ASHLEY: Welcome to Outgrowth: A Slice of Pro Beauty with your hosts Ashley Gregory Hackett.
JAIME: And Jaime Schrabeck. We’ve always been confident our work as beauty pros could not be outsourced. What we never expected was that our work would be outlawed by government restrictions.
ASHLEY: How do we apply our experience from this year and plan for the next emergency? Let’s grow together.
JAIME: Ashley, it’s already November.
ASHLEY: I can’t believe it.
JAIME: And before we talk about our subject today, I want to acknowledge what’s happened in October. Congratulations, Mrs. Hackett.
ASHLEY: Well, thank you very kindly. Hopefully, it won’t change anything as far as the podcast going forward. You’ll just hear my new second last name.
JAIME: The holidays are ahead, and I find myself thinking beyond the holidays to the new year, and I think that might be a mistake because we still have two months to go.
ASHLEY: Yeah, we still have to get through I think what might be the most difficult, and challenging, and chaotic time of the year, which is post-election, and trying to figure out what these next two months are going to look like, and how they’re going to set us up for either success or potential failure in 2021.
JAIME: I’m bracing myself for the worst, and while I would like to be hopeful about our transition into the new year, I need to position myself so that no matter what happens, I’m prepared to take action because I will have already taken the actions necessary to make that possible.
ASHLEY: Yeah, no one wants to be a Debbie Downer about our prospects as an industry, but I think it is smart to really prepare ourselves for the worst and plan as if the worst case scenario will happen just so that we can get out in front of any kind of surprises or any sort of curve balls that come our way. And so I want to talk today about what we can do to best position ourselves as either beauty business owners or as workers, stylists, what have you, in the industry assuming that as the weather gets colder, as people gather for the holiday, and as we transition into this next year, things could get COVID-wise remarkably worse. And so really the smart beauty professional is going to position themselves in a planful way so that nothing is a surprise.
JAIME: There’s so much research we could be doing now. And so much we already know, particularly about how best to avoid getting sick.
ASHLEY: Agreed, and let’s be honest. When there is a vaccine, whether it’s in four months, 12 months, whatever that is, there are still going to be people that aren’t going to seek it out. And so our safety, and the PPE, and the protocols that we have in place will likely be in place for a long time. We need to be very flexible, but also very proactive in our approach to what our services look like for the next year and beyond, but even thinking about if we’ll be open and how do we keep our businesses afloat in the face of potentially another shutdown.
JAIME: In the past, we’ve always advocated for keeping your personal life separate from your professional life, but I don’t think that’s even a possibility now because so much of what we do in terms of how we spend our time personally could impact our professional lives. I’m making decisions about how I want to spend my holidays, who I’ll be spending them with to minimize the opportunity for getting sick and then bringing that back to work. So that’s one of the things that I’ve been discussing with clients are my holiday plans and the sacrifices that I’m willing to make for myself and for them.
ASHLEY: I was just having this conversation with my new husband this morning, about what we’re going to be doing for the holidays. And we made an exception to our very careful lifestyle by having a wedding with just our parents and siblings, and everyone was masked and everyone was COVID-tested beforehand. But I even understand that there’s going to be some side-eye sent my way because of it and I completely understand. But yeah, there’s a cost-benefit analysis that needs to happen I think for every person, as far as, do I quote unquote, miss out on a holiday with my family this year to ensure that I have a family next year. And the line, to your point, definitely gets blurred between, what we’re doing in our personal lives and how it affects our professional lives. And that line has never been fuzzier, especially I think financially. Are we dipping into personal savings to help our businesses? Are we blurring that line that Desarie spoke about as far as piercing the corporate veil and things like that? And I think that’s just our reality. So today let’s talk about the ways that we ourselves and our listeners could potentially pivot and be prepared for a shutdown that could happen mid-December.
JAIME: The preparations begin with understanding that when a shutdown order comes, we may or may not expect it. If we look at the statistics, and we look at rising case numbers and hospitalization numbers, and if we can anticipate that when an order comes down, it’s going to be an immediate order. It’s not going to be, we’re announcing this today. We expect you to be closed by next Thursday. You have to be in a position where you have information on your clients so that you can connect with them immediately. And you always talk about gathering emails and having that in a place where you can act quickly. I’m going to go so far as even drafting an email for that circumstance using some of the verbiage I’ve used in past emails because I’ve gone through two shutdowns and two reopenings already. So I kind of have this rhythm and I do have this list of clients that if I needed to, I could notify within five minutes.
ASHLEY: That’s super smart because it shows that you’re operating as if this could, the bottom could drop out this evening, and you’ve prepared yourself and your clients more importantly for communication from you via email, or text message, or however you’re most likely to converse with your clients. I think the time right now is best spent getting your clients used to one type of communication platform. If you’re communicating with some of your clients via Instagram DM, and some of your clients by email, and some via phone call, if you can spend the next few weeks getting everybody onto one platform and to expect messaging from you there as like your number one source of news about my salon, that way, if you are, heaven forbid, shut down in the next few months or in the first few months of 2021, you’ll be able to stay in communication with those clients for whatever kind of revenue stream that you’re going to take up during that time that you’re not working. This is a good way to kind of wean people off of DMs, or Facebook messenger, or any of the less efficient ways that we communicate with our clients and get them over to a consistent platform so that way you don’t have to run around playing whack-a-mole and making sure that you’ve put out the same message on 50 different platforms.
JAIME: Thank you for saying that I, if you could see me, I’m actually shaking my head, rolling my eyes, doing all of those things, because it’s so true that we’re going to miss someone. We’re not going to necessarily remember how we interact with each client if we are using so many different channels. I happen to have a number of older clients who don’t do email, that rely on phone messaging. So I want to minimize that number of clients as much as possible. I know who they are, but I don’t want to have that be the primary mode because we all know how inefficient that is. So I really appreciate your saying that because we do need to get the message to as many clients of ours as possible and at the same time as possible, because we want them to hear it from us first, not through the grapevine.
ASHLEY: Totally, it just helps them feel more valued as well as, like your priority and that way, again, you open up those lines of communication for their future support in whatever nontraditional way that you’re going to be supporting your business.
JAIME: Let’s talk about some of those non-traditional ways, because the model typically is that we generate most of our income from services. Retail, depending on how good we are at that, or, there’s so many different factors that impact how much we can retail to our clients. I think some specialties in our industry have an easier time of it.
JAIME: I think hair has a much easier time of it, depending on how much effort someone puts into doing their hair. But at a minimum, we could expect them to shampoo and condition their hair. But on the nail side of things, retail isn’t as important because I’m the one doing most of that work myself as the service provider. And then skincare, if you can get them into a routine, that’s fabulous using products that you’re providing to them. But I think we need to look beyond the traditional service generating 90% of your income and, and retail eeking out 10%.
ASHLEY: Well, especially if you’re shut down. Where’s that other 90% coming from? So in response to what happened in March and beyond this year, there have been some great resources made available and to be quite honest, yes, I’m a licensed nail technician and manicurist, but there is nothing stopping me from selling hair product to my clients. So I know that I might get a little bit of heat for that, but I have set up both an Amazon affiliate page, as well as a premier beauty page where I can sell hair care, nail care, maintenance kits,and others to my clients who just might need an outlet. Right now we’re in such a weird place because we’ve likely seen almost all of our clients since we’ve been able to reopen, no matter where we’re located. And now they have services again that they need to maintain, whether it be either pedicures, or soaking off their enhancements, or needing root touch up, or whatever that is. Knowing what we know from our partners at Associated Professionals, our liability insurance is only going to cover so much. And so if we’re selling someone professional-only product that could be a bit of a, an issue, but if we’re selling it through a third-party retailer or giving them recommendations on Amazon pro, that kind of absolves us of our liability and it still does generate revenue. You and I have a slightly different outlook on retail only because I think, as far as the nail retail, it’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. And without becoming like a garage sale bazaar, and selling purses, and jewelry, and candles, and everything else, there is a way to make retail work no matter your beauty discipline. I think it’s just a matter of if that’s your norm and your culture in your salon, and your clients know to expect it from you, versus, you know, something that you’re kind of taking up that mantle now, and it just feels weird and uncomfortable.
JAIME: As another aside regarding the liability issue, if you’re making your own products, there’s a problem with that too. So, but if we’re preparing for the possibility of another shutdown, that may be the opportunity to retail clients products and tools. That’s where I’m thinking I could make some progress, the tools that they may need to maintain their nails at home between appointments, if those appointments happen to extend months in between. So I’m looking to retail nail trimmers, cuticle tools, and then showing them how to use them.
ASHLEY: Right, and I think they’ll gain a newfound appreciation for how difficult it is to actually perform your own service, especially pedicures or any kind of dimensional hair color. Or, you know, a facial at home versus official experience are very different animals. But essentially we have to look at what worked for us during the last shutdown and how can you now elevate it? Because this could last just as long, but we have the added wrinkle of PPP loans coming due. A lot of us that are on any kind of unemployment will be running out soon. Landlords who may have been forgiving on rent before may not be in such a flexible position now. And really it’s about kind of playing this big game of risk and determining what needs your attention now, and what can you stretch out, and what can you take back up once you reopen? I’m operating as if we will be shut down. Being here in Chicago, I am very lucky that we had a very small, intimate wedding dinner at a restaurant in a private room with everybody masked, but indoor dining in Chicago has closed as of this Friday. So we have to be out in the streets in 40 degree weather eating if we want to eat at a restaurant. So really I think at this point, it’s just a matter of time and it’s not about if, it’s about when.
JAIME: I’ve been checking in with suppliers that I may not have ordered from since earlier this year or even late last year to make sure they’re even still in business and what their situation is, what their pricing is, what the availability of these products is. Because I don’t want to put myself in the position of trying to sell anything that I can’t access myself.
ASHLEY: Definitely. That’s a great idea. I just got a pedicure last week and my phenomenal nail tech who is a good friend of mine was telling me that she really maintained her business by selling soak-off kits to nail clients, and not just her clients, but through word of mouth and things like that. And she was charging a premium for these kits, upwards of 40, 50, $60 because they had name brand items in there. They were very comprehensive. They came with bonus tools and things like that, versus someone who’s selling it for $12 and thinking that that’s going to sustain their business. But she ran into some logistical issues as far as being able to get her hands on those products. And so when everybody has that idea at the same time, that puts a real strain on things. So think of it as toilet paper. How are you going to get your hands on it when no one has it? Will you be one of the people who’s working maybe a month ahead of time and getting your hands on it now?
JAIME: And are there portions of that kit that you could restock or replenish without replacing the entire kit itself so that clients aren’t making the same purchase every time?
ASHLEY: Right, like refill options and things like that. Cause again who knows how long this will last? I just, looking at the numbers for COVID, especially here in the Midwest, we’re really experiencing our very first bout of high numbers here, and knowing what the weather’s going to do and has been doing, it’s just going to get worse very quickly. But there are options and resources that we can link in the show notes if retailing something or creating product support kits, or affiliate commissions, things like that are interesting to you. I can share some of the things that I’ve been looking at and working with in order to get set up. That’s something you could start now so that you don’t have to completely get ready when you need to actually have that sort of thing be converting for you.
JAIME: At the same time, I wouldn’t invest too much of my cash into inventory, anticipating being able to sell a lot of product.
JAIME: I think we need to be mindful of maintaining a certain level of cash on hand so that we can respond more quickly if we’re not able to do what would normally generate income for us.
ASHLEY: Great point. Yes, you don’t want to be sitting on a bunch of inventory that’s just going to expire on you. But you can be laying the groundwork now with your clients and talking about here’s my plan if we shut down again. I don’t want you to be left high and dry. I am putting together these kits. How many can I put you down for? You know, doing something like a pre-order so that way you’re not over your skis in putting your cash or liquidity into products that you know is not going to move.
JAIME: Even just talking to clients learning about how they coped with the previous shutdown and the sorts of things that they were investing in, I think was very enlightening. Some of them actually did buy DIY gel kits.
ASHLEY: Oh, wow.
JAIME: As an example. And they came back and said, you make it look so easy. And that’s the point, I mean that’s the point of being a professional. I mean, first of all, you’re not working on yourself. You’re working on your client’s hand, or body, or head, or whatever. So yeah, it should look a lot easier when you do it, but whether they plan to keep using those kits, I don’t know. Would they expect something more from me? Is it something I’d even want to retail to them at that level? I tried to encourage most of my clients, being a manicurist, to do as much as they could with their natural nails and not worry so much about maintaining enhancements. That was one of the things that I encouraged them to do was sort of scale back their expectations for how their nails would function and look because it’s not that big of a priority.
JAIME: It’s just not.
ASHLEY: Yeah, well, and I think a lot of us came back to services where we had to completely tear down and rebuild just based on what was done at home, whatever damage that could have been. And hopefully our clients have learned that lesson now that being a kitchen beautician can be very fulfilling in the moment, but it can create larger problems for them down the road as far as getting that corrected. So maybe it can even be positioned as I want to make sure that you’re using the best possible products to maintain the result that we worked so hard for over the past year, 10 years, whatever. So I want to ensure that you’ve got the tools that you need to be successful so that when you come back, we can just hit the ground running right where we left off and not have to deal with greenies from press on nails, or horrible color corrections from black box die. Because people started to get itchy, we all saw it, and started experimenting with their look, and then quickly came out of that when we returned to some sort of normalcy. But I definitely think that the opportunity is there to retail. We just need to sort of get over ourselves and the discomfort of having that conversation. If I had a solution offered to me for a pain point that I experienced during the first shutdown, and it wasn’t explained to me or offered to me because someone thought I might feel uncomfortable about being sold, quote unquote, I would be kind of upset because now that transfers the work to me as the client to have to assemble those things. And they might be hard to get my hands on when I could’ve just had a gift wrapped solution presented in my lap.
JAIME: And even if the results were adequate or acceptable, I found that clients were pretty frustrated by the amount of time that they spent researching, and making the purchase, and struggling with how to work with the products, and then just the time spent doing the service itself. So if we can minimize any of those aspects, making sure that you’ve preselected the products. You’re the expert, right? You get to recommend whatever would work best, and then providing the instructions would be such a huge time saver, and you’re still going to get those clients back. I don’t think many of them will say, you know what? I’m, I’m good. I can do this on my own because as much time as they may have available, they don’t want to spend it doing this.
ASHLEY: Yeah, and that’s a great point too as well for your social media while shut down. Just use your platform to teach, explain, talk about why things work the way they work, how to use their kits at home and that’s just going to bring you more interest to that entire process if you’re talking about it on your platforms as well. Pivoting slightly as we talk about pivoting, I know that a lot of companies, and online scheduling softwares, and product manufacturers put out graphics about want to support your local salon, buy a gift card. And I know we have an entire episode about gift cards coming up that we’ve planned, hopefully, but I just wanted to give a quick shout out to the fact that if your plan is to sell a ton of gift cards in the next two months predicated on the notion that you’re going to be open in 2021, you’re essentially just kicking the can down the road and making that a future you problem because who’s to say when you’re going to reopen. And I think a lot of us that did sell gift cards in 2020 are still seeing the issue because now you owe services for revenue you received months ago.
JAIME: And if you can’t provide the services, you owe the money.
ASHLEY: That’s right. So while I think it’s a great idea, if you don’t dig any deeper than very surface, you’re going to see that it’s just going to create problems for you in the long run. Not that I’m anti gift cards, in general. I just think that gift cards really only work when things are normal and when there is no threat of you not being able to fulfill your end of that bargain which is providing the service.
JAIME: I am nodding my head. I’d, I had actually stopped selling gift cards at the new year. And not because I anticipated any of this, by any means, but when you go back through your records, however you keep them, whether you’re recording them manually, or using a spreadsheet, or through your salon management software, you really, really need to pull up that information. I would urge people to do this now because you might be surprised if you haven’t been paying attention, how much you actually owe your clientele collectively in gift card services.
ASHLEY: And how much time is tied up in that amount. Because I’m sure busy salons could have weeks of chair time tied up in gift cards.
JAIME: Not to say that you’re going to get a whole bunch of people redeeming gift cards at once, and I’ve always thought it was always crazy that people would sort of begrudge the fact that someone was redeeming a gift card they had actually paid for. I don’t like working for free. It’s like you’re not working for free. You got a cash advance. You were paid in advance for that service. That’s not working for free.
ASHLEY: Yeah, gift cards are a slippery slope and we definitely want to delve further into that in the next few weeks just because it’ll be prime gift card season.
JAIME: What are your predictions about the holiday season, Ashley, in terms of the traffic that we might or might not see in salons? Do we think that people will want to invest in making themselves look better, feel better, even if they aren’t getting together with friends and family?
ASHLEY: Honestly, I think Halloween is really going to tell us what we can expect from the holiday season as far as we can’t really trick or treat. There are people coming up with ways to shoot candy at children in a socially-distanced way. I saw in my neighborhood Facebook group, they were talking about cutting custom lengths of large PVC pipe so that you could drop candy from a window, or a porch, or whatever, and have it shoot down to children which seems fun and I love the creativity involved in that. But I was seeing Halloween decorations, 50 and 60% off at craft stores at the beginning of the month, which is something that would be unheard of. So that will help us determine, cause why do people get services done around the holidays anyway? Well, it’s for holiday parties, which should not be happening. Family gatherings, which again, should only be happening in very safe, extreme circumstances. And so it’s going to be a holiday at home and beauty services I don’t think are going to be a priority beyond what people want to put on Instagram, or FaceTime, or whatever. So maybe we start focusing on the pain point of, you know, look good for your Zoom. Look good for your FaceTime. Look good for your family holiday call. But beyond that, I, I’m not really sure. What, what’s your take on it?
JAIME: Because most of my clientele is committed to standing appointments, we don’t add additional appointments during the holiday season unless there were a special occasion, or their travel took them somewhere where we’d need to make that adjustment, and that’s just not happening. So it’s never been so consistent going into the holidays and I’ve never been one to market prom, or the holidays, or any special occasions because I do really want to focus on those clients who are committed to those standing appointments year round. So I’ve never really worried about these fluctuations. I’ve never banked on more people coming in at the holidays or fewer people coming in after the first of the year. That has never really concerned me as much, but certainly this pandemic situation is going to affect things because it will be based on people’s perception of whether it’s worth taking that risk, whether it’s safe or not. So in terms of the scheduling, what I’m most focused on is whether or not we’ve actually nailed down exactly what the timing is for the services, knowing that we have these extra steps to take, as we welcome the client into the salon, and we have them go wash their hands, and we have to handle payments slightly differently. All of these different things do add time to what we’re doing and then there’s the time in between. So I think we’re there, I, but being there, I’m looking at probably only being able to provide services at approximately, maybe 60 to 75% capacity.
ASHLEY: What I think you’ve done so successfully is removed the peaks and valleys from your schedule. And I mean if you were to look at your schedule over the year, and look at how busy you are on the peak, and how slow you are on the valley, you very successfully by training your clients into standing appointments and not taking walk-ins, and being very loyal to the people that have been loyal to you is that you’ve really been successful in creating a straight line line of client frequency, and income, and all of that in managing your schedule so effectively. I think that’s what we as an industry need to strive toward is removing the peaks and valleys and creating a more consistent, even line. Now there are industry norms that we’ve talked about in previous episodes about busy holiday season. I actually just got an email from the PBA saying something about, are you ready for the busy holiday season? I’m just shaking my head. It’s not going to be busy for the majority of us. So how do we turn that valley into kind of more of a midline and then remove some of the peaks. It’s difficult to do when you’re not sure if you’re going to be open or not. And that’s why this entire episode is about how can you get out in front of it and preplan. And so your schedule management down to your service protocols, your timing, you’ve removed a lot of the variables and I think that that is something that we could all learn from.
JAIME: I’m concerned about the decisions that get made during those weeks or days during your week where you might be feeling, you know, wow, this is going really well, versus the decisions you make when things aren’t going so well. And I think the consistency helps me make better decisions and more long-term decisions. I don’t panic when it slows down a bit and I don’t get giddy when it’s incredibly busy, because I think we do tend to expect that whatever we’re experiencing to last. So if we happen to be really busy, this happened, we saw this when the reopening happened. You know, people were saying, Oh wow, you know all my clients are coming back. Well, of course they’re coming back. They’re all trying to get in as soon as they possibly can.
JAIME: But two weeks later, were you busy? Three weeks later, were you busy or did you all the sudden see a complete slowdown because you hadn’t stabilized their routine? It’s like turning a faucet on and off, as opposed to just having it be a slow drip, and wasting water.
ASHLEY: I was just going to say, a drip.
JAIME: A drip. You know, I did not want to use the light switch metaphor only because if I have to hear the word toggle one more time, I’m going to get really upset. But you understand my point is that you’re trying to create, or at least I am, trying to create as consistent an income stream as possible because most of my bills are consistent. My rent doesn’t fluctuate according to how many clients I have. My energy bills, my other utilities, most of my bills are fairly consistent. The only thing that would fluctuate would be the money I invest in products because obviously the more services you do, the more products you consume. But I will tell you, I have had to invest in so little product this year because that’s a reflection of how many services I’ve been able to do.
ASHLEY: And the planning piece I think really reflects on that as well. So besides moving your clientele to standing appointments, what are some of the other steps that you’ve taken to kind of homogenize your client flow as well as your service offerings?
JAIME: I haven’t adjusted my service offerings, but I’ve been very open and have actually recommended to clients that they change the pattern or their routine of what they’re having done. So in the past, if they had been consistently having one of my more expensive, more elaborate services, and I feel that’s just not how they want to spend their time or money, I’ll be the first to say, you know what, let’s talk about doing this instead. So I still have them coming. They’re still having their nails taken care of. They may not be getting the massage and the paraffin with that service, but they still leave looking good and feeling like they’ve been taken care of. So I think I’ve broached the subject before they’ve brought it up to me. And for those who want to just continue with what they had before without making any changes, well, that’s great, but I don’t want to feel like I’m putting anyone on the spot or making them uncomfortable just expecting everything to be the same. I want to acknowledge that things are different and that I’m ready to adapt to whatever it is that they need, even if it means that they’re not coming back for awhile, if ever.
ASHLEY: Hmm. That’s some food for thought. I think it’s a difficult transition for people who rely on, let’s say like walk-in traffic or what have you, but this is also a great time to be, this just kind of popped into my head, but this is a great time to be banking social media content as well, taking multiple angles, video, still photo of each client you’re working with now so that you do have a stable of content that you can continually stay top of mind by posting regularly on your social media channels. The other thing that I think we may be missing as an industry is there was a lot of discussion around reopening and what our pricing would look like, whether someone would be charged something like a COVID surcharge or others vehemently denying the fact that they would ever consider raising their prices after reopening because our clients have had it difficult too. There seems to be two different schools of thought on that, but I know for a fact, just given how many people have not done the math on their regular service pricing, I’m wondering how many have done the math and assessed based on all the new PPE items that they’ve had to add or switching to disposable, what have you, and adjusting their pricing for that. What do you think about that?
JAIME: I completely agree. The adjustment also for the time, and that’s been the biggest shock to what we’re doing. And I have decided not to raise prices January 1, not to say that I won’t a couple months later if it comes to that, but I’ve just tried to figure out what exactly is the breakeven. Where are the profits, knowing that we’re scaling back on some things? By not providing amenities, I’m saving some money there, but not enough to compensate for the reduced capacity. And it’s something where I’m trying to figure out how much I need to invest in marketing, which we talked about a couple of episodes ago, that that’s part of the equation and It’s a balancing act, certainly. And the pricing where I don’t want people to come from is that whole issue that you owe your clients the sacrifice of not supporting yourself. I don’t like, I don’t understand that. Again, getting services done professionally is a luxury. None of what we do is a necessity in the sense that it’s life or death. I’m going to catch some heat for that. I know I am. When clients have realized they can do a lot of this for themselves. They don’t want to. They’d much prefer having a professional do it. They like the results better. They like the experience. They want to be pampered, but let’s face it. If we look at our clientele and we’re to do a number count of how many people we actually rely on to support ourselves, it’s in the hundreds. It’s not thousands, and thousands, and thousands of people. Regardless of whether we live in a rural, small town or a large, urban setting, there are many more people in our communities who are not clients of ours. So how many of those do we need to go after? How many of those do we need to, to market to to fill in the gaps? And so that we think more in terms of we may never be able to do the volume that we need to make up for inadequate pricing. The volume game has been a loser in the past. It’s going to be a loser even more so now because it would be such a hurdle to convince people that this is something they want to do if they hadn’t done it before.
ASHLEY: Well, and wouldn’t you much rather have one client paying you $60 than six clients paying you 10?
ASHLEY: I mean, that, that is just such a staple of service that it’s something a lot of us need to come to terms with. There is a difference between empathy and ignorance, and I’m not calling anyone ignorant. I’m just saying, in most cases we are ignorant of our actual cost per service, what it costs to keep the lights on, to provide a service with the supplies, and tools, and time. And you said it so perfectly when you said, why do we put ourselves kind of in the line of fire here and expect or think our clients expect us to sacrifice? If it costs you 10 more dollars because you need to wear a different mask, you need to put plastic down. You have to have this many different pairs of gloves per service. Why shouldn’t the client absorb that cost because they’re the one incurring it by having the service in the first place? It’s not heartless. It’s not, I can’t even think of the right words to say that we should have all raised our prices. Even just nominally to make up for the fact that it costs us more to provide services through COVID and not only does it cost you more financially, your risk is higher because you’re seeing people who could potentially be asymptomatic but infected and your capacity is diminished. And so that just creates this perfect storm of you need to have clients that understand the value of your service, which is a whole other can of worms, but by doing so, going back to the one client at 60 versus the six at 10, it doesn’t cost you as much to find that one client and maintain that relationship as it would to find six clients who are willing to pay you a discount price. Until we all wrap our heads around that as an industry, this is going to be just this vicious cycle of attrition, and loss, and salons closing, because we’ve never been good at correctly pricing our services, especially in the nail world. And if I had a dollar for every time I saw, how much do you charge for a gel manicure in this size city on Facebook, I wouldn’t have to work.
JAIME: I just saw a post asking about what specials or discounts people would be offering for the holidays.
ASHLEY: What? Jaime.
JAIME: What? What? I mean, I, I feel, I feel a bit guilty as we’re having this conversation for not raising my prices. I feel like, you know, I’m holding my own not raising prices, but that beauty professionals are discussing actually offering discounts and specials, I’m flabbergasted.
ASHLEY: It’s very short-sighted in the, and I’m clawing at my face while I say this, but you and I are on the no discounts ever train, and send us an email if you want to know why. But there’s this weird equation of trying to, again in that process of trying to remove the peaks and valleys of your income and your client flow, that somehow a discount is going to remove the valley. And really all you’re doing is bringing in a client and handing them a shovel because you’re saying what I do is actually worth 25% less than what I say it is. So in order to entice you to come in, whether it’s through a Groupon, or a new client discount, or whatever, you’re digging yourself deeper because then you’re asking someone to not only come back to you a second time, but to pay 20, 15, 25, 50% more, the next time that they do it. That’s a huge leap to make as a new client. Why shouldn’t it just be that price every time I come and see you? And so you’ve now introduced the possibility of price fluctuation, which is a number one client complaint when they see blah, blah, blah, and up on a menu, or starting at blah, blah, blah. If there’s any question about how much something costs when it comes time to swipe your card, just throw that whole experience away and start over. I’m getting on a soap box here because I just want to take so many people that I see on Facebook or asking questions at shows, and I just want to shake them in a helpful, constructive way, but I still want to shake them and say, a client could go to Target, and buy a bottle of Sally Hansen nail polish, and do the same thing at home. What they’re doing is paying you for your time, your expertise, your pampering experience. This is a luxury. No one needs their nails done, or else they will die. So why not apply a premium price to that experience? Yes, they’re going to be able to buy nail polish everywhere you look, but they’re not going to be able to apply it in a way that looks clean and neat. They’re not going to get a hand massage with it unless I don’t know what their home situation is. But all of this to say, if you’re not raising your prices to at least account for the increased cost of doing business, you’re eating that, and unfortunately, that bell tolls for thee and you’re going to have to pay the piper at some point.
JAIME: Whenever we talk about money, it’s an equation where we can increase what we have by either generating more revenue or reducing our expenses. So let’s talk about what might happen in the new year, around some of our most significant expenses, the primary one being our leases.
ASHLEY: Well, we’ve got several episodes talking about commercial leases, rent agreements, what wiggle room you have and I highly suggest you go back and look at those. We can link those in the show notes as well, with Amy Toepper from Legal In A Box and she explains them really well. But the wiggle room that your landlord may have had earlier in the year, that could be gone, and so what are you going to do if you are beholden to your rent payment every week or month, and you’re not open. Get out in front of it, find out what options you have now, instead of trying to play catch up later.
JAIME: Just in my immediate area, there have been a number of businesses that are no longer functioning and those spaces are now listed for lease. In fact, my immediate next door neighbor just moved out. That business had been in that location, through different ownership, but that particular business had been there for 40 years.
ASHLEY: Oh, wow. That’s shocking.
JAIME: So no more storefront for that particular business. So there’s a vacancy, and I think there’s a lesson in knowing how your landlord deals with other tenants. There is a lesson in opening up the dialogue now, because even if you don’t expect to have to close, it’s good to have the conversation with your landlord about, hey, you know, before I get into trouble or before we’re at odds with each other, what can we do now to make sure that we both survive this?
ASHLEY: Yes. Isn’t it better to have a conversation when you’re not desperate? Going back just slightly to the service pricing thing, it’s math. Math is a study in absolutes. There’s no feelings. There’s no emotion involved in math. It’s dollars and cents and it’s the bottom line When it comes to landlords and commercial leases and things like that, I think there wouldn’t be a situation where your proactivity would not be appreciated. If you open that dialogue now, you don’t have to have those really uncomfortable conversations wherein you’re already six weeks behind on your rent and you have very few cards to play. This is something that if you have these conversations now, you open that door and you start to say, look. I want to plan. I want to be conscientious here as a renter. What can we work out now so that we are both on good terms through however long this next shutdown will last and we can both come out the other side still being in business? It’s important.
JAIME: It is very important, even if you’ve been able to pay your rent, your landlord is not going to know if those are your last $2 each month, or if you’re surviving unless you have that conversation. They may not know exactly what it’s taking to give them that money. All that money might be coming from your loan. All that money might be better spent doing something else. So I don’t think that landlords can be content thinking, well, I’m getting the monthly payment. Everything is going to be fine. Because from one month to the next, you as the tenant may decide, you know what? I can’t do it this month. I cannot do it this month, even though I’ve been able to all along, because now it’s crunch time and I have bigger priorities. The money’s just not there.
ASHLEY: So if we are thinking about pivoting and trying to maintain our level of income even though we’re not open, what kind of alternate revenue streams could someone turn to, whether it be inside or outside the industry, to try to kind of drum up some alternate options
JAIME: I think within the industry, we’ve always valued education, but we haven’t always paid for it. So if you’re able to pivot to providing education that others are willing to pay for, kudos to you.
JAIME: I mean, I don’t know what to say because we’ve had events where we’ve been responsible for them. We’ve organized these events. We’re the ones responsible for collecting the monies, and producing the content, and actually presenting. And we’ve had great successes and at other times we’ve been wondering why more people haven’t signed up. You could have those extremes as well and you can have the best content on the planet and people may not be willing to pay for it. So if you’re in a position where you’re able to do that, I think that’s wonderful. In terms of other ways to make money, if you have to go outside the industry to do it, that’s what you have to do. I mean, if, if it’s leaving the industry altogether, maybe it’s just meant to be a temporary sabbatical. Then make sure you keep your license active.
JAIME: At a minimum, like don’t walk away completely because you want to have that option in the future to come back without too much headache.
ASHLEY: I don’t think anybody would judge anyone for leaving the industry right now, whether it be permanently or temporarily, just to make sure that they maintain the things that they do need, which is housing, and food, and utilities, and vehicles, and things like that. There’s so much of that happening in other industries for people who don’t have the ability to work from home, or are looking to add on a virtual assistant work, or there’s so many options out there that if you needed to take a position, whether it be part-time or full-time outside of the industry, I don’t think anybody would ever say anything about that. I think it’s just right now about survival, and getting to the point where we can be comfortable again, and have a bit of a savings, and then bring yourself back to the industry you love.
JAIME: And I don’t even think it needs to be explained, although I have heard some explanations. I’ve heard people say, I’m not able to do this because I have a spouse at home who’s immunocompromised and I can’t take the risk of bringing home COVID to my household. I’ve heard all different kinds of things and I don’t think you need to say that so much as this, you know, doesn’t work for me right now. This is not what’s best for my health,and my family, or whatever you want to say. I don’t think you need to go into a lot of detail if you choose to do that. But also speaking of alternative revenue streams, what I would hope people would not choose to do, my colleagues in the beauty industry, is to pursue revenue that falls outside of what we’re allowed to do as licensees under the restrictions that we’re functioning under, because while it might help you as an individual in the short term, it is going to screw us and you eventually in the long term and we’ve talked about deregulation and the pressures on our industry. I think a lot of what’s happened through the pandemic will come back as examples of our entire system being under incredible stress. And whether that system functions or not will have a lot to do with how compliant we are.
ASHLEY: Thank you for saying that because the temptation will be great. And there are those that should be in the know that are promoting things that are just outside of our scope of practice. Case in point, I received an email this morning, a round-up from one of the industry publications saying nail technicians are great brow waxers, are great brow artists, and you can add this revenue stream. I’m thinking, no, I can’t. I don’t have the ability to legally wax someone in my state. So, first of all, how dare you? And second of all, there’s going to be these suggestions made from people who lack the credibility or the knowledge in the first place and will lead you down the primrose path of something that violates your insurance, or will keep you from being able to reopen your business the way you want to when this is all over. And so I appreciate you Jaime, for having the credibility to bring that up, because there are so many out there that unfortunately do not, and will sadly lead a lot of our industry astray in the process.
JAIME: Leading our industry astray are on-demand apps who are recruiting beauty pros to go into people’s homes. First of all, that may not have been legal in your state even when there was no COVID and it’s not likely to be legal right now if there are any restrictions on us as professionals. I can’t even go into a client’s home under the normal rules of their being incapacitated.
ASHLEY: And I will say I have reported someone in a different state for doing just that because it was incredibly dangerous. And think of me what you will for that, but I don’t think that giving our entire industry a bad name in the process is worth one person’s manicure. I really don’t. So again, I could be making some friends or some foes right now, but it’s unfortunate that it’s happening and that people are being pushed to that point to make that sort of decision. This person just was completely ignorant of the rules anyway so it wasn’t a matter of, I need this to feed my family, soup for my family. It was just more of a, oh, this is a good opportunity to launch my mobile services kind of a deal, which, sorry, no.
JAIME: While we’re on the subject of things that may or may not make us friends, you and I both have the same attitude towards participating in any kind of multi-level marketing scheme.
ASHLEY: We sure do. I feel like I’ve been really enjoying anti-MLM TikTok lately, and it’s cool to see a lot of like Gen Z understanding it for what it is. If a business costs you several hundred to several thousand dollars to enter, it’s not a business. You’re making money for your upline and that’s it. Since you like listening to podcasts, I highly recommend season one of the podcast The Dream if you want to learn more about that. But multilevel marketing, there are some great products out there I’ve bought from them before, but I’ve never found them to be any type of successful business venture.
JAIME: Along those same lines, I would be very cautious about investing in any kind of coaching right now, too.
ASHLEY: Yeah. I mean no coach is going to be able to remove governmental restrictions, no matter how good they are, and I am an excellent coach. I can tell you. I can’t even get that done. So yeah, it’s, you know stick with us here on the podcast. You can get tons of free advice from us and feedback as well. I do think that what’s cool about what’s happening right now is that there are communities forming that are supportive of each other and there are good places to turn to ask questions or just sort of relate to each other. But yeah, it’s difficult to say that any kind of coaching right now is going to be super effective, unless you are totally lost about how you could potentially be bringing in some kind of revenue when you’re shut down and that is someone who specializes in that.
JAIME: If you need a pep talk or a kick in the pants, we’re here for that.
ASHLEY: Oh boy, are we. I really don’t want this episode to come off as just incredibly negative. I’m very hopeful, and I’m hopeful on behalf of our listeners and our industry, that being out in front of this and having a plan is really going to ensure the survival of more beauty businesses when this is all said and done. And I’m sure it’s a Churchill quote, but it’s something my mom says all the time and I know you’ve heard me say it. Failing to plan is planning to fail. And so if you’re just kind of winging it and flying by the seat of your pants, I hope you have pants when this is all over.
JAIME: I can’t say anything more, but that’s it. I think, I think that’s exactly it. And planning is an action and if it’s not the right moment to trigger those actions that you’ve planned, that’s okay. We hope that moment never comes if it’s something like having to shut down your business, but again, being able to anticipate that these are things that are even possible. I think that’s what we’re facing now are things that we couldn’t even conceive of having to do when this year started.
ASHLEY: All right, well, let’s get planful and we can continue this conversation on our Instagram as well as in our email, feel free to drop us a line anytime.
JAIME: If you’re enjoying Outgrowth, leave a review on Apple podcasts with just one click. Visit bit.ly/outgrowthpodcast.
ASHLEY: Yeah, we make it really easy for you. And as always, you can follow us in comment on recent episodes on Instagram at @outgrowthpodcast. Go ahead and give us a follow.
JAIME: Until next time Ashley.
ASHLEY: All right. Be smart.
JAIME: Be safe.