How Rapid Salon Growth Took Me By Surprise

How Rapid Salon Growth Took Me By Surprise

Two years after I sold my 3 room, 7 staffed spa, I moved to tiny little sea-side town on Vancouver Island and opened my third esthetic business as a single owner/operator model. By the time I completed my first year in business in 2007, I had a full, happy clientele and a booming bank account. However, I quickly became a victim of my success three months later.

I was so good at generating new clients that nobody could get in for an appointment for three months.

Now…you may be thinking, “I wish I had that problem!” but I want to explain why having such rapid growth came at a price and how you can avoid my growing pains.

 1.  I was overworked with admin and non-billable duties.

You need time to develop business systems that will ease your workload. The systems you use right now may not be scalable when you are fully booked.  For future ease, plan for bringing on digital systems that can handle the mundane administrative work you shouldn’t be wasting your time on. Or start researching companies that you can contract the work to.

I finally hired a laundry service to relieve my workload, signed up for a new booking/POS system that was more efficient and did a trade for my bookkeeping needs. This allowed me true down time outside of salon hours.

 2.   I hit a ceiling with my earning potential.

As you are slowly growing, that is the best time to think about how you will increase your earning potential....and then Make. A. Plan.

Will you build a larger location? Are you budgeting for that? Will you hire staff?  Don’t be that salon owners who throws new hires on the floor with very little training and wonder why you have high client and staff turnover. Unsexy but essential business strategies and systems will need drafting: business plans, policy and procedure manuals, training protocols, and salon systems. All of that development takes a huge amount of time to prepare for successful growth.  Why not start those now?

If you don’t want to hire staff and choose to keep it small, how are you going to leverage your time? Will you raise your rates? Become specialized? Working longer hours won’t be an option at that point, or you’ll quickly burn out.

I chose to drop the services that were not popular, hard on my body, took too much time to set up & clean up or were just not enjoyable to me anymore. By removing them, I opened up my schedule for the treatments truly I loved doing (waxing) and were much more lucrative per hour.

My advice? Consciously decide how you are going to work smarter, not harder.

3.   I was completely exhausted.

At the beginning stages of building my clientele I could be much more flexible with my schedule. But as I got busier I had to learn how to say ‘no.’ By then I was also a single mom, and it was important for me to be physically, mentally & emotionally present for my son and I was not willing to comprise that part of my life.  Saying 'no' to the extra booking requests was really hard, but I needed to stick to my hours so I could have longevity in my career.

When I realized clients couldn’t get on the books for three months, I stopped taking any new clients and waited for attrition to happen in my business.   It took approximately one year for my schedule to get to a place in which I felt more balanced. And when the recession hit here in 2009/2010, I simply stepped up my client attraction tactics to begin the building process again.

The bottom line is; use the extra time you have while your business is growing to design it in a conscious way. And if your business does happen to explode with 10x the clients, you are prepared to handle the scale with grace and professionalism.

No one can predict the future, but if you can embrace your slower growth periods to make plans for a scalable business, you will be able to protect your energy, keep your passion and still allow for higher earning potential for when rapid growth hits!

Are You Following The Blind?

Are You Following The Blind

I find it incredibly uplifting to see salon & spa professionals congregating online and supporting each other in their entrepreneurial journey. I’m specifically referring to the closed Facebook groups created for the sheer desire to connect, build relationships and help with each others businesses. What do I love about these groups?

In the past few years, these closed Facebook groups have become a safe-haven to share our most vulnerable worries, our rants about demanding clients and our wish for an easier way to run a business. It often feels like a refuge from the heavy toll of entrepreneurship and reinforces our desire to collaborate with like-minded individuals.

However, there is one thing about them that has me worried...bad advice is often inadvertently served up. ☜ Click to Tweet

It pains me to see that some of the instruction that is being shared is definitely NOT in your best interest. AND, you may not be able to recognize that it’s poor judgment because “you don’t know what you don’t know”.

Recently I saw a post by a single owner/operator who had pulled her non-returning customer report for the year and was dismayed to see over 20 people came for one treatment and did not return again. She was feeling ashamed and didn’t know what to do about it.

The advice that was given by other members of the group was a mixed bag. Some people gave great ideas about how to bring these guests back into her fold (yes!). But most of the comments landed along the lines of “Don’t look at those reports, they will just make you feel bad. I never look at mine.”

WHAT??!! *Palm to forehead* If that report were not important, it wouldn’t be there!

This is the exact kind of situation where you need to be cautious with any professional support groups that are not being moderated by an expert.

In all fairness, those giving the unhelpful advice don’t mean to be derailing your success…they are simply being triggered by their insecurities and lack of business strategies.

So in the spirit of using ‘what works’ and ditching ‘what doesn’t’, I urge you to become a strong critical thinker within your business. Sure, ask a question in your group to find out how other salon professionals are handling the same situation. But THINK deeply about the ramifications for you and your business with each answer.

Then and ask yourself: Will burying my head in the sand help me find an answer to what is going wrong here? Or could digging deeper into an embarrassing situation lead me to an opportunity to that will build big trust between those guests and I and, as a result, create 20 more enduring and loyal customers?

Dig. Dig. Dig. Weed out the comments that may, initially, seem to make life easier for you (or stroke your ego), but which are actually hidden minefields.

The effort to critically analyze your options is worth it in the long run. ☜ Click to Tweet

If you can’t seem to sort out your dilemma, go straight to an expert and book a time to chat. Otherwise, you may fall into the antiquated paradigm of business practices that has plagued our industry for decades: the blind leading the blind.

Pricing: I Don't Give A Deal

Pricing: I Don't give A Deal

So here’s the thing…pricing your services can be a sticky situation.  Why do I use the word “sticky”?  Because there are 5 common issues involved with pricing that we can easily get stuck on in which we have ‘price regret’ within months. Most entrepreneurs make mistakes within their pricing structure by not charging  enough.  Two reasons: they’re not particularly clear about the value they are offering and they lack a wee bit of confidence in their position as a service provider, no matter how good they are.

The personal service industry is full of creatives and care givers; two groups of entrepreneurs who are at the biggest risk of devaluing themselves because they seriously love what they do so much, that if you asked them…they would probably give their service for free if they could afford to.

So how do you get un-stuck from pricing your services so you are making the money you deserve?  It’s not an exact science, but here are FIVE questions & answers to help you become a little more solid how to charge what you should.

1)  How do you position your prices in a sea of competition?

Do & don’t compare apples to oranges.  Make a list of the pro’s & con’s of what your space & services have to offer and pair it with your ideal client to see where you fall in with your competition’s prices.

What your competitor is charging is only one part of the equation to positioning your prices. Another point to clarify is your specific value within the marketplace and what that may translate into as a price. Click to Tweet

For example, in my own situation, a local hotel spa has state of the art treatment rooms, a large and luxurious guest lounge and steam room, to name a few of their outstanding features.  They will most likely be able to command a higher price of services than a home-based business because of their amenities (well, that and their overhead costs). However, you do need to take a few things into consideration. If, as in my own esthetic studio, your space is its own private building on the property, has been finished professionally and maintains high levels of customer service, it could certainly command similar prices.  In my experience, the value to guests who are looking for a more intimate & private space is extremely high.  They appreciate that they never see anyone else when they come & go from my studio (we live in a tiny town where everyone seems to know what you’re doing!)

Another example is mobile business.  In this case, you are giving a very high value to your guest by bringing treatments to the privacy & convenience of their own home.  It’s tempting to think that you should have lower prices than a brick & mortar business because you have no overhead, but your value comes with the extreme ease-of-use for your consumer.  Add to that the time & cost it takes for travel…you should be charging a premium!

2)  Do you know exactly how much your services actually cost you?

This may feel like an overwhelming project, but this is a smart business owners move!  If you need product to give your services, the exact cost of professional product for each service are numbers you must know.

Do you know exactly how much a cut & colour for long hair really costs you? May have a rough idea, but you really need to nail these numbers down.  A good resource for this is your product supplier.  Usually  bigger product companies will be able to provide you with a list of treatments that include the volume of each product used, plus the total cost of the product for that particular service.  If your supplier can’t provide you with that info, you’ll want to measure out the exact product used for each service and attach the correct dollar figure to it.  As an added bonus to figuring out your cost/treatment for pricing, you will save you money in the long run by preventing waste.

Also, to give you a better idea of what giving a treatment actually costs you, you’ll want to factor in the wage costs associated with the service.  For those of you who are single owner/operators…don’t leave this part out!  How much money are you charging per minute?  In this business, we’re selling time.  You’ve got to charge for it accordingly.

Product cost/treatment +  Wage/treatment = Total costs of giving a treatment

The rest of the money left over will have to cover overhead expenses and profit.  Where do your service prices fall in line with this equation?  Are you making a profit?

3) Did you price your services low in an attempt to attract more clients?

When you’re researching your competition’s prices, keep in mind that they may have created their pricing strategy by looking at surrounding business and trying to gain a competitive advantage by discounting their prices.  I urge you to not do the same!  Don’t contribute to the pattern of driving down the value of the service in your whole area.  What you offer is due so much more respect than that.

This is why it’s especially important to be clear on your value plus the cost per treatment so you aren’t tempted to discount yourself. Click to Tweet

Instead, you might better benefit from highlighting unique strengths and placing an emphasis on value and/or (sic.) time saved over money saved (via The Complete Guide to Understanding Consumer Psychology, www.quicksprout.com).

4)  What do you do when people balk at your rates & ask for a lower price?

Sigh.  This one drives me nuts.  You know the type…they call asking about your services & prices and then they start this passive-aggressive process of telling you that it’s too expensive or do-you-have-a deal-for-x-&-y or so-and-so down the street charges less.  They can be quite compelling!  And because we are creatives and caregivers we tend to fall for their manipulation and end up succumbing to the pressure to lower our price.  At the very least, we end up feeling disrespected and frustrated but unsure how to deal with the push back.

The interesting thing about giving a deal is that it does not lead to customer loyalty!  Deal chasers will always go for the deal whether it’s your business or the one down the road.   This is why I think daily deals can be the kiss of death for a business (they can work, but in very specific cases with a specific strategy in place).

5)  When do I raise my rates?

This is a popular question!.  If you’re not covering your costs correctly or you’ve been discounting in an attempt to keep competitive, you may already have your answer.

However, if your rates are inline with the above information, it could be time to increase your rates when your business productivity is consistently at 80%.  You may have some attrition with a price increase, but if you are giving outstanding service, the likelihood is small.  From that point on, continue your business building strategies at the new higher rates and watch your bank account grow!

Alternatively, if you are at 80% productivity it could also be an indication that you're at a stage to either hire a new employee or expand your physical space. Either way, it’s time to grow. Click to Tweet

Pricing your services is a huge topic and I've only covered 5 points here.  However, at minimum,  if you’ve done the market research and know what your services cost your business, you will, with conviction, know that discounting your services or keeping them low is a dangerous financial and client attraction strategy.  When you’re clear about all the above issues, you will be able to confidently stand by your pricing.

Need some help creating a strategy to re-price the services in your business so you can make more money?  I can help you do that!

Email me or call 250-516-3256 to get started with a FREE 30 min Business Discovery Session and begin the process of raising your rates.

If you liked this article you'll also want to read this one.

When Dreams Are Too Big

Big Dreams

 You have big dreams to open your own business. You love daydreaming about it: the happiness it will bring into your life and what abundance will come with it.

In fact, it’s one of your better daydreams that keeps you occupied during your lack-lustre job.

But that, my friends, is where the entrepreneurial dream ends for most people.

Why?  The dream feels too big!

It feels too far away and you simply can’t fathom how to get from here to there.

How can you move from boredom/unhappiness to freedom?  How do you transition from a day job that pays the bills to the joyfulness of being your own boss, doing what you love and that pays more than just the bills?

You've been looking at the logistics of what you think you need to get there (business plan, money, marketing, staffing) and you come to a screeching halt at the sheer pile of your ‘to-do’ list.

Enter stage left: overwhelm. You decide to put your idea on the ‘Maybe Later’ shelf.

Wait! Don’t put it on that shelf!  Deep down you know you’ll never get to it if you leave it there to collect dust.

I have a present for you: a simple mind shift that will help you clearly see the steps to your dream job.

Break the big dream down.

Crumble the dream into simple, bite-sized bits intended to teach you what you need to know for the final feast.

For example: Let’s say I’m an avid dog person with a 9-5 job as a Legal Assistant. My day job has been paying the bills and affords me my yearly tropical vacation. But the reality is I am so done with being a Legal Assistant but I can’t see a way to transition into what I really want to do: to open a Doggie Daycare. The thought of being with dogs all day (walks at the beach or park, snuggles with the pooches & maybe some grooming) lifts my spirits to amazing heights. I really want that life but I need the income from my current day job. How do I start the transition?

Here's the details:

 5 Bite-Sized Bits For You Start the Transition

I recommend you take one at a time (but in no particular order) so you don’t get overwhelmed and stop altogether. Just keep moving...just keep moving...

#1 - Educate yourself with introductory classes. In relation to the example above I would recommend taking some sort of simple, part-time class in the canine field (dog training, introduction to grooming, dog behavior). It doesn’t have to be a big, expensive course for this step...just something to get you focused on what you really want to be doing.

#2 - Start your own little part-time micro-business in your desired field. You may not have the money or savvy business knowledge required to open a bigger biz but you can start small to get your feet wet. With the doggie daycare example, I could start putting the word out to friends & family that I will dog sit your pooch in my home when they’re away on holidays. I would decide on what I would charge, order some business cards from www.vistaprint.com and voila! I’m in business working towards my dream. It doesn't have to be complicated! The goal with this step is to begin creating a reputation in your field.

#3 - Absorb your desired industry. Find interesting websites & bloggers to read (create a special bookmark folder to save for later inspiration) and follow other entrepreneurs in your field on Facebook, twitter & LinkedIn. There has never been an easier time to connect with exactly the people you want to learn from! Join a free networking group in your area (www.meetup.com) of like-minded people or create one yourself. The idea here is to immerse yourself in the energy of your industry and start getting comfortable with moving around in it.

#4 - Connect with business owners that are farther along the path than you. Request to meet for coffee to ask them about their industry: what you should expect for wages, what they see as the future for the industry and what they would recommend you do to get yourself there.

When I owned my spa I occasionally had women do just this. These young ladies were looking to get into the spa industry and before they committed to the esthetics program (which is $12,000), they wanted to be sure they knew what they were getting themselves into after graduation. I was a seasoned esthetician & spa owner and I loved to share my recommendations with them. I felt that if they had enough confidence to request a meeting with someone they didn’t know in order for them to make the right decision for their career, I was more than willing to give them my time & thoughts. I continued to mentor some of these women and felt my heart swell with happiness with their success. You may be surprised by who wants to help you!

#5 - You + Learning = Amazing You. Keep your eyes out for more classes or workshops for yourself. Don’t limit yourself to business or dog courses...look at personal development training as well. The better you know yourself the more clear your business path will be. Consider these courses as part of your training program for your Business Dream.

All of these steps can be done while you still have your full-time job that’s paying the bills. Working towards you business dream will take time and energy within your personal time, but a funny thing happens: you find yourself excited by this prep work and it doesn’t feel like ‘work’...it feels like FUN!

You wake up on your days off early, refreshed and thinking about what you can do today that will move you in the direction you want to be. Happy. Content. Fulfilled.

For more information on how to transition your current soul-sapped career to the energy-filling job you desire contact me here.

Download your free e-workbook to get yourself started on transitioning out of the daily grind!










My Muse :: Women Entrepreneurs with Heart

I love learning new things! Last month I was introduced to SkillShare.com, an global community centered around creativity, collaboration and learning by doing.  I signed up for an online class to learn how to create a video portrait!

The theme of this video production is 'Your Muse'.

I knew right away that my muse is working with women entrepreneurs who want to share their skills in an authentic, soul-filled way.

So… I'll be creating a video that showcases their love, their light + their passion for what they do.

The instructor gave me the most fantastic idea of creating a series of Muse videos of the women I work with.  Love it…doing it!

I'm in the middle of shooting this week but I thought I'd share a sneak peak!

Meet Meghan LeBlanc, co-owner of Peninsulacrossfit.ca


If you are interested in sharing your story…let me know!