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

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