Your Salon/Spa Culture is Defined by Its Values

February 14, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

When you admire any company’s culture, commitment to quality and relentless customer service, you’re admiring its values-based behavior.

That level of refined values-based behavior doesn’t just happen. It’s designed and meticulously cared for. Most importantly, it begins at the top.

The structure, discipline, values and guiding principles are the granite blocks that a salon/spa culture is built on.

That doesn’t mean a salon/spa is so rigid that it’s incapable of
changing. It just means its core behaviors are deeply rooted in its values.

Tampering with the values of your salon/spa is much like tampering with the forces of nature. When the owner or leader compromises your company’s values, it can cause a tidal wave of otherwise avoidable issues, problems, and drama.... Read More

What it Really Takes to Achieve Your Salon/Spa Vision

February 7, 2021 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Question: Is your salon/spa vision truly worthy of the commitment and effort it will take to achieve it?

That’s a pretty deep question with some profound implications. Why? Because in just a sentence or two, your vision statement embodies the company you want to build.

FACT: A vision is nothing more than words. Only the leader can bring life, meaning, and purpose to those words.

Here’s a great example of a leader bringing his vision to life:
In 1983, Apple was on the brink of bankruptcy. Steve Jobs aggressively pursued John Sculley to become Apple’s CEO. (Sculley was vice president of PepsiCo from 1977 to 1983.)... Read More

What Award Winning Salon/Spa Productivity Looks Like

November 23, 2020 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

Strategies definition of Productivity: “The productivity business outcome is all about doing the work of the business — and executing that work in the most efficient and timely manner possible to the highest no-compromise standards.”

Winner of the 2020 Team-Based Pay Productivity Award

Bill and Linda Moore are the owners of Natural Remedies Spa located in Vienna, WV. They converted to Team-Based Pay in October 2013.

Note: We had a few connection issues with Bill & Linda’s interview, but the message is powerful…stick with it!... Read More

27 Years of Making a Difference

September 14, 2020 | By Neil Ducoff | 8 Comments

On September 13, 1993, I moved into a first-floor office at 40 Main Street, Centerbrook, CT. All I had was some office furniture, a few Mac computers, and a ton of determination to make a difference in the industry I love and have served since 1970.

My passion is for business and for all the dynamics that make a salon/spa business successful. This passion is the core of Strategies’ culture.

Long before starting Strategies, I studied compensation systems and the drivers of performance-based behaviors. Commission, the prevailing industry pay method, never made sense to me because it fed “I/me/mine” thinking and a multitude of financial challenges.

A truly successful salon/spa means more than filling columns on the appointment book. It’s about building a sustainable brand. Brand building takes a level of teamwork that commission compensation cannot achieve. Teamwork means “everyone pushing and pulling in the same direction to achieve team goals — not just individual goals.... Read More

Five Ways to Outsmart Today’s Business Unknowns

August 30, 2020 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that it can hurl one humungous unknown after another at your salon/spa.

Just when you think one challenge is under control, another wrecking ball is coming at you. It’s scary, stressful and ultimately wears you down.

FACT: During this pandemic where uncertainty is a daily occurrence, the worst strategy is to hunker down, do nothing and wait for the storm to pass. The problem is that the COVID-19 storm is far from over.

The good news is that there is a way to outsmart the unknowns and be more in control of your business — and lower your stress levels in the process.

Here are five rock-solid ways to outsmart the onslaught of unknowns and get your business safely through this pandemic:

  1. Make WINNING your goal: For the past 12 years, at the end of June, I do the MS Cape Cod Getaway Ride (Covid canceled this year’s ride). It’s 150 miles from Boston to Provincetown in two days. I can’t just get on my bike the day of the ride and expect to finish. And if I could finish, the lack of training would hurt like hell. So, I train hard to finish and beat my personal record. Hunkering down and playing it safe is no way to lead a company through a crisis of today’s magnitude. You need to have a goal. KEY: Getting to the other side of this pandemic must be your company’s big hairy audacious goal (BHAG). Your team needs to hear this from you. They need to see your determination. They need to feel your passion and conviction. They need to know that winning takes hard work and commitment. It’s time to wake your team up and get them on the same winning page. Tell your team, “We’re going to beat this pandemic.”
  2. The momentum of Productivity: You know the productivity rate drill. You sell hours in exchange for salon/spa services. (Hours sold ÷ hours available = your company’s productivity rate.) In the days of COVID, if your productivity rate is below 80%, your team and company are not fighting to win. Below 70% productivity is lethargic. Below 60% is anemic. Below 50% is comatose. See where this is going? KEY: History has proven that trying to build one column on the appointment book at a time is an exercise in insanity. Teamwork drives productivity. Teamwork means, “Everyone is responsible for every hour the salon/spa has available for sale.” The more you educate and train clients that, “The skills of the entire salon/spa are available to each and every client,” the higher you drive productivity rates.
  3. Systems consistency: The salon/spa industry is known for its free spirit, creative abilities, and individuality. But, it’s impossible to build a viable service business and brand with everyone doing their own thing. That’s booth rental/suites. KEY: Systems create consistency. Consistency creates predictability. Predictability creates sustainability. Sustainability creates the business horsepower to get through this pandemic.
  4. The BEST Business Antibody: What is a business antibody? It’s called cash flow. That’s why Congress passed the CARES Act to quickly get 3.8 million loans totaling more than $500 billion to help small businesses. The EIDL loans, although off to a rocky start, brought $20 billion in emergency funding. That’s why cash-flow planning and financial literacy is the cornerstone of Strategies Coaching. KEY: If your approach to cash-flow planning is checking your bank balances multiple times a day, you’re no match for even the simplest unknown that COVID can throw at you. Monthly service and retail projections are non-negotiable. Monthly expense budgets are non-negotiable. Monthly cash and profit goals are non-negotiable. If you are failing in any of these non-negotiables — you need to schedule a coaching call with Strategies.
  5. What, Why, When and How: The last thing any owner should be asking during this pandemic is, “How do I get everyone on the same page?” This question means dysfunction, chaos and untold missed opportunities. KEY: Communication and information flow are the two most potent tools in a leader’s toolbox. WHAT defines the goal. WHY details the reason and the importance of achieving this goal. WHEN is the starting gun and establishes all of the timelines to achieving the goal. HOW: is all about the systems, training, and accountabilities to achieve the goal. Too many salons/spas are a conglomeration of conflicting and poorly defined goals. One company. One team. One goal. That’s how you beat the unknowns this pandemic will continue to throw at you.

Here’s my challenge to you: The only way to get through this pandemic is to be aggressive, systematized, coordinated, consistent, and relentless.... Read More

How to Survive This Pandemic — NO MISSED OPPORTUNITIES

August 3, 2020 | By Neil Ducoff | 5 Comments

COVID-19 is still surging, which means more unknowns for salon/spa owners to deal with.

To say these are stressful times is an understatement.

To emphasize the sense of urgency to keep your salon/spa as productive as possible, here’s the current reality:

  • Most salons, spas and barbershops have reopened.
  • For the second time, California recently ordered non-essential businesses (including salons/spas) to shut down. Some California salons haven’t been allowed to reopen since last March.
  • Fingers are crossed that more states don’t follow California and order non-essential businesses to shut down.
  • Depending on the location, salons, spas and barbershops are only allowed to operate at 50% capacity or less. With COVID-19 surging, it is unknown when a return to full capacity will be allowed.
  • Many businesses are at or near the end of PPP funds. Businesses that received EIDL loans will burn through cash if reduced capacity isn’t lifted.
    • Businesses can still apply for a PPP loan until August 8th.
    • SBA is still accepting applications for EIDL grants and loans.
      • Grants are $1,000 per employee up to $10,000.
      • EIDL loans are now capped at $150,000, no payments for 12 months at 3.75% interest for 30 years. To apply, go to
    • Another economic stimulus plan is being argued in Congress. On the table is the ability for businesses severely impacted by COVID-19 to get a second PPP loan. As always, both sides are far apart on reaching agreement.
    • Many salons are reporting an increase in last minute cancellations and no shows.
    • The probability of employees being exposed to COVID-19 is increasing. Those that are exposed cannot return to work until they test negative. This makes operating at reduced capacity even more of a challenge.

What this all means to your salon/spa business... Read More

A Statement on Black Lives Matter

June 6, 2020 | By Eric Ducoff | No Comments

We want to make a difference…starting with ourselves.

Recent events have shone a bright light on the critical need to banish racism, violence and any/all shortcomings of opportunity for the Black community. These events have also shone a bright light on Strategies’ part in this mission, as well.

We have not done enough to understand and support the unique challenges that Black entrepreneurs face compared to others. But we are committed to learn, and to adjust our practices to support them through these challenges to the best of our ability.

We will also be looking inward to ensure all policies, practices and opportunities within our organization are diversified and free of racism. We know we can do better at this, because we have not put in the effort to ensure that we are not.

The same holds true for our role in our community. We can do better.

The lesson we have learned with Black Lives Matter is that change has to begin with each and every one of us. We must listen and learn, so that we are better prepared to offer our support to those that desperately need it…as equals.... Read More

Having the Courage to Implement Long-Overdue Change

June 1, 2020 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Last week’s blog post was about the importance of “resilience” the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens.

This week, I write about the “courage” to implement long-overdue change.

As the reopening begins, my biggest fear is that many salons and spas will reopen with the same flawed systems they shut down with. Throughout this crisis, I’ve been saying, “If your business wasn’t in good shape at shut down, it’s going to be tough when you reopen.”

Reopening and getting your business financially healthy requires a heck of a lot more than getting employees back on payroll, implementing safety protocols and rescheduling clients.

A house must be built on a solid foundation. If the foundation is weak, floors will sag, walls will crack, and the house will be unsafe. Simply put, if the foundation is weak, everything it supports is compromised.... Read More

The TOP TEN Reasons Salon/Spa Owners Should be Appreciated

November 17, 2019 | By Neil Ducoff | 4 Comments

Owning an employee-based salon/spa business can certainly be a mixed bag of feelings and emotions.

The good times are great. The bad times are, well, anything but great.

The one absolute is that it takes people — skilled, service-minded people — to make a salon/spa business work.

Hands do the work. Hands create service sales. Those hands are attached to employees. And leading employees is, without question, the toughest part of being an owner.

Salons and spas thrive or die based on the performance and productivity of their employees. That performance and productivity is the owner’s prime responsibility.

It is in the execution of this responsibility where employees see owners focused on what they could have done better, or, what they didn’t do.

So in their effort to grow the company and provide the best for their employees, owners often feel a lack of appreciation for all they do.... Read More

“Me” Service to Become “Team Service” – Part 1

September 8, 2019 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

I’ve been in the salon/spa industry for 50 years. I know, because I counted the decades since cosmetology school on my fingers just to be sure.

To me, the salon/spa business has always been about customer service. You’ve heard all the buzz phrases:

  • The customer always comes first.
  • The customer is always right.
  • Meet and exceed expectations.
  • Create extraordinary customer service experiences.
  • What would a $500 haircut experience be like?
  • Hell, what would a $10,000 haircut experience be like?

No one, I mean absolutely no one, doesn’t appreciate extraordinary customer service. More importantly, no one ever forgets extraordinary customer service experiences.

I’ve been teaching and coaching business since the mid 70s. I’ve owned my coaching and training company for 26 years (it will be 26 years on September 13th).

In all these years, no has ever said “the hell with the customer,” or, “customer service doesn’t matter,” or, “do great work and you can treat customers like crap.” No one.... Read More

Predictability & How to Achieve It in Your Salon/Spa Business

June 30, 2019 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

Official Definition: Predictability is the degree to which a correct prediction or forecast of a system’s state can be made either qualitatively or quantitatively.

The Entrepreneur’s Definition: Predictability is knowing your business will perform as planned so you can sleep well at night.

Creating predictability in a salon/spa means doing the work of leadership. You have to do it. You have to find it, or at least get as close as you can to it.

The problem is that things can be predictably good or bad. Whenever you say, “I knew that wouldn’t work,” what you’re really saying is the planning and preparation was flawed or inadequate. That the commitment, effort and execution were not equal to the task.

In contrast, when things go predictably well, it means that planning, preparation, commitment, effort and execution were dialed in.... Read More

The Dilemma of Delaying Change to Avoid Staff Pushback

March 25, 2019 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

In business, implementing change can be derailed by anything from a speed bump to a brick wall.

FACT: A business that resists or delays change is on the path to irrelevancy.

In the salon/spa industry, change of some sort is always a hot topic of discussion, but too many owners get cold feet when staff pushback thoughts clog their mental filters.

FACT: Too many owners delay or avoid change out of fear of losing busy service providers.

Yes, losing employees is a valid fear. It’s like the salon/spa industry has been cursed with staff walkouts and that “star” employee taking his or her loyal following down the street.

The financial devastation left behind can take months, even years, for a salon/spa to recover from.

The big question that all owners must ask themselves is:

What amazing things would I do for my company and my employees if the backlash of losing staff and cash flow wasn’t a factor?... Read More

The Dangers of Being a Reluctant Salon/Spa Leader — and What to do About It

September 3, 2018 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

A reluctant salon/spa leader operates in what is best described as a protective bubble.

Inside the bubble, it’s safe. Employee challenges don’t look so bad. Productivity and cash-flow issues don’t appear as critical. Customer service breakdowns will probably fix themselves.

Outside the bubble, there’s a pile of unaddressed leadership responsibilities.

  • It’s where conversations that need to happen don’t.
  • It’s where productivity and performance issues are viewed as “is what it is.”
  • It’s where one cash-flow leak gives birth to another.
  • It’s one opportunity after another remaining out of reach.

Being a leader doesn’t mean dealing with tough stuff all day, everyday. It means engaging with fairness and integrity. It means taking responsibility rather than avoiding.

FACT: Leadership has its rewards — but those rewards have to be earned.

Here are my eight No-Compromise Leadership strategies to stop or never become a reluctant leader:... Read More

Salon & Spa Teamwork: Hard to Get — Easy to Lose

July 16, 2018 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

Too often, salon/spa owners toss the word “teamwork” around like it’s an abundant resource. It’s not.

In fact, teamwork is a precious commodity revered by those who have achieved it and envied by those who want it.

You can refer to employees as “team members,” use scoreboards and huddle every day, but these exercises bring no guarantee that teamwork will follow.

Teamwork is an outcome. It is the culmination of a multitude of complex forces, systems and accountabilities that merge into one truly dynamic state of being called teamwork.

In this teamwork state of being, the energies of many individuals harmoniously synchronize to achieve the extraordinary.

It’s much like achieving a true meditative state. One must learn to quiet the mind until a oneness with the world is achieved. This meditative state is difficult enough for individuals to master.

Consider the added complexity of groups of individuals, all possessing unique personalities, ambitions and job functions, coming together to achieve that state of being we call teamwork.... Read More

Salon & Spa Performance Reviews: Look Beyond the Numbers

April 30, 2018 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

The one thing all salon and spa software does is generate massive amounts of data on pretty much everything an employee and the company does.

And when it’s performance review time, many owners print out reams of reports to review with each employee.

I don’t know about you, but going through pages of performance data and pointing out which numbers you like and which need to improve, can be exhausting for owners and employees.

FACT #1: All those performance numbers on all those reports are “outcomes” of an individual’s thinking, behaviors and skills.

FACT #2: Performance numbers will not change unless the individual’s thinking, behaviors and skills change first.

Here are some No-Compromise Leadership strategies to help you look beyond the numbers to help employees achieve their full potential:

  • Save paper: You don’t need to print reams of paper reports to conduct a highly effective performance review. One sheet is all you need that lists the primary critical numbers that reflect the outcomes of an employee’s performance. Productivity rate, pre-book, client retention (first visit and existing), retail recommendations, working within time standards, and any other primary critical numbers that are vital to your salon/spa. These numbers simply provide the basis for where the performance review needs to go to coach the employee. They are not, and must never be, the entire focus of the performance review.
  • “Get this number up” doesn’t work: Telling an employee to improve his or her retail, pre-book, client retention, service revenue, productivity rate and other critical numbers, is NOT what leadership and employee development is all about. It’s like telling an obese person to lose weight. They know they’re overweight and the health risks. But until you help an obese person change his or her thinking, behavior and eating habits, weight loss is not going to happen.
  • THREE areas that produce the right outcomes: Yes, you want performance critical numbers to move in the right direction. But that means your performance review must focus on the following three areas:
  1. Skills Requirements: The numbers won’t happen if the employee is lacking the required skills. So, what are the specific skills the employee must be certified competent in, based on his/her pay range? New talent needs to learn the basics. Senior employees with years of experience need to be certified in more advanced skills. IMPORTANT: Required skills must be defined for both technical and customer service. By defining the required skills in basic to advanced pay levels, you’re establishing both expectations and career paths.
  2. Culture and Teamwork: Culture represents the thinking and behavior of your company. Everyone talks about culture, the actual building of a world-class culture requires extensive leadership focus. So, what are the expected behaviors that your company requires from entry level to the top pay ranges? Do you require employees to support company change initiatives? What are your mentoring requirements? Does this employee actively engage in teamwork or rush to the back room to do nothing? Define your culture and teamwork expectations and make them a focal point during performance reviews.
  3. Individual strengths: What does this employee bring to the table in terms of quality of work, quantity of work, trustworthiness, attendance, customer service skills, ability to complete tasks on time, and more? Yes, you must define the individual strengths expectations by pay range. KEY POINT: An employee’s critical numbers can look pretty good, but lateness, absenteeism, trustworthiness and other key strengths can be seriously lacking. This is where performance reviews and a coaching plan can have major impact on the employee’s growth and critical numbers.
  • Think “25/25/25/25”: During performance reviews, the natural tendency of most owners is apply 90% to 100% of their focus on the numbers. It’s pointless to place so much emphasis on the numbers without addressing the three key areas of skills, culture/teamwork and individual strengths. MUST DO: If you divide performance reviews into four 25% discussion segments, that would make critical numbers only 25% of the focus.

Here’s my challenge for you: Redesign your performance reviews into the four key areas of skills, culture/teamwork, individual strengths and finally, critical numbers.... Read More

10 Reasons to Track Client Retention — Not Request Rates

March 4, 2016 | By Eric Ducoff | No Comments

Why Salons and Spas Should Track Client Retention vs. Request Rates

Are you getting what you pay for?

What many salon and spa owners fail to realize, is that if they are tracking request rates, they may be being misled into paying big bucks for poor performance.

And what’s worse, it’s costing their salon or spa more than just high payroll expenses.

Let’s look at an example:

You’ve got a service provider with a 90-100% request rate and a waiting list. They’ve been with you for years, and you’ve watched their request rate slowly increase over time. They’ve now achieved “rock star” status and deserve a higher pay scale, right? Not so fast…... Read More

Booth Rental & Suites Are Not a Cancer, They Are an Outcome

March 3, 2016 | By Eric Ducoff | No Comments

Owners of employee-based salons often refer to booth rental and suites as the cancer of the industry.

I used to think that way too, but not anymore.

For owners, it’s an emotional subject because they invest time and resources in training, developing and building the clientele of their service providers. When a busy employee leaves and takes their clients with them … the hole it leaves in the business and its cash flow really hurts.

In many ways, building up service providers only to have them leave with “their” clients seems like the definition of insanity. Yet, just like a duck shoot at a carnival, the process continues to repeat itself.

If you take all the emotions out of it, booth rental and suites is nothing even remotely close to being a “cancer” … it is an outcome.
(more…)... Read More

Booth Rental & Suites Are Not a Cancer, They Are an Outcome

February 22, 2016 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments


Owners of employee-based salons often refer to booth rental and suites as the cancer of the industry.

I used to think that way too, but not anymore.

For owners, it’s an emotional subject because they invest time and resources in training, developing and building the clientele of their service providers. When a busy employee leaves and takes their clients with them … the hole it leaves in the business and its cash flow really hurts.

In many ways, building up service providers only to have them leave with “their” clients seems like the definition of insanity. Yet, just like a duck shoot at a carnival, the process continues to repeat itself.... 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

Ten Salon and Spa Leadership Resolutions for 2016

December 28, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | 4 Comments

As I processed my thoughts for writing this final Monday Morning Wake-Up of 2015, I had to remind myself that this also wraps up eight full years of sharing my No-Compromise Leadership thoughts with you. That’s over 400 continuous Monday mornings that we’ve shared. And if you’ve been a follower of mine from the beginning of Strategies, we need to add the 14 years and 168 issues of Strategies Magazine we published from January 1994 until December 2007. Add all the written content to my books, Strategies business courses, coaching and our annual Team-Based Pay Conference … and you’ve got 22 years of the best salon/spa business and leadership content in the industry.

The best way to bid farewell to 2015 is to offer you my TOP TEN New Year’s Resolutions for 2016. I wrote this list for the salon/spa owners and entrepreneurs that were bold enough … and crazy enough … to put everything on the line for their vision of building a business.... Read More

How to Fix the Leaks in Your Salon or Spa Service Pricing

November 30, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

Any discussion on salon/spa service pricing can quickly turn into a debate based on historic practices, entitlement, ego and emotions. That being said, what follows is sure to open a “can of worms” debate.

A debate is a formal discussion of opposing viewpoints where the best debater is crowned the winner. My intent is not to win a debate, but to create an awareness of the issues and practices that do more to compromise and complicate salon/spa pricing than help it.

But, if anyone wants to debate, sound business practices will beat entitlement, ego and emotional arguments every time.

As you will read, most of the service pricing issues are more salon related than spa. Why? Because there is a heck of a lot more entitlement, ego and emotional stuff that exists on the salon side of the industry. Spa pricing is more consistent across service providers … even those with many years of experience. That’s so not true on the salon side where many price levels can exist within the same salon and are justified by the size of stylist’s clientele and years of experience.... Read More

Finding Your Salon/Spa Profit Sweet Spot: PART THREE

November 23, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Getting busier and working harder can drive top-line revenue, but more revenue is no guarantee that profit will occur. The process of creating profit is far more complex than selling more services and products and then checking that last line on your Profit & Loss Statement to see if Net Profit is positive or negative. Unfortunately, too many owners leave profit to hope, good luck and a favorable nod from the business gods. Of course, creating profit takes hard work, but it takes hard work and focus on the right things at the right time. Only then do you have the best chance of finding your salon/spa’s profit sweet spot.

Profit is the end result of a number of critical operational and financial disciplines. Think of it as an on going dialing in of systems, performance, information flow and a relentless commitment to paying attention to your numbers.

Here is a 7-point No-Compromise Leadership hit list that will help you dial-in and lock-in your salon/spa’s profit sweet spot:... Read More

How Systems Drive Salon/Spa Profit: PART TWO

November 16, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments

Systems bring structure and discipline to the profit creation process. Accuracy and extreme attention to detail is nothing short of non-negotiable. As a business coach, I’ve seen more than my share of “garbage in, garbage out” accounting and financial reports. Blatant errors, improperly posted or categorized entries, expense line items that no one can explain, and huge miscellaneous accounts, are just a sampling of the financial nightmares that regularly occur when poorly designed systems exist. The end result is totally useless financial reports. You just can’t make the best financial decisions with bad data. And with all due respect, sloppiness in the bookkeeping office is a darn good signal that compromise exists at the leadership level. Otherwise, such nonsense would never be tolerated for even a nanosecond.


Profitability systems extend far beyond general bookkeeping. When revenues are generated, there needs to be financial systems in place to ensure proper reporting. And wherever money is spent and purchases made, financial systems must be in place. Checks and balances, there is no other way to control and drive profitability.... Read More

10 Steps to a Perfect Salon or Spa Performance Evaluation

October 23, 2015 | By GUW_Strategies | 1 Comment

Why don’t they ever do it like you want them to?

Well, maybe they never realized they were doing it wrong! If that’s the case, there’s no quicker and easier way to get staff back on track than with a performance evaluation. (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

Customer Service Is All About Sense of Urgency

July 13, 2015 | By Neil Ducoff | 1 Comment

Sense of urgency takes on new meaning and purpose when discussing the Customer Satisfaction Business Outcome. Think about the times you walked into a business and waited for someone to notice and take care of you. OK, now think about the times you waited while watching employees talk to one another and were totally oblivious to your presence. How about those times you sat in a restaurant watching other tables being served that were seated after you? What about that customer service representative that promised to call you back in an hour … and never did? These are all symptoms of a breakdown in sense of urgency.

Sense of urgency and customer satisfaction are inseparable. If your business fails to deliver on a customer expectation, it will show in your first-time and existing client retention rates. It’s that black and white. Nothing infuriates clients more than shoddy or substandard service. If a business fails to deliver on its quality and experience promise, it must be regarded as a breach of contract. Likewise, attention to detail, amazing service and the efforts any business makes to exceed the ordinary and deliver the extraordinary is what truly defines world-class brand.... 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

Why I write the way I do and why it is important

February 17, 2014 | By Neil Ducoff | 36 Comments

your_success_typewriterMy demeanor has always leaned toward the more serious end of the spectrum. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been intrigued by business, leadership and the multitude of elements that make it work. That being said, it makes sense that I’ve been an entrepreneur for almost my entire working career. In the mid 70s, my passion for business found three powerful vehicles that allowed me to reach and interact with other business owners – public speaking, coaching and writing. I started my first coaching company in 1978 and never looked back.... 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

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

Business culture imageI am a huge fan of shoes and an even bigger fan of 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.... Read More

Feed on solutions not problems

November 7, 2011 | By Neil Ducoff | 3 Comments

Leaders deal with problems every day, all day. It’s your job. Big, small and in between, problems will seek you out like metal to a magnet. Here’s the good news: You have a choice as to how to deal with them. You can let them get the best of you, or you can accept them for what they are – unplanned occurrences that require correction. When you let them get the best of you, they will almost always take you and your company off course by injecting drama, conflict, excuses, blame, hurt feelings and even witch hunts to find a fall guy to pin the problem on.... Read More

If it needs to be done, why aren’t you getting it done?

November 29, 2010 | By nducoff | No Comments

We all have projects and tasks that we can’t wait to dig into. We tackle them with vengeance and immerse ourselves in their complexity. We are truly in our element and feeding our desire to reach our full potential. You know exactly the projects and tasks I’m referring to because they play to our strong points. For me, it’s digging into the inner workings of an organization and discovering what makes it tick and addressing what factors may be holding it back. I love to teach workshops that focus on leadership thinking and behavior. I love speaking to large audiences and touching their hearts and minds with my leadership message and business concepts. (OK, I get a kick out of entertaining my audiences, too.) And, I love to coach leaders.

On the flip side, I am a business owner and leader. With that comes a host of accountabilities, many of which I love and willingly engage in. And then there’s that pesky little list of accountabilities I loathe. I’m talking about those accountabilities that I have become super-proficient at maneuvering around or finding other completely non-priority tasks that are just “begging” for my attention. If you think about it, it’s actually humorous how we leaders invent things to distract and divert ourselves from things that really need to be done. Foolishly, we try to convince ourselves that doing the stuff we’re really good at will overshadow or cloak the stuff we avoid. It won’t. It can’t. It never will. Period. (more…)... Read More

Chasing your passion

November 19, 2010 | By ericducoff | 1 Comment

While speaking at a trade show, I ran into a friend that I hadn’t seen in quite some time. When I asked what she was up to, she told me that she was chasing her passion – that she wanted to build something great. During my flight home, I reflected on that conversation. My immediate recollections were the fire in her eyes, the determination in her words and the tone of her voice. This very successful entrepreneur was on a mission, and nothing was going to stand in her way.

I feel something uplifting when listening to someone who is chasing the work that he or she is passionate about. Simply put, their excitement is infectious. It’s as though they are going on the voyage of a lifetime to some extraordinary places. So much so, you feel that yearning to join them or just help them with your insights, contacts or encouragement. Yes, you may even feel a tinge of jealousy.... Read More

The Pressure Test: Manage or Meltdown

October 25, 2010 | By nducoff | No Comments

Every business goes through periods of high stress. It’s when varying combinations of sluggish sales, tight cash flow, employee problems, productivity issues, customer complaints, and the like, merge together like the weather systems in The Perfect Storm. Business stress can lead to what I fondly call “owners’ nights” – waking up at 3:00 a.m. in a cold sweat. High-stress situations can lead to a further degrading of the issues that initiated the pressure in the first place. The inherent danger is allowing such situations to spiral out of control.... Read More


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