Are you tired of hearing salon ownership presented as the primary indicator of a professional’s success? So am I. The practice of pressuring our professionals to become business owners is damaging, and it needs to stop. In this article, I’m going to tell you why.

“Clients have asked when I’m going to open my own salon. They’re always surprised and disappointed when I tell them it will never happen. I’m ambitious, but those ambitions don’t include stepping out from behind my chair.”

Most people in our industry chose beauty professions–not business professions. Passion for the art of beauty and the nature of the job itself doesn’t often translate to passion for salon management, which requires an entirely different set of skills. Failure to understand that love of the job isn’t the same as love for the business itself is what causes so many enthusiastic salon professionals to become miserable salon owners.

Unless they hire a manager to run their operations, the workday of a salon owner looks nothing like that of a salon professional–a fact too many owners learn after they’ve committed to a venture.

“Business ownership is a big responsibility that most of my previous employers definitely weren’t prepared for.”

A lack of business acumen and managerial skill leads to highly oversaturated markets, “race to the bottom” price wars, and general instability that contributes to the industry’s abysmal attrition and salon failure rates. Very few professionals-turned-owners have any idea how to run a business. This wouldn’t be a problem if these same professionals-turned-owners curbed their impulses for a few years while they obtained the skills and education required, but very few do.

“The trial and error culture that surrounds salon ownership now is making it the unprofessional mess it is in many instances.”
-Ashley Gregory, The Nailscape

Glorifying salon ownership as an ideal career all should aspire to is as ridiculous as promoting the lie that every professional would make a successful salon owner. Only ten percent of people possess the talent to manage. That means for every ten professionals we push this damaging narrative on, only one of them naturally possesses the discipline, motivation, assertiveness, accountability, and decision-making skills required to do the job well. Individuals who lack those talents are far less likely to be successful managers, regardless of the support they receive.

Salon ownership isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay.

A person’s lack of managerial skill has no bearing on their overall success in the beauty industry because our assessments of success are measured objectively. Simply put: success means different things to different people. I don’t know when so many people (both professionals and clients alike) adapted this arbitrary milestone as the primary indicator of career mastery, but it’s absurd, meaningless, and frankly, unrealistic and illogical as anything I’ve ever heard.

The purpose of this article isn’t to discourage all professionals from aspiring to salon ownership in the future–just those who don’t understand what they’re getting into or why they’re pursuing it. If you aren’t willing to do the work and make the sacrifices necessary to run a legal and ethical workplace, don’t. If you can’t be bothered to acquire the necessary education, spend time building a solid plan, or spend money to ensure legal compliance, do yourself a favor find a less stressful, more satisfying way to bankrupt yourself. (Max out some credit cards or something–at least then you’ll end up with a lot of cool stuff when you hit bottom.)

If we’re making salon ownership synonymous with career success, what does that make the estimated 90% of salon and microsalon owners whose businesses fail within the first two years? Failures? How about the professionals who ascend to notorious positions in the industry as platform artists or educators? Are they failures too? I disagree with that. By no means are those non-salon owner professionals “failures,” and while many salons do fail due to the owner’s lack of preparedness or inability to manage, but sometimes it’s nobody’s fault. (The best laid plans of mice and men, right?)

If you dream of becoming a salon owner one day and are committed to doing it well, then work towards it. Do your research, take classes, and gain managerial experience.

If you don’t dream of salon ownership, don’t feel pressured to become something you don’t want to be. Keep doing what you love–and don’t let others define success for you.

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