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How to keep top stylists at your salon

Paying minimum wage or not much above, beauty salons generally have a high staff turnover rate – so how can you keep hold of your best stylists?

Attracting and keeping good talent should be a top priority for beauty-business owners.

The competition for wooing good stylists is fierce and the temptation for them to move on strong in a profession that starts at minimum wage but where salaries can soar into six figures as stylists gain experience and skill.

Hairdresser and chief executive of Vancouver-based Michael Levine Salon Group Michael Levine addressed the industry’s high staff turnover in an interview with the Globe and Mail:

“There’s a high turnover in the industry, especially among those just starting out, because the money isn’t great at first […] being successful requires skill as well as confidence,” he said. “People who succeed tend to have more of an entrepreneurial spirit.”

So how do you win over top stylists and keep them? Here are some ideas for managing these creative individuals.

Flexible freedom

Most stylists enjoy freedom to book clients and flexible hours. Often, the flexibility of the schedule and informal, non-corporate environment is one of the things that attracts them to the beauty business in the first place. A salon owner that rules with an iron fist won’t appeal to this group of workers.

How you run your business will also depend on whether your stylists are employees or contractors.

Stylists who work as contractors pay the salon a booth rental fee. Those who are employees are typically paid on commission. There is no one-size-fits-all plan for every salon, so determine which structure works best for your business.

The non-compete controversy

Some salons require their stylists to sign non-compete and non-disclosure agreements. These are aimed at protecting the salon’s existing clients and trade secrets.

The idea is to legally protect information that a stylist may learn while working for you, in addition to making sure your customers don’t leave with a stylist who deserts to a competitor or opens their own salon.

Some business owners feel these agreements set the tone for a bad working relationship from the start. And there is a certain lack of trust implicit in asking a stylist to sign these documents.

However, a signed agreement could deter potential walkouts.

So, do what you need to in order to protect your business.

Hire a human resources consultant or lawyer to draft an agreement that suits both parties. That way, if you decide to part ways, there is a clear understanding of how the departure is handled and an acrimonious, even litigious, split can be avoided.

Equal parts friend and boss

A successful salon owner will need to find a balance between being friendly with their stylists and maintaining a level of respect from staff.

In a salon environment, it can be easy to create a casual atmosphere. But the best managers are equal parts friendly and firm while demanding professionalism in all aspects of their business.

Hold regular staff meetings to keep lines of communication open. These should be forums to discuss salon problems, staffing issues and housekeeping items, but also dedicate some time to show off your stylists’ successes. By creating a team atmosphere, everyone wins.

A good salon owner needs to manage both clients and staff. Just as you work to create a friendly and comfortable environment that your clients will want to return to again and again, you should work to build strong relationships with your staff.

Create an environment that makes your stylists want to come to work every day. Spending time fostering a good working environment will actually save you time spent recruiting, hiring and training new stylists.   

Melanie Luff

About the author

Melanie Luff is an in-house journalist and writes for all titles in the Dynamis stable including, and as well as other industry publications.


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