salon management hero

Industry • Best Practice

Salon Management - The Ultimate Guide

So you updated your resume, nailed that interview, and claimed the coveted position of salon manager. Congratulations! Now what? Unfortunately, you’re still about to feel like you’ve been thrown into the deep end. According to recent studies, 87% of new managers wish they had more on-site training beforehand, and salon management is no exception, especially during a global pandemic.

The good news is you’re not alone. Even salon veterans struggle to adapt in 2020, but being open to new ideas will take you farther than you might think. Here are some leadership tips that will help you grow and thrive as a salon team leader.

salon management inline 1

Leadership 101: What is salon management?

So, what does a salon manager actually do? Half of the time, the job doesn’t look much different from a stylist. You will continue to see clients, maintain your workstation, and many other standard tasks. As a manager, however, you have additional responsibilities to ensure the salon runs smoothly and efficiently. And those obligations only increase during a pandemic, when hygiene and safety precautions are an even bigger priority!

Here’s a partial list of what managers keep track of:

  • Staffing: Unless they’re running a small salon, a manager can’t do everything on their own! That’s why managers help hire and train new stylists. If things aren’t working out, they’ll also need to discipline and dismiss staff as necessary.

  • Scheduling: Once the team is assembled, managers will create work schedules to ensure stylists are available to cover bookings and walk-ins. Don’t forget to prepare for any “rush hours”!

  • Customer service: As a leader, managers set the tone for how stylists, receptionists, and assistants interact with customers and resolve complaints.

  • Reporting: A great deal of salon management is about paperwork, specifically the financial reports that summarize revenue and expenses.

  • Inventory: Salons need scissors, clippers, beauty products, and more — and it won’t appear magically! Managers will order and replace equipment as necessary to keep operations running smoothly.

How to become a salon manager

If you own a salon, you’re likely already acting as the manager for your team. If you’re applying, however, it helps to have the right credentials. In the US, managers are expected to have a high school diploma, a state cosmetology license, and at least one year of sales or retail experience. These requirements can vary by location — if you’re already working at a salon, the owner might promote you once you’ve proved you can handle the job!

Benefits of salon management

So why become a salon manager, outside of “somebody needs to do it?” On top of your salary — ranging from $29,000 to $43,000 annually plus tips — salons can offer several benefits. According to, the most commonly reported perks include:

  • Flexible hours

  • Employee discounts

  • Paid time off

  • Health savings accounts

  • Dental insurance

For more details on salon management courses and professional development resources, check out our Salon Management Survival Guide!

salon management inline 2

Soft skills for salon managers

Like any management role, salon managers excel with a combination of hard and soft skills. We’ve already touched on beauty styling and financial reporting, but soft skills are crucial — and arguably more important — if you’re going to take on this role.


Salon managers draw on communication skills every day, and not just when telling a client their new haircut looks fab. You’ll be giving directions to staff, calling support teams about equipment orders, and parsing out what a client really means when they “let’s do something different.” Knowing how to interact professionally with others and engage with different personality types can make all the difference.

Of course, if communicating was easy, everyone would have these skills! Try to keep the following suggestions in mind:

  • Consider your audience: How you interact with a new client is different than how you’ll speak to a regular — let alone your staff, contractors, or beloved family members. While you can always be friendly, your tone should still reflect the nature of your relationship.

  • Be clear and concise: If you can summarize your professional conversations in a short, bullet-point format, it will be much easier for listeners to understand you.

  • Listen: Communication is a two-way street. You’ll need to listen more than you speak to understand what challenges and difficulties your team faces. You might even learn solutions from your stylists that you hadn’t considered!


There are only so many hours in the day, and managers can’t do everything. (Even if it looks that way!) Whatever the size of your salon, time management helps you stay organized, focus on priorities, and know when it’s time for a quick break.

If you’re running a large salon, delegation is a major element to time management — and the hardest for new managers to embrace. When you’re used to handling day-to-day tasks yourself, managers often think it’s faster to do operational tasks themselves. In reality, doing everything leads to burnout. Lean on your team members for help!

Take some time to determine which staff members are the best fit for each task, from cleaning to scheduling. Don’t be afraid to reassign these tasks so people feel like you're singling them out for certain jobs. And once a delegated task is complete, show your appreciation!

Leading by example

The phrase “lead by example” isn’t just a saying. It’s a scientifically-studied phenomenon where team members adjust their actions based on their leader’s behavior. Surprise surprise, salon management is no exception. If you adopt a professional tone, have pleasant conversations, and show you’re willing to help overwhelmed co-workers? You’ll notice other team members step up in similar ways.

Unfortunately, the opposite is true as well. Telling inappropriate jokes, playing favorites among your staff, or other unprofessional activity will quickly create a toxic work culture. If you’re not willing to lead by example, why should you expect any differently from your team?

For more salon management advice, look at How to Be a Good Salon Manager in 2020: 6 Tips to Master the Trade.

salon management inline 3

Hiring and managing salon staff

No leader can run anything effectively without putting the right people in the right jobs. That means salon managers will have to dedicate some time to creating applications for stylists, receptionists, and assistants, on top of handling the interview process. While it might seem overwhelming to a novice manager, the process is relatively straightforward with the following best practices in mind:

Prepare answers for applicant questions

The first thing to remember is that you aren’t just interviewing applicants — they’re checking to see whether your salon is a good fit for them. So include relevant details for the role in your application, and be prepared to answer questions on:

  • The salary range for this position

  • The size of the team

  • A clear breakdown of regular and irregular responsibilities for the role

Place job postings far and wide

If you’re looking for stylists in 2020, you have no shortage of application channels to choose from. Look into online job boards, link to your social media pages, and don’t forget about local newspaper postings. The key here is visibility — you want applicants who are local or willing to travel, so make sure it’s wherever they will ultimately look.

Tap into your professional network

In some cases, the best stylists come from professional references. When you put the word out, check in with your professional network to see if your fellow stylists and salon managers know of anyone who would be a good fit. You’ll still need to hold an interview, but recommendations from someone you trust can help you feel more confident in a final decision.

Have clear workplace policies that everyone can understand

Now that you have a new employee, it’s time to train them. Even a fully licensed stylist needs to become familiar with a new salon, from work policies and weekly schedules to booking processes. Every salon does things differently, so be prepared for an onboarding period so that everyone’s on the same page.

To learn more about salon hiring practices in 2020, read our blog post Job Roles in a Beauty Salon — How to Hire and Manage a Lean Staff.

salon management inline 4

COVID-19 and salon business strategy

2020 hasn’t been a great year for anyone, salon managers included. Not only were operations shut down for months, but upon reopening, salons struggled to attract new clients. With no vaccine in sight for months, the only way forward is to implement new safety practices that protect clients and staff.

COVID-19 is one of the biggest challenges a salon manager can face, but it is not insurmountable. By acquiring the right protective equipment, updating staff training, and getting creative with schedules, you can offer most — if not all — of your pre-COVID beauty services. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Wear a mask

Thankfully, the most reliable way to prevent COVID-19 transmissions is also the easiest — masks. During shifts, all staff should be wearing masks at all times. Clients should wear masks that hook around the ears so stylists can work on their hair. If a client mask must come off to complete a specific service, it should go back on as soon as you're finished.

Stock up on PPE

Salons can provide masks, but managers must also consider other personal protection equipment. Stylists will need to change capes between appointments, get fresh towels, and dispose of or disinfect items in the workstation between each use. You’ll also need lots of disposable gloves.

Retrain staff on COVID protections

All staff must know how to stay safe in the workplace, so bookmark the link to Barbicide’s COVID-19 Certification Course. This program brings stylists up to speed on coronavirus sanitation procedures and transmission vectors, and it's updated frequently with the latest COVID precautions.

Minimize client/staff interactions

The less time staff and clients have to interact and socialize, the lower the risk of infection. An excellent place to start is shutting down the waiting room and limiting the number of clients in the building.

Managers can also arrange workflows so only one stylist and client will be in direct contact. For example, instead of letting an assistant wash a client’s hair, they can focus on other tasks like cleaning equipment for upcoming appointments.

Always 👏 Be 👏 Cleaning 👏

After one client leaves the building, don’t let your next appointment in right away. Take a little extra time to sanitize the workstation — wipe down the chair, dispose of salon capes and towels, and replace any single-use PPE. Managers can help by spacing out appointments to account for sanitation time. And don’t forget to give stylists breaks as needed. This is hard on them too! 

For more COVID-19 protection advice for managers, read our article How to Optimize Salon Scheduling for a Post-Corona World.

So, salon management is a piece of cake, right? Okay, it can be a lot to handle, even without a global pandemic. Thankfully, managers have resources at their disposal to make the process easier.

At Boulevard, we’re here to help with business management software that’s made specifically for the day-to-day workflows of salons and spas. Our platform can organize your work schedule, intelligently space out appointments with automated smart scheduling (even automatically allowing for transition times to clean!), improve client communication with two-way texting, easily allow you to browse equipment inventories, and fully handle payment collection, and much, much more. With features like these at your fingertips, you’ll save time on day-to-day management tasks and can focus your attention on the business in front of you.

Want to see how Boulevard’s platform can be customized to match your salon? Book a free demo today. We can’t wait to hear from you!

CTA - Manager s Handbook to Salon Operation Blog Footer

Share Article

 /  /  /  /