Neighborly Advice: The Benefits of Networking
Running a boutique salon in a small town sounds like a dream job. You get to know your clients well, the staff is like family, and profit margins are good.
In theory, this would be great. But in practice, being a small business owner has its own set of challenges that larger business owners don’t have to contend with.
Four Aveda salon owners in the Tampa/Sarasota-area have recently connected with each other to find solutions to challenges and come up with better ways to run their businesses—together.
Making the Connection
Hanna Cannon, owner of Salon Linnea in Palmetto, Florida, has been in business for almost five years, but has been a color Purefessional™ for Aveda for even longer. As the only color Purefessional™ in Florida, she has educated in countless salons and has gotten to know many owners.
Liza Howard, owner of LG Howard & Company in Sarasota, has only been in business for seven months, and had taken some classes with Cannon. She met Mark Walker, owner of Shear Rituals Salon and Beauty Bar in Bradenton, Florida at an Aveda business class.
Rebekah Norrell, owner of Salon Norrell in Tampa, has owned her salon for a year and also worked as an educator for Aveda in St. Petersburg and Tallahassee.
“I knew Hanna through being an educator,” Norrell says. “We lost touch after she opened her salon, then when I became an owner, she was the first person I bounced ideas off of.”
Norrell adds, “Having someone to talk to who has walked a mile in your shoes has been awesome—she gets it.”
Walker, who co-owns his salon with Matthew Biskey, said he and Liza gravitated towards each other when they met because they were both smaller salons.
“We quickly found out we had common struggles and interests with staffing, finding new clients and building a brand,” he says.
Once the four owners connected with each other, they realized they had a lot in common: they were all Aveda, they were all newer owners, they were all within a 15-20 mile radius of each other, and they were all hungry to grow.
And while their salons are fairly close, the owners don’t feel they are in competition with each other.
“There are enough clients for us all to have a little scoop,” Norrell says.
The Power of Four
Norrell, Howard, Cannon and Walker recognized in each other someone who is able to speak the Aveda language and understand client benchmarks.
“We have grown by having each other to talk to,” says Norrell. “Being a salon owner isn’t as glamorous as it looks—profit margins aren’t as high as you might think.”
So the four stay in constant communication with questions, ideas and suggestions. And recently, they discovered another way to leverage their relationship.
“We got invited to a discussion on millennials with Antoinette Beenders,” Cannon says. “We asked her how small salons like us could bring in big-name guest artists for our stylists, and she suggested we get together and hold monthly salon trainings at a different salon each month. This gives us a chance to compete with the education larger salons can offer.”
Walker adds, “It’s harder for us smaller salons to put funds behind an educator. If we can come together with other salons, it’s easier to do.
“Plus, we have access to Hanna, who’s a Purefessional™, and Matthew and I just became certified color educators along with Liza. But there’s more beyond us.”
Cannon is also available to her three fellow owners for quick, on-the-spot advice, too.
“Someone may occasionally send me photos of a color correction to get my opinion on what steps to take or how much I would charge,” she says.
The groups discussions are not just limited to education though.
“We also get together and talk about what we’ve been doing as far as referral programs, guest incentives, etc. Any time one of us has a good idea, we let the others know,” Cannon says.
Howard says this advice and sharing of ideas has been invaluable to her.
“Because we’re still new to this, we’re all experimenting with hiring and marketing. We’ll discuss referral programs and where to find stylists, what’s working and what’s not,” she says. “The shared ideas have been extremely helpful to me—business has changed a lot in the past 15 years—everything is high tech. You have to continue to learn as an owner, just like you do as a stylist.”
Norrell and Cannon have been particularly valuable to the group when it comes to hiring—they have the inside scoop from their time educating at the Aveda Institutes.
“Hanna knows grads prior to 2010 and I know a lot who graduated after 2010,” says Norrell.
“If someone asks about a candidate, we give completely honest feedback and count on each other for that,” she says.
But Norrell says her best idea for hiring came from Howard.
“She advised me to have all new hires do their first 20 guests in their first 30 days,” she says. “You can really tell a lot about a stylist’s drive by doing this. And if they can’t perform, there’s someone else out there who can—we want to hire someone who wants to be better than the rest.”
The Next Level
Norrell, Cannon, Howard and Walker know they can bounce ideas off each other any time of day and always get honest feedback. But they recently decided it was time to meet formally once a month in addition to texting and calling back and forth.
“When I have specific questions, I’ll text and get an answer from someone,” says Howard. “But when we’re all sitting together in a room, it turns from just getting an answer into a dialogue where we dive deeper into an issue. New questions arise and we strengthen our relationships—there’s value in that.”
Walker agrees the meetings are an opportunity to grow and share how they are each overcoming struggles—particularly in the area of staffing, which is very competitive.
“Finding students who are up to par or retraining stylists to our standards is difficult,” he says. “We actually had one stylist who came to us after her first week and told us she wasn’t a fit because she couldn’t meet our standards and didn’t want to bring us down.”
Whether it’s staffing, obtaining new clients, bumping up retail revenue or meeting other benchmarks, these four owners have each other’s backs.
“It’s better to grow together than struggle independently,” Walker says. “And being Aveda is a big part of that—we love and live by the Aveda culture and mission statement.”