Talk about green! When I first stepped into the salon and spa industry, I knew Zip, Zilch, Nothing, Nada!
I’m not kidding. Not one little bit. When my beauty supply vendor said, “Joan, we plan everything on the quarter.” Like a deer caught in the headlights, I looked at her and said, “What’s a quarter”? I had no idea what she was talking about… not a clue. I was that inexperienced—seriously!” On the other hand, she was beyond amazing.
Melina Bradley did not schlepp shampoo. She built businesses and she was brilliant!
Thankfully, she tucked me under her wing and taught me the business from the ground up. Week after week, month after month, she faithfully showed-up filled-up and poured her business acumen into me.
Now it’s my turn to pour into you and I could not be more thrilled to share with you these five amazing tips for optimizing your vendor relationships for greater profitability.
TIP NUMBER 1
SHARE YOUR NUMBERS
One day while sharing a cup of coffee, Melina asked “So, who’s your number one stylist?” Because I didn’t know the answer, she challenged me to find out—so I did.
Well, I thought I did until I met with Melina and discovered I was completely wrong! I recall somewhat assertively saying, “Based on sales, Jared is my number one stylist.” Melina smiled and said, “Are you sure? Look again.”
Then I saw it. Jared’s average service ticket was $100. A newbie on the team, Ava’s average service ticket was $137. The newbie was outperforming Jared by $37 a ticket—the cost of a deep conditioning treatment.
Two things immediately struck me: First—if Ava had had the same number of clients that Jared had, she’d be blowing everyone away. Second—Jared had not hit the glass ceiling! Without adding one more client to his book of business, Jared could clearly increase his average service ticket and bring home a bigger paycheck.
That’s when the light came on: for the first time ever, this math-hating math-challenged girl fell in love with her numbers—all because of the relationship I shared with my vendor.
Melina helped me to see that your numbers tell a story. More importantly, to understand your team’s numbers is to help them rewrite a more prosperous story for their lives. Without Melina, I would have never discovered the truth about numbers. So yeah… everything I needed to learn I learned from my vendors!
TIP NUMBER 2
GIVE THEM UNDIVIDED ATTENTION
From there, it was just a hop, skip and a jump to dreaming big dreams for the people I loved and lead. I’m talking really big dreams—scary big.
My dream was that my providers would be the most requested and sought-after salon and spa professionals in all of Houston—unrivaled in comparison to all others.
Intuitively I knew that, in order to achieve that dream, my team would have to be at the top of their game… always. That meant they could never stop learning. Decisively, they had to see education as their ticket to a six-figure income—their ticket to celebrity status.
But (I think you’d agree), to pull greatness out of a team can feel like pulling teeth! Not easy. Often met with intense resistance. Your team doesn’t always see the big picture or the magnitude of their potential. That’s why they need your vision. Stay the course! If I heard it once, I heard it a thousand times: “Really? Another class?”
Listen. Just nod your head up and down, smile as big Dallas, look them in the eyes, and simply say, “Yes. Because one day, when you’re ‘the most sought-after provider ever’ carrying your Prada bag and wearing your Louboutin’s, you will thank me! I’m not gonna let you stay where you are now because I believe you have it in you to be the best in the industry.”
Anyway, regardless of resistance, education is paramount to flourishing and ultimately achieving those big scary dreams. Hands-on education places your providers in proximity to a passion and expertise which is often far greater than their own. The truth of the matter is that, to grow beyond a current skill level, you have to keep company with industry greats and (more often than not) you will have to pay to be around greatness.
This is where it pays to invest in building great vendor relationships because they have the power to make good things happen on your behalf. They can often open doors that you can’t open and offset educational costs which make it possible to expose your team to extreme talent—the best of the best. Trust me, your vendors are worthy of your undivided attention.
SHOW RESPECT AND GRATITUDE
In a very real way, your vendors are like modern day prophets. Their travels take them in and out of the best and most profitable salons and spas in your state and beyond. They see and hear about emerging trends long before others catch wind of what’s new on the horizon. More importantly, they know what’s working and what’s not working because they live beyond your world. And they will gladly share their knowledge with you, if you’ve worked to build a mutually reciprocal relationship.
So, when your vendors walk through your doors make them feel like they are the most important people in building your business. Because honestly, they are!
In fact, take a cue from the beloved Mister Rogers. Whenever he was speaking with anyone, he would look them in the eyes and say “I’m talking to you, so right now you are the most important person to me. Our conversation is the most important thing to me right now.” Be like Mister Rogers and I promise you it will pay great dividends!
My vendors had a standing invitation to stop by any time they needed a moment of peace or just quiet place to think. Our freshly ground coffee, lattes and cappuccinos, our fruit-infused ice-cold water, apples, bananas, and fresh baked cookies were always on the house. Likewise, they were welcomed to purchase any product or service at our employee discounted price. They were that special to me and your vendors should be that special to you.
If you have big dreams, a mutually beneficial vendor collaboration is a beautiful thing because together you can accomplish so much more. I never had a request that my beauty supply vendors could not meet.
Had it not been for my amazing vendors, we would have greatly disappointed a number of clients—like when Mrs. Smith was due to arrive, we suddenly realized we were completely out of her favorite product. I made a frantic call to my vendor and he saved the day—delivering the product just in the nick of time. He did that on more than one occasion. (Thank you, Johnny Loyd Cowart—I will always be grateful for you!)
So, get creative and look for ways to demonstrate to your vendors how much you appreciate them: be it a Starbucks gift card or a fancy cupcake when they show up to brainstorm business building ideas with you. Grow this relationship and you’ll never lack for fresh ideas to inspire your staff and clients.
Because it’s all about growing a profit and your people too, your staff should always be at the top of the list. Your vendors should be next right after them. Take care of these two relationships—your clients will benefit more than you can possibly imagine.
TIP NUMBER 4
LEAN-IN TO THEIR EXPERTISE
Because your vendors live and breathe their products more than you do, lean-in to their knowledge and ask for their creative help in designing classes that spark joy and inspire innovation.
My vendors supported me every step of the way in achieving the dream I had for my team. From creating exciting “new product lunch n’ learn training sessions” where they even bought and paid for the staff lunch (who doesn’t love that?), to take home products for every service provider and front desk staff, to hosting stellar monthly hands-on educational classes, they never failed to inspire and push my team beyond their current skill level.
With joy and excitement my vendors brought new ideas to the table. One of our favorite classes was called the “Cocktail Class” where our vendors displayed their mad mixology skills by creating signature product cocktails for every type of hair imaginable—from thin and fine to thick and course and from sleek and straight to wildly curly. This class was so much fun that we chose to replicate the Cocktail Class for every department. And the unexpected bonus—my vendors built strong relationships with my team members. As these relationships grew, so did our profits and our vendors’ profit too!
TIP NUMBER 5
SUPPORT ONE ANOTHER
The greatest cause of disappointment in any relationship is to have an unmet expectation—a longing for a particular outcome that does not come to fruition. But when examined closely, most of the time, the unmet expectation that caused the disappointment was never spoken out loud in the first place.
Never assume that your vendors know your expectations. To assume that is to invite disappointment. Besides, it’s not fair to your vendors. Communication is a two-way street requiring both you and your vendors to be open and honest about what is wanted and needed for win-win success in the relationship.
Your vendor cannot possibly know all that you want and need. Find the courage to ask for what you need and share what you expect from the relationship. Allow them to do the same. Then, collaborate and strategize for what is truly possible and advantageous for both of you.
My favorite old adage says ”Two are better than one”!
So, come together to DREAM BIG and consistently BUILD UP one another!
Brainstorm your way to greater profitability for BOTH your business and theirs!
A special note of gratitude to some (but not all) of my favorite hidden heroes: Michelle DuCasse (Kerastase), Albie Cortes (Luxury Brand Partners), Linda Vollers (Societe’ Clinical Skincare), AnnaMaria Paty (Sparitual), Mary Leber (Beauty Prophet), Lydia Baehr (Lydia Baehr Public Relations), Beau with Bearco Marketing and Tan with Nationwide Nails. Oh how this list could and should go on and on. For those whose names I have not mentioned…please forgive me.