Welcome to the Precision Nails Blog

As a salon owner and licensed manicurist, my perspective on the nail industry could not be more practical. While some may be offended by the opinions expressed, please understand that I want to share information and stimulate discussion. Whether you want your nails done or do nails professionally, I hope you find this blog both useful and interesting.

Materials on this website may not be reproduced, redistributed, transmitted, copied, cached, or otherwise used, without prior written consent of Jaime Schrabeck. To request consent, contact Jaime at consulting@precisionnails.com.

Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Do you Have a Video for That?

Article Published in Stylist Magazine, May 2014

What good is an app if it’s difficult to learn, and there’s no time or incentive to use it? The learning curve with any new technology can be steep. Even older technology can be frustrating when it’s new to you and not likely to be part of a regular routine. Like most people, I’m more competent with my favorite and most frequently used apps: STX for salon management, Quicken for accounting, Pages for word processing, etc. I cannot imagine functioning without them. Granted, I don’t know all their features, but that doesn’t diminish their usefulness for my purposes.

What’s missing in my repertoire is the capability to produce quality videos. Capability may not be the right word; I think I’m capable, I just haven’t been willing apparently. Despite the time and effort I invest in researching articles and presenting classes, the question often arises: “Do you have a video for that?” No, but thanks for asking. If producing videos were a priority, they’d exist already. Writing this article about technology gives me a reason to do something that I've successfully avoided for years. I’m not obligated nor should others feel entitled, but I am willing to share.

Capturing video will be relatively easy in my new salon location; there’s better lighting, more space and time to experiment. The challenge lies in creating a professional and educational presentation, something worth viewing. The most efficient way would be to adapt familiar technology to this new project. Thus, anything I learn in the process can be easily assimilated into my existing knowledge. (Otherwise, I wouldn’t be likely to accomplish this.) The most conducive would be Keynote, my favorite presentation software. The structure and text already exist for the many different classes I present. These presentations can be adapted by adding video, customizing the slide timing and exporting to Quicktime. Sharing to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter would generate interest among viewers.

Which topic(s) would interest potential viewers? The obvious choice would be my most popular service and class: waterless spa pedicures. I say that without any hesitation, but just to be sure, I posted that question to Facebook. As expected, the consensus supported my choice. So waterless spa pedicures it is!

Having chosen a topic, I need balance between breadth and depth in exploring it. When writing articles, I like the constraints of space; word limits force me to be more concise. For example, the monthly topics for the Stylist newspapers have been determined by the editor, and it’s up to me to craft a corresponding 800-word article. Weeks before the deadline, I draft my thoughts in Pages. Neglecting every writing class I’ve taken, I never use outlining. Instead, I force myself to write complete sentences, even if they’re not perfect. Ideally, I generate approximately 1000 words to be edited at a later time. Some sentences require revision, while others may be deleted entirely. The process gains momentum when random sentences coalesce into coherent paragraphs. Reading paragraphs aloud assures that my writing conveys my intent.

Likewise, when producing video, time limits affect the content. That’s just as well because viewers, like readers, have limited time and/or short attention spans. For Youtube, the default length is 15 minutes. In practical terms, that means I cannot demonstrate an hour-long service from start to finish in real time; it needs to be broken down into component parts, or edited to significantly shorten the time. Depending on the topic, it may not be reasonable to focus on only one nail, skip steps and/or provide extensive background information.

Another limitation to consider is video quality. Let’s be realistic; I’m not a professional videographer, nor do I plan to hire one to provide free content online. My new camera equipment and limited skills will suffice; how hard can it be to push a button? If I can’t figure it out, the manual’s available online.

My biggest concern in producing a video is satisfying myself. There’s a reason why I haven’t posted the video, or written the book, that everyone wants: once released, I can’t take it back. Is perfection too much to expect? Probably, knowing that it’s not likely. At some point, I need to be confident that whatever I’ve created is ready to share. Until then, I can procrastinate in pursuit of perfection.

Deadlines can be very motivating; for this project, the deadline will have to be self-imposed. With that said, my first video will be available by May 31 on the PrecisionNails YouTube channel. This date coincides with Premiere Orlando where I’ll be teaching five different classes (topics for future videos). If I happen to post earlier, it would demonstrate that the process went faster/better than expected. As always, I welcome viewer and reader comments; we’re all entitled to our opinions, humble or not.

By Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What Makes a Nail Salon "Green?"

Article Published in Stylist Magazine, April 2014

What makes a nail salon "green?" Depending on who you ask, it could be the salon building, the environment in which professionals provide nail services, and/or the services and products themselves. There isn't enough space in this article to explore all the possibilities; however, certain examples are worth presenting to encourage other salon owners and beauty professionals to do extensive research before investing themselves in this growing trend.

Before I proceed, let me qualify my position. Beauty is subjective; the rules governing the beauty industry are not. Even if we could agree on "best practices," the laws in our respective locations take precedence, no matter how expensive, impractical, unscientific, and/or obsolete. All salon owners and beauty professionals must comply with the minimum standards/regulations of relevant federal, state and local governmental agencies.

Beyond compliance, being "green" doesn't necessarily make a salon any more viable or the salon experience any better/healthier/safer for clients, salon workers or the environment. For example, let's consider LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification of a building. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), not a government agency, launched LEED in 1998 to rate and recognize "green buildings." A building project must "satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification" (Certified, Silver, Gold or Platinum). According to the USGBC website (www.usgbc.org/leed), LEED can:
  • "Lower operating costs and increase asset value"
  • "Conserve energy, water and other resources"
  • "Be healthier and safer for occupants"
  • "Qualify for money-saving incentives, like tax rebates and zoning allowances."
On the surface, this recognition would seem worth pursuing for a salon building, if only for the marketing opportunities. Speaking of which, congratulations to architect Richard Best, who "crafted the world's first LEED® Silver Certified nail salon" (www.richardbestarchitect.com) in Studio City, California. Most nail professionals have never heard of Richard Best, but easily recognize the salon's co-owner, Robbie Schaeffer. His efforts to launch ROB|B, the first OPI concept salon, were documented in 100+ posts to "Blueprint of a First Year," a NAILS magazine blog.

In an article dated December 15, 2011, Richard Best attributed his accomplishment to a collaboration between "An architect with sustainable design expertise and an ownership willing to walk-the-talk of green design and operations … An Eco-Dream Team was borne. . . . Forward-looking corporations and business owners – like The Rob B OPI Concept Salon and GS & MS Properties recognize the fiscal benefits of choosing to 'go green' with their buildings and operations, and they capitalize on green business branding which appeals to many of their clients and makes for happier, more productive workers."

I find Richard's statements amusing, especially in light of two specific blog posts Robbie wrote. In a post titled "Going Green" (June 22, 2007), Robbie announced his intentions to pursue LEED certification for his new salon, but questioned the architect's "green" credentials: "I don't think our architect, Richard Best, has ever built a LEED-certified building before, but he's jumped in headfirst with researching the requirements." A year later, in a post titled "So Close, Yet So Far Away" (June 25, 2008), Robbie lamented ongoing construction delays: "My architect, Richard Best, is MIA; he gave us a week's notice that he was leaving for Dubai to appear in a reality TV show. (I seriously couldn't even make this stuff up.) Lee Stucker, my contractor, has been forced to pick up the missing architect's slack."

A building may be "sustainable," but that doesn't mean that the business occupying the space will be. The salon located at 12246 Ventura Boulevard is no longer ROB|B Salon; currently, it's Pure Nails & Organic Spa with new ownership. The most recent developments haven't been addressed in the blog, though many readers would be interested in knowing what transpired and what lessons were learned.

As an individual tenant in a multi-tenant building, my new salon isn't eligible for LEED certification. That's not a problem because the more I learn about it, the less impressed I am: "Critics complain that the system can be gamed to garner the wonderful-sounding public relations that LEED certification often generates" (Daniel Brook, "LEED Compliance Not Required for Designing Green Buildings," Scientific American Earth 3.0 Special Edition, September 2008) and "Any building or rating system that does not make all energy use data public, and show substantial savings relative to comparable buildings, does not deserve to be called environmentally friendly, regardless of how many supposed "green" features are included" Henry Gifford, "A Better Way to Rate Green Buildings," www.energysavingscience.com.

Even without certification, I can be proud of what I've accomplished in my new salon with minimal investment:
  • Prepared the space within two months of lease signing.
  • Did not change the existing wood flooring; the previous tenant is a flooring contractor, and his products and workmanship are beautiful.
  • Did not change the existing paint colors; they already matched my desired color scheme and the previous tenant left paint for touchups.
  • Created private rooms with customized, temporary dividers.
  • Invested nearly $1000 in EcoSmart LED bulbs to replace old bulbs in the recessed lighting. They were easy to install and should last 20 years.
  • Installed the newest model of the Mitsubishi Jet Towel Hand Dryer.
  • Donated excess building materials to Habitat for Humanity.
  • Reduced my electricity costs to less than $100/month (using approximately 500 kWh in a space of 1100 square feet).
Salon owners and nail professionals need to be both innovative and practical when "going green." In my first Stylist article four years ago (April 2010), I wrote about the benefits of providing waterless spa pedicures. Conserving water (12-15 gallons/pedicure) remains one of the most significant benefits. Upon request, California American Water supplied an audit of water consumption in my previous salon location. During 8+ years (August 2005-September 2013), Precision Nails used approximately 15,000 gallons of water for a total cost of less than $1000. During that same time, my employees and I performed more than 11,000 waterless pedicures, saving an estimated 135,000 gallons of water. Note that the salon had two client rooms and pedicures comprised about 40% of my business.

By Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Managing the Effects of Aging on Ourselves and Our Business

Article Published in Stylist Magazine, March 2014

While we beauty professionals focus on working with clients, marketing our salons, learning new skills, socializing with colleagues, etc., we likely neglect the one thing that happens regardless of what we’re doing: aging. Even if we were content to “age gracefully” (a phrase with an indeterminate/flexible meaning), there’s still action required to make the unavoidable more tolerable. No, I don’t mean saving money for a face lift. We should be devising strategies to manage its effects on our selves and our businesses. Otherwise, we won’t be prepared for this process that will certainly bring changes, some expected, others not.

Within the beauty industry, it would seem that the greatest concern anyone could have about the aging process is his or her appearance. As the media so effectively reinforce, who doesn’t want to be more beautiful and youthful? Undoubtedly, our industry plays a significant role in creating and meeting the demand for “anti-aging” treatments for skin, hair and nails. However, products and services that supposedly target a specific age group or beauty/health concern don’t interest me unless there’s scientific research to support their effectiveness. My professional credibility would suffer if I hyped questionable products/services the way that some do. I’d rather disappoint a client with the truth than mislead with false hope. Clients deserve the truth, even when it hurts.

Speaking truth, if the aging process were limited to looking old, it wouldn’t be so scary. (Apologies to those who are very afraid of wrinkles, age spots and hair loss). There are plenty of beauty fixes available, depending on your resources. It’s unfortunate that the supremacy of beauty distracts from a more important factor in the aging process: overall health. If priorities were different, we’d be obsessed with improving the health of our bodies and minds. Spend anytime around older people and you’ll realize that most of them are more concerned about their physical and mental health than their appearance. For those afflicted with diseases associated with aging (cancer, diabetes, dementia, arthritis, heart disease, osteoporosis, etc.), their quality of life has been severely compromised. No matter how good someone looks, what’s the point of living longer if those years are miserable/painful?

We can take actions now (improve our diet, exercise our bodies and brains, stop smoking, get adequate sleep, invest in health insurance, eliminate toxic relationships, etc.) that will have both immediate and long-term benefits. There’s no reason to wait when we could live better lives now and in the future.

Within our businesses, we need to acknowledge how aging could affect our abilities. Working safely to protect ourselves from injury should take precedence, no matter how old we are. For example, I wear disposable gloves to reduce my exposure to germs and chemicals. Furthermore, I avoid eye strain with suitable lighting and physical strain with good posture and ergonomic movement. When newly licensed and much younger, I filled my schedule to work 60 hours a week, which was neither ideal nor sustainable. I cannot work those hours anymore, either physically or mentally. With time and experience, I learned to limit hours to match my energy. Mastery of my schedule gives me the great advantage of efficiency and organization.

The longer I provide beauty services, the more I’m interested in exploring how to best serve clients and prolong my “quality of life” in the salon. I don’t plan to retire anytime soon, so it’s very important that my clients enjoy their services and I enjoy my clients. I can’t be complacent with the ones I currently have, or obsolete for potential clients in the future.

Thinking about the future raises some important questions for all of us: Do we need to adapt to clients as they age? Imagine having a clientele that was limited to people your age, plus or minus five years. Forget that, I’m bored just thinking about it! In my experience, a more diverse clientele provides greater opportunities for professional growth, meaningful interaction and financial success. At my salon, any “accommodations” for older clients already exist because they’ve always been a consideration. When you treat older clients with respect and kindness, it reassures younger clients that they will be valued later. And they’ll feel comfortable referring their older friends and family to you.

There’s no need to replace my clients when they get older, unless they’re unable to receive beauty services. As long as they want my professional expertise, I’ll do my best to make their nails look beautiful.

What if our clients replaced us with someone younger? We wouldn’t want clients to discriminate against us based on our age. Younger, less experienced manicurists will always be entering our profession. If we don’t stay current with our education and/or our skills diminish, we will lose clients to them. After more than twenty years as a licensed manicurist, I still expect progress in the quality of my work, and greater efficiency in the means (equipment, tools, products, procedures, etc.) of achieving it. When I cannot meet my own expectations, I’ll know the time is right to retire.

By Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.