Why Set It and Forget It Does Not Work in Salons and Spas

January 11, 2016 | By Neil Ducoff | No Comments


The single most dangerous mode of business thinking is that you can just set it and forget it. You can’t do one performance review and expect exemplary behavior and performance for years to come. You can’t do one sales forecast or cash-flow budget and expect growth and profits every year. You can’t give an employee one raise and expect that raise to permanently satisfy that employee’s future income expectations. Likewise, you can’t pay a fixed or sliding-scale commission rate and expect it to perpetually motivate employees to do more and sell more.

The prevailing quest of many salon/spa owners and leaders is to find that magical “set it and forget it” setting. FACT: It just doesn’t exist. In business, that one strategy, that one plan, that one approach and that one system setting is always going to be short lived. The only permanent setting in business, life and nature is that “everything changes.” Before you start hyperventilating over the fact that everything about your business model is methodically becoming ineffective and obsolete … with some minor tweaks to your leadership thinking, it’s not that difficult to stay ahead of the change curve.

Here are my six No-Compromise Leadership strategies on how to replace “set it and forget it” thinking with the much more powerful “engaged strategic leadership” thinking:

  1. Don’t just pave the road: Just because you paved the road, doesn’t mean your work is done. Lines need to be painted. Street lights, stop lights and stop signs need to be installed. Freezing, thawing and heavy traffic will cause pot holes and cracks that will require fixing and maintenance. In business, your systems, strategies and tried and true approaches need to be regularly maintained, updated and, when situations dictate, completely redone or replaced. Engaged strategic leadership is about taking time to assess the effectiveness and condition of what you built. What systems aren’t working properly? What financial leaks need to be plugged? Which employees need some encouragement, training, coaching … or a wake-up call? Leadership is as much about the road you paved, as it is the road ahead.
  2. Employees are supposed to be high maintenance: Leading people can be the most fulfilling, frustrating, nerve-wracking position you could ever experience. It can be like herding cats one day and leading a marching band the next. You can have the perfect team and then someone quits, and then another. Your belief and trust in people can be solidified or crushed. You can see the potential and talent of individuals that they never see in themselves. Engaged strategic leadership is about the quest to understand people, how they think, what inspires them, what drags them down … and how to bring out their full potential so the salon/spa can achieve its full potential. It’s tough work leading people. It’s “everyday” work. It’s what you signed up for as a leader and business owner. Engage and embrace the on-going process. You’ll never be able to “set and forget” the process of leading people. RELATED: Want to get your staff on the same page and keep them there? Check out Strategies Communication Your Culture Seminar taking place March 6-7 at our Business Academy in CT.
  3. Profit and cash flow are high maintenance too: There’s something about entrepreneurial owners and planning for profit and cash flow that often mixes like oil and water. Cash-flow plans, budgets, profit and loss statements, balance sheets and financial benchmarks are non-negotiable leadership tools. The moment you attempt to “set and forget” your forecasts, budgets and cash management responsibilities … you are compromising the financial integrity of your company, your investment … and the livelihoods of your employees. Engaged strategic leadership is about the planning, monitoring, adjusting and micro-adjusting to ensure financial sustainability. Almost all cash-flow problems and negative net profit is due to poor spending habits, unchecked payroll costs and lack of financial discipline. If your salon/spa’s financial reality is on “set it and forget,” I sure hope your bilge pumps are capable of keeping up with the financial leaks caused by your lack of attention, discipline and accountability.
  4. Customer experiences are measurable: It is so easy to buy into your own marketing hype that your salon/spa is delivering world-class technical and service experiences – when it’s not. First-time client retention rates for your overall salon/spa and for individual service providers is the single most powerful indicator of your company’s ability to deliver on its promise of excellence. If your salon/spa’s first-time client retention rate is below 50% (number of first-time clients in one month that return to ANYONE within 90 days after the end of that month), your technical and customer service systems need work. If your first-time client retention rate is +/- 30% … that means 70 out of every 100 first-time customers are not impressed or buying into your marketing hype. That’s says something very different than world class. Engaged strategic leadership is relentlessly refining and tweaking its technical skill and customer service systems. Good is never good enough. The “set it and forget it” mentality doesn’t exist.
  5. Say it again and again and again: Information flow in salon/spa’s can often be described as a trickle rather than a flow. I love it when owners say, “But we have monthly or quarterly meetings.” Twelve or, even worse, only four team meetings a year is far from a flow of information. If they take place rarely rather than regularly, the same holds true for employee performance reviews and one-on-ones. In a high-contact personal service business like a salon/spa, every day can present different challenges and opportunities. That’s why daily huddles (multiple daily huddles if necessary) are non-negotiable. That’s why thorough performance reviews and one-on-ones are so vitally needed to ensure that everyone is bringing his or her best game to work every day. Engaged strategic leadership is about being the relentless voice of the company. It’s about delivering the level of information flow that supports the goals and vision of the company. It’s about clarifying expectations every day. It’s about inspecting and correcting every day. How many times do you have to tell them? Until they get it. Got it?
  6. Your plate and what’s on it: Leaders and owners have a natural ability to overflow their plates with more stuff then they can possibly handle. They also have a tendency to fill their plates with the “wanna do’s” to leave as little room as possible for the “gotta do’s.” Salon/spa owners that are service providers working full time on the appointment book are more like absentee owners than a company leader. Engaged strategic leadership is about managing what’s on your plate. It’s about recognizing when you’re over-committed or not paying sufficient attention to your people, to planning, to financial control, to customer service, to skill development, to marketing, to growth … to your own wellbeing. You don’t have to do it all. You just have to do the things that matter most well. If your answer is, “But I don’t have time,” it means that you’re stuck in a “set it and forget it” routine that needs to change. There is no “set it and forget it” in business. Got it? Good. No Compromise.

Want help implementing all these strategies in your salon or spa? I highly, highly suggest you read more about Strategies’ four-day Incubator Seminar. From cash-flow planning, to systems design, to freeing up your time so that you can work on your business, no other salon/spa business event delivers like the Incubator. Our next session in Austin, TX is sold out. However, we still have spaces available for October 16-19, 2016. Register now, and let us help you build the salon or spa you dreamt about when you first opened your doors.

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Categories: Leadership , Monday Morning Wake-Up , No-Compromise Leadership

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