When I tell people that Snip is software for hair salons, many times their response is "That's great! You could expand to dentists, doctor's offices, piano teachers, all that stuff!" Yes, I could, but once you understand how hair salons work, you realize that serving more kinds of businesses is probably not as smart as serving one kind of business more thoroughly. I'll explain why I think so.
The salon business is surprisingly complicated. It doesn't seem that way to outsiders: you schedule an appointment for Sandy, you cut Sandy's hair, Sandy pays for the haircut, end of story. But it's not that simple. First of all, you can't schedule a two-hour appointment in a 15-minute opening, of course. So before you schedule any particular appointment, you have to know how long that appointment is going to be. How long will Sandy's haircut take? That depends first on the stylist. Mildred might take 45 minutes for a women's haircut while Paula only take 30. And then even though Paula usually takes 30 minutes for a women's haircut, we might know that Sandy typically takes 45 minutes because she has so much hair. What does all this mean? One, we have to keep track of how long each stylist takes for each service. Two, when certain clients take a different amount of time for a service, we have to track that somehow. And we also probably need a way to just arbitrarily set the length of a service on-the-fly, so that when we do have a client who takes shorter or longer than usual, we can just change the length right on that appointment.
Another thing that's specific to hair salons (as least as far as I know) is how stylists are compensated. Some salons are chair rental, where the salon owner is basically just a landlord and each of the stylists rents a chair, but keeps 100% of the rest of his or her earnings. Other salons are commission, where, as you might have guessed, each stylist gets paid a commission for his or her services as opposed to paying rent. This stuff makes a difference when it comes to reporting.
With all this stuff that's specific just to hair salons (that I never would have guessed if I hadn't spent so much time learning about salons), imagine all the stuff that's probably specific to dentists, doctor's offices, piano teachers, etc. Can a one-size-fits-all scheduling program really serve all these different kinds of businesses very well? I don't have any empirical evidence for it, but my gut feeling would be no way. Plus, I've seen some of these general scheduling apps, and I couldn't really see how they could work very well for hair salons. I know there are salons out there using these general appointment booking apps, but I really struggle to imagine how it goes.
Even though I'm focusing solely on hair salons now, is it possible that I'll expand in the future? Yes, it's not out of the question. It's conceivable that, once Snip is at "cruising altitude", I could take the core of Snip, repurpose it, and build a totally separate product for, say, tennis instructors or something. But for the foreseeable future (i.e. the next several years), I'm sticking with hair salons only.
Hopefully that makes it clear why Snip is specifically a hair salon app, not a general scheduling program. Next time someone suggests that I expand Snip to other markets (which they will!), I'll politely agree that it's a great idea, but I'm fine with leaving that idea to somebody else.
I released a new feature today called "become receptionist". This may be self-explanatory to you, or maybe not. In case not, let me explain what it is.
The first thing to understand is that there are three types of users in Snip. Let's say we have a salon called Sally's Sassy Styles where Sally is the owner. Sally would need an admin account so she could add stylists, set up services, etc., so that's one type of account. Sally would not, of course, want to share that admin account with all her stylists, so each stylist has to have his or her own account as well. Having just an admin account and stylist accounts would be fine, but what about the computer at the front desk at Sally's Sassy Styles? I don't think Sally's stylists would want to be logging in and out each time the phone rings, nor would Sally want to leave the front desk computer logged in as admin at all times. So we need the idea of a non-admin account that can be logged in at all times, and that's what I call the "receptionist" account. The receptionist account can schedule appointments for any stylist, but it doesn't have admin privileges, and it can't see anyone's private information, such as commission rate or earnings reports.
So what exactly is the "become receptionist" feature? Before now, there was an actual separate receptionist account with its own username and password, and if you wanted to log in as the receptionist user, you had to log out and type in the username and password for your salon's receptionist user. (If you want to continue doing it this way for some reason, you still can.) There's an easier way to do it now, though. If you go to the main menu in the upper left-hand corner, you'll see a new option that says "Become receptionist". (It will be the second-to-last option, right before "Log out".) When you click "Become receptionist", you automatically get logged out and then logged back in as the receptionist. This means you no longer have to remember the username and password for the receptionist user. If you get to the salon in the morning and no one has logged on yet, you can just log on as you and then "become receptionist".
Snip exists to save you time and effort, so I hope you find this new feature more convenient than the old way. Questions and comments are always very welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today I released a pretty big change to the Clients section of Snip. Up until now, the Clients section was just one long list of clients. That was find if you had like 50 clients, but for those salons with 1000+ clients, the page was getting pretty sluggish. So I broke the list into pages, and now you can go from page to page and it all loads a lot faster than the old way. I also made it so the clients are shown in a table format, so you can see a client's phone number and email address more easily.
On a dull afternoon in January 2010, I found myself slumped in an office chair in a Chicago office building, staring absently at a computer screen. I was full, sleepy and bored out of my mind, and sitting at my desk for another three hours was the last thing I wanted to do, but I couldn't just say see you later to my co-workers at two in the afternoon and go home for a nap. Like every day, I had to sit in my chair and at least pretend to be working until about 5pm. I would have no problem doing this if I actually felt okay the whole time, but I felt pretty terrible. Mostly, I was just super tired. Why?
I had repeated this scenario almost every day for several years, and on this particular day I guess I had finally had enough of feeling crappy and I finally decided to do some research to try to figure out how to feel better. I knew it wasn't realistic to try to feel awesome all of the time, but I figured I must be able to at least make an improvement. This post is an attempt to share what I've learned over the last few years about feeling better. I can't promise that these findings will do anything significant for anyone else, but they've worked for me. Most of them are self-evidently effective, and probably won't come as news to most people.
I can boil pretty much everything I've learned down to five points:
Don't eat too much food
Eating too much food at lunch is probably the biggest contributor to what I call "the afternoon sleepies." You probably know what I'm talking about. The surest way for me to avoid the afternoon sleepies is to not go out to lunch. Restaurants almost always give you too much food, and when they take forever with the bill and you're just sitting there with the other half of your sandwich or whatever in front of you, it's pretty easy to eat more than you need to. The surest way to avoid overeating at lunch, at least for me, is to pack a lunch. That way you can control how much food you have in front of you at lunchtime, and you can make it literally impossible to overeat. You'll probably still get the afternoon sleepies sometimes, but I've found that packing a lunch at least makes an improvement.
Lunch is not the only meal that matters, though. From what I've read and experienced, bad eating habits can make you feel crappy overall, and good eating habits can make you feel better. When I was in my early 20s I worked for a company that conducted land auctions all over the state of Michigan, and I had to travel with the company to different parts of the state, often on overnight trips. My boss would always buy us dinner at what I thought at the time to be unbelievably expensive restaurants ($14.99 for an entree!) and I would always eat everything on my plate because I didn't want to be rude or wasteful. I remember going back to my hotel room and having this horrible heartburney feeling until I fell asleep, and then in the morning I would always have this weird yucky feeling in my stomach. I gained a lot of weight while I worked there, shooting up from about 190 pounds to about 230 pounds, and I didn't feel very good most of the time. So let that be a lesson: don't eat more food than you need, even if you paid good money for it (or somebody else paid good money for it). The money is water under the bridge whether you eat all the food or not. Better to throw the food away rather than eat the food and get fatter and feel worse.
Incidentally, the only place we ever went for breakfast at this job, even though my boss was a multi-millionaire, was McDonald's. My boss would order the McDonald's Big Breakfast every single morning and eat it with a knife and fork in his lap while driving 60 miles per hour down the highway, five terrified employees in tow.
Anyway, the moral of the story is don't eat too much food. And the easiest way to do that is to avoid putting yourself into situations where it's easy to eat too much.
Don't eat bad food
They say you are what you eat, and it's true. You'll feel worse if you eat bad food than if you eat good food.
The question is: how do you know what's good food and what's bad food? In some cases it's obvious. An apple is better for you than an Oreo, and a glass of water is a healthier drink than a glass of bacon grease. But the more subtle questions can be confusing, because there's a whole industry out there actively working to deceive you. For example, you might see on a jar of peanut butter "0 grams of trans fat", and then in tiny letters below "per serving". That's good to know, since I understand trans fat is pretty bad stuff. But there's actually more than zero grams of trans fat in that jar of peanut butter; they're just allowed to write "0 grams of trans fat per serving" on the label because the amount of trans fat per serving is something less than one gram. They want you to think the product is free of trans fat, when really it's not. Basically, they're lying. Another example is vitaminwater. Vitaminwater is pretty much just sugar water with a minuscule amount of other stuff added, but it's called vitaminwater. I guess there was a big to-do some time ago about the fact that Coke has been marketing vitaminwater as some kind of health drink, but really it's just garbage, but people didn't realize it.
I once read, I think in Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, that a good way to pick healthy foods is to avoid foods that make health claims on the package. It's better to eat what they call whole foods, meaning unprocessed foods straight out of the ground.
Another way of choosing better food is to buy organic products rather than conventional. Organic food is significantly more expensive than non-organic, and I certainly don't try to buy 100% organic food or anything like that, but if you have the money and inclination, it's probably better to buy food grown without pesticides, hormones, etc.
It's hard to measure exactly how much better or worse you feel when you eat good or bad food, but it's one of those things that at least makes intuitive sense. I want to note that according to what I've read and according to my experiences, what you eat still doesn't seem to matter as much as how much you eat. If I understand correctly, one thousand calories of spinach goes about as far toward making you fat as one thousand calories of Doritos, so Doritos might contain more bad chemicals and stuff like that, but a calorie is a calorie, regardless of the form it takes. So again, don't eat too much, even if what you're eating is "fat-free" or whatever.
Drink coffee, but don't overdo it
I went through a phase for several months where I drank a lot of coffee, or at least what for me was a lot (2-4 cups a day). I also went through a phase where I drank almost no caffeine at all for more than a year. I didn't like either way very much. When I drank a lot of coffee, I would always wake up tired. I needed coffee to feel un-tired, and I felt like crap until I had it. And when I didn't drink caffeine at all, I would still get the "afternoon sleepies" but I didn't have a way to do anything about it. If I was tired, I just had to be tired and deal with it.
I have a system now that I'm fairly happy with. I don't drink any coffee in the morning. After lunch, around one or two p.m., I pour myself a cup of coffee and drink it slowly over the course of a couple hours. This is a small enough amount of coffee that it doesn't seem to affect my caffeine tolerance, but it seems to be enough to usually counteract the afternoon sleepies. I no longer want to kill myself every afternoon, which I consider a positive change.
Everybody knows you should exercise, and most people, including myself, don't exercise that much. It's hard to make the time to do it. I've found it doesn't take very much to make a difference, though. If I just do a few push-ups and sit-ups in the morning, it seems to help me feel a little bit better during the day.
If you have a hard time getting and staying motivated to exercise, me too. I started by only committing to a very small amount of exercise each day. I think I started by doing just 10 push-ups each morning, and that's all. Then I increased it to 15, then 20, then 25, and so on. I figure it's better to do a little bit of exercise 100% of the time than a lot of exercise 0% of the time. I've also added sit-ups to my morning routine. When it comes to exercise, and eating as well, small, permanent changes seem to be the most effective way to make a change and stick with it.
Get up early
I don't know why, but when I get up early, I seem to feel better throughout the day than when I get up late. This doesn't make much intuitive sense to me, and it may be different from person to person. I do know that it has a positive psychological impact, though. I feel psychologically better when I get up at 6 and I've accomplished more by 8am than many people do in a whole day. If you want to get into the habit of getting up early, I again recommend a gradual change here. If you're used to getting up at 8:30am, it's probably not realistic to set tomorrow's alarm for 5:00. Try 8:15, and then maybe go 15 minutes earlier each week, and if you find yourself hitting snooze, go 15 minutes later again. The key is to always get up when your alarm goes off. Otherwise the only real effect your alarm has is to irritate your significant other.
Put together, all these things have seemed to make a difference in making me feel better. I hope some of this information has been useful for you, and I hope you can start feeling better soon as well.
If you want to buy salon software for your salon (which is probably a good idea, by the way), you have two options: web-based or desktop. The differences are somewhat significant, so let me explain.
Back in the '90s, if you wanted to buy a piece of software, like QuickBooks, for example, you'd go to Best Buy, buy a box with a QuickBooks CD in it, and then install the program on your computer. That's what we call desktop software. You can still do that today, of course, but that's not the way it usually happens.
If you want to buy QuickBooks now, you can just go to quickbooks.com and sign up for an account, because QuickBooks now has a web-based version.
One of the most obvious disadvantages to desktop salon software is that you can usually only use it on the computer(s) on which you installed it, and installing the same program on multiple computers often means buying the same product multiple times. With web-based salon software, you can usually access your account from any computer, or five computers and once, and it costs the same as if you were to only ever use it on one computer.
Another nice thing about web-based software is that upgrades usually come automatically, without you having to do anything. Some desktop software is built so that you get upgrades automatically, but many software vendors want you to pay money to upgrade to the most recent version of their product. And those upgrades can be annoying, with all the restarting your computer and everything.
If you're evaluating a salon program and it doesn't have a web-based version, or at least a phone app, that's probably a red flag and a sign that the company unable to keep up with change. Look for a product that has a web-based offering.
Ever since I was a kid, I've had a vague awareness of the existence of a famous book called How to Win Friends and Influence People. Whenever I saw something about the book, I thought, "I should read that sometime," but I never actually got around to it. In fact, today, when I mention the book to people, the most common response seems to be, "Oh, yeah. I've heard of that book. I've been meaning to read it." How to Win Friends and Influence People seems to be a book that a lot of people mean to read but not many people actually do. It would be nice if more people did read it, though. It's the kind of book that, when you read it, you kick yourself for not having read way earlier.
Why do I think How to Win Friends and Influence People is so great? What's in it, anyway? If I can sum it up in a sentence, How to Win Friends and Influence People teaches the reader to see things not just from his or her own point of view, but from the other person's point of view as well. It's a simple message, and my one-sentence summary is certainly an oversimplification, but the idea of "see things from the other person's point of view" actually has some highly useful applications. Let me give you some examples.
The first chapter of How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie's 1936 magnum opus, teaches us not to criticize people. This is not just to be nice. There are practical implications. When you criticize someone ("I can't believe you ate at Taco Bell!"), it makes that person dig in his heels and want to justify himself ("Taco Bell is good. Lots of people eat there."). And even if you're right, you'll only earn yourself resentment from the other person. There are other, more effective ways to influence other people's behavior, which the author describes in the later chapters. So the lesson here is not just that criticizing people is unpleasant, it's a ineffective and counterproductive way to try to influence human behavior.
Another one of my favorite pieces of advice from the book is to develop a genuine interest in other people. I read in a different "social skills" book a story that, as I recall, went something like this: "I was at a networking event once and found myself talking to a mechanic. I don't find whatever it is a mechanic does very interesting, but for the five minutes that I was forced to interact with this hopelessly boring man, I was able to come up with a few questions about cars and fake interest in his answers, and so this mechanic and I were able to pass the time without it being unbearably awkward for either of us." It seems pretty boring to me to only pretend to be interested in other people. It seems much more fulfilling and more fun, for both the listener and the talker, if the listener is genuinely interested. A good example from the book is when Carnegie once found himself talking to a stranger at a party, and in the course of the conversation, the woman offhandedly mentioned a recent trip she had taken to Africa. Carnegie excitedly asked the woman about the details of the trip, and she went on for forty-five minutes telling him. I've had many similar conversations where I was in Carnegie's place, and I find conversations so much more interesting when I make the effort to come up with thoughtful follow-up questions to people's responses, and show the person that I've actually been listening and that I care about what they've been telling me. The effectiveness of this positive habit is not, of course, just limited to conversations at parties. I've found the habit of cultivating genuine interest in the other person to be a boon at networking events, job interviews, conversations with my own wife, you name it.
As many people I know could tell you, including my wife, I'm still working to weave Carnegie's powerful lessons into my daily life, and I have a long way to go. Although simple admonitions like "don't criticize people" and "be interested in other people" don't exactly blow your hair back with their their novel profundity, the best advice is often the most obvious. It's much, easier to say, "everybody knows that old stuff" than it is to actually live these ideas day in and day out. It's kind of like how everybody knows we should exercise, but only a few people do. I've re-read How to Win Friends and Influence People about four or five times since I first read it around 2009. Each time I re-read it, I shake my head because I can always point to instances within the last month (or, often, the last 24 hours) where I've strayed foolishly from its lessons. Still, if I can retain and act on just half of what I've read, I'm still way better off than most people, who haven't read the book at all.
Why am I including this post on a blog for hairstylists and salon owners? The lessons in How to Win Friends and Influence People are so broad that they apply to anyone who regularly deals with people, which is almost everyone. Stylists, of course, deal with people all day long and are usually "people people". I've certainly visited stylists, though, who made no effort to show any interest in me whatsoever when they cut my hair, and it was therefore a dull experience that I had no desire to repeat. Most stylists don't make fundamental mistake like that, but perhaps, by being conscious of Carnegie's lessons, you can find some ways that you yourself can improve. There's another reason I want to share what's in this book. On the first page of How to Win Friends and Influence People (at least the old version), Carnegie's list of "Twelve Things This Book Will Help You Achieve" includes "Win new clients, new customers" and "Increase your earning power." These aren't just vague promises, either. Carnegie gives numerous real-life examples of how his principles have helped people in business.
I'd like to encourage you again to buy yourself a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People. I'd agree with Paul Graham's advice here: "Try to get a used copy printed before the 1960s; after Carnegie died, the book continued to be 'updated' by a committee, and the changes were not for the better." After you read it, set it down for a couple months and then read it again. I bet you'll be surprised by all the things you missed the first time around.
Finally, I'd like to re-emphasize what kind of book this is. It's not a collection of quick-fix, manipulative personality techniques. "[T]he principles taught in this book will work only when they come from the heart," Carnegie writes. "I am not advocating a bag of tricks. I am talking about a new way of life."
If you're not using any kind of salon software, that means you're doing manual call-and-confirms, which is time-consuming, and probably not very fun.
A more convenient way for you - and perhaps for many of your clients - is to have clients get an automatic email reminder instead of a phone call. Some people don't like to get interrupted by a phone call, and would prefer an email. If you're using Snip, you can simply check the "Send email reminders" box when you create an appointment, and from then on, that client will get an email reminder the day before his or her appointment.
Why would a stylist or salon owner want to use salon software? Why not just use the books? I think different people have different reasons, but many are probably the same, and I'll explain some of the motivations that I know of.
Have you ever been somewhere other than the salon, and someone asks you if you can cut her hair next Friday? She doesn't realize that not every stylist in the world has his or her entire schedule memorized. You have to call the salon and see if you're open at that time. This is one annoyance good salon software can eliminate. Many salon software products have a way for you to see your schedule from your phone, or at least from your home computer.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how fun do you find call-and-confirms? Many salon programs offer a way to send each of your clients an automatic appointment reminder via email, text, or phone. It's likely that you'll still have clients who will prefer a phone call from a real person, but even so, automatic appointment reminders can cut back considerably on the time you need to spend on call-and-confirms.
Some salon software products offer online booking, where clients can book their own appointments on a website instead of calling. Online booking can cut down the time receptionists and stylists need to spend answering phones.
Salon software is also beneficial when it comes to measurement. You know the value of measurement if you've ever tried to lose weight without a scale. You just don't know how you're doing unless you measure. For the kind of people who do like to measure, a salon program can usually tell you, say, how much money you made in highlights last month, or what your client retention rate is.
Finally, very few people are happier and less stressed when they're surrounded by clutter. A few different salon owners I know have told me how much they appreciate the lack of clutter that comes from keeping their appointments on the computer instead of on the books.
I've spent much of December 2012 working on a new public-facing website for Snip. It was a long-overdue task.
In the earlier days of Snip, I thought stylists and salon owners would be most interested in using Snip's reporting and marketing features to earn more money. I thought of Snip as a revenue-boosting tool. So on the home page I put in big letters "earn more money".
But I later learned that that message was probably not right. After a few salons had been using Snip to run their salons for a few months, it became apparent to me that boosting revenues wasn't necessarily a priority for most stylists and salon owners, or at least it's not something they look to software for. The consensus seemed to be that the most useful thing about Snip was that it allowed you to see and schedule appointments from anywhere. In other words, Snip was more useful as a time-saving or pain-saving tool than as a money-making tool.
So on the new site, I've replaced "earn more money" with "simplify your salon". I also changed the rest of the site to reinforce the idea that Snip is an effort-saving tool, not necessarily a revenue-boosting tool, although it can certainly be both.
"If you can not measure it, you can not improve it."
- Lord Kelvin
It's hard to improve things you don't measure. If you've ever tried to lose weight without owning a scale, you know what I mean.
It's the same with your income. If you want to make more money than you're earning now, a good first step is to find out what you're earning now. A good second step is to set a goal for where you'd like to be.
If you're using Snip, it's really easy to find out how much money you're making in a day, week, month or year. Just go to Reports > Net Earnings, pick a start date and end date, and click Go. That's all there is to it!
If you're looking at your earnings for a month, I encourage you to take that number you see at the bottom, add 10% (i.e. multiply by 1.1), and then try to earn that much next month.
Forgetting your password: it happens to the best of us. Luckily, Snip makes it easy to get logged back in in a jiff in the event that your password does escape your memory. Just follow these steps:
1. Go to sniphq.com/login.
2. Click the red "Forgot your password?" link
3. Enter your email and click the "Send me reset password instructions" button
4. Look for a password reset email in your inbox
5. Click the link in that email
Of course, if at any time you have any troubles at all, or if you're just lonely and want to chat, you can call me, Jason, the person who runs Snip. I can be reached by phone at (616) 856-8075 or by email at email@example.com.