June 2012

Clive Lamb

Food for Thought | by Clive Lamb


Different Strokes for Different Folks

"Different strokes for different folks," which became a popular catchphrase in 1969 definitely applies to the way people approach the business of hairdressing.

Booth renting vs. Salary/Retail Commission — which is the right way? 

My personal opinion is that as long as you are conducting yourself with integrity, nobody should question your way of doing business.

If you're not looking for a structured professional environment and want to come and go as you please, who is to say that's not right for you? There's only one person you really need to keep happy in this business -- the client. If you can do that repeatedly, then you will do well. 

 My salon team members are paid salary plus retail commission. They are expected to work a 40-hour week. That means showing up for work when we open and leaving when we close -- whether they have clients or not.

While some people think this is way too much structure, this works well for us as our team is averaging a weekly 85 percent booked rate. The other 15 percent of their time (about 6 hours) is spent on compulsory training and helping each other out.

I scratch my head when interviewees have a problem with this schedule. Isn't the goal to make more money? And don't you need to be fully booked to do that? If you were fully booked, wouldn't you be there from open to close anyway?

 According to www.socialsecurity.gov the average wage for all U.S. jobs in 2010 was $41,673. The average U.S. wage of a hairdresser/cosmetologist is $26,460 according to the US Department of Labor, Bureau of labor and statistics. This is a disgrace! We pay a fortune to go to beauty school, and for what? To earn less than the average wage for all jobs?

Think about that for a minute. Why is this so low? This tells me that either our beauty school training is not good enough or not many hairdressers are keeping their clients happy. Maybe a little more training, structure and professionalism would help hairdressers keep their clients and make them more money in return.

My salon also spends a tremendous amount of energy and resources on marketing, PR and free ongoing training. Marketing is a HUGE benefit for our team, as this is what brings in new customers which provides them a steady paycheck while building their clientele. If the salon you work at is not doing things to promote itself — run — and find one who does.

My team also receives health insurance (including dental), vacation, sick pay and long term disability. Without bragging, I am proud to say that my team's average salary is considerably well above the national average for our industry.

Yet even with higher salaries, free weekly training and top-notch benefits, we still lose people to lease opportunities. When a team member decides to leave, all of a sudden they label our salon's clientele as "my clients."

I'm even getting recruitment postcards promising big money to "get into business for yourself!" (hmmm... wonder where they're getting those mailing lists from)? If I'm getting those cards, I know that my employees are also receiving them. Could you imagine if I sent cards trying to recruit successful hairdressers that are employed at other salaried/commission salons? I bet I'd get more than one abusive phone call from an owner — and rightly so.

This all comes back to integrity. You reap what you sow. If you prefer to come and go as you please, have the drive to go out and find clients and want to manage all the things that go hand-in-hand with running your own business, then booth rental is for you.

If you prefer a more structured team environment, steady pay, ongoing free training, insurance, paid vacations and not having to go out and find new clients, then a salary/commission salon is best for you. As long as your clients are happy and you respect — and don't infringe on — other people's business, do what's best for you.

Food For Thought:

I recently watched an episode of Tabatha's Salon Takeover and I've never been more embarrassed in all my life. Are there really that many screwed-up salons that she can make a series out of it? I guess the answer is "yes" and that's why the average wage of a hairdresser is $26,460. Only we can change that — and we need to.

Clive Lamb owns and operates Clive and Co., a modern, thriving salon based in Dallas, Texas. In addition, Clive was appointed Chairman of the Texas Cosmetology Advisory Board in 2006, a position he held for five years. Clive has over 30 years of international exposure to the vast and constantly evolving hairdressing industry.