Is it Time to Move On? How to Evaluate Your Salon

At some point in our careers, we’ve all had to assess our current employment situation and decide whether or not we’re in the best salon for us and our career goals. Sometimes, the decision is easy and obvious. In other instances, you may end up “on the fence” so to speak. Coming to a conclusive decision may be difficult. You don’t want to make a rash decision you’ll end up regretting later but you don’t want to stay in a toxic workplace either.

When it comes down to it, you spend quite a lot of time at work–you shouldn’t spend it being miserable.

This article will help you decide if it’s time to leave your workplace, approach the owner about making some changes, or wait it out.

Here are some questions you need to ask yourself before submitting your resignation:

1.) Do you wake up excited about your workplace and your coworkers? Obviously, you are not going to jump out of bed every day thrilled about going to work. There will be good times and bad times at your workplace. However, if you’re waking up every day dreading the time you’re going to spend in the salon, you need to start considering your options.

2.) Are the salon’s professional values (or your own) starting to drift in conflicting directions? Let’s say you’re working at a family salon. When you began your employment, the dress code dictated that everyone wore black and conducted themselves professionally. As time goes on, things change and those values slip. Eventually, the dress code no longer applies. As a result, the employees are behaving unprofessionally and acting inappropriately at work. These changes cause you to lose clients. Your professional values no longer mesh with the environment you work in.

Consider whether or not you want to allow the salon’s reputation to alter your own.

In this case, approaching the owner and proposing a solution first is a good idea. If the owner is unwilling to compromise, hit the classifieds.

3.) Are you hearing complaints from your clients? This business is about service. If the people you are servicing are expressing to you that they are unhappy, you have two options: you can take their complaints and address them or you can ignore them and eventually lose their business.

Talk to the owner and try to resolve the issues. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to go.

If clients are unsatisfied with your coworkers and your work environment, get out.

It’s only a matter of time before they all bail and the salon goes under.

4.) Are you at a salon that helps you grow as a professional? If you’re interested in being more than “just another hairdresser” are you at a salon that encourages and helps facilitate professional growth? Plenty of salons offer continuing education and opportunities for advancement. Some even offer portfolio building assistance and participate in fashion shows and photoshoots for local fashion magazines.

If you want to grow as a professional and your salon is not willing or able to offer you those opportunities, resign and find another salon that will.

5.) Are you making enough money? If you’re not getting enough business to build a decent book or the prices are set so low that you’re barely making enough to get by, pack up and get out. Business is business.

You’re at work to make money. Once the cash flow dries up, there’s no reason for you to be there.

My personal rule is this: I will give a salon a six month probationary period. If, at the end of that probationary period, I am not booked six weeks out–I need to move on. I know what I’m capable of in terms of building my clientele. If I haven’t built a following after six months, I know I’m in the wrong place for me.

If you know what you’re capable of as well, you can set a similar benchmark and deadline.

(Side note: If you don’t understand that you should be getting paid at least the prevailing minimum wage–even if you’re considered “commission-only,” you need to read this post.)

6.) Are your coworkers making you miserable? Every salon has at least one asshole who makes it their personal mission to make your life a living hell. Hopefully, you’re in a salon that’s managed properly and those problem employees get dealt with accordingly but if you’re going through constant bullying and mind games and the manager or owner has failed to put a stop to it, it’s time to leave. Nobody deserves to be miserable at their place of employment or suffer abuse at the hands of malicious coworkers.

Bottom line: business is business.

Leaving a toxic workplace can be hard. Despite the problems that compromise your professional happiness, you may be close with the owner or your coworkers on a personal level, which complicates matters even further. If you’ve decided it’s time to go, read this post about how to quit your job the right way.

Have you ever had to leave a toxic work environment? What happened and how did you know it was time to make a run for the door? Let us know in the comments!

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Tina Alberino
Tina Alberino
Beauty industry survivalist, salon crisis interventionist, tactical verb-weapon specialist, and the leader of at least a hundred workplace revolutions, Tina Alberino is known as much for her extensive knowledge as for her sarcastic wit and mercilessly straightforward style. She’s the author of The Beauty Industry Survival Guide and Salon Ownership and Management: A Definitive Guide to the Professional Beauty Business. When she’s not writing, educating, or consulting, she can be found overthinking everything, identifying problems people didn’t know existed, and stubbornly working to change the things she cannot accept.

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  1. Should I consider leaving when my boss keeps changing her mind about how she runs her business. Example, first she wants booth renters, then she wants just commission stylists, then she wants to sell her salon, then she tells us we are now going booth rent, then she changes to a focus salon. She is wishy washy. This is all within the 9 months I’ve been there and 9 stylists have left. So that’s an average of 1 stylist per month.

    • Oh god, get out of there. Flakes like that can’t retain employees or clients. I’ve had consulting clients exactly like this woman, and I can tell you it’s only a matter of time before she gets frustrated and gives up completely. Find a new job now before you show up and realize she’s locked the doors and won’t be reopening.

  2. I am an employee. I am being attacked by the mgrs because they are intimidated by me because i had the highest numbers in the salon for sales and services. Then they cut my hours to only 3 days when im full time employee. So i decided to quit and they boxed my stuff up and took my stuff. Is this allowed? What can i do?

  3. I work at a salon, where the owner does 50% commission. The owner expects me to do my clients answer the salon phone and record messages, and book her appts. If one of her clients needs to be seen and she is not there she expects me to do them but then gets mad and talks bad about the clients and fellow bueaticians in my presence so I know she talks about me. She brings her children to the salon but mine are not allowed. Lastly my faith in God is questioned at least twice a week. I just relocated to Florida so I’m trying to build a stable clientele but I don’t know if I should stay here. Sometimes I have appts and myself and my client have to wait outside.. The new stylist that works there now. Has tried to talk to me about my marriage it’s really frustrating . I find myself leaving or praying for patience until the end of the day when can leave. What should I do?

    • Find another job immediately. No position is worth putting up with all of that. You have to put yourself first. When you find a new job, be very clear about setting boundaries with the employer. People like the owner you work for currently don’t continue that behavior if they’re firmly and consistently told to stop. (If they do, they’re assholes and there’s no redeeming them, lol. Most people will not continue that kind of harassment when they’re repeatedly and publicly condemned for it.) You know the saying, “Give an inch and they’ll take a mile?” This is one of those times. Never give anyone the opportunity to mistreat you or disrespect you, or you will set a precedent and they’ll never stop.

  4. The last salon I was in, I was forced into a rental situation before I was able to build a clientele that would keep me financially stable. The salon owner moved the salon and then immediately doubled my rent. She promised the new location would have lots of walk-in clients, but as a renter, I dont get any walk-ins until after she fills up her book for the day, her assistant, then her commission stylists, before I can benefit from this move. She also made the mistake of telling me how much she is paying for renting her salon space, which is the price of my booth. Business is business and if I’m paying for a salon, it’ll be mine and not someone else’s, so I left.
    I now rent a booth at a great price in a nice area, with great coworkers, an owner I respect and in a salon that is truly drama free. It’s a true gem and very rare to find in our industry. I’ve been here for a year now.
    Here is my problem, after my divorce, which left me with nothing, I was forced to move in with my parents, giving me an hour and a half commute to work. I gas up my car 2x a week (which is expensive in California) add my booth rent and my small but lovely clientele, I am barely making ends meet and my bank account suffers every month.
    I can’t afford to move out of my parent’s home, but if I scrape up enough money to rent a room closer to work, I would save so much on gas, but still not make much for a long while. Or I sacrifice my business, I can get a stable job closer to home, save on gas and booth rent, but lose out on being my own boss, keeping my clientele and a job I’ve been in for 13 years.
    I don’t want to leave the salon industry because I love it, I was meant for it and it’s the only thing I know I can do well at, but financially it isn’t working out and it breaks my heart. I’m at a crossroads.

    • Why not have both? I’ve spoken to many people in your position who didn’t want to leave but were temporarily having a difficult time affording to stay. Maybe find a middle ground that makes sense for now–rent a booth closer to home, find a part-time job outside of the industry, and book your clients around your schedule while you’re getting back on your feet. The part-time job will help carry your expenses while you’re building up in the new area, and when you can afford to go back to running your own business full-time, you’ll be prepared to transition easily since you never really left the business entirely. 🙂

  5. Hi, I’m at a salon that I’m having a really hard time booking myself up at. I’ve had to lower my prices, give discounts on product, and usually get less than 10% tip. I want to rent a booth closer to home, but it would meet completely starting over with zero clientele. I’ve never rented and am wicked scared cuz it’s so foreign to me. I really don’t know what to do. The growth potential where I am at is stunted as I pay comission, but never get to go to classes and the owners don’t stay educated so I’m not growing… how do I move myself into another situation without screwing myself ? I have a mortgage and a border collie to feed !

    • Yikes. Okay, so something is broken. It’s either the salon, the area you’re located in, the clients you’re attracting, deficient salon management, or it’s you. My guess is that it’s a combination of factors. If you’ve never had a problem booking up before, it’s likely not your fault.

      The current situation you’re in doesn’t sound as if it’s sustainable, so I don’t think you have much of a choice.

      If the owners have been standing by watching you struggle to build (and haven’t done anything to help you), they can’t blame you for walking away. You have bills to pay just like they do. If your employer isn’t doing their job (which, for the record, is ensuring you’re building and busy), that’s a huge problem and indicative of many more potential management problems.

      You say you’re on commission–does this mean the owner is not guaranteeing you minimum wage? Often, salon owners will “hire” a bunch of so-called “commission-only” employees, even though the business has no need for a new employee of any kind and doesn’t have enough of a clientele to ensure that employee can earn enough to live. They fill chairs with stylists under the false assumption that they don’t have to actually pay those workers. Unfortunately, that’s not how employment works, nor how one builds a successful business. Salons don’t manage themselves, and if your salon owner expects you to build their business for them while they sit around and collect money, you’re in the wrong salon. In that situation, you’d likely be better off renting.

  6. I love how open you are with your knowledge,it’s been incredibly helpful. But I have a question I don’t see an answer to and would like to ask.
    I have been at a corporate salon for 18 years that started using a “jump” system a few years ago I haven’t been able to jump in 5 years because time can’t be found in my book to accommodate the required number of “conversion” clients I advertise to since I’m so booked with my regulars, so my conversions go to others. But though there is another reputable salon looking to hire me,I’m afraid to leave since I have a loan on my 401K. What do you advise?

    • If I were you, I’d look to the employee handbook. If the answers can’t be found there, arrange to speak with someone in HR to learn about your options. After 18 years of service, you may also want to consider speaking with management and letting them know exactly what issues you’re experiencing and why you’re entertaining other offers. If you had been with my company that long, I’d work damn hard to find a solution–especially since you’re right. Any system based on acquisitions/conversions for advancement will cripple those professionals who have superior client retention. You shouldn’t be punished for inspiring loyalty in your clients, and that’s what this system appears to be doing. Any conversions brought in as a result of your skills, marketing, or client referrals should be credited to you. It’s ridiculous for another professional to not only get the client but to get conversions they didn’t earn.

  7. Hello Tina, I am a salon owner and I have a booth rental salon..This is my 5th salon and for the first time I have a situation where I have two girls that have jumped on the bully train so to speak with another of the Girls Here mind you these are grown women not in their twenties we are talking in their 40’s and 50’s.. There has now come to a place where it is a complete impasse, demanding mandatory meetings and with no solutions.. I have to say I really don’t know what to do about it . It is truly foreign to me.. I have been so lucky this salon has 6 chairs and its between 3 girls and it is the war of who is right or not. I really could use some advice.

    One more thing as for the mandatory meetings they are not by me I am the Landlord only they do not seem to understand that. I have offered to have meetings, talked individually, but no one will come up with a solution.. and as I have told them I will not have a bitch session i want ideas for solutions…
    Thank You again!

    • The way I would handle this, fair warning, is probably not the way most landlords would handle it. I *hate* this childish, catty shit, and I have no time for grown women who behave like toddlers and require “grown-up” intervention. So, I would have that meeting, but I’d be the one doing the talking.

      First of all, they are business owners and they need to be minding THEIR OWN businesses and NOT trying to sabotage YOURS. Your business is retaining tenants. The second other renters start trying to push out other renters the way these two sound like they’re doing, they are creating a problem for YOU, and that’s unacceptable. They are fucking with YOUR money, and that should make you mad as hell. (I’m sitting here getting mad for you, lol.)

      Tell them to cut it out. You are their landlord; not their mother, babysitter, or mediator. They need to behave like adults. If they are incapable of behaving appropriately, they will run the risk of having their leases terminated. The tenant they’re harassing is paying rent just like they are and she shouldn’t have to deal with their bullying when she’s trying to run her business.

      The entire purpose of that meeting, if I were holding it, would be to shame them and put them back in their lanes. If they wanted someone to kiss their boo-boos and tattle to, they were not ready for business ownership. They can bring that shit to an employer. You aren’t their boss or their manager and their petty grievances with each other are not your problem. Don’t let them try to make their issues your issues.

  8. I just quit a job where the manager treated me like I didn’t exsist and when I did my job by communicating what was needed to still be done I was labeled someone wanting brownie points. I worked there for 6 months and was never welcomed into the group. I was isolated and felt left out. My birthday was “forgotten” while everyone else’s was celebrated. I was constantly looked at as always doing something wrong yet the manager allowed girls to be unprofessional and not show up for 2 weeks and still has her job and was giving a key after all this. During her disappearance I had to work extra shifts to cover her as well.. the assistant manager would talk a lot of trash about everyone working there on a daily basis then act like their friends to their faces. Anytime I went to confront the manager about anything she would walk away from me and never give me a chance to have a voice. After finding out that even the manager made comments about me I said enough is enough and quit.. I am being belittled for my choice in quiting because they feel if it doesn’t effect my pay don’t let it effect my day..I’m sorry but to me that applies to little mistakes made at work not your coworkers belittling you and isolating you and making you feel unwelcomed..

    • They’re wrong. You should never be made to suffer a shitty, hostile, miserable work environment in exchange for a paycheck. No amount of money in the world is worth that. You deserve to be happy where you work–or, at the very least, not miserable.

  9. Hi! So I’m in a situation where I hate my place of work I’m topped out at 50% commission with really no extra perks or benefits like education or really anything except for just a great location. My boss just doesn’t run the business properly, the salon has lost 5 girls in the last year with a very weak effort on trying to replace them, we have major receptionist issues where I’ve had clients say they’ve been trying to get in touch with someone at the salon for DAYS and no one answers or calls back. Sometimes I’m the only one working and my clients are starting to question me, I don’t want to talk bad about the owner or the salon but it’s getting harder to cover the unprofessionalism behind the scenes. My boss also told us a year ago she was not signing another lease so now I have a year to get out unless someone buys the place but she’s not making much of an effort to put it out there for a potential new owner to come in. So obviously I need to hit the road right?! buuuttt I’m having so much trouble finding a salon I love near the location I’m at, I’ve been in this location for about 5yrs so I have a very solid clientele it’s in a nice shopping center and there’s always walkins so it’s been fairly easy to build, but I’m very interested in this gorgeous salon that’s a tad closer to me but it’d be about an hour for my clients who I know probably about 90% will not follow bc of the distance. This new salon is bigger, beautiful, full of younger stylist has education and their STARTING commission is 50% so there’s the opportunity to grow and eventually if I wanted to go booth rent I have that opportunity too but I don’t think they have the walkins like my current location so I’m just nervous about having to start over and it be a veryyyy slow process . How do I choose? Do I go for a place that I’m not absolutely in love with and keep my clientele or do a make a jump and go to a beautiful, professional salon but have to say goodbye to good clients and start new? I’m sooo torn

  10. Hey! I have been with my current salon for almost 2 years now. It was my first salon out of beauty school. I graduated from their apprenticeship program last April and have been a full time stylist since. I have my slower days but there are days where I’m 100% booked. The location is great and I absolutely love my team and we all work very well together. It is a family owned salon and the owners have another salon location a couple hours away. So we only see them every other weekend they are in town.

    The owners just recently let go of the salon manager that has been with them since they opened. It was very sudden and we were all very shocked when they informed us that they will not be hiring another manager and that they feel like we have such a strong team that we can function without one. They feel like we just need 2 receptionist to cover the front desk.

    My worry is that I’m going to have responsibility that is not apart of my job description. I am all about helping out the team that will make the salon run smoothly. From shampooing and assisting other stylists when I’m free to answering phones, booking appointments, and checking people out. I am currently on an hourly wage vs commission basis until I get my books built up to make commission. I recently found out the receptionist they recently hired are making more an hour than me and some of my teams feel that i am being taken advantage of because of how much I do. I’m just so worried because I don’t know the owners goal of where the want the salon to be and even though I’m meant to eventually be commission if it’s even worth asking for a raise. Do I just start looking somewhere else and keep my options open? I know I’m so early in my career but I’m so scared to make the wrong decision an start from scratch.

    • Unless these concerns of yours have proven to have merit (meaning that you’re actually being expected to take on a bunch of unexpected responsibilities), I wouldn’t worry about crossing that bridge until you come to it. You could preemptively bring up your concerns and set some boundaries in advance, but if it isn’t a problem yet, it might not be worth it.

      In the meantime, ask yourself if you really need to be doing the tasks you’re doing, or if you’re choosing to because you’re a team player. If the owners are already paying receptionists to handle a lot of those tasks, stop doing them and let the receptionists work for their wages, otherwise, you may find that they rely on you to do their jobs for them (which isn’t good for you or your employers).

      I would also recommend that you not concern yourself with their wages. You’re an hourly vs commission employee, while they’re just hourly. They aren’t capable of earning tips or commission, so their wages will never increase without wage negotiations (unlike yours).

      Additionally, just so you’re aware, commission-only is NOT legal. You’re commission vs hourly now, and according to federal law, that’s how you should always be getting compensated. Commission-only is not something to strive for, since X% of $0 is $0. You have bills to pay and your time must be compensated, so never allow any salon owner to transition you to a system that doesn’t ensure you get a paycheck. Your wages should be as guaranteed as your bills are.

  11. Hi there. I am currently working in a chain salon that i have worked in for several years. As time goes on, its becoming more and more unprofessional. The manager there ignores all problems and if you do have an issue, she says “deal with it with your fellow employees”. We have one stylist who was drinking on the job and has NO LICENSE and is still employed. There is a bully there who has started a private group chat on facebook talking badly about 2 other stylists. I feel as though I need to leave for my own sanity. Any thoughts?

    • Have you tried speaking with the owner about the manager? If you don’t want to leave, I’d recommend going above the manager’s head. If you don’t want to initiate a report, start by asking for a transfer to another location. When the owner asks why (which they will), you can explain the issues at the location you currently work at. I’d also recommend bringing proof, which doesn’t sound as if it would be difficult since licensing information is public and screenshots are forever. At the very least, I’d start documenting everything. Keep notes of everything the manager does, and–more importantly–what they aren’t doing that they should be doing. Owners and regional managers tend not to know what’s going on at every location, so they rely on the professionals to report badly behaving location managers. If you’re working in a corporate chain, be aware that you have rights. You also likely have corporate resources to draw upon if you feel you’re unlawfully terminated.

  12. Hi, so I have a situation where I was recently hired as a commissioned stylist (40%) and have been there 7 weeks. I’ve already seen red flags. It’s a husband and wife who own the salon, but the husband is only a financial stakeholder and not a stylist/manager/salon worker. He is only the investor and is a business sales rep on the side. The one who hired me is the wife- who IS a stylist and the salon manager. Now, my issue is that since I’ve started I’ve had several appointments where I’ve fallen behind by 10-15 min because of poor scheduling issues- such as scheduling a person for a full foil when they were coming in for something more complicated and as much hair as a wooly mammoth and being given 45min-1hr for a full foil application with back to back and double bookings and being expected to zip through appointments with 30 second consultations and asking minimal questions. Not my style. I’ve been doing hair for 14 years and my success has come from great consultations and sufficient time to do my work efficiently. So my boss decided to send me a text berating me about being 10 min behind on a client that was scheduled for a partial foil (20 foils, it really ended up being a high/lowlights with 3 different formulas within each so I ran 10 min over and she sent me a nasty message saying she’s banging her head against a wall trying to figure out why I’m running “so far behind” and that she “doesn’t want any excuses, just what my plan is to make sure this doesn’t happen ever again”. Mind you I’ve been here 7 weeks, I’ve had to learn the Aveda hair color line from scratch and get to know each client as they are all new to me, not to her, and work with scheduling that is poorly So when I responded basically telling her why I ran 10 min behind and that the issue is not my skills it’s with the scheduling and how poorly it’s being done, and that I felt she was barking at me instead of talking respectfully she then had her husband call me to do the dirty work of having a phone conversation to discuss it. Mind you, just a week ago she and I had a one on one meeting about my numbers and where I’m at so far, I specifically asked her to give me any feedback on what needs improvement, if there’s any areas she feels I need work on, and her answer was “no dear you have been great“. But with this issue where she sent me that message, I didn’t even get to talk to her. Her husband is never in the salon, was never in the salon business nor has experience behind the chair to be able to understand and give a fair objective opinion on the matters within the salon, his conversation always has to do with the financial side and how running behind affects his investment in the salon. This feels like I’m working for a mob, he’s the money man, he funded her dream of having a salon and she doesn’t do confrontation so she puts him to do the talking. I don’t think this is right, I think that being that she’s the owner, manager and person I’m actually physically with, that SHE should be the one whom I speak with. It feels very toxic already so soon, I’m torn because I am making 800 to 900 a week only after seven weeks there but then it is thrown in my face that the majority of the clients that I’ve been doing that belong to the salon and have not been new clients so that’s another thing being held over my head. I’m torn.

    • You are absolutely right. This ISN’T professional or competent management whatsoever, and I’d be sure to get her into a private, non-confrontational meeting to discuss that. (Be gentle in your communications with her, as owners like her tend to get defensive and take things personally. Just tell her you’d prefer it if she speaks with you directly about work issues and that you promise not to react angrily or emotionally. She’s likely accustomed to the behavior of less professional employees and has probably been burned in the past when she has attempted to assert herself as an authority figure. Sometimes, owners like her become that way through a series of really bad experiences.)

      I’d also point out that you’re not in charge of salon marketing. You’re an employee of the business, and unless your compensation and job description include lead generation and marketing, you shouldn’t be punished for expected to draw business to the facility. That’s HER job. It’s HER business.

      Finally, from today forward, stop allowing clients to change the service. Once it’s booked, that’s what they’re booked for. If they need/want more, tell them they’ll have to book another appointment. You’ll get them out the door within the time parameters you’ve been given, but then I’m sure she’ll start complaining about your ticket sales. That’s your cue to ask her, “Well, which would you prefer? Previously, the problem was that I wasn’t getting clients out the door fast enough. Now, I’m not allowing clients to extend the appointment to ensure I’m executing the services they booked on time. You claimed the way the appointments were being scheduled wasn’t the problem. Can we agree that it’s unreasonable to expect anyone to complete a 2-hour service in 1-hour? As a commissioned professional, obviously it’s in my best interest to work as fast as possible–do you think I’m sabotaging myself? No. We need new policies. Either we prohibit last-minute appointment changes or we conduct pre-service consultations to ensure we book adequate time in the first place.”

      When you speak with the owner, ask her why she doesn’t require clients to schedule pre-service consultations for chemical services. If she’s an Aveda owner, she should know better. Patch testing and strand testing need to be performed. The client and the professional have to be on the same page with regards to the service price, time requirement, and expected outcome. If she’s not booking these pre-service appointments (at least for first-time clients and those seeking big changes), she’s shooting herself in the foot (not to mention looking amateur AF–this is 2019, not 1990).

      If you want to stay long-term, start to position yourself as her ally. She sounds like she really needs guidance, because her method of booking and doing business aren’t up to modern standards–not by a long shot.


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