April 2013

Jaime Schrabeck

The Nail Extension | by Jaime Schrabeck


My (Twenty) First Year

Last year, I celebrated my first 20 years as a licensed manicurist.

I use the term "celebrated" deliberately because it signifies my attitude toward the nail industry. Though it seems unlikely after so many years, I'm more passionate and positive about our profession than ever before.

There's much to be excited about: the development of new products, the next generation of nail professionals, renewed interest from media and consumers, changes in licensure/governance, and so on.

I have options, certainly, but what other career better suits my disposition and would challenge and reward me as much as being a manicurist and salon owner? 

That being said, it's ultimately wiser to position yourself for more rewards than challenges. I believe that doing what you love should bring joy and prosperity, not problems and hardship. If that sounds unrealistic or selfish, I remind myself that I deserve to enjoy my success.

And that's why, in my (twenty) first year, I've chosen to reinvest in my nail career. In terms of planning and decision-making, it's like starting over, but with the incredible advantages of loyal clients, respected colleagues, favorite products and the knowledge gained from 20 years worth of experiences. 

During my first year in business, I had none of those advantages, except the desire to learn. To expedite learning about nails (choosing products, developing skills, marketing services, managing resources, etc.), I naturally sought advice from others with more experience. I wish the majority of advice was useful, but in practice, it was not.

To my disappointment, the technical advice was serviceable at best, but not innovative, efficient or exceptional. And the most common business advice (base your prices on the competition, never turn clients away, give discounts to new clients, schedule according to client demand, etc.) turned out to be the most ridiculous. If I'd followed that, my career wouldn't have lasted as long because I would've failed miserably. 

No doubt, some of the harsher lessons of business (tax audits, lawsuits, bad investments, etc.) can be avoided with proper guidance. However, when seeking advice from consultants, educators and mentors, consider the source and be more selective.

Don't assume that someone in a position of authority can provide relevant and accurate information; be informed by researching qualifications and asking valid questions. Not all advice is good, and hearing the same bad advice from multiple sources doesn't make it any better. The "common" way of doing something may be popular, but not necessarily the best way.

As advice seeker, be willing to pay for information/ training/ coaching; there should not be any expectation to receive anything for free, any more than someone should be obligated to give it away. 

Over the years, I've shared my experiences with hundreds of other salon owners, manicurists and students. Some have paid a considerable amount to visit my salon for individualized training, but most have stumbled upon me online, or teaching free technical or business classes at a beauty show.

Regardless of the investment, what they do with my suggestions, or anyone else's, is their business. I don't have any control over them, and what works for me may not work for everyone. In fact, that's the excuse I often hear for not trying what I suggest. I couldn't agree more, but why continue doing what's not working? That doesn't make any sense. 

Growth and progress make sense to me. "Nothing succeeds like success" (Alexandre Dumas), so I'll continue to focus on what works. In my case, it's direct interaction with clients. That's right; I own and manage a salon, have employees AND provide services. Could it work better? Of course, and that's what I aspire to - improving my business for the future. Is greatness too much to expect? Perhaps. The next 20 years will not be perfect, but I can't make any excuses given the tremendous advantages I already have.

Far from being complacent or cautious in my twenty-first year, I'm determined to act more strategically. That's why everything about my business is subject to consideration. What do I enjoy doing most? What would I like to eliminate? Some changes have already been made. For example, I've traveled extensively in years past, attending so many beauty shows and networking events that it actually became tiresome. I never expected to reach that point, but I'm there.

Supporting the nail industry is still a priority, but how I participate will be different. Traveling less often gives me time to participate in my immediate community, like volunteering and supporting education and the arts. Relocating my salon is an even bigger change I'm considering. The possibility of moving to a more ideal space is invigorating, and I'll share more about that process in the future. But for now, I'm content to know that it's never too late to reinvent yourself and improve your life. 

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