Leicestershire salon owner Barrie Stephen reveals how to offer a flexible salon role post-pandemic, without compromising your business and by valuing the salon stylist in new ways.
While the initial catastrophe of the pandemic is now a way behind us, the knock-on effects are still unfolding as we continue to adjust to a ‘new normal.’ Covid-19 brought about some of the biggest changes most of us will ever see in a lifetime – personally, professionally and socially – causing many of us to re-evaluate our goals and rethink our priorities. Working from home and revised shift patterns have given us a desire for less structure and more fluidity with our work, enabling us to spend more time with the people we love, or doing the things we love. Perhaps lockdown unearthed a neglected passion for ‘avant garde’, or refuelled am ambition for platform work? Maybe you’ve seen an increase in team members wanting to pursue session opportunities or specialise in a new technique?
While there’s no denying that Covid has opened our eyes to a life beyond the traditional ‘working week’, conversely it has also reminded us of the importance of community and security. Flexibility may seem exciting – but at what cost to your job security? And where better to experience the warmth, loyalty and connection of community than in your salon as a salon stylist?
The post-pandemic salon has the potential to offer employees the best of both worlds – a versatile and varied role that ‘scratches the itch’ for flexibility. If salons want to continue to thrive and attract a strong team – as well as remaining a competitive and relevant career option – there needs to be an element of versatility, combining the perks of a freelance role (flexible working patterns, opportunities to get creative outside of the salon) with the advantages of being a salon employee (security, support and mentoring, not to mention a reliable income and benefits). But how can you make it work for your business?
Rethink the traditional salon work week
This is an opportunity to build back in a way that is better for everyone. Look at the shape of your week and determine where there are gaps or where things could be rearranged. Could that five hour colour job be moved to a week day, rather than a Saturday? Everybody is working more flexibly now – staff and clients alike – so being open minded and reworking the salon diary could be more effective – both from a time and cost perspective.
Reassess salon roles
As with so many industries, hairdressing is constantly evolving and consequently, so too are our roles. It’s vital to acknowledge new ways of working that benefit the salon in the long term, as well as new elements of roles which are key to the success of your salon but can be done remotely. For example, creating content for the salon’s social media is now an essential part of any hairdressing business but can be done from home. And participating in session work and shoots away from the salon helps build your salon profile and helps your business remain relevant. Recognising the breadth of a stylist’s role is not only essential in planning the working week but is also important in gaining their loyalty and respect.
Make the salon an exciting place to be
Give your employees a reason to stay loyal – and attract new stylists to help grow your business. Provide regular, relevant education in trending techniques and products with the support of your manufacturer. Encourage your team to enter industry competitions and showcase salon mentors who have done great things. This not only serves to motivate the team but can also attract a buzz – both locally and within the industry – helping grow your profile. Shout about your benefits and initiatives – whether it’s an attractive retail commission, complimentary yoga classes or annual trip abroad, everyone likes to be rewarded for working hard.
Ensure your salon culture is on point
Are you a welcoming, inclusive space where people feel safe and inspired to do their best work? Much has changed in the space of a few years and the future of any salon business relies on an open-minded attitude and a positive and pro-active approach to embracing people’s differences. Take pride in the diversity and individuality of your team – a stylist that feels ‘seen’ is far more likely to stay loyal.
Showcase how your salon is different publicly. Use social media to celebrate the things that you do away from the salon – for your employees, for the community, for your clients. When we post about closing the salon for a team-building day, the response from clients is always amazing – and of course, it’s also of huge interest to potential employees. Communication is also essential within a successful salon team. Sit down regularly to discuss what they want from their career and how you can help them achieve it. Investing in an individual is only a risk if they don’t see a future at your salon, so nurture their success and ensure they feel valued – give them reasons to stick around!
How I’ve made it work
It’s easy enough to dish out advice but how does this all translate in ‘real life?’ Can a flexible salon role really benefit everyone?
In my salon business, we have several team members who take an active role in the creative side of the industry, as well as being key members of the salon team for over twenty years.
Neil Smith for instance is Global Style Director for Eufora International, a role that sees him travel worldwide for global brand campaign photoshoots, stage presentations, education and brand launches. Neil is the first to say that the salon is home and the money is made behind the chair looking after his loyal clients. His brand role will pay him for his time when he’s out of the salon and we support him with a flexible working schedule and the security of his main income. Neil is a true advocate of the Barrie Stephen brand on all levels of both his commercial and creative work and his global role ensures that our profile can grow on both a national and international level.
Almost two years on from the beginning of the pandemic, I believe that the ‘Hybrid Hairdresser’ model provides security and flexibility in an ever-evolving and fast-paced industry. Making changes to your business and opening yourself up to new ideas can feel intimidating and risky but I truly believe that a new level of flexibility is imperative to the ongoing success of both a salon business and the industry as a whole.