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business covid-19

When you ask any beauty salon, skin clinic or medspa owner what their biggest business challenge is, 9 times out of 10, they say it has something to do with their employees. This is absolutely nothing new. In fact, it’s a problem that has been burdening beauty business owners for decades.

As we start the journey of re-emerging from the damage the pandemic unleashed on small businesses, this problem has accelerated to new heights.


Before the pandemic, the discussion was all about a shortage of ‘great’ beauty therapists. Today, we’ve transitioned to talking about a shortage of ‘any’ beauty therapist. One would have thought that the supply would have increased with many businesses shutting down permanently, but this has not been the case.

Instead there’s been a massive exodus of beauty therapists from the industry. Why, you ask?

(1) The Rise of the Home Salon
From fear of losing their job to believing they’ll make more money and have greater flexibility, many therapists have opted to start their own home salons. This is not just an Australian trend but one that is happening all over the world as a result of the pandemic.

(2) Career Shift
Truth is, the beauty industry is not as glamorous as it sounds. Many of the current therapists believed their career was something completely different when they entered the industry. They didn’t anticipate the late nights, Saturday work and a lack of real flexibility that would impede on their family and social lives. Gen Y and Gen Z are not accepting this reality the way Gen X and Baby Boomers did. For this reason, many have opted to leave the industry altogether for what they perceive as "better working conditions" elsewhere.

In addition, the skill and knowledge requirements of the beauty or skin therapist of today are far greater than ever before. With vastly more equipment technology to learn, cosmeceutical ranges to master, and treatments to get certified on, the pressure is relentless. For many, it’s just too much to trade for what is "perceived" as low pay. Sadly, it’s usually the experienced therapists that are opting to leave and unfortunately, this means a great loss and cost to the industry.

(3) Lack of Quality Graduates from Beauty Schools
The quality of graduates of the beauty schools has been at record lows over the past two years, thanks to the pandemic. Learning a hands-on skill off campus does not make for a strong graduate. Couple that with the drop in government funding, and you’ve got a big problem. Potential future beauty therapists have been turned off the industry because their career path now includes massive student loans.


It’s time to shift your thinking when it comes to training and hiring. Instead of sticking with the methods that have always been used, we have to start meeting these new hires where they are. There is no room for "When I was an employee…" or “When I started out.”  Journeying down memory lane is only going to frustrate and exhaust you. Instead it’s time for some deliberate soul searching. Take a moment to answer these 3 questions for yourself.

(1) Who do I really want to work for me?
(2) What do I need to do to bring them up to the standards I require?
(3) What will I need to do to retain them in my business?

(1) Who do I really want to work for me?

I mean who do you REALLY want to work for you? Understanding this is not as easy as it sounds. It must start with identifying the culture of your business. Your ideal employee must fit in with the existing culture of your business. Bring the wrong person in, and you risk dismantling everything you’ve built.

Great therapists are made, not found. Stop looking for an “out-of-the-box” perfect therapist. She doesn’t exist, and even if she did, she’s happily working already, and the chances of YOU luring her away are minimal. Start looking for a great person who has the qualifications but needs YOUR training to get them to the level of productivity you want. Someone with the right attitude, passion, drive, ambition, commitment, and a willingness to learn. Figure out which skills are negotiable, and which are not. The hands-on stuff is easy to teach, but you can’t train the personality and character traits of a great employee.

If you want a therapist who will sell programmes of skin treatments and full retail home regimes, then she better be passionate about skin. And I mean, REALLY passionate. Passion will drive and speed up everyone’s learning curve. No passion will at best produce a mediocre therapist who chugs along, one who sometimes meets their target, and often doesn’t. And as for the learning curve of the mediocre therapist? It’s loooong and circuitous. Mediocre therapists need to be trained and re-trained ad nauseum. Everything you teach them seems to fall on deaf ears, and you feel as if no progress is ever being made. It doesn’t matter how many times you send them to product school, they don’t gain any knowledge. (You know what I’m talking about).

(2) What do I need to do to bring them up to the standards I need?
Here’s where the problem comes in. Many salons, skin clinics and medspas, don’t have a comprehensive training plan or even a standard new employee induction plan. Have you ever taken the time to write down EVERYTHING an employee needs to know, be skilled at and capable of, in order to succeed at their job? Or do you fly by the seat of your pants, throw them in the deep end and train haphazardly whenever you have time?

Have you created a training library of videos, lessons, tests, and quizzes that reinforce the goals and objectives that are most important? Have you planned out exactly what you want them to role-play with you upon their return from product school? Do you schedule trainings and measure their progress until they’re ready to handle clients on their own? If the answer is, “no,” it’s no wonder your team is failing to meet the standard. You know it takes only one negative experience for a valued client to leave your business, never to return. You should NOT be willing for that to happen. Ever. A lost valuable client costs you a few thousands of dollars a year. Invest that time and money into your therapists so that this is avoided at all costs.

(3) What will I need to do to retain them in my business?
The pandemic has had a HUGE effect on employees. So many have used this time to re-evaluate their lives, really thinking about what’s important to them. This has led them to return from the lockdown with new desires and requirements. They now demand:

  • Less overall hours
  • No more evenings
  • No more Saturdays
  • A preference for casual employment
  • More money for less hours
  • A better work/life balance
  • More flexibility

Because of this, you have to do a 180 when it comes to meeting THEIR expectations. Now I’m not saying you must pander to their every whim NO MATTER WHAT. That’s not it at all. What you need to do is meet THE RIGHT THERAPIST halfway because giving the right therapist what she wants will ultimately come back to you tenfold.

So what does that mean? Well, you should only take the RIGHT therapist in your employ, remember? The one with the right attitude, passion, drive, ambition, and willingness to learn. The one that has it in them to be a high performer. The one who will not only meet their targets, but will exceed them. Often. That’s what you need; it’s only fair to help out that therapist by giving her what she needs?

When the right therapist gets what she wants, like greater flexibility in working hours, alternate Saturdays off, working only one evening, a greater life/work balance and is earning more money, you’ll get what you need.

But  of course, what comes first? Meeting your expectations with high productivity or meeting their expectations with a better work/life/money balance? The elusive chicken or the egg paradox.

Well, that’s the tricky bit. The answer is to create a tiered give and take. You need to create milestones for employees to reach in order to receive certain privileges. How about having them meet a milestone in order to earn no Saturdays or late nights? As for more money working less hours? Well, that can be achieved by creating a generous incentive programme that is both generous to the employee and very affordable for the employer. One that is based solely on NUMBERS.

Tell me this. If one of your employees produced in excess of $7,000 a week, had an 85% rebooking rate with a 90% retention rate and asked to never work Saturdays again, would you say no? Of course you wouldn’t. You’d say yes and then come up with another way to have your Saturdays covered. You've got to be smart about it. 

But here’s the real skill in it all. Learning to stop wasting your time. You have to be willing to part ways with employees who are not playing or willing to play the give-and-take game, EARLY. When a new employee comes on board, that probationary or trial period is critical. Too many business owners let the time pass by without actually measuring the viability of the employee. Then before you know it, she stays, performs at a mediocre level with scary consistency, and you resent every ounce of training, money and patience you invested in her. And then one day…she leaves and you’re even more resentful, so much so that you’re unwilling to give as much as you did to the next prospect. This is just reinforcing the same unproductive cycle. Give it your all in training. Invest the time, the money, the patience, but be sure to monitor it all. If improvement isn’t happening, move on, rinse and repeat. Until it does, of course.