Management Skills for Salon Owners

Management Skills for Salons
Tracey Lydiard
Marketing at Timely
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A look at the management skills required to effectively run your business. The salon and spa business is all about people. Whether interacting with customers or chatting with coworkers, much of a salon owner’s day is spent surrounded by people.

That’s part of what makes learning great management skills absolutely critical if you want to run an effective business!

As the owner, you’re in charge of setting the tone in creating a culture that attracts the best employees and customers. It’s your responsibility — and your opportunity — to create a working environment that lives up to your dreams of what a salon should be. The way you do that is through good communication, keeping your team running smoothly (both as a group and at an individual level), and training and mentoring your employees.

Here are the essential management skills you need to learn.


Communication is absolutely foundational to good management, and learning to communicate well when it comes to small things (like updated policies or new products) will help you communicate more difficult things later on.

Establish norms around how you communicate things like announcements and schedule changes.

  • Do you have a central bulletin board in the break room where you post new information?
  • Are there weekly staff meetings?
  • Do you send group emails or texts?
  • Do you use a mobile scheduling tool to keep everyone on the same page?

Whatever you choose, be consistent in how you communicate so that no one misses out on important information.

Along with how you communicate, consider what you communicate. Some business owners like to keep tight control on information, fearing that their employees will take things the wrong way. Obviously, some business information needs to stay confidential. But being transparent and open about why you’re making decisions, how business is going, and what’s coming down the pipeline can make your employees trust you more and feel more connected.

Extra resources:

Psychology at Work — a Coursera course from the University of Western Australia
How Great Leaders Inspire Action — TED Talk by Simon Sinek

Management Skills for Teams

Team building

Team building exercises get a bad rap, but part of managing employees is creating a team that works well together. And one of the best ways to do that is to help everyone get to know each other better.

You don’t need to do anything cheesy! Here are some ideas:

  • Events outside the salon – go on an outing, have a group lunch or dinner, throw a holiday party.
  • Work together for good – hold a fundraising challenge or go volunteer as a group.
  • Connect around a topic – start a monthly book or movie club where everyone reads or watches the same thing and discusses it throughout the month.
  • Meet each other’s’ families – consider throwing a party with family invited, so everyone can get to know each other’s spouses and kids.

Extra resources:

6 Team Building Activities for your Salon

Training and mentoring

As the salon owner, you’re also partly a mentor to your employees. When you find ways to help them grow — both in the technical skills and as a person, you’ll help them become a better asset to your salon, and also inspire loyalty and goodwill.

Make training a regular part of life at your salon:

  • Build in a product training or a quick skill demonstration to your weekly meeting.
  • Start a regular event for different team members to show off their favorite technique or product.
  • Invite a trainer in for a special session.
  • Provide training allowance for your team members to take training on their own time.

Think about training both in terms of technical skills (leveling up their skills as a stylist or therapist), as well as in interpersonal skills such as sales or handling complaints. For example, you may want to bring in a sales trainer to do a quick seminar on cross-selling services and products.

Training doesn’t have to be boring. Use your imagination!

Extra resources:

Meet, Train, and Elevate: 4 Training Tips from ZING Coach Marie Drever

Conflict management

Wherever you have a group of people, you’ll also find conflicts. Even if your personal instinct is to avoid it, as a salon owner conflict in the workplace is automatically your responsibility. Whether the conflict is between yourself and an employee or between team members, your team will be looking to you to set the tone and make things right again.

When you notice conflict, take charge immediately and assess what needs to happen. Is it indicative of a larger problem that needs to be addressed right away? Is it a quick spat that your team members need to work out on their own?

Follow these steps to try to resolve the conflict:

  1. Identify the source of the conflict. Make sure you understand where the conflict is stemming from by listening to both sides of the story. Be an attentive listener and try not to judge while you’re gathering information.
  2. Look beyond the last incident. Most conflicts have their roots in long-standing tiffs or feelings. Once you notice visible evidence of a conflict (e.g., two employees getting into a spat or someone filing a complaint), the problem has probably been going on for a while. Rather than simply focusing on the current trigger, try to get to the root of why people are upset.
  3. Ask for solutions. Try to get both parties to brainstorm solutions as to how the situation could be changed. Ask, “How can you both make things better between you?” This helps steer the conversation in a more cooperative direction rather than continuing to point fingers at each other.
  4. Come to agreement. Identify the best solution — best, in this case, being what’s best for the business and what both parties can agree on — and come up with a plan to make changes going forward. Make sure you have consent from both parties to follow the plan.

If the conflict is between you and one of your employees, you still need to be able to act impartially. Never try to resolve the conflict while you’re still angry and emotions are high. Give yourself time to calm down and approach the conversation with a cool head.

Extra resources:

Conflict Management with Emotional Intelligence — Udemy course

Management Skills for Staff

Giving and receiving feedback

It can be tough to give feedback — especially negative feedback — to your employees. But it’s necessary. When giving feedback of any sort, keep the focus on the work rather than the person. Be sure to explain why a particular thing is problematic or how it negatively affects the business or other employees, rather than simply on criticizing the person.

Similarly to managing conflict, when giving feedback it’s important to be able to see the other person’s side of things and work together to come up with a plan to improve. That way, your employee will feel more invested in the solution than if you were simply issuing ultimatums. When your feedback feels more like a conversation then a scolding, your team member will be more likely to listen.

Of course, if handing out feedback is difficult, hearing it yourself can be even tougher. But if you want to be the best boss possible, you need to be able to graciously accept feedback. Solicit feedback from your employees regularly, and show that you’re willing to listen when they do come to you. Don’t get defensive! Rather, try to see the problem from your employee’s point of view.

Thank them, and then actually take into account what they said. Either clearly explain why you don’t intend to make changes, or demonstrate the changes being made. If your employee thinks their feedback is being ignored, they won’t be likely to bring up another issue in the future. And the last thing you want is an employee who keeps problems bottled up rather than bringing them to the open where you can deal with them.

Extra resources:

Acumen Presents: Kim Scott on Radical Candor — Udemy course
The Puzzle of Motivation — TED Talk by Dan Pink


The last and most important management skill you can have as a salon owner is the ability to manage yourself. Keep working hard at being a better boss through self-reflection, listening to others, and educating yourself.

You may want to take personal development courses or search out a mentor of your own who can help you identify gaps in your management skill set and help you strengthen them. Another great way to develop your skills as a business owner is to join a mastermind or accountability group with other business owners who can help you brainstorm or be a sounding board when you have questions about management.

Check out the resources we listed throughout this guide for more ways to better your management skills.

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