Plan of Attack: How to Execute your Salon Ideas

Sue Remes Fringe Magazine

Sue Remes fell in love with the beauty industry while working at a Clinique counter. She swiftly worked her way up to Regional Education Manager for the cosmetic giant before moving to Aveda as National Sales Manager. As Vice President of Luxury for Mars Advertising, she expanded her knowledge of building brand equity, driving volume, enhancing and expanding brand presence.
In 1993 she set up Sue Remes Resources where she has earned a reputation as a leading industry consultant, creating valuable education programs, marketing strategies and sales processes that build brands and create customer loyalty. She has worked with organisations such as Kiehl’s Since 1851, Wella, Frédéric Fekkai, Matrix, Lancôme, Sebastian International, Murad, KEVIN.MURPHY and The Body Shop.

Ideas are only as good as their execution. I have been in the beauty industry for over 25 years. Of all the lessons I have learned, this is one of the most important: The difference between a good idea and a great idea is execution.

Being a service-based business is core to every salon. Until we can figure out how to cut ahead of hair over the internet (hopefully never!) the consumer will be required to walk through the door for our services. We are fortunate to remain a destination business in these changing times. This offers challenges and opportunities, however, because service-based businesses – like consumers – are continually evolving.

Glamsquad, which debuted in New York City in 2014 and now operates in four major cities across North America, is a great example. It is an on-demand beauty biz that has an app and website where clients can book luxury beauty services like hair and make-up in their homes or hotels. It’s all about bringing beauty services directly to clients.

Subscription services like Birch Box are introducing new products to the consumer based on their needs and their preferences, delivering new products to a client’s doorstep monthly. These new models are posing questions around a salon’s relevance, unique selling points and how salons compete and remain attractive to consumers in an ever-changing marketplace.

The key to a successful destination business is making sure your clients have a unique experience that brings them back again and again. This can be tricky in a service-based business because there are so many moving parts. Like the old saying goes, the devil is in the detail and those details need to be thought through on a continual basis.

Salons must continuously define and refine service standards and be consistent around the
execution of new ideas and service. This means salons will need to continually look at how to improve their service standards and how to best delight clients to earn their repeat business.

Defining great execution
Launching any new salon initiative takes careful planning before, during and after your launch.
Let’s break it down:

Before executing any new idea, ask yourself some important questions about what result you hope to achieve:
• How does the idea or initiative fit with and promote your Unique Selling Point?
• What unanswered questions or needs does it answer?
• How will this new initiative improve our business?
• Will it help us attract new clients?
• Will it serve our employees?
• How will it make all of our lives better – ours and our clients?

Start with the end in mind – what is the outcome you hope to achieve with the new initiative? What will it bring to the business or how will it enhance what you are already doing?
Some examples:
• Loyalty programs
• New service offerings
• New talent training programs
• Salon improvements
• New products or brands
• New delivery channels for your business
• Cause marketing or other partnerships
• Events

Once you have answered these questions, you can begin to define the critical first step(s) you will need to take to achieve success. The first step is the most important piece of the puzzle. You may not know what the second or third steps are, but taking the first step can help you define how you will go forward, so spend some time applying critical thinking and asking thoughtful questions. Do not move off step one until you and your staff are crystal clear on the desired outcomes and can articulate the end game. Once you have defined your first step and the desired outcome, then fill in the middle – this is your execution plan.

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When you are ready to move to the execution phase of your project or initiative, determine how you will communicate your plan, goals and expectations, but more importantly, how you will keep this message alive. It’s kind of like a marriage – it’s all smiles walking down the aisle, but once the honeymoon is over, the day-to-day realities set in. Business is hard work, change is hard
work. You will need to put some clear objectives in place and outline agreed- upon strategies so that when the going gets tough, the team knows what to expect and everyone is working toward shared goals.

Determine how you are going to keep your focus, stay true to your plan and achieve your long-term goals as a team. No one person is, or ever has been, responsible for a successful outcome of an idea or a shift in the business. If every single person in your salon is not on board and in love with the idea, your chance of failure increases exponentially with each person in doubt. Figure out how you are going to communicate throughout the launch, the execution and the ongoing activities. Most importantly, define what success looks like so everyone has the same expectation of achievement.

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BEWARE: You will experience setbacks. It is all part of the learning process. I will go so far as to say, be prepared to fail. I’ve realised over the years that anticipating the possibility of failing removes the surprise and pain along the way and turns failed projects into building blocks for future successes. Create a plan that anticipates issues that may arise along the way, and constantly communicate not only your successes but also your failures. They are equally weighted to your learning experience and important for every member of the team.

The unique and wonderful thing about failure is, it informs us in a far more profound way than success. Failure teaches us not only what we must do, it holds the mirror up to our actions and helps us be prepared when sneaky behaviours like laziness, lack of focus or negativity (all intrinsic to the human race) come into play.

Personally, I have embraced the role failure has played in my life and would not be where I am today without learning the lessons I have learned each time failure has shown up in my life.

Always pay attention
Regardless if you are running a program or a new initiative for the short-term, build in ways to assess whether your plan is working. Plans don’t always work the way you initially envision them, but that is no reason to scrap the plan altogether. Building in ways to assess your success helps you to determine whether or not your initiative needs to be tweaked, reorganised, or moved away from altogether. Create solid documentation along the way so that you are creating a history of your efforts. Create a scoring activity that you can use to assess your plans weekly or monthly. Not only will you be able to look back on ideas that you try that were successful, you’ll also be able to examine the ideas that were less successful and learn from the outcome. This data will help you think about your business in new and interesting ways. It may even inform your ongoing efforts in ways you have not yet considered.

A very successful friend of mine who works in medical sales has a mantra he lives by; ‘If you are going to lose, lose quickly.’ And though I don’t disagree with this sentiment, it has been my experience in the planning and execution of any new idea, you need to take the long view. Changing behaviour, launching new initiatives or building your learning toolbox, all take time. As the old saying goes, patience is a virtue. In this case, it is the necessary ingredient to success!