Editor’s note: Depending on where you are in the United States (or Canada), you’ve likely seen many appointments cancel or even been asked to close shop as a “non-essential business.” We know these are scary times.

Our resident business consultant, Nina Tulio, offered to share some of the advice she’s been providing to her service industry clients. Here are her initial thoughts about some of the biggest concerns:

There is a lot of uncertainty and fear swarming us right now in our world. And, if you’re anything like me, you operate at your best when you feel confident in yourself and your future — meaning you’re likely feeling anxious, lost, and exhausted.

So, before doing anything, take a huge, deep breath. We will for sure get through this.

Over the last few days, I’ve taken notes on the many valid concerns and questions circulating on hair forums, Facebook industry pages, and Instagram accounts. Today I want to address some of the most common including:

  1. With all these cancelations, how will I pay my bills?
  2. Should we close?
  3. If I do close my salon or stop taking clients, won’t I lose so much money?
  4. Should I cut clients a break on our cancelation policy?
  5. How do I communicate to my clients that we are a safe place to visit?

These are such valid concerns and questions, and I am going to address them individually for you. But before I do, here’s my number one piece of advice: Now more than ever, we need to come together to support each other and be compassionate toward each other always. Be considerate, kind, and think about how others might feel and see things differently than you do — and what you can do to put them at ease.

At our core, we are all still running service-based businesses. Even if we don’t book appointments for a while, we’re still here to serve our clients the best we can. It’s just going to be in different ways than we’re used to.

With that in mind, let me address the biggest questions:

How can I communicate to my guests that I am a safe space to visit?

If you are working in a city where small businesses are considered safe to visit, you should communicate everything you’re doing to keep your studio, salon, or office space safe.

Social media or email marketing campaigns are the best for this. Give your clients a play-by-play on your sanitary precautions and make it clear that you are taking them very seriously. Let them know you are doing all you can to protect yourself, your team, and of course, your guests.

Remember that some clients will prefer more precautions beyond the standard recommendations, so if possible, give them those options. If you’re an eco-friendly space, for example, now might be the time to offer additional cleaners and hand sanitizers beyond your green options or to remind people that they’re welcome to clean off exercise machines or mats before use. Let clients know how often you wash your towels or yoga blankets — and that you’re doing it more often than the standard. I’ve also seen salons and stylists posting videos of how they clean their space to Instagram. Covering all the bases will make clients feel safer.

Should I cut clients a break from our cancelation policy?

1000% yes! People are scared. They are nervous about stepping out of their homes. The last thing you want to do if they cancel within your cancelation policy is charge them and make them feel worse.

You can be — and should be — a source of comfort for your guests. I know last-minute cancelations suck, and mean losing money. But I would rather have you be safe than sorry. PLUS, it’s all about building trust and long-term relationships with your guests. Be flexible and supportive.  

Should we close?

If your local or state government says do it, then do it. Every state is in a different place with the virus, so you need to pay attention to the CDC regulations and be sure you are compliant.

Still, these recommendations aren’t the only elements to consider. Many cities and experts are arguing that we should all stay home as much as possible.

Do what is best to keep you, your team, and your clients safe and healthy. Even if your area hasn’t set restrictions yet, if you are getting a ton of cancelations, and you see a trend, it may be best to shut down for a few days, then reevaluate.

If all is running smoothly and you’re getting a few cancelations here and there, but you feel good about it, then stay open until you feel otherwise. But, please make safety a priority. And listen to your gut!

Editor’s note: As we move toward additional national restrictions on “non-essential businesses” and social distancing, we highly recommend erring on the side of caution. As of this writing, President Trump has asked Americans to limit gatherings to 10 or fewer people.

OK, let’s talk about the money aspect of this.

If you were a small business owner during the recession in 2008-2009, you may be having flashbacks to what happened to our economy. It was scary, and it was debilitating.

I remember because I lived it. I had a salon back then with employees, and it was the toughest time I’d ever experienced, but we made it through.

Keeping my business afloat required that I figure out how to cut back on the things we didn’t need. I also learned how to communicate with guests to make them feel safe even though they were canceling appointments left and right.

At the time, all salon owners had to think about how we were going to navigate our businesses differently. How were we going to adjust to less frequent visits? How would we fill in the gaps?

I am sure you are having the same thoughts now. Now, I personally do not think we will be hit as hard as we were back then, but it is a valid concern.

Hopefully, you’ve planned ahead for some of this and have some savings. But you may be living paycheck-to-paycheck. If so, it’s time to consider how to change that.

For now, focus on the things you can control. Set up a plan of action for your business. Plan out your finances for the next two to three months. Add up all of your expenses, and figure out what your break-even will be over the next month and beyond. Decide what expenses you can cut.

Most of all: Base your decisions moving forward on facts and not fear. I promise you, YOU WILL BE OK. Use the openings in your schedule to get your business needs in order and plan.

Before I sign out, I want to add this for you to think about:

Yes! This is an absolutely horrible time for all of us. But this is also a time to rest and recover. This is the time for you to spend quality time with your family. This is a time to create content and marketing strategies for the future of your business. This is a time for all of us to get the things done that we often feel we never have time for. 

It’s an opportunity to practice patience (which I don’t always have either, but I am working on it) and to really just BE for a minute. It’s a huge mindset shift. But we will get through it. I am here for you. I hear you, and I feel you.