My Life As A Hairstylist

Salon owner, hairstylist, educator, product maker, photographer

Be Careful Who You Let In To Your Business



It’s happened to most salon owners at one point; a stylist with a clientele walks in to your salon and wants a job. Since most salon businesses are struggling with profitability, it’s easy to get excited when this happens. You look at this person and you see dollar signs. The answer to your problems just walked in your door so you hire them immediately before someone else snatches them up. Because this person is a very hot commodity and if you don’t take them in, someone else will.

They said everything right to get the job, and you may even have ignored some red flags during the interview because the upside was so good. But more often than not, you will very quickly regret opening your business to this person.

If you are a rental salon owner or a commission owner without plans for expansion, this type of hiring may be fine for you and it may be a great relationship. But if not, you want to tread very carefully here. Because the short term gain may lead to some very long-term pain.

That stylist with a big clientele is going to look very cool to your team. Their techniques, style and clientele is like a breath of fresh air in your salon and your staff will likely be drawn to the new stylist, especially if they are good. It’s like an injection of energy, busy-ness and cash in to your salon and everything appears to be going well.

But they may have a bit of a hard time adjusting to your culture, maybe ignoring their share of the cleaning duties. Maybe sitting in the staff room or leaving the building when they don’t have a client in their chair. And that’s not how things are done in your salon. You let it slip a little because you don’t want to rock the boat too much because this stylist could have taken their act anywhere and you don’t want to lose them.

And slowly your relationship erodes as you try to maintain control of your business while allowing someone to chip away at what you worked to build. Eventually it seems you are constantly trying to do damage control. They are now openly saying some of your policies or non-negotiables are bullshit and that they don’t need to adhere to what the rest of the company does because their clientele is THEIRS. And they are right. This one thing can have a profound impact on the rest of your salon. Do you let all your staff have full access to the client lists?

And then suddenly they quit.

When that person leaves, the aftershock in your salon can be devastating. Maybe they had become quite close with a few people and had spent some time talking shit about you and poisoning a relationship or three you thought were solid. Nobody ever leaves without talking about it and nobody ever leaves without disliking a job. In as little as a few months, this new stylist in your salon may be the catalyst for you losing a long-term employee. Maybe even a full scale walk-out. Because when someone comes in to your business and then leaves, the remaining staff will start to wonder “What’s wrong with us?”

More scary than that, and I’ve seen this happen many times, the person decides they want to damage your business and will continue to try to hurt your relationship with your current staff. I once watched a former creative director of a company manipulate a situation against a former employer where several of the education, management and top stylists in the company left within 6 months of her leaving. And she wasn’t even staying in town, she was moving. But for some reason, some people want to see a salon fail when they leave it. Maybe their ego wants it to not survive without their presence. Maybe they are just mean-spirited. Our industry can be a strange one and there are sometimes people with bad intentions.

I myself dodged a bullet a while ago apparently. A stylist I met a while back mentioned that he had applied with me but not gotten the job. I apologized and asked where he had gone and he had ended up working for some friends of mine. He then told me how he left because they were ripping off the staff with low commissions and that he had personally been responsible for one of their longest term employees quitting. He was almost bragging. I asked how long he had worked there. A month. In one month, this stylist caused long-term damage to a well-known salon run by highly respected owners.

I believe in order to survive as a business, the culture and team need to be the priority. In order for people to all be on the same page they need to have climbed up the same ladder and overcome the same hurdles. Notice the first four letters of the word “CULTure.” You cannot have a strong business without a cult mentality. That doesn’t mean you have to convince people to wear khakis and castrate themselves, but the best businesses are basically cults that care about their members and want them to achieve their professional and financial goals rather than take a drink and wait for the mothership to come back. Your team need to see you as a strong leader with vision and your company as a place they love and want to invest in.

As with all rules, there are certainly exceptions, but it happens enough that it is not worth the gamble if you care about your culture. The best thing you can do for your business is to let that person go down the street to another salon. It is not worth the risk. Fast and easy money is rarely good money and it is no way to build a team. A strong foundation is they key to real success and longevity.

5 thoughts on “Be Careful Who You Let In To Your Business

  1. I love this post so so much! Everything you said is so very true!

  2. Enjoyed reading this – Thank you

  3. Hi Michael,
    Nice piece. As usual, your comments translate into many different business models… including mine. The importance of identifying these few bad apples is one of the greatest challenges we face as business owners.

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