“My massage therapist just gave me her written two-week notice. I want to let her work out her last two weeks, but I’m afraid she’ll use the opportunity to poach clients from the salon. She’s an employee and did sign a non-solicitation agreement, but I have no way of knowing what she’s saying or doing in the private massage room.”

Most salon owners face this issue at some point in their careers. Do you let an employee work out their last two weeks or not?

Employees are very individual. Some are incredibly trustworthy. The fact that this therapist gave you notice to begin with shows consideration for your business. She offered you time to find someone to replace her. It’s extremely rare to be given that degree of courtesy in this industry.

However, your concerns aren’t unreasonable. Some employees do use their final two weeks to spread the word that they’re moving on to greener pastures–but again, most of these employees aren’t the type to give notice to begin with.

I’ve been on both sides of this fence, as a professional and as a manager. My approach to how I conduct business differs from a good deal of salon owners. I’ve always believed that the client ultimately has the right and the freedom to choose where they spend their money. The majority of clients’ loyalties lie with their chosen professional, not with the establishment. There are plenty of clients to go around. To attempt to restrict a client from accessing their chosen professional is petty and immature, and not a practice I care to lower myself to engage in.

If a client doesn’t see the value in what your business can offer them, do you really want them there?

To combat client loss during employee turnover, I recommend taking an ethical approach–one that places the client’s desires and preferences above your bottom line. Focus on providing a great salon experience. Keep your dignity intact and don’t lie when clients ask where their favorite professional has moved to. Never talk badly about the professional that left. If you’re doing your job as a salon owner correctly, you’re continually focused on growth and client acquisition, so some client displacement during an employee turnover shouldn’t really bother you. It’s part of doing business.

Clients are people, not cattle. They don’t “belong” to anyone. By treating them like your property, you will lose their respect and ultimately, their business. Instead of trying to desperately cling to these customers, focus on creating an atmosphere and level of service that other salons can’t match.

If I were you, I would do the following:

Let her work out her last two weeks. Politely remind her of the non-solicitation and ask that she not violate it. At the same time, ask her to leave cards so you have something to hand off to any clients that want to follow her. Thank her for showing you respect and consideration. On her final day, bring her a small gift, a letter of recommendation, and wish her luck in the future. Let her know that if she ever wishes to return, the door remains open to her.

Salon owners, in addition to being an employer, you’re also a leader. Be the kind of professional others aspire to become. Clients are replaceable. Their loyalties shift. Your integrity should never be compromised. Don’t let fear or insecurity drive your behavior. Stay strong and confident in your ability to manage and market your business successfully.

17 COMMENTS

  1. I love this. I have always felt a client should have free choice to go where they please and find the practice of not letting an employee work their notice very short sighted by any salon owner, that said, in some cases it’s best to let the employee go. Especially those with a particular ‘personality’. A great read x

    • I really enjoyed reading this article. I have been on both sides; when I moved from a commission salon to station renting many clients I had built a relationship with over the years did follow and are still with me today. Now I am a salon owner. I hope to provide this type of ending experience in your article for my employees. We are not here to stop anyone from growing. Their is enough business for everyone to be successful.

  2. I worked at a salon and spa for 10 years and it became unbearable to work there. Typically this salon terminates you depending on whether or not they like you when you give notice. I was very professional when I gave my notice and I blamed no one other than making changes in my life. I was allowed to work out my two week notice but I’m pretty sure that was only because of the way my days off fell and it was the holiday season. In all the 10 years that I worked there I always kept my own client cards even though I wasn’t employee they allowed us to do this. I fully expected to be terminated upon giving a notice. Anyone working at this particular company knew that when you gave notice you better have your ducks in a row and have your client cards already at home. I love the company but I couldn’t stay on my fellow employees. Nobody was clean anything according to health standards and the salon wouldn’t make them. That’s the main reason I left.

    • To treat a ten year staff member the way they treated you is UNACCEPTABLE. Unfortunately, poor management is the rule, never the exception, so I can’t say I’m surprised. -.-

      • I am much happier or where I went to but unfortunately I am making only half of the money that I used to be so I’m actually thinking about retiring

        • I went through the same thing–not about the money. I have always been able to live really well on relatively little, so work has always been about satisfaction and whether or not the position made me happy. Eventually, it got to the point where no amount of money would make me like working in management. No matter how nice the owner was or how great the employees were–I was just completely over it. I wrote another post on knowing when to quit, and how not to feel ashamed of quitting. You have to do what’s best for you. That came directly from my experiences when I hit my limit for dealing with SOSDD (“same old shit, different day”) Syndrome, lol.

  3. I wish more “owners” had this stance. I agree.. people are NOT property. They are not “owned”. I had signed a non solicitation clause at my last place of employment. I emailed 2 clients when I left, as what I thought, was a professional courtesy, and to make a recommendation to one for her daughter. Very loyal clients, that had emailed me before, hence why I had their contact information. Some how the owners found out and sent their lawyer after me. Making “demands” that I stop all communication with THEIR clients, to send them all my accounting records showing the income I made from soliciting THEIR clients, and all emails and correspondence with THEIR clients. Since I had violated the non solicitation clause, that was attached to 8 other pages along with Termination Certificate that they require all employees being fired or quitting, to sign in order to get their final pay check. (even though I was an IC, which is a whole other story I could write about, lol)
    Needless to say, I IGNORED their “demands” since there is no court order. And because I am not making money off “their” clients.
    I recently turned down another job because after months of talking about the opportunity to be an IC and the benefits, the owners lawyer added a non compete clause into the contract, which was not negotiable. “the company owns the clients and the client list. But we can discuss any clients that you bring with you as long as it is disclosed before the contract is signed.” Yah.. NO. Not going through that again. So I decided to rent a room where the clients will truly be my own. My hard work will pay off for me, not for someone else.

    • Um, you were classified as an IC but forced to sign an employment contract? And another place wants you to be independent but sign a non-compete? Are these people insane?

      For the record, I completely agree with enforcing a non-solicitation, but NOT when the employer is violating tax and labor laws. It’s also not legal for a salon owner to restrict a self-employed independent contractor’s right to conduct free trade with whomever they please, wherever they please. If they want exclusivity, they have to hire you and pay taxes on you like every other employer in the US.

    • Also, never trust clients–no matter how loyal you think they are. The only reason your ex-employer could have known that you contacted those two clients would be if those clients reported directly to her. I’m willing to bet she wouldn’t have engaged her lawyer if she didn’t have physical proof (a copy of the email you sent). Don’t risk litigation. When you sign something, abide by it. If you don’t agree with it, don’t sign.

  4. I could say this is ‘terrible advice’ but I will go with ‘I have a vastly different opinion.’ Each stylist that leaves can take a significant portion of you business down the street and put a serious dent in your profits. Losing 10 to 20 percent of your sales can cost you 50 to 100 percent of your profits. Why should a salon owner participate in marketing someone else’s business? The client that leaves because you wouldn’t tell them where the stylist went was already gone either way. This is how we handle these situations: we already know with social media that stylists and clients can find each other very easily. The number one thing we want to know is where a stylist is moving to. If it is more than a few miles away then we will let them finish their two weeks. If they won’t tell us or if it’s very close then we don’t let them work the 2 weeks. If we are really bummed they are leaving but won’t let them work their two weeks and hope they may return some day then we will pay them out for the two weeks anyway. They usually love this. To have them continue to work in our salon generally means that they have put themselves in a situation where they have a major conflict of interest, between their “duty of loyalty” to you as their employer and to their shiny new job down the street. Not my problem. Well it is my problem but I didn’t cause it, they did. Decisions have consequences. Perhaps you should write a ‘Salon Employee Reality Check’ article. When someone puts me in the position of choosing between protecting the business that I have bled for or worrying about hard feelings from an outgoing stylist because I didn’t let them hang around and poach clients or forward their contact info to my clients, then I will take my chances on pissing off clients.. We contact the clients telling them that we are very sorry that their stylist has moved on but we would love to continue to serve them and to show our appreciation we offer them a deep discount. If they ask where the stylist went we just say we can’t disclose that information for privacy reasons. If they are nightmare clients we tell them. It would be nice if every time an employee split we could all hold hands and sing songs and hug it out tearfully but frankly if you treat your employees well (we do) then I don’t mind the outgoing employee getting a little dose of “wow this is really a business after all and I am not the center of its universe” reality. btw Duty of Loyalty is legal term. google it for some interesting reading.

    • As for the Salon Employee Reality Check–I’ve written tons of them. (You’ll find a wealth of verbal smackdowns in the comments also, and even more on this site–but those are specifically for nail techs.) Trust me, when it comes to the issue of handling clients after a split, I don’t take sides. I do understand and appreciate the salon owner’s interest in retaining their clientele, but I don’t think that interest should influence us to lower ourselves. People aren’t cattle, and I absolutely do not approve of or promote client theft on an employee’s part either. Quite the opposite (for employers, I highly recommend requiring non-solicitation and data theft employee contract clauses–and prosecuting those who violate). However, it’s one thing to protect your salon’s clientele–it’s another to treat them as if they’re stupid.

      Forgive me for saying, but “privacy reasons” is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard and as a consumer, I would consider that a massive insult to my intelligence. Lol, you make it sound like their favorite employee went into witness protection. I strongly recommend that you not use that phrasing in the future, since I’m fairly certain your clients are smart enough to know that it’s complete BS. You’d be better off being honest and telling them you’d rather not disclose the information. That’s understandable–“privacy reasons” is a joke.

      I’m fully aware of what Duty of Loyalty is, and it has little to do with this particular scenario–unless we’re speaking of corporate officers, which we aren’t. We’re talking about workers, most of whom are “independent contractors” operating on a “commission-only” basis and certainly couldn’t be considered decision makers. Duty of Loyalty likely wouldn’t apply here where we’re speaking of actions taken after separation of employment, excluding internal solicitation, since that duty is severed upon resignation/termination, but the general concept of professional courtesy does apply–to both parties in the arrangement. In this situation, an employee does not breach his duty of loyalty by preparing to compete, provided that they remain within certain parameters. Common law Duty of Loyalty (fiduciary excluded) is designed to protect employers while also not stifling that worker’s ability to compete. Of course, courts don’t define the “parameters” for breach, but case law does: “Courts have also generally held that an employee does not breach his duty of loyalty (or a nonsolicitation covenant) by advising his employer’s clients that he intends to resign and discussing his future plans. ProductiveMD, 821 F.Supp.2d at 964; American Credit Indem. Co. v. Sacks, 213 Cal. App.3d 622, 636, 262 Cal. Rptr. 92 (1989). However, if these communications are deemed solicitations, then the employee has crossed the line. Id.; Johnson, 73 S.W.3d at 202; Prof’l Energy Mgmt., Inc. v. Necaise, 684 S.E.2d 374, 378 (Ga. Ct. App. 2009).”

      Did you come into salon ownership from outside the industry? (I’m only asking because I see these kinds of opinions and attempts to bring in inappropriate corporate law from MBA’s who purchase salons or obtain regional or district management positions at corporate chains.) If that’s the case, (certainly not a bad thing, btw) you’re just in a really poor position to understand where I’m coming from here, so your difference of opinion isn’t surprising.

      I definitely agree that you shouldn’t be faulted for wanting to protect your business, but I’m having trouble understanding how a loss of 10-20% of sales can equate to a 50-100% profit loss. Are you making sales with no profit margin or is your compensation system extremely unbalanced? I’m not being a smartass (I know written content can sometimes come across with an unintended tone), I’m genuinely interested in what you mean by that.

      Anyways, I’m not promoting marketing someone else’s business. That would imply that you’re making an effort to do so–I’m advocating for transparency when a client asks for it. You’re unlikely to keep that client anyways–as you stated in your own comment, they can use social media to track down their stylist–so why not keep your dignity and show the client you respected them enough to provide them with a truthful answer? This is not about “singing songs” and “hugging it out” but acting like adults and respecting our clients’ right to choose where and on whom they spend their money, and setting an example for the professionals who work with us.

  5. I had two stylists leave recently. We have a two week notice required in our rental agreement. One gave the two weeks notice but only payed for one week. The other gave us 2 days notice and didn’t pay rent for the previous week or the two weeks she didn’t give notice for. They went to a studio suite and also solicited other stylists in the salon. The one who didn’t pay and barely gave notice still has her things at the salon. When she hadn’t payed for the previous week we basically told her she needed to pay before she could pick up her things. She said she would pay for all three weeks and then didn’t show up. It’s now been about two weeks and we haven’t heard anything. She left her scissors, license, color etc. How would you handle it ? At this point we don’t think we are getting our rent money and don’t really want to hold onto her things. Are we required to keep her things and for how long ? Would we have to serve an eviction notice like a real landlord ? Any advice

    • Well, you could let it go and give her things back to her, or you could send a collection agency after her. Whether or not keeping her things is legal depends on your state legislation, but I wouldn’t risk it. In some states, it’s considered theft.

      I’ve been looking into Fundbox lately. It’s a service that manages billing and invoices, ensuring you get paid. Check it out and see if it’s something you might be able to use!

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