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3 Things I Wish I Knew About Front-Of-House Salon Management Before I Started

Ever wondered what it’s like behind the scenes at a top salon? Our Director of Education, Shanalie Wijesinghe pulls back the curtain in her latest LinkedIn article, which we've republished below.

It’s the beginning of your shift, but as you walk through the doors a client is already waiting at the front desk. You notice the display case is running low on your best-selling product, and there’s a note that a stylist is out sick, so you’ll need to reschedule their appointments. And the phone is ringing. 

If you’ve ever worked as a manager in the service industry, this probably sounds like just another day in the life. From open to close, you’ve got clients to please, staff to manage, and on top of everything else you have revenue goals to hit. Whether you’re selling coffee, facials, or hair treatments, the stakes are high and sales cycles happen in real-time. 

Front-of-house (FOH) salon management is not for the faint of heart. It’s a fast-paced interdisciplinary role, best suited to career-minded folks who want to learn the ins and outs of a business. I started my career working FOH at Sally Hershberger and BENJAMIN, two upscale salons here in LA. There are a few things I wish I’d known heading into the job, and I’d like to share what I’ve learned with you.

Lesson #1: Roll out the red carpet from the jump

Salon management requires you to be unusually self-possessed, amiable, and confident in dealing with clients. If you’re applying for a FOH role, that starts in the interview. Treat the Salon Director like you would a client. It’s all in the details: Look them in the eye, ask about their vision for the business, and make it clear you appreciate their time. If you show up with coffee, bring one for them too. If you’re debating wearing a t-shirt or a 3-piece suit, go big. 

If you’re already in the salon management position, consider how to make that red carpet service scalable. Build processes — not people! Create a system that can be replicated. Give your staff a consistent script for describing services or handling sticky situations. You want clients to receive consistent treatment even if a junior receptionist answers the phone.

Lesson #2: Get it out of your head, and into a notebook

When I first started in client management, I was glued to a notebook. I kept a record of everything, and soon this practice earned me trust within the business. I became a go-to resource, known for my attention to detail. But to be honest, the secret was really simple — I just knew to trust pen and paper over my own memory.

Early on when you’re answering phones and running around, I’d recommend keeping a physical notebook. But there are also a ton of digital tools that make life easier. For example in the Boulevard dashboard, there’s a place for appointment notes, client notes, and scheduling notes. That digital record means that any staff member can get details about a particular situation or learn how to work with a challenging client. 

The sooner you admit your memory is fallible, the better, because in this role, mistakes impact stylists’ earnings. If there’s a financial impact, you can always expect an emotional reaction. Something as simple as a dropped appointment could cause a domino effect, causing client frustration and internal beef, even leading to a damaging review.

Lesson #3: Embrace accountability (even if it hurts)

In a FOH role, proper communication is everything — even when you’re delivering bad news. Ideally, if you’re providing top-notch service and paying attention to details, this won’t happen too often. But every once in a while, things will go wrong: maybe a junior receptionist missed a step in the booking process, or the hot water heater broke down. When things fall through the cracks (or just plain fall apart) accountability is always the shortest path to resolution.

Early on in my FOH management days, I accidentally closed the booking window before confirming an appointment. A few hours later, another client booked the same appointment slot. When both clients showed up the next day expecting service, I had only one recourse. I had to apologize to both of them for my error and work with my team to make adjustments to accommodate them. In this case, I was incredibly lucky because I’d built trusting relationships with the service providers I worked alongside. Not only did they go out of their way to fit both appointments in, but they also vouched for me, telling the clients that this was a rare mistake. In the end, my accountability actually strengthened these relationships. 

I hope what I’ve shared is helpful in your FOH management journey. If you’ve already been in the role for a while, please share your own tips and thoughts in the comments! I’d love to hear your stories.

View Shanalie's article on LinkedIn to share, link, and comment!

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