How to Win at Salon Life With Winn Claybaugh


Winning at salon business isn’t easy, not to mention, it’s going to look a little different for everybody but there are a few rules that every salon owner should play by when seeking success.

When thinking about the big winners in our industry, names like Winn Claybaugh are top of mind. As the Founder and Co-Owner of Paul Mitchell’s Educational Division, Winn knows a thing or two about building a solid platform for success.

Winn is the author of Be Nice or Else! and he has been recognized as one the best motivational speakers in the country. Early on in his career he became the youngest person to be named at the North American Hairstyling Awards, and more recently he was honored by American Salon as one of five industry leaders who helped revolutionize education. Winn is known for his humanitarian work, his passion for education and his incredible knack for business—talk about winning. 

So, what does it really take to win in this industry? Winn tells all!

Money Matters

At the end of the day, if your salon isn’t profitable, the doors aren’t open and you’re certainly not winning. While money shouldn’t be your main focus, it’s probably second on the list, and for good reason.

So, what’s keeping us from being profitable? Winn believes that the number one mistake salon owners make when it comes to money is basing decisions off of their own personal aesthetic or ego. At the root of all of your business decisions is the question of profitability, and if the outcome of your next decision doesn’t directly improve your profitability, it should be put on the back-burner until it does.  

For example, if you’re deciding whether you want to invest in those new marble floors or put that same money toward on-boarding, just ask yourself—which is bringing in more money?  

So yes, money does matter…

But Culture Matters More

As a salon owner, your job is to provide a home for your people. Your success and the success of your salon relies on that of your entire team. There are three musts when it comes to building a strong and successful team.

Be a Great Boss

First thing’s first, if you want to build an amazing team you have to be an amazing boss. The behaviors, attitudes, and results produced by your team are a direct reflection of the leadership they work under. If you’re looking to hire positive, proficient and productive people to your team, you had better lead by example.  

Winn says being a strong and successful leader is actually pretty simple. The best bosses simply work to meet their employees most basic human needs.  

  • Make your people feel safe

  • Let your people know that they belong

  • Give your people a purpose

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

It’s incredibly old fashioned to think that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. Not to mention, it simply isn’t sustainable if you want to run a successful business.

Collaboration is a beautiful thing. Not only does a collaborative environment do wonders for your salon culture, but it also lends itself to all three of those most basic human needs. Your stylists and front desk employees want to feel valued. They want to know that their opinions matter and they want to feel like they can voice their opinions without fear of judgement or backlash. 

As a salon owner and professional leader, you already know how to bring out the best in your people, their talents, their passions, their creativity and their teamwork. As long as you’re transparent about how much you value that team effort, your employees will reciprocate those values and help cultivate that positive and collaborative culture within the salon. 

You Don’t Have to Go It Alone

Finally, it’s important to remember that you’re never alone. In this industry, we have each other’s backs, so ask for help when you need it.

Winn says he would never have gotten to where he is today without the help of his many mentors. It’s okay to turn to the experts when something is a little bit outside of your area of expertise. If you know of someone with knowledge you could benefit from, ask for their advice. As a salon owner, if you’re strengths lay in marketing and communication, hire a partner or a salon manager to handle the financials, or vice versa.

And don’t forget to return the favor when it inevitably circles back to you. We’re all a part of this industry and we want each other to succeed. Lift your peers up, and they’ll do the same for you. It’s a win-win!

To learn more about Winn Claybaugh and his incredible industry track record, listen to the podcast that inspired this blog, episode 163. Don’t forget to check out last years’ spotlight podcasts from America’s Beauty Show (where we first met Winn!) in order to gear up for this year’s event!

If you’re going to be at ABS this year and would like to be a part of our spotlight podcasts, reach out to us at with the subject line: “Shine the Spotlight on Me!” We look forward to chatting with all of you!

Samantha Georgson