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Better Business

Growth Spurt

After making a few changes to its modus operandi, Samuel Cole Salon in Raleigh, NC, doubled its size, and its business.

After owning Samuel Cole Salon in Raleigh, NC, for about seven years, the husband-and-wife hairstyling team of Jack and Joelle Ray decided to take a hard look at their mode of business. "We were emboldened to make some much-needed changes," says Joelle. "We altered anything that wasn't working perfectly, from our hiring and training process to our bookkeeping."

The stunningly beautiful reception desk at Samuel Cole Salon is made of polished green onyx from Pakistan.
The stunningly beautiful reception desk at Samuel Cole Salon is made of polished green onyx from Pakistan.

After making the adjustments, their client base doubled, then continued to grow by 50 percent each year for the next two years. When the retail space next to theirs became available just over a year ago, they wasted no time in signing the lease, doubling the salon's size from 1,400 square feet to 2,800.

The Rays worked with a local architect, Thomas Amann, and Michael Perry of Porto, a decorating and home furnishings store, to create a beautiful, modern and functional salon with a spa-like ambiance. White, curvilinear walls divide the salon, which the Rays named for their two sons, into separate areas for styling, retail, shampoo and reception. "It's a space that slowly unfolds as you walk from one area to the next," says Jack.

Among the many notable features are the sleek black cabinets, custom-designed by a local craftsman, the Carolina-blue ceiling and environmentally friendly bamboo and cork flooring. The cork is used in the styling area because it functions as a natural shock absorber, meaning it's more comfortable for the stylists. In addition, the Rays doubled the size of their stylist's lounge, a highly relaxing space for stylists that also serves as an education center, library and conference room.



A Bumble and bumble network salon, Samuel Cole is setting the standard for salons in Raleigh. It's been named a "Top Ten Color Salon" and "Best Salon" by Citysearch, as well as "Best Salon" by a regional magazine, Metro. Chalk it up, at least partly, to good design. "It's a very inspiring, very uplifting salon," says Joelle. "It feels good to be here." —CARRIE WATSON

DOLLARS AND SENSE

Women Don't Ask: The High Cost of Avoiding Negotiation—and Positive Strategies for Change (Bantam Books, 2007) is a must-read for all women. Authors Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever discuss the personal and societal reasons why women don't ask for things they need or want, and they offer advice on how to improve negotiation skills. Surprising statistics reveal the gender divide when it comes to this topic. Men are four times more likely to ask for higher pay than women are, and women sacrifice earning more than half a million dollars by the end of their careers simply by not negotiating their first job's salary. —N.P.



Fun in the sun

SPA E

Located on ultra-hip Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, Spa E is injecting a healthy dose of fun into its service menu. It's the brainchild of Brenda le Grange, a seasoned spa owner, who has teamed up with Repêchage to completely revolutionize the spa experience for a new generation of clients. Instead of being hidden away, facial chairs surround a beautiful fountain in the center of the spa. The hours (10 A.M. to 10 P.M., seven days a week) cater to the night owl. Oxygen shots are available as an added bonus with treatments—perfect to relieve that Ocean Drive hangover. Oxygen is also pumped into the space to rejuvenate clients as they receive their treatments. Meanwhile, clients who buy $25 worth of Repêchage products will receive a select service free. Now that's revolutionary. —M.D.



IT'S IN THE CARDS

Adi, owner of Simadi Salon in New York City, wanted his business cards to reflect his salon's upbeat, eclectic and creative personality. "The card feels friendly and inviting, just like our salon," Adi says. The color, Broadway font and palm tree logo mirror the salon's easy-going vibe and tropical embellishments. "Simadi Salon radiates good energy," Adi says. "Clients say they are able to leave their problems behind while they're here. I wanted the cards to reflect that cheerfulness." —C.W.



TRAINING DAY

COUNTER INTELLIGENCE

One of the most important ingredients in building a retail business is holding regular staff meetings to review goals and train people on new products. Meetings that are well-planned and well-executed will contribute to strong retail growth and repeat purchases. Consider the following ideas when planning your next meeting:



  • Define the meeting's purpose. Determine your objectives for the meeting and create an agenda that outlines the goals and desired outcomes.
  • Make sales and/or customer service the priority. Build in practice time to review your service and sales methodologies.
  • Create contests and idea-generating efforts to get staff thinking about your retail business in new ways.
  • Recognize excellent performance and achievement of retail goals.
  • Let everyone know what to expect at the next meeting, and ask employees for suggestions for future meetings.
  • Make it fun. Encourage interaction and communication so that everyone looks forward to the meeting and wants to share their opinion.
  • End the meeting with a summary of agreed-upon actions and next steps so that people leave with a clear understanding of their performance goals.
  • Start on time and end on time, every time.

Sue Remes is an internationally known keynote speaker and consultant. For more strategic retail sales, management and education solutions,

contact her at sue@sueremes.com or call 612/378-9398.

FULLY ENGAGED

PARIS PARKER SALON & SPA

Business is personal at the Jefferson branch of Paris Parker Salons & Spas in Baton Rouge, LA. The salon's retail sales currently make up about 35 percent of its total business, more than double the industry average. Sharilyn Abbajay, executive vice president of Neill Corporation, which owns the salon and six other Paris Parker locations, says the key to its retail success is personalization and customization. "We fully engage our guests," she says, "by providing tables where they can try out new products, and we have a 'retail concierge' on staff who approaches each guest after an appointment with a basket of products recommended by the service provider."



Themed guest education and appreciation nights also boost retail sales. At a recent Caribbean Therapy guest appreciation event, the salon was decorated in tropical style and guests were treated to services with Aveda's Caribbean Therapy products. "It's an authentic selling technique," says Abbajay. "It's good for business, but it's also an educational, fun and worthwhile experience for our guests." —C.W.

Q. What do you do to attract and retain top-notch staff?

"If you want your salon to stand out from the competition and attract stellar stylists, you've got to be visible in your community. We partner with charities to raise funds for causes like Ministry of Caring, which serves the poor and homeless. People see the good we're doing and want to be part of it. We also give back to our staff by orchestrating photo shoots to publicize their work and by providing them with ongoing education. Those efforts make recruiting much easier." —Randy Currie is owner of Currie Hair Skin Nails in Glen Mills and Kennett Square, PA.

Randy Currie
Randy Currie

MONEY TALK

Everybody loves payday—well, everybody except for the person in charge of handling the paperwork and generating those tedious payroll reports. Luckily, SurePayroll, an online service that helps small businesses manage payroll processing, will take care of the dirty work for you. The company just launched a new version of its online payroll service with special features exclusively for salon owners. The service offers support for tips, plus it will calculate, file and deposit your local, state and federal payroll taxes with tax-filing guarantees. 877/954-SURE; surepayroll.com —C.W.

CHANGE AGENT

Taking a cue from celebrities, whose looks are always in flux, women are hip to change these days. Many salons are capitalizing on this trend by adding clip-in hair extensions to their retail offerings. In fact, more than 7,000 salons nationwide are now official providers of Hair U Wear's HairDo salon clip-in hair pieces. Unlike permanent extensions that require a long-term commitment, HairDo extensions are easy to pop on and off.

Jessica Simpson sports HairDo clip-in extensions.
Jessica Simpson sports HairDo clip-in extensions.

Michael Kleinman, executive vice president of Hair U Wear, says HairDo becomes a service product as well as a retail item for salons because clients can have the pieces styled in the salon for everyday wear and also for special occasions. "It gives stylists the ultimate opportunity to be creative," he says, "and it keeps clients coming back to buy different colors and styles."

With Jessica Simpson as the face of HairDo, these extensions pretty much market themselves. But Hair U Wear does provide salons with retail displays, an HTML page to link to a Web site and mirror decals. Plus, HairDo's nationwide advertising campaign, coming to a billboard near you, has everybody buzzing. Salons can register to be included in the salon locator on Hair U Wear's Web site, which Kleinman says gets 1 million hits a month. But the most successful way to market HairDo is also the easiest: Get your hairstylists to wear them in the salon. "It's the best way to get people talking," Kleinman says. —C.W.

Our Town

Atlanta, nicknamed "Hotlanta," is a city full of diversity. Nicole Palmieri found four salons that bring the heat and stand out from the crowd by offering the latest trends with a dose of Southern hospitality.

1. Steve Hightower Artists' Studio

Specializing in fine and thinning hair, the Steve Hightower Hair Artists' Studio opened in 1987. "Today, women are more stressed than ever," says Steve Hightower, "and stress makes hair start thinning. We work with the texture and density of the hair, and we cut to the features of the face."



The salon expanded into a spa a year and a half ago, and attracts a wide variety of clients. A collection of artwork from various artists, including Hightower himself, is displayed around the space, and the sound of classical music plays throughout. The "Lather Lounge," where chemical treatments take place, features a floor entirely covered in pictures of hairstyles, which are updated twice a year. "Clients often choose a hairstyle right from the floor," Hightower says.

In stock: Repêchage, L'Oréal Professional, Therapro Mediceutical

2. Van Michael Salon

"Van Michael Salon sets itself apart from other salons through a thorough 10-point consultation using portfolios, so the stylist and client are in complete agreement about the pending service," says Reeve McNamara, director of marketing. "In other words, no surprises or miscommunications about the definition of 'short' or 'blond.'"



Van Michael Salon has four locations in Atlanta and one in Miami. Van Michael: Norcross opened in 2005 and was the company's first venture into a mall atmosphere. Clients are primarily fashion-conscious women who appreciate the expertise of the stylists. The layout of the store also sets this location apart from the others. "The front of the salon feels more like an Aveda Lifestyle store," says McNamara. "The salon chairs are in the back of the space and are not visible from the front. We believe that the layout allows guests to come in and browse our products without feeling that they are intruding or will be under pressure to make an appointment at our salon."

In stock: Aveda

3. Dass Salon & Spa

The employees at Dass Salon & Spa take customer service to a new level. "I make sure all of my employees are trained to recognize melanoma," says co-owner Don Shaw, who lost a daughter to it a few years ago. "We've already sent 46 people to the doctor to be checked out for melanoma. We can help clients because we see areas of the body that others don't see."



Dass has four locations throughout Atlanta, and each one is unique. The Lenox Square location is in a mall and features a very modern décor on two floors. The salon has loyal clients, and also attracts out-of-towners traveling on business. Employees are required to attend weekly classes to improve their skills and keep up with the ever-changing industry. "I tell my stylists to look around the mall and notice that the clean stores with friendly employees always do better. I then tell them to imagine their chair as a store in the mall," Shaw says. "We work not only on getting clients into the salon, but getting them to come back."

In stock: Dass

4. Key Lime Pie Salon and Wellness Spa

When DJ Freed originally opened Key Lime Pie Salon 22 years ago, it was because she needed space to do hair and makeup on her celebrity clients. Now it's one of the most successful salons in Atlanta. Freed ensures that her salon offers the trendiest hairstyles and prides herself on excellent customer service. "Every guest gets hot tea and a hot rolled towel when they arrive," Freed says. "We wanted to create an environment where people can relax."



The salon, which got its name when Freed was eating key lime pie at a restaurant in New York City while on a film shoot, expanded into a wellness spa in 1996. The salon and spa is the only one of its kind in the area, and it brings in a diverse, high-end clientele. Says Freed, "Our clients are interested in great taste and appreciate quality."

In stock: Aveda

Big Fish, Small Pond

In small towns all over America, there's one salon that raises the bar for everyone else. Little Egg Harbor, NJ, (population 15,945) has Splashes Beautique Salon & Day Spa.

Just 30 miles north of Atlantic City and 15 minutes from the beaches of the Jersey Shore, Little Egg Harbor, NJ, is a historical town that got its name from a portion of the bay dubbed Egg Harbor by Dutch sailors, who found large quantities of seagull eggs near the shore. The town takes pride in its motto, "Little Treasure by the Bay."



Located in a small shopping center in town is another little treasure, Splashes Beautique Salon & Day Spa. When owner Bonnie James opened the salon 12 years ago, she knew that customer service and hiring great employees were crucial aspects of running a business. Even though the salon and spa has grown extensively over the past few years, and recently expanded to a 3,000-square-foot location, James continues to devote two days a week to tending to the needs of her own loyal customers. "I have a lot of customers who wanted me to continue doing their hair," James says, "so I am on the floor two days a week in order to satisfy everyone. I love the career part of the job, as well as socializing with customers."

The salon attracts a wide variety of clients, both visitors and locals. From basic haircuts to Brazilian waxing, microdermabrasion and hair extensions, the salon and spa offers something for everyone. "We are an upbeat, classy establishment with clients who come in and say 'make me feel and look young,'" James says.

James separated the salon and spa by putting the salon, with its loud, upbeat music on one side and the spa, with soothing music and a huge fountain, on the other. Both areas feature earthy colors in a tranquil, inviting atmosphere.

Discounts and promotions are offered throughout the year to spread the word and attract new clients. Spa packages, ongoing Splash Cash discounts on various treatments and a Caribbean Cruise contest, in which one lucky customer and a guest can enter to win a four-day cruise by referring new clients and purchasing retail items, bring in clients. But they come back again because of the top-notch service and knowledgeable, friendly employees. "We are very fashionable and trendy, and we keep up with the changing times," James says. "Our motto is, 'Southern hospitality with a splash of Manhattan.'" —NICOLE PALMIERI

In stock: Bed Head, Sexy Hair, Schwarzkopf, Repêchage

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American Salon Staff

American Salon Staff