The beauty industry is big business. In the U.S., hair and nail salons employ more than 1.5 million stylists, technicians, managers and clerks, according to data from market research firm IBIS World. With nearly 90,000 hair salons and barber shops across the country, according to research by the Small Business Development Center, the benefits of washing hair, doing designer cuts and mastering highlights run high. The number of professionals in the field is expected to grow by 14 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those who run the show stand to earn the most. Salon owners and salon managers are the leaders of the pack in the business.
Behind the Scenes
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Salon owners, just like the owners of other companies, are the brains behind the business. They make major decisions for the salon. They manage budgets, hire employees, uphold state requirements and industry standards, negotiate with suppliers and complete a range of administrative duties. Salon owners may not maintain a daily presence in the salon. Their job is to run a successful business, so interacting directly with clients may not be an everyday job duty. Salon owners may also attend conventions or trade shows. They may join professional associations, network with other professionals and build relationships with new vendors.
Front and Center
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Salon managers are the center of the daily operations of a salon. Unlike salon owners, they typically maintain a presence in the salon each day. That's because salon managers supervise staffs of cosmetologists, assistants, barbers and others. They ensure professional conduct and appearance, enforce standards and government regulations, and make sure staff members have the tools and products they need. Salon managers ensure client satisfaction. They assess staff performance and work quality; they also speak with clients and may conduct customer surveys. Salon managers make hiring decisions, promote continuing education for employees, maintain a clean, hygienic environment and oversee financial duties, such as payroll, invoices and deposits. While salon owners execute the strategy for the business, salon managers may come up with ideas to increase sales, such as special promotions or discounts.
Different, but the Same
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The daily demands and duties of salon owners and managers differ, but the foundation of their careers has more in common than not. While laws and requirements vary by state, salon owners and managers usually must be licensed cosmetologists. That means they have successfully completed a state-licensed cosmetology program. Sharing this background, salon owners and managers may have been stylists and hairdressers previously. Some owners and managers still take on clients, but doing so may come at a premium for customers who might pay more because of their expertise and reputation.
A Tight-Knit Team
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Salon managers and salon owners work together to operate a successful business. Their partnership is not "versus" each other, but rather "with" one another. Owners trust their managers to execute key components of their business vision. At the same time, managers rely on owners to provide steady guidance and supportive leadership. Together, effective salon owners and managers work in marketing, finances, staffing, clients, vendors, suppliers and equipment. Their actual duties may vary, but both are essential to a successful salon.
The Better Fit for You
Business ownership and business management draw from a related pool of skills and strengths. Salon owners and managers must be assertive with an eye for details, as they are responsible by law for staff members and maintaining various operational standards. Entrepreneurship must be in the toolbox of the salon owner as she seeks to establish and grow her business. She must also be analytical and strategic in business partnerships, finances and marketing. Managers must also be business-minded and comfortable engaging with staff and the public. People who can balance leadership with a professional social streak may be well-suited for salon management.
K. Danielle Edwards is an experienced media, public relations, marketing, journalism and communications professional whose portfolio spans daily newspapers, monthly publications, government, national corporations and other companies. Edwards has also won awards for her contributions to communications and social media.