Managing Beauty Therapist Characters

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Despite the stereotypes placed upon them, I have a lot of respect for beauty therapists and find myself defending the profession in conversations with people who have never worked in the industry but live by the label that all beauty therapists are ditzy blondes.

Firstly, these young ladies have invested two years of education into gaining the necessary qualification to become a beauty therapist, and secondly it’s a bloody hard job – both physically and mentally.

Needles In Haystacks

As an employer, the trick is to try to make sure you get the good ones – easier said than done in an interview. Personally, I think the number one ingredient required is personality – as long as they have the ability to do treatments, even if they need additional training in the salon.

From a selfish point of view, the most important thing I need as a salon owner is for all beauty therapists to bring in their fair share of income.

Different Characters

A crucial element of employing and managing beauty therapists is the fact that they are all different. If you try the same blanket management with all of your therapists – or indeed, try and employ the same types of therapists in your salon – you will inevitably come up against a range of of staffing issues.

Here are just a few of the types of beauty therapist I have come across, and how I believe they can be nurtured and managed.

The ‘Big Personality’ Therapist

These beauty therapists tend to be loud and gregarious and have a great loyal client base. They are not every clients ‘cup of tea’ but the chances are they either don’t realise, or it doesn’t bother them.  Also, in my experience, they are the best when it comes to hitting sales targets.

Top sales people in any industry tend to be relatively focused on themselves so don’t necessarily make good managers (and in some cases team members) as they may lack the necessary administration skills. But from the salon point of view, these therapists can be incentivised around their sales targets.

You will need to manage ego – they are the big fish in a little pond – and sometimes it will do know harm to help them understand this.

You could even increase their sales figures to benefit you and them – with a tiered pricing structure for clients. I have seen this in quite a few hair salons, but not so much in beauty, ie. A Senior Therapist could charge more for the same treatments as a standard therapist, which would afford you the ability to pay them more to keep hold of them.

Career Focused

Once some beauty therapists have some salon experience, they can clearly see where they’d like to take their career. As a salon owner you have to put away the selfish side of keeping hold of them, unless you can offer them career progression.

Very often, beauty therapists who are focused on their career tend to eventually give it a go themselves, either setting up their own beauty salon, or becoming a mobile therapist. These people (if they are as good as they think they are) are sponges and want to learn. If they are smart, they should be gaining as much experience around the salon as possible, including stock management and finance. It might even be that they are better than you at some aspects of the business!

If your salon business is small and you can’t offer them progression, the person will either leave as they become more competent or could end up being your competitor. Personally, I would take this as a complement, rather than a threat.

Because we have three salons, I always like to open up these people to the possibility of becoming a more senior member of the team, with potential progression into management.

Quiet but Efficient

Not all therapists are loud and chatty and that suits some clients down to the ground. But, just because you have a quiet person working for you, doesn’t mean to say they don’t need help, reassurance and praise. These people are probably less competitive (or competitive only with themselves) so one-on-one meetings and personalised incentives may work better. Ask Spend time with them and get to know what’s important to them.

It’s A Job

Many young ladies want to enjoy their youth, and work is simply a way of funding other more important things. This may change over time, but it goes with the territory so managing people who just see what they do as a job, are less easy to coax into performing. As long as late nights don’t get in the way and they cover their targets, why not?

Resentment may occur if you do not manage why some people are progressing in their career, whilst they are not and you will need to tactfully explain this in a way they can relate to.  In my experience, these people either change tact over time and become more career focused, or they end up leaving for a job in a different career.

Bad Apples

Once in a while you will find yourself with a therapist who causes more problems than they are worth. Depending on local employment law, I would always try to assess whether the issues can be resolved or I will always aim get rid of these people as quickly as I can.

Although it’s never nice to get rid of people they can have a negative effect with other members of your team, as well as clients, and experience has been harsh (and expensive) for us. Use your local employment websites (in the UK, ACAS is good) to find out relevant processes and where you stand as an employer, or seek advice. A £1000 legal bill could end up looking quite cheap in the longer term.

It’s Not Personal, It’s Personnel

I always love a line in the Sopranos. Mob boss Tony is sitting around a table with his crew and they are discussing getting along and working well and Tony says (in his own inimitable style):

I’m not here to win a popularity contest!

This sums it up for me. As long as I am doing a fair job, with realistic expectations; as well as offering the support I promise, I am happy. Sometimes external factors in peoples lives get brought into the workplace and that’s just how it is. We all have our lives to lead – and that includes your team, and it includes you. The chances are, you are a very different character to the people working for you and you have to do what is best for your business.

And Then It’s Personal

One thing I stand by (above all) is that every beauty therapist is different. Don’t create blanket approaches with every therapist, communicating in staff meetings with the same message to everyone. Some people will get it, and others won’t respond.

I have outlined ‘types of therapists’ above, but of course every single person will have different aspects of each, at different times in their life, including you.

It is your duty (if you want to get the best out of your team) to communicate as well as you can with each and every therapist in a way that suits them.

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About Author

Working in Hampshire (UK), I have a beauty business with four salons. I'm the guy that sits in the office doing marketing and numbers. My experiences are based on these skills.

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