Why Salon Leadership Will Make or Break Your Business

Why Salon Leadership Skills Will Make or Break Your Business

It takes very little to open a salon. Literally all you need is a space, a few bucks, equipment and the license. Salon owners around the globe are scratching their heads, trying to figure out how to be successful, recruit both stylists and clients while growing a thriving brand.

What sets any beauty business apart from the rest is great salon leadership. When the salon’s operations are fit, stylists are treated fairly and the business works in harmony, things tend to fall in place.

When management skills, culture, effective communication and strategy is a priority, you are in an ideal position for profitability. People need to be lead and nurtured, effective leaders in the salon industry get the best results.

5 Tips to Salon Management Success

During my adventures as a salon business broker and recruitment expert, the common theme I see in salon failures is the lack of great leadership skills. In this blog I will detail the most important aspects of effective management and identify the leadership qualities you need to have to ensure you have one of those “good salons” to work in for pros.

The 5 biggest areas to focus on as a salon leader are: salon culture, communication, emotional management, stability, and implementation. When these 5 salon and spa management areas are addressed and actively worked on, daily operations run smoothly, you are 10x more likely to have a happy salon team.

the different impact that salon leadership has on a salon

Table of Contents

Leadership Skills are Needed in All Spa and Salon Businesses

According to both commission salon employee statistics and booth renter statistics, the desire for strong and fair leadership is present in all salon business models. While employee based salons differ greatly from independent contractor environments, the need for structure and stability is the same.

Get crystal clear on salon policies, rules, expectations and tap into which leadership style best suits you. In order to be a great leader, you must understand your business, your goals and get specific on what you need from your staff to give your company

Successful Salons have Strong Cultural Attributes

Culture is one of those words that is thrown around a lot and truthfully a bit abused in the beauty industry. What it really means are the attitudes and behaviors of people within a salon or spa.

Think about the work environment. What fun or unique things are offered to your staff that set you apart and creates good “feelings” of the team towards your business? Maybe you supply donuts every Friday or have an annual team retreat.

Set events, growth opportunities or things to look forward to for your employees or booth renters into motion to make them feel valued!

Create Clear Policies for a Strong Salon Culture

It is human nature to feel like you are getting cheated or underpaid. Everyone in your business is on the lookout for unfairness- effective leadership ensures policies, raises, rules and staff treatment are consistent throughout the salon.

I have seen many salons fall apart due to favoritism, unfair treatment, waivering rules & standards and empty promises. Consistency and fairness are key when it comes to upholding standards and enforcing policies.

People won’t believe or trust in you when the needle is always moving, and they don’t know what to expect. During the onboarding process, go over the policies and make clear your non-negotiable rules to ensure a well-managed business.

Good Leaders Have Goals

Hopes and wishes are fantastic to have, clear goal setting is the way to truly achieve your dreams. Think through financial, personal and team goals you may have and break them up into small bites.

Create weekly, monthly, annual and overall business goals to start- write them down!! Think about individual goals for your business and team, hold yourself accountable and create repeatable strategies that ensure you are clear about your goals and working towards achieving them, everyday.

Core Values Dictate Culture

One of the most consistent aspects of a successful salon industry business is identifying your core values and demonstrating these values across the business. Values are aspects of business such as: responsibility, kindness, sustainability, collaboration and respect. 

Dig in deep to uncover your values and instill these values into your staff. When interviewing hairstylists, look for your values to be reflected in each and every hire.

A Salon’s Mission Dictates Success

Does your salon have  a purpose in the local community? What do you want to achieve as a business owner and as a team? Evaluating your values and striving to meet your goals places you in the advance leadership role.

Build Trust in the Salon with Excellent Communication

Getting on the same page with your team members, practicing active listening skills and allowing stylists to be heard and seen are key to success as a leader.

One of my favorite salon leadership quotes says it all- “Progressive development combined with applied skills and discipline beats informational education in the real world, every time.” –Rob Hinds, Salon Consultant

Develop effective communication skills and make your communication style a great balance between functional yet assertive with a personal touch! Take a soft approach, give the benefit of the doubt and listen to the words and nonverbal cues you get from both managers and employees.

Micromanagers Clog Management Systems

Micromanagers make it hard to achieve great results. Treating your staff with empathy, empowering them to complete and delegate tasks to team members goes very far.

I once worked with a spa owner who was the reigning micromanaging world champion.  She had a great team with an excellent salon manager with a serious customer retention problem.

Her team tried so hard to please amongst a constant barrage of requests, over-management and sometimes unrealistic demands. She would even throw difficult decisions that needed to be resolved, quickly into marketing campaigns that were already in motion.

Needless to say, the spa owner’s leadership skills needed serious work. Unfortunately half of the staff quit the spa and moved on before she got to implement positive change. STOP micromanaging before it starts!

Emotional Management in Salon Operations

What owners want is long-term success. What salon professionals want is a safe space to work and thrive. The two can coexist when high emotions are kept at bay.

The salon industry is known for drama.  A leader must be even keel and be able to slough off the bs to effectively manage a salon team.

Your feelings will get hurt.

There will be issues and problems amongst your stylists.

You are in control, (for the most part), of how issues play out and how they are handled. When you’re a new salon owner, emotional leadership development is crucial to the stability of your business.

photo showing a strong salon leader that does not micromanage their team
how leadership skills as a salon owner help to avoid drama

Handling Difficult Staff Situations

Not everyone will like and respect each other. If you tolerate or participate in drama, you are as much to blame as the others involved.

Outwardly showing favoritism, treating staff unfairly or gossiping will not earn you the respect you deserve. Set the bar, live your standards and don’t put fuel on the fire of employees’ issues.

Lead By Example to Achieve Stability 

Every salon employee needs to feel the salon is stable and will be there for them in the long run.  Many salon professionals have difficulty managing their money, as do several owners!

Some of the best salon leaders breakdown cost of doing business and open their financial situations to their staff. I know it sounds crazy but the transparency with how much it takes to run a salon and how to make great financial decisions promotes a lot of trust and positivity amongst your team.

You know how hairstylists think owners make all this money while they don’t take home enough in their paycheck? While you will never gain complete empathy, take a moment to address this problem in team meetings.

The results will amaze you…

Transparency with Salon Staff Pays Off: Salon Leadership Example

By being open about where the salon’s money goes you are demonstrating vulnerability, openness and a smart financial sense. Anyone who thinks they can handle owning a salon or going out on their own may change their mind when they see what it takes to run a salon.

Don’t forget, by showing how to manage money, you are also providing a valuable lesson for those who may be financially illiterate. Delegate specific tasks to those who want to learn more about budgeting.

These people will show themselves in your regular meetings and deserve your time and focus for exponential growth.

Implementing Great Leadership

Change is often necessary but not always easy. After you have hired a salon coach or taken growth on by yourself, it’s time to streamline your new skills and put the wheels in motion!

A great leader is one who leads by example, is not threatened by anyone and hold their head high during difficult times. All small business owners struggle with implementing new leadership skills.

Try to automate whatever you can with your salon management software to free up time to focus on your business. Let your staff know you have discovered innovative ways to take your business to the next level and they are a key part in everyone’s success.

It’s Okay to Feel Burnout

If your staff doesn’t immediately buy into the new leadership changes, don’t be surprised. Try not to expect too much just because you have made moves to improve. This can feel deflating and sometimes lead to salon owner burnout, the good news is, it does get better!

Give staff time and space to feel safe under the new leadership style. The most important quality of a great leader is resilience and staying the course amongst resistance.

I hope you have found this blog to be helpful! Make sure to check out all of our salon owner resources, and let us know if there is anything we can help you with.

Yours in service,

Susan Wos


how being honest with salon staff is a good thing