Three BIG Cheers for Blush Salon Spa

August 4, 2019 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

Lacey Spaulding is the owner of Blush Salon Spa in Fargo, ND.

  • Lacey is a long-time coaching client of Strategies and winner of the 2016 Team-Based Pay Award for Culture Shift.
  • Lacey has grown Blush into an efficient, profitable business with a truly impressive team-based culture.
  • Blush Salon has been in the very capable care of Strategies Coach, Steve Swanson.

But nothing can prepare a leader and team for the sudden and tragic loss last June of Johnny Grey, who was not just a valued team member, but a team member with an infectious spirit for life and dedication to teaching and delivering the highest standards of professional salon services.

On August 2nd, Lacey posted the following to the Strategies Facebook page.

I seriously can’t even make this up. We hit our July service goal on the EXACT DOLLAR yesterday. We exceeded retail by $339, and hit service right on as our very last client checked out last night! ... Read More

What Salons & Spas Need to Know about Team Bonus Disqualifiers

November 6, 2017 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Team Bonus Disqualifiers for Salons Spas

If you get caught speeding, you get a ticket.

In sports, if you commit a foul, you get penalized.

So, doesn’t it make perfect sense that if an employee breaks enough rules, he or she can be “disqualified” from team bonus?

The answer is YES, NO and it DEPENDS.

Strategies has been teaching the in’s and out’s of Team Bonus for over 24 years because it’s an integral element of our Team-Based Pay (TBP) business model.

NOTE: Team Bonus is not exclusive to TBP. It can add a “teamwork” incentive to any pay program.... Read More

A Celebration of Industry Excellence and Hope

October 23, 2017 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

A celebration of industry excellence and hope

On October 16th, Strategies held the 2017 TBP Award Ceremony during our fourth annual Team-Based Pay Conference.

Over 300 conference attendees gathered together for what has become both an inspiring and emotional evening of celebration.

The best way to celebrate these eight outstanding TBP Award winners is by sharing their own words from their 2017 TBP Award Application:

Productivity Award:

Business: Savoye Salon Spa
Location: Suamico, WI
Owner: Michell Bartlien

“Savoye is a really productive salon. In November 2016, we were over productive, typically were running at 125%. We learned why that wasn’t so great. Regular guests were being turned away, whether pre-booking or not, there were not enough hours available. We have groomed new staff and have already seen a difference in our productivity sticking to the target 85%. Productivity is also about the guest experience. It is consistent and we give them value.... Read More

2017 Team-Based Pay Awards Winners

October 16, 2017 | By Eric Ducoff | No Comments

The third annual Team-Based Pay Awards were held October 15, 2017 at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort & Spa in San Antonio, TX. The awards ceremony ran concurrently with Strategies Team-Based Pay Conference at the same location.
Strategies created the Team-Based Pay Awards to celebrate and honor the superior performance and financial successes of salons, spas and medspas that are currently using Strategies Team-Based Pay compensation program.
Entrants were required to answer essay questions for each of the eight award categories, as well as provide profit & loss statements, balance sheets, cash-flow plans and broadbands for each department.

The 2017 Team-Based Pay Award winners:

Best Turn Around Award: Studio 16 Salon & Spa — Yakima, WA. Owner: Andrea Wintzer
Andi Wintzer Team-Based Pay Awards... Read More

Brand Building for Team-Based Pay Salons & Spas

April 24, 2017 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Brand Building for Team-Based Pay Salons Spas

Being busy doesn’t create a brand.

Filling chairs and treatment rooms doesn’t build a brand.

Building client loyalty to “stylists/estheticians/massage tech/etc.” is more anti-brand building than anything.

There are amazing ways to “build” career opportunities for service providers far beyond “building their book.”

Building a brand means building a “company” that delivers something unique and special to its customers that competitors just can’t match.

Here are TWO significant brand-building strategies for salons and spas that fit perfectly into the Team-Based Pay Business Model:

Strategy #1: Sell “TIME” … not “services”

Your salon/spa sells time in exchange for your professional services. The old business model is about filling up individual service providers’ columns on the appointment book with haircuts, color, skin care, etc. A “seize the moment” business model could easily be about selling clients blocks of time to receive multiple services and professional guidance from a team.... Read More

The Danger of Who Gets the Credit

March 20, 2017 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Danger of Who Gets the Credit

I was in a Barney’s New York store looking for new suit.

I narrowed the selection to a suit I really liked and was ready for some sales help.

About ten feet away, two sales people are having an argument about “who should get the credit” for a sale.

The store was pretty empty so it was easy to hear every word.

This went on for ten minutes while I stood there…waiting.

Had I not liked this suit so much, I would have left and no one would get the sale.

Finally, one of them came over to help. I said, “I could hear you both arguing over a sale. Customers shouldn’t hear that kind of stuff.” Embarrassed, she apologized and helped me buy the suit.

The “who gets the credit” argument plays out in salons and spas every day. Yes … it happens even in Team-Based Pay salons/spas.... Read More

2016 Team-Based Pay Awards Winners

September 21, 2016 | By Eric Ducoff | No Comments

2016 Team-Based Pay Awards Winners

The second annual Team-Based Pay Awards were held September 18, 2016 at the Westin Chicago Northwest in Itasca, IL. The awards ceremony ran concurrently with Strategies Team-Based Pay Conference at the same location.
Strategies created the Team-Based Pay Awards to celebrate and honor the superior performance and financial successes of salons, spas and medspas that are currently using Strategies Team-Based Pay compensation program.
Entrants were required to answer essay questions for each of the eight award categories, as well as provide profit & loss statements, balance sheets, cash-flow plans and broadbands for each department.

The 2016 Team-Based Pay Award winners:

Productivity Award: Moshi Moshi – Chapel Hill, NC – Owner Catlin Hettel.
... Read More

Salon & Spa Interviewing and the PAY Conversation

September 12, 2016 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

A phone call comes in for a position you want to fill. The prospective employee says, “I’m interested in the [service provider] position you have open. What commission rate do you pay?”

I have never understood why, in the salon/spa industry, the pay conversation can begin before an owner has a chance to say, “Tell me a little about your experience.”

Hiring a stylist, colorist, esthetician, massage therapist, nail tech or any other technical position, is all about finding the right fit in terms of skill, personality and culture. It’s an investment of time, energy and resources to create the right opportunity for the right individual.

It’s imperative to ensure that these pieces fit before the pay conversation begins.

The intricacies of hiring an employee is diametrically opposed to renting a booth or suite where the service provider’s ability to pay rent is paramount.... Read More

Owning an Employee-Based Salon or Spa

July 18, 2016 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Owning an Employee-Based Salon or Spa

There are many voices that say, “Commission salon/spas are a thing of the past.”

What I don’t understand is why “commission” … a method of compensation … is used to describe an employee-based business.

The voices predicting the demise of commission salon/spas mostly come from those involved in booth rental and suites (independents that rent and those that need to rent space). Ads for suites all tout the same theme …

“Be your own boss.”

Yes, suites are the new shiny thing and getting lots of attention, but they target the talent at employee-based salons/spas to fill those suites.

Commission salon/spas are easy targets because the hook is: “Why make 40% or 50% when you can keep it all?”... Read More

Team-Based Pay Case Studies

June 30, 2016 | By Eric Ducoff | No Comments

Want to see what Team-Based Pay looks like in action? Here are two case studies showcasing the financial and cultural horsepower of a Team-Based Pay salon/spa.

Case Study #1 – The Urban Salon Team – Burlington, VT 

Case Study #2 – Rituals Salon-Spa – Midlothian, VA

Team-Based Pay Case Study [#1]: The Urban Salon Team

Team-Based Pay Case Study - Urban Salon TeamThe Urban Salon Team
2015 & 2017 Team-Based Pay Awards winner for Client Loyalty
Owner: Stacey Hamblett
Location: Burlington, VT
Square Feet: 1,300
Year Opened: 2000
Began Team-Based Pay: June 2011
Website: Read More

The Dirty Truth About Salon & Spa Service Payroll Costs

June 6, 2016 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

Warning: The following may be a tough pill for many salon and spa owners to swallow… but it’s one that needs to be swallowed nonetheless.

Ready? Let’s talk salon and spa service payroll costs:

The Strategies benchmark for service payroll (not commission rate) is 30 to 35 percent of total revenue (Service Sales + Retail Sales = Total Revenue) … as it appears on a Profit and Loss Statement.

Each and every time we post this benchmark on the Strategies Salon/Spa Idea Exchange Facebook discussion group, owners say, “No one will work for that commission rate.”

And of course, stylists and other service providers post high attitude comments like, “I would NEVER give 65 percent of what I bring in to the owner.” Others say, “Based on my skill and experience, I would be insulted to be offered such a low commission rate.”

Disconnect on Service Payroll Percent

No matter how many times we clarify that our benchmark of 30 to 35 percent of total revenue has nothing to do with commission rates … it is clear that many owners and service providers are have difficulty understanding that we are referring to the total payroll cost for all service providers to the business.... Read More

When Salon & Spa Employees Choose to Leave

April 11, 2016 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment


When service providers decide to quit a salon/spa, it is anything but, “Go gently into that good night.”

All too often, the process plays out with clandestine plotting and close teammates swearing secrecy. The easy part is quitting the salon/spa.

The difficult part is figuring out how to get the clients they serviced to follow them to a new location. The presumption is that all clients that requested them “belong to them.” And why not, they did the work.

Owners have a very different perspective. Owners look at their investment in training, coaching and filling the service provider’s appointment books with new clients. Owners look at the collective effort that is required to “build” a successful service provider.... Read More

Why Retail Commission Does Not Work in Salons & Spas

March 21, 2016 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

why retail commission doesn't work in salons and spas

For an industry that is so dependent on professional products, we still haven’t broken the secret code to get professional service providers to sell.

Even with the advancement and sophistication of salon and spa retail space, service provider engagement in retail selling is disappointing at best, and frustratingly indifferent at worse.

We’ve all heard the infamous, “I’m not a salesperson,” statement from service providers. Yet, the predominant reward for selling retail at salons and spas is a salesperson commission rate. If the process of selling retail is distasteful … will a retail commission rate make selling retail taste better?... Read More

What California Bill 1513 Means for Salons and Spas on Commission

March 17, 2016 | By Eric Ducoff | 7 Comments

California Bill 1513 for Commission piece-rate legislation salons and spas

Note: Although CA employment attorneys were consulted when researching this article, we highly recommend that you contact a legal representative to discuss your rights and responsibilities on this topic. Strategies is not a legal councel and the contents of this article should not be considered as such. We will be updating this post as more information is presented to us.

Commission salons and spas in California were just given the ultimate “Bad Hair Day”.

With the passage of California Bill 1513 “piece-rate legislation”, the rules have completely changed on how salon and spa owners can compensate their stylists and massage therapists.... Read More

How Employee-Based Salons Will Endure Rental & Suites

January 25, 2016 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

There are those in our industry who believe that the popularity of booth rental and suites is going to mark the end of days for employee-based salons. Sorry, but this is not the case. Is there a decline in the number of salons? Yes … a few percentage points … but nothing worthy of saying employee-based salons are done for. Still, this kind of fear-based rhetoric is certainly enough to send needless chills down a salon owner’s spine and have them questioning the viability of their once predominant business model.

Booth rental has been around for decades and has most definitely penetrated almost every market. The emergence of salon suites and suite franchises solidifies the booth rental model’s place in the salon industry. However, with all due respect, much of the mass advertising for the “suite opportunity” is half-baked and misleading. Why? Because the suite business model is about getting stylists to sign multi-year leases.

Markets change, business models come and go … but to survive and thrive, independent salons must adapt. To truly succeed and endure – salons must become innovative and distinctive brands that deliver truly extraordinary technical skills and customer service at a level that’s often discussed, but rarely delivered.... Read More

2015 Team-Based Pay Award Winners

October 6, 2015 | By Eric Ducoff | No Comments

The first annual Team-Based Pay Awards were held September 27, 2015 at the Westin Chicago Northwest in Itasca, IL. The awards ceremony ran concurrently with Strategies Team-Based Pay Conference at the same location.
Strategies created the Team-Based Pay Awards to celebrate and honor the superior performance and financial successes of salons, spas and medspas that are currently using Strategies Team-Based Pay compensation program.
Entrants were required to answer essay questions for each of the eight award categories, as well as provide profit & loss statements, balance sheets, cash-flow plans and broadbands for each department.
Industry icon, Ann Bray (2014 International Hairstylist of the Year / Hunger Games), was the keynote speaker at the award ceremony. Ann told her story of how Team-Based Pay not only saved her family’s salon, but also helped it become profitable and debt free. “I went from working all the time and not taking a paycheck, to not working at all and still taking a paycheck,” said Bray. “And I owe that all to Team-Based Pay.”... Read More

Making Peace with Performance Reviews

August 10, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Do you do quarterly performance reviews at least once a year? That’s a line from my No-Compromise Leadership book that always gets an unsettled chuckle. Why? Because there’s something about conducting performance reviews that causes them to be avoided, conveniently forgotten or dreaded. For many leaders, the thought of scheduling performance reviews is the equivalent of sentencing themselves to hour after hour after hour in purgatory. If you regard once a year as bad enough, quarterly performance reviews are going to be pure torture. But no matter how you view the process, avoiding performance reviews is a massive leadership compromise.

All leaders want to have a dynamic, efficient and productive business with a culture dedicated to delivering relentless quality. They want engaged employees who believe in the vision and purpose of the business. And more than anything … they just want employees that do their job. But what leaders want, requires that leaders also do the most essential part of their job – to coach and inspire employees. Performance reviews are simply part of the work of leadership to bring out the best in those they lead.... Read More

Anatomy of Payroll Expense

August 3, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

If you have a business, you have payroll expense. Even if you work alone, after all the expenses are paid, you are the payroll expense. Machines and computers may automate, speed and simplify many aspects of work, but a business is still about people. And when a business has people, payroll is and always will be the largest expense category.

Payroll buys a complex array of talent, thinking and behavior. People have ideas, dreams, passion, skills, courage, imagination and other purely human qualities that give a business life and meaning. People are also the most challenging aspect to leading and growing a successful company – especially in a service business where quality and excellence is dependent on how well the service experience is executed.

Here is my No-Compromise Leadership anatomy of payroll expense:... Read More

What is the best commission rate to pay salon or spa staff?

July 24, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | 8 Comments

This question is routinely posted in discussion forums. And just as routinely, and with the best intentions, the same old responses begin piling up.

Some suggest 45%, some 50%, and some even 60% and higher.

Some suggest sliding commission pay scales. Others advocate commission with product charges. Heck, it’s even assumed that if a salon isn’t booth rental, then it’s a “commission salon.”

FACT #1: The question, “What’s a good commission rate?” is the wrong question. The question itself identifies a lack of understanding of the financial realities of a salon/spa business.

FACT #2: The correct question is … “What percentage of my salon/spa’s total revenues can it afford in service payroll expense?”

The days of 50% commission are long gone. The days of 60/40 commission split rates in salons (40% to the salon) never should have happened because it is financial suicide for the business.

Total service payroll (hands that do the work) for the business must live between 30% to 35% of business’ Total Revenue (Service + Retail Sales) – as it appears on your Profit and Loss Statement. (Again, that’s 30-35% of the company’s Total Revenue, which is very different than 30-35% commission per service provider.) Once you understand what THAT number is … you can design your pay system.... Read More

Choosing Your Business Model: Employee or Independent Contractor

July 20, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

A business model is best described as a schematic that defines all of the working features, components and capabilities that will drive the business. If you want your business to deliver consistent quality and growth potential, those elements must be built into its business model. If you want your business to deliver flexibility with minimal management oversight, those elements must be built into that business model. Just like a Ford F-150 truck will never perform like a Ferrari 488 GTB, a business model can only perform the functions it was designed to deliver. A McDonalds will never perform to the standards of a Chef Gordon Ramsey restaurant.

An independent contractor (booth rental or suite) business model will never perform like an employee-based business model. The two business models are diametrically opposed and, by design, conflict with each other. The employee-based model generates revenues through a coordinated process of delivering services and products to the company’s customers. The independent contractor model generates revenues through rental fees collected from independent contractors that service their own customers, add-on services for independent contractors and potential retail sales.... Read More


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