Selling My Salon- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

After 3 years of salon ownership, I was ready to be done. 

In year 5, I successfully sold my salon, on my own to an owner a few miles away, who needed the injection of my talented and younger staff. I had hired a business broker who didn’t understand the salon industry, once the contract was over, I connected with the person I sold the salon to.

The deal we made was good, I would get a small payout, initially, my hair stylists and nail techs would move to his location and I would get a percentage of what they brought in for the next 2 years. It behooved me to help keep my former salon team happy, yet I had plans to move out of the country- most of what would happen after the sale was not in my control.

I moved with my team over to the new owner’s location- several seasoned stylists who were on the brink of retirement. Buying my salon was a smart move for the new owner. Without the injection of my youthful and successful salon team, he would have continued to struggle to hire and attract new talent. This was, on the outset a true win-win for both the new owner of the salon, and for me as well.

I did notice a few personality “quirks” with the new owner that made me think about my team’s long-term happiness in their new salon home, that were a concern.  

The new salon owner was not from the salon industry- he wanted to buy a building and he would say, “the salon just came with the building”.  He had bought this building and a thriving, yet aging, neighborhood salon, two years prior. He tried to relate and understand our industry. I helped coach him and attempted to make him understand why stylists do like this, or don’t like that.

I moved out of the country hopeful the new owner would keep my team happy, I could settle into a new life in paradise and life would be peachy keen.  It didn’t take a month to go by before several of my former stylists would call to complain about their new situation.  The coaching I had given the new owner had fallen on deaf ears…the calls from my former salon team came almost daily. My distance was slowly becoming a nightmare as I struggled to help the team and the new owner.

It became clear after 6 months from my departure, in order to keep the money coming in, I would need to come home to manage the team and help their new salon owner.  

This was heart wrenching and very stressful to me…had there been too much damage to be able to preserve the team? Would I be able to receive my full payout? What did coming home to manage under someone else’s ownership, look like? Questions and uncertainty filled my mind as I took the big step to move home.

Once I settled into managing my former team and new inherited stylists, I saw that my role would be similar to when I owned the salon. Depending on how much ability to make changes and positive impact, I felt hopeful I could help preserve this salon.  For the first few months of managing the team, it went well! New owner was open to suggestion, the morale improved and things were moving in the right direction.

As time wore on, the issues with the new owner started cropping up- unkind to the team, not supportive, unrealistic expectations, misaligned values, changes were made that I had no control over.  I began to think that this was not a permanent situation and that once my payout was final, I would likely move on.

With the sale of the salon, I signed a 10 mile non-compete agreement.  This meant I could not do hair or own a salon within a 10 mile radius of the salon.  It was a fair agreement and I had no problem signing it, I understood the threat I posed to the new owner and I had no desire to own a salon again. Once I knew that my time at the new salon would be limited, I was concerned about my livelihood-how would I provide for myself if I had to relocate 10 miles or more away from my loyal clientele?

The payout from the salon completed, 2 years of nothing but the unexpected and additional stress I tried to avoid by selling my salon.  

I became pregnant with my first child and things began to shift, my priorities were changing, and so was my life. It was time to hang up my management hat and move on in my career.

I was so focused on issues at hand, I had no idea of what opportunities were there for me, outside of this salon.  One of my former team members had moved to a new concept salon recently, a salon suite a few miles away. Sola and other salon suites were just starting to pop up around the country, I went to visit my former stylist in her suite and was in awe.  I knew after I visited her and saw how happy she was, this was a great fit for me.

I won’t go into what a salon suite did for me and my business, equally good and bad impactful things came with owning a suite, the problem was the suite was not outside of my non-compete range.  

I had no plans of taking any of the staff members away from the salon I managed but I made the decision to leave and take the risk of not being sued by breaking my non-compete agreement. 

I did not want to work full time, I had a baby on the way and 3 days was enough to support me and my family, doing hair.  One of my teammates confided in me that she was looking for another salon to work in. I took this opportunity to ask her to share a suite with me and she happily agreed.  Although I asked her not to tell anyone, she knew of other stylists who were also ready to leave the salon. Before I knew it, 4 of us signed a lease at Sola to share a double suite.

Things had become so unpleasant for me and the salon team, most were ready to move on. I had held it together for as long as I could, saving this salon was not within my power. I had had enough negative conversations and interactions with the salon owner that I didn’t feel valued or heard. He viewed us as his retirement and treated us as such.  Little to no respect for women or our industry added up to a situation where there weren’t many people who were content working in this salon.

I felt a small bit of guilt as I quit this salon and left with 3 stylists to go out on our own.  

Guilt was overridden by fear of being caught violating my non-compete agreement.  I lied to the salon owner and told him I would be working for my husband in his business so he wouldn’t come after me. I knew he would probably eventually find out, but I was hopeful he had his hands full keeping his salon together and would be too busy to sue me.  

The salon owner was furious that we had left the salon, but seemed to have no idea why we left.  He truly could not understand how the things he said to us, the way we were spoken to and treated had added up to a walkout.  He would do little things like steal our cards from Sola’s waiting area and call our clients to offer them incredible deals to stay in his salon. None of these things impacted our business and likely just made him happy to feel as if he got even with us for leaving.

I was grateful for never being sued for violating the non-compete agreement. 

I was grateful for having a buyer for my salon. I was thankful for the experience as many life lessons were learned from the transaction of selling my salon. Even with the nastiness of the salon owner, overall it was a good experience and I was happy to move on. After we left, more followed and came to Sola and to other salons across the city. One year after my departure he had only 1 of my original team members from the 11 I supplied him in the sale of my salon.

The inspiration for this blog came from thoughts about the salon owner I have had for years…did he ever realize why he lost his stylists or make changes to keep new hires?  He stayed in business and was able to attract some new talent for 5 years after we parted ways.  I do feel empathy for him, running a salon is not easy-takes a lot of hard work and dedication to make it run smoothly and would have been more challenging without having experience behind the chair.  I always wondered if he held a grudge or what he thought, years after the salon closed and the past grew farther and farther apart.

I got the answer to how he feels, recently.  He sent me a friend request on Facebook several weeks ago, so I thought maybe he was peaceful and had come to realize what had really happened.  He made a comment on one of the posts I did about a podcast I was invited to be a guest on where we discussed hiring the right salon team. He said something about how one person can ruin an entire team…my guess is, this was his attempt to blame me for what had happened.  I thought about this for a few days and kindly just “loved” his comment. He was talking about me…the person who handed him a team he was unable to nurture.

For my salon owner friends, do not fall into this trap. 

When you have multiple people leave your salon or when you have unhappy team members, please look inside. It is not always your fault or their fault but almost always both sides are to blame.  Walkouts are a time for reflection.

I do take partial blame for what happened.  I could have continuously voiced my opinion and spoken up about team issues with the owner. I could have kept the salon or sold it to someone else better suited to care for the team I built.  I could have stayed and watched my former staff leave, one by one. I could have done a lot of things differently as could the salon owner.

When the time comes to sell your salon, explore the options and think through agreements made that could affect you, after the sale is complete. If you need affordable representation to sell your salon, we offer services for both private sales and public sales of salons, spas and barbershops. Our industry experience and success with selling salons of all shapes and sizes has provided the opportunity to be the leader in this market.

Visit our Salons For Sale page today to see our success stories and chat with one of our professionals today!