This is the second of Melissa Timperley's guest blog posts. In the first, she discusses her response to getting back to business after lockdown. This post explores her approach to entrepreneurship and how she continues to work hard every day at improving and building her salon business.
Melissa is the owner of Manchester-based Melissa Timperley Salons Ltd. Since opening in December 2016, Melissa's salon has been voted best hairdresser in several national awards including top haircut and hair colour, tint and balayage competitions as well as best independent salon and best client experience.
If you are like me, you are pretty sick of coronavirus and how it has affected every part of our lives and work, so I don’t want to make this yet another ‘COVID coping’ story'. Instead, I’ve deliberately not mentioned it here as other things are vitally important too, and I try not to forget these business lessons, despite being dressed up in PPE. I hope these will help us to keep going in challenging times.
Client service is everything
When you’re giving a great service, clients will come back to you – but you’ve got to know what great service looks like in their eyes. The smallest details count. It’s about the client journey and making them feel special throughout their visit – in fact, making them feel more special when they leave the salon than when they came in. We’ve got a client service commitment to add some process to the client journey, but it’s both an art and a science and our team have to be aware of what might make someone’s visit extra special.
This is about marginal gains and improving – cost effectively – as we go. More recently, we’ve been focusing on the reception meet and greet and the last five minutes of our clients’ visit with us, including payment, rebooking, advice and final leaving comments. This is based on the ‘recency’ principle that people remember the last part of their experience just as much as first impressions.
Be focused on an appropriate market sector for your brand
Our best clients are the ones who value us for our skills, love coming to the salon for the experience and are very happy to pay our full rates.
Know who you want to attract into the salon and focus your offer. Know the things that will appeal to them. I’m learning that you can’t be all things to everyone, and trying to be so just loses your brand identity.
Don’t discount. People will pay the price if you provide the value (and more) that they expect – but don’t expect everyone to see it. Our best clients are the ones who value us for our skills, love coming to the salon for the experience and are very happy to pay our full rates. It’s a win-win relationship.
Be adaptable and resilient
Have faith in yourself - and even when you doubt yourself, you need to carry on. The thing about having a client-focused business that is open six days a week with long days is that no matter how you feel, you have to pick yourself up, put a smile on your face and get out there and do your best. With the next client due in five minutes, salon reality means you can’t wait to be feeling ‘in the mood’ or confident, you just have to ‘do it’.
Being a business owner has made me much more resilient and forgiving of myself. I recognise things aren’t perfect all the time, but I can strive to be better tomorrow than today and learn from the experiences.
Bring new experiences into your comfort zone
Especially when starting out as a young businessperson, I’d never come across a number of things that I had to deal with – the list is a long one, utilities, tradespeople, tax, landlords, product suppliers, accountants, recruitment etc. etc. Now that I’ve got some more experience under my belt, some of these things are becoming part of the comfort zone, but are replaced by other new experiences along the road. It’s certainly a learning journey!
Learn from your mentors and those who have ‘been there’
If something’s happened which knocks you back the quicker you can pick yourself up and move forward in a practical way, the sooner you can start to make changes that will improve the situation.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve tried to apply is to learn from my ‘mentors’ and others who have been through similar situations. I’ve learned to get feedback and not be defensive about the comments they’ve made. The key is not to let your standards slip, but to keep pushing for consistency and an even better version of myself and my business.
One of the most important things I’ve learned is that you need to recover from setbacks quickly – there is no point in dwelling on a problem or feeling sorry for yourself if something’s happened which knocks you back the quicker you can pick yourself up and move forward in a practical way, the sooner you can start to make changes that will improve the situation.
Maintaining the morale of the team is paramount
It’s been said many times before, of course, but it’s no doubt true that a happy team leads to happy clients and vice versa. It’s an iterative process and one that needs to be worked on daily, I’ve found. The team takes its tone and attitude from the leader, so it’s my job to role-model the behaviours I need to see in the team. If I’m down, I need to pick myself up and not expect the team members to do it for me. However, if one of the team is down for whatever reason, it’s my job, along with others, to pick them up wherever possible.
It’s not always easy in a busy business environment to take the time, but I’m learning to notice the signs during our day-to-day work and interactions and provide feedback and support on an ongoing basis - and not leave it to team meetings or monthly reviews, as that’s too rigid and probably too late.
Winning competitions isn’t the marketing answer to client attraction
We’ve been lucky enough to win several hairdressing competitions in our first 18 months and we’ve been thrilled with those achievements. I have recognised, however, that whilst awards are great for brand and profile, and are an endorsement of our approach, they don’t necessarily translate into more business directly.
You have to work hard at generating clients using all of the marketing channels available to you and an award win is just another one of those channels. It’s the experience when clients come to you and the repeat visit and referral that is the more potent business driver.
It’s the experience when clients come to you and the repeat visit and referral that is the more potent business driver.
So, there’s a few thoughts from someone who has still got a great deal to learn, but maybe my experience will be valuable to others starting out on a business venture.
No doubt some things will apply more to some businesses than others, but I think the common denominator is that a lot of it is down to you, your resilience and your passion and determination, backed by a quality product and service that someone wants to buy.
Add the support of a strong and willing team who share the vision and you probably have the basic ingredients for a successful early-stage business. Now it’s just a case of blending the ingredients into a masterpiece, and not being run-of-the-mill!