Squeaky Clean

Imagine it's a typical day in your salon—customers coming and going, stylists working on clients. Then, without warning, the inspectors for the state board of cosmetology walk in, pen and clipboard in hand. They check your salon for violations, photographing whatever they find. And they do this right in front of your staff and clients. "They're not discreet," says Charlie Morris-Price. He should know. Morris-Price, owner of Planet Laboratories salon in Denver, recently had an unexpected state inspection. "They're all business," says Morris-Price, "and if you have clients sitting there, it makes you feel like a criminal."

 Are You In Violation?
Are You In Violation?

In Colorado, salon owners can see the actual written complaint. That's how Morris-Price learned that a disgruntled former employee had filed the grievance against the salon well over a year earlier. "Some of what she said in the letter was true and some of it wasn't," he says. "The salon was clean but evidently we were not strictly adhering to the sanitation rules."

After the inspection, Morris-Price was fined $2,000 and had to attend a state board sanitation seminar that covered basic rules along with new updates. "When all is said and done, I'm really glad the staff and I went," he says. "The salon is so much cleaner." If the thought of a state inspection leaves you shaking in your shoes, heed Morris-Price's tips below:

REACQUAINT YOURSELF WITH THE RULES FROM THE STATE BOARD. If you haven't thought about sanitation since beauty school, it's time for a refresher course. Visit your state cosmetology board's Web site for updates.

ASSIGN A KEY STAFFER TO ENSURE THAT EVERYONE FOLLOWS THE SANITATION RULES. Remind your team that individual stylists, as well as the salon owner, can be fined by the state. We have a sign in the back that says, "You are responsible for your violations," a message that's reinforced daily.

REMEMBER—IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU. I've owned my salon since 1992 and never knew any salon owner who had been inspected. So don't think that just because the state board hasn't been around, they won't come around. They are obligated by law to look into all written complaints.

COOPERATE IF YOU ARE INSPECTED AND FIND YOURSELF IN VIOLATION. If the state board sees you making an effort, they will be lenient with you. By attending the sanitation seminar with my staff, the board reduced my fine. —R.M.