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Two Salon Owners Share Their Reopening Experiences

May 10, 2020 | By Neil Ducoff | 2 Comments

These are truly surreal times we’re going through — and the ride appears far from over.

The good news is that all but a few states are relaxing “stay at home” orders and allowing businesses, including salons and spas, to reopen.

Overnight, the conversation shifted from PPP forgiveness to reopening safety protocols.

Today, the big question is: What exactly is it like to reopen your salon/spa?

To answer that question, I interviewed Andrea Birst, owner of Glance Spa & Salon, located in Bismarck, ND.

In addition to winning the Team-Based Pay Business of the Year Award in 2017, Andrea became a Certified Strategies Coach in 2018.

Neil: You reopened on May 1st. What was that like?

Andrea: I was surprised at the overwhelming feelings of emotion I had, and still do. Transitioning from home life and taking care of three kids to going back to work isn’t like flipping a light switch. We were told we could reopen on April 28th and it became a mad dash to prepare the salon/spa.


Neil: Were you employees ready and excited to return to work?

Andrea: Like many salons/spas, we did lots of group Zoom meetings to maintain communication and keep our team-based culture intact. Everyone benefits from the personal contact.

Before opening, I did one-on-one meetings with each employee to explain how the reopening process would work. More importantly, I wanted to listen to and address any concerns about returning to work.  

One employee had safety concerns, but fine after the first day.

Neil: What was it like to work with face masks?

Andrea: Wearing a face mask had its challenges. Mostly it was the claustrophobic feeling. There was also the realization of how much we communicate to one another without speaking. Can only see each other’s eyes. We adapted quickly.

Neil: How did clients react to the safety protocols?

Andrea: Clients were taken back when they saw us wearing masks and all of the furniture gone from the waiting area. Some weren’t sure they should walk in. Unlike many other states, North Dakota didn’t require clients to wait outside until it was their turn. Social distancing, what clients can bring inside with them, and how services would be performed was explained on the phone during rescheduling. It was very clear to clients that we were serious about their safety, and ours.

Neil: Did you adjust service time standards to allow for sanitizing?

Andrea: Because we are team based, and have a very detailed Internal Training Program that includes training to work within time standards, we chose not to adjust our timing. Teamwork is the only reason timing has not been an issue.

Andrea: We’ve worked extremely hard to implement and maintain new sanitizing systems. I’m proud of our team’s sense of urgency and commitment to safety during this crucial time. 

Neil: As an owner, what was your experience with reopening?

Andrea: I truly didn’t expect the overwhelmed feeling thinking about EVERYTHING.

  • Dealing with employee concerns was challenge.
  • Team service became a challenge. Being team based, it was very natural to have multiple team members caring for clients. Safety protocols required us to adjust.
  • For me, my new job is now working on the floor overseeing operations and ensuring that our systems and protocols are locked in.
  • What was surprising is how quickly everyone forgets even our basic systems and procedures. There’s a lot of relearning to get back on task.

Neil: How did you adjust your customer service systems?

Andrea: Working with the public, we have to maintain awareness that there are many points of view on COVID-19, safety protocols, the economy and politics. We worked with team members on talking points to maintain our level of professionalism.

Dealing with the volume of phone calls was a major challenge. It rang constantly. We had to reschedule 1,600 appointments. Very quickly, we made the decision to keep the phone on night mode so calls go directly to voicemail. This allowed us to return calls and have thorough conversations with clients.

Neil: What about the financial challenges?

Andrea: We were in good financial shape going into this crisis. We diligently follow our cash-flow plan and maintain adequate cash reserves. We do daily huddles and update our team scoreboard daily as well. All team members do their part to achieve goal.

Our eight-week PPP loan window ends on June 8th. We’re allowing employees to work overtime if they choose until then. Because we have more hours to sell, we’re having record service and retail sales.

  • Prebook rates are holding at 88%.
  • Productivity rate is average 89% to 96%.

Doug Bostick and his wife Marina are the owners of The Hair Experience Salon in Maryville, TN. They have been a coaching client of Strategies since January 2020.

The Hair Experience will reopen on May 11. In his own words, here’s Doug’s reopening experience that he shared in Strategies Facebook Salon/Spa Business Idea Exchange.

We reopen on Monday the 11th.

I’m finally getting overwhelmed now. Things are looking up. Got our PPP and EIDL loans in the bank, salon shelves stocked and re-organized by collection, salon clean, team meetings done, protocols designed, my first TV interview on-air, and a MASSIVE spreadsheet completed of all the stylists’ canceled/missed appointments from March 17th through May 9th. I have all the masks, Barbicide, wipes, sanitizer, etc., that we could need.

All of my stylists were grateful to be receiving $875 a week for the past seven weeks from State and Federal Unemployment. Better yet, each and every one of them are grateful to come back to work at an amazing, STRATEGIES TEAM-BASED SALON!!

Since I finally deleted all of the appointments that could have created mass chaos, I’m getting ready to turn Demandforce back on to start auto-confirming appointments. They added a new “enhanced confirmation notification” that I need to set up. GREAT! Another thing on my to-do list!

I am booking and staggering our five remaining stylists (one still furloughed due to state mandate) to maintain a 90% productivity rate with extended hours versus our usual 95%. We are currently booked solid the next two plus weeks.

I’ve been doing newsletters via Demandforce for our guests, and they are doing a GREAT job of not calling the salon. As requested, most clients are waiting to be contacted. I’m sending out another newsletter explaining the new state-mandated protocols for visits as well progress rescheduling appointments.

What’s got me overwhelmed now is getting the rest of the 179 missed/canceled appointments into Millennium. We are turning away all new clients until July. As an owner, it’s painful to turn new clients aways. I doesn’t  make sense to add them to a cancellation list. I can’t handle another list on top of the 15 other lists I already have.

I’m good at this, but right now I feel paralyzed. I realize that there really isn’t a rush since we’re booked solid. My spreadsheet is sorted by stylist and missed appointments in chronological order. We have plenty of time to get people in and all our stylists are working extra hours to help us catch up.

This should be very easy. But it isn’t. Not now. One more Corona w/lime and back to the phones.

Damn … I’m ready for this to be over … but I’m also ready to get this reopening started.

Thanks for letting me vent. 

Doug Bostick 

Here’s my challenge to you: You’re going to have your own reopening experience. It’s going to be ton of work getting back to pre-COVID-19 status. But you’ll get there. (Want some help to map out your return and beyond? Schedule a free coaching strategy session with one of our Certified Strategies Coaches.)

On this Wednesday’s Facebook Live Town Hall Meeting, Andrea Birst and Doug Bostick will be joining me to tell their stories in more detail. Doug’s salon will be open for just three days, so he’ll have lots to share.

Please join us at 4:00pm Eastern at facebook.com/strategies.

Categories: Coronavirus , Leadership

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