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, September 30, 2012

Organizing your Salon Space

Article Published in Stylist Magazine, September 2012

How much space do you really need to do your best work? It may be less than you think. Whether you’re planning a new salon or remodeling an existing one, the size of your space doesn’t matter as much as how it’s organized. A small, individual room can be functional, spacious and luxurious if organized efficiently, whereas a large salon can be impractical, cluttered and cheap-looking if it’s not. Having an efficient salon space can reduce your overhead (lease, utilities, equipment, maintenance, etc.) and increase your productivity.

Before spending any money on decorating, expanding or moving your salon, learn what’s required by your state board. Even if you already have a valid salon/facility/establishment license, it’s worth reviewing the current regulations about equipment, ventilation, flooring, plumbing/toilets, product storage, signage, etc. Some states are more restrictive than others; here are specific examples:
California - a drinking fountain that is accessible to the disabled may be required in new buildings and remodels (check with local authorities).
Ohio - a floor plan drawn to scale and a sign at the main entrance “using at least three inch tall letters.”
Oregon - a list of licensees providing services and “a map or directions to the facility if it is located in a rural or isolated area.”
Texas - an “autoclave, dry heat sterilizer or ultraviolet sanitizer” if providing nail services.
Washington - a public liability insurance policy for at least $100,000.
A complete list of regulations for your state can be found online; if you have any questions or concerns, make sure to get a response in writing before proceeding. Required or not, business insurance (both liability and property) is a worthwhile investment to protect your clients, your salon and its contents.

State board requirements aside, your salon environment reflects more than personal style (design choices, color preferences, etc.); it also reflects your priorities, which transcend style. Your first priority should be to protect the health and safety of clients. That’s why cleanliness is so important. There’s no excuse for a dirty salon, except the obvious: the busier you are, the more cleaning needs to be done (dusting!), and the less time you have to do it. That’s all the more reason to simplify your decor, have adequate cleaning supplies available and develop a quick routine for surface cleaning. Sharing the responsibility for cleaning will encourage everyone to do their part and take pride in the salon environment. Deeper cleaning also needs to be done on a regular basis, either by staff or an outside service.

Another priority in your salon should be client comfort. Clients are more likely to enjoy their experience when they feel safe and trust your professionalism. Consider your clients as they transition from one aspect of your salon to another. From reception and services, to retail and restrooms, your space needs to be sensible, convenient and accessible, in addition to being clean. Furthermore, the operation of your salon should seem effortless; for example, clients shouldn’t be able to see business paperwork (invoices, bills, bank statements, etc.). To reduce paper clutter, sort through your mail right away, recycle unwanted catalogs, shred sensitive materials and store your paperwork somewhere other than the salon, if possible.

Your comfort as a service provider cannot be neglected either. Because you’ll be spending most of your time at your station, it has to be designed ergonomically. Supportive seating, proper body positioning and adequate task lighting are a must. To conserve space, I’ve created stations where hand and foot services can be performed simultaneously, rather than have separate manicure/enhancement and pedicure areas. Because my salon provides “waterless” services, the only plumbing necessary is a sink where clients and manicurists wash their hands, tools are processed for the autoclave sterilizer and towels can be moistened before placing in the warmer. The public restrooms are conveniently located just outside the front door and maintained by the management of the shopping center.

Contrary to how most manicurists design their stations, every product or piece of equipment does not need to be within arms reach. In fact, it’s better for your health to stand up and move periodically. In my salon, each station has a compact rolling cart stocked with the products used most often during services (gloves, files, cuticle remover, base coat, top coat, etc.); bulk quantities of those same products, the extensive polish/gel polish selection and equipment (towel warmer, paraffin warmer, microwave, etc.) are stored in the back room. Plastic containers and a label maker can keep your back room, or any storage area, organized and clean.

Speaking of storage, do yourself a favor and dispose of products you rarely or never use. Minimizing your products will reduce clutter in your salon, and focus resources (money and space) on the most important ones. Buying those products in bulk, which I strongly recommend, doesn’t require that everything be stored at the salon. For example, I buy nearly 500 lbs. of paraffin (packaged in 24 lb. cases) every two years; I can store the paraffin at home and bring a case to the salon about once a month. Whatever space you utilize, ensure that you store products safely (follow manufacturer’s instructions) and have corresponding MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) available for reference.

By Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Education Etiquette

Article Published in Stylist Magazine, August 2012

If experience were the best teacher, the beauty industry would have no need for formal education. Those interested in becoming a nail professional would purchase supplies, open for business and practice their manicuring skills on unsuspecting clients. In time, they might learn how to do quality work (without hurting their clients) and succeed financially, but that’s not very likely. Experience can be the most inefficient, unreliable and dangerous way to learn, and some manicurists will never become skilled or successful, no matter how much experience they have.

Quality education should be the foundation of our technical expertise; hours of direct instruction/guided practice can easily supersede years of trying. But if education has this potential, why do educators complain that it’s hard to fill classes while manicurists complain about the lack of education? Instead of complaining, we should consider how we can mutually benefit from the learning process. Beyond the mere transfer of knowledge, we can explore new ideas, solve problems, inspire each other and advance the professionalism of our industry. By following education etiquette, both students and educators can play their respective roles:

For Students
  • Find available classes by researching the internet, reading industry publications and contacting manufacturers, distributors, show/event organizers, educators and other nail professionals.
  • Watching videos and participating in webinars can be done anywhere, but plan to travel to attend classes in person.
  • Register in advance, if required, otherwise the class may be cancelled for lack of interest. If you pay for a class and don’t attend, don’t expect a refund.
  • Bring any required supplies, as directed by the educator.
  • Arrive early and sit near the front of the room to limit distractions.
  • Be prepared to take notes, either with pen/paper or electronic device. Ask permission before taking photographs or making any audio/video recordings. The content belongs to the educator, not the students.
  • Silence your cell phone. 
  • Remember that if you’re not the educator, you’re a student, so behave accordingly. Understand that your background knowledge/experience differs from other students and be supportive of your educator’s efforts to include everyone.
  • Reserve your questions/comments until the end of the class; don’t be that obnoxious student everyone dreads. 
  • Thank your educator. Some are paid to present classes, but many donate their time and travel expenses.
For Educators
  • Focus on informing rather than selling; students will respect you more.
  • Plan shorter rather than longer classes, especially at events that have multiple attractions, like a full schedule of classes, nail competitions and a bustling exhibit floor. 
  • Allow enough time to cover your topic adequately. In my opinion, a lecture class is ideally 60-75 minutes long. For a demonstration class, I allow twice the time it takes to perform the actual task, and for a hands-on class, triple the time.
  • Make the title of your class brief and relevant; write a description (less than 100 words) that accurately represents the content.
  • Promote your class through your website, social media, email, print media etc. to reach as many potential students as possible.
  • Avoid canceling classes; should this happen, announce it immediately and promptly refund any payments.
  • Visit your classroom the day before, if possible, to preview the location and layout. Confirm that any signage is correct.
  • Know how to operate whatever equipment you plan to use (lighting, laptop, projector, video camera, etc.), whether it belongs to you or the facility. 
  • Be kind to all event staff (management, decorators, audio-visual experts, room monitors and janitors); you never know when you’ll need their help.
  • Get your rest and eat something beforehand to maintain your energy. Have water available for the occasional dry mouth or inopportune cough.
  • Arrive early so you can be prepared to start on time. 
  • Project your voice with confidence; not every classroom will be equipped with a microphone.
  • Remind your students to silence their cell phones, and instruct them to either ask questions throughout or save them for the end, whichever you prefer.
  • Briefly introduce yourself; don’t assume everyone knows who you are.
  • Structure your content logically and make it accessible so students can  listen, observe, read and/or experience the information. 
  • Be enthusiastic, no matter how many students you have. 
  • Engage your students by making eye contact and speaking from bullet points rather than reading a script.
  • Adapt your content to the knowledge level(s) of your students to make everyone feel welcome.
  • Control your class by staying on topic and not allowing disruptions. You’re entitled to ask any disruptive student (tardy, chatty, disrespectful, confrontational, etc.) to leave the classroom; other students will appreciate your assertiveness.
  • Thank your students for their time and attention. Give them your contact information so they can ask questions later and learn about future classes.
  • Invite more experienced educators to attend your class and provide feedback. 
  • Be courteous to other educators, particularly those sharing the same classroom: end your class on time, clear out quickly and don’t leave a mess.
By Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.