Achieving That Elusive Work/Life Balance

May 23, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

Every salon/spa owner wants work/life balance, but relatively few achieve it.

Employees want it, but the reality of working in a salon/spa means that services must be available at times that meet client demand and needs.

So, the big question is … if everyone wants it, why is achieving work/life balance much like the quest for the holy grail?

FACT: Achieving work/life balance means reassessing priorities and being willing to make compromises.

Here’s what you need to know and the choices you need to make to achieve your version of work/life balance:

  • It’s about time management: Let’s face it, you could accomplish more great things in less time if you took control of your time. That means setting your priorities to manage what you allow on your plate. Too many owners get caught up in the day-to-day craziness of business fighting fires. Before you know it, the day is shot and your to-do list just got bigger. KEY: Time management demands personal discipline. Use your calendar to make appointments with yourself to work on tasks. Most important is to regard your calendar as your boss. Working smarter and more effectively is the key to unlocking personal time for family and stuff that makes life more fulfilling.
  • It’s about being a business owner: Be realistic, if you’re starting or expanding a business, you’re committing to doing whatever it takes to ensure that the business startup is successful. That means more time must be channeled to work and less to balance. That’s part of the choice to start or expand a business. KEY: Reread the first bullet. Managing your time, even if it means long days or periods of working on your business, it still means working smarter not harder. Many service-provider owners struggle with work/life balance because doing services leaves too little time for leading the business — let alone carving out personal/family time. Yes, there will be times when the business demands everything you’ve got. But achieving work/life balance should always be worked into your plan.
  • It’s about financial discipline: One of the beautiful things about money, profit, and positive cash flow is the freedom it creates. Likewise, tight cash flow, slim or no profit, creates stress and anxiety. When this scenario continues for extended periods, owners can, and will, fall out of love with their companies. The thought of work/life balance becomes a source of frustration — even resentment. KEY: We call the understanding and management of finances and cash flow, “financial literacy.” But being financially literate is pointless without financial disciplines. Spend less than your revenues. View debt as drag. Too much drag can kill a business. To achieve work/life balance, you must be financially disciplined. Profit and cash reserves buy you peace of mind and time. Got it?

... Read More

Is Your Salon/Spa Growing, Coasting, or Shrinking?

May 9, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Most certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic tested the resolve of
salon/spa owners at levels never seen before. But in many ways, that’s what succeeding in business is — a test of your resolve.

But even in the best of times, owning and leading a salon/spa
business is no walk in the park. There are good times, tough times, and, most certainly, times when your business can just feel stuck.

Once-in-a-century “shared” experience …

The pandemic forced all owners to experience a seriously tough, high-stress time, together. Social media and Zoom quickly became an owner’s lifeline for sharing ideas, learning, and, most of all, camaraderie.

And then there’s going it alone …

Pandemic aside, how a salon/spa business succeeds, struggles, or fails, is its unique journey. Growth is exhilarating. Coasting is frustrating. Shrinking is excruciating.

The arrival of spring means the harsh winter is behind us. Days are warmer. The smell of freshly cut grass is in the air. Flowers are blooming. New leaves fill the trees.... Read More

How to Fall Back in Love With Your Salon/Spa Business

April 25, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

The day you became a salon/spa owner, it was like a dream come true. But like any relationship, it can, and will, hit some rough spots.

Too often, those rough spots turn ownership into a true love/hate relationship. That’s especially so if the rough spots linger too long, or, devolve into what we not-so-fondly refer to as, the fiery pit of hell.

On the “love” side: Your salon/spa business is running like a finely tuned machine. You feel a sense of personal pride and accomplishment. Your team culture is dialed in, there’s money in the bank, your critical numbers are impressive — so much so, you love being an owner.

On the “hate” side: Employees drive you crazy, your culture needs fixing, cash flow sucks, debt load is scary, and you’re always stressed. You’re not sure how much more of this you can take. If there was a viable way to get out without losing everything — you’d take it in a heartbeat.... Read More

Imagine Your Salon/Spa Running at Full Potential

April 18, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

To have your salon/spa running at full potential is every owner’s dream.

Running at full potential means:

  • Your company-wide productivity rate averages 85%.
  • High first-time and existing client retention rates.
  • Everyone working within time standards.
  • Systems make your business consistent and predictable.
  • Every client receives a personalized retail recommendation.
  • Hitting service and retail goals damn near every month.
  • Your culture is dialed in and all staff are on the same page.
  • Cash flow is excellent with three-plus months of cash reserve.
  • No, or very little, debt.
  • Monthly net profit makes you proud of what you built.
  • Your company is meeting or exceeding growth goals.
  • You sleep good at night.

You get the picture. Running at full potential is a wonderful and enviable place to be.

As an entrepreneur, you also know that no matter how dialed in your business is, you see where it misses the mark. Where performance, behaviors, and execution could be better.... 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

10 Reasons for Salon/Spa Owners to Stay Positive

January 31, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | 3 Comments

For owners, staying positive in these uncertain times is something you need to keep working at. 

Of course, you’re weary of dealing with this pandemic. It’s been a tough ten months and COVID-19 is going to be with us a while longer.

When you’re dealing with cancellations, no shows, reduced capacity, client fears, employee quarantines, and tight cash flow, staying positive is a challenge. 

As an owner, your ability to stay positive cannot be underestimated or ignored. Why? Because the owner’s positivity establishes the company’s sense of urgency and performance expectations. So much so that the culture and performance of a salon/spa business is a direct reflection of the owner’s level of positivity.... Read More

It’s Time to Create a Better Future for Your Salon/Spa

January 24, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Since the start of the pandemic, many salon/spa owners have been stuck in survival mode.

Sadly, many were stuck in survival mode long before COVID-19.

When stuck in survival mode, it’s impossible to build the company you want.


Because all forward progress ceases. And when a business hunkers down for too long, the destabilizing backslide begins. 

Yes, everyone wants to get to the other side of this pandemic. The challenge is that many salons/spas, and independents, will not emerge in a competitive state.


Because shifting from survival mode to thrival mode is a process.... Read More

Need to Get Busy? Start Calling Clients

November 9, 2020 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

It’s early November. COVID-19 is surging. Many states and regions are tightening safety restrictions.

If your salon/spa is busy with high productivity rates and decent cash flow, kudos and keep doing what you’re doing.

However, if like many others, your salon/spa is not as busy as it was prior to COVID-19, experiencing low productivity, and cash flow has become scary — it’s time to get seriously aggressive.

  • Client referrals is still the gold standard for new customer acquisition. But it can be more of a drip feed of new business than a fire hose.
  • Traditional print advertising and direct mass mail is too expensive with low response rates.
  • Groupon — Your service prices are seriously discounted and it’s extremely hard to retain Groupon buyers. Don’t do Groupon.
  • Email marketing to your client list makes sense — if you use the right tactics. The problem with email marketing is that everyone’s email box is pummeled with marketing and spam.
  • Social media is a powerful tool — if you know what you’re doing. Facebook is a pay-to-play game that is far more complicated than just doing posts. Instagram is all about becoming an influencer to get seen. To work, both Facebook and Instagram demand significant time, expertise and attention.

If your salon/spa productivity rate is 60% to 70%, it’s time to get aggressive.... Read More

Six Strategies to Address Client Covid Fears, Cancellations & No Shows

July 19, 2020 | By Neil Ducoff | 8 Comments

The beauty of being an appointment-based salon/spa is the ability to accurately predict productivity and revenues.

The ugly part of being an appointment-based salon/spa are the last-minute cancellations and, even worse, the no shows.

For most salons and spas, reopening after the shutdown meant full appointment books and doing your best to accommodate clients long overdue for services.

But with infection rates surging in all but a few states, fear is also on the rise.

Now, just when you felt some semblance of business normalcy, COVID-19 fears are causing an uptick in last minute cancellations and client no shows.

Cancellations and no shows are a fact of life in all appointment-based businesses. However, with most salons/spas still operating at mandated reduced capacities, last-minute cancellations and no shows can be financially brutal.

These are extraordinary times that call for extraordinary measures. Many individuals and businesses are experiencing financial hardship. That’s why it may be time to add a financial commitment to the simple act of “reserving” a salon or spa appointment.... 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

“Me” Service to Become “Team Service” – Part 2

September 15, 2019 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

In Part One of last week’s blog post (read it here), I detailed why the industry’s pervasive “I/me/mine” attitude is the major obstacle to teamwork and the delivery of extraordinary customer service.

More importantly, I detailed what feeds the “I/me/mine” mentality. Because owners obsess over how much each individual brings in, the message being sent is that their “I/me/mine” numbers are all that matter.

  • Teamwork is compromised. Customer service is compromised. Team service doesn’t stand a chance.

Read Part One for my recommendations on how to shift your salon/spa from “Me” thinking to “We” thinking. This is a prerequisite to team service.

If you’re thinking, “What’s the big deal? Clients at my salon/spa are free to see anyone they want.”

My response is, “Are they really?” When clients call to schedule an appointment, the first question they’re asked is, “Who with and what day and time?” That’s “Me” service, not team service.... Read More

What it Really Takes to Live Best Practices

June 24, 2019 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

It’s no wonder why many salon/spa owners have an insatiable appetite for learning about “best practices.”

Best practices are best described as the methodologies, systems and behaviors that distinguish the “great” salons/spas from your “not-so-great” counterparts.

But learning about best practices, then implementing them, and then getting these transformative business approaches to stick, is another story.

It’s tough to get best practices to stick in a service business like a salon/spa.


Because nearly every aspect of the customer service experience is human dependent.

And because best practices are human dependent, living them consistently every day is 100% dependent on you, the leader.

As the leader of your salon/spa …

  • You are the keeper of your company vision.
  • You create and protect your culture.
  • You maintain accountability
  • You inspire your team to achieve breakthroughs

Here are five No-Compromise Leadership strategies to help you and your team implement and live best practices in your salon/spa every day.... Read More

How to Get Things Done

June 10, 2019 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Everyone wants to get things done.

Getting things done means making progress.

It means accomplishment.

Heck, getting things done just feels good!

So why is getting things done such a challenge? I’m not talking about simple things like tasks on a to-do list.

I’m talking about those profound things that require courage, commitment and tenacity to get to a better place.

When it comes to getting things done, it’s the same for personal and business:

  • You can’t lose weight or get physically fit if you don’t make better decisions on what you eat and make time to exercise and workout.
  • You can’t advance or fix what’s not working in your salon/spa without implementing change.

FACT: We all have dreams and visions for our future. Achieving those dreams and visions means getting things done.

So if you’re ready to get things done, here is my No-Compromise Leadership hit-list to get you started and across the finish line:... Read More

The High Cost of Non-Performers in the Salon/Spa

April 22, 2019 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

There is no question that all salon/spa owners want “A” players on their team.

The A players get the job done. They show up, work hard and add value to all that they do for the team, company and your customers. The A players give 100% of their 100%, and sometimes, even more.

Then why is it that owners allow, accept or even tolerate the presence of “B” and “C” on payroll?

The B players show up and do the work, but they give 80% to 85% of their 100% effort, passion and commitment. B players are reliable and do bring value, but require a lot of coaching and guidance to keep them on task and performing to expectations.

And then there are the “C” players. These employees give 70% or less of their 100% effort. Passion and commitment are hit or miss. These are the employees that, no matter how much you coach them, come up far short of expectations.

Yet, C players can be found on the payrolls at almost every salon/spa.

I use the “found on payroll” reference because no matter what the C employee’s rate of pay, you’re paying for 100% performance and only getting 70% or less in return.... Read More

Take the Salon & Spa Pre-Book Rate Challenge

December 4, 2017 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Salon Spa Pre-Book Rate Challenge

The number one absolutely extraordinary business advantage of salons and spas is that you have each client’s undivided, one-on-one, attention for 30 minutes to an hour or more.

The number two absolutely extraordinary business advantage of salons and spas is that almost all of your primary services need to be maintained with regularly scheduled appointments — especially haircut and color services.

The number three absolutely extraordinary business advantage of salons and spas is that when you combine the two previous advantages, pre-booking a client’s future maintenance appointments is about as natural a process as it gets.

Take all three of these absolutely extraordinary business advantages and there is no acceptable reason for a salon or spa’s pre-book rate to be less than 70%. The exceptions are resort, destination and highly seasonal locations.... Read More

Working Owners: Why You Must Work More ON than In Your Salon/Spa

September 19, 2016 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Why You Must Work More "ON" than "In" Your Salon/Spa

As a working owner, when you say, “I love doing [hair/skin/nails/massage]” … it is a true expression of your passion and commitment for the technical and creative work that got you into business.

Your work defines and fulfills you. And it should.

But the day you become a salon/spa owner … what defines you changes. Like it or not, your focus, determination, responsibilities and accountabilities are forever changed.

  • It’s no longer about what your hands can create … it’s about what you can envision, execute, organize, systematize, innovate and inspire.
  • More than anything, it’s about your ability to be a leader.

Doing great work is a very different career path than leading great work. Doing great work is a personal expression of your creative and technical talent.... Read More

Grading Your Salon/Spa Retail & Pre-book Efforts

May 9, 2016 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Salon/spa owners: Are you flunking “Happiness”?

If the pre-book and retail recommendation is the undisputed professional conclusion to a salon/spa service … why isn’t every client receiving this essential professional advice?

  • Why the persistent push-back and indifference from service providers?
  • Why the disconnect between service providers and guest services staff at checkout?

“Happiness” is a super-simple system that Strategies introduced a number of years ago. It’s a system that connects service providers to guest services at checkout. It consists of a scripted “here’s what we did today recap,” a pre-book/recommended maintenance cycle and the recommended products for home use.

Simple? Yes.

Consistently executed? Not even close.

Related: Get instant access to our Happiness training video and cheat sheet here.... Read More

Why Salon & Spa Owners Must Be Relentlessly Persistent

February 8, 2016 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Can you feel the burn?

Leading a salon or spa business to extraordinary success is no different than working out.

If you have not done it in a while, that first effort is going to hurt. But after a couple of workouts, your body adapts to the effort and you push harder.

You’ve gotta push hard, recover and push hard again.

Getting to that elusive next level is the process of persistently applying positive stress in ways that inspire your team to adapt to higher and more refined levels of performance. If you’re afraid to apply positive stress for fear of push back from staff – you, your business and your staff are stuck.

  • Applying positive stress only works when the goal is worthy of the extra effort. When a leader’s relentless persistence detaches from the goal … it devolves into just doing the work.

A leader is like a throttle and your team is the engine. The leader instinctively knows how hard to push the engine based on current conditions. Just like an engine needs a throttle … a team needs its leader to set the pace and direction.... Read More

No-Compromise Leadership Choices Drive Consistency

October 5, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

No-compromise leadership = Consistency across all four business outcomes (Productivity, Profitability, Staff Retention and Customer Loyalty). It’s such a simple equation. Yet, within its simplicity is a profound message to all who lead, or seek to lead others. The rich word for me here is consistency. Consistency is perhaps the most challenging aspect of no-compromise leadership to comprehend and live, because how one leads is influenced by the leader’s collective abilities, beliefs, behavior styles, perceptions and life experiences.

How long your voyage to no-compromise leadership will take depends on current behavior patterns. Some people are natural achievers while others are procrastinators. There are those who obsess over every minor detail in their quest for perfection. In leadership positions they can bog things down by micro-managing everything. At the other end of the spectrum are those who hate the details and do all they can to avoid them. In leadership positions, they can wreak havoc by communicating in such broad brush stokes that the outcomes they desire are vague and open to broad interpretation … if achieved at all. For a company’s performance and culture to be consistent, its leader must be a model of consistency. This is non-negotiable. It is one’s commitment and ability to be consistent that defines the no-compromise leader.... Read More

How to Dial-In Your Salon/Spa Business Performance

September 14, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

You have expectations for how your business performs. You want to maintain an optimal productivity rate while delivering extraordinary customer service. You want a great culture that inspires your team to go above and beyond. You want predictable revenue growth, a manageable payroll, controlled expenses, a cash reserve and a respectable net profit. Most of all, you want to enjoy being the leader of your own company and not be stressed out putting out fires, dealing with problem employees and struggling to pay bills.

The difference between achieving your performance expectations and being stressed out and struggling is the attention you give to “dialing in” the operational functions of your business. “Dialing in” means finding that optimal setting that achieves the desired performance. Think of leading your business like being at the control panel of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. There are multiple data screens, throttles, flight controls, dials, switches, levers and gauges. Each one needs to be set just right for takeoff, cruising altitude and landing. However, like in business, there are variables like wind speed, wind direction, temperature, the weight of the plane with passengers, baggage, cargo, fuel and more … that require a host of settings to be dialed in for current and future conditions.... Read More

Six Secrets to Hitting Monthly Salon/Spa Goals

September 7, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Business is about driving growth and making progress. The only way to measure that growth and to know if your company is making progress is to have monthly goals. Interestingly, no matter how scientific or mathematically savvy you are at goal setting, a goal is simply your best guess. If you’re overly optimistic, your goal guesses will tend to be more aggressive and require high levels of coordination and effort. If you’re overly conservative, your goal guesses will be conservatively middle of the road. If your overly pessimistic, your goal guesses will typically reflect the lethargic state of your company under your leadership. If you don’t set monthly revenue goals, you are leaving the fate of your company up to the powers of the universe which translates into, “If you don’t care, neither will the universe.”

Given that a goal is simply a best guess, the secrets to achieving monthly goals have everything to do with how you position, approach and apply effort to achieving those goals. If you want to lose weight and get fit, the first step is to make an unwavering commitment to losing weight and getting fit. I use the word “unwavering” because anything less leaves room for that rogue Twinkie and too many naps. Then comes the diet and fitness plan. Once the plan is set, it’s all about effort and execution. The more focused, intense and flawless the execution, the better the results and the closer you get to your weight and fitness goal. It’s the same in business.... Read More

Dynamics of Salon & Spa Productivity Rates

August 24, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | 3 Comments

Productivity is about a consistent, efficient and proficient output rate in a specified time. If it needs to be accomplished – its productivity rate can be measured. In a service business, achieving and maintaining an optimal productivity rate can mean operating in the glow of profitability or the stress of mounting losses. The challenge is that creating those extraordinary customer service experiences at the optimal productivity rate requires a level of leadership, coordination and systemization that many leaders don’t fully comprehend. Dialing in an automated production line and dialing in a team of people are two extremely different processes.

You may be able to “set and forget” a machine’s productivity rate … but you simply cannot “set and forget” the productivity rate of people. Machines are built to be task specific … people, even those with natural abilities, require training and skill development. Machines can run 24/7 … people need breaks and have limits to their workday. Machines live at work … people can be late for work, have absentee issues, and some actually forget to show up. Machines don’t procrastinate or avoid doing their work … some people do. There are some similarities; Machines age and break down … so do people. Machines quit working … so do people. All things considered, leading a team of people to be productive is, and always will be, an ongoing process.... Read More

How to Increase Salon & Spa Productivity in Six Steps

August 20, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

So, your salon/spa is not as productive and efficient as it should be. You’re certainly not alone and share the same frustrations as many of the country’s top salons and spas. Now, how do you reach the target benchmark of +/- 85% productivity and achieve the kind of profit levels that you deserve?

There are six strategies to accomplish this objective, and they don’t include layoffs, closing locations or other drastic and painful measures. However, if your productivity rate is less than 40%, decisive steps may be required today to ensure the salon/spa’s survival and success tomorrow. For most salons and spas, it’s a question of prioritizing the right activities to increase output.

Here are six strategies to get you on the path to greater productivity:

1. Retain 75-80% of New Clients
On average salons and spa retain only 30% or new clients. Imagine what your appointment book would look like if 80-90% of clients pre-booked before they left the salon/spa. You know what that does to your productivity rates? They skyrocket. And you know what that costs? NOTHING! Now think about how much you spend on marketing only to run at 30% retention. Get it? What most owners fail to realize, is that client retention is the most powerful revenue producing and productivity building strategies available to them.... Read More

How to Control Your Time Bandits

July 21, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 3 Comments

You worked hard all day on a bunch of stuff. There were emails, phone calls, tasks, interruptions – and some fires that would have burned out of control had you not stepped up to play fireman.

You’ve had a busy day, but what meaningful work did you truly accomplish? How much progress did you make on those gotta-do projects scattered all over your plate?

Fact: being “busy” does not translate into being productive and making forward progress.

Being busy can mean you’re procrastinating on work you should be doing.

Being busy can mean that you’re doing work that others can and should be doing.

Lastly, being busy can mean that you’ve set yourself up to be an easy target for time bandits.... Read More

Leaders think and speak as WE

May 19, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

scullingIt doesn’t matter if your title is owner, president, CEO or fearless leader – you are responsible for the wellbeing, performance and growth of your company. Just like we humans, companies are born. Healthy ones grow and prosper creating opportunities for leaders, employees and stakeholders. Likewise, unhealthy companies can suffer and die. And, like humans, companies have vital signs that can be read in the form of Profit & Loss Statements, Balance Sheets and Statements of Cash Flows. Physically fit companies are disciplined, accountable and purpose driven. Weak and sickly companies are undisciplined, rarely get things done, and wander around aimlessly hoping to trip over success.... 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

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

How to manage time like money

June 17, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 4 Comments

I was in Livermore, CA, last week doing a private No-Compromise Leadership training session for a client and friend. I stayed over an extra day so we could do a bike ride through the beautiful vineyards and countryside. While riding, we got into a discussion about time management. I said, “Manage time like money. Think of all the stuff you need to accomplish as if they are line items on a Profit and Loss Statement. Income is your time. Now, what would you do differently?”

Time truly is like money. We only have so much of it and always wish we had more. If we are frugal with it, we can maximize our time, invest it wisely, and be incredibly productive. We can squander our time by being disorganized, lazy, and a master of procrastination. Lastly, we can allow our time to be stolen by others simply because we let them. Like money, time will disappear if you don’t pay attention and budget it like the precious resource it is. (more…)... Read More

Leading is about believing in people

May 13, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 8 Comments

believe_inBeing the leader of a business is perhaps one of the most complex, rewarding, and often brutally frustrating professions. Leaders are constantly held accountable, subjected to relentless demands, and must always be at the top of their game. A true leader works tirelessly to drive the Four Business Outcomes: productivity, profitability, staff retention, and customer loyalty. But when you peel away all of the trappings of leadership, what it really comes down to is believing in people – and that’s where things start to get interesting.

A leader’s job is to achieve results through the work of others. They keep people and teams on task. They maintain order, direction, and momentum. But would you want to work for a leader who is solely driven by the numbers, in an organization where people are simply the means to an end? In turn, would you want to be that kind of leader? You will get your results, but at what cost to those you lead; and at what cost to the work environment, or company culture? (more…)... Read More

Six simple questions to test the health of your company

April 8, 2013 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

stethoscopeCompanies are very much like people. They are born from a union of ideas; they experience all of the awkward phases of learning to walk and develop basic skills; and hopefully, they grow up with much success. Like people, companies can catch colds – they face obstacles in health when it comes to performance issues, cash-flow challenges, and other problems that surface unexpectedly. Companies need to work out to stay strong and lean rather than heavy and lethargic. Companies can get sick and die.

As a leader, it is your responsibility to protect and ensure the health and vitality of your company. That being said, you are also the one who is ultimately responsible for making your company sick through bad decision-making, procrastination, allowing the company’s culture to deteriorate, poor cash management, and a host of other faux pas that leaders notoriously self-inflict.... Read More

4 Tips For Surviving The Salon & Spa Holiday Rush

November 30, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

4 tips for surviving the salon spa holiday rush

Whether we like it or not, the holidays are here! While we all would like to think of the holidays as a happy and cheerful time, as salon and spa business owners we all know that it can also mean a time of high stress. Vendors are coming at us at all different directions asking us to buy more inventory to sell as gift items. Clients are clamoring to get in for the next appointment. Weather disruptions often play havoc on our hours of operation and the list goes on and on. Additionally, we also have all of our personal agendas that come during holiday time, like buying presents for family and friends, entertaining and the likes.

As we move into the holiday season, here are some professional and personal pointers to keep you level-headed and calm in the salon or spa this year.... Read More

Success and the Factor of TEN

October 1, 2012 | By Neil Ducoff | 3 Comments

In last week’s installment I wrote, “A leader must want to succeed ten times more than those they lead.” Take a moment to really feel the meaning and depth of those words. Wanting success to the Factor of TEN is the energy that transforms a leader doing a job into a No-Compromise Leader. It transcends ordinary to extraordinary. It’s that level of leadership that captivates followers and lifts them all to that elusive next level. It’s when action and results replace words and promises. It’s all in the Factor of TEN.

As leaders, we all want to succeed, but by a factor of what? Would you feel inspired and empowered following a leader with a factor of two? How clear and precise would the vision be? Would there a shared determination to achieve breakthroughs, or would average be good enough? During a coaching call with a client, I asked, “What is your biggest concern?” He responded, “Motivating my team.” I then explained my Factor of TEN concept. The conversation quickly shifted from productivity and sales to creating extraordinary customer service experiences – about lighting up each and every customer’s day. (more…)... Read More

Hurts so good: Overcoming the pain of positive change

September 28, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | 2 Comments

John Cougar Mellencamp said it best: “Hurts so good. Come on baby make it hurt so good”.

Personally, I can think of a few times when that statement was actually true. One time was when I finished my first marathon in 95-degree weather. All the pain and commitment from months of training finally paid off as I crossed the finish line after 26.2 miles. Another was recently when I had to have physical therapy on my shoulder due to two dislocated ribs. As a stylist of 29 years, the pain in my shoulder had become almost unbearable when I would blow dry. My physical therapist pulled, twisted, massaged and made major adjustments that were down-right painful, but at the same time “hurt so good”. Now I’m on my way to a full recovery thanks to the pain I was willing to endure to get the end result.

Now let’s put a spin on this and relate it to running your salon or spa business. Do you have some painful areas that are clouding your vision for your company? Or perhaps there are some sore spots you need to address, such as people on your team that you would be better off without? Maybe you need to make some serious financial cuts that would be painful at first, but in the end would be more beneficial for the company and your financial future? The pain is worth the end result.... Read More

How to get employees to do great things

September 24, 2012 | By Neil Ducoff | 9 Comments

It’s one thing to be a great individual achiever by outperforming and outselling everyone around you, innovating the coolest breakthrough ideas, mastering the work that feeds your passion – perhaps even leaping tall buildings in a single bound. Yup, there’s nothing like being at the top of your personal game and being recognized as a rock star in your chosen field. It’s what’s possible when you have the courage and tenacity to relentlessly push yourself beyond the comfort zone of “ordinary” to “extraordinary.”

It’s something completely different to lead and inspire an entire company of people to do great things. It doesn’t matter if there are five, 500 or 5,000 people looking to you for direction and inspiration; it’s just not that easy to get that fire in your gut to burn bright in others. As a leader or entrepreneur, your dream was to grow a company – not be a cheerleader, disciplinarian, or babysitter. Heck, just getting employees to show up on time for a meeting or follow a new policy can be a Herculean task. It’s that “people thing” that keeps getting in the way. It wears you down and takes all the fun out of growing a company. (more…)... Read More

Are your front desk systems firing on all cylinders?

August 31, 2012 | By Eric Ducoff | 1 Comment

It’s a scenario most of us have lived out hundreds of times: Coffee in hand, we unlock the front door to the salon/spa and walk straight past the front desk as we settle in to begin our daily duties as owners, managers, leaders, etc.

But lets stop right there and back up a few steps — keep going until you get back to the front desk. Now, take a minute to think about your front desk. Not the physical desk, but the experience your clients have when they interact with your front desk/guest services staff. Are clients treated friendly? Are appointments being pre-booked? Are retail sales being rung up? Are clients’ concerns being addressed quickly and courteously? Is the interaction your clients are experiencing on par with how you envision?

Now, ask yourself one last question: Are you doing your part to prepare your front desk staff to deliver the experience that you — and your clients — expect from them?

Here are a five simple areas to focus on to get your front desk systems firing on all cylinders:... 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

5 ways to boost summer sales in the salon or spa

July 19, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

Ah yes, the lazy days of summer. Often times, those lazy days seap into the atmosphere in the salon/spa — and you can tell things at the salon are little too slow, or just too quite. You walk on the floor and you feel as though you are being watched, and it looks like the staff is lacking energy or urgency. Is it because its summer and we are all chilled and relaxed? In the end, it doesn’t really matter what it is — we need a mood shift!

Here are few tips to recharge your team’s morale — and boost those summer sales:

  1. Identify who in the salon need an uplift, get them to go to hair show or class.
  2. When times are not so busy, bring in a motivator to come for an ” hour of power” (stand up comedy theaters often do team building sessions), or just play a game every morning to boost moral.
  3. Change the music.
  4. Have a sale contest with a team goal. This will hike up the urgency and, if you add elements that make it fun and engage clients, now you’ve created buzz!
  5. Great game: Give your staff an opportunity to do great things, and reward them for their efforts. Example: Each member has the opportunity to “wow” the client. The best “wow” gets a reward. Give a budget of up to $25.00 a person to wow the client, although you don’t have to use money for it’s not in the budget — everybody can get creative .

Create fun and it will change the atmosphere.... 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

How to harness the power of momentum

May 14, 2012 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

True forward momentum pushes through any obstacle. It has an implied efficiency because once an object achieves a certain level of forward momentum, it requires less energy to maintain that speed. By connecting the physics of an object in motion (a piece of matter) to a business in motion (an idea/concept), you gain a unique perspective on how momentum can work for a business.

A start-up business requires massive amounts of energy to gain enough forward momentum to sustain itself. Once it achieves a level of sustainable momentum, you can dial back the throttle a bit and allow “physics” to work for you. In essence, the leader is “piloting” the business by adjusting throttle to maintain its forward momentum. Achieve a certain level and the company can easily break through obstacles such as competitors, cash crises, loss of key employees, bad decisions and other issues. However, every obstacle the company breaks through chips away at its momentum. If the leader fails to throttle up the company’s sense of urgency to overcome the obstacles in its way, it will lose its energy and eventually stall. (more…)... 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 Ensure Salon/Spa Policies Are Followed

April 30, 2012 | By Neil Ducoff | 6 Comments

Companies evolve over time and so do their policies and procedures. New policies are written to prevent certain issues from reoccurring, to fend off potential problems before they happen, and to maintain a semblance of organizational order and efficiency. For the sake of this discussion, I’ll just call them the laws of the land. There are laws for performance, attendance, compensated and uncompensated time off, customer service, execution of work, chain of command, performance reviews – you name it, there’s a way to create a law to control it.

But as your book of laws gets thicker, keeping watch over and holding everyone accountable to your laws grows in complexity. That’s why companies need managers and HR departments. Without a control mechanism, even the most commonsense laws will fade, allowing problems to spring up like weeds in an unattended garden. To succeed, laws need an accountability factor. It doesn’t matter what size a company is, someone must be accountable to protecting the laws of your company land. Even if it’s a simple reminder to someone that keeps ignoring a basic law like what time work begins, accountability must be ever present.
... Read More

Five strategies to find and keep your strength

April 23, 2012 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Let’s face it, it’s hard to be on your leadership game every day. In fact, it’s shortsighted to even think it’s possible. The work of leading a company is a constantly moving and shifting target. It’s supposed to be that way because “current reality” is something you only have partial control over. That’s why you often find yourself fighting those inevitable fires. Put one fire out over here and another ignites over there. Such is the work of leadership.

Even in the best-run companies, there are times when the fires seem to ignite faster than you can stomp them out. You feel like Davy Crockett at the Alamo hopelessly outnumbered and fighting off Santa Ana’s Mexican army using your rifle as a club. Leadership battles wear you down. Too much current reality wears you down. The question is: What are you going to do to find your strength? If you continue to forge ahead when your batteries are warning that “10% remaining until shutdown,” you will find yourself making bad decisions, communicating in ways that tear down rather than lift up, and most likely being the source of new fires. (more…)... Read More

Five ways to stay energized in your business

April 19, 2012 | By Bruce Hourigan | No Comments

Feeling a little blue? First-quarter sales not quite what you were hoping for? Just a little worn out by the day-to-day routine? Try these tips to recharge your batteries and get reinspired about being a leader:

  1. Know it’s not always going to be easy. There are going to be tough days, difficult decisions, cash-flow challenges, people who call in sick. Have a plan for how to deal with the days when you’re frustrated, angry, sad or aggravated. Start now by making a list of “Things I Love About My Salon/Spa.” Add to it regularly; revisit it often.
  2. Plan for the long term. Identifying where you’re going in a few months or years can help you keep your eye on the prize. Staying focused on your ultimate goals for your business will remind you of the big picture. Take time to review where you’ve come from, too. We can get bogged down in the everyday grind and forget how we’ve grown, how much better we’ve gotten.
  3. Involve your team. Your business can never grow without the energy of your staff members. Look to them for ideas, support and suggestions. And be sure to offer lots of appreciation. Your staff has lots of options about where they work. They chose you. Doesn’t that make you feel good?
  4. Don’t put off tough decisions. The mental drain from not doing is far greater than what’s involved when you make a decision and act. Thinking everything over and over and over (and over) before making decisions is exhausting and sure to sap your energy. Gather the facts, follow your heart, and take action.

Find the joy. Every day. Think about what went right, who went beyond the usual call of duty, which customer was especially happy. Can’t think of anything? Try harder. Ask your staff for the highlights of their days too. Jot down notes as you move through your day, just so you won’t forget. Laugh together with your team, share stories, do things just for fun.  Take a few minutes for yourself – even on the busiest days – to take a walk, breathe deeply, read the cartoons or watch a funny online video. Don’t underestimate the importance of self-care – exercising, eating well, getting sufficient sleep, connecting with friends and family.... Read More

Six strategies to building your dream team

April 9, 2012 | By Neil Ducoff | 3 Comments

If you agree with the statement, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” then you understand that even the slightest imperfection can result in catastrophic failure. Under intense loads, the integrity of every chain link is tested. Just one flaw, just one microscopic crack, and ships run aground, property is damaged, momentum stops, lives are lost. We trust that every link will do its job and perform to expectations.

I used two powerful words to describe the expectations of a chain: integrity and trust. If the integrity of one link is compromised, we cannot trust that the chain will hold. If the integrity of multiple links is compromised, the chain will never perform to its full potential – the chain cannot be trusted. From outward appearances, the chain may appear perfectly fine, but the flaws and imperfections are there. Eventually, the chain will fail.... 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


Get your free coaching call now!


Need help with choosing a membership?
Fill out this form!