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.

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Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dare to be Different

Article Published in Stylist Magazine, October 2010

Diversity is not a word that immediately comes to mind when discussing the nail profession. In many ways, professional nail care could be described as the least diverse segment of the beauty industry. Most of the manicurists are female, as are most of the clients. While most manicurists may be of a particular cultural background and/or socioeconomic status, most of their clients likely represent another. As more salons open, the more similar they seem.

Furthermore, nail services (manicures, pedicures, enhancements, etc.) tend to be more universal and less diverse than hair and skin care services. Perhaps, that’s because manicurists typically do not give the condition of nails as much consideration when selecting products and performing services as hair or skin professionals give to the condition of hair and skin. Few manicurists specialize in a particular service, and not because they’re equally proficient in a variety of services, but because they do not want to limit their clientele, or they may be unable or unwilling to develop the skills necessary to become truly expert. Contrast that with hair professionals who may be known as color correction specialists, or skin professionals who promote themselves as waxing queens.

This lack of diversity could be accepted as a limitation inherent to the nail profession, or viewed as an opportunity to reach beyond what’s expected and achieve what’s possible. Given the relatively low status of nail professionals within the beauty industry, the similarity among nail salons and the low expectations of consumers, I choose to see opportunities. This choice influences not only my perspective, but every other decision I make as a nail salon owner.

Diversifying would seem a worthy goal, but what does that mean exactly? Most salon owners view diversity as a challenge to do more: add different services, extend salon hours, increase retail offerings, expand the salon, advertise more regularly, discount prices, etc. These options may seem entirely reasonable; in fact, many articles have been written to justify them. But before adding ear candling, chakra healing and matchmaking to the service menu, or selling nutritional supplements, ask yourself, “How does this enhance my reputation as a successful nail professional?”

Salon consultants earn thousands of dollars explaining what might be obvious if salon owners were able to objectively and critically evaluate their own businesses. Understanding what’s working, and what’s not, is a crucial first step before committing to any major changes. Any one of these options could prove a costly mistake without doing your research. It’s entirely possible that your well-intentioned efforts might backfire by wasting your resources, alienating your existing clients and/or diluting your brand. These unintended consequences would only make a bad situation worse.

For example, if your salon appeals strongly to a particular demographic, such as older professional women, as mine does, you may not need to target a different group, but just find more effective ways to reach potential clients. If I were to make the mistake of targeting teenage girls to increase my clientele, my salon would need to undergo some major changes (decor, pricing, music, etc) and my existing clients would not be pleased. Having those new clients would not be worthwhile if they detracted from the experience my loyal clients expect. Part of understanding my business is knowing who my best clients are, and providing them what they value: quality nail services in a clean, upscale environment.

Growing your business is a process that requires information, much of which you can discover for yourself with the help of clients, coworkers and the larger business community. The following questions, while not exhaustive, are meant to generate discussion to guide you in your decisions:

What’s the culture of your salon? What makes your salon and/or services unique? What’s the first thing someone notices upon entering? How would you describe the relationships among coworkers? How would you describe your clients? What do they value most: convenience, price, time, etc? How do new clients find you? Which services are your most/least popular and why? Which services are most/least profitable? Are clients requesting services you don’t offer, specific products or procedures? What products sell the most/least? What compliments/complaints do you hear most often?How well does your location serve your business? What’s your relationship with other businesses? How does your salon contribute to the community? What’s your biggest obstacle to being more successful? What aspect of your business do you enjoy most/least? And so on . . .

Diversity is not a challenge to do more, but an opportunity to be different, better, and more successful. Clients should expect more of nail salons, and we should exceed their expectations with clean, safe, quality services.

By Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.

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