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Hiring Nail Pros & Buildling a Team

If you’re looking to expand your salon business, knowing how to hire nail pros and building a dynamic team can pose quite a challenge. This is an adaptation of a discussion we had with Brionna, a salon owner from Pennsylvania, who is currently looking to build a salon team of her own. We can definitely speak to the learning curve surrounding the hiring process. Your company can only be as good as the team you build. While you’d like your team to be a one time perfect roster of talent; it’s important to realize that your salon business should be a living breathing growing thing. As a salon owner, you have to be prepared for the reality of change and turn over.

[YN TRACEY] What is the most obvious challenge when it comes to staffing a salon?
Obviously, hiring for the salon environment will have its own specific challenges. Learn how to see past a seemingly great resume and actually read a candidate’s vibe during the interview. The vibe should be your north star as you get a feel for a person’s personality in a brief 5 - 20 minute interview. Ask yourself, can you live with this person for the rest of your life? (It sounds like a joke but it’s not.) Are you willing to spend more time with this person than even your own family? Trust your gut here, because no matter what, people’s true selves come out when they get more comfortable on the job.

If hiring wasn’t a tough enough task, the second hardest thing is for you to have the strength to recognizing when a situation isn’t working out. If you are unwilling to deal with the problem, you are affecting the health of your entire business. So many people will just live with a bad hiring decision. If either side of the work relationship is off balance, know that nothing spreads faster than negative energy. As the salon owner, you must manage the staffing problem before it gets unmanageable.

Yet another one of the hardest challenges is dealing with people and the feeling of being confined in single shared space. While customers come to the salon for a tranquil moment of escape, a nail tech cannot escape the chatter of their salon co-workers. By the end of a work day, you’ll probably know each one of their life stories better than they do. It will be the same story they’ve told each one of their many clients on repeat. On top of that, you have to learn to embrace a mash-up of unique personality traits and the running dialogue between your co-workers and their clients.

[YN] There is a lot to talk about here. What are the specific challenges you are having with hiring? That’s the main issue right, building a team?
[BRIONNA] I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a challenge yet. It is something that I feel will be challenging for me. Right now, I’ve been doing nails by myself and I’m booked out until May. By summer, I want to start building a team, a loyal team, with people that will be with me for long term.

[YN] So give us some background on your salon situation? Is it your own location and you’re the only tech or are you the only nail tech in a salon?

[BRIONNA] So I’m basically in a studio on a main road. I have an esthetician here with me and I have space for probably another three techs. Someone just called for a walk-in today at 5.30PM and I had to apologize for being booked until May. So I feel like I am ready to add more people to my team.

[YN] Ok. So it’s your location, correct?
[BRIONNA] Yes, it’s my location where I get a lot of walk-ins but I have to turn them away.

[YN] So you’ve got a completely different type of challenge. We’re actually really excited about this because we can speak to this very well. Tracey is going to come at this from hard core nail salon experience and building a salon for herself. I will come at this a business owner with over 50 employees and how we bring people on. So you’re going to get two different perspectives.

[YN | TRACEY] First of all, I think you’re really set up for success on a Main Street and getting calls which is amazing! You’re ahead of the curve. Your nails are beautiful, by the way. What I love about your situation, is that you’re working your way up. You didn’t buy a 15,000 sq ft shop and trying to fill it tomorrow. That’s a whole other level of stress. Instead, you’ve taken care of yourself first. Yes, you can fit three other techs in with you but you don’t need to hire them all overnight. To start, let’s focus on one or maybe two new techs max with a buffer for that third one. If I were you, I’d be looking for someone who has a base clientele already. What’s nice about this is: 1) You know they already do good work. 2) You know they can already earn based on the existing clients. 3) You know they have a personality for clientele. 4) You can feel comfortable filtering clients to them with room for growth.

[YN | HABIB] ...And this is going to be a booth rent situation, just to be clear?

[BRIONNA] No. It’s actually illegal in the state of Pennsylvania to booth rent.

[YN | HABIB] Ah, ok so it’s going to be commission. It’s similar to New York.

[YN | TRACEY] So on commission it will be somewhat similar and work out for the best for you. If you have the ability to find someone that wants to move over and you can offer a different situation on commission with their and a base clientele. How does it work out in Pennsylvania with techs leave a salon with their clients?

[YN | HABIB] I’m seeing this actually and have a couple thoughts. First of all, Brionna, you’re not hurting for clients. Right now, you have an overflow of clients. My thought is if you have an overflow and it’s obvious from your Instagram that you’re doing really good work. Would you want someone to bring in under your wing to train/execute a similar style of work? Or do you want to have someone who is already has a style of their own, like Tracey’s been advising? Are you looking for someone already established and you just want them to come in and crank out nails in their own different aesthetic?

[BRIONNA] Actually I was listening to one of your podcasts a few weeks ago. And honestly I want someone who specializes in something. I don’t want someone who does everything. I want someone who wants to concentrate on what they do best. I wouldn’t mind if they had a clientele, but I don’t think that it would hurt if they didn’t because of my overflow right now.

[YN | TRACEY] With the scenario of a new nail tech, a first employee, coming onboard with a base of their own, they have the experience to maintain your salon reputation. Brionna will then have the opportunity to filter the clients over as a tag team. This offers immediate relief of the overflow and walk-in clients while not at first having to train someone herself. Once the salon is flowing and doing very well, then you can add the second/third tech. The pressure will be off and these can be staff you bring in that have no clientele and you have time to train them from the bottom up.

[YN | HABIB] Of course, it’s nice to have a very specific type of person who you want to hire. The reality will be that you will go through a number of “specialized” nail techs. This is the hard part. Be aware that what they tell you they do and what they actually are capable of doing might not be the same thing. This is why I am a firm believer that the best way to find good people to be a part of your team is unfortunately through a volume game. Everything about business for me is a volume game. Here at YN, I can’t even tell you the number of people we’ve gone through over the last 19 years to get the amazingly tight team we have in place today. You want people who fit in your company culture that totally thrive within it. Putting a dream team together takes time plus trial and error. You’ve got to have a strategy of “trying things out”. You will go through people until you find the one you want. You will bring people on; but you will have to learn when/if you need to let them go. Each person that comes in to work will help define what you actually need versus what you think you need. With new hires, be sure to be know what your local state employment laws are.

[YN | TRACEY] You’re in such a fortunate place to be able to take your time and not to have the pressure to fill the room. It’s a huge plus. There is a lot to have to gauge in the hiring process: the quality of the work, the compatibility of the personality and all in a few minutes. It’s extremely hard.

[YN | HABIB] What I love is that you want to grow. There are a lot of nail professionals who build out their full clientele and are happy with this income. But you want to add more people and you want more. This tells me that not only are you a professional nail artist but that you’ve got an interest in entrepreneurship.

[BRIONNA] Yes, that’s definitely right.

[YN | TRACEY] Let me ask, has anyone come to ask for a spot in your salon? Have you put any vibes out there yet?

[BRIONNA] Yes, I’ve been posting it a little. I’ll post a status in my comment section that I’m looking for a nail teach in the summer. I have had one nail tech reach out to me but when I looked at her page it wasn’t a right fit for me.

[YN | HABIB] Sure that’s ok. And you just keep moving on. How many people have you looked at?

[BRIONNA] Other than that one, there are two other techs here where I live. It’s a really small town. There are only 7 nail shops here 45 minutes outside of PIttsburg. It’s different out here. Not a of techs out here to choose from unless they’re coming from a bigger city. So last week I went to a beauty school to recruit people that I would have to train. It feels easier to train someone fresh out of school than someone who...

[YN | HABIB] ...already has bad habits? This gives us more context. I think because you are in a small town, you’re going to have to go the Beauty School route. Go ahead and hit them up and put it out there that you’re interested in new grads from their school. Tell them you’re looking for two max right now in a power-packed salon and you are too busy to handle the clientele. I want to bring some people that want long-term careers that I can train. That would be a good road for you.

[YN | TRACEY] Again, I know I keep saying it because you don’t have to fill all positions right now. It’s going to give you time to bring one person in. I would not recommend bringing in three new people in at the same time. I would focus on starting them on something easy for a new nail tech; maybe like a gel polish or SlickPour service that they’ll be able to get down very quickly and build their confidence. It’s going to give you something that you can train them on and get them on the floor immediately. And when they are not working on someone; they are practicing, practicing, practicing.

[YN | HABIB] What’s the majority of your clientele break down to right now?

[BRIONNA] I have gel polish. I have hard gels. I have acrylics. I have poly gel. And I just got dip.

[YN] You’re amazing. You give the client what they want!

[YN | HABIB] I love Tracey’s strategy here. Bring in somebody new from school. You’re gong to be able to train them and offload all your gel polish services. Man, if I can do gel polish; somebody out of school can do gel polish.
That’s a great way to bring on more clients; so you can bring on more enhancements. Your new staff can get comfortable with the gel polish service. Once they get that down you can bump them up to SlickPour or whatever dip powders or whatever the next level is. Keep the new staff practicing.

[YN | TRACEY] The interview process is going to be very important when you’re pulling from the schools. I always say that we can teach anyone how to do good nails. What you’re gauging in the interview is their personality... Can they take direction or do they think they already know everything? Are they teachable? … You’re going to build a loyal employee by teaching them better than anyone out there and giving them a great work environment while they are also helping you build up your clients very quickly. This is the recipe for loyalty in your team.

[YN| HABIB] A real tip off is a person’s vibe. Is this person telling you that they want to learn? Or are they coming in saying that they know everything already? That last one is a red flag. Hey maybe use this episode as a jump off. Please hit up Brionna in the comments section of the podcast. If anyone in the YN community, has any experience or suggestions to share, reach out here or on her Instagram via DM. Yes, we manufacture nail care products, but we’re so happy to be able give away a lot of good information to help build salons regardless of what products they use. If you’re doing good work and putting good work out there then you’re building a great business. It’s good for everybody. It’s good for the industry. We can’t wait to hear how everything goes for you. Don’t be afraid to DM us with any questions and we’ll call you back! We’re here to help.

[BRIONNA] Thank you guys so much. I really appreciate that.

To watch the entire YN BIZ TALK LIVE CALL, check it out here.