As a stylist, you probably started out your journey in the hair industry as either a commission-based worker or a renter, an experience which has undoubtedly taught you a lot. And if you’re like a lot of us, it really didn’t take too long for you to start fantasizing about opening your own salon and working for yourself.
After all, what could be better than being your own boss? Sounds like the dream!
The truth is, there are a lot of perks that come with salon ownership that can make it an ideal career path for the right kind of stylist. But it isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay too. Below, we explore the key benefits and challenges of salon ownership so that you can better decide whether or not it’s the right next step for you.
Benefits of Salon Ownership
There are so many benefits to owning a salon, which all stem back to one key thing: You reign fully over everything that happens in your business, including the experience that your customers receive when they’re in your space. Instead of fulfilling someone else’s vision, you’re building your own—and that’s some really powerful stuff!
Some examples of the things that fall under your control, as owner, include:
1. Your Salon’s Culture
Your salon culture reflects the unique characteristics that make your salon special. It speaks to your values and your aspirations, and should impact everything that happens in your salon—from the environment to the kinds of products you use to the kinds of clients you attract.
In short, it’s important! And as the owner, you get to define exactly what it is for your business.
2. Your Salon’s Hours of Operation
We all know just how important it is to have work/life balance. As the owner of your salon, you can directly shape the work/life balance for yourself and your staff by selecting days and hours of operation that work for you. Hate working on Wednesdays? No problem! Don’t want to close? As long as you’ve hired trustworthy employees that can do it for you, you never have to again! It might seem like a small win, but it can go really far in helping you make life more manageable and enjoyable.
3. Your Salon’s Policies and Systems
Have you ever worked for someone whose policies you just didn’t agree with? For example, maybe you had a boss in the past who refused to let employees take days off unless they submitted written requests a month in advance, and you swore you’d never be so strict with your own employees. Or maybe an old salon you worked at had an unforgiving cancellation policy that didn’t take your clients or customers into account. Now that you’re in charge, you can shape the policies however you want.
4. Your Hiring Practices
When you’re the boss, you’re responsible for hiring the people who work in your salon, whether that’s individual stylists, front desk staff, or someone who’s in a more back office support role. By hiring those who fit your salon culture, you can ensure that you’re building a team capable of handling anything that gets thrown at them.
5. Amenities Offered
As a salon owner, you have final say over the services and amenities that you offer, which means you can focus on performing the services that you actually enjoy. Hate foiling but love balayage? Love color but hate cutting? It’s completely within your power to decide which services you offer. Similarly, you get to decide what you charge for these services.
You also have complete control over your salon’s retail strategy, meaning you can stock and sell only the products that you trust and agree with.
Challenges of Owning a Salon
Though salon ownership is a highly rewarding endeavor, it does bring its own challenges which you should be sure to consider before diving head first into the process of opening a place of your own.
First and foremost: While you have total control over what happens in your salon, that also means that you are responsible for everything your business does. This means that, in the end, you are responsible for your own success; whether or not you thrive will ultimately fall to you and you alone.
Some of the other challenges that many new salon owners face include:
- Managing the numbers: If you’re unfamiliar with accounting or general finance, opening a salon can easily feel a little overwhelming. You’ve got to manage overhead expenses, taxes, unforeseen building renovation/repair expenses, and other fees on a monthly (or weekly) basis to ensure that you’re staying on track.
- Hiring and firing: Stylists are a caring people. It’s what makes us great at our jobs! But it can also sometimes make it easy for others to take advantage of us, especially when it comes to issues like firing someone for poor job performance or disobedience. But it’s a fact of business that you’ll need to learn to deal with if you want to run your own salon.
- Initial setup: Setting up your salon’s policies can be really overwhelming when you’re first starting out, especially if you’ve never done it before. But it’s so important to put enough thought to this in the early stages so you don’t need to redo it later.
- Creating a positive culture: Another huge challenge with salon ownership is creating a positive salon culture. You are the leader and have to be the main pillar and example of how you want your business to run and others to professionally handle themselves. Whether you are going to work with one other person or 20, understanding how to communicate effectively with your staff, renters, etc is crucial to running a healthy and successful business.
Any education you can give yourself prior to owning or opening a salon will be beneficial. Creating a business plan and speaking with an accountant, financial adviser, and contractor prior to signing a lease (or any agreement, really) is important, and will only help you in the long run.
Developing the Mindset of a Successful Salon Owner
It’s important to note that before you even begin thinking about a business plan or marketing strategy for your salon, you need to make sure that you’re approaching the business from the right mindset and perspective. This will not only ensure that you are establishing a business that you can feel proud to call your own, but can also help you become a more effective manager and owner.
Want more information about developing your mindset as a salon owner? Listen to Episode 6 of our Hair Goals Podcast (below), where Jamie Sea offers insights and advice and talks about her own experience.
Is salon ownership for everyone?
Salon ownership comes with benefits that make it really attractive to a lot of people, but it also comes with some potentially big challenges. This means that salon ownership simply isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. If you don’t have a leadership mentality or simply don’t truly care about the wellbeing of those who will be working in your space, you’ll be setting yourself up for failure by trying to jump into ownership.
That being said, success looks different to everyone. In today’s day and age of social media “success” can set very unrealistic expectations of what your life should be and look like. Don’t want to own your own salon? That’s okay! Don’t want to rent a chair? That’s okay too! Staying true to who you are and your convictions is just as important as believing you can do whatever you put your mind to if at some point you want a change!
Think salon ownership is for you? Consider signing up for our Salon Consulting Program, with Society Manager Ashley and SALT's Marketing Manager Sarah. These calls are customized specifically to your business situation! Learn all about creating a healthy and vibrant salon culture, performing a pre-screening consultation video, cancellation policies, and more!