January 2013

Charlene Abretske

Beyond Your Chair| Jayne Morehouse


The Consummate Beauty Professional

Contribute to a Positive Perception

This month, we kick off the year by taking a look at a very important topic—professionalism in the salon industry.

What professionalism means and how it impacts salons and individual service providers are topics that are often discussed and debated across all levels of the industry.

Quite often, the conclusion reached is something along the lines of, "I'm just one stylist. I can't make a difference." Or "Our salon works so hard to present a very professional image, but the salons all around us ruin it for everyone."

The good news is that every single person reading this issue can contribute to uplifting the image of the professional beauty business.

That's important for many reasons. First, your level of perceived professionalism directly impacts the price you can charge for your services and products. Ditto for the salon where you work. Even if you rent a chair or lease a solo space, the public doesn't understand your business model and doesn't care. But you need to understand the professionalism of those around you also directly impacts your earning power.

Second, the professionalism of the beauty industry directly impacts how many young people want to choose beauty as their careers, as well as the reaction that parents, partners and guidance counselors will have when someone announces they want to be a hairstylist, esthetician or a nail technician.

Often, because of stereotypes that have been re-enforced by their personal experiences, parents and other influencers do everything possible from discouraging a beauty career to outright forbidding it when they control the education dollars. You might think the fewer hairdressers the better — after all, it's less competition — but reality is that we need a constant supply of new energy to keep the industry vital, vibrant and sustainable.

Third, the professionalism of the beauty industry on both the national and state levels directly impacts the laws and regulations that govern it. Did you know every year numerous states introduce legislation to de-regulate some aspect of the salon business?

And that every year, volunteers from both cosmetology schools and salons have to spend tens of thousands of dollars, supported by industry associations and often their own money, to discourage legislator from decreasing or eliminating financial aid for cosmetology education? Are you aware that every time you don't report your income, including your tips, that you are contributing to your legislators' perceptions that stylists don't earn enough money (which equates to respect) to justify funding cosmetology education? That's a lot of influence.

Here are some ways you can contribute to a positive impression. Every person who works in beauty contributes to the industry's perception. Here's how you can do your part:

First of all, do great work. Nothing creates professional respect more than cutting and coloring gorgeous hair and sending clients into your community who look and feel great, thanks to your work. Not only does it build your referral business, it supports the credibility of the industry and contributes to the public's understanding of why they need to see a beauty professional, as opposed to buying a do-it-yourself kit at the drug store.

Look at your salon as an outsider. What message about the professionalism of the business conducted there does your space communicate to your co-workers, as well as to the clients who walk through the doors? Does everyone who works there convey a professional image from hair to makeup to nails to clothes and shoes? Is it clean, tidy, up-to-date and modern? Is the ambiance professional? Do people treat one another with professional respect? Believe me, your clients notice.

Keep the dirt in "the family." I can't tell you how many times I've sat in a stylist's chair, only to be told about all of the salon's "dirty laundry," from who is dating whom to how much the owner is taking advantage of the staff. First, that's the final time I'll sit in that chair, so if you're complaining, you're just hurting yourself. Second, you need to be talking about my hair—not the salon's politics. Just don't do it. That kind of hurtful gossip goes a long way toward creating an unprofessional image for the industry.

Whether you work at a salon or spa, at a beauty school or for a product or distribution company, volunteer for your industry. Join a local or national association, volunteer at a cosmetology school or take the time to mentor students and new graduates. What you receive in return both professionally and personally will be very rewarding.

Finally, wear the beauty professional banner proudly. You help people feel better about themselves and their lives every single day. Very few professions have the ability to help their customers feel better every day.

The bottom line is that the public's perception of the beauty industry's professionalism starts with you and your salon. What's the message that you're sending them?

Jayne Morehouse is a columnist for Stylist Newspapers and the president of Jayne & company, a full-service brand communications agency for beauty companies and salons. Follow her on Twitter @JaynePR and @BeautyIQ and connect with her on facebook.com/jayneandco.