Coping with Coronavirus

As we face disruption in our beauty businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic, we suggest ways to be productive even when we cannot provide services directly to clients. Beyond protecting your health, what are your plans?

Show Notes

Resources:

This Ugly Beauty Business – The Salon Service Pricing Toolkit

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Edited for length and clarity.

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

ASHLEY: Welcome back to Outgrowth with your hosts Ashley Gregory

JAIME: And Jaime Schrabeck. In this episode, we’re talking about how to use unexpected downtime to your advantage.

ASHLEY: For that and more, stay tuned and let’s grow together.     

JAIME: Ashley, how are you doing this week?

ASHLEY: Well, happy Monday, Jaime. I’m doing well. How are you?

JAIME: I’m doing well myself.

ASHLEY: It has been a little bit of a tricky situation to navigate everything happening, navigate the anxiety that the news is causing.

JAIME: It’s remarkable to think that just a week ago we were in New York City for the Beauty Experience show that did not happen.

ASHLEY: It feels like a lifetime ago, honestly, and I think we really lucked out because our travel seemed to happen right before everything really got dicey, and I’m very thankful for that. But now I am coming to you from my home studio where I plan on staying for the foreseeable future.   I did have some photo shoots and other events cancel for the next couple of weeks, and so I anticipate that I’ll be working from home for the rest of March at least. How about you?

JAIME: I’m even more thankful that I was able to arrive home safely and in the week since have not shown any symptoms and have not had any cause for concern up to this point. However, I know that, certainly, as someone who works in a salon setting, I have concerns about my coworker and clients that are coming to us.

ASHLEY: Totally, and I think that that’s probably the reaction and the feelings that a lot of our listeners are having right now. This is a time of a lot of uncertainty in the industry and whether it’s online articles saying that you should cancel your beauty services or, if you want to practice social distancing and be a responsible citizen, this can really make things look very different for your business for the foreseeable future.

JAIME: We don’t know how long this is going to last, and certainly if you’re in a position where your income is derived from interacting with people directly, this is a huge burden.

ASHLEY: It really is, and I think the smart beauty professional is one that’s prepared of course, I think that there are things that we can do as beauty pros with downtime, whether it’s expected or not, that can really help your business, whether you’re seeing clients right now or not.

JAIME: I definitely want to hear your ideas and I think as a beauty professional, we should be setting an example, at a minimum following the guidelines of our local state and federal agencies to keep ourselves safe and our clients. But that being said, I agree that we need to be productive, even if we’re not directly interacting with clients during an extended break.

ASHLEY: Yeah. It keeps you engaged in your business. If you spend the next few weeks or month or again, however long this is going to last, staying steeped and engaged in your business and putting it as a priority, just like I’m seeing things circulate on social media saying kids still need structure and a schedule during this time that they’re off of school. I think we too need a little bit of structure as business owners or as salon professionals in order to make sure that once we’re ready to return back to our businesses and our clients are ready to come back and see us again, that we haven’t lost any momentum, that we’re ready to go, hit the ground running, and fully engaged with what’s next for us. The first thing that I think everybody should be doing with this downtime is updating our websites. This is something that doesn’t get done as often as it probably should be because we’re busy. We’ve got a million things to do. All of these different balls to juggle. It’s just about finding the time and making it a priority, and your website is really your front door to the world. So with this downtime, I think it’s a great idea to make sure that everything on your website is up to date. It has new photos. It has information that’s still relevant. It doesn’t have old services or old personnel, and you can really make a nice kind of spring cleaning mark on your website by updating it now.

JAIME: You’re describing my day yesterday. I was doing exactly that and much of it was prompted by the changes in the show schedule because I certainly keep those who visit my website up to date with where I’m going to be next and what classes I’m teaching, and as shows were rescheduling, I was updating in real time because there were certainly a number of announcements that came through in the last few days. So I agree. And then that just sort of prompts you to look at your website, the structure overall, and decide, and I know you make this point in many of your blog posts, that clients shouldn’t have to click too many times to get to the point where they’re actually scheduling an appointment with you. If you want to streamline your website, this is a great time too.

ASHLEY: It is, and it’s also a great time to totally overhaul your website, if you’re so inclined. If you’re tech savvy and you feel like, you know, this could just be better. And it’s one of those things that we put off and put off until we have the time. Well, guess what? This is that time to maybe migrate it over to a different website builder. I personally use WordPress and I use the Elementor plugin in order to build my website. It’s pretty easy. It’s drag and drop. But I know that there are sites out there like Square,and Wix, and things like that that can help you create a very professional looking website, without the intimidation of having to know all of the tech. And as a little aside, this is also a great time to take new photos of your salon space, of the exterior, of the interior, of you in your salon space. There are still things that you can be doing and would actually require your areas to be empty in order to accomplish that. Just update your entire marketing portfolio that way right now while everybody’s at home.

JAIME: The first thing that I’m going to do this week is to communicate directly with the clients that I have already scheduled. I know that they are probably questioning whether the salon is going to be open or not, first and foremost, and rather than have them contact me first, I’d much rather be ahead of it and let them know that, until we receive further notice, we plan to proceed and if they have any concerns, if they want to reschedule or cancel, then I would welcome them to do that because I certainly wouldn’t want them to feel uncomfortable being at the salon, and certainly not there if they’re sick.

ASHLEY: Yeah. I guess you really need to make sure that your scheduled clients know what’s happening. I know my inbox. I don’t know about yours, but mine is full of almost every company I’ve ever given my email address to is telling me what their specific response to this epidemic is, and what steps they’re taking to be mindful and proactive about cleaning and ensuring that everybody’s healthy, et cetera, et cetera. So why not us? We are just as legitimate as any other company out there. So I think clients are starting to expect this type of response from businesses that they patronize and we should be no different. I think email is a great way, too, to be in touch with customers in a way that you can ensure your message is being read, but it doesn’t have to be so in your face. I also think a text message is a great way, if you already communicate with your clients that way, to ensure that they get the information that they need for an appointment that’s maybe in the next two days or something like that. Communicating with your scheduled clients is such a great point and I’m really glad you brought that up because they need to hear from you. Nobody should assume anything right now. Whether you’re open or not, people are taking different stances and it’s important to ensure that they know that you value their business and that you want to see them, if not now, soon, or if you are closing, when you can expect to reopen or what they can do in the interim.

JAIME: And I’d also want to mention that the two of us that work together in the salon are taking precautions, so that they don’t have any concern about us being able to afford it. I don’t want them to feel like they have to come to support us. We’re going to take care of ourselves, both financially and through any sort of health measures that we can take, like the social distancing that’s been recommended.

ASHLEY: Our clients want to make sure that we are okay as their service providers too. I know that the provider client relationship can sometimes blur into friendship, and if there are clients that you’ve seen for years and years, or someone that you’re personally close with, they want to make sure that you’re going to be okay through this because if you are someone who is  a service-based business provider, that you’re going to be able to weather this storm as well. To the flip side of that point, if you need to have an influx of cash now, or if you need to ensure a steady stream of income, if your clients would like to take care of you in this time, you can definitely promote gift card sales as a way to sort of bridge that gap between now and their next potential service. If they want to prepay for their service by purchasing a gift card, that’s a great way to ensure that not only do you have the income now, but you also have a full book when it’s time to return. That way you’re not having this needless pause in your business where people are still wondering if it’s safe to come, or if they should come, or if they should use their money for that type of service. It’s, it takes away some of that questioning.

JAIME: That’s a great suggestion, and selling a gift card is not asking for a handout because once you’ve collected that money, you do owe that amount of money in service at some point in the future, and hopefully the sooner the better because the sooner we can get through this process and get back to normal, whatever that looks like for most people, the better off we’re going to feel. I think the uncertainty is what makes people feel most nervous and afraid.

ASHLEY: Agreed, and if you want to sweeten the deal a little bit and offer them a free service upgrade once they purchase their gift card, it’s something to look forward to. I think to your point too, the uncertainty of it all is what’s making everybody very anxious and if they know they have a fabulous pampering service waiting for them on the other side of this uncertainty, it’s just good feelings all around. It’s good business and it’s great client relations, definitely something to think about. But while I’m experiencing this downtime, I am going to purge my kit of products that are potentially old, or expired, or maybe need a refill. I’m going to go through my office and clean out all of my polishes that need to be removed, replaced, cause we can’t control the outside world, but we can definitely control what’s inside our four walls. Getting rid of old backbar products that are either old or expired, you know, really going through your, your deep storage, condensing your color down, shaking your polishes that have separated, getting rid of any old tools, or replacing tools that have seen better days, towels that are bleached to high heaven, getting rid of capes that have stains. Like it’s just a good time to assess and go through everything and get rid of what’s not serving you. You can Marie Kondo if it’s not bringing you joy. It’s time to either repair or replace.

JAIME: Well, and in a salon setting, we need to hold onto the things that bring us money. If what you’re holding on to you haven’t used for years, just on the off chance that at some point in the future you think a client might request it, it’s really not serving any purpose other than taking up space. I am all for the idea of using this time to do the deep cleaning that we rarely get the chance to do because we’re so involved in just being ready for the next client, and then the next client. And with all those products that you might have, whether they be tools, products, equipment, even furniture, there are ways to dispose of them, repurpose them, sell them if you could, but just get them out of your own space because you want to focus on the things that really matter.

ASHLEY: Agreed. Get rid of, or replace, furniture that needs it. I know that, right now, many retailers are experiencing the same type of uncertainties, so the price is probably right. And it’s  time to deep clean and get rid of what no longer serves you. And document that process because everyone wants to feel like the environments they choose to spend time in, and the businesses they choose to spend money in, are taking this entire situation seriously. And so if you are doing a very deep clean of your salon, if you’re bringing in someone to clean carpets or upholstery, or if you’re just taking everything out, cleaning and reorganizing, that’s a great thing to share on social media or in that email to your clients, sharing with them that you are taking this seriously. You are going through and taking steps to protect them, their health and your personal health and what a great way to do that, but to show them a before and after, or to show you with your gloves and mask on getting everything ready to go. That’s a very powerful image and something that your clients will appreciate in the long run too.

JAIME: Whether you do the cleaning yourself or you do that with your staff, here’s an opportunity to hire someone to do this, someone who might otherwise be losing work.

ASHLEY: Totally.

JAIME: From their own clients. To hire someone to come in and do that deep cleaning, you’re going to feel better about it because you know your salon is going to be spotless once it’s done. And it’s also great because I know that when we do our own cleaning, we don’t always clean the same way as someone who has never been in our space would clean. It’s important to get like a different perspective on our own spaces. So I’ve actually planned to hire someone else to do my deep cleaning this time, and I’m looking forward to it because there are other things that I need to be doing that are more important and things that only I can do, other than all of those more physical things that someone who cleans for a profession does.

ASHLEY: I love that idea because it’s a fresh set of eyes on your business and like you said, it helps to have somebody who’s not affiliated with your business in your space to really look at it maybe the way a client would, and they’ll see things that, you’ve excused for years or just haven’t addressed. And it’s also a great way to support another service-based business that could, like you said, be going through the exact same thing we are. That’s perfect. I love that journey for us. The next thing I want to do is, even though I’m not client facing right now, I’m still going to stay very active and top of mind on all of my social media channels and client emails. I’m going to plan upcoming posts, which I preach this in all of my social media classes. I rarely get to practice it just because I wear so many hats, but I’m really going to do it this time. I’m going to plan new service launches. I just want to stay in touch and make sure that my clients know I’m still here for them, even if they can’t be here with me. I’m going through my Instagram and I’m purging any fake or out of date followers using the remove follower function. So if you go into your Instagram profile and you click on your followers, you can tell who’s real and who isn’t. If it’s someone that has a username that’s just a bunch of letters and numbers together, somebody that doesn’t have a profile photo, someone that has a ton of followers but has only posted about three, four photos, you can actually just click on the three dots next to their name and hit remove follower. No muss, no fuss. I know that it sounds counterintuitive to want to get rid of followers, but what you’re doing is you’re removing the superfluous people that are not going to like or post or share or be a client of yours anyway. Remove those people from your audience and that way you’ll be able to engage and reach the people who matter that much more easily. Also via email, I think it’s really important to stay in communication. Update everybody with what’s going on. Talk about what you’re doing behind the scenes. Talk about all the things you’re doing to stay sharp and communicate that. I think open lines of communication are always better than allowing people to make assumptions because you haven’t been in touch.

JAIME: I do something similar but with my email list, and that is to purge those who have not opened emails in a while. I don’t need to be sending emails to people who aren’t interested. And you know, that might seem harsh because at one point they were interested and perhaps they’ve lost interest. That may be an indication that your content needs to be refreshed or perhaps they’ve moved on to something else in their career. So it’s kind of nice to reset at this point so that we stay connected to those that value our message and we value them. I provided them with relevant content.

ASHLEY: Yes. I love that because most of us are paying per subscriber on something like MailChimp or Constant Contact, whatever that looks like. There’s no need to pay for subscribers that aren’t picking up what you’re laying down anyway. So yes, go through those lists. You can always sort your reports by who has opened an email in the past six months. You can send them what’s called a re-engagement email, and I’m sure you’ve seen those in your inbox that say, hey, was it something we said, or, we miss you or, haven’t heard from you in a while. Do you still want to receive our emails? That’s a great way to make sure people are still interested. And if they don’t even open that one, I think the writing’s on the wall. You can go ahead and safely remove them from your list. So Jaime, what’s the next thing you’re going to be doing?

JAIME: Well, if we’ve cleaned the salon and we’ve gone through products, and purged those things that we’re not using anymore, this is the time to then inventory the things that we do value. So taking an inventory is something that I usually do only once a year on a grand scale. I mean, obviously I’m sort of keeping track and in my mind, I know when I need to reorder things, but just to virtually inventory the entire salon is not something I generally have time to do. But I think it’s important because it’s at these times when I’m thinking more carefully about what money am I spending? How much money do I have sitting on my shelves? How much product do I need if, for example, if the supplier is not able to send me products when I order, if they’re back-ordered? That’s going to create a problem. You need to make that inventory. At the same time, you should be making a list, whether you do it manually, which I don’t suggest. It’s much better if you’re able to do it digitally because then you can keep a spreadsheet and actually include links to the suppliers that you use, listing the products, and the price that you typically pay, so you can keep track. This is an ideal time to research new suppliers. If there’s a product that you’re using that isn’t quite performing up to the standards that you expect, take this time to  cast a wide net and see what else is available that could perhaps do the job better for you in the future. If you don’t have a safety data sheet for every one of the products that you use, make a binder. Put it together. Have that available with the plastic sleeves so you can swap them out. Because again, once you’ve purged a product from your salon, if you’re not going to be getting it back, go ahead and toss out that safety data sheet and get a new one for any new products you introduce.

ASHLEY: Oh, Jaime, I love this idea and it’s honestly something that would not have occurred to me, which is taking an inventory. Back in my retail days, we did this yearly and it was a huge pain in my you know what, but at least that way I knew what I had. And we’ve all done this where you could have sworn you were out of something, you order it, and then you move something in your supply closet, and there’s a case of them. If toilet paper is any indication, there could be a run on things that you’d never expect, and it’s not something that we necessarily stockpile. But yeah, if your supplier can’t get it to you for six weeks, what are you going to do? How are you going to be prepared? And if this whole situation has taught me anything, it’s that you have to stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. And if you have things that you can keep on hand, that can be multipurpose, if you can keep disposables stocked and ready to go, it’s just, it just makes good sense. And we’ve all done that where we’ve ordered something that we thought we needed, and lo and behold, we have tons of it ready and waiting to go. It just, at that point, becomes a waste of money and then a waste of space really to which can be at a premium for a lot of us. Yes, I love that. Take an inventory, and make a list, and get that somewhere where your salon manager can see it, the owner can see it, whatever it is you need to do. Really great advice. I love that one.

JAIME: Well with your retail management background, I thought you’d appreciate that.

ASHLEY: Yes. I had to scan my own inventory and we used to do it overnight when the store was closed. I affectionately referred to it as hell week and every time I said, never again, but when it’s your own stuff and your own money, it takes a very different place in your mind and in your heart. Speaking of inventory, I need to send my e-file handpiece in for service and I could never justify doing it because what if I needed it? What if I sent it in, and they were going to clean it for me and service it, and get it all lubed up and ready, and then I needed it for a job in three days? What am I going to do? This is the perfect time to send your tools in for sharpening, for service, for maintenance, because a lot of us are going to be seeing a very different client flow than we would usually. So send in your equipment, have things serviced, and just be ready to be back at A-1, ship-shape, top speed, when we’re ready to do so.

JAIME: I happen to be getting all new tools, so I’m super excited for this.

ASHLEY: Aren’t you fancy?

JAIME: And I’ll be donating the tools that I will no longer be using. 

ASHLEY: Oh.

JAIME: Yeah. So.

ASHLEY: Wow. 

JAIME: Finding a different home for them, probably to a local beauty school.

ASHLEY: Well, look at you. You’ve got all these great ideas. You’re doing all this philanthropic stuff, and I’m over here like, I’m going to get my handpiece serviced.

JAIME: Well, you know, the philanthropic stuff makes up for the guilt that one might feel, I, I’ll use the word one, the one, me, might feel. If I were to look at some of the products that I have and reflect on how much money was spent to obtain them, that could make you feel bad. By donating the products, it makes you feel good. And really, I don’t feel like I need to be making any money. Like, what value do I place on a used tool? I can’t even imagine, when I would encourage any salon owner to replace things as they need to be replaced, not always looking for a bargain, but looking for value.

ASHLEY: I would much rather spend a little bit more now for a better tool that I don’t have to replace in six months, or something that’s going to be a little bit more durable. But I love the idea of donating, getting rid of things that are no longer going to serve you, but would be just so impactful to a beauty school student, or a woman in some type of shelter situation, or something like that, whether it’s product, tools, whatever it is. Everything can find a new home and, and you can be very sustainable and eco-friendly that way too, which is very cool.

JAIME: If you need to generate income and you have new products or equipment that are brand new, still in the original packaging, by all means post that for sale, if that’s something that you want to do. But I personally don’t have the patients for arranging for that, or shipping something to someone. I’d much rather just donate.

ASHLEY: I am not above a Facebook marketplace moment, that is for sure. If it’s something I think that is in great condition and could definitely find a new home, I say go for it. So I think that covers everything I want to do and accomplish, and that’s a pretty decently sized to do list. But what about you, Jaime? Have we gone over everything of yours?

JAIME: Almost. I think the last thing deserves its own episode separate from this, but I will say that having gone through these steps, if you’ve deep cleaned your salon, and you’ve taken a close look at all of the things that you have in there, and have decided to get rid of things that you’re not using anymore, and just focus on the things that you really need and value, this would be the ideal time to do the math again. You’ve got a spreadsheet, hopefully with all of your suppliers in it, and you’ve checked on the latest pricing. Why not reevaluate how much you’re spending to provide services? Why not do that calculation of cost per service to evaluate the efficacy of your pricing structure? We all need structure. We just don’t take the time to impose it on ourselves. Now’s the time. If anything, I would suggest that if you’re going to spend some money on something that was going to last, and you could use over and over and over again, I would suggest the Salon Service Pricing Toolkit that our colleague Tina Alberino from This Ugly Beauty Business has assembled, and it’s remarkable in that you give the information to the spreadsheets. It will do the calculations for you so you can understand whether or not you’re charging the right amount of money for the services that you provide.

ASHLEY: Doing the math is definitely something that scares a lot of us because it’s hard to find the time to sit down, and know how much we use per product for each service ,and all of those calculations that you need to do in order to have a really clear understanding of your cost per service, but this is the time to do it. If you purchase and use this pricing toolkit, this is a gift you will give yourself and your business. It’s something that is very eye-opening. I think a lot of people, once they do the math, realize that, hey, maybe I’m not charging enough for XYZ service, or I’m spending entirely too much for this product that supports a service that’s booked once a quarter. It’s really important to take a very critical look at what you’re spending your money on, especially now that it might be a finite resource for a lot of us. And just think about like, what’s serving you? Again, the joy of, of what is serving you in your business and what you can eliminate, what you can replace, and looking at what you’re charging and making sure you’re making the right margin on that too. We can link that in our, our show notes today to make sure that you get that. I highly recommend that tool. It’s a great way to take a really hard look at your business and make sure that it’s doing what it needs to do to support you and anyone else you may employ or be employed by.

JAIME: During this time when we may not be generating income directly from clients, we could always be taking steps to reduce what we spend. 

ASHLEY: Always.

JAIME: And I think this is a time where we can be productive in ways where we normally wouldn’t have these big blocks of time. Sometimes just having the block of time ahead of you gives you the motivation to go ahead and start a project, and then once you start it, you realize, well, that didn’t take that long at all, really. But, just mentally, you always are thinking of other things, and we can always spend our time watching television shows, and movies, and reading, and that’s wonderful, but there’s enough leisure time built into our schedule already. We need to focus more on business to replace the time that we would be spending with clients.

ASHLEY: Yeah. I mean, it’s time that you would have already been devoting to your business anyway. Why not use it to improve your business during this downtime? I think that’s such a great way to think of it and to frame it in your mind. And working from home a lot, I think it helps to wake up in the morning on a schedule, shower, bathe yourself, put on clothes you would normally wear out of doors, and really keep that structure because it will keep you sharp. It will keep you engaged in what you’re doing, and it is really tempting to wear your pajamas all day, and just fall into that Netflix hole. If that’s what you need for mental health reasons, take a couple of days and do that by all means. But then once it’s time to work, it’s time to work and let’s get to work and do it. I loved your ideas, Jaime. I thought they were really incisive, really insightful, and definitely something I’m going to take on. I love that inventory idea, so that’s probably one of the first things I’m going to do.

JAIME: And I like the fact that you, someone who’s a session manicurist, you still have products that you have to deal with. I can only imagine what you have stored in your home.

ASHLEY: I don’t even want to tell you because it’s, it’s embarrassing. Just being on PR lists and things like that, which I am very thankful for, it does mean that almost everybody’s quarterly collections come to me in the mail, and so I have to inventory them, take photos of them for social media, put them in a place that makes sense, update my kit. I’ve got this rotating amount of nail polish that once it’s out of the kit, it still is stored. I could definitely go through that and donate some of that for sure.

JAIME: And take a photo of it before you donate it. 

ASHLEY: Yeah, nah.

JAIME: Let’s see how much.

ASHLEY: That’s not happening. Oh, all right. Well, I think that does it for this episode. Everybody stay safe. Thank you for listening. If you could do us a huge favor and subscribe to Outgrowth, rate, and review us on your favorite podcast platform. That really helps us reach more listeners like you.

JAIME: Until next time.

ASHLEY: We’ll see you next week. Take care.

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