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, December 1, 2013

Protecting Your Salon Business

Article Published in Stylist Magazine, November 2013

If you’ve never considered how your salon would function without you, it’s about time. Could it function while you take a vacation or attend a beauty show (voluntary absence), or if you were to become ill or be assigned to jury duty (involuntary absence)? As a salon owner and service provider, I’ve considered these possibilities, not just for myself, but for my employees also. While life can be unpredictable, it’s worthwhile to think through how you can protect yourself from possible threats to your business, even something as simple being absent, planned or not. Managing the risk associated with salon ownership may not be as exciting as developing a new service or creating a client loyalty program, but ultimately, it’s more strategic and advantageous.

Risk cannot be eliminated entirely, but it amazes me how salons operate as if either there wasn’t any, or it was beyond their control. How many salons fail to satisfy the most basic requirements, such as valid professional licensing? What about providing services beyond the scope of practice? Ignoring the state’s health and safety regulations? Working on clients with serious medical concerns? Falsely advertising services? Underreporting income and avoiding taxes? Inadequately compensating service providers? Both salon owners and beauty professionals have legal and financial obligations and every effort should be made to understand and comply.

Even when you’re not obligated by law, there are precautions that can be taken, the most obvious being insurance. Anything worth having is worth protecting, so you may already have multiple insurance policies. Currently, I have insurance policies for my home, health, auto, life, business liability and property, worker’s compensation . . . and even earthquakes. I could have even more (dental, vision, disability insurance, etc.), but haven’t deemed them necessary to justify the additional expense. An independent insurance professional can give you specific guidance on which policies would best protect your interests given your circumstances.

Product safety has become a bigger concern lately, as some speculate about the health risks presented by certain nail products and equipment, while others present scientific facts and offer useful suggestions (e.g. avoiding overexposure, wearing eye protection and having an adequate ventilation system). While I don’t welcome more government regulations, I would appreciate greater accessibility to regulatory information pertaining to our industry, starting with our respective state boards. Federal agencies, like the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), also have jurisdiction over our industry. For example, did you know that according to the FDA, “There are no color additives approved by FDA for permanent dyeing or tinting of eyelashes and eyebrows?” In effect, this renders these services illegal, no matter what your state board regulations might state.

Speaking of health, why not take better care of yourself? Get enough sleep, stop smoking, improve your eating habits, develop an exercise routine, work more ergonomically, take frequent breaks (including the bathroom!), know your family health history, have regular exams, ask your doctor/nurse practitioner about your concerns, etc. Your physical health may be your greatest asset, not only for your personal well-being but for the medical costs and complications you could avoid later in life.

Personal safety is something we don’t often discuss within our industry, but it’s something I take seriously. Every news report of a violent incident within a beauty salon reminds me of how vulnerable we can be. “Good customer service” shouldn’t make you a target; protecting yourself and your staff is more important than being friendly and making money.

While most salons welcome interaction with the general public by keeping their doors unlocked, I’m doing just the opposite. This may contradict everyone’s expectations of a nail salon, but that’s not my concern. After 8 years of interacting with the public, I grew tired of the disruptions (“Would the owner be interested in buying . . . ?“), the ridiculous questions (“Is this a nail salon?”) and the casual browsers (“I’ve never seen so many different polish colors. What’s a good red?”). One of the latest interactions went like this:
Lady 1: “We need two pedicures and two manicures and . . . “
Me (slowly shaking my head): “We don’t have time for those services today; our next availability would be Friday morning.”
Lady 2: “It’s now or never!”
Me: “Then it’s never.”
Did I risk offending them? Perhaps, but that’s a risk I was willing to take; their lack of planning was not my problem.

As the end of my lease approached, I considered what I liked most and least about my salon business, and what changes I could make to minimize my risk. Changing salon locations gives me the opportunity to reinforce the best, and eliminate the worst, aspects. In the new salon, we're not required to keep particular hours; we work when we have appointments scheduled. And only those who have appointment reservations are allowed to enter the salon. Signage on the door emphasizing “By Appointment Only” directs visitors to the website and provides the salon phone number, while our new brochure is displayed in the adjacent window. A magnetic door lock with remote control makes “walk-ins” impossible, allowing us to give clients our undivided attention in a more private and secure setting.

By Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Social Media? Not for Me

Article Published in Stylist Magazine, October 2013

Most salon owners, nail professionals and consultants may believe otherwise, but social media is just not that important to the success of my business. Perhaps I am old-fashioned, protective of my privacy and too busy to bother; I don’t invest much time or other resources promoting my salon online. Please don’t get me wrong. I love technology and how it simplifies running my business, especially the work that’s not obvious to clients: managing the schedule, handling finances, paying employees, tracking inventory, ordering products, etc. My responsibilities as a business owner would be difficult to meet without technology. It’s an incredible resource that I value for its reliability, cost-effectiveness and convenience.

Using technology for marketing, however, is an entirely different proposition; while it plays a large role in providing information, the social/interactive aspect means very little to me. Anyone with access to the internet could easily find my salon and learn about the nail services we offer, upcoming events and more. I update my website every month, write an article for the Stylist and post occasionally on Facebook, Twitter and BeautyTech. However, these activities represent less than 5% of the time I devote to my business. Could I do more online? Spend more time and money? I suppose, but why should I? As long as most clients reserve their appointments a year in advance, and potential clients continue to contact us, I’m very comfortable with my current level of online involvement. To do more (advertise, tweet, post, request reviews, etc.) without the capacity to accept more clients would be foolish.

Before it’s suggested, let me address the concept of expanding my business. One of the most critical features of a successful salon is  maintaining the proper balance between supply (services offered and time available) and demand (services desired and time required). I understand my limits and don’t want to be stretched beyond what’s reasonable. It’s not my intent to make my salon available to everyone; that’s not my business model. Above all else, I want to serve my clients well. That means welcoming them at every appointment, doing quality work and showing appreciation for their loyalty. Besides, it’s not possible to meet the needs of everyone at the exact moment they want them met. That’s why walk-in salons exist, and their manicurists can stay busy churning through new clients.

A salon that needs new clients would likely have more reason to market online. Social media might seem worthwhile; after all, if you aren’t busy doing nails, you have more time to talk about nails, or your clients or things completely unrelated to nails. There’s no privacy in these interactions and some opinions are not meant to be shared. Giving your clients and potential clients/complete strangers more information with which they cannot help but judge you is not productive. Even if I had an opening in my schedule or a negative client experience, I certainly wouldn’t post about it. But that’s my choice.

Any time spent/wasted online serves as a reminder that the most important interactions I have are with my clients in person. Most of my work time (approximately 75%) is spent providing nail services and getting paid. I can share anything they need to know about me or the salon during their appointments. If immediate communication is necessary, I can send emails or make phone calls. To reduce the need for excess communication, I encourage standing appointments, if possible, for convenience and my peace of mind. (If I were to commit to more clients than I could serve, that would make me anxious!) I don’t expect them to follow me on Twitter, post to Facebook, write reviews or anything else beyond remaining satisfied clients. That’s enough for me.

No amount of stars, likes, views, comments, replies, or any other measure of “popularity” can capture the quality of the salon experience. Comments, testimonials and recommendations, though more qualitative and seemingly informative, can only be trusted to a certain extent. The anonymity of most online interactions allows for some dubious, unethical and sometimes nasty behavior. I’ve encountered one too many salon owners posting positive reviews of their own salons, and more than a handful of “clients” expressing their disappointment in salon services when their complaints have no merit and only serve to disparage. If all this information hasn’t been verified, why believe any of it?

Ultimately, every business owner has to consider how best to use time and resources. That’s a personal decision based on priorities. My priority is my existing clientele; the individuals who month after month, year after year, support my business financially. Potential clients are everywhere, but I don’t feel the need to pursue them online. I don’t even market to existing clients online; they know where to find me and how to contact the salon. And if they want my opinion abut something, all they have to do is ask.

By Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Don't Forget the Brochure

Article Published in Stylist Magazine, September 2013

It’s not possible to interact personally with every person who may be interested in our salon services. That’s why I invest in a brochure and website to promote my business to both existing and potential clients. I strongly recommend that other salon owners do the same. However, unless you’re a competent writer, graphic designer and website developer, you shouldn’t attempt these marketing projects on your own. Without the requisite ability, the results would be inferior and amateurish, and that’s certainly not the first impression I’d want to make.

If that sounds snobbish, understand that I rarely encounter a salon brochure or website that impresses me. I don’t accept the excuse of a limited budget; it doesn’t cost any more to spell words correctly and use proper grammar. Even when salon owners spend a lot of money on their marketing, the results can be disappointing and ineffective, repelling clients rather than attracting them. 

I’ve already written extensively about my experience developing a salon website (Stylist, February, 2012), an ongoing collaborative process between my graphic designer/website developer and myself. Every month, we update and refine the content to keep it relevant. With so much focus on establishing an online presence, some might question whether a brochure is worth doing. After all, a brochure doesn’t have the same reach as a website, and once printed, it cannot be changed without reprinting, rendering the previous one obsolete. While I appreciate the power and convenience of an effective website, I believe that a brochure is still necessary as a tangible representation of my salon. 

Producing a good brochure may seem simple, but if that were true, more salons would have them. In my Brochure Basics class, I challenge salon owners to communicate the culture of their salon and the value of their services in written form. This isn’t easy. How do you describe the experience of your salon to those who’ve never experienced it? How are your services different from the competition’s? How do you respond to the most frequently asked questions? If a salon owner hasn’t considered any of this, then it’s about time! 

A brochure can’t perform services, but if done well, it will generate interest and give you more time to do nails rather than talk about them. Much more than just a price list, an effective brochure:
  • Represents your salon in a professional way
  • Includes your salon’s location, contact information, hours, etc.
  • Describes your services, including pricing and timing
  • Prioritizes your most profitable services
  • Explains salon policies (cancellations, payment, etc.)
  • Instructs clients about scheduling appointments 
  • Answers frequently asked questions
  • Uses colors/fonts/images in an attractive format
To make a brochure even more distinct, a salon owner can add information about the salon’s history, its staff or some other point of difference. For example, in the Precision Nails brochure, I dedicate an entire panel of our 8-panel brochure to “Our Philosophy.” It might seem ridiculous that a nail salon would even have a philosophy statement, and I don’t expect everyone to agree with it, but this conveys my commitment and perspective on the nail industry:

For more than 20 years, Precision Nails has redefined nail care through innovations in safety, quality and professionalism.

Precision Nails protects your safety:
  • we sanitize our hands and put on clean gloves before your service begins;
  • we use a new file for every service and protect you from cross-contamination;
  • we autoclave sterilize our metal tools, exceeding state board requirements;
  • we refuse to provide any service that cannot be performed safely.
Precision Nails delivers quality:
  • we employ licensed beauty professionals;
  • we continually train our staff to meet our high standards and your specific needs;
  • we depend on superior products and our advanced technical skills, not drills; 
  • we serve our clients in private rooms, equipped with leather recliners.
Precision Nails promotes professionalism:
  • we provide professional nail services, not personal relationships;
  • we respect the privacy of our clients, and request that you respect ours;
  • we value your time and work efficiently and diligently to remain on schedule;
  • we support the beauty industry through education, trade shows, competitions and compliance with all applicable laws.
If your salon needs a brochure, or the existing one needs updating, I suggest the following:
  • Set a deadline
  • Gather examples from other salons/spas/businesses
  • Write your own service descriptions, salon policies, etc.
  • Consider adjusting your prices 
  • Work with a graphic designer for professional results
  • Choose a reputable printer to handle your brochure
  • Select colors/fonts/images that reflect your salon’s decor
  • Proof your brochure, and then proof it again 
  • Order at least 1000 pieces for better pricing
  • Plan on revising/reprinting your brochure every year
The content of the brochure is as important as how it looks. And I obsess over the wording until it cannot possibly be any more direct, concise or accurate. For the next reprinting, I have the opportunity to make changes, like adjusting prices, adding/deleting services, etc.  

Once your brochures are printed, put them to good use:
  • Give to clients for reference at home or to share
  • Laminate copies for the front desk and work stations
  • Frame and hang in the salon window for reading from outside
  • Display at your chamber of commerce
  • Distribute to other local businesses
  • Include with gift cards
  • Adapt content to your online presence
  • Reference when talking on the phone
Together with your salon website, a well-designed brochure will “speak your truth,” even when you can’t find the time.

By Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Does Leadership and Team Work Apply to Booth Renters/Independents?

Article Published in Stylist Magazine, August 2013

For beauty professionals who work alone, the concepts of salon leadership and teamwork don’t apply. Not to minimize the challenges of business ownership, but individuals providing services in the privacy of their own salons cannot demonstrate salon leadership or contribute to a team. In effect, they’ve isolated themselves from other beauty professionals, for whatever reason. Many individuals would explain that they made a choice between working alone or with a dysfunctional group of coworkers. If those were the only options, that would be understandable. Instead, this is a false choice based on personal experiences and/or a generalized conception of salon life. 

We’re all familiar with the stereotypical salon in which the owner is either clueless or a tyrant, and the workers are crazy, nasty, dirty, lazy, incompetent or otherwise “toxic.” How many reality shows exploit this premise for dramatic effect and ratings? More than I can count, and none that I watch. It doesn’t matter what kinds of services (hair, skin, and/or nails) are offered, if this describes your salon, I cannot sympathize with you. How does someone tolerate that level of dysfunction and sustain his or her professionalism, integrity and passion? Is this the best the beauty industry has to offer? Of course not, but this conception may be so pervasive that many cannot envision the possibility of a suitable salon environment.

My first experiences after beauty school and licensure involved working in five different hair salons over the course of five years. In each case, the salon owner was a licensed cosmetologist who worked full time, and the other professionals would rent stations. None of those salon owners had any specific training on ownership, though they had good intentions. When searching for a station to rent, I don’t remember ever being asked to complete an application, submit a resume/job history, demonstrate my work or provide evidence of my competence or compatibility.

Each of us was responsible for handling our individual businesses: purchasing supplies, marketing services, scheduling clients, maintaining insurance, paying taxes, etc. We did these tasks independently as the owners took a hands-off approach to their role. While we supported each other through referrals, our efforts were not coordinated to represent the salon as a whole. There was very little, if any, leadership or teamwork. For example, the only salon meetings I can recall were held in response to some immediate crisis or simmering tensions, and they usually devolved into unproductive gripe sessions. Some would blame the salon’s problems on a lack of communication, but a more substantive problem was the lack of structure, specifically clearly defined roles and expectations (job descriptions, duties, rights, responsibilities, policies and procedures, etc.). Moreover, some coworkers were not as professional as they could have been. Behaviors that would be cause for dismissal in other work settings (tardiness, substance abuse, theft, poor workmanship, insubordination, etc.) were often tolerated. Lesson learned: no one individual is so important that they can be allowed to disrupt the entire salon team. 

Sound familiar? Just because many salons “function” a particular way doesn’t make it right; unfortunately, the most common practices within the beauty industry are not the best. Most valuable lesson learned: doing the right thing can be expensive and inconvenient, and likely means ignoring what other salons do. Needless to say, none of these salons was ideal, but instead of being discouraged, I credit the owners/coworkers for helping me build my business and giving me the confidence to work alone, and later take on employees.

Thus, I can certainly relate to those who choose to work alone. Technology makes that choice seemingly more acceptable; we can connect with others through social media, texts, emails and video, in addition to reading trade magazines and attending beauty shows, networking events, and classes. However, despite its convenience and affordability, technology cannot replace the quality and depth of interaction that a continuous working relationship can provide. While avoiding conflict and having control may be reason enough to work alone, some would acknowledge that they feel lonely, uninspired and burdened. In that very real sense, their independence may limit their professional growth and decrease their job satisfaction. Working collaboratively with other beauty professionals could be the change you need to reignite your passion for the industry.

If you’re waiting to discover the perfect salon, business partner, boss, employee or coworker, why not consider how you could create that experience for yourself and others? I’ll never be the perfect salon owner, but as I look back over the last 20+ years, I’m grateful for the mistakes I’ve made. There's no amount of time, training or money that qualifies someone as a “good” salon owner; there’s only progress towards creating the best possible environment in which professionals thrive, clients receive excellent service, and the owner meets all their financial and legal obligations. 

By Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Working Around the Rules

Article Published in Stylist Magazine, July 2013

Salon owners face many decisions as they compete for clients, like which services to provide, products to use, hours to operate, prices to charge, etc. These decisions are unique and personal to every owner, giving consumers many choices when they seek beauty services. However, there’s one choice that neither owners nor consumers should have, and that’s engaging in unlicensed activity. Any beauty service(s) provided by an unlicensed individual or in an unlicensed location represents unfair competition and threatens our professionalism.

Regardless of where you live, unlicensed activity affects your business. It’s unfortunate that unethical individuals/salon owners perform services illegally; some manufacturers sell prohibited equipment/products; the media publicizes individuals/salons/services, legal or not; too many consumers compromise quality and safety for low prices and convenience and government agencies don’t have the resources and/or political will to enforce their own rules.

How can ethical salon owners compete under these circumstances? Why should we? Since when is compliance optional? Our responsibility as professionals is to understand and follow the applicable federal and state rules, not work around them. I’m not an expert on every state, nor do I have to be because I work in California only. In this state, any business that provides hair, skin and/or nail services regulated by the Board of Barbering and Cosmetology (BBC) must obtain a valid establishment license before it opens (a measly $50!), and renew it every two years. This applies to any kind of business, whether a salon, day spa, hotel, medical office or gym. Likewise, any individual providing regulated beauty services must have a valid BBC license (another measly $50!), specific to a course of training and scope of practice, and renew it every two years. (Note that the following services are not regulated by the BBC, and thus do not require a BBC license: natural hair braiding, styling wigs, threading, permanent makeup, tanning, massage and body treatments like wraps and scrubs.) Your state will likely have different rules, for which you are responsible; ignorance of the law is not an excuse for breaking it.

We could complain that consumers, manufacturers and the media should know better and state governments should do more, but that’s not reality. I don’t expect consumers to understand the rules, but they should understand, at a minimum, that service prices must reflect the costs of operating a legitimate business (licenses, overhead, compensation, taxes, insurance, products, education, etc.). In a perfect world, consumers would demand quality services from licensed professionals in licensed establishments only.

And don’t rely on the media to educate consumers. We have them to thank for misrepresenting the facts and scaring consumers into believing that having your nails done professionally is dangerous and UV gels cause skin cancer, among other things. Even our own professional publications do us no favors when they promote unlicensed activity by referencing, quoting and/or profiling individuals and business that do NOT have valid licenses. (I won’t name names here, but I do report you to California’s Board of Barbering and Cosmetology.) And no matter how many articles you’ve read about it, doing mobile services is not legal in California, except under very specific conditions which do not apply in these cases. If these publications wanted to serve nail professionals, they might start by ensuring that they feature individuals and salons with valid licenses, and clarifying that the services/products mentioned and/or advertised may not be legal in your state. Do your research!

Manufacturers know our industry, and yet some still take advantage. For example, when medical procedures are beyond our scope of practice and false advertising is a problem, why are callus shavers and detox foot soaks available? Because they sell. Before investing in any new equipment/product/service, confirm that it fits within your scope of practice, does not violate any existing rules and will be covered by your liability insurance. (And if you don’t already have liability insurance, or paying too much, check out the coverage provided by Associated Hair Professionals as a membership benefit: www.insuringstyle.com.)

If we expect others to act ethically, we apparently expect too much. Voluntary compliance obviously wouldn’t work because compulsory compliance doesn’t seem to either, thus far. Of course, the problem of unlicensed activity is not limited to nail services. In fact, one of the best examples I could provide involves skin care. In February, 2010, I discovered multiple articles online about vagina facials and immediately alerted the BBC. At the next board meeting (April 18, 2010), I presented the following statement and later emailed it to every member of California’s Business, Professions and Economic Development committees, both Assembly and Senate:

Vagina Facial, Anyone?

The fundamental challenges facing California’s Board of Barbering and Cosmetology can be summarized in just two words, vagina facial; or perhaps you’re already familiar with its trademarked name, The Vajacial™, a new service advertised by a licensed establishment in San Francisco called Stript Wax Bar. Having spoken to someone who works there, I learned that this service includes extractions, a mask and exfoliation for $60, and can be done immediately following a Brazilian bikini wax. Whoever developed this service is much more than a marketing genius; besides being titillating and garnering lots of publicity, the vagina facial can be performed without any concern for BBC regulations. That’s because body treatments, such as scrubs, masks and wraps, that are provided in many salons and spas are not regulated at all. The Barbering and Cosmetology Act does not define scope of practice to include the entire body, with the exception of hair removal. Through omission, existing law allows these services to be performed without any consumer protections to ensure health and safety, or to avoid potentially inappropriate behavior. Never mind the fact that during these services clients are generally naked while having cosmetic preparations applied to their bodies.

If vagina facials weren’t disturbing enough, let me address the fact that Stript Wax Bar operates two additional locations, one in Palo Alto and the other in Oakland, but according to the BBC website, it only has a valid establishment license for its San Francisco location. If true, this business will prove to be yet another example of unlicensed activity, a problem that undermines our professionalism, cheats our economy and places consumers at risk. Unlicensed activity warrants more severe penalties than are currently enforced, and the names of the violators should be publicized as a deterrent. Perhaps if the risks outweighed the benefits, the BBC could achieve greater compliance with its laws and regulations.

While the BBC was receptive and acted on my complaint, not one politician even bothered to respond. Why doesn’t that surprise me? Three years later, Stript Wax Bar has expanded to 3 more locations, according to its website (www.striptwaxbar.com); the above-mentioned Palo Alto and Oakland locations received their establishment licenses effective April 22, 2010, according to the BBC website (www.barbercosmo.ca.gov). Congratulations!

By Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Top Ten Business Tools

Article Published in Stylist Magazine, June 2013

As a salon owner and manicurist, I use no fewer than 10 different “business tools” on any given day. They’ve become such an integral part of my business that it’s difficult (read: frightening) to imagine functioning without them. Granted, some of the functions could be outsourced, but I choose to do most of it on my own with my most trusted tools:

  1. A computer/laptop, wireless internet access and a smart phone. For most people, computer technology has integrated with our daily lives, regardless of the work we do. We’ve adapted quickly to interacting electronically, both professionally and socially. Increased dependence on technology may be resisted by some, but it’s a powerful trend that’s not likely to be reversed. Twenty years ago, these devices and capabilities may not have been necessary for salon ownership, but there’s no denying that without them, the following would not be feasible.
  2. Accounting software. I’ve been using Quicken by Intuit to track my business and personal finances for more than 20 years. As a Mac user, that hasn’t always been easy or convenient, like the time I upgraded to Lion OS X without first checking that my software was compatible. It wasn’t, and a workaround was necessary until Intuit fixed the problem. The usefulness of Quicken is most apparent at year’s end when I can immediately produce the information my certified financial planner (CFP) needs to prepare my taxes. To ensure that I don’t lose any data, I save and backup a copy every day. If you’ve ever used accounting software and lost your data, you’ll understand why.
  3. Online access to business and personal checking account(s). This may seem obvious, but it was not that long ago that bank customers would rely on printed monthly statements to reconcile their accounts. I need to know account details on a daily basis to manage my finances. In just a few minutes each day, I can confirm and plan the flow of deposits and payments from my accounts.
  4. Online bill payments. I hardly ever write checks anymore; it takes almost a year to use 25 of them. Instead, I prefer the immediacy and reliability of paying bills online. It doesn’t cost anything (no envelopes/postage) and can be scheduled in advance to avoid any late payments. For recurring bills like utilities, automatic payments make the most sense as I don’t have the time or patience to review and process monthly statements. Moreover, opting to receive electronic billing statements reduces the amount of paper I have to handle and store.
  5. Salon management software. This is the first tool in my list designed specifically for salon owners, but that doesn’t make it any less important. If it didn’t exist, I’d be limping along with a paper schedule and index cards, or patching a calendar program and address database together with some random point-of-sale (POS) software. Why bother when I could use a single, targeted software that combines these functions and more? In my salon, STX handless scheduling, client records, inventory control, employee time clock, credit card processing, gift card tracking, email appointment reminders and other functions I don’t even use.
  6. Email and voicemail. Email is my preferred means of communicating, particularly when I need to attach photos/documents or archive an exchange. Voicemail, a simple and often underutilized technology, remains important also. My employees and I don’t answer the phone while providing services; the ringer is off anyways. Instead, we discretely retrieve and respond to email and voicemail between clients. We don’t text message with clients because it’s too informal in my opinion.
  7. A professional website. I’ve written extensively about the advantages of maintaining a professional salon website; it’s the most cost-effective way to reach potential clients. Through my website, I can also promote my industry activities beyond the salon, like my monthly articles published by the Stylist, upcoming classes/beauty shows and product recommendations.
  8. Social media. Lumping different platforms together may be unfair because I find some more useful than others. For example, I frequent Facebook and NailTech, browse certain blogs and dabble with Twitter. Other platforms, like YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Yelp and Pinterest, don’t play any role in my business at this time.
  9. Online payroll services. After eight years of faxing payroll every other Monday and not knowing the details until two days later, I’ve changed service providers to Intuit and could not be happier. Not only is the service more technologically advanced, it’s more affordable, about half the price. Moreover, I was able to transfer my existing workers’ compensation insurance policy without disruption.
  10. Manufacturer websites. Printed product catalogs and mailings have become less important as manufacturers make it convenient to research their products and shop online. I don’t have time during “normal” business hours to place orders by phone, so I much prefer the 24/7 availability of these sites.

By Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Older is Better

Article Published in Stylist Magazine, May 2013

My nail salon doesn’t market to any particular age group, nor do I track clients by age. Some clients proudly announce theirs (especially if they look much younger), and I can roughly estimate the ages of others. So who are we calling “old?” Everyone older than I am? And why does that word have such a negative connotation? Far from being “over the hill” and “past their prime,” my “older” clients lead vibrant, fulfilling lives that many younger people would envy. Marketing to them is essentially marketing to myself, and who I want be 50 years from now, should I live so long and well. Yes, I have clients that old. There’s something both endearing and inspiring about nonagenerians who schedule a year in advance to care for their nails. If everyone could be that mindful, fastidious, optimistic and committed...

Regardless of their age or gender, most of my clients view professional nail care as routine maintenance rather than a frivolous activity or selfish extravagance. Having their nails done isn’t about wearing polish. (Just ask my male clients.) Not every one wears polish; that’s a personal preference, more a beauty “want” than a health “need.” What clients should understand are the potential consequences of neglecting/abusing their natural nails, especially when combined with the aging process and other serious health concerns like diabetes.

I’ve found that the more maintenance clients require, the less capable and/or willing they are to do it themselves. Many come to that realization when they can no longer trim their own toenails. In fact, attempting to trim them could be dangerous without the proper training and tool(s). That’s assuming that clients have the flexibility to reach their feet, and the manual dexterity, hand strength and visual acuity to trim their nails safely. Even if capable, some people will always prefer to have a professional do the work on a regular basis.

Making your services convenient, pleasant and affordable for older clients does take some planning, including the pricing structure. I’ve designed my services to focus on the basics (nail shaping and cuticle conditioning) at a reasonable price, and clients can always choose to expand their service(s) with callus reduction, paraffin, massage, polish/buffing, etc. For example, clients who want only their toenails trimmed choose the Foot Express service ($20/15 minutes). Moreover, during our services, the nails are not just shortened, but smoothed with a single-use, disposable file to avoid a snagging/scratching hazard. This may or may not compare favorably with what a podiatrist would do or charge, but that’s not my concern as long as we work within our scope of practice as licensed manicurists.

As I’ve written previously, accessibility is of particular interest to older clients because mobility decreases with age. By minimizing physical barriers, or eliminating them altogether, the salon can accommodate clients who use canes/walkers/wheelchairs. For clients physically incapable of visiting the salon, whether their limitations may be temporary, like recovering from surgery, or permanent, like being unable to drive or having a terminal illness, I provide services in their homes. Let me emphasize that these appointments are not “home spa parties;” these clients have legitimate reasons why they cannot visit the salon, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to work on them legally. (Before offering services outside your licensed salon, check with your state board and insurance provider to make sure you’re compliant.)

If you fear that your creativity or style will somehow be constrained by older clients, don’t worry. In my experience, older clients rely on me even more than younger ones do to keep them informed of product innovations and color trends. Many of my older clients are more adventurous than I am, and want to be the first to try the trendiest colors.

As a beauty professional who regularly works with older clients, I can assure you it’s very rewarding, both personally and financially. Granted, finding older people where I live isn’t difficult; in fact, they’re hard to avoid. My small town (Carmel, California) has approximately 3700 residents with a median age of 59.2 years. In comparison, the median age statewide is only 35.2 years, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. That age differential represents an entire generation of potential clients, both men and women who could benefit from professional nail care. That’s not to say that all these people would consider having their nails done professionally, but enough of them do to keep my salon very busy.

One of the easiest ways to reach these potential clients in your own community is to volunteer, which is something that many older people do themselves. You may also want to support organizations and causes in which you share mutual interest, like education, health care, animal welfare and the arts. Older clients want to feel valued and relevant. Who doesn’t? Through your expertise, kindness, reliability and personal interaction, you’ll achieve that and much more.

By Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My (Twenty) First Year

Article Published in Stylist Magazine, April 2013

Last year, I celebrated my first 20 years as a licensed manicurist. I use the term ”celebrated” deliberately because it signifies my attitude toward the nail industry. Though it seems unlikely after so many years, I’m more passionate and positive about our profession than ever before. There’s much to be excited about: the development of new products, the next generation of nail professionals, renewed interest from media and consumers, changes in licensure/governance, and so on. If I didn’t feel as strongly, it would be time to consider a career change. I have options, certainly, but what other career better suits my disposition and would challenge and reward me as much as being a manicurist and salon owner?

That being said, it’s ultimately wiser to position yourself for more rewards than challenges. I believe that doing what you love should bring joy and prosperity, not problems and hardship. If that sounds unrealistic or selfish, I remind myself that I deserve to enjoy my success. And that’s why, in my (twenty) first year, I’ve chosen to reinvest in my nail career for the next 20 years. In terms of planning and decision-making, it’s like starting over, but with the incredible advantages of loyal clients, respected colleagues, favorite products and the knowledge gained from 20 years worth of experiences.

During my first year in business, I had none of those advantages, except the desire to learn. To expedite learning about nails (choosing products, developing skills, marketing services, managing resources, etc.), I naturally sought advice from others with more experience. I wish the majority of advice was useful, but in practice, it was not. To my disappointment, the technical advice was serviceable at best, but not innovative, efficient or exceptional. And the most common business advice (base your prices on the competition, never turn clients away, give discounts to new clients, schedule according to client demand, etc.) turned out to be the most ridiculous. If I’d followed that, my career wouldn’t have lasted as long because I would’ve failed miserably.

No doubt, some of the harsher lessons of business (tax audits, lawsuits, bad investments, etc.) can be avoided with proper guidance. However, when seeking advice from consultants, educators and mentors, consider the source and be more selective. Don’t assume that someone in a position of authority can provide relevant and accurate information; be informed by researching qualifications and asking valid questions. Not all advice is good, and hearing the same bad advice from multiple sources doesn’t make it any better. The “common” way of doing something may be popular, but not necessarily the best way. As as advice seeker, be willing to pay for information/training/coaching; there should not be any expectation to receive anything for free, any more than someone should be obligated to give it away.

Over the years, I’ve shared my experiences with hundreds of other salon owners, manicurists and students. Some have paid a considerable amount to visit my salon for individualized training, but most have stumbled upon me online, or teaching free technical or business classes at a beauty show. Regardless of the investment, what they do with my suggestions, or anyone else’s, is their business. I don’t have any control over them, and what works for me may not work for everyone. In fact, that’s the excuse I often hear for not trying what I suggest. I couldn’t agree more, but why continue doing what’s not working? That doesn’t make any sense.

Growth and progress make sense to me. “Nothing succeeds like success” (Alexandre Dumas), so I’ll continue to focus on what works. In my case, it’s direct interaction with clients. That’s right; I own and manage a salon, have employees AND provide services. Could it work better? Of course, and that’s what I aspire to - improving my business for the future. Is greatness too much to expect? Perhaps. The next 20 years will not be perfect, but I can’t make any excuses given the tremendous advantages I already have.

Far from being complacent or cautious in my twenty-first year, I’m determined to act more strategically. That’s why everything about my business is subject to consideration. What do I enjoy doing most? What would I like to eliminate? Some changes have already been made. For example, I’ve traveled extensively in years past, attending so many beauty shows and networking events that it actually became tiresome. I never expected to reach that point, but I’m there. Supporting the nail industry is still a priority, but how I participate will be different. Traveling less often gives me time to participate in my immediate community, not to promote my business as much as to satisfy other interests, like volunteering and supporting education and the arts. Relocating my salon is an even bigger change I’m considering. The possibility of moving to a more ideal space is invigorating, and I’ll share more about that process in the future. But for now, I’m content to know that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself and improve your life.

By Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Name Game

Article Published in Stylist Magazine, March 2013

“If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things.” - Confucius

It’s not uncommon for beauty writers to use social media to request information for their upcoming articles. Writers, particularly those without their own experience as beauty professionals, rely on the knowledge of others, and those that contribute gain exposure from being quoted. I’m not able to respond to every request I receive (my expertise has its limits), but am more likely when I feel strongly about the topic. Assuming that the topic is relevant, the information valid, the article well-written and the quotes accurate, everyone can benefit, most important the readers.

A recent experience with another writer inspired this article; her request was for information about what nail professionals name themselves (nail technician, nail artist, manicurist, etc.) and how that might affect client perceptions. Rather than respond via email, I called the writer, Tracy Morin, and we had a stimulating discussion. I haven’t read Tracy’s finished article, so I don’t know how much, if any, of my information she used. However, for this article, I want to merge that seemingly benign “name” topic with the larger issue of false advertising and misrepresentation.

If that seems like a stretch, let me assure you, it’s not. But for the sake of argument, let’s begin with a more common example of false advertising found in nail salons: the misrepresentation of products and services. How often do consumers believe that they’re wearing gel enhancements when in fact they have traditional liquid and powder acrylics? This happens so frequently that I often find myself explaining my preferred products and how I use them.

I advise consumers that no matter what salon they patronize, they’re entitled to the truth about the products applied to their nails. Salons that falsely advertise any artificial nails as "better than acrylics” reveal how ignorant and gullible they expect consumers to be. For example, consider this description of “diamond nails” advertised by a salon: "They are strong and durable like acrylic, except with less odor. They are applied by brushing a resin glue on to the nails and then dipping the nail in to diamond powder." The powder is not “diamond;” it’s acrylic. Instead of acrylic liquid (ethyl methacrylate), this dip procedure uses an adhesive (cyanoacrylate) with acrylic powder (ethyl and methyl methacrylates).

Other falsely advertised nail services include:
  • Gel -  a layer of gel over liquid and powder acrylic. True gel nails consist entirely of acrylic oligomer gel (acrylates) cured with a UV light; there’s no powder.
  • Solar - a misleading name for any French-style (pink and white) nails, exploits a brand trademark.
  • Crystal - a fancy name for clear tips covered with acrylic monomer liquid and clear polymer powder.
  • Porcelain - clay heated to 1200°F cannot possibly be used for nails, yet this ridiculous name persists.
  • Shellac - a specific brand of soak-off gel polish, not a procedure. There are literally dozens of brands available.
  • Medical Pedicures - a pedicure that’s promoted as if it were a medical procedure; manicurists aren’t licensed to practice medicine. 
If misleading consumers about products and services is wrong, why do some service providers believe it’s acceptable to mislead about their qualifications and licensing? In a perfect world, consumers wouldn’t have to be concerned about whether their chosen beauty professionals are trained and licensed. After all, that’s the MINIMUM requirement of the law. While license types vary by state, each has a “scope of practice,” which defines what licensees are allowed to do. If someone chooses to limit themselves to specific services within a license type, that’s their choice, but they still need a valid individual license. That is, an unlicensed person cannot legally provide “just pedicures.” Moreover, advanced education doesn’t expand the professional scope of practice, no matter who provides the training/certification, how much time it takes or how much it costs.

California’s Board of Barbering and Cosmetology recently released a statement advising consumers to verify licenses of individuals and salons advertising on the internet. What complicates the verification process is the fact that even licensed individuals and salons advertise with “fake” names. In California where establishment (salon) licenses are specific to a geographic location, a salon could have “Acme Nails” on a valid establishment license, but advertise as “Xanadu Nail Spa.” Try verifying the individual license of Jenna Hipp, the “Green Celebrity Nail Stylist.” If that’s not a fake name, perhaps she has no license?

I refuse to tolerate those who are unlicensed, fraudulent and/or pretentious. In my perfect world, all individuals and salons would be required to advertise with their legal names and license numbers. My California individual license (111051) lists my legal name and license type, “Manicurist” and that’s how I advertise. My scope of practice is no different from any other licensed manicurists in California, regardless of what they name themselves. For the record, my favorite example of false advertising has to be “licensed podiatric nail technician;” there’s no such thing in the state of California.

By Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Nail Color Explosion

Article Published in Stylist Magazine, February 2013

Nail color has become a powerful force in the beauty industry. Page through any beauty/fashion/lifestyle magazine or spend any time at all on the internet, and count the number of related advertisements. Some ads focus on the person wearing nail color (celebrities and models), while others focus on the product itself (bottle shots and color swatches on “fake fingers”). Regardless of the quality of the ads and their respective products, this proliferation wouldn’t exist if these products weren’t profitable. Reports of “explosive” growth in the nail color market means we should expect more colors, products and advertising in the future.

As nail professionals, we might consider ourselves more savvy and less vulnerable to advertising, but we’re all consumers, exposed to and influenced by advertising to varying effect. The target audience, primarily female, has not changed, but the line between “consumer/retail” and “professional/salon” has been blurred like never before. Consumers interested in doing their own nails (DIYers) have greater access to “professional” products, and/or they can experience nail color by receiving salon services. Likewise, salons have new services to offer and products to retail. In fact, the renewed interest in nail color has been so powerful that many salon owners credit it, particularly in the form of soak-off gel polish, for their survival during this economic downturn. Rather than complain about DIYers and “professional” brands going retail, they’ve found a way to adapt and profit from this new reality.

Limiting this discussion to professional brands and ignoring stickers/decals (apologies to Dashing Diva, Minx and Sally Hansen) there’s still plenty to talk about. The competition among brands, from Akzentz to Zoya and those in between (Artistic, Barielle, China Glaze, CND, Color Club, Cuccio, Entity, Essie, Gelish, IBD, INM, Jessica, LCN, Le Chat, Light Elegance, NSI, Nubar, OPI, Orly, Young Nails, etc.), gives nail professionals many choices. Granted, the list above includes both traditional polish and gel polish brands, but that’s not even a comprehensive list, and some have literally hundreds of colors. Apparently, there’s something for everyone, with shades ranging from soft and subtle to bold and garish in creams, shimmers, frosts, glitters and matte finishes. And yet, new color collections are introduced for every season, including holiday. It can be expensive to keep pace, and not all colors may be worth the investment.

Speaking from my own 20+ years of experience as a salon owner and manicurist, I credit my continued success to loyal clients, and don’t consider advertising nail products to consumers a threat to my professionalism. I cannot compete with national advertising, and don’t have to because it raises awareness about nail care in general. Indirectly, it draws attention to the services offered at my salon and the products I’ve carefully selected based on performance, availability, pricing, etc. I welcome questions from potential and existing clients about professional services and product selection; it means they care.

While my salon services remain consistent (and do not include soak-off gel polish), the color options do evolve. I have my own preferences, but also understand what my clients prefer. Rather than feel overwhelmed by the choices, I limit myself to a wide selection within a few brands so that the colors complement and contrast with each other. After several months of working with the most recent collection, it’s time for something new. I especially look forward to collection previews and swatching, and can predict which colors will be most popular among my clients. Those colors will make it into my ongoing collection, while unpopular or redundant colors will be eliminated.

The power of color cannot be denied and I don’t need to study color psychology to appreciate that it goes beyond expressing yourself and influencing mood and behavior. The fact is nail color is decorative; it’s not even necessary for the health and safety of nails, and yet it may be one of the primary reasons why clients seek professional nail care. The emotional reaction to color is so personal; we all have our favorites, and while some choose to wear the same color for years, others want variety. As a service provider, it makes me feel good that clients of all ages will get excited about wearing their favorite color, whether an old favorite, a new one, or just new to them.

At this point, it may seem difficult to determine which is greater, the supply or the demand for nail color. How many colors/products do we need, and is there a “saturation point” at which the market cannot possibly absorb another brand? The answers may well be “As many as we can afford,” and “Never!” That’s the genius of producing and marketing nail color. Both consumers and professionals want choices and manufactures can satisfy the demand, even while the formulation of the products remains essentially the same. Given personal preferences, infinite possibilities, evolving trends and new technologies, we’ll always be surrounded by the power and beauty of color. It’s hard to resist.

By Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Professional Support

Article Published in Stylist Magazine, January 2013

What makes us “professional?” In the broadest sense, anyone working in the beauty industry could be considered “professional,” including those who are not licensed, competent, ethical, legitimate or financially successful. Is being all of those things too much to expect of a “beauty professional?” We all know examples of talented, hard-working individuals who can’t support themselves, and others who do well for themselves, but work illegally. How do we reconcile ourselves to a concept that divides us, the concept of being professional?

Consider the efforts of the Professional Beauty Association (PBA), our industry’s largest trade association. Earlier this year, the PBA invited all beauty professionals to “Take the Pledge” and commit to a code of ethical practices. Each PBA membership section (Salon Owners, Licensed Professionals, Manufacturers and Distributors) has its own code online to “print, sign and display (press release dated July 6, 2012). If not already a member of the PBA, you may have missed this invitation to “Take the Pledge,” but it’s available to you “regardless of membership.”

For most readers, the applicable code would be either for Salon Owners or Licensed Professionals. This statement precedes each one: “In order to ensure and promote integrity in the professional beauty industry, PBA expects all members of the [insert section name here] section to abide by the standards which are reflected in this Code of Ethical Practice.” As might be expected, there’s significant overlap between the codes for salon owners and licensed professionals, with minor wording variations:

Provide high quality professional beauty products and services to the consumer.
Keep licensing and/or registration current as required by federal, state, and local authorities.
Keep insurance current as required by federal, state, and local authorities.
Accurately report tips and income as required by federal, state, and local authorities.
Only use professional products and not divert products.
Promote ethical pricing on products and services.
Make all advertising and sales promotions factually accurate.

Additionally, Salon Owners pledge to:
  • Promote positive awareness about the beauty industry.
  • Subscribe to and follow accountabilities standards.
Only employ licensed professionals when licensing is required to perform job function.”

And Licensed Professionals also pledge to:
  • Follow safety and sanitation guidelines.
  • Follow tax accountabilities.
As a salon owner, licensed professional and PBA member, I understand the PBA’s intent to “create a uniform standard in the way we view and act as an industry.” And I don’t disagree with what’s included in the codes. In fact, my initial reaction was “I’m already doing these things.” However, after careful consideration, I chose not to sign the pledge. In my opinion, it’s meaningless. This pledge wouldn’t change my behavior, or make me any more “professional.” Violating it does not carry any more consequences than signing it does.

What good does it do to pledge to follow laws and guidelines if you don’t know what they are? Beauty professionals don’t lack commitment, they lack information. I’ve supported the PBA for years, and especially appreciate its Nail Manufacturer Council on Safety (NMC). Scientific information from this trusted source benefits both the nail industry and consumers, and I reference it often. Even if the NMC were the only function of the PBA, it would make my membership worthwhile. Yet, I have a difficult time convincing other salon owners and licensees to join this organization. Why is that?

Granted, the impact and appeal of the PBA would be greater if there were national standards, testing and licensure, but that’s not the case. Our individual concerns tend to be more immediate because most of us work at the local level, regulated by our respective state governments. And at the federal level, where laws affect all of us, we don’t support each other and our industry as we should, especially with regard to legal compensation of employees and our tax obligations.

With all due respect, the PBA’s ongoing efforts to lobby Congress to pass The Small Business Tax Equalization and Compliance Act (SB974/HR195, also known as  the FICA Tip Tax Credit), have not yet been successful. To its credit, the PBA does an excellent job of explaining its position that salon owners should not be responsible for paying taxes (7.65%) on tip income paid to service providers by consumers. Twenty years ago, the lobbying efforts of the National Restaurant Association resulted in a federal dollar-for-dollar tax credit for restaurant owners, known as section 45B of the Internal Revenue Code. However, that credit does not apply to salon owners and their employees, no matter how comparable the industries.

The proposed legislation is fundamentally fair and logically sound, but how many within the beauty industry even know about it? Sadly, even if they knew, I’m sure that many would think it’s not their problem. This legislation doesn’t directly affect manufacturers or distributors; their employees don’t collect tips. And let’s be real: many licensed professionals don’t report their tip income, and many salon owners don’t take financial responsibility for their workers as employees (although if audited, the IRS would categorize them as such). So we’re left with the PBA and salon owners who follow the law and pay their employment taxes fighting for this legislation? That’s not very encouraging, and apparently not enough. It’s time we come together as professionals for the better of our industry; we need each other’s support.

By Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Maintaining Balance through Action

Article Published in Stylist Magazine, December 2012

It’s common to use action terms to describe people’s progress through life: “moving up,” “going downhill,” “running in place” or “stuck in neutral.” But to quote Albert Einstein, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” I couldn’t agree more. Personally, I equate balance with happiness, deriving satisfaction from a sense of stability. As a goal to be achieved, balance can be elusive, temporary and easily disrupted. However, as a way of being, something to be maintained, balance gives me the power to manage my life, especially when circumstances change.

Balance isn’t something I can easily quantify, but I can gauge the quality of  my health (physical, mental and emotional), personal relationships, business, finances, etc. Though far from perfect, I’m doing well; sometimes I need distance from my daily life to appreciate that. Distance can be literal or figurative. Just last month, it was both as I headed to South Korea to attend the Seoul International Nail Fair. Traveling alone, I anticipated having many hours to myself, time I expected to spend writing this article, doing research, sleeping more . . . For the next three days, I didn’t work on clients, help my son with homework, run errands, pay bills, do housework or prepare meals. Instead, I was treated like a VIP*, and stayed in a luxury hotel, judged nail competitions, presented awards and dined out every night. Aside from interacting with my Korean nail friends and experiencing their culture, the fact that I had few responsibilities and virtually no control was very appealing.

The weeks, even the hours, leading up to my trip were hectic, but that’s not unusual nor a bad thing. It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when necessary. I’m accustomed to working and living at a quickened pace, given all that I have to do and choose to do. The momentum sustains me, and I find my balance somewhere between feeling bored and useless, and overwhelmed and used, tending toward the latter. I consider myself organized, resourceful and optimistic, but even I have my limits. Whenever I dread something or start feeling overwhelmed, it’s time to evaluate, prioritize and act accordingly. In some instances, that means saying, “That doesn’t work for me,” without explanation or apology, as suggested by a very wise client. From past experience, I know that taking on more than I can manage threatens my well-being, and that’s not acceptable.

Despite advance planning and timely actions, something unexpected can, and usually does, happen. For example, the morning of my trip, I allowed an extra hour of drive time to account for commuters, but hadn’t accounted for rainy weather conditions. Traffic was very heavy and the navigation system only made it seem worse as the remaining miles slowly counted down. Thankfully, I arrived at the parking structure on schedule, took the shuttle to the international terminal (the first stop, thank goodness) and made it through security with a few minutes to spare. Crisis averted. Moments before boarding, I checked my email one last time and learned that I’d be taking a taxi to the hotel. No worries, that’s why I carry American Express. In previous visits, I would board the plane trusting that my nail friends would greet me when I landed. This time, I trusted a complete stranger to drive me, and American Express to approve his payment, even though I’d neglected to alert the credit card company of my travel plans.

The rest of the weekend was uneventful, but didn’t go exactly as planned. In my free time, I watched far too much television and slept very little instead of writing this article. I rationalized my procrastination with the excuse that I wasn’t prepared to write it; I needed more time to think about how balance functions in my life. Really? My life wouldn’t function without it. Most people talk about balancing family, work and their other interests as if they were distinct and isolated. Perhaps they are. For me, balance comes from integration. Though I’m sole owner of my business, my family plays a large part. My parents, who live nearby, donated their skills to help me build the salon and they have standing nail appointments. We frequently share errands, Sunday dinners, sporting events and school functions with the grandchildren. My younger sister has been one of my employees since she became a licensed manicurist five years ago. We also share a household, combining our resources to raise our respective families. My teenage son spends time at the salon, understands my business and enjoys attending beauty shows. I can also connect community involvement, my primary activity outside the beauty industry, to my family and business through facilitation, sponsorships and donations. As much as I enjoyed myself in Seoul that weekend, I was excited to return home. Not only did I miss my family, I missed my work, even the mundane and repetitive tasks that I probably should delegate.

*Special thanks to Ok Hee Cho, my dear friend and Chairman of the Korea Nail Association, for being a wonderful hostess.

By Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D.