10 Questions about Salon Business Success

10questions salon business owners coaches anthony presotto

 I asked some respected salon owners and business coaches 10 questions related to how we approach various key aspects of salon business and how they can affect our salon business success. Here are their answers……

1. Is it enough to have high technical skills, and a clean modern salon image to make it today in salon business?

Michael Levine: It is a good start. But not enough on it’s own unless the location is tremendous.

Richard Mccabe:  No this is the standard that all salons need just to open their doors. It takes a lot more detail and experiences in todays world to excite staff and clients alike.

Peter Rosas: No it isn’t, if no one knows the salon is there then you a person with high skills and a beautiful place but lost among every other salon. Word of mouth is wonderful, but with today’s high rents and business expenses it means, that you must get clients in the door through social media and established referrals programs.

Larry Curtis:
No, I believe that strong technical skills get you into the game but it is your business and personal skills that lead you to success. In over 27 years of owning salons, I have countless examples of stylists with great technical skills that struggled connecting to their client and consequently had a difficult time building clientele. On the other hand I have known many extremely successful stylists with average technical skills who understood how to provide an incredible experience and build a great client relationship. If you can do both, watch out because you’ll be a star!

2. How important is it to have a business plan or defined vision for your salon business?

Michael Levine: It is everything. The foundation of the business. When creating a business plan and vision, the most important part is the service vision/ client experience. Start with that and work from there to figure out the economics and location.

Richard Mccabe: It is imperative to have a plan of action to get your salon to the next level, it can be as simple as you like, but there needs to be some direction for you and your team.

Peter Rosas: Extremely important, you and the business must have a clear path, your vision should be laid out in the steps you feel will get your business to your level of success you desire, Success is a personal thing, only the owner can answer that, they should share that with their staff, what level of success they wish to achieve.

With a Business plan an owner cannot be afraid to evaluate those steps chosen to achieve the desired goal,  as they are going through the steps,  but they must not be afraid to modify the plan if something is not working as planned.

Larry Curtis: Having a plan is critical. Whatever your destination, to get there you need a plan. It starts with deciding what you want. It is important to be specific, write down what you want and make it measurable. Then, set a deadline to accomplish your goals. Identify any obstacles that may be in your path. Determine any additional knowledge that you need to acquire. Determine who can assist you in reaching your goals. One sure fire way to find success faster is to find a mentor. I have found that successful people are usually very willing to share how they found success. Get advise from others who have taken the same path. Now, declare what your dream is and starting taking action!

3. Do salon owners focus enough on profitability and planning a budget? Or do they still think covering wages and paying most bills on time is enough?

Michael Levine: I personally have never spent any time worrying about profitability or budget once I have figure out my initial business plan. I should but I don’t. I worry about maintaining the service standards, quality of work and environment first.

Richard Mccabe: I think salon owners start out trying to make a living and cover bills, some owners progress enough to make a very good living most will just survive. They would be better of being employed. It’s the Australia way to work for your self, but in most occasions the owner lacks skill to run a business.

Peter Rosas: I would say many salon owners feel, if wages are met and most of the bills are being paid on time they they have a successful business, and that is fine in the early stages, but they should be planning on a point in time when planning a budget and reaching profitability also has to be equally as  important.

4. To what length should owners go to run a profitable business? Do owners really know when a business is profitable?

Michael Levine: Generally not. Salon owners are notorious for not having awareness, and I am guilty of it. This is why my business is stagnant.

Richard Mccabe: They tend to judge if they are doing well by paying themselves a wage and covering bills. If more had a goal or plan they would know if they are winning or losing.

Peter Rosas: If books and entry’s are being kept on a daily bases, totals of money going out on expenses, and accurate totals of the money coming in to the business, then the path of profitability is established.

Larry Curtis: No, unfortunately most salons are owned by stylists who have little to no business training or experience. Having a passion for the salon industry is a great starting point but is only one of many necessary ingredients. The ability to be a great hairdresser is completely different from the ability to be a great business owner. Why do most businesses fail? They fail because of a lack of knowledge and preparation.

Before becoming a SalonOwner, you should ask yourself these questions:

  • What experience do you have in running a business, or are you just convinced you can do it because you are great at hair?
  • Have you read any books on how to start a business?
  • Have you taken a course on marketing or advertising?
  • Do you know how to hire, fire, train and manage people?
  • Are you under capitalized? Do you even know what that means?
  • Do you know what break even is? What a Balance Sheet or Income Statement is or what your real expenses will be?
  • Cash flow is not the same as profitability. Do you know the difference?
  • Are you an expert in customer service and how to deliver it?
  • Do you know how to sell?
  • What makes you unique? How will you stand out from your competitors?
  • Do you even know if there is a need for a new salon in the area you have chosen? Are you sure? Just because your friends and family said they would buy from you, it doesn’t mean there is a need.

5. Should a salon owner focus more on business behind the chair or should they focus on developing their staff? If they stop working behind the chair does it show a lack of passion for the business?

Michael Levine: I think there actually needs to be a combination. AN owner in this business generally needs to lead by example to show the team how to service clients. Especially in the beginning. Eventually they can ease back, but stylists need to know that the owner has done it and can succeed in the environment . And often stylists ask for things, saying they need them. It’s good for an owner to be able to say “no” or be able to determine what is needed or not.

Richard Mccabe: There needs to be a balance, if they are the boss they need to train staff, steer the business and if they still love the doing of salon life then yes they can do all three. But time must be put aside for all three.

Peter Rosas: The business becomes stronger by building a strong employee base, the path to success is establishing a successful team to build around the brand, the brand being the vision established by the owner. A team senses the owners commitment to them by being a strong role model, it is the job of the owner to build the education and mentor the employees through training, and through product support .

Larry Curtis: I believe that it is important to follow your passion. If you love it, you will figure out how to be great at it. However, it is difficult if not impossible to work full time behind the chair and still expect to have the time to develop your staff. If you are planning on continuing to work full time behind the chair, then you will need a great Manager and great systems. Only you can decide where your passion lies, just realize that to be successful you must put your full time and best efforts towards your goals. Dividing your focus leads to mediocrity and mediocrity often leads to failure.


6. Whose responsibility is it to create growth in the salon? Should the owner constantly be supplying new clients or should the responsibility lay with the stylists to grow their clientele?

Michael Levine: Both. The owner provides advertising and location and environment but stylists must be sure to be bringing new business into the salon in order to become successful faster. They see the advantage to this on their pay cheques. The upside of an owner providing all the clients is safety and security and protection from eventual staff changes.

Richard Mccabe: The responsibility is always on the owner, Its up to them to motivate and excite. To set standards in the salon and to give the stylist a reason to grow his clientele.

Peter Rosas: The creation of client growth, falls directly upon the stylists that are part of the team, the owner must show the staff the benefits of being part of their salon community, a stylists potential growth falls upon their ability to build a client base of clients that like their sense of style. I call it finding – Like Minded Clients, those clients will create a happier environment for everyone.

Larry Curtis: The relationship between the salon and stylist should be win-win, where the salon is doing all they can to assist the stylists growth and the stylist wants the salon to succeed as well. With that being said, building a clientele is the stylist’s responsibility. No one cares about your career as much as you do, and no matter how much advertising or marketing your salon owner does, nothing compares to what you do! This is a relationship business, you are in control of your own destiny. Too many people believe that building a clientele is like sitting in a fine restaurant and waiting for the waiter to take your order, when in actuality it is more like a great buffet where you have you get out of your seat and go get it. If you want a great clientele, you need to make it happen!

7. How important is it to have systems in place that hold stylists accountable for their own success? Can you give an example?

Michael Levine: I’m not sure of the questions. I personally don’t. If someone is not growing in any way then they may lose their job, but this business is 100% based on stylists being given a path. If they walk it, they will succeed. If they don’t they won’t.

Richard Mccabe: As above the stylists need to be taught The HOW and WHY to grow a clientele.

Peter Rosas: Quarterly meeting with each staff member will make them aware of their client retention totals, also the totals they are bring in for the services they are providing to their clients. 

Larry Curtis: Speakers, authors and trainers love to tell us that there are secrets to success, but the truth is that there are no secrets. There is no revolutionary new information. The same things it takes to be successful today are the same things it has taken throughout history. There are only universal principles and timeless truths, and one of the greatest truths is that quality systems are critical. Systems allow us to stay organized and consistent. Tracking your numbers allows you to know how you are doing. It is just as important as ever to know what your retention rate is, what your referral rate is, how you are doing on retailing and what percentage of your clientele is receiving chemical services. Using systems to track our progress gives us the knowledge we need to improve. Doing business without systems is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you want to accomplish but no one else does.

8. Is it important for salon owners to be coaches and mentors to their staff? And if so how regularly should they schedule coaching and mentoring sessions with them?

Michael Levine: Yes. I should be meeting with mine individually every quarter but at this time am only doing it once a year. There should also be regular in-salon education.

Richard Mccabe:  The owner needs respect from his team. A salon culture is a must. Call it what you like it’s all about respect. For the owner and the salon.

Peter Rosas: The salon owner has to be the one person that the staff looks up to. Mentorship has to come in the way of how to manage their clients and how to up sell services that a clients feels will be of value to them, another way of building staff moral and clients too, is to photograph the stylists work and use the staff’s clients in social media avenues, just make sure the client signs a release form.

Larry Curtis: Yes, I believe the most important role of a Salon Owner or Manager is to coach their staff. As an owner, if you want a successful, profitable salon, it is your job to make sure that your staff is being trained and encouraged to reach their full potential. Telling people to “do more – sell more” is pretty ineffective without the “here’s how to do more and do it better” training. You don’t know what you don’t know. It is the Salon Owners job to be a mentor, to show the staff what is possible.

9. With the proliferation of online stores, is it worthwhile continuing to try to sell retail products to clients?

Michael Levine: Obviously. The vast majority of hair care purchases are inspired by the experience in the salon. Most won’t go home and then try to find it on-line cheaper. Some do, most won’t.

Richard Mccabe: Retail is dying a slow death. There has to be a better way. Client loyalty is at an all time low, most will shop around. It is important that a client can recreate the look at home. So retail has a important part to play, just don’t count on it.

Peter Rosas: Products available to a client when their services have been completed only makes the client want to buy the product at that moment so they can achieve the same results at home. Products must be available.

Larry Curtis: Yes, I still believe that no one should know your client and their needs better than you, their stylist does. A personal recommendation from a knowledgeable stylist is still the best avenue for clients to know the correct and most effective product for them. Selling products is still triple win, the clients gets better results and as a result will be more loyal, you make more money and the salon does too.

10. I love this quote “What got you here, won’t get you there” What should a salon owner do to make sure they continue to thrive into the future?

Michael Levine: Recognize when things are declining and slowing down. Get staff involved in planning and executing the growth and resurgence of the brand. I am going to do this with one of my salons this month.

Richard Mccabe: They need to train themselves on business and management or employ someone who can direct them. They are salon owners, the big boss. So act like one. Stop winging it. It wont cut it in the long run.

Peter Rosas: Owners have to continue to bring in new talent, they could have a diamond in the rough, but they won’t know unless they bring the in for a look . Competion can be a positive in a salon environment creative people want to prove their worth, they want to compare service totals, they want to share stories on the services they are doing.

Owners also have to allow people to grow as artists, the staff needs to grow their presence on YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and even Facebook.

Fear an owner may have is that some stylists may reach a point where the staff member may out grow the salon, and want to go else where. The key is communication and the realization that stylists don’t always stay forever, but if the staff member feels respected and appreciated, they will stay and continue to grow the image of the salon. Sassoon’s is a wonderful example of staff members staying with an organization for 10, 20 or 30 years.

Larry Curtis: Being an educator, one thing that I’ve noticed is that the most successful Salon Owners and stylists are teachable. They never stop learning. They are always striving to improve. The ones who struggle are the ones who think they already know everything. Continuing education inspires us and motivates us to improve. Listen to those who have earned the right to speak. Learn from the people who have already proven their success, people that can help you reach your goals faster. Newton D Baker said, “The man who graduates today and stops learning tomorrow is un-educated the day after.” Focus on what you do well now, don’t expect to be perfect, study the masters and remember that the road to success is always under construction. 


So who are these salon owners and business coaches?

Here is a brief bio on the contributors.

larry-1Larry Curtis, the Founder and President of Taylor Andrews Academy of Hair Design, is a Professional Beauty Association motivational speaker who has traveled and lectured all over the United States. He has developed an extensive network of connections that allows him to bring some of the most respected names in the cosmetology industry to lecture, teach, and inspire Taylor Andrews students.

His acclaimed business program “Mission: Possible, Incredible Salon Success” has helped students learn critical skills relating to the business side of beauty. Through the program, countless graduates have learned how to make money doing what they love.



michael levineMichael Levine is one of Canada’s most sought after and in-demand stylists. Training under and working alongside some of the most iconic names in the hair industry, Michael was approached by Aveda in 1996 to lead their cutting and colouring education in western Canada, where he helped develop some of today’s most widely used highlighting and cutting techniques.
Opening Statik in 1998, Caramel in 2003, Tao in 2007 and Space in 2011 with his wife and celebrated hairdresser Liz Abreu, Michael has spent 16 years behind the chair making Vancouver women’s hair more beautiful, as well as developing young talent through apprenticeships and now at Vancouver’s premier hairdressing school the Vancouver Hairdressing Academy.

15 years after our modest first location, we have 50 staff, 3 large salons (Caramel and Space), 2 locations of the Vancouver Hairdressing Academy, a product line we develop and more drama than I’d like. We have won 6Contessas (Canadian Hairstylist of the Year Awards) and have been a finalist for North American Salon Team of the Year.


Richard-McCabe-pola03-246x300Richard McCabe started his hairdressing career at the age of 19 and went through what was then a 5 year apprenticeship, after a few years Richard decided to open up his own salon. After going to an intense seminar of a world-class coach in London, this coach looks after the rich and famous salons in the U K, the penny dropped and all the information clicked into place.
So Richard used these systems year after year and grew his salon into a  salon that was a pleasure to work in and paid him enough to be happy. After spending lots of his time with different companies benchmarking salons around the world Richard realised that a lot of salons were the same, they had the same problems no organisation, no systems and not enough time to implement them, so Richard started to create an online coaching program to help these salons. After many years of perfecting the systems to work to be used in an integrative way, isalon coaching was born.

 peter-rosasPeter Rosas is the thought leader behind Client-Data LLC, the industry leader in providing feature rich customer relationship management applications for stylists on mobile devices and the web. His motivation and life’s work is to enrich the experience and prosperity of those individuals who desire to have a successful career providing the highest level of personal services.
Over his 35 years as a stylist, mentor, author and lecturer, Peter has defined a set of guidelines that can help hair stylists, skin technicians, nail professionals, tattoo artists, and barbers. His unique approach can be implemented by anyone in the service industry to enrich and grow their business.

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About Anthony Presotto

Currently one of only two Australian hairstylists who are members of the Hairdressing World Expert Panel, Anthony Presotto is on a mission to empower salon owners, sharing his expertise as an author, international speaker and salon business strategist.

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