By: Ashley Smith (SALT Administrative Manager)
Whether you’re thinking about opening a brand new salon or you want to revamp an existing salon to bring it back to new life, let us just say one thing: You can do it! We believe you can!
That being said, the decision to open your own salon, like opening any business, is a major one, and is not something that you should pursue lightly. Successfully opening and running a salon isn’t about luck. It takes time, effort, planning, and dedication to get it right.
Are you thinking about opening a salon? Below, we’ve gathered the top 12 most important tips and considerations that you should think about and keep in mind when preparing to launch your salon. Use this advice to learn everything you need to know about salon business.
TIPS FOR OPENING A SALON
1. FIND THE RIGHT LOCATION.
If you want your salon to be successful, then every single aspect of your business needs to be catered towards your ideal client—the person that you would love to fill every single open slot in your appointment book with. As long as you keep this person in mind whenever you make a decision about your business, you can be certain that you’re on the right track.
One of the most important considerations to get right before you start is in choosing the location that your salon will be based in. After all, building a brand new salon or outfitting an existing one to get it up to your standards can be an expensive process—you don’t want to go through all of that work just to have to do it again because you didn’t choose the right location the first time around!
The location you choose should be one that caters to the type of clientele that you want to work with. Look at the demographics of the areas you’re considering and make sure that your ideal client actually lives in the area.
It also pays to think about the kind of client that you don’t want to cater to. For example, at SALT Hair we don’t cater to walk-ins. That’s why we chose a location that was slightly off the beaten path. If we had situated our salon in the middle of a strip mall, we’d spend half the day turning away walk-ins!
Want more tips for choosing your salon’s location? Download our free Salon Location Tipsheet.
2. FIND THE RIGHT CONTRACTOR.
Once you have your location picked out, you will need to find a contractor that will be able to help you bring your dream salon to life. But if you’ve never worked with a contractor before, it’s natural to feel a bit overwhelmed. After all, what does a great contractor look like, anyway?
When you’re choosing a contractor, ask the questions below to guide your selection process:
- Are you licensed?
- Do you have all the appropriate insurance?
- How long have you been in business?
- Have you worked on salon projects in the past? How many would you say?
- Can you share a list of former clients or referrals?
- Would you, or somebody else on your team, be managing my project?
- What are your preferred payment terms?
- What do your other commitments look like, and when would you realistically be able to get started on my project?
An important note: Never agree to pay for work in full before it is completed. Unscrupulous contractors will gladly take your money up front, only to drag your project out for months or even years beyond the schedule you originally agreed upon.
If you’re performing a renovation, and not a full salon build, then you need to decide how much work you want to do yourself (if any!). Once you know that, you can determine if you want to manage the renovation on your own or hire a contractor to take care of everything.
3. DON’T OVERLOOK THE PERMITS.
As with any construction project, before you (or your contractor) break ground or hammer the first nail, you need to make sure that everything you are planning is above the board and done by the books. This means going down to city hall and getting all of the required permits and licenses for your project.
The exact process that you’ll follow, and the exact permits that you’ll need, will of course depend upon the municipality that you are hoping to build in. That being said, some permits you’ll likely need include:
- Business Operation License
- Certificate of Occupancy
- License to Sell Retail
- Building Permit(s)
- Fire Permit
- State Cosmetology License
Depending on the town/city, you may also need to submit full blueprints or engineered drawings depicting exactly what you plan on doing to transform the space.
4. FOCUS ON CREATING THE RIGHT SALON CULTURE.
Your salon culture includes all of the characteristics that make your salon unique: The behaviors and values that you want to exemplify, and which you expect from both yourself, your employees, and your clients. It’s a lot like company culture, and it’s one of the most important aspects of your business.
Your salon culture should be a reflection of who you are as a business owner, stylist, and person. This includes making sure strategies used to run your business (such as double booking) never compromise your client's salon experience. Salon culture should help your clients understand what makes you different from the countless other salons that they could choose from. And it should bleed into all other aspects of your business, from the products you use and sell to the decor in your space and everything in between.
Want more advice on how to create the perfect salon culture? Download our free Salon Culture Tipsheet!
5. CHOOSE THE RIGHT BUSINESS MODEL FOR YOUR GOALS: COMMISSION VS. RENTAL.
Generally speaking, salons come in two main varieties: Commission- and rental-based. Neither is inherently better or worse than the other, but each has its own pros and cons that you should consider before deciding which one is right for you.
If you choose to run your salon on a rental basis, the positives are that you’ll have a regular monthly income from your renters and less responsibility in the form of staff management. But you’ll also be less limited in terms of what you control within your own space, because your renters are essentially running their own businesses within yours.
If you choose to run your salon on a commission basis, the positives are that you retain the ability to brand and market your entire salon and you have complete control over everything that happens in your salon. The primary negative here, though, is that you have much more responsibility in terms of managing your employees, retail, etc.
6. THINK HARD ABOUT YOUR RETAIL STRATEGY.
The average profit margin for retail items sold in salons is an astounding 50 percent, making it one of the most lucrative parts of running a salon. If it is managed correctly, your retail strategy can be a major source of revenue for your business.
But managing your salon’s retail strategy is about more than just pushing product on your clients. (In fact, you should never push product just to make a sale—that’s a sure fire way to burn trust and damage relationships.) A successful retail strategy means that you have chosen each item with care to ensure that it aligns with both your salon culture and the price points of your client; it also means that you are applying those products to your business and educating your clients on how to get the most success out of using them.
7. Build Your Team.
Most salon owners like to be hands-on with their business, and that’s a good thing. But the most successful salon owners understand that they can’t do everything themselves. Just like it takes a loving village to raise a child, it takes a team to run a salon.
The good news is that, as the boss, you get to choose exactly who is on your team. Whether it’s the stylists, your front desk staff, or back office support, you get to decide who to hire and who to pass over—and it’s important to wield that power wisely.
When building your salon’s team, you should hire:
- People that are passionate about the industry
- People that mesh with your salon’s culture and aesthetic
- People who you can trust
Using those rules as your guidelines, you can feel pretty confident that you’ll make the right hiring choices.
8. STAY CONNECTED WITH YOUR STAFF EVERY STEP OF THE WAY.
If you are going to be employing staff in your salon, it is critical that you maintain an open line of communication with each and every member of your team—from your stylists to your front desk to your maintenance professionals and everyone in between.
Not sure how to maintain open communication? A few great tips to keep in mind include:
- Always remaining positive when talking about the business, your employees, or your clients
- Being clear about expectations and communicating priorities so that everyone knows what they should expect
- Celebrating your clients when they meet your expectations, and especially when they go above and beyond
- Alway being one hundred percent honest with your employees
- Being decisive for your team when necessary
- Remaining approachable and predictable at all times
9. UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR FRONT DESK.
Your front desk constitutes one of the most important parts of your salon. Not only does your front desk staff act as the face of your salon, answering calls, greeting customers, and ensuring that everyone has a great experience interacting with your business—they also keep everything organized and operating in the most efficient manner.
In short, your front desk is critical.
When perfecting your front desk practices, consider the following tips:
- Hire someone who understands all of the different aspects of your business.
- Look for the right cultural fit.
- Aim for consistency in all actions.
- Lead with strength.
10. Settle Your Business Policies.
Your business policies are there for protection: For you, for your staff, and even for your clientele. That’s why it’s so crucial that, before you ever open your doors for business, you take the time to really iron out your business policies and make sure that everyone understands exactly what they mean.
On the staff side of things, this might include everything from vacation policies to sick leave and scheduling to training. On the client side, it might include things like payment, refunds, and cancellation policies. Taking the time now to get these right will save you a lot of headaches in the future.
Want to learn more about settling your salon’s policies? Download our Salon Business Policies Checklist!
11. Build a Salon Website That Your Clientele Will Love.
In today’s day and age, when someone starts looking for a new salon they will often start by doing a Google search online. For better or worse, that’s just how people find information nowadays, and that means that building a salon website really needs to be on your checklist of things to do before launching your business.
Exactly what this website looks like will vary depending on your aesthetic, your ideal client, and the services that you offer, but broadly speaking, your salon’s website should:
- Back into your salon culture and mission
- Showcase your services
- Make booking appointments easy
- And be beautiful.
There are other considerations, of course (which you can read about here). But as long as your website checks all of the boxes above, you’re off to a great start—especially compared to having no website at all!
Want to learn more about building a stunning salon website? Download our Website Audit Checklist!
12. DON’T OVERLOOK THE IMPORTANCE OF SOCIAL MEDIA.
Social media has had a tremendous positive impact on stylists and salon owners, making marketing easier (and often cheaper) than ever before. But while it might be tempting to just buy a bunch of Facebook or Instagram Ads, the truth is that you need to make sure that you’re being smart with your salon’s social media strategy.
When you sit down and start thinking through your social marketing strategy, you need to make sure that your messaging is targeted towards your ideal clientele. The photos, words, hashtags, etc. that you use should match what they use in their everyday life. At the same time, your posts need to fit with your salon culture and personal identity.
Once you’ve nailed your social strategy, it’s possible to use your social channels and profiles to attract new leads and nurture them into paying salon clients—and who doesn’t want that?
Want to learn more salon social media tips? Download our Social Media Tipsheet!
Want to learn more about opening and running your very own salon? Find out more about our five-week Salon Consulting Program!