March 2009

Jerry Tyler

Blue Highways | by Jerry Tyler


Re-Evaluating Your Job Options

With all the uncertainty in today’s job market many in our industry are re-evaluating their views of employment and compensation to find some sanity in these troubled times.

After seeing the massive job losses in corporate America, those who are in the traditional employee-based salon business model are perhaps entertaining the idea of going “independent” and considering the booth rental model.

Conversely, booth renters who are seeing a decline in their own service sales, may be eager to become employees of the many salons/spas that have a built-to-last solid employee-based business model.

Whether employed or independent, the bottom line is to understand whatever path we choose the ultimate success lies in our ability to create a happy and loyal clientele. The environment we are in should reflect what will allow us to create and maintain the best fit for the clients we want. In this pursuit there are pros and cons to both booth rental and employment. We have to be real with ourselves and ask “What do we truly want?” and “What are the benefits and challenges?” weighing both options carefully.

So much of the landscape of our industry has changed in the 35 years I have worked in the industry. Traditionally beauty and barbering professionals were employed, either by commission salary or a fixed salary. Since rent was low, as were products, and taxes weren’t as high, employers were able to offer high commissions, health care, even paid vacations. They still could make a profit beyond what they earned behind the chair. Many were able to train their own staff and even create partnership options for their high achievers to open their own salons under their umbrella.

Then, in the 1980s came the boom in the real estate market and rents increased. The expanding role of government brought higher payroll and income taxes on employers, not to mention the overall cost of professional products. This forced salon owners to realize they would have no profit or lose their businesses altogether.

Many in California and other states moved their business model from the employee-based to booth rental. The traditional model shifted to a point where according to industry statistics between 75-90 percent of the licensed beauty professionals are now booth rental in the western states.

The advantage of being employed is that you are in a shared partnership. Our industry is unique in that while we may work for an employer it is our individual achievement behind the chair or in the treatment room that creates the plus or minus in the balance column. If we are not successful they are not successful as an overall business.

What the employer provides varies but in the end those who invest in their staff’s education, marketing, professional and technical support work hand in hand to assure both individual success and therefore their own salon success.

Another advantage is that you receive a paycheck; you receive other employee benefits that come from the federal and state mandates including Social Security, workers compensation, unemployment/disability insurance etc.

When you are independent you are responsible to carry these costs yourself. Because of employer control in standards, hours, business protocols and compensation, some feel restricted and want to dance to their own song.

The advantage and challenges of being independent is that you are an “army of one.” You are the business. How you conduct yourself totally reflects the ultimate outcome as you have complete control: control of the hours you work, what products you use, how you dress, your price structure, what services you provide.

With complete control also comes complete responsibility. You have to make all the contributions for Social Security and quarterly payroll taxes. You have to carry your own liability insurance. You have to order your own products. You incur all the costs of doing business. You have to provide for your own continuing education. Ultimately you have to contribute and invest in yourself to grow your independent brand. Win, lose or draw it’s all about you.

Many in our industry never realized their true potential for individual success until they became independent. On the other hand, to truly be a fully realized independent professional many find having to do it all and thrive with no external help is overwhelming and are returning to employment and the support it provides.

In the end whether you find employment by a business or you employ yourself, it all comes down to embracing the benefits each path has to provide and bringing the highest degree of professionalism to the game no matter what, that will ensure our long term success in the industry.

Jerry Tyler’s column Blue Highways is his “Road Less Traveled” perspective on the solutions and challenges facing the beauty industry. Jerry Tyler has been a stylist since 1975 serving as the former artistic director for Vidal Sassoon Academy and currently as Director of Education for Carlton Hair salons. He is also a licensed cosmetology instructor and has served as President of the California State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology.