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Adventures in Salon Management: The Bella Vita Story

Jill Cunha has been a salon manager for North Andover, Massachusetts salon Bella Vita for 17 years. This year the salon owner is stepping away from day-to-day responsibilities, leaving Jill in charge. When asked what her biggest salon management challenge was going to be, Jill answered without hesitation: “Employees.” Bombshell? Let’s dive in.

Respect my authority!

When the owner informed Cunha of the plan, one of her first moves was to bring me in as a consultant to help identify areas of improvement and smooth out the transition. I’ve been performing this kind of service for a number of SalonTarget clients over the years, although it’s not something we advertise. As a newcomer to SalonTarget (they just came aboard in April) with a huge staff, Bella Vita were a perfect candidate.

To be clear out of the gate, it’s not that Bella Vita salon has “bad” employees. Far from it. For starters, there are 40 of them. That’s a big group of cats to herd. And there’s more…

Transition of authority is always tricky, especially when it’s an insider who suddenly becomes boss. Who does she think she is, telling us what to do? One probably shouldn’t expect immediate and complete respect when power changes hands (even though that might be exactly what is asked of the employees). In his book “48 Laws of Power” author Robert Greene said “Avoid stepping into a great man’s shoes.” His advice was more about the doubled effort necessary to outshine a great predecessor, but it also speaks to the difficulty taking over leadership duties for the same group.

One of our first orders of business then was to set Jill up for salon management success with the tools to lead and manage the salon staff from a position of respect.

Level playing field

That answer about employees being the biggest challenge? It deserves some more context. Here’s how Cunha continued: “You’re trying to make everyone happy. It’s a business, so you have to do what’s best for the business. At the same time you also want to make sure your employees work in a positive atmosphere and make sure everyone is a team player.”

That’s a lot to unpack. First thing’s first:

“You’re trying to make everyone happy.” Yes and no. You have control over the rules/policies/guidelines that all employees must follow, as well as the specific contract that an employee might sign. Finding happiness within those structures is on the employee. If they can’t abide by the rules or be happy adhering to policy, maybe they need to find a different salon.

See, one of Cunha’s issues was that over the years there developed different rules for different employees. This pertained to time off, scheduling, but bled into other areas of the workplace, which engendered some bad feelings and made it difficult to manage employees. A first step in creating a level playing field was to establish blanket rules & policies that all employees had to live by. No special treatment. Which leads nicely into…

“It’s a business, so you have to do what’s best for the business.” Previously Bella Vita leaned on the services of a well-known salon consulting company (which shall remain unnamed). That company restructured Bella Vita on a number of fronts, including commission and employee pay and vacation time. Many of those changes ended up costing the salon a lot of money, so reversing those and making business-first decisions was a vital step. Your salon is no good to its employees if you go out of business.

“…at the same time you also want to make sure your employees work in a positive atmosphere and make sure everyone is a team player.” As Cunha discovered, adding structure and creating a level playing field did wonders for the salon’s atmosphere. “They say kids like structure, but adults like it too,” says Cunha, who has found that making the rules the same across the board has also lent itself to a teamwork environment – a major salon management win.

A technology to lean on

As I mentioned, Bella Vita were very new to SalonTarget. It was a little shocking to hear that they had been through four (FOUR!!) salon softwares prior to settling on us, but also helpful in that Cunha and the staff at the salon knew what they were looking for…and what they weren’t. “A lot of people who create software aren’t in the business,” says Cunha. “We needed a software that did what we want, actually runs, and is fast.”

For a staff that size, the ability to bring schedules – and booking – online has been crucial to the management and success of the salon. “We get so many compliments from customers on how easy it is to book online, see their profile, and see what’s available on the schedule.”

Certainly reliability and availability are two aspects of SalonTarget that we pride ourselves on, and it gives us great pleasure to know that a client like Bella Vita benefits from those services.

Words of wisdom

When asked what advice she would give to the aspiring salon managers of the world, Cunha was just as quick with a response. “Follow through. When you tell someone you’re going to do something, do it. When you don’t, you lose a lot of respect from your employees.”

Can’t argue with that one bit.

To learn more about Bella Vita, check out their website and follow them on social media in the links below.

If you’re interested in learning more about SalonTarget software and our one-on-one consulting services, get in touch today.

Bella Vita Vital Stats

Location: 1019 Osgood St, North Andover, MA 01845
#Chairs: 19
#Employees: 40
Year opened: 1998
Core Services: Full-service, Cut & colors, facial, mini-spa
Website: www.bellavitanorthandover.com
Phone: 978-682-5103

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