The Tax Man Cometh

Elements Tax ManI’m guessing most of you already have your taxes filed and waiting on Uncle Sam to throw a dollar of two your way, from all that you’ve thrown HIS way. But…if you don’t, you’ve only got a few short weeks to get yourself in gear.

Being self-employed, I choose to give all my information to a CPA…someone that knows all the tax laws, and is the best one to keep us out of trouble and is able to keep us from paying huge fines. I don’t know much about those sort of things (taxes and insurance, I stay far away from), and am very grateful there are those that do.

In this blog, I would like to address a little know fact, when it comes to tips. Tips are looked at by the IRS as being income. It doesn’t matter if you are in the beauty industry or the restaurant business, or any other business that accepts tips. Uncle Sam expects (no, he demands) a bite out of every piece of bread that is headed toward our mouth. I have worked with a lot of people in my years of living…of which we won’t discuss…and continue to be amazed how easy it is to just not document tips. After all, they are gifts from those we serve. It says, “we appreciate the care you have given in the service you have provided for me.” Right? Right! Yet, our government says, “As a tax payer, you are required to give a percentage of EVERYTHING (sometimes twice…sometimes thrice), you receive.” And therein lies the kicker. For me, anyway.

I was raised to obey the laws of the land whether I agreed with them or not. A sense of pride came with the fact that we were not thieves, taking or holding back, what was required of others. And because of that, we could lay our head on our pillow (if we had one), at night…knowing we had done what was right. So because of that simple rule, I have never tried to hide my earnings from the government. Tips included. I remember one very dear client of mine from Oklahoma, that knew I was this way. As she was paying one pre-Christmas week, she looked me square in the eyes and said, “Mary, this is not a tip. I just didn’t have time to wrap this Christmas gift to you.” And that is how she kept me from recording that particular extra bit of money. She wanted me to have it all, and not just a percentage.

Now, just in case you’re thinking, “Well, I’ll just say that I never received tips, if I ever get audited, or questioned,” let me warn you. The type of return you file tells the government what you do for a living, where you work, who your employer is (if you have one other than yourself), and how much you should be reporting in tips. If there is any variation from that, you are targeted for review. Sure, there is a real possibility you can get by with some of that…but it raises a red flag with the IRS. Or so I’ve heard.

We can play hide and seek for only so long, when it comes to business. For me, I’d rather not come into question in the first place. And I know there are probably more than I realize those that are cheating Uncle Sam and his rules. My problem is this conscience that was instilled in me from the time I was only a wee little lassie. Actually, it all started way before I was born. God commanded us to “give to Caesar (the government), that which is Caesar’s (taxes), and to God (the One who redeemed us), what is God’s (the tithe).” Mark 12:13-17

When we come under the authority of the One that really matters, it won’t seem to matter so much what is required from a government we don’t agree with…because we’ll always have enough…and at times, possibly more than enough.

Forge on Passionistas!

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Guard Against “Soap Boxes”

Elements fb coverThis new adventure of mine is bringing out the previously semi-controlled soap box that resides inside me from living life. You know of what I speak, if you know me.

Even though most of us know basic public relations manners, on occasion we’ll slip up. Well, yesterday was one of those days for me. There are few people I feel comfortable enough with to share my serious thoughts. When a door opens, even if it is with just one question (that’s actually just a crack in the door), I tend to grab it and swing it wide, so as to let the “light” in…if you know what I mean.

There are two very important, close to my heart issues, in this life that if given opportunity, I will share everything I know, (and then some), on the subject. They are: Abused Women and Children…and Home Education. Completely different issues, yet both have touched my life in such a way, they have become my “Soap Box”.

In all the years I’ve maintained a business presence, I’ve cautioned those that worked with me not to share too much of their personal lives while at work. Our clients come to a place to breathe free, not be burdened with others thoughts. And even though yesterday’s conversation was a pleasant interaction (for me anyway), it felt as if my voice consumed most of the conversation. This had already happened on one other occasion since I’ve been in North Carolina, but on an entirely different subject. Yet another awesome new client had brought my defenses down. I’m beginning to think I really need my husband to get that house sold, and get to where I am, so I won’t feel the need to communicate quite so much. He can be the happy recipient of my ramblings. 😉

Please don’t misunderstand…communication is very important, in any business…not just the beauty industry. But as professionals, we must make the conversation about the client, and not so much about ourselves, during the time they occupy our chair.

Here’s a possible solution: Take a good hard look at your day in the salon, and ask yourself if you would want to be your own client. Then…adjust as needed. Just don’t destroy your personality while correcting minor freedoms. Most days, at the end of business, I will shut the main lights off and sit in a soothing atmosphere with just a few strings of twinkle lights on,  and soak in the days happenings. Maybe with a cup of hot cocoa, chai, or coffee nestled between my hands as I review everything that happened that day between me and my clients. I never want to stop learning; nor do I want to stop taking a second look at my actions, or the lack of them. I let the memories come as they will…never trying to “conjure” up something. If nothing is there to concern myself with, I don’t. There truly is a happy medium that balances our moments in life, but we can’t change what we refuse to look at, or don’t take the time to look at. And remember…we aren’t perfect human beings, but we can be perfected. Don’t be too hard on yourself…just hard enough to find truth.

There are times to speak, and times to listen. Just don’t forget to listen more than you speak. Okay…okay…I got it.

Guard Against Indifference

Elements Sunshine toonSo…I just came from a small, hometown eatery. Well, it’s a sandwich shop. I see it (indifference), all the time. And each time I come into contact with it, I leave feeling gloomy. I seriously doubt I will return to this place. Who likes walking into an establishment, just to leave feeling as if the world is about to end?

As I walked into this place, the gal behind the counter looked up, but I doubt she saw me. There wasn’t any sort of eye contact, and no welcoming smile, such as, “We are so glad you stopped by to see us” smile. You know what I’m talking about. The kind of silent greeting I got was a, “I have to say these words, but I really don’t know what they mean, or why I have to do such an embarrassing act” sort of contact. At times I wonder if we are just that miserable but still have to share the planet, so have absolutely no interest in a sincere greeting.

The next gal…the one that actually takes the customers order, came out with such a solemn countenance, I knew right away I was in for a not-so-pleasant experience. I thought about changing my mind and walking out.

The very least we can do as professionals is to share a smile with our clients. It’s okay to have outside (or inside) problems that seem to consume our waking hours…but to suck innocent bystanders (those we’re suppose to be serving) into it, is just wrong. Well, this steeped in misery person, mumbled something unintelligible. I said, “I’m sorry…are you speaking to me?” I really couldn’t tell, since her head was down the whole time. I just knew she had said something. At least I though she had. She looked up at me as if I had intruded upon her day and asked some kind of question, of which I have no idea what it was…but since she was putting on gloves, I assumed she was asking for my order. “I would like a 6 inch Turkey on wheat, please. Toasted please,” I said. She preformed her duties, and when it was time, we went through the next step of what vegetables went on the sandwich. She didn’t seem to like it very much that I requested a fat-free Italian dressing. But then again, she didn’t seem to like much of anything. Never once did a smile escape her molded face. Maybe she wasn’t supposed to smile. I’ve found there to be a culture present here, that just doesn’t smile. At least I’ve never seen any of them use those particular facial muscles.

I think my passion for business calls to my inner client compassion. Much of the time clients are so mentally abused…when they should have a warm, “thank you for checking us out” welcome. And at some point, we all are clients. Right?

The greatest gift you can give to a prospective client is a genuine smile and do what you do well. Everyone has problems. If you want to succeed at anything in life, find a place to come to peace with yourself and whatever situation you may find yourself to be in.

Some years ago I had monthly meetings with those in the restaurant business. “Quest for Excellence” encouraged the servers to leave their problems outside the doors of business along with navigating the workplace properly. When their shift was over, they were to pick their problems back up, find a solution for it (or them), and begin to live their lives with purpose. It’s no different in the Beauty Industry. Clients come to us for a break. A place to breathe easy. A place to walk out differently than when they came in.

Something we professionals need to remember is that life is not a coincidence. Those that come through our doors, do so, not by happenstance, but by design. Our paths cross for a reason. A deeper reason beyond the evident one (hair or skin rejuvenation), which we need to pay close attention to the detail of. Some reasons we will know about immediately. Others, not so much. It may be years later as we look back in review of our lives, that we realize the importance of that time.

As you think about your career, or your life in general…do humanity (yourself included) a favor and look it smack dab in the eye. Whatever problems you have (and we ALL have issues from time to time), find a solution quickly. It may be just to walk through them with your head held high (not the snobby high), as you respect the position of responsibility you’ve been given.

We have all we need to navigate life…right inside us.

I lost a sister in July of 2008, to PSP. One of her favorite Scriptures was found in Philippians 4:4-9. It reads like this:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your forbearing (strong) spirit be known to all men, for the Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. ……practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.”

Indifference is our enemy. It simply means we don’t care. We don’t care about you…we don’t care about our job. But mostly it means we don’t care about ourselves.

Shine on, Passionistas!

My Inspiration

Elements SunriseInspiration comes in many forms.

No doubt about it, God is the author of all inspiration, yet He chooses to show us His creativity through different avenues…such as those stars He hung in space, and the beautiful sunrises and sunsets. But because we seem to be prone to lining ourselves up with the talents of others, we also are given inspiration through them.

My daughters inspire me with their God-given strength and tenacity, as they engage life. Just watching them as they develop into what God intended, is better than early morning coffee.

Our oldest daughter just returned from a Photography Conference in Las Vegas. Her words,
“Had a wonderful time and am bringing back with me the hope, knowledge and inspiration I came for. Very grateful heart…”

Here’s the kicker…we actually have to engage. If we are indifferent and just let the world slip past us unseen, then our creativity is nipped at the budding stage, and will need a good pruning (start over). Much of the time we don’t believe we have it in us. Have you ever said, “I could never do something like that, even though I would love to.” Someone, or some THING, has caused you to buy a lie. Think about it for just a minute. If we are made in God’s image, then we should have some of that creativity inside us, right? Just like the fact we carry similarities of our biological mom and dad in us, we also carry similarities of the One who initiated life. Seriously, ya’ll…we have all that we need, built right inside of us from the very beginning of life!

Another source of my inspiration just happens to be the beauty industry. And like most industries, there’s the good, the bad, and the ugly. Some things in this industry are simply ridiculous (in my humble opinion). But mostly, I believe it to be the greatest industry in the world. Why? Because we hold in our hands the ability to change lives. The natural world intertwines with the spiritual one. Not many of us think about that as we work our “magic”, as some call it. We are simply using the creativity that was instilled in us. We are engaging what God gave us. The more we use it, the bigger it gets. That’s how God intended it to be. But we must put our hands to the task. It’s not going to drop out of the sky for us. Our very own hands, that respond to understanding the task, produce the effect…God gives the direction.

Seriously, how many times have you seen the countenance of a client change after having time with you? It could be from the change you created in their appearance (giving them confidence), or it could be from the peaceful place away from the noisy world (giving them a place to breathe, to relax) that you provide in the salon. If indeed you DO have a peaceful atmosphere. That will be another blog entry. Peace in the Workplace…very important.

You know what else inspires me in this industry? When I’m able to bring something back from the dead (so-to-speak).  Corrective coloring is soooo rewarding, because not everyone can do it properly. It’s definitely a challenge, and the possibility of making mistakes are huge, simply because we fail to detect the condition of the hair, and/or miss diagnose the underlying pigment. Our clients are so very important to us, so we must always do a strand test if we’re not sure of the condition of the hair. Using oil on the hair (sometimes we don’t know that has been done) will camouflage the true condition, until you try stretching it. If it “pops” or breaks with a slight pull, then back away from doing ANYthing chemical, until it can be cut off, and you now have virgin hair that is much stronger. Maybe at that point, you can just break up the base a little to make the hair color look intentional.

If you lack inspiration in this industry, maybe it’s the wrong one for you. We must ask ourselves what inspires us…and then go for it full throttle. Engage and Indulge!

Keep Dreaming!

No matter what profession you’ve chosen, it’s important to embrace change. The time to slow down, is the time you give up living.

“When we fail to plan, we plan to fail.” I can’t remember who it was that said it, but they were definitely right. We plan, and then plan some more! Some plans go belly up, some are home runs. But change is inevitable! Embrace it, plan for it, love it.

Here are a few successful marketing plans, that have helped me “stay the course” over the years to increase my business:

1) A referral program.
A. My most profitable were the gas cards I awarded to those that sent me 3 new clients. At $5 per new client sent, I found myself putting money back on a frequent basis. The promotion was that new client sales (from each existing client) would be totaled at the end of the month and then sent their free gas cards. The client that earned the most, received her first $50 gas card only a month after the program went into effect. Schzaam!!!
B. My second most profitable was the averaged new client sales . When existing clients sent me 3 new clients, the average service amount spent by those three (when totaled), would be added to my existing clients file. They could use the money any way they wanted. It could be used on services, retail, or gift cards. It was my “Thank You” for spreading the word.

2) Business Magnets
Make this one a concentrated effort. Many times your business card (you DO have one, right?), will suffice, and you DO need it to reflect your logo…something recognizable when seen anywhere. This marketing tool will be seen every time they go to the fridge. Everybody has to eat…right? Make it stand out! Now’s not the time to be frugal in the selection of material used.

3) Realtor Invasion
Be certain the realtors you pick for this one, are known aggressive property managers. Introduce yourself, offer them a free service during a slow time, like a Wednesday (that’s MY slow day, if I’m going to have one). In return for that free service, you’ll ask them to place a basket of your retail and other special service offers (attractively done up, of course), on a recently purchased home’s dining room table.

4) Prepare for Monthly Specials
This one is at the bottom of my list simply because it’s never been a strong event for me. There was a certain time of the year, usually the month before school starts, that my liter sales sky-rocketed…but other than that, my clients always purchased whatever it was they needed, when they needed it. Maybe when you are just beginning your business, it would be more of a magnet for shoppers. Also, I personally like giving back to the client through other means. Like…

5) Loyalty Rewards Program
With every service purchase, my clients automatically receive 10% off every $200 spent. My ClienTrak software lets me know when they have rewards to be used. It’s always a welcomed surprise when they’ve reached their jackpot.

A word to the wise…

“Everyone creates their own value.” Wise words spoken to me, by my late (and great) sister, Becky Johnson. We can’t blame anyone but ourselves for failure, or lack of productivity. When we embrace these true words, we will fly! We will leave others in the dust, so-to-speak. Responsible for our own actions, gives us the ability to be all we can be. No-one, no circumstance (as much as we would like to think), can thwart the plans of God in our lives, if we but do what is right, what is good, and put our hands to the task. And that, my awesome beauty consultants, is GOOD NEWS!!!

I remember an “off the cuff” remark by a brother-in-law of mine, some years ago. He said, “Mary, you need to slow down.” My response? “Why? I’ll have plenty of time to slow down when they bury me.”

Ah…passion! Without it, your dreams become non-existent. With it, you can touch the sky!

Dream on, Passionistas!!!