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Last updated: July 19, 2017

11 Real Business Success Strategies from a Really Successful Salon

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More than 300 MINDBODY users got down to serious business at the company’s first ever Bold Conference, held seaside in Santa Monica, CA. Attendees sponged up amazing business information from savvy MINDBODY executives, including Co-Founders Rick Stollmeyer and Robert Murphy, and from guests like Sasha Kadey, Vice President of Digital Technology & Strategy for Luxury Brand Partners and Khiem Hoang, Co-Founder and Business Manager of San Jose’s Umbrella Salon.  


Umbrella is somewhat of a salon business phenomenon—with 17 stylists and five assistants, the salon does more than $1.8 million a year in service revenue, and $270,000 a year in retail.  It’s the only San Jose-based salon to routinely work at New York Fashion Week and staff retention is outstanding—most staffers have been with the company an average of seven or eight years. Even better? Khiem freely shares his strategies, believing that, “I don’t have competitors, I have friends who work in other salons. At the end of the day, there’s enough hair and enough business for everyone.” So in the spirit of “friendship,” here are 11 business tips and best practices from Khiem and Umbrella Salon!



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Customer Service
1. Greet and Appreciate
“Our mission is to inspire clients, refine our creativity and share our culture with the community.” That’s a pretty impactful mission statement, and one that the salon abides by steadfastly.The first part—inspiring clients—is particularly important. “In general,” says Khiem, “we always show appreciation for each client. We let them know we care and we want them to come back. As an owner, I check the board every day to see who’s coming in. Then I walk up to each client, greet them by name and thank them for their business. Remember, the client in your chair is the future of your business.”


2. Time Is a Big Deal
Stylists run late from time to time, and when that happens at Umbrella, everyone pitches in. “We acknowledge and respond to the value of our clients’ time,” says Khiem. “If someone is waiting, everyone in the salon recognizes that fact and apologizes to the client. What’s more, everyone who can pitches in to help the stylist who’s running late get back on schedule.”


3. Sorry is Free
So apologize whenever it’s necessary!  “If you make a mistake,” declares Khiem, “stand up and own it!”


4. The Thank You Note is Still Relevant
In this age of emails and texts, a handwritten note truly stands out as something special. So on the first day of a new client’s first visit, Umbrella stylists send a note thanking the client, mentioning something personal from their time together and inviting them to return. Example “Dear Carrie—I really enjoyed meeting you today. How cool that we both go to the same gym! I’d love to invite you to come back so I can keep your new cut looking great—you can book an appointment at 555-555-5555 or online at!”



5.  Hire Happy, Hire Carefully
“Happy people are so important,” says Khiem. “It’s easier to hire a happy person than to fire an unhappy person.” To make sure the happiness is for real, all new hires at Umbrella start off on a 90-day trial basis. After 90 days, management and the staffer reconvene to decide if it’s a good fit for both parties. If not, they part ways. It works. “I never fire anyone,” says Khiem.  “And people rarely quit. If they do, it’s because they want to move to New York!”


6. Set High Standards and Be Clear About Them
“Set solid policies, guidelines and procedures,” says Khiem. “This gives the staff the tools they need to succeed so it’s not a free-for-all. What you permit, you promote to the entire staff.  If you allow one stylist to come in late all the time, it sends the message that it’s ok for everyone to come in late.”


The Front Desk
7. The Front Desk is the Front Line
This is the make or break for most salons, yet ironically, it’s often the place where the least amount of resources are allotted for training and guiding. Not at Umbrella, where the role of the front desk is crystal clear. Each team member is expected to:

  • dress well
  • welcome the client
  • introduce themselves and shake hands
  • offer a beverage
  • be familiar with all services and stylists so they can make the proper recommendations
  • talk about additional products and services for upselling
  • have the products that the client’s stylist recommends ready when they leave the salon
  • validate parking
  • involve the client in the salon activities by inviting them to upcoming open houses or events; informing them about sales and promotions and letting them know about modeling opportunities for classes or photo shoots
  • end the visit with a sincere thank you and a fond farewell


8. Hold the Phone. Properly
Phone protocols are also well established. Umbrella staffers answer the phone by identifying themselves and asking how they can help. They book the appointment, repeating the time and date of the appointment, let the client know they’ll be receiving a confirmation call and warmly thank the caller before signing off.


9. Transform “Receptionists” Into Concierges
In today’s world, good service is expected. Even great service can evoke little more than a “meh” from clients. Go further, urges Khiem. Turn your front desk team into resourceful concierges. Say the client is looking for a good place to have lunch after her service. The Umbrella front desk “concierge” will make a recommendation, call and book a table and print out a map to the restaurant. Pretty unforgettable service, right?  “At Umbrella,” says Khiem, “we’re always trying to extend the notion of what salons usually do.”



Social Media
10. Engage the Team, Engage the World
Social media is no longer an option, believes Khiem, it’s a necessity. “Pick a maximum of six social media outlets—like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.—to be involved in,” he advises, “and be consistently active.” At Umbrella, team members are required to “like” or “share” something five times a day and post one comment to support the salon or a team member.  Khiem also keeps a close watch on Yelp to see how the salon is trending and to respond to comments. 



11. Just Do It
In this 24/7 world, online booking and mobile apps are essential, notes Khiem. “Find a system like MINDBODY that’s convenient for clients and usable for the team,” he notes. “Mobile apps should make it easy to prebook, purchase retail and check out. Online booking saves you time and money. Last month we had close to 400 online bookings—many of them made at 2 or 3 in the morning. That’s 400 phone calls we didn’t have to make or take!”


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