Surviving Christmas: My Advice

So the other day, I met one of my good Salon Owner friends for coffee.

It was 2pm, and she announced that she just had to eat something because she hadn't eaten anything all morning. And she said to me, "I'm living the Salon Madhouse life again."

And you know what, I remember those days really, really well. And so we discussed this craziness over our Christmas lunch, with a wine, (of course).

We started talking about, what are some of the things we can do to survive the Christmas madness? Because I remember each year around this time, I'd be thinking to myself:

“This is the last year I'm going to be on the floor and work this hard.”

And I'd be thinking: “never again”... like there must have been a good five years where I swore that this was it. This was that last year, I was doing Christmas, and I was 100% coming off the floor.

And you've got to remember, year by year, I was less and less on the floor.

But even being less on the floor, I still felt the stress and the strain of the crazy season, you know...there are two or three weeks in the lead up to Christmas where:

Every man and his dog wants to come and have their hair & beauty services done

... and fair enough to them! But I remember going to my mum's house for Christmas Day, and I would be having a wee nap on the couch. You know, I was so exhausted by the Christmas craziness. And it was completely anti-social.

It shouldn't be like that, right?

So I learned the hard way to finally take some care of myself. And in fact, by the time I was not on the floor, I really made sure that I was there to support the girls. And make sure that it wasn't quite as crazy for them.

So anyway, I wanted to share with you some things to do to make sure that your silly season is not super silly...

Look after yourself

To do that, I think you've got to start with: being prepared.

Because I know those days where you arrive for your first clients at nine and you might arrive at half-past eight if you're the organised type like me, or you might be a last-minute dash type.

But you know that you're not leaving those four walls until eight or nine o'clock at night. So you've got to be organised and be prepared. So I think, do the sanity check.

Be prepared... with Snacks!

Take a water bottle or make sure you've got a box of muesli bars, or nuts and raisins to snack on.

So make sure you've got a bag full of those, bring your lunch, something to eat around dinner time because I know that we often do the mad dash two bites of food in between the clients, a quick look on Facebook and off we go again.

Be prepared. And you know, we would have a culture in the Salon also where we would highlight some of the crazy periods of the day.

And we would get the support staff to go and do a lunch run or dinner run or water run or something just to make sure that we don't have hangry hairdressers.


Walk out of the Salon

So maybe instead of walking out to the backroom, taking two bites and looking at Facebook, actually walk out of the business, whether you just do a once around the block, walk down the street, look at some shoes or something…

Just get out of the building and get some different scenery and remember who you are and what you are and that you're not just in this cave called 'Salon madhouse'.

So when you can, walk out of the business… because I know you sometimes hear stories of hair and hairstylists and beauty therapists going to the loo and having a bit of a long sit down just to take a break out of the madness.


Don't do all the hours

I know it's tempting to work lots of 12 hour days.  There's a time and a place for the 12 hour day- totally did them myself and so did my team. Even when I stopped doing it.

But you know too many of those is a recipe for burnout. So stretch them out as much as you can.

What we used to do- is in those last three weeks before Christmas, work seven days a week... but don’t work the crazy hours, and instead, make sure that there were gaps and we could spread the time out across those 7 days.

So sure, you might be working over a seven day period… but you can do anything for a short time, right, you wouldn’t work like that all year round.

But for a two or three week period, you can stick it out and do some extra hours. We used to increase hours from, you know, typical 37, 39 or 40 hour weeks to 45... or if they're really keen 47 hours. And for a short time? That's fine!


Spread it out

If you spread it over seven days, then you can finish at three one day, or you can have a sleep in one morning and start at two and work till eight, we've got that flexibility with the hours that we can open for our clients to have a little bit of a varying roster.

So, really what I’m saying is: don't work all the hours if you don't need to and make sure you create some white space in your life.


Look after those feet!

I think also look after your feet... because we're on our feet all day. And I know we like to often turn up in beautiful high heels. But I can remember being seven months pregnant and being on my high, high heels.

Because I loved them. They were actually super comfortable.

But looking back, I don’t know how I did it! And I loved it at the time. But I did have a lot of the girls who had two pairs of shoes. So you would start off on your high heels... then you go to your flats, your nice dressy flats, back to your high heels, and keep switching.

Now you could just wear your flats all day.

But there's something refreshing about taking off a hot pair of shoes...

And putting on a nice, cool pair that are a different shape and gives some variation to your feet. So make sure you look after your feet.

Alright, so that’s looking after you. Because if you're crazy, your team is going to be crazy. If you're feeling stressed, you're going to be the hangry Owner. So you need to look after yourself first... so that you can look after your team. So...

How do we look after our team over the crazy-silly period and stop hangry hairdressers?!


Looking After Our Team

So how do we look after our team over the crazy silly period and stop hangry hairdressers?!

I think first is kind of obvious, but ultra-important- and that’s to simply take care of them.

The kinds of things that I did, was organising a pizza on an especially busy late night that would turn up at around 6 pm (maybe nothing too smelly), also raisins, nuts and bliss balls (some chocolates maybe)… the whole lot. Because again, they're slow-release, so great for lasting energy.

Next up I’d ensure you always have a good supply of water out the back. Just making those little things right, making sure that a support person can go and get lunch for someone who's had a particularly crazy mental day, just a little bit of caretaking for the people.

Bringing on Extra Support

We were lucky being a slightly larger team, we could have a little posse of support girls. They were just after school girls, and we would have several of them. Sometimes they were girls from the training course at the tertiary education and they would come to us for work experience. And when we had two or three or four of them, they could work it between themselves, that we always had ‘somebody’ and if it was really crazy, we could have two. 

And because I wouldn’t want to have too many jobs or that I had to think about, I would leave it to them to problem solve. I would say to them, "if you need to have Wednesday off, go and talk to the posse... as long as somebody is available on Wednesday, you tell me with plenty of notice and I know who to roster, go and talk to them." 

That way it’s not my problem to have to ring around and ask them all who can come on Wednesday.

If your day is Wednesday, you can't have the day off on Wednesday unless you find someone to replace you. 

When you’ve found someone to replace you come and tell me - "I would like to have Wednesday the fifth off, please. I've already organised for Jane to come and replace me. And is that okay?" Well, my job is done. 

Get some extra help and get the after school girls or girls doing full-time training and come and do work experience. 


Morning Huddles

Another way you can look after your team is to double down on your morning meetings- we call them a ten to nine meeting. They are the morning huddles, and we would make sure that we really narrow down on those through the Christmas period. 

And we’d take extra care because we had the shifting roster- so we’d ensure that we took notes and we had a strong communication.

That way, people that were coming in and starting at 11, or starting at two knew what was going on, knew who was away today, or what client was going to be running late, what stock was out. So up the communications, start those with the 10 to 9 morning huddles, especially in that Christmas time, even if you've got less stuff in the morning, and more are coming in the afternoon, those are super, super important. 

These are the kinds of things that can really help and support your team so they don't get stressed out. And crazy, in the crazy season. 

Increase your stock

It sounds so obvious. But sometimes we forget that actually, we're going to have a massive boost in sales. We need to be prepared, we don't want to be running out of things, we don't want to have products that we can't sell, after we do the work to tell them what they need… and then you go to the shelf and there’s nothing there.

Or you go to mix your beautiful design or colour combination, and you realise that half the ingredients are missing...

That just adds to the stress!

The great thing is if you overstock in December, you can use the leftovers in January and you can counterbalance your budget spend in January. So think ahead and increase your stock. 


It's the little things

At the end of the day… it's the little things that are going to get you through this Christmas.

Say thank you to your team, and thank them when they’re walking out of the door at the end of the day.

Get specific about what they did really well over that period. 

After a while, I realised that Christmas Eve was just a dud day for us, we used to get really booked up typically with blow waves and styling. And, you know, people would try and squeeze things in. But what I discovered is that most of the time people cancelled, they were too crazy themselves, they were cooking, they were shopping, they were travelling, they were baking, they didn't have time to come and have their hair and beauty services done and they would cancel. 

And so after a while, I realised that I'm actually best to close. And that actually gave the team a break, it gave me a break, cut down the chance of me having a big fat sleep on Christmas Day. So close on Christmas Eve.

And look, if you're working extra hours before Christmas, then take it upon yourself- if you can afford it- to close in between Christmas and New Year. So I think, if you can, just close and give everybody a break.

Take a Break

All right, and my last tip is to have a break and have a glass of wine. Don't have a glass of wine until the end of the day though, like don't start pouring the wine for the girls until eight o'clock and the salon’s closed. But every now and then it is nice just to stop and have a wine if that's your thing.

Serve some dessert if wine isn't your thing and just come together and have a rest before you take off for the day and give yourself also a little bit of a break. Create some white space for yourself.

So good luck this Christmas... let's make it your best one yet!

Let's keep the convo going...

Come & chat with me in messenger... I'd love to get to know more about you & your Salon.

About the author, Larissa

Business Coach & Marketing Strategist: After 20 years of salon business I worked in online marketing & technology development, Business Development Manager at Timely Salon Software and co-founded HAIRshare app for Stylist.

I love helping stylists & salons with marketing strategies, the latest technology and working smarter, not harder in salon business.

Salon Owners Collective is an online community with the mission of inspiring and empowering Salon Owners from around the globe to grow beyond owner operator. Turn your ideas into a reality, build successful businesses and live with clarity and purpose.