Am the only person who feels like a big standard of success in our industry is owning a salon? That seems to be the end goal for so many stylists, and of course, it was for me, too! When I started Salon Five Zero Four though, I learned very quickly that owning a salon is NOT for the faint of heart, and it’s certainly not the ONLY way to find success in our industry. It’s a 24/7 job that requires serious leadership skills!

Have I scared you away yet? Good! Because I’m about to share some of my tried and true tips for leading your salon well as the owner.


Before putting together a team of stylists, it’s important to figure out what kind of atmosphere you want to create. Do you want a large staff with a lot of different personalities or do you want a smaller team of like-minded people? I encourage you to sit down with a pen and paper and write out what your ideal salon would feel like. How will your stylists treat the clients who come in? How will they treat each other? How will you structure schedules? Go through every little detail to understand how your ideal salon operates!

I’m also a big fan of having your own core values and mission. For example, is positive energy important to you? You’ll want to hire people who also believe in the power of positivity!


Now that you have a vision for your salon, it’s time to set the expectations to help you achieve that.

I LIVE for setting expectations right from the start. Someone once told me, “Don’t assume people know what you expect — TELL THEM what you expect.” This is so important for creating a healthy, positive salon culture.

So right now, put it on paper. Do you want your stylists to sign confidentiality agreements? Do you have a set dress code? Are there specific cleaning standards they need to follow? Is gossiping about other stylists and/or clients a huge no-no? Are they required to get certified in the Harper Ellis Method? These are things that you absolutely have to put out into the open and make clear as you hire new people or set new expectations for long-time employees.

Remember, it’s never too late to make a shift. This is YOUR salon. It’s your dream, and you should enjoy walking into it. I recently mentioned on my podcast that I did a salon clean out this summer because I felt DREAD when I walked up to the door. There were a few people who were throwing the culture off, and my dream had turned far less dreamy!

I’m here to tell you that life is too short to feel that way about your business! Go over these new policies and expectations with your stylists, and if they’re not interested in following them, it may be time to part ways. And that’s ok! Everyone has their own path, but you should LOVE the one you’re on.


Now that you’ve created a culture for your salon and set the expectations for how that will be maintained, you have to walk the walk! If you’re not dressing according to the dress code, your staff will not dress according to the dress code. If you don’t fully clean your station between clients, your staff will stop doing that. If you start gossiping, your staff WILL gossip, too! There’s no better way to lead than by example.


This is one of the hardest parts of leading a team. To be fully transparent, I love my staff. They’re not just my friends, they’re my family. Sometimes I think they understand me and do more for me than some of my real family and friends! But at the end of the day, I can’t always be their friend because ultimately, I am their boss, and as their boss, I’m responsible for their livelihood AND my own. As the owner of a salon, you sometimes have to get a little tougher on people or say NO to something they want. If your employees can understand that and still want to go to brunch with you on Sundays, that’s great!


Your staff can probably tell when you’re not yourself because you’re doing too much. You might be a little more short-tempered, and you’re probably not bringing that positive energy into the salon. You cannot be the source of positivity if you’re not doing anything to fill your cup, as they say.

I want you to sit back right now and think: When was the last time you did something for yourself? Bought yourself something nice, cooked a real meal just because, or gotten a little fresh air and exercise? When was the last time you read a book or watched a great movie or caught up with your best friend? Remember, all work and no play does NOT make a great boss! Fill your cup, and you’ll see a difference, I promise!

Lastly, I do want to remind you that it’s ok not to get it right 100% of the time. Leading a team and owning a business is a constant learning process. It takes time, experience, and trial and error to find your groove and learn how to communicate with people well. Be thoughtful, give yourself grace, and never give up!