Being a salon manager is a tough job. There are many duties and responsibilities to master. It takes a well-organized and high functioning people-person who can think on their feet to make everything come together.
What Makes a Great Salon Manager?
Several characteristics make for a great salon manager. They include being a good communicator and being organized, diplomatic, and customer-focused. Having a good understanding of the beauty industry is important and experience within hair salons is also ideal.
Salon Manager Duties and Responsibilities
Many things make up a salon manager job description. In reality, a salon manager is responsible for the operations of a salon. It’s their job to make sure that the business is fully staffed, scheduled appropriately, well-stocked, and running smoothly at all times. In essence, they handle everything except the legal duties of a salon owner.
The duties of a salon manager may vary based on the size and structure of the business. For example, a smaller salon may need a manager to oversee the front desk and physically run reception, possibly even handle the books, inventory management, and payroll. However, a more extensive operation may have a separate person in charge of each of the salon sections. The salon manager, in that case, would run overall operations.
Regardless of a salon’s size, the duties of a salon manager will likely include opening and/or closing a salon during business hours, scheduling staff, recruiting, hiring, firing, and training employees, handling conflicts and client complaints, and everything else that goes into the daily operation of the business.
Unless you’re hired on to a new salon and can start with a fresh team, most salon managers inherit a team and are brought in to help run operations for the salon owner.
It can be a rocky start to come into an existing salon team and try to take over the management. There can be some resistance, even resentment from other team members, as it’s not uncommon to promote an existing person into the salon manager’s role. You’ll want to get a grip on the situation and deal with it head-on, so there is no chance of any bad blood interfering with the salon operations.
Whether you’ve just hired on in a management role or have been promoted internally, there are several suggestions to help the transition as salon manager:
- Be patient
- Give the team time to acclimate to you
- If you are new to the team, set some time aside to get to know about each team member
- Set some basic ground rules based on the salon owner’s desires
- Enforce all rules fairly, consistently, and concisely
- Be a leader willing to dive in help
A salon manager is usually responsible for hiring and training staff, discipline, even firing should the need arise. With that in mind, you‘ll want to set up specific guidelines for hiring, employee conduct, and termination. If they already exist in the company, follow the guidelines for what has already been established. If not, set up your own standards. Either way, having a set of procedures and policies is essential, no matter the salon’s size.
All employees must be treated fairly, so a process must be set up and followed. Start with clearly defined job descriptions and expectations for each position within the entire team. Outline what their duties are, what is expected of them, and what would be deemed a disciplinary offense, including termination. These guidelines will make enforcing the rules easier for you and protect the business from potential employee lawsuits down the line.
Consider creating an employee manual that is accessible by any member of the team. The manual is a great place to start for all employees no matter what they do for the business or how long they have been employed at the salon.
Although each team member goes through some level of training, the salon manager can’t expect them to memorize everything in the guidelines. Announce the manual in a team meeting (and to all new hires), explain how to quickly and anonymously access it, and outline a plan for any employee to air a grievance. Every staff member must know that they have a voice and that there is an open door for them as needed.
In addition to hiring, a salon manager may be required to recruit talent. That means that you’ll want to find local sources, such as beauty schools, job boards, and chat rooms that allow stylist career information to be posted to find qualified people to fill each position. In each case, find out how they handle job postings.
A strong assisting program can help attract new graduates and/or recently licensed professionals for the service provider side. They need a place to continue their learning while working to build a clientele eventually. Having a robust continuing education program and even employee perks will help attract applicants for established service providers.
In the case of a rental salon or salon suites, included amenities (ample locked storage, towels, receptionist, etc.) and the salon’s business hours or policy for access to their station/room are essential to the renter.
The Hiring Process
As a salon manager, be sure there is a specific protocol for applicants. How are applications taken? How are the interviews conducted? What sort of interview questions should be asked. For service providers, is there a test? If hired, how is training handled? Same as previously mentioned, set up guidelines and follow them.
Hiring is about finding the right people to fill each role in the salon. The last thing you want to do is hire someone for the sake of having a body in that position. Take the time to truly vet each applicant. Start with a comprehensive application and ask all of the important questions. Find out about their work history, where they volunteer their time, even hobbies, and special interests. Check their references – call past employers. Be thorough.
In the case of service providers, test their skills in person. Have them do a haircut in front of you, present multiple finished looks or demonstrate a specific technique. For applicants for spa positions, have them perform certain services on you to experience everything for yourself. Basically, make them prove what they can do before you consider hiring them.
Do keep in mind that some applicants look great on paper, ace the job interview, or produce a great finished look, but they may not fit in with the team’s culture. Get to know them a bit so you can get a sense of what they are about.
For strong applicants that fit the job overview qualifications, consider bringing them into the salon. Give them a tour and introduce them to a few people. Watch how they interact with others, even set up a few stopping points along the way to see how they react. For example, for an assistant or new stylist position, leave them in the color dispensary for a minute to take a call. If they take the initiative to fold the clean towels in front of them, wash a dish, or rinse color bowls in the sink, you’ve got a team player on your hands. Hire them!
The same holds true for reception applicants. Have them wait at the front desk for a minute or two to see how they interact. Do they straighten the stack of business cards at the front desk, turn the backward-facing bottle around in the retail area, or at least acknowledge others with eye contact and a smile? These are all excellent traits of a customer service professional – watch for them.
It’s always a good idea to schedule regular meetings with your group. To get everyone involved and encourage participation, try to make the meetings fun and collective experiences. Remember, you’re working with mostly creative personalities, so a corporate meeting isn’t the best approach.
Set a specific agenda for your meeting and stick to it. However, you do want staff to know that they can speak up as needed. Make time as required for any issues at hand. If it’s a matter for a smaller group, do a breakout session to address the issue versus taking up the entire team’s time.
Team Building Exercises
While regular meetings are an excellent structure for staff communication, team-building activities outside of the salon can prove worthwhile. Taking the group outside of their work environment can open the pathway for better communication and help build camaraderie and engagement. Engaged employees tend to perform better at work, which is excellent for both your bottom line and morale. Also, happy employees translate to staff retention, which is a plus.
Consider bringing in a consultant for a more formal team-building activity, or go for an outing of some sort to bring the team together. Doubling as continuing education to enhance your staff’s skills, consider having the group attend a conference or workshop on a specific trend or technique.
In addition to regular staff meetings and exercises, be sure to set up individual team member meetings. These meetings should be private, one-on-one sessions to discuss the employee’s performance and goals and the salon’s success as an employer.
This is a good point to review that employee’s performance, address any issues, and set goals moving forward. Be sure to ask them to share their thoughts, struggles, and suggestions and assure them their input is important. Think of it in terms of growing them to help grow the salon. It’s an investment in both.
Nobody likes to fire people. Unfortunately, it’s a reality in business, including for salons. If a staff member is not performing to the salon’s expectations or they have a disciplinary issue, the salon manager is usually the person who delivers the bad news. In that case, make sure to have everything in order before calling the person into your office or taking them aside to terminate them.
First of all, be sure to follow all local, state, and federal laws and salon policies around employee termination. Clearly state why they are being fired or laid off. Have their final paycheck ready for them and help them gather their belongings and leave the premises without incident. Just remember that as hard as it is for you, it’s embarrassing for them. Be firm but show some compassion.
Handling Unhappy Customers
No matter how well a business operates or how great their customer service is, there will always be a handful of unhappy customers. It’s just the nature of business. As the salon manager, it’s your job to handle any complaints and to support your team in the event of a complaint.
Customer complaints are a learning opportunity. Treat it as such:
Take Swift but Calculated Action
Deal with the unhappy customer quickly and concisely. In most cases, it’s best to give them what they want. Whether in person, in an email, or on social media or a platform for reviews, be aware that others may be watching. How you handle things with this unhappy customer leaves an impression on other clients and potential clients.
Spot the Lessons
Learn from the moment. Is there a policy or procedure in place that needs to change? Is there a team member that could use more training? How can you make it better for the other clients?
Be Ready for the Fallout
Think of the repercussions of any action you take. For example, if an employee feels marginalized because they thought the customer was wrong and the salon took the client’s side, you’ll have a morale problem on your hands. The last thing you want is an employee that does not think you have their back. Talk with the employee, explain what was done and why, and assure them it’s nothing personal. Give them a chance to vent and come together to learn and grow from the experience. Especially when complaints happen, employees need to know that they are valued and respected.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you come across a serial complainer, deal with them accordingly by suggesting that they look elsewhere for their beauty needs. Naturally, you want to do that diplomatically. Depending on the forum in which they complain, remember that others may be watching. Be professional but stern, and then close the door on the conversation. Regardless of how you handle things and on what platform, set a line in the sand that such behavior will not be tolerated. Such action should help deter others from making your salon a victim.
3 Best Traits of a Salon Manager
Best Salon Manager Trait #1: Running a Tight Ship
For any manager, several things reflect your management style. Running a smooth operation is one of those things. If the salon doesn’t already have salon management software, look into options to help with scheduling, point of sale, automated notifications and confirmations, etc. Ensure your team is well acquainted with the software and uses all of the features and benefits to keep the operation running smoothly.
Another reflection on your management style is how tidy the salon looks. When clients walk through the door, the salon’s cleanliness plays a significant role in their first impression. That first impression is the foundation for the entire customer experience. Ensure that your team understands the value of the customer experience and steps up to ensure that the salon always looks its best. Every client should feel comfortable and well pampered in pleasing surroundings.
Best Salon Manager Trait #2: Mastering Communication
As a salon manager, it’s crucial to have good communication skills. Equally as vital is having a plan for communicating, including making sure that your staff is always up to date and knows what is expected of them. At a deeper level, they need to know what is not acceptable behavior.
Communication is also key to resolving conflicts. If an employee has an issue with another person, a salon policy, or a specific circumstance, a good conversation can usually clear the air.
While some problems are urgent and you’ll want to address them immediately, others are not as time-sensitive. Your monthly staff meetings are likely the best way to talk about some of the less urgent matters and serve as a platform for employees to ask questions and address their concerns.
Best Salon Manager Trait #3: Knowing Your Numbers
In addition to running the salon’s day-to-day operations, you are responsible for how your team performs. Naturally, it’s crucial to maintain a certain level of service and keep the customers happy. However, as the leader, you also need to maintain a particular benchmark with sales and look for ways to grow the salon’s bottom line.
Once you get the rhythm of the salon operations down, work with the salon owner to look deep into the key performance indicators (KPIs) for the salon. Run reports through the salon management software and examine the numbers. Look at overall service and retail sales and individual team member performance over time to identify any trends or deficiencies. Sit down together to outline a realistic long-term plan to help grow the salon’s bottom line.
Now that you know more about beauty salon management, do you have what it takes to be a great salon manager?