October 2010

Jaime Schrabeck

The Nail Extension | by Jaime Schrabeck


Dare to be Different

Diversity is not a word that immediately comes to mind when discussing the nail profession. In many ways, professional nail care could be described as the least diverse segment of the beauty industry. Most of the manicurists are female, as are most of the clients.

While most manicurists may be of a particular cultural background or socioeconomic status, most of their clients likely represent another. As more salons open, the more similar they seem.

Furthermore, nail services (manicures, pedicures, enhancements, etc.) tend to be universal and less diverse than hair and skin care services. Perhaps, that is because manicurists typically do not give the condition of nails as much consideration when selecting products and performing services as hair or skin professionals give to the condition of hair and skin.

Few manicurists specialize in a particular service. This is not because they are equally proficient in a variety of services, but because they do not want to limit their clientele, or perhaps are unable or unwilling to develop the skills necessary to become a true expert. Contrast that with hair professionals who may market themselves as color correction specialists, or skin professionals who promote themselves as waxing queens.

This lack of diversity could be accepted as a limitation inherent to the nail profession; however, it could also be viewed as an opportunity to reach beyond what is expected and achieve what is possible. The relatively low status of nail professionals within the beauty industry, the similarity among nail salons and the low expectations of consumers, may be seen as challenges as well as opportunities. This choice will influence not only your perspective, but also every other decision you make as a nail salon owner.

Diversifying would seem a worthy goal, but first we must determine exactly what that means. Most salon owners view diversity as a challenge to do more: add services, extend hours, increase retail offerings, expand the salon, advertise regularly, discount prices, etc.

These options may seem entirely reasonable; in fact, there have been many articles written to justify them. However, before adding ear candling, chakra healing and matchmaking to the service menu, or selling nutritional supplements, ask yourself, “How does this enhance my reputation as a successful nail professional?”

Salon consultants earn thousands of dollars explaining what might be obvious if salon owners were able to evaluate their own businesses both objectively and critically. Understanding what is working, as well as what is not, is a crucial first step before committing to any major changes. Any change could prove to be a costly mistake without proper research first. It is entirely possible your well-intentioned efforts will backfire by wasting your resources, alienating your existing clientele or diluting your brand.

For example, if your salon appeals strongly to a particular demographic, such as older professional women, as mine does, you may not need to target a different group, but just find more effective ways to reach potential clients. If I were to make the mistake of targeting teenage girls to increase my clientele, my salon would need to undergo some major changes (decor, pricing, music, etc) and my existing clients would not be pleased.

Having those new clients would not be worthwhile if they detracted from the experience my loyal clients expect and value. Part of understanding my business is recognizing my best clients and providing them with quality nail services in a clean, upscale environment.

Growing your business is a process that requires information, much of which you can discover for yourself with the help of clients, coworkers and the larger business community. The following questions, while not exhaustive, are designed to generate discussion to help guide you in your decisions.

What is the culture of your salon? What makes your salon and / or services unique? What is the first thing someone notices upon entering? How would you describe the relationships among coworkers? How would you describe your clients? What do they value most: convenience, price, time, etc? Which services are your most popular and why? Which services are most / least profitable? Are clients requesting services you do not offer, specific products or procedures?

What products sell the best, which do not sell well? What compliments or complaints do you hear most often? How well does your location serve your business? What is your relationship with other businesses? How does your salon contribute to the community? What is your biggest obstacle to being more successful? What aspect of your business do you enjoy most, and what do you enjoy the least? And so on . . .

Diversity is not a challenge to do more, but an opportunity to be different, better, and more successful. Clients should expect more of nail salons, and we should exceed their expectations with clean, safe, quality services.

Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D. owns Precision Nails, an exclusive nails-only salon in Carmel, California. She can be reached at info@precisionnails.com.