6 Qualities Of The Best Hair Salons In Austin

February 11, 2012

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As most of you know, I’m all about teaching. I love learning, giving, and sharing knowledge in all its forms. Exchanging ideas, networking with successful individuals, and helping others has always been a passion of mine. What you may not know is that over the last three years I’ve had the privilege of working as an educator and business coach for Strategies, a salon and spa business training and coaching company based out of Centerbrook, Connecticut. I’m sharing this not to brag, but merely to explain the extent of my exposure to the many facets of our industry. It is through Strategies that I’ve had the wonderful opportunity of traveling to many salons and spas all across North America. Combined with my more than ten years experience in this industry, I’ve seen the inner workings of both large operations and small operations. During this time I’ve noticed 6 qualities that makes certain salons stand out in comparison to their competitors.
So here it is, I’d like to share with you what I have found to be the top 6 qualities of the best salons and spas:

1) Systems and Service– Let’s face it, salons and spas are businesses too. Strangely enough, you still find many salons and spas out there that think it’s “cool” to have no structure or consider themselves as “laid back”. At these salons and spas, you may hear stylists and spa therapists (who by the way have two appointments on their book) say things like, “I got into this industry so I wouldn’t have to work in Corporate America”. Well, I have news for you. The salons and spas that operate like real businesses, who frown upon drama and have strong systems designed to create consistency in the way services are delivered are the ones that are eating your lunch. Why?  Because the truth is simply this, clients are coming in and dropping a lot of dough with the expectation of having great salon experiences on every visit, not just every once in a while. You can tell when a salon or spa has integrated service systems just by the energy you feel when you walk inside. From the greeting to how you are treated during and after your visit, these systems I’m referring to are designed to create consistency, which we all know breeds loyalty. Clients want to know that they are going to get what they are paying for on each and every visit, without fail. A relentless focus on consistency will work wonders.
2) Degree of Professionalism and Ongoing Education – This seems like a no-brainer, but believe it or not we still find stylists and spa therapists that prefer to talk more about themselves rather than the needs of their clients, all the while looking like they rolled out a of dumpster before showing up to work. I’ve also noticed that salons that place an emphasis on ongoing education and actually invest in education are the ones that typically outperform those that don’t. These are salons that you’ll find closing their doors once a month, or once every two weeks for educational classes as part of their commitment to excellence.   These are the salons with internal educators who are marked off of the book weekly to work with new recruits as part of their training.  These are salons who are bringing in guest artists to spend time with their teams. Our industry is always changing, with new techniques and products coming out every day. Only the best salons embrace the changes and are excited about learning how to get better.
3) Cleanliness – Someone told me a long time ago that if you ever really want to know how well a business is really run, just check out the cleanliness of the restrooms. That was some pretty good advice. It’s true! How many times have you visited a salon and noticed gunk and hair stuck on the bottles of styling products at the salon stations? Have you ever been escorted to a chair with hair scattered all over the floor from the previous haircut? Have ever noticed wax all over the perimeter of the wax pot in an esthetician’s spa room? When you visit the best salons, the facilities are spotless, including the restrooms! There’s a constant dedication to keeping a clean facility, not only because it’s the right thing to do but because it shows that the business actually cares.
4) Technology – So this is a big one. I’ve noticed that salons that are best in class utilize technology like no other. These are innovative salons that have sophisticated point of sale systems and much more. We’re talking iPads with electronic portfolios for powerful guest consultations, websites designed with online booking capabilities and remarkable content, integrated technology for internal salon/spa operations designed to improve communication and collaboration between team members. The list goes on and on. It’s no surprise that salons that have embraced technology are definitely blazing a trail past their competitors.
5) Client-centric Culture – This sort of ties in with quality number two. When the focus is all about the client, great things happen. While this quality seems to be common sense, you don’t necessarily find it in every salon or spa. In fact, in most salons you find team members bickering in the break room over who’s going to get credit for the commission split instead of figuring out ways to best serve the client. When you see salons making revolutionary changes to their compensation structure with the intention of creating a culture of teamwork instead of internal competition among stylists and therapists, amazing things start to happen. (I could go on about salon/spa compensation, but I’ll save that for a separate article) When you see team members working together to bring only the best salon and spa experiences to their guests, the energy is noticeably different.  This uniqueness is what sets these salons and spas apart from their competitors.  Call it a competitive advantage or call it a point of difference.  Clients crave the salon environments where they feel like they are being served by a team of professionals working in sync to create a memorable experience.  These are the salons that are truly committed to doing everything both internally and externally, placing the salon client as their top priority.
6) Recruiting – Rome wasn’t built in a day and the same goes for a great salon and spa operation.  Of all the salons and spas that I’ve encountered, the ones that recruit well, coach team members, and keep ONLY the best people are the ones that are the best in class. These salons don’t waste a lot of time with underperforming team members. They are incredibly selective in their interviewing process, they coach and develop those that make it in, and they aren’t afraid of quickly redeploying those that underperform.
So there you have it. Although I’m sure there are other mentionable qualities with merit, I hope these at least help some of you out there that are in the process of researching salons to make the best decision for you. I would also invite the salon professionals out there that have read this to offer your thoughts on the matter. What qualities would you add? Do you agree or disagree with what I’ve written here?

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Located in Austin, Texas.

Chris Murphy