Three Hot Ideas To Revive Your Salon Business

Four Fresh Ideas

The annual Serious Business beauty-industry conference held in New Orleans is always packed with amazing speakers who share insights, ideas, and inspiration. During one of these sessions, three insightful speakers sat together on a panel moderated by Salon Today magazine editor Stacey Soble. These presenters were particularly special because they are also salon owners. On stage, they each took a few minutes to share a hot idea that worked well for them. Here are those “Hot Three” ideas—find one to tailor to your own salon.

#1 – Three-Day Work Week

Salon owner Wendy White McCown (pictured left)

Salon owner Wendy White McCown (pictured left)

Wendy White McCown, owner of Signatures Salon in Lake Charles, LA, wrote the book on the three-day work week—literally. Her e-book, 3-Day Work Week, details how to implement a shorter work week for happier employees. After finding her own employees were becoming complacent in their jobs and wanted to work harder, not longer, she took about a year to implement the 3-day work week in her own salon. With 14 stylists and seven chairs, McCown’s stylists work every other day and she says, “I love my salon again.” The best part? In two years, McCown increased her profits by 82 percent. Her stylists are happier and clients find them more attentive. To purchase her e-book and learn more details about the three-day work week, visit

#2 – Upgrading for Profit

During a business trip, Jeff South, owner of Intrigue Salon in Atlanta, Georgia, was asked if he would like to upgrade to a corner room at the hotel where he was staying. The cost was minimal, so he said “yes.” South also began noticing the upgrades he was offered on flights—everything from seat choice to boarding status. The word “upgrade” had officially piqued his interest.

South did some Googling and found there was no tie-in with “upgrade” and any hair company. And quite simply, a new culture emerged in his salon—the business of upgrades. Now, everything pertaining to hair color at Intrigue Salon is an upgrade. For example, a service like partial highlights has a starting price. Then, a stylist does a consultation and suggests upgrades based on the client’s hair. “Maybe we upgrade to a silk lift, for finer hair,” says South. “Or for thick hair we can use Elumen to smooth it out. Balayage is also an upgrade.” Serum treatments are another upgrade currently offered and South is about to add a “training” upgrade to the menu. “This will include an extra 15 minutes of hands-on time to teach the guest how to style her hair,” he says.

“It’s part of our culture now,” says South. “Stylists will sell multiple upgrades per client—it gives them the ability to jump prices up. They can do a couple upgrades and add another $50 to their ticket.”

Here’s how it works: Base prices for hair cuts and color vary based on the level of the stylist—junior, senior, etc. But upgrade prices are always the same, keeping it simple for both the client and the stylist. The upgrade menu is positioned at eye level on the mirror of a stylist’s station, encouraging the upgrade conversation between the stylist and client, which happens during consultation. The menu also acts as a point of difference from other salons. Intrigue has been offering upgrades for three and a half years now, and they now represent 10 percent of revenue.

South maintains implementation of an upgrade program can be easily achieved. First, he says to do a product breakdown or assessment (cost, usage, etc). Next, market your message with print materials and promotions. Third, involve your stylists by educating them on the benefits of the upgrade program. Lastly, he says you must invite your customers to be a part of the experience by educating them with key phrases. An uneducated client won’t upgrade. “Tailor upgrading to your own salon,” South recommends. “There are so many ways to go—just embrace the message.”

#3 – Best Practices Breakdown

Along with his partner James Amato, Terry McKee owns Nuovo Salon Group with three locations in Sarasota, Florida. After filling out the different best practices categories in the SALON TODAY 200, McKee decided to use them as a template for a strategic planning initiative for the salon. He broke the salon down into 12 different areas:

  • Philanthropy
  • Environmental sustainability
  • Advanced education
  • Recruitment and training
  • Guest care
  • Policies and procedures
  • Technology
  • Retail & merchandising
  • Planned profitability
  • Growth
  • Compensation
  • Retention and referral programs


With the salon’s executive team, McKee took the areas one by one, examined where the salon was and where they wanted to be, and set specific goals. For each goal, the executive team decided on specific tasks that needed to be accomplished, assigning accountability to a team member with a date to complete the task. At each executive meeting, the tasks are reviewed, further holding the team accountable. In addition, in each executive team meeting, a color-coded budget is reviewed. Numbers in green are within budget, those in yellow are in danger of straying from budget and those in red are out of line with the budget.

This colorful way of looking at numbers has proven to be a good solution for tackling a task that’s generally not a favorite of creative thinkers.


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