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Thursday, 25 October 2007 11:33

Maintaining Morale

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Theory of Corporate and Business Planning, Conflict Resolution, Human Resource Managers, verbal and written reprimands and warnings, OSHA, ADA, and ACLU are all important topics when it comes to owning a business. After pondering these topics for oh… 15 seconds, I came to realize that the main reason we became business owners is because we love the industry and are passionate about our work. The employees that we surround ourselves with at our place of business, although with many differences, are all practicing the same end philosophy, 100 percent customer care that is physical, social, and therapeutic.

As an aesthetician (18 years) and a skin clinic owner (over 15 years), I wish to share some of my experiences to assist in your business employee relations. I believe everyone is brought into our lives for a reason. Some individuals stay for a very long time and become lasting relationships; others come and go quickly. Half of my current staff has been employed with me from the day we opened our doors. We have all been through a lot together: marriages, kids, success, growth, and even death. I can honestly say most of the people that have crossed over my tracks have taught me very valuable lessons in life: how I want to be treated, how I should treat people, what type of person I need to invest in, and what type of person I need to avoid.

Whether you are the applicant, manager, or owner, when going into an interview, have not only your questions prepared, but more importantly, be prepared with answers. Some of these should be full disclosure of the position, a mock schedule, job duties, and even the compensation (this can be a sticky subject to discuss, but should be disclosed). Be prepared to list other duties related to the position such as daily cleaning, laundry, or team playing. Being open about the position will give you insight to the types of expectations that each side has, leaving no room for surprises, and indirectly answering many questions. While you are interviewing, do not only think of the short term, but plan for the long term. While you are questioning your prospect, try to objectively judge them as an individual and decide how they will fit with the current employees you have. Will they “rock the boat” and generate some drama throughout the facility, or will this person “play well with others”, follow rules and guidelines, and set a good example? Ask them about their previous employment: how or why did they leave, how did they feel about their previous co-workers and supervisor?
So when you think you are ready to hire them, STOP. Let them know you will contact them. When you ‘settle’ for an applicant as an employee simply because you need a position filled, the situation will almost always turn bad. Schedule a lunch, spend more than 30 minutes with them, and get a little more insight on them, their values, and personality. By inviting people to lunch, the interview is more casual and your potential hire is more comfortable, and shows more of his/her personality. From my experience, we’ve been surprised many times by individuals that have been good candidates at an interview but have had bad character at lunch.

Realistic Expectations
Having good relations means having a special bond with each and every person that works with you. This includes knowing their strengths, weakness, values, and goals. Helping people attain their goals and working to improve their knowledge will help them grow and keep them focused. Working in an environment that does not stimulate learning and creativity becomes dull and mundane. Turn education and creativity into a personal goal of your own by basing your success on your employee’s success. Do not hold back valuable lessons and techniques in order to make yourself feel like a superior technician or aesthetician. Educate, encourage, and push your staff to grow and excel in their practice. The successful ones will stay and grow and the lazy, unmotivated will leave.
Know your staff’s limitations. Scheduling, sales, and services are all part of our daily grind. Work with your employee schedule and attempt to accommodate requests. For example, some employees are comfortable with a part-time schedule. Do not open their books to accommodate more clientele unless it is discussed with the employee. Although we are in the service industry and always wish to get the clients on the books in a timely fashion, make these schedule changes the exception – not the rule. Changes in something as simple as a work schedule can become an issue to the employee that may have him/her seeking another place of employment. Some employees do not like to sell products to their clientele. Show them the art of the subtle sell or otherwise suggestive selling. When it comes to services, some are more aggressive, fast, or detailed. Employees who prefer to take 30 minutes to perform a brow wax, or are uncomfortable in performing bikini or brazilian waxing are not necessarily lazy, but need more practice, confidence, and/or instruction on their technique. Should you tell someone that you will only schedule five minutes to perform a service that they need 30 minutes to perform, they will probably perform that service poorly. As a business owner or manager it is your responsibility to find the balance with each of them while realizing that you may be able to mold them a little, but will not change their persona.

Artists in Aesthetician’s Clothing
Our industry is composed of creative people, artists in some cases. I feel we chose this field because people are our canvas and our goal is to create beautiful skin, bodies, hair, and even make-up. The services we provide make people feel good about their appearance and help improve their self-esteem. Many individuals, partners, or groups of people open a facility with the big corporate company idea or environment that they are accustomed to. Don’t forget that many of us have left, or are unhappy in the corporate setting due to the lack of freedom, or the passion of making people feel good about themselves. Change things up and add fun elements to your work environment. Employees feel valued and appreciated when they have the pleasure of voicing their opinion. Some of these fun elements can be as simple as adding their own personal décor in their treatment room or workspace. Even taking polls or voting on issues that address uniforms or proper dress attire and selling their favorite skin care line. Essentially this concept goes back to what was said earlier: treat people the way you would like to be treated. Respect their opinions, consideration, and a degree of self expression cannot be annihilated completely, as we are all human. It is our personality and our compassion that creates lasting impressions and relationships with our clients.

Managing the Frontlines
There comes a time when the decision comes to either run a business yourself as an owner and manager, or be the owner and hire a manager. If you choose to hire a manager, building a relationship with this person is of the utmost importance. A manager can either become your right hand or your worst enemy. Valuable characteristics in a facility manager include great team building skills, reflects the best interests of the company, and, most important, the fashion in which they treat the clients. Communication is key to any position, especially when your manager is reliable for maintaining communication to the staff, clients, and the owner.
Managers must also be reliable enough to handle sticky situations. These can include client-employee complaints and employee-employee complaints. A prime example of an employee-employee complaint manages to arise around birthdays. A solution that our manager has created and practiced is a monthly potluck. For those who are celebrating birthdays, the company buys the card and the cake and everyone signs the card and eats the goodies that were brought in for the luncheon. Gift exchanges can only be done after hours to avoid catty comments like, “she bought Suzy a gift and didn’t buy one for me” or “she didn’t spend that much money on my gift”. Potluck luncheons with company gifts have eliminated these spats in the workplace. In addition to celebrating birthdays, potluck luncheons are a great way to open monthly communications with your staff; business and pleasure combined.
Managers and owners need to maintain open communication and be understanding of each other. A good manager takes pride in the facility they’re running, give them the respect and freedom to show their talents. One of my personal weaknesses is that I tend to be overbearing on my managers and had a history of running them off. Several years later, I learned that a healthy respectful relationship with your manager will maintain a smooth running business. However, although you have great trust and respect, maintain an open door policy. If an employee-employee complaint arises, listen to each employee separately to understand each complaint. Next, bring them together and mediate the conversation. Through this, everyone is on the same page and problems truly get resolved without the unnecessary gossip and idle chat. Does this work when dealing with an all women facility? Yes. The same protocol holds true when you are reprimanding or firing a staff member. Your manager should always be present so you are both on the same page, but never give your manger the authority to fire an employee as that power should be reserved to the owner.

Slow Business Can Yield Great Production
If business is slow, put your staff to work. This can include simple phone calls and letters to clients, cleaning and chores, or education. Have a ‘product of the month’ sale that includes a quick meeting with your staff to go over the selling points of the item and how it works, then role-play sales pitches to each other. If business is slow or just starting out, create events with your staff and make it a team-building event, not a stressful situation. As a business owner, it is important to remember that your mood radiates through your business. Like a common cold, stress and anxiety can radiate from you, to your manager and to the staff. In turn, when the staff is unhappy, it’s hard to keep up a positive image to your clients. Keep your employees upbeat and busy. Again, this concept goes back to retaining valuable employees. A stressful work environment is a significant factor that will get your employee looking for a new job. The longer you can keep an employee, the more stable your business becomes. High turnover in our industry causes a loss in clientele and thus a loss in income. Maintain a positive work environment no matter what the situation, keep your staff busy (we all know there’s something to do) and make your facility successful.
When the day is done I’d like you to sit and think about your experiences as a receptionist, aesthetician, manager, or owner. Step back and think about some of your past coworkers/employees and what they gave you. What did you learn and how have they developed you? What events in your day have you learned from? This can include a suggestion or comment made by a fellow employee or one of your clients. We all learn from praise and scorn, but the key is take it all in and make your future judgments based off of these events. Practice a mindful mantra in your facility. Is your crew working together to make a successful practice? Without effective leadership and communication you have a slowly sinking ship. Remember that your employee’s are human, they make mistakes and they have personalities of their own. Keep a keen eye out when hiring and mold them for success, those who are not interested in learning will leave. The road to harmony, peace, love, happiness, and success is… well, what you make of it.

Tina Zillmann is a paramedical aesthetician, having a focus in acne care and light-peeling treatments. She is also the owner of the Skin Rejuvenation Clinique, Inc., a facility that services to pre- and post-operative patients. Zillmann also acts as a national educator for Advanced Rejuvenating Concepts™. Recently, she was the recipient of the Entrepreneur Spirit Award from the National Association of Women Business Owners.



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