What makes a successful salon owner?

Being a business owner is hard work. Lisa Conway, business coach and author of Your Salon Team: the salon owners guide to finding, motivating and keeping great staff  looks at patience versus persistence to succeed as an entrepreneur.

In business you need to be many things. It’s a tough gig. I think every one of us has been surprised at some time or other about how challenging business ownership actually is.

I don’t know about you, but I truly hadn’t a clue what I signed up for when I opted to have a go at owning a salon. I’ve learned a lot along the way about what works, what doesn’t and what attributes help salon owners succeed.

To thrive in any business, you’ll need a mix of both patience and persistence. But for my money, persistence is more important than patience. Let me explain why.

Patience is one of those qualities we all seem to admire in others. It’s often said, ‘they have the patience of a saint’.

Well, saints are dead and so it’s not actually a fair comparison. Time stands still for saints – they don’t have to keep showing up and doing exceptional things.

Salon owners, on the other hand, are a lively lot. For the most part you’re busy-bees screaming out for more time. You know what you want to get done, but you struggle with finding the time to get it all done.

There are big expectations on your shoulders that you’ll keep showing up, day in day out, to build a quality team, business and client base.

But, because you’re time-poor, you often react to situations rather than respond with a well thought out plan.

The difference is huge. You end up slapping bandaids on your problems and we all know bandaids fall off soon enough.

That’s where persistence comes in.

Having another think, taking another shot at the problem. Going back again and again and tackling the problem with real solutions means that, by default, you’ll eventually fix it … and fix it once and for all.

That’s why, in my book, persistence wins every time.

Too much patience can see you waiting around for things to be different. As if some magic salon fairy is going to flitter in and save the day for you.

Team members can be a classic example of this. Many salon owners are over-patient with team members’ capacity to skill-up. You already know in your heart that she’ll never ‘get it’ yet you wait patiently, hopefully for it to happen. That over-patience is costing you clients when what you really need to do is persist like crazy with training and education.

I remember an elderly gentleman called Kirk, a businessman in the truest sense.

Kirk had travelled the world, buying and selling properties like it was a Monopoly game.  I was always in awe of his wisdom and finally got the courage to ask him for his best piece of business advice – a single word to keep me on track.

Without hesitation he said ‘persistence’ and went on to explain why.

Look at former prime minister, John Howard. Nothing outstanding about that man, but he was, if nothing else, a persistent little fellow.

Rain, hail or shine, he walked every morning. The media often hounded him for an answer and he never gave one.

He had the same consistency in office. He persevered like no one else. Never a panic if the polls said he was or wasn’t popular. He just got on with the task at hand.

Apart from Sir Robert Menzies, who took the country through war times, John Howard was Australia’s longest serving prime minister.

The same learnings apply in business, and especially in our industry. It’s tempting to employ the often high maintenance rock stars who constantly require their egos stroked when what you really need is ordinary folk who’ll persevere when times are tough.

Rock stars might be fine when the going’s cruisy, but when things go wrong, when they’re under the pump, they inevitably stuff up. Then give up.

You and your team need to stick with problems longer and respond with a well thought out solution. You need to solve the problem, fix it once and for all. Put a system in place that everyone understands, then tweak it if needed until it’s perfect.

With a tweak and perseverance, many great ideas will pay off. Your marketing campaign is a perfect example. Just because it didn’t have your phone ringing off the hook, you might decide it’s not working and give up. But perhaps it just needs a tweak. Maybe create a sense of scarcity or urgency (first five callers only?) or perhaps a simpler offer that’s easily understood.

What it needs is for you to persevere with it. All too often you throw your ideas out too early. Figuratively, you throw the baby out with the bath water. It’s a much smarter approach to keep the baby and pour a fresh bath.

Kirk was right and I’ve thought of him often when the going gets tough. And let’s face it, from time-to-time, things get tough in every salon business. What’s my go-to approach?  I pull on my persistence boots and keep going.

Business is definitely a game for grown-ups. If you weren’t a grown-up when you bought or set up your salon, you soon will be. Owning a salon is for the most part a joy, a challenging joy but a joy all the same – you just need to persist long enough to start experiencing the joy.

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