“At our salon, we’re all on commission. My boss tries to make us do cleaning and towels and reception work when we’re not with a client. We checked our wage statements and did the math and our checks always come out above minimum wage. She doesn’t charge product fees either, but she’s taking 50% of our money and she can’t afford an assistant, a receptionist, or a cleaning lady? We feel like we’re being asked to do menial chores because she’s greedy and wants to pocket the cash.”
Oh lord, I’m about to get all kinds of ugly with you and other professionals who think like you, but first, I’ll answer your question.
If you’re being classified appropriately (as an employee–not an independent contractor) and you’re being compensated at least the prevailing minimum wage when your paycheck is divided by the total hours you’ve worked in the pay period, then yes, your owner can ask you to do anything they need done. As a properly classified employee, you have an obligation to obey or forfeit your position.
You’re correct, though. If your salon owner is compensating you 50% of gross sales, paying her share of your employment taxes, and covering the cost of product, then NO, she likely CAN’T afford support staff to clean up after you while you sit on your precious hydraulic throne and screw around on Facebook, waiting for clients to arrive.
Why can’t she? Because 50% of gross sales is way too much to compensate, especially in such a high-overhead business.
I can’t help but take tremendous offense to your ignorance, even though your attitude is so very typical of salon professionals who have never owned or managed a salon. You’re completely unaware of and inexperienced with the costs of salon ownership. You simply don’t know any better, but you should. Since you don’t, I’ll help you figure it out.
First of all, know your place. You’re an employee of a business.
Nobody is taking 50% of your money. Your employer is compensating you 50% of her salon’s gross sales.
If you were to try to negotiate 50% of gross sales as compensation in any other industry, you would be laughed out of the interview. Every day, more salon owners are realizing that the compensation model we’re used to is not good for our businesses or our workers. Pretty soon, salon owners will also laugh you out of an interview for requesting such a high pay rate.
50% of gross sales as compensation is unsustainable. I do a lot of turnaround consulting for salon owners who learned this lesson the hard way. Salons are obscenely expensive to operate, so costs must be carefully managed. The highest cost, by far, is labor. Even when the salon owner structures compensation so that payroll doesn’t exceed 35% of gross sales, more work must be done to streamline the protocols, cut down product costs, and structure the service pricing achieve a healthy balance so the owner can pay the salon’s bills and–god forbid–make an actual profit.
Are “greedy salon owners” out there? You bet. (Those owners are the basis of 75% of this blog’s content.) Is yours one of them? I highly doubt it. For one, you’re compensated and classified legally. You’re not being charged fees and your hours are being tracked. You’re given detailed pay stubs. To me, this doesn’t indicate that your salon owner is some greedy slimeball squeezing you and your coworkers dry. She seems uninformed, inexperienced, and/or stupidly generous. (Has she been a stylist too? I’m willing to bet she has. Only other stylists find this compensation model acceptable.)
I’d love to have actual numbers from your salon owner so I could show you how silly your assumptions are, but here’s what I know for a fact: you are not a doctor or lawyer. Aside from beauty professionals, they’re the only workers who receive comparable compensation in relation to the prices charged for their services, and unlike us, many of them have invested nearly ten years of their lives to their education and are carrying hundreds of thousands in student loan debt.
Your qualifications and talents, however impressive they may be, do not justify 50% of gross sales. Period.
For those of you who are new to this blog, let me make this clear: I have been in this industry for fifteen years. I’ve worked as an employee, a booth renter, a manager, and a salon owner. I’ve been a salon management consultant for three years now and have brought salons back from the brink of failure. I went to beauty school just like you did. I did my 1,500 hours, earned my license, and have taken over a thousand hours of continuing education since. My qualifications and experience are far above and beyond average. I’m not trying to belittle you or disparage our education, our skills, or our profession. Even with all my qualifications, I do not deserve 50% of gross sales as compensation, not even when I function as a full-time salon manager. That expectation is absolutely absurd. The beauty profession doesn’t have high barriers to entry, so as workers in general, we’re just not valuable enough to demand that much from a business in compensation when our initial investment is considered.
The salon owner who is “pocketing that cash” is also paying all the bills and assuming all the risks of business ownership. You see her sitting in her office replying to emails, running errands, and going to lunch with your color distributor. She comes in late sometimes and leaves early some Saturdays. You see these things and think she’s living the life, but here’s what you didn’t see:
- You didn’t see her working 60 hour weeks for 2+ years to save up enough money for the salon you’re working in.
- You didn’t see her hand shaking when she signed the five-year lease.
- You didn’t see the look on her face when she’d wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat, wondering if she’d ever make enough money to repay the loan for the stations you don’t want to wipe down, the washer/dryer unit you avoid using, the floor tiles you refuse to sweep, and the reception desk you refuse to sit at in your down time.
- You didn’t see her walking through the half-built salon in a hard-hat, staring at the framed in walls and exposed wiring, wondering if she was in way over her head.
- You didn’t see her on her hands and knees, installing the flooring herself so she could put more money toward the break room you and your coworkers sit around and bitch in while arguing over how she’s spending “your” money.
- You didn’t see her signing checks for attorneys, insurance companies, architects, plumbers, product distributors, accountants, regulatory agencies, and the ten thousand other professionals she had to pay to make your workplace happen.
- You didn’t see her crying over her stack of bills during that first shaky year, watching her savings dry up and her line of credit max out before the salon got off the ground.
- You don’t see her writing your paychecks before she can even think about writing her own.
- You don’t see her liability–the risk she takes every day by entrusting you and your ungrateful coworkers with real, live clients.
You saw none of that overwhelmingly stressful, complicated process–nor did you aid her in it–and yet you think you know it all and deserve it all. You think you deserve more than what your employer earns, despite having done none of the work she did.
You come with a sense of entitlement, claiming ownership of something that isn’t yours.
When you’re an employee, the fruits of your labor don’t belong to you; they belong to the business. It’s up to your employer to determine how much to compensate you in return, and your employer is paying you too damn much. If you had a single clue how much time, effort, and stress went into establishing and managing a salon, you’d realize just how wrong you are.
Salon owners absolutely deserve to see a profit from their investment. How dare you begrudge your employer for expecting to reap a reward from her efforts?
Your salon owner didn’t open a charity. She opened a business. The expectation was that it would eventually pay off.
Nobody opens an establishment just to gift you a place to earn a living.
The only time you have a right to get angry about “your money” is if the money being taken is actually yours. When salon owners steal your wages, get pissed. When they’re late delivering your paycheck, rage out. When your employer misclassifies you and doesn’t compensate you the prevailing wage you’re entitled to, set the world on fire.
I’ll be right behind you–the Eminem to your Dr. Dre–with a can full of gas and a hand full of matches–but in this instance, you are dead wrong.
…but let’s talk about that receptionist/assistant you think your employer should provide to you so you and your coworkers don’t have to fold towels or answer phones. We’ll do some math. You’re making 50% of gross sales. Since your owner pays her share of your employment tax, she’s actually paying 57.25% to you, right off the top. If you live in a state that charges a state income tax, go ahead and tack that on there. That’s coming out of her chunk of “your money” too.
Then there’s rent, insurance, product, marketing, accounting, commercial banking, web hosting, utilities, internet, and probably a loan payment or two she has to make every month to keep the doors open before she can even consider taking home a profit. Those costs I just listed might not sound like a lot, but believe me, they are, and those are just the tip of the iceberg. Salon software systems alone average $80+ per month, and if she’s taking credit cards, she’s paying fees on every single transaction.
On top of all that, any amount she brings home is reduced by 15.3% (if she’s registered as a sole prop or an LLC). She’s self-employed. Nobody pays her federal employment taxes, so the full amount comes right out of her pay. Again, this is assuming you live in a state with no state income tax. (If you don’t, she’s paying the entirety of that herself too.)
A support employee (like an assistant or receptionist) isn’t capable of generating any real income. They’re hired to help increase the productivity of the high-performing professionals by taking care of menial tasks so high-performing professionals can focus on cranking out their services (which are usually priced higher to account for their demand and superior skill).
The fact that you have “downtime” tells me you aren’t a high-performing professional.
You’re not capable of generating enough income to justify an assistant. At the very minimum, working full-time under the federal minimum wage, this assistant would cost your employer $21,000 per year. That’s at the absolute, bare minimum.
Can the 42.75% of “your” money support that salary and the salon’s expenses? I highly doubt it. In fact, I can virtually guarantee that it can’t.
Many of the salon owners whose salon finances I’ve restructured are barely making minimum wage.
Without seeing your salon owner’s financials, I can’t say for sure that she’s one of those owners who would probably be earning more as a manager at Target or Victoria’s Secret, but there’s a pretty good chance that’s the case. Even if it weren’t, there’s a lot more that goes into salon ownership than you realize, and you have the nerve to talk about “your” money?
Stop it. Just, stop. If you think you can do better than your boss can, go open your own salon. You wouldn’t be the first to do just that and you wouldn’t be the first to fail within the first year with a new appreciation for what salon owners actually go through.
Don’t criticize your employer until you’ve been where she is.
I’ve been there myself. Now, I stand beside owners through all phases of their startup and turnaround projects. If you had the same breadth of experience, those childish assumptions you have about your “greedy” salon owner would evaporate with your profound ignorance.
EDITED TO INCLUDE:
Hi there. If you’re new to this blog and this post is the first article of mine you’ve ever read, get familiar with my content before bashing out your hate mail to me. Typically, I advocate for exploited beauty professionals, but I don’t play favorites. I call it like I see it, whether you like it or not.
It is my sincere belief that salon owners need to take ownership of their salons and manage them appropriately. That means paying your workers a wage they can actually survive on, compensating them for their time (not just their services), classifying them appropriately, providing them with benefits, and doing your job as an employer by marketing the salon, staffing it strategically, and owning your responsibilities.
Professionals, you have to know your rights and be willing to enforce the laws that are designed to protect you from exploitative owners. You also need to understand what you’re legally entitled to and what you aren’t.
This blog is full of information–300+ articles (most of them super long, like this one) full of linked references and informative comments. Dig in. Go through the archives in the sidebar or hit up the search bar. Go crazy.
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