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I have something a little special for you today just for my salon owners in the house, but if you are not a salon owner don’t worry I still have you covered. I think you will be validated reading through today’s content and who knows maybe one day you will become a salon owner and you will come back to this and find it to be a super great resource. Today we will be talking about common struggles that salon owners face, unexpected feelings that they go through, unexpected experiences they go through and unexpected challenges they may have. My purpose of this information is to make you feel normal. More than anything else I think that a lot of salon owners go through very common challenges that they didn’t expect when they decided to open the doors of their business. I want to talk to you about how to navigate some of those challenges and just to help you see them coming before they come to a head and make you feel frustrated.

I could have picked from dozens of emails, but today we are going to look at an email from who I will call “Salon S”. I have seen many emails come across my desk that are very similar to what I am going to share below.

“Hey Britt,

First off you have been a savior to me, loving Bootcamp, love your podcast. Here is my little life problem:

I opened my first salon this summer, I put my blood sweat and tears into it. No loans, no family support, just many nights of bartending to make my dream come true. All while continuing to take my existing clients. My clients are the reason I have not given up on this career, they are so supportive of me. My problem is that the people in my life that are the closest to me have changed. My husband as the numbers and bookkeeping guy has admitted that my business is too girly for him and he could not get into it. My cousin and fellow hairstylist of 10 years has officially disappeared. I feel it is due to her being more senior in the industry and jealous that I have the opportunity to do this. I offered her the opportunity to partner with me and she didn’t take it so I’m so confused. She is older and more experienced and I think that the idea of working under me somehow didn’t feel right to her. Then my best friend since hair school through thick and thin has applauded me for making this change and bragged about how amazing my salon is, but will not consider leaving her corporate salon to rent a chair with me. She doesn’t want to be my partner, she doesn’t want to work on commission. I’ve posted ads trying to fill one of my chairs with no luck yet. I feel completely lost on this journey and I’m completely discouraged. Maybe I expect too much from the people closest to me. They seemed all in until I opened my doors. I’m only human and reaching my breaking point. Was this even the right decision?”

Can anybody reading this relate to all those feelings?

 I think a lot of salon owners have gone through similar struggles over the years. For some people they feel as if their team has abandoned them. They feel as if they bring so much to the table and why can’t the other stylists just hop on board. I see tons of emails like this. One of the big things that surprised me when I became a business owner for the first time is that it is very different than you expect it to be. I am sure you have all heard the saying “It is lonely at the top”. It is not lonely, but it is a place that most people don’t understand. If you have never actually been a business owner and carried that weight on your shoulders--you don’t get it. If you’ve never had employees you don’t understand how it feels to feel like you have their livelihood in your hands and you’re trying to juggle it all. It is a lot to carry. There are some things that I have done to help me ease those troubles and frustrations, and today I want to walk you through the four biggest challenges I think salon owners face so you can see them coming and have the tools to navigate through them.

Number One: Nobody will love your salon and your business as much as you do. Nobody. Not your husband, not your kids, not the stylists who work for you. No one.

This is your dream, your vision, your baby and you’re always going to love it and be passionate about it in a way that nobody else is. If you have never owned a business before, I want you to think about a soon to be mother and her baby. Being pregnant everyone around you is so excited, asking you questions about the pregnancy, what you will name the baby, what your birthing plan is. Everyone simply wants to know all the details. Then you have the baby and the baby is here, everyone wants to meet them and get pictures and the excitement continues. About a month goes by, and that soon to be mom is just another lady with a baby. Everyone still thought the baby was great, and everyone still loved the mom, but at the end of the day the mom was the one who was going to have to do everything for that baby. Her. It’s her baby.

It’s the same thing when you open up a salon. You’ll have family around you who loves you and think it’s great that you did it, but it’s yours and nobody is going to love and care for that salon the way that you do. It simply isn’t possible. You have to relieve that pressure and know that they’ll never fully get it. In those moments you feel misunderstood, you are. What I have done to ease that pain is I’ve chosen to surround myself with like-minded business owners. I consider them my business professional tribe who act like a lifeline for me. These are people that I talk to about business struggles, business challenges and frustrations, and who I talk to when I feel like my husband doesn’t understand it because they get it. They’ve been through it.

I encourage you to have business lifelines outside of your inner circle, other small business owners, salon owners, spa owners, or just business owners who understand it all. Having somebody to express your feelings to who gets it, who is going to have your back and cheerlead you is huge for you.

If someone is honest with you and says they just can’t get into your business. Thank that person for their honesty, because they just may have saved you a whole lot of trouble down the line. Something like this is a blessing and not a curse. If somebody in your personal life says listen, I know you want me to be a part of this business, but it is just not for me, don’t be resentful. Relieve them of that pressure knowing that this is your baby and you are the one who is going to love it and go all in on it and let everybody else go.

The other thing is your stylists, your receptionists, your salon manager, no one is going to love the business as much as you no matter what amenities you bring in, what benefits you offer, or how amazing your commission percentages are. Even if the culture is amazing and they are happy, that doesn’t mean a day won’t come where they decide to make a change. This idea of I wish people in my business would care for it the way I do-- know that they won’t and that they never will. They aren’t supposed to because if they did they would go and open their own salon, which generally speaking is not what we want them to do. You have to know this is your vision, it’s yours all the way through. No one is going to care about it the way you do and you have to accept that.   

Number Two: Not everybody will follow you on the rise to the top, but that doesn’t mean you don’t make the climb.

People say it’s lonely at the top. It’s not lonely, but a lot changes when you make the climb. People leave your life and people will come into your life, people will judge you for the choices that you make. That’s part of the deal. Generally speaking humans who end up living the happiest, most fulfilled lives do make big life changes. They don’t just stay working the same job for 40 years. They don’t stay in the routine of doing the same day to day things forever and ever. They make big leaps. That’s what makes life interesting and exciting and brings us the rewards we are looking for.

As your life changes the people in your life will also change. People come into your life for reason, season, or a lifetime. Some people are just seasonal, some people are there to teach you a lesson and they are there for a reason. You have to understand that just because you might lose some people along the way, or that some people aren’t going to be your biggest fan as you rise to the top, you don’t let that stop you and you have to accept it.

There are a few big reasons why I think people don’t choose to join us on the rise.


It is okay for people to feel jealousy. It is unfortunate for people to have those feelings, but you have to let people have those feelings, because in the end once they process their feelings they might realize they want to be a part of what you are doing. Jealousy is such a poison because it really is mostly confusion and self-doubt. Don’t close your door to those you might feel are jealous, because maybe the timing needs to be right for that person. We have to understand everybody’s going through their own personal struggles and even though you are feeling hurt by their potential jealousy, they are going through it too.


The other thing that makes people hesitant to take the climb is fear. No matter how pretty the new salon is, no matter how great the new location may be, or how smart the owner is, being a stylist in a new salon is scary. Leaving a corporate salon where someone is getting a paycheck whether they are commissioned or hourly would mean leaving safety and security for a leap of faith and for many that is a scary decision to make. Even though taking that leap of faith might be exactly what someone needs, they have to decide if the timing is right for them. You have to remember that just because the timing is right for you, it does not mean that the timing is right for them. Stylists wait to see what happens, they wait to see who else is going to work there and what type of energy is going to be at the salon, they wait to see how the salon is going to be marketed. They wait because they are scared, and that’s okay.

Genuinely Concerned

The number three the reason why people don't follow you on the rise to the top is they are genuinely concerned. A lot of the time it’s our parents or our spouses who are genuinely concerned. Fear and concern are other reasons why sometimes friends, family, or even stylists aren’t your biggest cheerleader or your biggest fan, and that’s okay. Those are human emotions and I just want to rationalize them and let you know that everybody is processing their own way and not everyone’s going to celebrate your success, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be happy and excited for yourself.

Number Three: It’ll take time to build your dream team.

For those salon owners out there, who feel like their stylists don’t care, or feel like their stylists don’t appreciate them, there are a couple reasons why that could be happening. If you feel like your chairs are empty and no one wants to work for you, the issue there is actually you. It’s not the stylists, it you.

Stylists should only be working for a leader that they see incredible leadership skills in. It is so much easier to open a salon than it is to be a great leader. It is two completely different skill sets. You want to work for somebody who wants to be a true leader. The best booth rental salon owners I know coach their team. There is true leadership there, there’s foundation and a strong culture. This all makes a huge difference, because stylists want to work for someone who has a vision. Stylists don’t want to work for leaders who are scared, cranky, tired, burnt out, or who don’t want to invest in learning to market.

You have to establish yourself as a very inspired leader before you can expect anybody to want to show up 110% percent for you. You need become a pillar of strength for your team. If you are a new leader and haven’t had a chance to prove who you are, it’s going to take some time so be patient. You didn’t open a salon to make quick buck. This is a long-term investment, you will prove yourself as a leader, but it’s going to take time.

Stylists today want a leader with a solid vision and plan. You have to let them know that they are working towards something, and you do this by letting them in on your plans and what you see for the future of your business. If you don’t have a long-term vision it is going to be hard for anyone else to see a long-term vision with you. If a stylist is going to come work for you they are going to want to be there long term, no one wants to be a salon hopper, but they can’t envision themselves with you long term if you don’t have a vision for what that will look like. Talking about the next chapter for the salon and getting people excited is what somebody is looking for when they’re looking to work for you.

When a stylist is looking for a place to work they are going to want a salon with a super solid social media plan and strategy. A stylist wants to fall in love with you Facebook and Instagram and wants your website to be beautiful. A stylist is looking to work for a salon with a solid reputation. As the salon leader you need to work to build that. As a new salon leader this should be your top priority. You are not going to fill your chairs until people see that you are active. Today’s stylists want to know that if a potential new client stumbles upon the salons social media or website that is is up to par.

Number Four: If being a business owner was easy, wouldn’t everybody do it?

The answer to this is: of course, they would. And I think we forget that part. I think we forget that building a business and being a business owner and opening a salon is going to take blood sweat and real talk, a whole lot of tears. Not all the days are going to be great, but the prize at the end is so well worth it if you open a salon for all the right reasons, show up as a solid leader and your heart is really in it. You are going to shape and change lives, you will impact people in a big way, and watch them shift, change and grow for the better. You can have that as a salon owner if you do things right.

You can have the financial freedom that you opened this business for. You can make good money, and have a good lifestyle for your family, but it is going to take hard work. If it didn’t everybody reading this would be a salon owner and they would be making millions. If it was easy everybody would do it. It is those who are willing to fight for it who are going to become successful. So, don’t give up the fight. Over 90% of businesses fail within the first 5 years, I empower you to be a part of the 10 percent who doesn’t. Those who fail, weren’t really ready for the fight. If you were meant to do this, do it. Don’t let road bumps stop you. You have to overcome all the hurdles in your way to earn it and get to the level of salon ownership success that you’re looking for.

There is an amazing TED talk, by Bill Gross that talks about billion-dollar startups, the ones that were epic successes and epic failures. It was a study about all of the startups that turned out to be surprise successes like Uber. He decided to dive deeper into the “If 90% percent of businesses fail, what are the real factors that make a difference that determine the success or failure?” He narrowed it down to his top 3 reasons.

Number 3: Uniqueness of the idea.

Number 2: Team and structure of the company.

Number 1: Timing, timing is everything.

Make sure that the idea behind your salon is unique. That you are doing what you are doing for all the right reasons, that you are an unbeatable salon in your area. I know everybody is always like oh there’s a salon on every corner, so be the salon that’s a cut above. Do what you can to be unique, that is the way you have a successful salon. I hope that everything I have mentioned has been helpful and hope it sheds some light on the major frustrations that a lot of salon owners and leaders face.

To hear more on this topic tune into the Thriving Stylist Podcast Episode 33. Click here to listen now.

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B. Seva