Salon walk-out's happen every day and I'm constantly messaged by blindsided salon owners who are left to pick up the pieces.
Salon owners who send me messages like this one:
"Do you have any advice on what to do when your staff leave to open their own salon? I now need to find all new stylists with a following and experience. What can I do, PLEASE HELP!"
or this one:
"This summer I had a mass exodus of my nearly full staff. One girl snuck around behind my back, started her own salon literally a block away from me, and she took over half of my booth renters with her. Obviously, this was traumatizing and devastating to my business. I have been very lucky to find 3 more booth renters rather quickly. But I still have 3 booths to fill. Do you have any advice at all? My salon is one of the top salons in the area, and has nearly perfect reviews and a great reputation. I just don't want to appear as desperate as I am, but i've considered reaching out to individual stylists via messenger asking if they are interested"
If you know me, you know I don't mince my words. When there is a walk-out in your salon, it is your fault.
I'm sorry to say it, but it's true and here's why. Nobody joined your salon in hopes of leaving one day. They really and truly didn't. They thought you had a pretty good salon to work at, joined hoping for the best and at some point you didn't meet their expectations and they started looking elsewhere.
Now, this wasn't always the case. For years salon owners held all the cards and eager stylists just felt lucky to have a decent and fairly happy salon.
Sometime around 2011 that all changed and this new generation of stylists flipped the script and turned the industry on it's head. We are now living in a world where it's never been easier to open your own salon and walk outs are all too common.
Don't panic yet....I promise I have good news. Most of these stylists really, REALLY don't want to have to leave you. They would prefer not to have the stress and overhead of salon ownership and would much prefer to just be a happy booth renter or employee making great money with good people.
If you are a salon owner who is hoping to avoid a walk out or recover from a recent exodus, here are the 5 reasons why stylists choose to leave you:
The team doesn't feel like they can talk to the owner
As a former Salon Director myself, I know first hand that even the happiest of employees or booth renters still have things to complain about. This is the nature of the beast. As humans we show up to any situation with our own ideas, style ideas, inspiration and preferences and it's human nature to think that our own ideas are the best ideas and to want to share those opinions with the world.
I have talked to so many salon owners who have said:
"If one more stylist complains to me about something, I'm going to lose my mind"
Not me. I wanted to know ALL the feedback. I wanted to know what stylists were unhappy and complaining in the backroom, who was secretly stealing tubes of color, which stylists were finding inspiration on social media that could help our team as a whole and any other concerns that my team might have.
Does that mean I took all of their advice and fulfilled every request? Heck no! Not even close, but I fostered an environment where my team knew that they could 100% trust me, I would always listen to their ideas, my door was always open and I would never judge them for their suggestions.
The other cool thing is that your team might have some BRILLIANT ideas that don't cost a bunch of money or take a lot of time. The more feedback you can get the better.
The end result was that I knew ALL the secrets and we didn't ever have a walk out. The team felt like I was giving them the absolute best of my abilities and that was good enough.
If you get upset when stylists offer feedback, don't have structured meetings (even with your booth renters) or you aren't checking in with your team often, you're losing touch and creating the gap.
The stylists feel like they have outgrown the salon
If you have a truly open door policy like I did, trust me, your team will tell you about ALL of their "brilliant ideas"
My team was always showing me the Instagram accounts and websites from other salons they admire. They talked about cool new marketing strategies and came to me in support of their efforts which I always dove in to head first.
Salon's today need to be leveling up each and every year. Seriously. Every....single...year you've got to shake it up. Sometimes it's a fresh coat of paint, new modern wall hangings, upgraded amenities, a fresh website, a new retail line.
If your salon isn't evolving and improving, logic tells us that it's slowly dying.
We work in an industry that requires we stay current, modern and on point with our Target Market.
If you've settled in and not much has changed, stylists will start looking elsewhere for the next hot spot.
The salon doesn't offer all of the options that the stylists feel like they need
We are working in such an incredible time because there is no shortage of specialty service options for stylists today.
Stylists are doing extensions, specialty texture services, conditioning treatments, braiding, up-dos, bridal styling, make-up, tanning, waxing, micro-blading, the list goes on and on.
Real talk: the owner of my salon wouldn't allow the stylists on our team to offer makeup services and that was the closest we ever got to a walkout.
A group of three amazing and talented ladies were headed out to open their own salon because they liked the idea of offering makeup and tanning because they loved both.
Seriously. That was the reason.
They would have taken on massive overhead to do it, their families would have invested tens of thousands of dollars, but it felt worth it to finally have what they wanted.
Sure seems way easier to be open to them offering makeup services now, right?!?
There isn't a strong team or family dynamic
Gone are the days of the truly independent stylist. Now, that doesn't mean that everybody wants to be an employee, but it does mean that we are craving a world where we are part of something bigger.
Stylists are dying to work at salons likes Nine Zero One where it looks like all of the stylists are having a blast and are truly friends. I was just hearing a story the other day about a stylist who was paying thousands of dollars and hours of time hoping to become an educator with a brand specifically because she "wanted to be a part of the movement".
We often spend more hours with our co-workers than we do with our own families each week, so we better be having a damn good time doing it!
Think about this.....if you got in to two squables; one with your sister and one with some girl you've barely gotten to know in the past year. Which relationship are you going to nurture and try to resolve? It would be easy to let the girl you barely know fall to the wayside, but falling out with a family member takes a toll.
At my salon we were a family. Through good times and bad times, we had each others backs and that is a HUGE part of the reason I was there and also the reason we had commission stylists producing over $250K behind the chair each year and choosing to stay on commission.
They weren't there for the money, they loved our family and didn't want to turn their back on the love and relationships we'd all built.
Stylists feel like they can make more money by going elsewhere
When you ask anybody in any industry why they work where they work, money is never the top motivator, but at the end of the day it is a reason why we do what we do.
As I've already explained, if you've built a strong team, listen to their concerns, allow them to grow and support their ambitions, they'll actually take a pay cut to be a part of that, but when any or all of those perks fade away the money really does start to talk.
If you do things like reduce retail commissions, 1099 stylists instead of paying their employee taxes, apply product charges before commissions are split you can expect that your team will question their compensation package.
The irony of all of this is that most stylists who leave a salon saying that their reason is "because I think I can make more money" really aren't leaving for that reason. That is the easy rationalization, but if the salon they were at was a modern team with innovative marketing, carried a well established and trending brand and they were given room to grow, money wouldn't be a factor.
See why money really can't ever be the rational reason?
If you're reading this post-walk-out, please know that my heart aches for you. I get it and I know the pain of feeling like you're living on the edge of losing it all.
The beauty is that now you know why this happened in the first place and we can start working to prevent it from ever happening again.