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Stylist Adds $25K, Books Out Salon

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In 2016, John Souza, manager of M Salon Experience at the Loop in Kissimmee, Florida, increased his revenue behind the chair by $25,000 by participating in a referral contest.

When The Salon People ran a three-month referral contest for Aveda salons in Florida, Souza was excited to participate, but had no idea where the competition would take him.

“At the time of the contest, I was moving into management and down to three days a week behind the chair,” he says. “So I knew the only way I could compete with my co-workers who were working five days a week behind the chair was to be consistent.”

That meant handing out one to three cards to every client, every time, no matter what.

“Even if a client saw me a few times a month, they got a referral card,” he says. “Every new client got one, and my clients who loved me got three or more.”

In the beginning, guests were polite, but a little dismissive. They dropped the cards in the bottom of their bags and sometimes they handed them out, but often they forgot about them.

However, the clients who did send Souza referrals were pleasantly surprised when he treated them to a complimentary haircut.

M Salon Experience at the Loop Referral Card
M Salon Experience at the Loop Referral Card

“If they sent me three or more new clients, I would give them a complimentary haircut,” he says. “When they came in, I would tell them it was my gift to them for sending me clients—the surprise made them feel great!”

Souza usually added on a botanical gloss so the client was paying for something during the visit, but felt justified in giving away the occasional complimentary cut because so many new clients were walking through the door—138 to be exact.

Results for the Whole Salon

John Souza, manager of M Salon Experience at the Loop in Kissimmee, Florida

John Souza, manager of M Salon Experience at the Loop in Kissimmee, Florida.

In three months, Souza got 138 new clients through referral cards, working only three days a week. This would be close to a full book for someone working four days a week.

“But I probably handed out 2,200-2,500 cards to get those 138,” he says. “It takes volume. I tell my staff now that if you pass out three to every person, you’ll probably get one back out of every 100.”

However, there was one small problem with Souza’s success: Only working three days a week behind the chair made it impossible for him to take on 138 new clients.

“It got to the point where I would just do a consult and give them to someone else,” he says.

“Then I suggested another stylist I thought would be a good fit—not everyone is looking for a $75 haircut—but I kept about 60 of the new clients.”

Allison Agresta, M Salon owner says: “John was at full productivity, so he could not accept additional guests, so he referred them to other stylists. They were able to build their books off of his overflow.”

Souza saw the results in his paycheck quickly: “When I compared the three months after the contest (working three days a week) to that same time the year before (when I was working five days a week), I saw a $25,000 increase in revenue.”

But he wasn’t the only one who benefitted—the entire salon saw a boost in revenue.

“We were able to continue the growth throughout the entire year in our location,” Agresta says. “The salon grew our services by $101,655 from 2015-2016, and our retail numbers by $23,477,” she adds. “That’s a total of $125,132 in growth for the entire year.”

Souza says his approach to the contest came from a place of authenticity his clients appreciated.

“Instead of asking for referrals, I say to clients, ‘I love spending time with you and would like to spend more time with people like you. Give these cards to people you love that I would also love to share space with.’”

Souza says this gives the client a benefit as well.

“I’m helping cultivate something the client can have in common with friends and family—their hairstylist.”

Looking Ahead

After almost two decades of being a hairdresser, Souza has fully made the transition to salon manager. He still works behind the chair two days a week, but his passion now is in working on the business rather than in it.

“I actually took a pay cut when I first went into management, but it was a necessary move for me to learn that side of the business,” he says.

Now, Souza educates everyone around him on the importance of referrals.

“It’s consistency,” he says. “Pass out those referral cards to every guest, every time they sit in the chair. If your client gets used to it, they are more likely to pass the cards out. It’s that consistency of every guest, every time. Referral cards need to live on every stylist’s station to get results.”

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