Changing Roles: from Booth Renter to Landlord

Preface: I didn’t intend this post to be so long but it was so cleansing to get this in writing. I sat down to write and it all just came flowing out of me and I couldn’t stop. So please forgive me for the mini book I just posted, but the ideas came together this way. 

I have recently changed my role as an independent contractor, to landlord. It was a blissful and content ride as an independent. I thoroughly enjoyed my time, just paying my rent, building my clientele, worried about no one and nothing but my own goals and aspirations as a skincare specialist and nail tech. But that has ended.

The space​ we are in was vacated by our landlord the first of April. We were faced with finding a new space, or taking over the lease. I say we, because my friend Julie, is in this with me. We both have rented our spaces for the last year and a half side by side and I believe she too was blissful and content with the old independence. What could we have done, but what we have done?

Both of us have a full clientele. So we had to do something to retain a place for them to come–or fail in our business. Neither one of us wanted to give up so soon.

There’s an interesting culture within the beauty industry, we get so personal with our clients, it’s really unavoidable. They come to their appointment, we greet them with a smile and a hug, and they feel like they’ve come home. (That’s the goal anyway.) They feel a certain type of ownership in the place they come to. It is “their salon.” We are their hair girl, and their nailgirl, their skin specialist. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

So what does one do when they lose their salon? We couldn’t let it happen. For more than just monetary reasons.

So we took the plunge. Contracts, lease agreements, inspections, business licensing and subleasing to the other operators within the space, that would also lose their business without a place to be. I have never liked big girl panties, and this is no exception. I hate to have to put them on and go forward with this changing role.

I have to back up her for a few minutes and confess my background. I almost took this plunge two years ago with another friend. I almost did it purposely back then. I was working in one of the busiest salon and day spas in my community, and was very unhappy with the situation, because I wanted to do more. I had it in my head that I wanted to open a salon, and she did too. She was in esthetics school and wanting to bust out of  there as a salon owner. We looked at spaces to rent, and found that everything that was available was in need of a major re-build. We both had very little money so it became clear that we needed to find a different option. I found in the local ads one day a salon and day spa that was up for sale and told her about it. There was just one catch… it was in a city that we didn’t really want to be in. Fashions and prices were about 5 years behind the times here, (and I think I’m being generous with my estimate of 5 years. We wanted to do up and coming treatments in our salon, microneedling, microblading, chemical peels… I was concerned right off the bat that this little older city was going to be a challenge to get people to indulge in these services. This city has a “look” — the bump hairstyle was still in complete fashion here. The good news was that women were still wearing stretchy pants from the last time they were in style. They could keep wearing them, they just had to start calling them yoga pants. And we also knew that the price margins in the competing salons were lower. The economy here was a little bit behind too. This was in the back of my mind from day one. She was in with both feet before we even went to see the place. Looking back now, I can see that there was no turning back for her. She had made up her mind that she was going to be owner of this salon.

Until that month, I never understood how anyone could get married to someone, and then find out they were a monster. I didn’t believe that you could not have some idea of this monsters evil ways until after the vows were made. Every time I met with her, things kept getting a little more tense, and a little more of her monster kept creeping it’s ugly head out. We needed so badly to get our heads together and get a plan going. We only had a month to figure out an LLC, decide whether we were going to keep the salon a booth renting salon, or restructure it, and she had to decide if she was going to continue her MLM company, jet setting “job” where she was a founding member and always had to speak at all the pep rally’s. Sorry to offend anyone in the MLM industry, but that’s what they are, pep rally’s. This was a big thorn in my side, because I kept comparing it to me staying at the salon I was at, and trying to have time for starting a new business. After three times of her telling me she was going to, and then not cancelling a ‘speaking engagement’ at the MLM’s retreat that was going to be held only two days before taking over the salon, I got really concerned. I was also concerned about her verbiage. She would go off on a fantasy and tell me that she couldn’t wait to get into that salon so “she could get me so busy”. What? I thought we would both be busy, we are partners, it isn’t anyone’s role to get the other one busy. One of the biggest grenades that hit me was the day that we went in to the lawyers office to set up our LLC. She was against going to a lawyer, because she thought it would be easy to figure out on our own. Turns out it was not easy. The lawyer went over the by-laws with us and explained how we needed to come up with solutions to problems before they arose so that in the event there was a problem, we would already know what steps to take to move forward. Every line of the contract from here on out was a problem for her. I can’t even tell you how many times she asked if we could just move on and address this one later. The lawyer kept having to remind her of the purpose of the contract. She did get really excited though, when he mentioned that somewhere down the road we might want to take out insurance policy’s on each other, to cover the business financially in the event one of us was unable to work. She lit up like the fourth of July and said, “you mean I can take out an insurance policy on her hands?” Again, What??? Yes another clue that the monster was surfacing.

The last day that I considered going into business with her was the last day that we were friends. She was my best friend. we had gone boating camping, traveled on vacations together with our husbands and families. We had been in deep conversations where secrets were told that no one else ever knew. She knows more about me than anyone, second only to my husband.

So, the last day. She was scheduled to come in for a pedicure, done by me. and we were supposed to later that day make a decision whether or not to sign the lease contract. I had been stalling for reasons that were not clear to me then, on signing. I wanted to have a contract signed by the corporation members, and be protected personally from liability, if the business somehow failed. That in my mind is what an LLC is for, but the landlord would not relent. He insisted on us signing the lease personally. I kept counter offering, trying to get him to accept our LLC as signer. He was not budging, the day had come to move forward or drop the ball. I had made a decision to move forward and sign the contract. My husband had left town the day before to go on a two week long hunt, and I was left with the advice from him to do what I felt would be the best. I was eight hours away from signing the contract and sucking up all the bad feelings I was having. I had made excuses for every incidence that I had seen her monster, she was my best friend, she wouldn’t do that on purpose. She must have meant it this way… not how it sounded.

First thing she said to me that morning, (keep in mind that we were equal partners about to open a business together) “I’m doing this with or without you.”  Then I sat down on my pedicure stool and did her pedicure. I felt subservient. I have never felt that way before in all of the pedicures I have done. Most of the time I feel good to be pampering my clients, making them feel so good about their pretty toes all polished up, and their smooth feet. This time I felt like a chained slave. Sitting there listening to her make points about how if I pass this opportunity up, I’ll never get another chance. How she has it all figured out; she’ll do the bookkeeping and social media, and I’ll be so busy doing nails and pedicures, we just can’t fail.

I didn’t tell her. No, I didn’t even say a word about making a decision to sign the contract. I was in a state of shut down. My body was performing all of the tasks I would have been doing that day, everything  I needed to do, so no one knew I was fetal position on the inside. It was like I was watching myself from another realm. Watching myself do normal things, smile, laugh, hug, walk, file, paint, massage. My normal self- while on the inside I was simply shutting down.

My kids came over for dinner that night, and I was still in two realms, but they knew me better. When they arrived I had the contract splayed out on the table, staring at every page, I had the floor plan of the salon in my hands and I had my computer on looking at pictures of the salon. They asked me what I was doing. I told them that I was just trying to picture myself there. Trying to channel one good feeling about moving all of my clients 20 miles south, and performing the services in that dumpy old house that had been converted to a salon. I started telling them about my day, how I had felt like things had just fallen apart. How I didn’t feel like she wanted a partner, she wanted an employee in me. I still kept the same attitude I had all along, making excuses for her, justifying her words, her actions, her body language; wondering why she was behaving this way.

These adult kids were so good to me. They didn’t get defensive, they didn’t badmouth her, like they wanted to, they just gave me the advise that I should call her, get all my feelings out on the table, and work things out. We are friends and about to become partners in business, we should clear the air, she should know all of my feelings and doubts. They were so wise. Half my age and looking at things with so much candor. The situation that night had set itself up to be the perfect scenario for me to come to the decision I ultimately did come to.

I called her with the intention to come to an understanding.  I pictured the outcome to be us both apologizing for our feelings and actions and at the end of the conversation wishing we had been in the same room so we could hug and make it alright again.

The call did not go over that way. She was defensive from the very beginning, and continued through the whole conversation. I gave her an opportunity to call me back at a more convenient time, as she was a the hospital visiting her boyfriends niece and her new baby. She got very bitchy, (sorry, there’s no other way to describe it.) She said, “Whatever you have to say, say it now!” So I started spilling all my thoughts, doubts, feelings. Honestly– I can’t even remember what she said. I was back in that state of complete shut down. I remember ending the conversation with her and genuinely apologizing for not coming to this decision sooner. Asking her to someday forgive me for stringing her along all this time when I had a gut feeling it was just not right for me. She never said she was sorry for anything. She had an excuse for all of her scheming actions. And to her, I’m sure they were all justified and she felt I was the only one who did wrong. Yup, I asked her for forgiveness.

That would be the last time I would consider her to be my friend.

After that experience with salon ownership, I decided it wasn’t for me. Especially after I quit working in the busy salon and started renting a space alongside Julie, who just happens to be Her ex-husbands girlfriend. Scandalous!! (Julie is now married to Her ex-husband and I couldn’t be more happy for them.) Being an independent contractor, in charge of just me and my wishes was the best thing I ever did.

So here I am. Julie and I are the girls in charge. We are the signer’s on the lease, and I didn’t even blink before I signed it. I had to do it. She had to do it. It felt right to do. It was an exciting step for us both, but at the same time, it was scary as Hell!

Now we have others to worry about. Now we are responsible for making the payment, cleaning the place, furnishing the place, buying consumables, and insuring the place against theft or negligence. And everyone we rent to feels like they got a raw deal, that we are getting rich off collecting their payments. When we take time off from now on they will think that they are the one’s who provided that for us to enjoy.

So with all that I am reluctant to be happy and excited about the new Us. Changing roles wan’t easy. Still isn’t easy. But we will find a way to make it better. I will settle into this role and be a better person for it. In the mean time, I’ve gotta find more booth renters.

Do you want to come and rent a booth from us? Contact me if you are interested. I’ll be the one over here wearing the big girl panties.