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Fighting Fire

Fighting Fire

There will be fires. Your job will be to put them out. The question is, are you going to be a fireman or a fire marshal?

Day to day business can run smoothly and then… something bursts into flames. A businessperson must go into firefighting mode. Identify the fire (problem). Determine its source and severity and then take swift and effective action. Fight that fire. Put it out completely. Render the business safe and the threat neutralized. Such is the life of a fire fighter.

Or perhaps you might choose to be a fire marshal instead? Can you take on a pre-fire role? Can you spot the chemical-soaked rags stored under the stairs with poor ventilation before a problem erupts? Can you patrol your business with an eye towards prevention instead of dealing with flare ups once they have been roiling away?

Firemen and fire marshals are both key members of the public safety squad. They perform very different functions. They also encounter different risks and vastly different stress levels in their day-to-day execution of their responsibilities.

Following are my top 5 tips for fire marshalling a shop or salon. You will never have to put out a fire that does not erupt.

1. Know your numbers – Information is power for better decision making. Know which direction and how fast the numbers that matter to your business are moving. Track key metrics to be on top of your business to avoid surprises. Stay on top of payroll, scheduling, inventory and marketing expenses just to name a few key elements you can pro-actively manage with good information. Be able to rattle off these numbers on a day to day basis:

i. Rate of occupancy

ii. Repeat request rate

iii. Rebook rate

iv. Average ticket

v. Retail per ticket average

2. Know your people – Be on top of your team and their lives inside and outside the business. Who is sick? Whose kid is sick? What is going on in an employee’s life, positive and negative, that can and will impact their mindset and performance. This is not about snooping. This is about truly taking an active and concerned interest in the lives of your team. This is for the health of your business and for their success within your business. Talk to team members daily. Connect in small groups and one-on-one. Be available when they need to seek you out for support or celebration. If they know you care they will share more and more often.

3. Know your customers – Your business really belongs to your customers. They decide every day if your business is thriving or dying. Know your customers. Know what is important to them. Know what they like about your business and what are their pain points in your operation. Talk to customers. Listen to customers. Put out client surveys, on line and on paper in the shop. Develop the ability to hear a complaint or comment and distill it down to the issue that needs to be addressed. Listen for the difference between a real issue and white noise. When you implement measures to address client concerns be sure the clients know what you are doing and why. Also, be sure team members know the what and why of changes and improvements. They are the front line, engaged with clients, so they will implement these things. They also need to know that as owner and manager you are responsive and engaged.

4. Know your market – Be an active and engaged member of your community. Know what is going on at village council meetings. Attend a school board meeting. Join the chamber of commerce. Be known as more than the guy who takes money for haircuts. Know your competition. Know who works where, what they charge and how they think they are different in the marketplace. Think community over competition. There are enough heads for everyone.

5. Know your environment – Be on the floor in the middle of it all. One of the best ways to run a shop is by riding the broom. This puts you in and around the chairs amidst the team, the clients and the nitty-gritty. What is my team talking to clients about? What are clients asking about? Do your own inventory. This keeps you keenly aware of what is selling and how much. This is the same information as downloading an inventory from a POS system but a much more hands-on and real experience. Use the bathroom. Have a haircut. Sit in your own waiting room. Make the shop and the client experience very real for you. Spending a few hours per week behind the chair is way more valuable than the money paid for the haircuts.

Ivan Zoot is a barber and cosmetologist with thirty year’s experience, some as a fire marshal and some as a fire fighter. Get your copy of his book Be A $100,000 Haircutter on line at or at Amazon.

barber shop hair salon fire fighting

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