Industry • Best Practice
How to Be a Good Salon Manager: 6 Tips to Master the Trade
It’s finally happened! You slay the game as a beauty professional, demonstrated real interest in moving into a leadership role, and at last… secured that salon manager position. Congrats! Now: unlearn everything you think you know, because being a good salon manager looks very different from the other side. Your co-workers are now your direct reports, and you have to motivate and lead them, while offering enough space for them to grow as stylists.
An easy shift? Not always. But it’s certainly possible if you’re willing to be open to new ideas and adapt. Here’s some leadership advice to help you get started:
How to be a good salon manager
1. Hire the right stylists
A salon can only be as great as its stylists, so it’s essential to pick the right people for the job. As a manager, you will likely play a role in creating job postings, choosing applicants, conducting interviews, and making the final hiring decision. Doing all of this is not always easy — hiring skills are distinct from beauty training, and it may take time to feel comfortable with the process.
When making your decision, remember that you’re not just looking for beauty and hair experience on a resume. You also need someone compatible with your work culture. Is your salon professional, yet fun? Are your stylists as excited to chat with clients as each other? When a candidate has personality and social skills that match your brand, it will be that much easier to integrate them into your team.
Finally, don’t forget the hiring basics. Write up interview questions that will highlight previous salon experiences. Contact their references and find out whether other employers are satisfied with their performance. Putting in the effort during the hiring process is the best way to build a strong staff.
2. Lead by example
Salon managers aren’t just gorgeous leaders of stylists (yes, we see you); they’re valuable team members working alongside everyone else. That’s by design — while your position demands a certain degree of authority, leaders always need to lead by example. Not only is this a good workplace practice, but the actions you take filter down to stylists.
When you adopt a professional tone, it informs how your staff behaves. If you’re willing to help co-workers who are overwhelmed, they’re more likely to respond in kind. If nothing else, you should never delegate a task to stylists that you wouldn’t do yourself. Yes, you have other responsibilities to handle, but you still need to prove your value to your staff, not just the other way around.
There’s just one exception: While you certainly should pitch in, that doesn’t mean you have time to do literally everything a salon requires. At some point, you’ll need to...
3. Learn to delegate
Perhaps the biggest obstacle any leader faces, in a salon or otherwise, is learning that it’s okay to delegate tasks. This is especially true for stylists promoted to managerial roles after handling things independently for most of their careers. Here’s the thing: Managers have far more responsibility than any individual stylist, and trying to juggle everything at once is the quickest path to burnout.
So if you’re struggling with how to be a good salon manager — particularly, the feat of balancing your core duties with administrative tasks — the answer could be hiding in plain sight. You have a full team of staff with their own skills. Use them!
Assign tasks based on ability: Find out which staff members are a good fit for each task. Is there a particular stylist who is comfortable with scheduling and answering phones? Consider putting them on the reception desk when they don’t have a client.
Evaluate and value your staff: Once a delegated task is completed, show them it’s appreciated! You can also evaluate their work and point out ways to improve, if necessary.
Mix it up: Don’t be afraid to reassign tasks now and then. If you keep assigning the same staff member to clean the bathroom each day, they might think you have something against them!
Delegating is a skill like any other and requires practice. Once you’re doing it effectively, however, you’ll notice that it’s much easier to manage to focus on the “big picture” tasks behind any salon.
4. Hone your communication skills
As a salon manager, your biggest responsibilities revolve around communication. You’ll be giving direction to a team, interacting with clients, and managing the backend of the operation. Each of these tasks requires clear and concise communication, especially when you need to pass information between each group! Knowing how to interact with a broad range of personality types is an invaluable skill that defines leaders and salon managers.
Of course, developing communication skills isn’t easy, and can be one of the biggest hurdles to becoming a manager. Always try to keep a few details in mind:
Consider your audience: The way to speak to a new client is entirely different from what you’ll say during a monthly staff meeting. Strike a tone based on the nature of the communication and the professional relationship you have with others.
Be clear and concise: In most cases, the best approach is to say what you need as clearly as possible. Make your point, make sure they understand you, move to the next step.
Listen: Communication is a two-way street. It’s just as important to listen to what stylists and staff have to say — particularly when it comes to problems the salon is facing. They might even have ideas for fixing issues that you hadn’t considered!
5. Implement COVID-19 safety practices
If becoming a new manager wasn’t hard enough, you also need to worry about COVID-19. In 2020, learning how to be a good salon manager also means staying on top of coronavirus protections. COVID-19’s high transmission rate is a significant obstacle for many beauty industries, so you must implement practices that ensure everyone’s safety.
The good news is you don’t have to do this alone. Everyone from the CDC to salon leaders has been putting their heads together to address this immense challenge. We’ve included the best advice in our salon equipment guide, but here are a few specific things managers can address personally:
Implement a face mask policy: Wearing a face mask is the most reliable way to prevent COVID-19 transmission. While working, your stylists should wear a mask at all times. Clients should also wear masks — ideally ones that hook around the ears so that hair is accessible.
Stock up on PPE equipment: Your stylists will go through all kinds of capes, towels, and other items that will require disposal or disinfecting between appointments. Don’t forget to keep a healthy amount of gloves and disposable masks on hand as well.
Update your sick leave policy: The last thing anyone needs is for staff to show up sick during a pandemic, especially at a salon. If you haven’t already, update any sick day policies so employees know their job is secure if they need to take some time off. Staff with hourly or contract-based arrangements could be eligible for state assistance. Check your state’s regulations to see if your staff quality for financial support during sick leave.
6. Don’t overlook salon management courses and resources
Do you still feel like there’s a lot to learn after reading this blog? Well … yeah! We’ve just scratched the surface of how to be a good salon manager. You’ll always be learning and adapting to new circumstances throughout your entire career. The good news is you’re not alone. The beauty community has all kinds of resources and advice for finding your way:
Be on the lookout for salon management courses: Beauty professionals require licensing and training to operate, so many schools naturally offer salon management courses as part of their curriculum. Check out websites like the Beauty Schools Directory for programs in your state.
Certify your entire team with Barbacide’s sanitation courses: The cleaning brand Barbacide already offers one of the best beauty sanitization courses in the industry. When the coronavirus pandemic began, Barbacide upped its game with a new COVID-19 course, designed to educate stylists on the most recent guidelines.
Read more salon management books: Published books are a great way to learn the ins and outs of salon management, or brush up on the latest trends. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of options, but we’d recommend starting with Salon Ownership and Management by Tina Albarino.
Bonus Tip: Learn
Becoming a new salon manager isn’t easy — on top of all your new responsibilities, you’re likely still contributing as a stylist! The good news is when you take time to hone your communication, delegation, and leadership skills, you’ll assemble a team that can handle anything 2020 has to offer.