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To the salon owner who feels like they're drowning: The Burnout Blog



From one salon owner to another, I’d like to take this opportunity to talk about the less glamorous side of salon ownership. This blog looks a little different than our regular content, but it is a topic and issue that so many of us are struggling with silently. Although it feels like you are suffering in silence, the effects of burnout are loud, not only in your own head, but also to those around you.


My name is Sarah, and I am a salon owner, service provider, and digital marketing specialist for Salon S.O.S., and in this blog, I’m going to share my own experience with burn out, what finally woke me up, and tangible practices you can try if you’re in the same boat. I sincerely hope some of what I share resonates with other salon owners who feels like they’re drowning and is looking for a metaphorical buoy to help keep them afloat.

 

WHAT IS BURNOUT?



Burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress or overwork. It can manifest in various ways, such as feeling constantly tired and drained, experiencing frequent headaches, nausea, or muscle pain, becoming irritable or impatient, and losing interest in activities you used to enjoy. Burnout can also lead to feelings of cynicism, detachment, and a sense of being constantly overwhelmed. It occurs when individuals are consistently subjected to high levels of stress without adequate time for rest and self-care. Factors that contribute to burnout include excessive workload, a feeling of a lack of control over your work environment, unclear expectations, and inadequate support from colleagues or team members.


Sound like anyone you know, perhaps yourself?!


Burnout is so much more than just feeling tired, overwhelmed or worn out, these are states that all of us as human beings experience and that is normal. What’s not normal is when this becomes a regular or constant state of being. For myself, burnout presents itself physically- almost as if my body knows I will not recognize the mental strain, so it needs to knock me down to a place of not being able to function in order to rest. This was when I realized that it was not only miserable living in this state, it was also completely unattainable. It took hitting a mental and physical state of rock bottom for me to make the adjustments I desperately needed to make.


You may be sitting on the other side of this computer screen saying “well yes, in a perfect world I would also make those adjustments. But I have a business to run, employees who rely on me for their livelihood, and the daily struggles that inevitably pop up.” Believe me, I made every excuse in the book as to why I didn’t have the time, the funds, or even the energy to make these changes. I’m here to tell you- the world will not stop spinning if you take time to take care of YOURSELF. Your salon will live to see another day if you stop and take the time to replenish your own cup that has been empty for years. There are ways around financial and time restrictions, and funny enough once you put these things into play, your energy for things you couldn’t fathom making time for before, will reappear eventually. I want to take the time to recognize 2 major things that come along with owning a salon, things you don’t necessarily expect when opening your own business, that likely are causing you to feel burn and suggestions to overcome them.

 

1.       Playing every single role in your salon; from bookkeeper, HR, mentor, marketing, service provider etc. In other industries, how many owners do you know that play every single role within their business? It’s almost ridiculous to picture a restaurant owner shopping for all the groceries, cooking and plating each meal, running each dish out to every patron, washing the dishes, and then spending the rest of their time training chefs, and servers, maintaining ALL of their marketing strategies, oh and also squeezing in time to manage expenses and payroll. Simply put, it’s not possible. So why do we as salon owners feel the burden to take on EVERY single role within out business?

While we’re running with this restaurant metaphor, you need to quit biting off more than you can chew, establish what you do well and can bring to the table, and order in/delegate the rest. I understand there is a grind that comes along with business ownership and sometimes, hiring someone else to do a job for you isn’t feasible. Here’s my formula for figuring out what YOU should be doing, and how to establish which jobs you can invest in someone else doing.



 

Establish your own hourly rate, AKA how much is your time WORTH!? Maybe its $30, maybe it’s $250- assign an actual hourly rate that correlates with your worth, and DO NOT shortchange yourself. This doesn’t mean that you’ll actually be able to PAY yourself this rate (although the goal is to one day be able to), but you need this number to go off of. For example, I established my personal hourly rate at $50- I have 13 years experience as a service provider, 10 years experience as a salon owner, and over 15 years under my belt working in the salon industry. You better believe I’ll be getting a metaphorical personal raise next year, but I digress!


When looking at what needs to be done, whether it be cleaning the salon, counting inventory, doing payroll, social media content creation, or maintaining our website, I assign a dollar amount to it. Cleaning the salon is not a $50/hour job, it is more of a $15-$20/hour job, so I delegate that to an employee who is on wage. Counting inventory is also not a $50/hour job, that can also easily be delegated. However, things like payroll and maintaining our website, I view as $50/hour jobs that I can tackle myself. But if payroll and bookkeeping isn’t something that comes naturally to you and you must spend hours upon hours learning it, is that a worthwhile investment? Do you see where I’m going with this?!

Once you have an actual number to grasp onto, it makes delegating and hiring someone to do these things justifiable- and then you can save your own skill set for jobs that are your “hourly worth” that will help grow your business instead of simply maintaining it.

 

2.       Pouring endlessly into clients and/or team members that frankly, do not care, want, or appreciate it. I hope my cynicism isn’t showing with that comment, but it’s a slap in the face that I think a lot of people in general, but salon professionals specifically, need. This is a tough lesson to learn, and it took me many years and honestly, many sleepless nights and tears to finally come to terms with. It broke me when I would spend time, energy, and money pouring into an employee or client for their (as well as my own) benefit, for them move on without batting an eye. I became a salon owner to serve my clients, to help grow my team members, and in the process, I forgot to protect my own energy and investments. At the end of the day, you’ve got a business to run, and oftentimes, feelings can overpower logic, which can ultimately become detrimental to your business.


My solution to this problem? Well, it’s not clear cut, and it’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all fix: but do an audit on what has worked for you and what hasn’t- and be painfully honest with yourself about it. I’ll give you a personal example: my business partner and I are huge on education, it’s one of the things that we are passionate about with our team members. For years, we offered financial support for education purposes because we saw it not only as an excellent opportunity for our team, but also an investment in our own company. However, after several incidences of being burned by former employees who accepted the financial support for education before leaving, and refusing to pay back said education, we realized…. Who the hell are we doing this for?! The team members may have appreciated it at the time, but when the bill came, suddenly, the value wasn’t there. So, in reality, we were incentivizing taking education that team members weren’t necessarily interested in taking, and then feeling taken advantage of when there was no return on our investment. So, what did we do? We scrapped it, it wasn’t serving us OR our employees…but the road to hell is paved with good intentions, right? There is a difference between providing a leg up when team members express interest in investing in education, and force-feeding education to team members that don’t want it with a silver spoon. We are still passionate about providing education resources and even financial support when needed, but it is now something that is done strategically. My new personal motto is that I am no longer bending over backwards for people that wouldn’t lift a finger for me, and that has been a game changer. So salon owners, quit pouring from your empty cup into those who wouldn’t bother to spill a drop for you, but continue to pour into those who replenish yours as well.

 

HOW TO START YOUR BURNOUT RECOVERY


Whether you have already hit your threshold, or are on the road to inevitable burnout, I’ve got a couple of resources and practices for you to check out that helped me immensely. First things first:


TAKE A DAMN BREAK

Easier said than done, I know, but there’s absolutely NO reason you can’t take time to rest. No I don’t mean finishing your computer work from the comfort of your own bed, no I don’t mean taking a sick day when your burnout has manifested itself physically, and NO I don’t mean spending a weekend “off” catching up on all of your housework. I mean, take an ACTUAL break- schedule a long weekend, a week, 2 weeks off where you don’t do anything work related, or at the very least, time within that break to completely unplug and reset. Don’t just block off time, block off time to REST, and take it as seriously as you would any other obligation, and do not apologize for it. I heard something once that resonated with me; you would never apologize for taking a drink of water when you’re thirsty, so why would you apologize for taking rest when you’re exhausted? The power is in your hands and your schedule is also in your hands, you and only you are responsible for taking care of yourself as much as you do your team. To piggyback off this, I would also recommend taking this time to reflect on what part you play in your burnout (respectfully, you are responsible for and in control of all of this). I would also recommend taking a moment to evaluate what coping mechanisms you have developed to cope with burnout, because believe me, you have in some way or another. Are these coping mechanisms healthy or are they contributing more to your stress and overwhelm? Or perhaps, could you swap some of these coping tactics with something that would make you feel better? Once you have time to sit back and reflect on everything, it will become clearer how you may be further contributing to feelings of burnout. It is hard to take a look in the mirror, and even harder to accept the flaws looking back at you, but it is incredibly liberating to start taking steps to changing your own situation.


UTILIZE RESOURCES

Not only do you need to start delegating, you also need to know when to ask for help. We are all human, and we all need a helping hand from time to time, and although it might taken everything in you to ask, I guarantee there are people in your corner who are willing and able to take a load off your plate the way you have done for them. If you aren’t ready to actually ask someone for help, seek out resources that will provide you with information, practices, and tools that will allow you to help yourself. I’ve got two books that I recommend you checking out:


The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

One key takeaway from this book is the importance of starting your day with a positive and energizing routine, such as meditation, exercise, and goal-setting. This can help salon owners cultivate a sense of purpose and motivation, which is crucial for overcoming burnout. Another key takeaway is the power of consistency in creating lasting change. By implementing a daily morning routine, you can build healthy habits that contribute to your overall well-being and success. This book emphasizes the significance of self-care and prioritizing personal growth, which are essential for managing stress and preventing burnout in our demanding industry.


Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott

This is one of my favourite books of all time, for both business owners and employees alike. One key takeaway from this book is the importance of having open and honest communication in all aspects of your life, including business relationships. Salon owners who struggle with confrontation can benefit from learning how to have fierce conversations that address issues head-on and lead to resolutions. Another key takeaway is the significance of delegating tasks effectively to prevent burnout. By implementing practices from this book, salon owners can learn how to empower their team members and trust them to handle responsibilities, which can alleviate stress and prevent burnout.




 

CONCLUSION

To the salon owner who feels like they’re drowning, I see you and I feel you, in fact I was you just a short time ago. It took a years of paddling, barely keeping my head above water, and hitting a pain point that I could no longer bear, to realize even though I was willingly in the deep end by choosing to become a salon owner, I was holding onto so much unnecessary weight that was pulling me down further. It is a daily challenge and I’m in no way “in the clear”, but I can tell you that the clarity that comes along with taking care of yourself is life changing. No one can pull you to shore, you’ll have to do that yourself, but I hope you know there are life vests available. I sincerely hope that this blog post finds who it needs to, and please know Salon S.O.S. is here as a metaphorical lighthouse, providing light for you to see that you’re not treading in the dark water alone.


‘Til next time,

Your Team At Salon S.O.S.

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