | By Neil Ducoff | 4 Comments

There is no question how prebooking can dramatically improve your productivity rate, first and existing client retention rates, frequency of client visit, and overall service and retail revenues.

However, there is a question as to why so many salons and spas struggle to achieve the prebook rates they are capable of.

The reasons are simple and rather basic:

  • Prebook systems are poorly defined leaving prebook to chance.
  • Service providers and front desk staff are insufficiently trained, coached and monitored.
  • Service providers and front desk staff are not working seamlessly to ensure that every client receives prebook guidance and executes the prebook at checkout. FACT: Prebooking is a team sport.
  • Many service providers regard prebooking with the same indifference as retail. To them, prebooking is “selling” and they want nothing to do with it.

Unfortunately, the majority of salons and spas regard prebooking as something that’s done at the end of the client service.... Read More

How to Make Your Salon or Spa Goal Everyone’s Goal

April 9, 2018 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

The dilemma at salons and spas is how all the “teamwork” talk grinds to a halt when it comes to shared ownership to achieve the company’s monthly and annual revenue goals.

The fundamental essence of teamwork is a united effort to win.

Teamwork is about igniting the energy and passion of all team members into a formidable force that’s capable of achieving far more than working independently.

The challenge: The vast majority of salons and spas set individual weekly/monthly service and retail goals for service providers. The “company goal” is rarely or never shared, if known at all.

The outcome: When the workday begins, each service provider is focused on his or her individual goal because no company goal exists. Total salon/spa revenue is simply the sum total of individual performance.

FACT: It’s hard to achieve a company goal when team members are competing against each other. It sounds like…... Read More

Rumors of the “Death” of the Salon & Spa Industry

October 16, 2017 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

RUMORS of the death of the Professional Beauty Industry are not only greatly exaggerated — they are 100% FALSE.

Our industry has changed a lot since I graduated beauty school in 1970.

  • The wash and set gave way to precision haircutting and the blow dry.
  • Professional product retailing transformed waiting areas into “retail centers.”
  • The “Unisex” salon damn near killed off barbershops whose resurgence in recent years is nothing short of amazing.
  • The term “and Day Spa” became a common extension to a salon’s name.
  • Product diversion came and never went away.
  • Booth rental morphed into “suites.”
  • There are owners and service providers that still don’t report all cash sales and tip income on their tax returns.
  • Global consumer conglomerates now own all but a few professional product companies.
  • Distributor acquisition and consolidation is like trying to follow pieces on a chessboard.
  • The Internet and social media pretty much changed everything, from how salons/spas operate, promote and educate themselves to how they interact with clients.
  • States want to abolish professional licensing.
  • The “Tip-Tax Credit” for salons/spas has yet to become law.
  • Who could have predicted that your customers would be buying the same professional products you sell, on Amazon?
  • And the list goes on.

To me, the preceding list can be summed up in one word — CHANGE.... Read More

Salon & Spa Scoreboard Mania! Inspiring Team Engagement

June 12, 2017 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

In last week’s blog post I stressed the importance of Financial Literacy training for employees.

This week, I want to stress the importance of focusing on the total salon/spa goal and keeping team engagement high through scoreboards and huddles.

FACT #1: If you want teamwork and team culture, leaders must unite employees around the salon/spa service and retail goal.


Because that’s the goal that covers payroll, pays the bills and provides growth opportunity for all. And yes, profit too.

FACT #2: If your approach to goal setting is by individual service provider, the result is employees competing against each other, not beating the competition. More importantly, you’re “building columns on the appointment book” … not a team-based effort or culture.

Scoreboard Rules:

  1. Scoreboards are done every month
  2. Scoreboards are updated daily
  3. Scoreboards and daily Team Huddles are inseparable
  4. Never post/update a scoreboard without a Team Huddle
  5. A scoreboard without a huddle is “invisible”
  6. Team Huddles are done the same time every day
  7. An employee that is late for Team Huddle is late for work
  8. Numbers 3, 4 and 5 say the same thing … Huddles are that important
  9. If you flunk scoreboards and daily Team Huddles … you have a leadership and accountability issue in your company

So, what better way to demonstrate the power of scoreboards and teamwork than by sharing a collection of scoreboards created by Strategies’ coaching clients and their staff.... Read More

How to Use Information Flow to Maximize Customer Loyalty

May 29, 2017 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

The challenge of delivering consistently high levels of customer loyalty and retention is the subjective nature of exactly what customer loyalty is and looks like.

What one customer regards as quality service may be completely different to another.

At salons and spas, that same subjectivity exists with employees. Owners and managers must define, communicate and train all employees to deliver customer experiences to maximize the loyalty factor as the salon/spa envisions it.

Without this absolute level of clarity, individual employee interpretations will lead to inconsistent service experiences that compromise customer loyalty.

Information-flow systems are vital to keeping your critical numbers for customer loyalty in front of employees. It doesn’t make sense to complain about low customer retention rates if employees can’t see and monitor the same numbers that are frustrating you.

I’ve done countless staff meetings where, for the first time, I introduced the company’s first-time customer retention rates. In utter disbelief, their responses are, “No way we’re losing that many first-time clients.” ... Read More

Salon/Spa Scoreboards: Getting Everyone on the Same Page

August 29, 2016 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

At the top of every salon/spa owner’s wish list is, “how do I get everyone on the same page?” The only truly effective way to get everyone on that elusive same page is to have them all looking at that same page … at the same time.

For years, I’ve listened to owners say, “scoreboards and huddles won’t work.” The excuses range from work schedules that are all over the place to an outright fear and/or refusal to share the salon/spa’s true revenue goal for the month.

  • It’s like they want everyone to work really hard together for a goal that’s hidden behind a curtain.
  • Others only want to give individual goals in hopes that it all adds up to a company win. But that’s nothing more than growing columns on the appointment book … not growing a dynamic team-based company.

A simple information-flow acid test... Read More

Five Ways to Lead Through Push Back

July 6, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Your business seems stuck and just can’t muster the collective energy to shift into a faster gear. Monthly goals have become a string of near misses. Your team is getting complacent and you know all too well what can happen when average infects your culture. It’s time to shake things up and that’s exactly what you do. You introduce some new and exciting initiatives that you thought your team would embrace with open arms. Instead, you get push back. Push back to growth. Push back to opportunity. Push back to step into the unknown, because known became too comfortable.

Every leader eventually encounters push back to new ideas and change initiatives that require new thinking, new behaviors, new skills and new levels of effort and team engagement. And when encountering push back, leaders can either cave in and accept that status quo is their fate, or, leaders can lead through the push back and take their company to a better place. Leading through push back is like threading a needle. You can’t thread a needle using a hammer. It requires focus and a steady hand. Leading through push back is where No-Compromise Leaders take center stage and shine.... Read More

Of course it is your company, but

June 8, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

myway-highwayAs a leadership coach, the best way to gain insight into how a company is run is to talk to employees. They willingly share the good, the bad, and the ugly about the culture of the company, its structure and its leader. Because the purpose of venting is to clear the air, I always get an earful of all the stuff that owners do that drives their employees crazy. Business owners are entrepreneurs that believe enough in their vision to put everything on the line to make it a reality. Owners are passionate. Owners can be intense. Owners are often stressed. And when under stress, some owners play the “it’s my company” card to get their way.... Read More

Time to remix and drink your Kool-Aid

May 11, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

kool-aidAs kids, we loved to drink Kool-Aid. Just water sweetened with sugar, tart fruit flavors, artificial coloring and absolutely no nutritional value, it was just fun to drink. Maybe that’s why “drink the Kool-Aid” became a metaphor for a group’s shared belief in some intangible thing. If you drink the Kool-Aid, you believe and instantly become a group member. If you don’t drink the Kool-Aid, you’re with the non-believers.

When we were kids, mom mixed the Kool-Aid … and it tasted good. In business, leaders mix their own Kool-Aid for their followers to drink … and that first sip tastes so good. It tastes so good because the mixture embodies the leader’s vision, passion and drive to create a company that stands for something special and unique. That Kool-Aid captures the imagination of like-minded people. A dynamic culture evolves that is innovative, energizing and seemingly invincible. To be part of such a company, or group culture, is a privilege and a life experience that resets and raises your belief in your own potential. And it all started with a sip of Kool-Aid.... Read More

When your business does not feel well, you do not feel well

April 13, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

sickLike humans, businesses can have serious health issues too, like being cash starved, burdened with crushing debt, and a toxic culture. I always say, “My heart beats along with my business.” When it’s healthy, profitable and fun, I feel great. When it’s sick, I feel sick. If you’re a business owner, you know exactly what I mean.

If your business hasn’t been feeling well lately, then you’re feeling it too. Maybe your business is just out of shape and lethargic because it’s carrying too much baggage. You feel concerned, a bit stressed and perhaps even frustrated. If your business is sick, the concern, stress and frustration are magnified. And if your business is seriously sick … perhaps life-threatening sick … the stress and sleepless nights can be debilitating.... Read More

How to get employees to embrace ownership thinking

February 9, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | 5 Comments

Some owners are happy when employees just do their job well. Get the work done. Follow the rules. Make clients happy. Don’t waste resources. Be on time. Take initiative within the confines of the “employee box”. This “just do your job well” approach is the traditional owner/manager/supervisor/worker hierarchy where people and groups are ranked according to status or authority. Each group or level places people in a “box” with set levels of authority. There’s nothing wrong with this approach and very successful companies have and will continue to emerge from this most traditional approach.

The limitation of the box level approach is that it constrains and contains the creative thinking of people within their designated box. At the worker level, the box is all about output and productivity and very little about creative thinking and decision making to do the work more efficiently. Creative thinking and decision making is reserved for the uppermost boxes that are often the most distant from the work. This approach leaves a vast resource of untapped brain power at the most critical level … where the work is actually being done.... Read More

Delivering excellence is more than a choice

December 15, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 3 Comments

excellence_choiceExcellence is a beautiful thing to behold, but what is it? It is that rare state when all things converge flawlessly into a product, service or experience. It is the culmination of innovation, fierce attention to detail, finely honed systems, discipline and accountability to a desired end result. And once achieved, that state of excellence is admired, respected and sought after.

In business, excellence is coveted by many but only earned by few. It is much like the Lexus tagline, “The relentless pursuit of excellence,” where the word “relentless” defines the extent of the company’s commitment to chasing the extraordinary. Without “relentless”, the word “pursuit” becomes highly suspect in its meaning and intent. A company can easily give lip service to its pursuit of excellence without ever channeling the resources, commitment and leadership necessary to achieve it. Simply put, you may want excellence … but how far are you willing to go, and what are you prepared to sacrifice to get it?... Read More

My BIG No-Compromise Project

November 24, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 3 Comments

Command_Center_Marquee2This Monday Morning Wake Up is a little departure from my usual rants on leadership and more about sharing a very special project that I’ve spent almost a year building. I’m very proud of the results and hope you appreciate what it took to make my BIG no-compromise project a reality.

The idea had been kicking around in my head for years. It was one of those infamous “game changing” projects that act as the missing link in connecting accountability to application, urgency to strategy and focus to vision. This is high-level leadership strategy distilled down to no-compromise, “If it needs to be done, get it done” leadership thinking, behavior and execution. It is 21+ years of Strategies’ training, systems and methodology at your fingertips 24/7/365. In the early days of 2014, it was time to bring my idea to life, and we began building what we now call the “Strategies Command Center.”... Read More

If there were nothing but green lights

November 10, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

green_lights-#1There are specific milestones in our lives when vision, determination, ambition, self-confidence and opportunity collide in ways that explode all the fears and obstacles that seemingly lay before you. These are the transformative moments when you step willingly into the unknown and take responsibility for your own success. It’s like driving to a destination with nothing but green lights before you. You become so positively charged that you overcome and break through the negative resistance that accompanies all bold journeys. And when you encounter the inevitable setbacks, you simply push harder until you’re back on your intended course.... Read More

The Conversation

October 20, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

conversation#1As a business coach, much of my work centers on guiding leaders through the wonderful, wacky world of human thinking and behavior, both of those they lead and their own. Dealing with financial stuff is easy. It’s math. Spend less than you bring in and there will be profit. Revenue projections and budgets are mathematical assumptions that we fondly refer to as “wild-ass guesses.” But it’s the leader’s thinking and behavior that brings the numbers and profits to life. System and procedure design is easy too, but it’s getting people to buy into and live the change that tests one’s ability to lead. And to truly become a No-Compromise Leader, you must master and engage in “the conversation.”... Read More

Founders Fatigue and what to do about it

October 13, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

fatigueI was doing a coaching call with an owner. We were discussing strategic changes he would like to implement that could dramatically increase revenues, address customer needs more quickly and efficiently, improve customer retention rates and provide his employees with significant income growth. His company was already quite successful and actively encouraged employee engagement through open-book management, team bonuses and profit sharing. His proposed strategic changes made perfect sense. I could hear the commitment and passion in his voice – until he began talking about his people and their reaction to his ideas. His tone changed as he shared employee resistance to expanding roles and new opportunities. And then he said, “I have owner’s fatigue.”... Read More

Keeping your business in balance

September 22, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 4 Comments

in-balanceI was boarding a 20-seat commuter plane with six other passengers. We took our assigned seats, most of which were toward the front of the plane. Just before the captain started up the engines, he came into the cabin and asked a few of us to take seats further to the rear. “We need to balance out the plane,” he explained. Given the explanation, I was happy to move to an aft seat. In the process, I found it interesting how immune we frequent flyers on commercial jets have become to flight dynamics. I know I never give it a thought.

But on that tiny plane, I was reminded how performance and safety depend on the proper balance. That captain knew that had he not balanced the weight, he would have had to over-compensate on the controls to keep the plane flying straight and true – especially during takeoff and landing. As captain of your business, how often do you find yourself trying to overcompensate when things are out of balance? You know exactly what I’m talking about.... Read More

Perfect teams are like fuzzy benchmarks

September 8, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 3 Comments

fuzzy_numbers2Every leader has a story of that “perfect team” of people. The stories are always about a shared passion to achieve the near impossible – to overcome all obstacles. There’s camaraderie, mutual support and knowing that everyone has your back. And then there’s that sprinkle of magic that gives each and every team member the belief that, together, they are unstoppable. But gradually over time, members of the team move on and replacements are brought in. The legacy of greatness remains, but that magic and electricity is different … or else absent entirely.

For leaders, it is a privilege to lead such a perfect team. But how does such a team come together? Is it by chance or by design? Perhaps the real question is, can such a team be persistently and consistently replicated? Perfect teams are like fuzzy benchmarks. You know the stats they’re capable of producing. You know the required skills and can articulate how all the players should seamlessly interact. You think you know all the ingredients … but it’s getting that mixture just right that eludes you.... Read More

Controlling your own chaos

August 4, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

chaos2In many ways, the work of leadership is the work of controlling chaos. It’s a given that change is relentless, but to embrace change is to embrace chaos. Likewise, if you resist and avoid change, you feed chaos, because holding on to status quo is unsustainable, short-term thinking, as current strategies and systems will wither over time.

It’s also a given that problems will occur, equipment will break, seemingly good decisions will backfire, and employees will come and go. For this discussion, I’m simply going to define chaos as a state of varying degrees of disorder and confusion.... Read More

Consistency begins when Blown Plays stop

June 16, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

broken-play4In football, a “blown play” occurs when the original planned play fails to execute properly. The business equivalent of a “blown play” is when a system or procedure designed to create a specific outcome fails to come about the way it was planned. On the surface, blown plays are the result of inadequate training, preparation and communication. Go a little deeper and things like weak leadership, fragmented company culture and employee indifference add to the frequency and likelihood of blown plays.

The prime objective of leadership is consistency in execution. In my No-Compromise Leadership book, I give the following sequence:... Read More

On words written and spoken, and the passing of a mentor

April 21, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 7 Comments

Public_speaking-v2I have been a public speaker and writer for most of my working life, but never had any formal training in either discipline. In late 2005, I came across an ad in the Delta Airline’s magazine for The Buckley School of Public Speaking in Camden, SC. I did some research and was impressed to know that its founder and author of numerous books on public speaking, Reid Buckley, was a hands-on instructor. Since I had just begun writing No-Compromise Leadership, I decided the timing was right, and in February 2006, I headed off to Reid’s school to get my butt kicked by the master.... Read More

Understanding Drivers & Outcomes in Your Salon/Spa

April 7, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

At Strategies, every aspect of our business training and coaching is focused on what we call The Four Business Outcomes: productivity, profitability, staff retention and customer loyalty. Business success, and your success as a leader, is defined not only by the proficiency and mastery of each outcome, but by how equally you balance and synchronize The Four Business Outcomes. Think of each Outcome as one of the four powerful jet engines on a Boeing 747. Maximum efficiency and thrust to lift the 875,000 pound jetliner with over 500 passengers and cargo requires all four engines to be in sync. Should one engine underperform or fail, the performance and safety of the entire jetliner is compromised.

Outcomes are an end result. High productivity rates are an outcome. Impressive Balance Sheets and Profit & Loss Statements are outcomes. A unified and cohesive company culture with little employee turnover is an outcome. Fiercely loyal customers and high client retention rates are outcomes. In order to produce extraordinary outcomes, you’ve got to get the drivers right.... Read More

Ten Characteristics of a Successful Salon/Spa Business

March 24, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

The best-of-the-best are committed to doing the “work” of business. They don’t avoid the stuff they don’t like or the tough stuff that defines a leader’s determination to win. Just like profitability, success is an outcome. Leaders and companies that master the disciplines of success stand out from their competition.

Using a simple grading system of 1 to 10 (10 being truly outstanding), each characteristic listed below establishes a benchmark that you can use to quickly assess the viability of any business … including yours. Using this approach, a score of 10 for each characteristic will yield a perfect score of 100.

Characteristic Number 1 – Leadership: First and foremost, the owner of a successful business functions as a businessperson. This means that the owner is engaged, accountable and drives performance by paying attention to the business. That being said, it’s easy to identify owners that are so engrossed in their non-leadership work that the business is essentially free-floating without direction, structure or systems. This is the equivalent of trying to run a business by remote control. It just doesn’t work.... Read More

How to keep long-term employees from becoming change resisters

January 13, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

Just as every leader understands the cost of employee turnover, they understand the challenges of keeping long-term employees engaged, positive and supportive of change initiatives. New employees are easier to train, coach and mold into your company culture. It’s an entirely different story with long-term employees. Like a marriage, long-term employees have been with you through the good and bad times. They’ve seen it all, and they know your strengths and weaknesses just as well as you know theirs.

When it comes to embracing change, new procedures and systems, long-term employees can either be your biggest advocates – or your most hardened change resisters. But resistance doesn’t mean they’re “not on the bus”; it just means they really like their seat. They’re comfortable in it … and everyone knows not to sit in or mess with their spot. Everything else can change as long as their seat – and their work – is left alone. The problem is that “the bus” is the company and it can’t remain competitive, innovative and fast if it cannot collectively adapt and change – including long-term employees.... Read More

Daily Huddles, Scoreboards & Information Flow

November 25, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 4 Comments

The worst assumption a salon/spa leader can make is that every team member is on the same page. That elusive “same page” lists gotta-get-it-done stats, including: the company’s percentage to goal for the month, productivity rate, pre-book rate, orders shipped, etc. Simply put, that “same page” is pure team progress – not individual progress. It’s what the team needs to achieve collectively. This “same page” data is so critical that it is the centerpiece of daily huddles. And yes, daily huddles are a non-negotiable in all companies.

The first reaction many leaders have to the concept of daily huddles is that they are too much of a hassle to execute, that they already share information and that employees just won’t engage in them. With the utmost respect, there is no justifiable excuse not to embrace daily huddles. No doubt adjustments will need to be made to make daily huddles work – especially when it comes to thinking, behavior and accountability. The very first adjustment is to shift from “it won’t work in my company” to “we’ll do whatever it takes” thinking.... Read More

Chasing Consistency

October 21, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

consistencyConsistency is a beautiful thing. It’s what makes great companies truly great. It’s about a company’s commitment to getting it right not just some of the time, but all of the time. Going for consistency means that, as a leader, you are prepared to do what others will not. You are prepared to do whatever it takes and define yourself as a true No-Compromise Leader.

Consistency is about the execution of work and systems to exacting standards. It’s what defines world-class service. It’s embedded in the thinking and behavior of a company’s culture. Anything less than total consistency is a compromise. But it’s the journey to consistency that most leaders underestimate in terms of degree of difficulty and time. Consistency is something a company chases for a long time, and only those committed for the long haul stand a chance of catching it. (more…)... Read More

What does BUT WE ARE DOING OKAY really mean?

October 14, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 6 Comments

ambivalentGrowing a business and achieving extraordinary results is inherently dependent on the leader’s current state of mind, sense of urgency, level of confidence, and willingness to step out of his or her comfort zone. As a leadership coach and business trainer, my job is to serve as a guide for implementing change and, most importantly, to push leaders out of their comfy-cozy comfort zones. But when business problems are identified and the leader’s response is a wimpy, “But we’re doing OK,” compromise wins and growth opportunities move further beyond reach.... Read More

Culture and Destroy from Within

September 30, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 6 Comments

If you trace the origin of most business challenges, crises, and missed opportunities, you will undoubtedly discover that most (if not all) were created internally. Someone wasn’t paying attention or being held accountable and the blame game began. Destruction from within has everything to do with behavior and how negative behavior contaminates a business culture. To be a no-compromise leader, you must strengthen, nurture, and protect your business culture from contamination.

Your business culture is…

  • A truly dynamic entity that embodies the heart and soul of your company.
  • The energy source that not only powers your business, but links all behaviors and thinking to a common purpose.
  • What attracts and retains the best employees.
  • That which rallies the collective energy of the business to achieve breakthrough goals and drive growth.
  • What carries the business through inevitable tough times.
  • What touches customers in that special way that keeps them coming back for more.
  • What communicates the who, what, and why of your business to every employee and the world around it.

Just as computers are vulnerable to virus attacks, so too are business cultures. Culture contamination can be devastating to a business. Consider it a poison that can seep in at any time from any direction – internally or externally. Contamination reveals itself in the form of negative behavior, meaningless drama, and decreased productivity. However, unlike computers in which you can install firewalls and virus protection, your business culture is always exposed. Always. Economic challenges, fierce competition, headhunters preying on your best talent, and even the weather can seed contamination into your culture. But those external attacks on your culture are nothing compared to attacks that destroy from within.... Read More

Six steps to winning and getting things done

September 23, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

winning-strategyIf winning in business feels so great, why does it take so much work to get people to play the game to win? If getting things done is the only way to make forward progress, why is it so difficult for us to tackle the tasks on our To-Do lists? Procrastination, resistance to change, leadership compromise, lack of clarity, and indifference exist at varying levels in all companies. But when one or more of these detractors gets out of hand, the contamination spreads throughout a company’s culture, wins turn to losses, and getting anything done becomes a struggle.

Like anything worthy of pursuit, winning and getting things done is a process. Many leaders think it’s about pushing people harder. Some think “better consequences” stimulate better performance. Winning and the collective ability to get things done rest in the leader’s ability to conduct a complex orchestra of people, resources, and systems to achieve clearly defined goals and outcomes. Pushing people to work harder and do more without the right training, systems, and understanding of the goals and outcomes is a recipe for stress and dysfunction. Throw in some really cool consequences and you have the perfect cocktail for demoralizing people and wrecking a culture.... Read More

Six reasons to go Open Book

September 9, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

company_financesI’m writing this Monday Morning Wake Up on September 6th in St. Louis, MO. I’m here to speak at Jack Stack’s 21st Annual Gathering of Games. It’s my fifth time speaking at this conference, which is the only one devoted entirely to the open-book business model. The first edition of Jack’s book, The Great Game of Business, was published in May 1992, one year before I started Strategies. To this day, it is my all-time favorite business book. To me, open-book management just makes sense. It’s how I run Strategies, it’s what we teach in our courses, and it’s what we coach our clients to do.... Read More

Why owners have 360˚ vision – and others don’t

September 2, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

360_vision2Call it a blessing or a curse that owners can walk into their companies and instantaneously – like some futuristic omnidirectional science probe – identify a hit list of issues that need fixing NOW. They see items where they shouldn’t be, employees doing what they shouldn’t be doing, clients waiting for attention, and dirt that is clearly invisible to everyone else’s eyes but their own. While some owners truly believe that they possess supernatural 360˚ vision, most simply wish that others could see obvious issues and take action without being told.

There is a deep emotional component to 360˚ vision that is both good and bad. From a pride, quality, and leadership standpoint, it just makes sense that owners pay more attention to the details. The process keeps everyone awake and engaged while maintaining a healthy sense of urgency. But when 360˚ vision begins to feed obsessive-compulsive behavior, things can get ugly. It’s no longer about instilling pride and quality thinking and behavior; it’s about looking for everything that’s wrong. It’s about catching people doing something wrong, and that’s not leadership.... Read More

The three rules of implementing change

August 26, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

make_happenIn business and life, it is a given that change is relentless – that adapting to change is not only the key to success but essential for survival. Yet, implementing change, even minor change, is seldom met with open arms. The constant companion of change is resistance. Let’s face it – it can be difficult to let go of what has become comfortable, familiar, and predictable and step out into the unknown. We humans are simply creatures of habit. We love our routines. When we encounter change, we get uncomfortable and begin working as quickly as possible to adapt to change so that it becomes routine and comfortable again.... Read More

What it really takes to be the best

May 27, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 3 Comments

the_bestGrowing a great company has nothing to do with luck. It has to do with your leadership ability to surround yourself with the best players; to innovate, execute, and make good decisions; and to manage cash while capitalizing on opportunities. Throw in a healthy dose of accountability and being the best just may be within your reach. And if you do become the best, you’ll quickly discover that it takes just as much hard work to stay at the top of the game as it did to get there in the first place.

Every company starts out wanting to be the best, but things happen along the way that keep pushing that coveted title further and further beyond your reach. A few years of bad decisions, cash-flow challenges, and dealing with toxic employees can sap a leader’s mojo and self-confidence. When a company’s thinking and behavior is stuck on average – i.e. not actively pursuing the extraordinary – the outcome, as expected, will continue to be average. (more…)... Read More

Six reasons projects and change initiatives fail

April 15, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

arrow_crashThere is nothing more common in business than launching a new project or change initiative. That’s how companies strive to remain competitive and adapt to changing market conditions. It’s how companies tweak current systems and build new ones to improve productivity and maximize resources. New projects and change initiatives must occur for a company to remain vital and relevant. However, the other most common occurrence in business is the number of new projects and change initiatives that fail.

As a coach and consultant, my job is to help companies achieve the right outcomes in what I call “The Four Business Outcomes”: Productivity, Profitability, Employee Retention, and Customer Loyalty. To achieve different and more desirable outcomes, new projects and change initiatives must occur. If the company is in dire straights, its ability to execute change with a high sense of urgency is put to the test. Unfortunately, it is the company’s inability to execute change combined with a low sense of urgency that causes it to be in dire straights in the first place. (more…)... Read More

Leading with blinders on

March 4, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

blindersLeaders have a unique ability to see what they want to see in their companies. They see their people working away yet never see the mounting frustration their approach to leadership is causing. As a result, trust erodes. Fiercely loyal employees begin to lose hope. Contamination spreads through the company’s culture. In coaching, the most difficult task of all is getting a leader to see that he or she is the root cause of what ails the company.

It’s not unusual for me to receive emails from employees reaching out for help with a leader who has run amuck. The following email typifies how quietly destructive a leader with blinders on can be to the very company they and their employees love.... Read More

How to prevent hostage management

January 7, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 6 Comments

hostageWhen you admire a great company, you’re actually admiring the collective work of the people that made it great. Your responsibility as the leader is to establish where the company is going (vision/goals) and do everything in your power to help your people get there (coaching/training/mentoring/inspiring). Growing a company is about building something so extraordinary that it attracts the hearts and minds of like-minded individuals to join your quest. It’s about growing a company.

I am all about developing talent and helping individuals achieve their full potential. That’s what leaders do. You want the best talent and the brightest minds on your team. You want to surround yourself with individuals that are committed to pushing and driving the company forward. It’s about growing a company. (more…)... Read More

5 questions for salon and spa success in the New Year

December 7, 2012 | By Eric Ducoff | No Comments

The holiday season is in full swing. More than likely, this means that your salon or spa is busy, the appointment book is full (at least for the next few weeks) and clients are spending money. It’s a good feeling, isn’t it? Of course! Who doesn’t like to a full cash register? But in the back of your mind, there’s a small, quiet voice that’s calling out to you. And, if you’re a proactive salon or spa owner, you’ll know to listen carefully for the one simple question that little voice keeps asking:

What are you going to differently in your business next year?

It’s a simple — yet extremely sobering — question. Can your business, family and staff survive and thrive if you continue status quo? Or, are you ready to really drive the business forward?

Here are five critical questions to determine if you’re prepared for a prosperous New Year:

  1. What’s your plan for growth? Even if this year was wildly-successful for your salon or spa, if you don’t shake things up and fine-tune your thinking, systems and/or culture, there’s a strong chance you won’t see much additional growth in the year to come. Where will growth come from in your business? Is it waiting for you right now? Are there areas in your company where you see inefficiency and potential for improvement? Get your plan in place NOW to start producing revenues from these target areas.
  2. Does your team know how to get there? It’s a simple question. Does anyone besides you, the leader, know where you plan to take the company next year? And if so, do they know how? Do YOU know? Communication is the key to success. Plan your attack, get it down on paper, and then relentlessly communicate that mission to your team. Get them involved in drawing the roadmap. The more they are involved, the more motivated they will be to reach the desired destination.
  3. Who will lead the way? Great communication starts with a great leader. You own the vision of where you want to take your company. You stand at the helm of this exciting adventure. Great companies are built around great leaders. Hold yourself and your team accountable. Cheer their successes and guide them through their shortfalls. Be the leader your company needs you to be.
  4. Where will growth come from? We touched on this point earlier but it bears repeating: Where is the untapped revenue in your business? Is it hiding behind inefficiency and poor systems? Or will it come from new opportunities that are yet to be discovered? The growth is waiting for you, the hard part is finding where it’s hidden.
  5. Are you doing what you love? It’s a powerful question, isn’t it? Do you come to work everyday with a positive attitude, or does your heart sink when you step through the front door? If it’s the later, you need to find a way to turn things around. As the leader of your company, your attitude and happiness level is infectious. Are you trapped behind the chair when you’d prefer to be working on the business? If so, then start researching ways to transition out from behind the chair (Strategies can help). Do you enjoy leading meetings, tending to the books or doing color applications? If not, it’s time to start exploring how others in your company can start taking on these responsibilities. Perhaps it’s time to hire new staff. Just make sure you it makes sense for the business and the bottom line.

I hope this little reminder to listen to that little voice in the back of your head has gotten you thinking about the importance of planning ahead for the New Year. You can do it — all you need is a plan.... Read More

Five reasons why some projects fly and others crash

November 26, 2012 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

New projects or initiatives are interesting little devils. I refer to them as devils because you never know when they are going to turn on you and bite you in the butt. You can plan them out until every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed and still have them blow up on you. In contrast, there are those projects that went from their entrepreneurial epiphany to their launch, and beyond, in what seemed like a nanosecond with no glitches whatsoever. There are reasons why some projects fly and others crash and burn. In the tradition of every MMWU I write, the reason has everything to do with leadership. (more…)... Read More

Simple is better

October 22, 2012 | By Neil Ducoff | 6 Comments

I was flying home from Chicago last Wednesday enjoying my first-class upgrade. Across the aisle and one row up, was a sharp looking businessman working away on a PowerPoint presentation. I’m not in the habit of watching other people’s computer screens, but this one grabbed my attention. I could not read the words, but the slide layouts are what got me. Every slide was loaded with details in boxes with arrows and callouts. There were multiple slides exploding on each level of a massive organization chart. There were complex graphs loaded with text. And as he scrolled through the slide deck, that presentation had to be at least 80 slides long. I thought to myself, “This guy is methodically preparing to bore a room full of innocent people to death.”... Read More

Social media for salons and spas Part 3

August 24, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

Five best practices to keep followers engaged

In parts one and two of this three-part series, I touched upon the importance of jumping into the social mediasphere, as well as some basic policies and procedures to protect the interests and reputation of your salon or spa’s brand. This week, I’d like to wrap up this discussion by sharing five best practices for salon/spa social media efforts. Just because someone has “liked” or “followed” your social campaign, doesn’t mean they will anxiously read every post/tweet from here to eternity. On the contrary, they will quickly tune out if your message isn’t relavant and concise.

Here are five best practices to keep followers engaged in your salon or spa’s social media efforts:

  1. Value and Interest: When posting to your blog, Twitter or Facebook, ask yourself if your content adds value and interest to the discussion. Make sure your comment, post or tweet is a valued piece of information.
  2. Personality: In the social media realm, you are encouraged to use your own voice and bring your personality to the forefront. The web is a venue that is relaxed, open and diverse — embrace it. A voice that is over-institutionalized and rehearsed can repel your audience.
  3. Planning: Putting in place a social media calendar of sorts for the year can help to organize you on how to cross promote your material and the times of year when you know you will have big events and may want to do extra posts. Also think about who on your team would be the best person to handle your social media needs and whether that is one person or multiple people. Make sure you are consistently contributing  content. You donʼt want to let your followers down by only posting a couple times a year.
  4. Join The Conversation: Listening and responding to your fans/followers through social media sites is just as important as posting information. Make sure you are responding to posts and questions from your followers and fans. Being a part of the conversation already happening about your company shows you care and creates community. Also realize that it isnʼt just about you are saying, it is also about the connections your fans/followers are making to other fans/followers through your site.
  5. Be Brief And Link When Possible: Ideally, posts should be very brief, redirecting visitors to content that resides on another site. Whenever possible, link back to the company’s website.

I hope this three-part series has shed some light on the very sensitive subject of social media and the salon/spa workplace. ... Read More

Social media for salons & spas Part 2

August 16, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

Five guidelines of social media use

Last week, we discussed the importance of jumping in and embracing the enormous promotional potential that the social mediasphere offers. This week, I’ve put together some bullet points to consider when crafting your social media strategy. The following policy statements and guidelines are meant to assist you in your social media efforts, while protecting the interests and reputation of your company’s brand.

Here are five guidelines for social media use:

  1. Respect Copyright And Fair Use: When posting, be mindful of the copyright and intellectual property rights of others.
  2. Terms Of Service: Social media sites have their own terms of service. Make sure you obey these terms of service or your account with the site may be suspended.
  3. Respect and Ethics: Your company should encourage different viewpoints and opinions, and as a participant in social media, you should too. Be respectful of othersʼ viewpoints. If you disagree and would like to engage in a conversation, do so cordially, logically, and ethically.
  4. Accuracy and Honesty: Double check facts and details before you post — remember, once you post, it is out there. If there is a website you used to gather facts, provide the link for your readers to show accountability. Also, always write in the first person. If you make a mistake, admit it. Your followers will be more willing to forgive and forget if you are up front and quick with your correction. Maintain a high level of quality that exhibits superior grammar, punctuation and spelling.
  5. Transparency and Disclosure: When posting to your blog, Twitter or Facebook, ask yourself if your content is a valued piece of information. There are millions of people and companies on the web. If you want to stand above the clutter, make sure you provide content that is exciting, engaging and stimulating.

Next week in part 3: Best practicies for social media

Social media for salons and spas – Part 1

August 10, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

Part 1: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!

I can’t tell you how many times I’m asked by salon owners across the country what my stance is on social media and how to best manage team members and their activity when it comes to online social media sites. The topic doesn’t usually come up until a team member decides to leave and then communicates to their friends and followers where they are going and where to find them. Or even worse, when a former employee decides to post derogatory comments about their former boss or place of employment. These are very valid concerns for anyone running a business. While we never want to hear anything negative about our business, unfortunately, at some point it’s going to happen. And guess what — It’s legal. (Think Yelp!)

Somebody once told me that when it comes to social media, it will become a problem when you make it a problem. That hit me square between the eyes. How many times do we find ourselves doing stuff like that? We create friction in our own companies and we don’t even realize we’re doing it.... Read More

Six ways to boost salon/spa promotions and events

August 2, 2012 | By Eric Ducoff | No Comments

Successful promotions and events play a pivotal role in every salon or spa’s bottom-line health. The added influx of service clients and retail/gift certificate sales — not to mention the often deeper-discounted purchasing opportunities presented by manufacturers and distributors — are simply a “no brainer” to take advantage of. The good news is, most salons and spas do offer promotions throughout the year. The bad news is, many of them are often poorly planned, and do not take full advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

But lets get back to the good news. Executing killer promotions in your salon or spa doesn’t have to be daunting. All it takes is some effective and creative planning.

Here are six ways to help you get the most out of your salon/spa promotions:

  • What’s your plan? It seems like every year, we’re hit with more and more promotional opportunities: Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Back-to-School — these are just the tip of the iceberg. In order to make sure that you and your staff are ready for each promotion, it’s imperative that you get your plan down on paper. You need to define what supplies are needed, who does what and when it needs to be completed. All that information then needs to be transferred to a main promotional calendar that the entire business lives by. Better yet, enter the dates into your computer or smart phone so you get automated reminders!
  • Make a date out of it! Promotions don’t just have to be centered around holidays and distributor/manufacture deals — make them an event! Schedule special dates throughout the year that will appeal to different demographics within your client base. Ladies night, mom’s night, guys’ night, or even a Super Bowl night — get creative and get your staff involved in the planning.
  • Don’t forget to sweat the small stuff: Remember we mentioned how critically important it is to get everything you need for a successful promotion down on paper?  Dedicate a quick meeting with your team to brainstorm each and every item needed to ensure upcoming promotions or events are a success.
  • Budget, budget, budget! That last thing you want to do it is put time and effort into a promotion or event, only to find out that it actually lost money for your business. Yes, there are times when it does make sense to chalk one up as a “marketing expense”, but at the end of the day, the name of the game is driving increased revenue. With that said, the most critically-important step for any promotion is to plug it into your cash-flow plan to see if the business can afford it — and to forecast how much return you will get on your investment.
  • Who pays for it? Although it can be sore subject, it’s one that needs to be addressed beforehand. If you are on a commission-based compensation structure, your staff needs to be made aware how they are going to be compensated if the business is promoting discounted services. Will their commission be based on the standard full-price (thus costing the business even MORE money to run the promotion) or will they be expected to invest in the promotion by taking a percentage of the lower promotional price. Luckily, if you are using a Team-Based Pay or salary/hourly model, this is a moot point.
  • Get staff involved: One of the best ways to get your team members excited about upcoming promotions is to involve them in the planning process. They’re creative — use that resource!

Want to ensure your 2013 promotional and marketing plan is down on paper before January rolls around? Don’t miss Strategies Salon/Spa Game-Planning Retreat on September 30 – October 2, 2012 at the Strategies Business Academy in Centerbrook, CT. Learn more here.... Read More

The power of keeping salon/spa staff focused

July 26, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

Maintaining a sense of urgency is a management responsibility not to be taken lightly. Complacency can quietly infect even the most successful businesses. It usually begins during a period of smooth sailing, when the “business as usual” mentality sets in, leadership relaxes, and the urgency that previously inspired growth and performance wanes. Personal agendas take a precedence over the business’ goals and needs. The team loses focus.

Perhaps more than any other, the salon/spa environment is a fertile breeding ground for complacency. At most salons and spas, a “pecking order” keeps gridlocked and overbooked technicians in square opposition to new technicians trying to get established. In the middle is a mix of rising stars and underachievers…and those who are simply satisfied with their present level of performance and income. If an owner or manager, by choice or necessity, spends a lot of time behind the chair, the grip of complacency tightens. Efforts to rally staff enthusiasm are hit-or-miss. Conflicting personal agendas and a lack of leadership blur the business’ focus.... Read More

Why problems never fix themselves

July 16, 2012 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

Leading a company in these crazy economic times is like riding a roller coaster complete with exhilarating highs and hang-on-for-your-life lows. There are even moments when you realize that there are things going on in your company that are out of your control. The larger your company, the more moving parts it has that can break down, shut down or spin out of control. Those moving parts that don’t function according to plan are called problems. And the dirty little secret about problems is that they never cooperate or help you out by fixing themselves.... Read More

Why 7 out of 10 new salon and spa clients don’t come back

July 12, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

You cannot argue with the numbers. From a technical standpoint, the beauty industry offers consumers extraordinary levels of skill and expertise. From a customer service and True Quality standpoint, salons and spas score poorly. No matter how badly you want to refute this assessment, it is impossible to argue with industry-wide numbers that show salons and spas are not retaining seven of ten first-time clients. Interestingly, poor retention remains consistent from value-priced salons right up to upscale, service-intensive day spas.

  • On average, only three percent of owners know their retention rate.
  • Half of these confuse request rate with retention rate — they are not the same.
  • Most have no means to track retention. Even those with point-of-sale computer systems often realize their software doesn’t track retention properly, if at all.

It’s your True Quality score. The overriding objective of every business is to attract and retain customers. The higher your retention rate for first-time clients, the higher your level of customer satisfaction, and the closer you are to delivering consistent True Quality experiences. Granted, you want to satisfy clients on every visit, but client retention tracking begins on the first visit. If your salon or spa fails to perform to client expectations on the first visit, there usually is no second chance. If your business has a 30% first-time client retention rate, don’t even think of using “True Quality” to describe your business.... Read More

Five reasons information flow needs to be better and faster

June 18, 2012 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

Think of “information flow” as the signals your brain sends and receives to engage in a conversation, drive a car, process data to solve a problem or to respond to a threat. Millions of bits of information and instructions are processed every second to create the coordinated ability to multitask and get results. Any disruption in the flow of information can be life-threatening. A company functions very much the same. The objective is to get results through the coordinated efforts of teams of people. Just like your brain, your company needs massive amounts of information flow to deliver consistently excellent results. Extraordinary results require even more.... Read More

Six Tips for Better Salon and Spa Communication

June 14, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

As business owners, leaders and managers, we often feel like we’re stunk in a constant cycle of repeating the same message over and over and over again. This can feel like pounding your head against a brick wall, followed by the “why don’t they get it?” question. But salon and spa communication doesn’t have to be painful! Let’s bandage up your forehead and help you break out of this cycle.

Here are six tips to improve your salon or spa communication:

  1. Stop the blame game. “They” is never a good word when referring to a team. Try “us”, which includes you.
  2. Take a hard look at your communication style and how it might be improved. As the leader of your company the responsibility of getting a message communicated falls squarely on your shoulders. You must be certain that the information you are sending is easy for all to understand. If not, use this as an opportunity to educate your team on the areas you are looking to address. For example: Perhaps the reason they are not responding to your requests to “drive the numbers” is because they simply don’t know anything about how numbers work in a salon or spa. Embrace this opportunity to educate and excite them!
  3. Individualize the process. Each member of your team processes information differently. You must do your best to discover the “language” that each team member utilizes and speak to their differences. Speak French to me and you’d lose me after “bonjour.” Are you speaking French to a team member who only understands Portuguese? Some team members may be more visual and need to have something to see, in addition to verbal instructions. RELATED: Check out this article on Discovering Your Best Leadership Voice in the salon/spa. It ties in wonderfully with knowing how to individualize your communication process.
  4. Keep communication in both directions. Does your team know your preferred methods of communication? Make sure they know how you like to receive your information. Let them know under what circumstances e-mail is better than voicemail, or a text better than an e-mail.
  5. Make it personal. Does your team know how the information you are giving them impacts them on an individual basis? If they don’t feel a sense of urgency and responsibility, you are not really communicating. For example, if you say that there’s an urgency to increase revenue and they do not understand the benefit and/or risk to them, it’s simply blah, blah, blah — words with little meaning. Find the means and opportunities to make each message have a personal tie-in for every team member and watch how quickly the light bulbs go off.
  6. Attach communication to accountability. If you get on your high horse regarding specific duties not being done, yet there is not a level of accountability or follow up, your message is not being heard. Make sure that employees understand who is responsible for what and how they will be evaluated. Create systems so that you are not continually reinventing the wheel. Then preach accountability regularly. It’s a never-ending process.

Even when you follow these steps, do not expect that your message will be instantly received and action occur. Be kind and patient. Let your team know what’s in it for them and how it relates to their world. While relentless communication can seem like a daunting task, when you speak passionately, honestly and from a place of good intentions, the message becomes both easier to deliver and more receptively received.... Read More

How to get the most out of your negotiations

May 31, 2012 | 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 and medspa 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. While not every negotiation is about closing a big deal, 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. Clarify goals; don’t make assumptions.
  1. 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 than 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.
  1. 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 all parties 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. Watch your body language and tone of voice.
  1. 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 promotional deal so that it works better for a customer. It’s not about always being “right.”
  1. 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 business owner or manager. Keep in mind mutual goals and stay positive. That will go a long way toward negotiations that are upbeat and helpful, and that will get the results you need.... Read More

Why fundamentals matter in your salon or spa

May 10, 2012 | By Daryl Jenkins | 2 Comments

I am a big baseball fan. One of the reasons why is because of the great lessons the game teaches us. For example, when a team isn’t playing well for an extended period of time, the manager focuses on the fundamentals of the game. These are the basics such as batting, fielding and throwing. He doesn’t try to get them to do fancier plays or hit only homeruns because that usually makes matters worse. Without the essentials, the great plays don’t happen with consistency, and homeruns, if they occur, can be meaningless. It’s the fundamentals that win games.

The same holds true in business. As a salon and spa consultant, I can’t tell you how many ads, plans and promos I hear about from companies that are looking to increase the number of new customers to their businesses. At the same time, their new customer-retention rates are dismal. So let’s get this straight: They want to spend huge amounts of money to ask new customers to come in to see how ineffective they are at retaining them for the long term? That’s expensive and crazy!... Read More

Creating a foundation for salon and spa growth

May 3, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

You’d never open a salon without the proper tools — state-of-the-art scissors, top-of-the-line blow dryers and, of course, fabulous, effective products. Similarly, no one would try to run a spa without massage tables, pedi chairs and wonderful scrubs and lotions.

Unfortunately, many owners do try to run their salons and spas without the proper business tools needed to be profitable and successful.

Many salons and spas struggle with cash-flow and figuring out what’s coming in (and going out). Without a clear financial picture, it’s impossible to plan for steady growth, as expenses always pop up. Many owners (maybe even you) start using their personal credit cards to pay the bills — even to cover payroll. It’s impossible to build a strong business without a realistic cash-flow plan.

Numerous other owners and managers grapple with staff concerns, from hiring to pay design to performance evaluations. Some owners have leadership issues, uncertain how to translate their vision to their employees so that everyone is working toward the same goals. Proper communication is one of the first steps in building a successful business, yet it is one of the basics that many salon and spa owners believe they don’t have time for. A culture where employees want to do their best, stay and grow is one of the hallmarks of a thriving, profitable business.... Read More

How to increase salon and spa web traffic with blogging

April 26, 2012 | By Eric Ducoff | 3 Comments

Several years ago, the bulk of my marketing responsibilities at Strategies involved print ads and direct mail. But in a seeming blink of an eye, those traditional marketing avenues have all but dried up — in every industry. The launch pad for the selling process has relocated from the mailbox to the computer screen. People are relying on the Internet more than ever to make their buying decisions. The challenge is how to grab the attention of both potential clients and the search engines they’re searching with.

One of the most important elements in getting found online is the ability to consistently publish new and relevant content. Just like you and me, search engines like new stuff! One of the most effective ways to pump new content onto your site is through blogging.

Not sure what to write about? Here are five salon/spa blog topics to drive traffic to your website:

  • Seasonal styles and trends: Is your staff trained on the latest techniques? Great! Showcase these trends to your clients. Whether it’s a cut, color, manicure or quick-and-easy style, the more expertise you display about the latest trends, the greater the chances potential clients will make their appointments with your business.
  • Product spotlights: Have a product that’s flying off the shelves? When products are popular, buyers are looking for them online. Share your professional insights on the hottest sellers to drive traffic to your site.
  • Team profiles: You’ve got a great team, so talk them up! What are their areas of expertise? What awards have they won? What new classes have they taken? Why do they love working at your salon or spa? Don’t forget about your non-technical team members. Tell the world why you think you have the greatest guest-services staff.
  • Special events: Whether it’s a cut-a-thon, guy’s night, breast cancer awareness event or a fashion show, events are prime marketing opportunities. Let potential clients know that your business is about more than just hair and massages; it’s about giving back and having fun.
  • How to get the most out of a salon/spa service: Help take the guesswork out of what a client should expect from their service by educating them on the lingo, etiquette and  options available.

These five topics are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to blogging ideas for salons and spas. I’ll leave you with three closing thoughts.... Read More

Is your Salon or Spa Culture Delivering Happiness?

April 11, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

I am a huge fan of shoes and an even bigger fan of Zappos.com. Therefore, it’s hard to believe that it took me until two weeks ago to read Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.

I’m in the process of hiring a slew of new employees and figured that now was a good time to review ways to keep my culture strong and vibrant in the midst of change. Boy, did I not know how it would affect my company in the following week!

It took me just a few days to read the book. I loved it, of course, and was inspired to initiate a culture-oriented project for my staff. The timing was perfect with all our new hires and our 29th anniversary in business. At our April team meeting, I told my staff about a project they needed to complete in four days, in order to present to the entire company. The project? In one page or less, describe the Visual Changes culture.

The three must-haves:

  • What does it mean to you?
  • How would you describe it to a stranger?
  • Why is it important to you?

I don’t know about your team, but mine is filled with procrastinators. The night before it was due, most of my team was texting me about their assignment, some with questions, some with complaints, some with tears and others with fears about if they were doing it right.... Read More

How to run a great salon or spa and still “have a life”

April 5, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

Does this sound familiar? “I just work, work, work. It feels as though I can never get away from work. How can I make sure that things get done at my company and still manage to have a life?”

I hear this all the time. Owners feel consumed by their businesses. But finding balance between your business and your personal life is necessary to avoid burnout.

When you need to handle every aspect of your business, there will only be one outcome: exhaustion!

Here are five tips to run a great salon or spa and still “have a life”:

  • First, divide your company into departments. Think marketing, education, human resources, hair, spa, medspa, customer service, staff retention, budgets, etc.
  • Now, assign a person in each department to be the department head.
  • Work with your department heads to develop systems for every area of your business. Think about the most common services and situations. Ask department heads to solicit input from all staff, so there’s buy-in from the start and a sense of inclusion.
  • Have department heads write down the steps involved with each system. After reviewing them and making necessary changes, include the processes in one place, such as a binder.
  • Now you have a how-to manual for every area of your company. Work with your key staff to ensure team members are properly trained on each system. (You may want to develop skill certification for primary skill areas. Strategies can help you with this.) The end result? You can take time off knowing that your systems will guarantee impressive customer experiences and the business will operate efficiently.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m in business to maximize profits or if there’s a bigger purpose. Having a family and a business, I believe that the purpose is making the money and having time to spend it. There are times when I pursue a little less money and a bit more free time. Other times, I devote myself full-on to the company. The point is that I’m making a conscious choice.... Read More

Three keys to creating the ultimate salon or spa experience

March 29, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

A friend and fellow entrepreneur once told me when it comes to going to a salon, it’s important that the stylist get the cut and/or color right every time. If you don’t get that part down, you can forget about everything else. However, when you consistently get the cut and/or color right, then it becomes about everything else, the experience.

Salons and spas throw the word “experience” around like nobody’s business. “We charge higher prices because our clients pay for the experience.” “Our clients come to us because of our great salon experience.” What the heck does that mean? While every salon/spa has their own way of doing things, many owners and managers have no clue what matters to their clients.... Read More

Is Your “Information Flow” Really a Drip?

August 3, 2009 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Right now, this very moment, how many of your employees know exactly what the immediate and most critical objectives are for your business? How many know what needs to be accomplished this month, this week – today? How many clearly understand your expectations for their individual performance? Would you describe your company’s “sense of urgency” as fast or slow? The common denominator for each of these questions is “information flow.” With it, there is focus, urgency, efficiency and productivity. Without it, there is frustration, fragmentation and missed opportunities.
Achieving higher levels of organizational performance always requires a change in the collective behaviors of teams. It doesn’t matter if a company is in a crisis situation or striving to reach that next level of success, it’s ability to disseminate key information will determine how quickly behaviors will change. However, too many leaders routinely and grossly underestimate the level of information flow that is required for measureable results to occur. And when information drips rather than flows, the crisis continues. And, the quest to reach the next level morphs into pipedream.
Here are some no-compromise strategies to ensure that information is flowing rather than dripping throughout your company:
* Information flow x 10: What would happen if you took your current level of information flow and multiplied it by 10? The answer is simple; there would be an immediate and measurable gain in the overall performance of your company. Ratcheting up the level of information flow is like putting your company on a GPS heading toward success.
* Find the information flow bottlenecks: Every company has them – and you may be one of them. Yes, leaders are notorious for having high expectations and not backing them up with the necessary information to clarify their expectations. Are one or more of the team leaders a bottleneck? Are there key players on your team with conflicting agendas? The only way you’ll discover the bottlenecks is to spend quality time with your leadership team and employees. If they cannot articulate where the company is going and what its immediate objectives are, there is an information flow bottleneck.
* What, why & how is the score: Everyone needs to know. Everyone needs to play. From daily huddles around the company scoreboard to daily leadership team briefings, the only excuse for not driving information flow is laziness and procrastination. We’re in the information age and we have some amazing technologies to drive it. From conference calls, web-based video meetings and online file sharing, to text messages, emails and alerts in most business software, there is no excuse for anything less than rapid-fire information flow.
* Get into the grove and make it stick: Ratcheting up your information flow systems will require you as the leader to adapt and commit to new disciplines first. Don’t expect everyone else to commit to an information flow system that you routinely compromise. The only way to ensure accountability down through the employee ranks is for accountability to be locked in at the top.
Pass this email on to your business colleagues, managers and friends.
Neil Ducoff, Strategies founder & CEO

Right now, this very moment, how many of your employees know exactly what the immediate and most critical objectives are for your business? ... Read More


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