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Why BIG Change in Salons & Spas is So Tough - And What to Do About It


In life and in business, change is a constant. Even though most seem to understand that simple fact, resistance to change is about as constant as change itself.

  • Change is about innovating and evolving to get to a better place.

  • Resisting change is about being stuck and holding on to status quo.

Change can be incremental to fine-tune what is already working. Examples would be increasing pre-book rates, completing services within time standards and achieving consistent retail recommendations.

Although incremental change is about doing what you do better, it can often encounter stiff resistance and employee indifference. Change is almost always accompanied by frustration.

BIG change is about rethinking your company’s approach to doing business. At this level of change, the prime objective is “out with the old” and “in with the new.”

It’s the “in with the new” that challenges long-standing work habits, and throws “this is the way it’s always been done” thinking out the window.

With the rise of suites and suite franchises, all promising service providers amazing success as an independent, the accepted way to grow employee-based salons and spas is under siege.

Everyone sees it and feels it, but the BIG change has yet to come. It’s like “everything will be okay if we just hang tough and wait it out.” Sorry, that’s avoiding change and hoping for a return to the glory days that have long passed.

FACT: BIG change is fueled by outside-the-box innovation that leads to new and better opportunities.

Why is BIG change in salons & spas so tough?

  • Owners are afraid that implementing BIG change will be met with resistance and that great employees will leave. They’re leaving now because change isn’t happening.

  • When it comes to leading and operating a salon/spa, old habits die hard. Really hard. BIG change doesn’t mess around. Owners either do it and see it through, let it fizzle, or avoid it entirely. I’m not picking on owners. It just is what it is.

  • Leading BIG change requires consistently engaged leadership, structure, systems and accountability across all Four Business Outcomes: Productivity, Profitability, Staff Retention and Customer Loyalty. Embracing leadership and structure at this level is the only way for employee-based salons/spas to differentiate themselves from rental and suites. Repeat — it’s the only way to beat the suites. BIG change is tough if the owners leading it lack the necessary knowledge and skills.

What to do about it

Getting from where your salon/spa business is, to where you want it to be, requires the right forces to get and keep it moving in the right direction.

Those forces are:

  • Extreme clarity on the destination: If you want to lose weight, you envision yourself being thin. If you want to get physically fit, you envision a toned and healthy body. If you want to grow a world-class salon/spa business, you envision not just a beautiful facility, but also a highly refined and structured team-based culture, impeccable systems, technical and service consistency, and the critical numbers, cash flow and profitability to fund growth. I’m talking “vision” on steroids.

  • Determination to overcome fear: Implementing BIG change in a business means stepping into the somewhat unknown. I use the term “somewhat unknown” because BIG change is always accompanied by some level of apprehension, self-doubt and the “what if it doesn’t work” stuff. If you want it bad enough, then support your vision and desire with the necessary determination to make it happen. Too many leaders are mighty and strong out of the gate, but fizzle, crash and burn when they hit the inevitable bumps in the road. FACT: People and teams follow and support determined leaders. They bail on leaders that talk about great things that never happen.

  • Embrace STRUCTURE — it’s a good thing: Yes, it’s “cool” to keep things causal and free spirited, especially in a highly creative business. But getting teams of people in a high-touch service business to focus their energy on moving in the right direction demands structure. Structure in business is an all-encompassing term that unites systems, training, procedures, goals, performance measurements and execution to create “excellence” and profitability. When your salon/spa is delivering excellence and it’s profitable — you can afford to be totally beyond “cool”.

  • Pay and reward the right behavior and performance: I’ll keep this short. Commission, including level systems, and excessive multi-level pricing, is all about paying a “piece” of what an individual generates in revenue. It’s not team-based. Because it’s based solely on individual revenues, it compensates bad attitudes, lateness, non-compliance, retail indifference, and more. It’s about building columns on the appointment book — not building a company brand. BIG change means implementing a compensation system that rewards the right performance AND behaviors and is a controllable expense.

  • Connect all the information-flow dots: When information is FLOWING, it is a powerful force. BIG change cannot occur with people working in a vacuum. Everyone needs to know what’s going on with daily briefings (huddles). One team meeting a month or quarter is not information flow … it’s a trickle. Check-ins, performance reviews, leadership team meetings, scoreboards, goal sheets and the like are the force behind information flow. (Please don’t over rely on technology for information flow. Some pay attention. Some don’t.) BIG change means dynamic change. Make your information flow dynamic.

Here’s my challenge to you: For employee-based salons and spas, the time for BIG change is now. It doesn’t mean blowing up your business.

It means setting your sights on achieving new levels of success with boldness and confidence.

It means being honest about your leadership and business skills capability and filling every gap with the right training, coaching and education.

It means re-igniting the fire and passion that got you into business in the first place. Yes, it’s time to feel the burn in your heart and gut — not on your feet and financials.

The only thing to fear is hoping that things will get better if you wait it out. Hope is not a strategy.

In next week’s Monday Morning Wake-Up, I’m going to share my thoughts on “The Future of the Salon/Spa Industry.”


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