Conducting an anonymous survey on any topic is interesting, because, in my experience at least, typically about one-quarter of the responses cannot be used. This isn’t because I don’t want to use them – it’s because the answers are given in a way that demands clarity, yet due to the anonymous nature of responses, we can’t get it.

An example – One question on the survey was: How much are stylists/consultants paid?

A response we received many times: A LOT!

I am sure, in respondents’ heads, the meaning of A LOT! was crystal clear. And by putting it in caps accented with an exclamation point, it certainly gave the impression this topic was a big issue at those particular stores, for better or worse, although I have no way of knowing for sure – or using the responses. 

So they, along with many others (Q: How much do other employees make? A: Not as much as stylists; Q: How much are managers paid? A: Depends on what our sales are), gets thrown out, shrinking our sample size. This is being shared as a reminder as to why you should always take averages and data in ANY survey with a grain of salt. It’s meant to give you an idea but can never tell the whole picture.

What I found much more telling than any particular average were the underlying themes. The most successful salons (judging by number of years in business and size of staff) don’t necessary share the same pay rate or compensation philosophy, but there are two principles they all adhere to:


1. They truly care about their staffs. This stood out more than anything – the amount of space successful owners devoted to praising the people who worked for them, acknowledging the success of their salon would not be possible without a great team. Consultants aren’t viewed as employees but rather family. This is visible to everyone and results in much higher productivity and retention rates.


2. They share the wealth (or very much want to). No matter which compensation structure a store employs, successful owners are generous with a capital G. If financial realities prevent them from being as generous as they’d like, they find other ways to show appreciation, often through creative perks. But the bottom line is they go out of their way to show employees are valued. This is the hallmark of a successful store, and the real takeaway of this piece.