How to Run a Successful Salon

Lisa Starr
Successful salon attributes

There is more to running a successful salon than just finding a space and putting your name on the door.  How you differentiate your salon brand can make all of the difference in your success.

Our blog topics are generally written for existing salons, but I received an email inquiry that made me think about what happens when a salon business is created without a lot of forethought or a planning process. I was contacted by someone who said they wanted to open a salon, they had found a space and wanted to hire a contractor. Just like that. 

It may be relatively easy to get a salon off the ground, but it's not easy to turn a salon into a successful one.There are approximately 90,000 salons in the United States, and building a lasting business takes more than just putting in styling chairs. So how do you run a successful salon, and what do you need to do to start off on the right foot? Here are a few critical steps:

1. Develop a Mission/Vision 

This is the DNA of your salon brand. What will the characteristics of your salon be? Modern, trend-setting, traditional? The logo, color scheme, staff uniforms, the look and feel of it. With so much competition, you must be really clear on what your value proposition is to your target consumer. How will you be better, different? How will you attract and retain staff? Once you’ve got these concepts decided, you move on to Step 2.   

2. Create a Salon Business Plan 

Create a written document outlining the above factors and illustrating why creating this salon is a compelling business proposition, so banks will loan you money. This document highlights the business and management experience of the owners/managers, the business model for the salon and why you would be successful, and how you would be able to stand out from the competition with an effective marketing plan. Even if you don't need to borrow money, a business plan is a very valuable resource as you move forward through your project, so you don't go off track.

3. Put Together Financial Projections 

At minimum, you'll want to complete a startup project budget to itemize costs of the build-out, furnishings and start-up expenses (plus six months of operating capital), and a 3- or 5- year plan projecting revenue and expenses after the business is open. This is both for the bank and for you, so you know what to expect in terms of cash flow, and when you can expect to start making a profit.

4. Choose a Location 

Once you’ve completed all of these steps, then you search for a location that meets the requirements of the business plan. You'll already have an idea of how many work stations and treatment areas you need, and how large you need the salon to be in order to meet your financial projections; now you have to find the space that meets those requirements. In addition, you’ll want to consider things like parking, visibility and ease of access.

5. Come up with a Design 

Perhaps you’ll get lucky and be able to take over an existing salon space, but if you’re starting from scratch, you’ll want to hire an architect to configure the location so that you can fit in all of the components that you need, paying attention to good ergonomics and traffic flow. An architect that has worked on salons before would be ideal, as they’ll be familiar with many of the needs and regulatory requirements. In a best case scenario, you can be having the space designed while you negotiate the lease, so that as soon as the lease is signed you're ready to get started on the build-out.

6. Build out Your Space

Hire a contractor to build the space as specified by the architect. A contractor who has worked in the municipality where you are building is also helpful; they’ll know the licensing routine and inspectors, and so things will go more smoothly. However we always say that construction takes 3 times as long and costs twice as much as anticipated.

7. Plan Your Menu, Inventory, and Marketing

Now the fun part! Creating your service menu, sourcing products and equipment, developing the marketing plan, creating your HR infrastructure with compensation and advancement plans, getting involved in the community, and many more activities that are part of creating a vibrant business.

If your salon is already open, you’ve obviously cleared the physical hurdles, but it’s not too late to go back and fine-tune the mission, branding and financial aspects of the business. There are few salons operating that can’t be improved in one way or another, but the basics have to be in place.


About the Author

Lisa Starr

Lisa Starr brings over 30 years of industry-specific experience as a consultant, educator and writer to Booker. Lisa also works for Wynne Business, a leading spa consulting and education company. Among other things, Lisa’s expertise lies in business operations and finances, sales and marketing, inventory management, human resource development, and business process improvement. She is a well-known speaker within the trade show circuit and is a frequent contributor to industry.

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