Business Basics:
Educating Your Staff

At Avalon Salon and Day Spa in Deer Park, Illinois, knowing and understanding numbers isn’t just for owners Bonnie Conte and Shyla Samel-Kurnick.

The whole staff is privy to the salon’s stats (retail, prebooking, service), goals and even retention rates.

Conte has found educating her stylists and front desk managers on the business aspect of the salon is just as important as giving them great resources for learning new technical skills.

“We’ve been very transparent with our staff,” she says. “We aren’t going to give them a great big monthly goal without telling them the ‘why’ behind it.”

For example, Conte recently announced a goal to the staff, and then let them know that rolled into the goal was money to redo the floor in Avalon’s nail room and getting new window treatments in the spa.

“I’m breaking it down for them without turning them into accountants,” she says. “It’s important for them to have motivation as to why they want to hit the goal.”

And sometimes that motivation is very personal—Avalon stylists also understand receiving raises are directly connected to hitting goals.

Keeping it Fresh

Maintaining the interest of a large group of creative people (Avalon has 50+ employees) in the salon’s numbers can be a challenge, to say the least.

Conte recognizes this and has several strategies for keeping the staff engaged in their numbers.

“Public recognition is huge,” she says. “When we catch people doing something outstanding, we take time to document it and share it with the team.”

Another tactic she employs is making the salon’s numbers public.

“We post the monthly retention and prebooking reports by department. This shows the individual the impact they make on their department and also on the salon overall.”

And if someone is falling short, Conte has a solution for that, too. “We use a buddy system,” she says. “Some people are just naturally great at prebooking, so we take our shining stars and pair them up with someone who isn’t doing as well. While we talk about prebooking and script it through the year, some people just have a fear of it.”

So instead of a competitive environment, the system fosters a team spirit.

So what about retail? “Those numbers are posted at the end of every week,” says Conte. Stylists stay motivated and excited about products at the daily huddle where there is always a conversation about the latest product, even if it’s only for a couple minutes.

We sell a ton of retail because it’s something we believe in and we’re excited about it,” says Conte.

The huddles also serve to talk about other goals the salon has. For example, in December the staff has three goals: prebooking, service and retail. If they hit the goal, the numbers are written on a white board in green. If they missed the goal, they are written in red. If they hit all three in one day, they earn a “jeans day” the following week.

Since the salon is shifted (Avalon is open seven days a week with hours of 9am – 9pm on six of those days), the “jeans day” is always the following week on the same day so the right crew is rewarded.

Educating Management

Avalon has four guest service team leaders who are part of the management team with Conte and Samel-Kurnick. To keep them just as passionate about business as she is, Conte has them attend business-focused classes with a salon-training program as well as work with a coach.

In addition, she makes sure they are exposed to other small businesses outside the salon industry so they aren’t just stuck behind a desk all the time. Conte, who is coming to the end of her second term as president of her local Chamber of Commerce, helps make these connections.

Avalon Salon & Day Spa Staff, 2014
Avalon Salon & Day Spa Staff, 2014

Often, she brings her managers to off-site events through the Chamber (which has more than 500 businesses) to get more exposure.

“I recently brought them to a holiday event,” she says. At the luncheon, they were treated to great service, but Conte brought them for other reasons, too.

“There was an expectation to be at the table, network, talk about our company and our service providers,” she says.

As for Avalon’s numbers—the managers participate in the budget and have high accountability.

“For example,” says Conte, “One full-time front desk manager is responsible for our retail order every week. She can’t over budget unless she has a really good reason why. Another manager is responsible for the back bar because she has a good understanding of what will sell and what will not.”

The Big Picture

Another piece of the puzzle when educating her staff about the business side of a salon is point of difference.

“We have to have one,” says Conte. “We have to look at the salon through the eyes of the consumer and get out of the box.”

Conte finds inspiration from other businesses—just looking into the window of her favorite retail store may yield an idea on arranging a new shampoo display.

And she gets her entire staff involved in her efforts: “We opened in 2001 with 22 people. Now we have more than 50 and we’re very busy. I can’t do everything. Because we involve our staff so much, we’ve retained them and clients, too.”

Another best practice for Conte is to continually educate herself through conferences like Serious Business, classes and coaching.

Through the years, the biggest lesson she has learned in business is a simple one she passes along to her staff—be authentic.

“You can’t direct your staff to do one thing if you’re not in there with them,” she says. “I want my staff to be authentic, all the time, whether I’m present or not,” she adds.

She also stresses the importance of keeping it simple with a large staff. “They have to get excited about numbers, so you must keep it simple!

Like any stylists, Avalon employees have a lot of choices when it comes to employment. In fact, the shopping center where Avalon is located recently opened some suite rental salons.

Conte isn’t worried—she knows her employees are loyal to the Avalon brand.

“Also, we have paid so much attention to compensation and benefits,” she says. “Employees who’ve been with us for more than three years get two weeks paid vacation, we pay half of health care and we offer advanced education.”

It’s a win-win for everyone.


Archived Comments

4 Comments (Comments are closed)

  1. Jan Hill says:

    Truly inspiring! I admire your energy & commitment.

  2. Bonnie is a true leader and inspiring in all of her leading development methods

  3. Brett Pierce says:

    Awesome job Bonnie! Team-Focus and Team-Performance is where it is at!

  4. Nice job sharing Great Leadership pays off

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