Responding in real time to COVID-19

Seattle was the first hot spot for COVID-19 in the US. That made our SEVEN® salon among the first in the nation needing to take action to secure the wellbeing of both our staff and clients. We did some things right, and there are some things we would have done differently. The lessons below are things we wish we had known at the beginning and wanted to share to help you navigate the road that may lie ahead.

What to do when you have to close your salon because of COVID-19.

Lesson #1 – Communicate With Your Clients & Staff Early.

When news spread that most businesses across our region would need to close, we had a rush of clients wanting to get in. We had seen an initial drop in business and went from a few clients to fully booked on that last day. Stylists were double booked and staying late.

If we could do it all again…

We would have called clients well before the closure, informed them that the decision to close was probably coming, and would have asked them if they wanted to come in. (It is so hard to hear clients you love saying they wish they had made it in before the shut down!)

What we did right:

  • We advised our stylists that they should work as much as possible, since a shutdown was likely.
  • We communicated with our staff as much as possible about what was happening – acknowledging that information coming from national, state, and local authorities was quickly changing
  • We encouraged our staff to save their money as much as possible, extend hours, and pick up days
  • Prior to the shut down, we asked every stylist what their availability will be like once the shut down is over, confirming how open they can make their schedules when we reopen. This allows us to fully book – or double book all stylists the moment our doors are back open.

Lesson #2 – Eliminate House Calls

This is a tough one! Clients ask if stylists can come to their homes and as salon management, it can seem self-serving to tell them no. During this pandemic, however, the health and safety of all parties must be the highest priority. Because of this, the answer to doing house calls for us is a firm “no.”

Here is what we did and why:

  • Our goal is to open back up as soon as we can. We are doing our part to protect and eliminate the spread of the virus. That includes not providing house calls, and social distancing. The direction for our stylists is to do the same. Hair is important, but the well being of our community is greater.
  • When one of our stylists posted that they would do a house call, we contacted them, let them know that we understood why, and asked them to think about the bigger picture. As our communities struggle to contain the virus, their activity can be perceived as flippant and depending on your location may even be illegal.
  • When asked about pre-mixed colors we simply tell the truth. Color starts to change the moment it comes out of the tube. We can’t guarantee the outcome and in fact can guarantee that the outcome will not be up to the standards they should expect from us.

Lesson #3 – Get to know your resources

Every state has different laws and programs to support small business, and they are changing rapidly. This is the piece that took the longest time for us to navigate. Seattle was the first US epicenter so federal, state and local agencies were all learning at the same time we were. As the problem has grown, you may find more resources available to you and your employees in real time. We recommend you start educating yourself now about those resources as soon as possible.

What we would do differently next time:

  • For a time, information simply wasn’t available to us, so we could not provide guidance to our employees as quickly as we would have liked to – it took us 12 hours to give them clear direction on the exact processes they would need to go through for aid. State agencies are better prepared to help now, and we at SEVEN can be an advisor to you as well. We are a phone call, DM, or email away. Use these resources! If they had been available, we would have taken advantage of them right away.

Here is what you should find out right away:

  • Stay up to date: We signed up through our county to receive updates on COVID-19. Investigate if your city is offering the same. The link they provided continues to offer resources for our local community during the shut down.
  • If your salon has actual employees, doing a layoff may be best so that they can receive unemployment benefits.
    • Research what is needed to do a layoff in your state
    • Find out what category each employee would fall under when filing, and exactly what information they will need in order to apply
  • For lease/booth rent – negotiate what type of accommodations you can provide to your tenants now, so they come back when you re-open
    • Some here are allowing the renter to pay what they can, dividing the rest of the balance amongst their remaining lease agreement
  • Research if there are benefits for small business or owners in your area. We know of at least one credit union in our area that is providing small 0% interest loans to their members.

Lesson #4 – Reduce Your Carrying Costs

What we might have done differently.

  • We started seeing a decline in clients early. As mentioned before, next time we will more proactively reach out to clients to schedule them in. Without that influx of clientele we did what was right for preserving resources: We reduced our operating hours and staff.

What we did right:

  • We stocked up on products. This might seem counter intuitive. However, to recover from this closure we MUST be prepared to operate at full capacity when we come back and be ready to turn on cash flow in every way. We did not know and still don’t know the impact closures will have on shipping in the future. We need color products to do our craft and fully stocked retail shelves for eager customers. Our hallway is currently lined with developer for the moment we can open and start doing what we love – serving our clients and community.
  • It was imperative to immediately reach out to our landlord to negotiate lease/rent details prior to shut down. We asked our landlord what abatement or assistance was available. Come prepared with a list of what you are hoping for – abatement for X number of days for instance. In our case, because we are within a mall that our landlords needed to close, we were only able to use our space for ½ the month.

Lesson #5 – Staying Connected

These are trying times for all. For our staff, we wanted to make sure we were available for emotional support, stick together and lift each other up.

  • Promote each other to check in on your peers
  • We make it a personal goal to check in with majority of our staff each day through individualized text messages, just to see how they are
  • Host a social distancing, happy hour via facetime BYOB!
  • Send company wide text messages on new resources as they become available, as well upcoming classes offered
  • We promote positivity and words of encouragement- these are precious moments that are allowing us to accomplish things that maybe we didn’t prioritize
  • Being honest with the staff. We will be back as soon as possible, with a safe platform for our stylists. We can’t guarantee when that will be, just that we will be back stronger together.

Go here to learn more.

As the situation evolves, we are writing more and more material to help you thrive despite the COVID-19 crisis. Read here for a breakdown of the stimulus package for small business and here for advice specifically for booth rental salons.