Scott Buchanan of Scott J. Salons Shares His Tips for Success

Pivotal Points

Scott Buchanan was the first stylist in New York City to exclusively use Aveda products, and today, his Aveda salon empire spans uptown Manhattan (and now Brooklyn, too). Here, he shares the key turning points in his career that led to his success.

1>> Realizing knowledge is power
When he graduated from beauty school, Buchanan looked for a salon that offered an education program, and took a job at nuBest Salon and Spa in Manhasset, Long Island. “That was a big decision—getting out of school and recognizing that I needed to further my education, and joining a salon that has a great program for advancement,” he says. “It helped shape my technical and business skills.”

2>> Finding a mentor
Buchanan relocated from Long Island to New York City, and met Aveda founder Horst Rechelbacher at the International Beauty Show New York (IBS). This was his introduction to and induction into Aveda.


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3>> Perfecting a system
He opened his first salon on Columbus Avenue—it included five chairs in 400 square feet. He worked seven days behind the chair and tested different systems—including things like scheduling, retailing and ways to measure profit—searching for one that delivers the best guest and staff experience. “A lot of owners think about opening another salon when they get busy, but they don’t have the right systems running correctly in the one—it’s the biggest mistake people make,” he says. When he outgrew the salon, he moved it into 750 square feet on the same street and began to offer spa services, all the while perfecting his systems. In 2008, Buchanan moved Scott J. across the street into a 2,800-square-foot space, and turned it into a full-fledged salon/spa.

4>> Learning to trust your gut
“I try to obey my instincts or at least pause and listen to them—even when something looks like success on paper but my internal barometer is telling me not to,” he says.

5>> Supporting your guests and partners
“I call the people who work with me partners because we have the same goal in mind,” he says. A quality partner and guest experience has always been paramount for Buchanan.

6>> Creating a culture
Buchanan “grew up” in a salon that offered education. He learned that it’s equally important for a salon to teach its culture as it is to teach the craft. He says it’s the solid group of partners that understands and represents his salon culture that made it possible for him to open and staff multiple salons. —Kristen Heinzinger, Managing Editor