Expert Advice: How salons can prepare & pivot for a post-pandemic future
Thomas Hills offers an insight into how businesses should adapt for a successful future.
Never before has a New Year seemed so welcome, with 2021 offering the opportunity to quite literally put the trials and tribulations of 2020 behind us.
If only it were quite that easy, however, as the repercussions for businesses will of course be long lasting. The hairdressing industry has suffered immeasurably; as salon owners, we have endured more fundamental and fast-paced shifts in our businesses over the last ten months than we could ever have envisaged over ten years. Catastrophic losses and changes in turnover, teams and clients, along with the need for continually evolving and robust risk assessment have meant it's been hugely challenging to collectively keep our heads above water.
Such a rapidly changing tide has been hard to navigate, with many businesses, both large and small, discovering to their cost just how financially fragile they really are.
Despite this challenging context however, we have also had time to establish fresh routines within the ever-evolving parameters and guidelines. We have had to be innovative and nimble, willing to adapt and react to difficulties and opportunities as we have addressed the new reality of running a business in a post-pandemic landscape that changes – as we have found to our cost without any warning.
Agility and speed of response has always been a key element of any business DNA, and never more so than now. The current climate means we have had to think on our feet, adapt, react, pull together and focus on the bigger picture, and all the while trying to remain calm in the face of what can sometimes seem insurmountable pressure.
What has been apparent to me as a consumer, rather than a business owner, is that the response of businesses and the way in which they handled the COVID-19 crisis will be what they are remembered for; their reactions will define them, becoming the hallmark they leave behind. Post-pandemic our views on those who handled it ‘correctly' will leave a lasting impression, and those companies best positioned to succeed will be the ones who put people first. As a result, caring will become the most powerful business advantage and one we should use to ours. Customers may forget what you said, but they'll never forget how you made them feel.
In a people-focused industry like ours, this advantage will be vital, who knows how the retail and consumer landscape will change. Yes, it's true that people will always need hairdressers, but there's likely to be a shift in consumer awareness that means clients will be looking for companies that care, about them, about their team and about a collective wellbeing.
With this in mind, communication will be more vital post-pandemic than it was before, with a refocused business picture that will require redefining as we go. This redefinition will come as we slowly and steadfastly rebuild our businesses.
Our focus must remain on a positive mind-set, on team morale, and on continual client engagement. Connection is key and will prove vital to the future of your business, a barometer of how you care about the wellbeing of your team. It's not a time to bury our heads in the sand (even if we may have wanted to at times), but instead, a huge opportunity to do things differently as we forge a new path. What worked yesterday is unlikely to form the business blueprint of the future, so we must all adapt and react to the new normal, showcase financial resilience and business agility and reframe our understanding of what this means for ourselves and our businesses.
Here's what I believe will help us to thrive and survive in a rapidly changing marketplace, and ensure our industry remains at the forefront of innovation and creation:
1. Opportunity Knocks
While survival has been key to many hairdressing businesses since COVID-19 took hold, it's advantageous to think longer-term about decisions that could benefit your business. This is an opportunity for all businesses to pause and reflect: look at how far you have come, re-evaluate your business goals and change what wasn't working.
2. Money Matters
None of us were prepared for a global pandemic, and while some of us may have been more financially astute than others, it's taught us all to prepare for unforeseen circumstances.
We have all lost huge amounts of revenue, so it's about implementing a slow and steady strategy that may be hugely different to the one you envisaged at the start of 2020. Recognise and take comfort from the fact we are all in this together and will be stronger together.
3. Talk is Chic
As this time has proven, communication has been vital for making your team and clients feel valued, respected and cared for. If managed correctly, a crisis can bring people together, facilitating a ‘can-do' attitude and spirit of endurance, but if managed incorrectly it can push people apart.
Look at how you communicate with your team and client base and ensure you're open, honest and above all, authentic.
4. Future Perfect
Future proofing your business should be an on-going priority and strategy and speed of response should be firmly embedded into your business DNA. COVID-19 has accelerated critical changes in every salon business. Yes, it has exposed flaws in how we were so little prepared, however it has also allowed us to be more receptive to change and respond differently to any future challenges.
5. Take Your Time
Don't rush your decision-making but do make plans. Take time to consider the implications but keep looking to the future, with the ability to adapt as and when necessary. In navigating unprecedented business disruption, most salons have displayed a huge amount of resilience, which can be channelled into a business plan that shows both creativity and agility.
6. React + Adapt
Intuition is your most powerful business tool. While we can't predict the future, we can predict how we will react to change, and ensuring you're flexible with the ability to react and adapt accordingly should be a key driver in your business model, moving forward.
7. Grow Your Own
What has become abundantly clear over recent months is that if your thought process stays the same, your business won't be sustainable, so it's important to encourage a growth mind-set amongst yourself and your team to allow you all to respond to any challenges along the way.
Thomas Hills is a multi award-winning hairstylist and Director of TH1 HAIR in Oxted, Surrey, a Revlon Professional affiliated salon. The TH1 HAIR team are regulars backstage at London Fashion Week with Thomas travelling globally, educating and innovating on behalf of the brand.