February 2013

Steve Sleeper

Beauty Insider| by Kelley McCarthy


Evolve in 2013 and Beyond: Invest in a Training Program

As we settle into the new year, many salon owners are refining goals and assessing financial priorities.

Salon business operators report a focus on reducing attrition, increasing retail sales, formalizing policies and building consistency around their brand for 2013. What if you could make progress in all of these areas while focusing on one program?

"Creating a strong training program produces many far-reaching benefits in your salon business," asserts Amy Carter of Empowering You Consulting & Training, a PBA member and salon owner in Evansville, Indiana.

"An effective educational program can create efficient employees who generate more revenue, represent your brand, reinforce your company culture and remain loyal."

So, when is the right time to build and implement your training program? "There's never a good time to start your training program," laughs Bryan Nunes, PBA member and founder of Blo Salon in Raleigh, North Carolina. "We started our training program when our salon opened but our program has expanded, evolved and even been overhauled as our salon has matured. Solutions come from problems and your ideal training program will be the result of creative problem solving and honest assessment over time."

Kendall Ong, PBA member and owner of Mane Attraction Salon in Phoenix, Arizona explains when he knew how important his salon's training program was: "As [we] grew in popularity, I no longer had time to touch every head of hair that walked out the door. Our structured training program ensures my standards, my techniques, and my level of service is delivered through my employees."

If your salon doesn't have an education and training program, it needs one. There is no time like the present to begin development.

Start with the end goal in mind. Begin by defining your company's cultural values and identifying the traits and skills of your ideal employee. Now, work backwards. If your culture emphasizes retail sales and customer service, build a training program that incorporates product knowledge, sales techniques, and interpersonal skills in equal parts with technical training. Your educational program should incorporate your unique values.

Ong explains, "Our program places a huge emphasis on soft skills including body language, listening attentiveness, interpersonal communication and consultations. Effective communication and personal development are an integral part of our culture and our success."

Determine the details. Every salon is unique. Details such as the number of chairs, the range of services, pricing, hours of operation, and location all inform the development of your training program. As different as each training program will be, there are components that can help your program take shape.

Develop ways to evaluate your new employees as they move through your program. After you've determined what your program's core focuses and expected outcomes will be, you need to determine how to measure when they've been met. Nunes recommends measuring your trainees similarly to how you measure your stylists. "Provide similar benchmarks and expectations as you do for your stylists," he said. "Evaluate time management, rebooking rates, retail sales and growth of clientele. This allows them to practice and perfect these skills and ultimately eases the transition into the stylist position."

Remember to provide opportunities for your training employees to offer feedback on their experience in the program.

Incorporate client experience and clientele building into your training program. "A training program has to duplicate the real-world experience of servicing clients," asserts Nunes. "Mannequins don't provide opportunities for communicating, problem solving and working under pressure."

Consider incorporating live models and real services into your training curriculum. By charging a reduced rate for models you offset part of the training costs, you add value to the service for the models and you provide a realistic training environment for your assistant. Amy Carter's program allows assistants to open their books for services once they have been mastered, while they are still in training. "Our assistants build their clientele and their confidence on the floor capitalizing on the skills they've acquired," she said. "They begin to generate revenue and work harder to add additional services to their books."

Consider the costs. "Our education program is expensive, but it's invaluable," Ong explains. "We conduct training on 'our' time, not on the employee's days off, so we are incurring costs and sacrificing revenue by design." This is typical of many successful training programs- staff trainings are often during working hours, utilizing senior staff to educate- which means that neither employee is generating revenue, but both are being paid. The payoff is worth the investment, however and assistants can contribute in other income-earning fashions. Utilize your new staff to increase the productivity of senior stylists through add on services and double booking.

What's in it for them? Training programs provide critical education, experience and exposure for new stylists. Unfortunately many newly licensed professionals are often anxious to skip training programs and get right to work. Salon owners struggle to provide the length of training new employees need, balanced with the employee's desire to start taking clients. Put a dollar value on your training and broadcast it. The education you provide is valuable and staff members should be aware of the investment you make in them.

Mane Attraction Salon calculates their investment in each employee and prints the amount on their paychecks. Many salons draft contacts for their assistants and outline the expectation for reimbursement of training costs in cases of employment termination. These contracts illustrate the mutual commitment you and the employee are making to each other. (Research your state's law governing employee contracts first.)

The training never ends. Remember that all of your stylists want and need continuous training, regardless of their experience and competency. Employees are always eager to improve their skills and stay abreast of industry changes. Utilize your advanced staff members to conduct training (learning through teaching) and offer classes the entire staff can enjoy. Consider professional development classes (Life coach? Team building? Seasonal fashion updates?) and opportunities to travel to trade shows/industry events. Interweave your training program with your daily culture to ensure your staff stays connected and excited about professional growth.

Carter offers this creative advice for keeping the team excited, "We put our staff commission from product sales into a personalized education fund. Stylists pay for half of their advanced education out of this fund – including staff trips to Europe!"

Whatever your staff educational program entails, expect it to grow and evolve with your business and your team in 2013 and beyond.

Kelley McCarthy is the Professional Beauty Association's (PBA) Manager of Education & Training and Host of PBA's Online Education Program, BeautyU. Along with the Education program, PBA provides members with Government Advocacy, Signature Events, Charitable Outreach, Research and Business Resources. Visit probeauty.org for more information. Contact Kelley directly at Kelley@probeauty.org.