Tuesday, 28 January 2014 12:10

THE ROAD TO SUCCESS: How to Create a Business Culture of Excellence that Fuels Sustainable Growth

Written by   Shannon Conley

Successfully running and operating a small business in today’s dynamic world of beauty brands and outlets is no simple feat. Salon owners are tasked with doing it all. Running the day-to-day operations, dealing with staffing issues like turnover, marketing the business, and staying ahead of the latest technologies/techniques to keep your customers looking and feeling their best can be hectic.
As a successful salon owner and product manufacturer who has experienced my fair share of ups and downs through consistent fast paced growth, I have learned a lot along the way that might help others navigate the choppy waters ahead on the road to success. My hope is that these tips will help fuel and energize growth for some small business owners, while helping others sustain the success they have already achieved.

The Culture Club

The importance of culture is an oft-overlooked element of brand building in the beauty industry. I am not just talking about having great employee benefits or bringing treats for staff meetings. Culture is how your team embodies your salon’s vision. So let us start at the beginning. All business owners should have a mission statement and supporting values that define the kind of business you desire and how you want to run it. Values such as collegiality and sharing, recognizing employees’ contributions, fostering trust and encouraging employees to lead a balanced life are all great places to start.
Once you have defined your mission and values, you can begin living that mission and influencing the culture that impacts your entire team and customers. After all, it begins with the salon’s leadership. You want this crew to model the attitude that all your employees should have. Once your leadership team is marching to the beat of the same drum, you can begin running the day-to-day business according to those shared values.

successHere are some additional tips to help you establish a culture that breeds success:

  • Set and monitor performance and development goals for your entire team. When it comes to your staff, assign specific accountabilities, set realistic objectives and communicate priorities – this makes everyone feel like they are a part of achieving your mission.
  • Focus on what is best and then on what is next, rather than dwelling on the negative or obstacles to your success. This shift in focus helps foster an accountable success-oriented environment.
  • Find opportunities to mentor and develop employees to help them achieve work-life balance and their personal goals. A happy team equals happy customers!
  • Have an open door policy where everyone has access to the leadership team. Every member of my staff knows that they can always call, e-mail or text the leadership team 24/7.
  • Schedule regular meetings to remind everyone of their short- and long-term goals and help people stay focused on achieving the results you have prioritized. Dedicate time in these meetings to recognize success and invite team members to ask questions and provide speedy and complete information to your team. Invite participation at every turn to build trust.
  • Work with purpose! People want to be a part of something bigger than just a job. Giving back is the perfect opportunity to get everyone involved. We try and get as many people involved in our philanthropic efforts as possible. Our efforts include everything from a 24-hour wax-a-thon to block parties, to simply delivering holiday gifts to those in need. In my salons we have a philanthropy task force and they are responsible for leading our efforts and coordinating with philanthropy partners.
  • Seek out ways to surprise and delight your team – not just your customers. For instance, we deliver every employee a personalized birthday cake on their special day and post a picture on Facebook.
  • It is worth noting that when it comes to fostering a high-performing culture, one that not only promotes employee fulfillment, client satisfaction, and repeat business, that a healthy work environment is crucial. If employees are happy, it shows. If employees are unhappy, this shows as well. Taking some of these small steps today to achieve a productive culture will pay off for years down the road. 

Know Where You Are Going… And How You Are Going to Get There

networking-marketingAnother crucial tip for success in any industry is goal setting – for everything! The beauty industry is no different. Simply running a profitable business is not what I am talking about. You have to get specific – what do you really want to achieve with your business?
Goal setting is imperative on a professional and a personal level. When I started my salon business in 2007, my goal was to have three locations by 2013. We achieved that goal a year early. As soon as we opened our third salon, I was already looking ahead to the next project. Now, my five-year goal is to have 20 profitable locations and get into one of the countries premiere national beauty retailers.
Goals set the speed of a business. Without a goal, it is easy to get lost in the day-to-day operations of running a salon. With a goal, employees are focused on moving forward, and on fueling their own personal growth. Personally, each time I meet a goal, I feel immediate complacency and have to set a new one to feel motivated. One winning philosophy – what gets measured, gets done! The simple act of paying attention to something will cause you to make connections you never did previously, and you will improve in those areas, almost without any extra effort.
In a meeting at the beginning of this year, we invited everyone on our team to describe their personal one-, five- and 10-year goals. This allowed us to understand one another better and be given the opportunity to encourage and support one another in reaching those goals.
Public goal setting is not just a warm-and-fuzzy tactic to make staffers feel good. In order to achieve the vision you have for your business, it is critical that employees have a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities expected of them. Equally important is when you hit a big milestone, be sure to celebrate as a team.

Do Not Just Keep Up, Skyrocket Ahead of the Competition

You are probably now expecting tips for how to take down your top three competitors. My experience is not paying attention to your competition is the best way to get ahead. Sure, we are all competing for the same clients in our individual markets and there will always be competitors vying for those same customers’ disposable income. But I challenge all small business owners: if you want to win, stay focused on your own vision. Remember your goals. And know that no other business shares your goals or your path to success. Besides, when you focus on looking ahead, you do not have time to look in the rearview mirror at what others are doing.

"All business owners should have a mission statement and supporting values that define the kind of business you desire and how you want to run it. Values such as collegiality and sharing, recognizing employees’ contributions, fostering trust and encouraging employees to lead a balanced life are all great places to start."

If you really want to stay ahead of the pack, marketing is another large and critical piece of the puzzle. You would be hard pressed to find two salon/spa owners who share the same beliefs about marketing. After all, every city and each specialty within our industry has its own nuances and quirks that make certain marketing tactics resonate with consumers, while others fall flat.
Typically, word-of-mouth tends to be the number one marketing trick-of-the-trade in the beauty industry. After all, clients who walk away looking or feeling better than they did before coming into your business are more likely to tell their friends about the amazing cut and color, skin treatment, brow shaping, or massage, that they just have to try.
A lot of business owners think that word-of-mouth is just something that happens. The truth is that you actually have much more control over it than you think. For example, my salons perpetuate word-of-mouth buzz by bending over backwards to be sure we are surprising and delighting every customer who walks through our doors. We offer guests a discount on our most popular service when they book regularly. Our regulars also receive a discount when they bring in a new guest; the new guest receives the same discount, too. These efforts helped us amass a fiercely loyal following that allows us to keep business booked without having to do much else in terms of paid marketing.
mission-statementThere are some basic customer service elements that no salon owner should overlook – offer guests a premium beverage (wine and champagne are always a hit!); have tasty snacks and high quality reading materials. If guests want to do a little shopping before or after their treatment, we offer complimentary gift wrapping. These things may seem like a given, but you would be surprised at how little details can get lost when you are just focusing on the day-to-day operations of running a bustling salon, especially during busy times of the year.
marketing-planPamper your guests so that they do not just delight in the experience you create for them, but because you have put the right team in place to ensure expert customer service, they have come to expect it every time.
While traditional marketing efforts have their place in the mix (such as print advertisements, paid search, and so on), word-of-mouth buzz delivers the highest return on investment (ROI), especially over time.
Rather than your standard run-of-the-mill advertisement on a park bench or the local neighborhood newspaper, winning an award as the best salon in your city or being included in a local gift guide will go a lot further in convincing potential customers to discover their next favorite salon.

“If you want to win, stay focused on your own vision. Remember your goals. And know that no other business shares your goals or your path to success.”

A final word on the subject of marketing – do not underestimate the value of partnering with like-minded businesses. Look for local high-end hotels, sports clubs and studios, clothing boutiques that cater to the same clientele. Look for opportunities to partner up on giveaways, special events, sponsorships or a simple client referral program. These efforts can bring your business’ brand into the spotlight that it deserves, staying for the foreseeable future and beyond.

Shannon Conley is an experienced aesthetician with more than 17 years of experience in the skin care, spa and salon industry. As founder and owner of Urban Waxx – a unique salon concept completely focused on waxing and over the top customer service with three locations in Portland, Oregon – Conley has experienced a period of rapid growth since starting her business in 2007. She has also found success in product development with the launch of Serious Serum, the best all natural, AHA ingrown hair eliminator and skin exfoliant on the market. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., www.urbanwaxx.com or www.seriousserum.com

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