Better Business

My Brilliant Career

Q Is there a secret to networking?

I've learned to be assertive without being aggressive. There's a difference. I always ask for a business card, then follow up with a note saying how much I enjoyed our conversation. One of the best things I did was invest in personalized stationery. In this digital age, people appreciate a handwritten note. —David Stanko is a color consultant with Redken.

David Stanko
David Stanko

Natural Beauty


Environmentally conscious hipsters in Baltimore, MD, finally have a hair salon to call their own: Sprout, an Organic Salon, which opened last year. The salon is located in a 125-year-old building, the former home of a bargain store that husband-and-wife co-owners Rachael Epstein and Alan Kolb transformed utilizing eco-friendly paint, bamboo flooring, reclaimed wood and energy-efficient lighting. They also opted to use wind-credit electricity, wind-generated energy supplied by their local power company. "This was our solution to creating a lifestyle that met our values," Kolb says. "We're really glad we did it, and we've had a wonderful response from the community." Sprout provides its diverse clientele with haircuts ranging from "classic Vidal to rock star," according to their service menu; haircolor using the Organic Color Systems line, which is free of ammonia, preservatives and petro-chemicals; extensions; and hair and scalp treatments. According to Kolb, using haircare products that are free of harmful chemicals has had an added benefit: "Our salon smells great—there are no stinky smells in here!" he says. —L.A.


MARCO PELUSI HAIR STUDIO in Hollywood, CA, created a card based on consistency and fresh perspective. "Branding, branding, branding. That's so important and so many people don't think about it," says owner Marco Pelusi. Pelusi uses the card's chocolate brown color, a shade suggested by his aunt, everywhere: in the salon and on the Web site, the products and the logo. Stacy Trapp, former marketing director of Joico, and Shirleen Chang, graphic designer for Disney, helped him refine the details, like the slightly smaller size of the card, the lower-case logo and his hair-swirl motif. —A.L.



December is a month filled with excitement, however it can also be overwhelming. During the busy holiday season, clients continually look for ways to reduce stress. One of the first places they often seek refuge is their salon. Think of ways you can create a warm environment that reduces stress and gives your retail sales a final push.

  • Save clients a step in gift-giving by prewrapping gift sets and best-selling products.
  • If you sell products on your Web site, encourage clients to avoid parking hassles and long lines by shopping online.
  • If clients are purchasing a gift that needs to be shipped, arrange to have it sent directly to the recipient, saving the client the extra steps of wrapping, labeling and mailing the gift.
  • Offer clients a free hand or shoulder massage while they wait for their appointments. Perform the service with a product you sell, and have it prewrapped and ready to take home.
  • Hold a customer-appreciation holiday party. Serve hot cider and cookies and offer a discount on products for the day.
  • Encourage clients (and yourself) to take time to relax and enjoy the season.

Sue Remes is an internationally known keynote speaker and consultant. For more strategic retail sales, management and education solutions, contact her at [email protected] or call 612/378-9398.



Mary Peragin, who owns Fiber Hair Spa on Manhattan's Upper East Side, jokes that her biggest problem is not getting clients into the salon, it's getting them out. But with industry-appropriate, cult-favorite flicks like Shampoo, Edward Scissorhands, Hairspray and Moulin Rouge playing on the plasma and complimentary Wi-Fi, cappuccinos and wine available, it's really no wonder clients don't want to leave. "Our reception area is minimalist, but it's Zenlike and relaxing," says Peragin, who was renting a chair in another salon before she decided to open her own. "It's designed to feel like a contemporary living room rather than a commercial space." Although you won't find facials or massages on the menu, Peragin says she opted to call the salon a "hair spa" to invoke its true mission: to maximize each client's visit so they leave feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. —C.W.

Selling Experiences

Salons aren't just in the business of selling beauty services; they also sell their customers experiences. Nobody understands this more than Gordan Logan, president of Sports Clips, a salon franchise with a concept that's proven to be a slam dunk: It provides precision haircuts for men and boys in an exciting, sports-themed environment. There are 479 Sports Clips locations as of press time, but an average of three stores open nationwide each week. Each location shows sports on big-screen TVs in the lobby and has stadium-style seating in the waiting room, where magazines like Backpacker and Bassmasters are available. There are TVs in front of every chair showing games or ESPN News, and the walls are decorated with sports memorabilia. "You always have to think about ways you can enhance the client experience while differentiating your business," says Logan, who says pairing a great experience with quality service makes for a winning combination. With that in mind, Sports Clips offers neck-and-shoulder massages and steamed towel treatments with their high-quality haircuts. "A cute concept will not carry you," Logan says. "No matter what unique selling points you have, if you don't deliver a quality service, you won't be able to deliver on your goals." —C.W.

Sports Clips is on top of its game.
Sports Clips is on top of its game.


The ESPRESSO YOURSELF COFFEE TANNING FACIAL at Miami's RikRak Salon is a real pick-me-up for the face that leaves skin with a sun-kissed glow. The treatment includes exfoliation with espresso coffee bean grounds; extractions; a mask containing espresso coffee, finely ground espresso beans and a sugarcane solution; and a complimentary cappuccino. RikRak's co-owner Raquel Watters admits that while the treatment is very popular, it may not appeal to everyone. "You have to be a coffee lover to enjoy it, which I am—that's why I came up with the idea," she says. —L.A.


Using credit card services wisely in your salon can be a challenge, according to Marc Mataya of ClienTrak Software, who says to consider the following points when evaluating a merchant account processor:

1. Avoid showing a prospective agent your current sales figures. Instead, have them give you a fixed rate above interchange rates, and an authorization fee amount. (Interchange rates are the base rates that all card processors must pay equally.)

2. Ask for their surcharge rates for nonqualified transactions. Nonqualified transactions cost about 1 to 1.5 percent more than qualified transactions because of added risk. If you have a high volume of sales transactions every month, look for a low authorization fee (around 15 cents per transaction).

3. Don't lease card-processing equipment. You'll pay for it in the end. How much more? Just multiply your lease payment times the length of your lease to see the true cost of the machine or software.

4. Choose a vendor with a flat cancellation fee. Make sure your contract states a specific amount, usually a maximum of $300, for canceling within three years, which covers the company's cost of setting up your account.

5. Consider "integrated" card processing systems where payments are handled through your salon management software. It can save you thousands per year in additional surcharges and wasted receptionist time by eliminating terminal entry mistakes.

For more information, call Mataya at 888/313-1308.

Our Town

Nashville, TN, known as Nashvegas to the locals, is the home of country music and the Grand Ole Opry. Nicole Palmieri found four salons that keep musicians and locals alike looking ready to take the stage.

1. Trumps Salon

From young children to country stars such as Martina McBride, Trumps Salon knows how to satisfy any clients' hair needs. With education and in-salon training from Kérastase and Schwarzkopf, stylists are constantly working to keep up with changing trends and stay modern. The salon, which has been open for 21 years and features neutral-colored walls and a 10-foot water wall, offers everything from cuts, color and hair extensions to microdermabrasion, laser hair removal and massages. The salon also has a boutique where clients can buy hair accessories, jewelry and candles. "People sometimes come in just to shop, and then they become familiar with the salon," says owner Earl Cox.

In stock: Kérastase, Schwarzkopf, Barex Italiana

2. Trim Classic Barber & Legendary Beauty

All clients receiving a cut or color at Trim also receive a Supermodel Blowout, which leaves the client photo-shoot ready, according to Graham Griffith, marketing and customer care director. Aside from hair services, female clients can receive makeup application, manicures and brow shaping. Male clients can also choose from a list of services, including haircuts, waxing, shaves and nailcare, all of which include a complimentary shoeshine.

The salon, which opened in 1998 and can be described as vintage with a modern twist, features a men's side in deep green colors and a separate women's side in light pink. The 13 stylists, one of whom has toured with Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and the Dixie Chicks, try not only to give clients trendy styles, but also to set the trends. "We don't try to take the big hair out of Nashville, but we do put a cosmopolitan spin on it," Griffith says.

In stock: Bumble and bumble, Davines

3. Eyecandy Salon

When hiring new stylists, Eyecandy Salon co-owners Judy Randall and Cassie King look for great employees who aren't necessarily good at everything, but are the best at what they can do. "A lot of our success is due to the team we have hired," Randall says. "Our reputation for expertise is what has brought clients to us."

The salon, which opened in 2005, has an urban decor with a warm, tan and green color scheme and a floor-to-ceiling mirror in front of every station. Due to its close proximity to "Music Row," the salon's clients are mostly recording artists, including Jo Dee Messina and Kellie Pickler, record-label executives and other music-industry people, who enjoy the salon's cuts and color. "Most of our clients are very concerned with their appearance," Randall says. "They want a current look, such as the Posh Spice short haircut that is popular now, and we give it to them."

In stock: Bumble and bumble, René Furterer, Aveda

4. Elan Hair

Even though clients receive only hair services at Elan Hair, they are encouraged to visit its sister business next door, Elan Skin, to receive such services as microdermabrasion, chemical peels and Botox. Elan Hair attracts mainly upscale clientele from Nashville and the surrounding area. "When our clients find a stylist here who they like, they will drive from anywhere to get back to us," says Jeff Wamble, co-owner and general manager.

The salon, which features a modern decor with one entire wall that is floor-to-ceiling glass to allow natural light to enter, has hosted an annual event for the past six years where stylists volunteer their services and all proceeds are donated to The Humane Society. Clients' pets can even receive pet massages and volunteer dog walkers are on hand to take the dogs for a stroll.

In stock: Bumble and bumble, René Furterer, Davines

Big Fish, Small Pond

In every small town across America, there's at least one salon that raises the bar for everyone else. Abington, MA, (population 14,605) has Studio 23.

First settled by Europeans in 1668, Abington, MA, is a town 20 miles southeast of Boston that's famous for providing footwear for the Union Army during the Civil War. It's also home to Studio 23 hair salon.

In 2002, Gayle Cronin received a gift from Lorraine Benton, who owned the salon Cronin worked for. Benton, who had decided to retire, gave her salon to Cronin, complete with the furniture, supplies and some valuable advice. Since then, Cronin has owned and operated the salon, renamed Studio 23, which she considers a family-friendly business. "It's a place where women, men and children can come to get their hair done," Cronin says. In addition to providing a playroom for kids, Cronin keeps the salon's prices affordable so that people are able to return. "I want to keep our clients' hair looking its best, and hopefully they'll tell people that I do their hair," she says.

Word-of-mouth referrals have been one of the main factors responsible for the salon's excellent growth rate. Recently, the salon saw 33 new clients in just three weeks, which is an impressive number compared to many other salons in the area. The salon, which features neutral-colored walls with white trim and a back room with a color bar, is located in Cronin's house so that she can raise her son while simultaneously running her business. "There are so many women who have to choose between their work and their family," Cronin says. "I wanted both, so that's why I moved my business into my new house."

In addition to Cronin, the salon has two other stylists who are both encouraged to continue their education to keep up with the trends. From chemical services, color, foils and highlights to manicures, pedicures and paraffin waxing, the salon offers something for everyone.

Keeping the salon's great reputation in town is one of Cronin's main objectives. "Word of mouth is very important to us," she says. "We've moved twice in a five-year period and we're still as successful as we've ever been. I think that really says a lot about my business." —NICOLE PALMIERI