Shift Your Thinking: A Master Class in Productivity

When was the last time your salon was busy on a Monday? Have you ever thought about taking your busiest stylist off Saturdays? This is crazy talk, right?

Maybe not. Scott Buchanan, owner of four Scott J. salons in Manhattan and Brooklyn, is maximizing his salon’s productivity after careful analysis of his business.

A couple years ago, Buchanan decided to extend his hours and create multiple shifts in the salon in order to accommodate both his clients’ and stylists’ needs. But he didn’t just guess at what his new hours should be. He let his numbers tell the story.

The result? Buchanan’s busy salons are open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Below are a few of his tips to keeping your salon’s chairs busy all week long.

1. Know When You’re Ready.

Buchanan advises that an owner should start considering multiple shifts/extended hours once the salon can’t take walk-ins within an hour. “A walk-in is only going to give you an hour,” he says. “If it’s a busy Saturday and we can’t see the walk-in client until four hours later, she’s going to go elsewhere.”

2. Do the Math.

Look at the productivity of your salon and the specific hours and days you are busy. (Aveda’s productivity benchmark is 75-85% of working hours for salons, 75% for spas). “Run computer reports to see how productive you are as a whole,” says Buchanan. “Then analyze it over a three to six-month period. Also have the front desk track how many walk-ins they had to turn away each day.”

Next, make sure you have enough stylists working at busy times to run at capacity. “The chair doesn’t need a break, the hairdresser does,” says Buchanan of keeping a stylist behind every chair. “It’s like a puzzle. Once you set the limits on the spreadsheet, you look at it as a shift and plug people into the shifts.”

3. Know Your Clients.

Buchanan’s busy clientele loves the flexibility his salon’s hours offer them. “Most women — especially in an urban area — need to get their hair done after work hours,” he says. “There is no reason they all have to come in on Saturday or Sunday or one late Thursday night.”

Now, his working clients, or even busy moms who can’t get away from kids during the day, can come into the salon any evening. Buchanan says some even come in for color and don’t bother with the blow dry since they are going home straight to bed. Evenings are his busiest time.

4. Know Your Stylists.

You may think longer hours, seven days a week will create strife among your stylists — quite the opposite, actually. At Scott J., stylists have the flexibility to work three 12-hour days, four 10-hour days, or five 6-to-8-hour days. “Basically it’s about keeping butts in the chair,” says Buchanan. But for the stylists, many of whom are also parents, the schedule offers them convenience and flexibility in their busy lives.


Business Hours from 9am- 10pm means each chair is highly profitable.

However, there is one part of the plan that requires stylists to really trust their owner. Buchanan recommends analyzing your stylists and taking the busiest people and putting them at the slowest times. “It’s hard for a hairdresser to not work a busy Saturday,” he says. “But they pick up late nights and their guests still come. Any guest coming in on Saturday is working 9 to 5 and can come in evenings.” Buchanan maintains loyal clients of popular stylists will continue to come. Another benefit? Putting a busy stylist on a slow Monday gives you a busy Monday.

So what about those crazy Saturdays? That’s when you give a new stylist the opportunity to pick up walk-ins and build their clientele. “If you have a day with lots of walk-ins, make sure you have people who can accept them, not just heavy hitters who are booked solid,” says Buchanan. “That’s maximizing your book.”

5. Rely on Fact, Not Intuition.

“Most salons open too wide, too fast,” says Buchanan of extending your hours. “They do it with people in mind versus facts,” he adds. He advises going slow and steady — advice he is taking himself with the opening of his newest salon in Brooklyn. He also recommends making your hours consistent across locations. “A lot of salons have different hours every day,” he says. “It’s very confusing to the guest. Try to streamline it to one or two closing times if you can.”

6. Enjoy the Results.

shutterstock_139315259Since opening his salon seven days a week from 9 a.m.-10 p.m., Buchanan sees happier clients and a bigger buzz throughout the community about his business. And his hair stylists are busier with more flexible schedules. “They can make great money in less time,” he says. “Plus, revenue has gone up and our hours are a point of difference from other salons.”

Master the basics for increasing productivity  — read Must-have Reports (and Best Practices) to Grow Your Business.


Archived Comments

9 Comments (Comments are closed)

  1. Trish White says:

    Tried to read
    Master the basics for increasing productivity — read Must-have Reports (and Best Practices) to Grow Your Business. But the link was broken. Definitely a topic I’m interested in.

  2. Nicole says:

    What are some good ways to attract new clientele. I have only been open 9 months and have 4 stylists 1 aesthetician who came without a clientelle.
    Thank you.

  3. April says:

    This is a great idea. Something to work towards as an incentive to have Saturdays off! I’m going to share this at our staff meeting tomorrow! Thanks for sharing !!

  4. Ana la bella says:

    Worked for Scott back in the days in New York . He is an amazing business mind that I have followed to this day! He has been a trusted friend and a precious mentor for me in our salon. Hands down a valued member to our industry! Love his ideas!

  5. Thank you for compiling this. Scott is an amazing leader, teacher and professional and any advice and experience he is willing to share, we are eager to receive.

  6. Sheraz Khan & Rubina Khan says:

    These are great tips, I also want to know the techniques of how to recruit the stylist, this is the main problem which I am facing at the salon. Great location, willing to give the benefits, unable to attract the experience hair dressers, or the one who has their own clients. So plz guide me on this directions. Thank you

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