Vanessa Yakobson, CEO of Blo Blow Dry Bar

5 Tips for Salons and Spas from Blo CEO Vanessa Yakobson

By Vanessa Yakobson

Recently, I was asked for my top tips for reopening and generally running salons and spas (including beauty franchises) during the COVID-19 pandemic. It certainly hasn't been easy to navigate—and while salons and spas may have reopened, the challenges aren't over just yet.

Here are the five things I'm sharing with our franchisees. You're probably already doing some of these things in your salon or spa business, but, if nothing else, you can rest assured we're in the same boat and pulling in the same direction.

1. Be strong for your team

For those of you who are either owners or leaders of beauty businesses, you've got to be strong for your team. You've got to show up with optimism and positivity and point out all the things that are working. Point out where the gaps are closing compared to a year ago. Point out how the trend is improving week over week. Right now, you need to be that cheerleader for your staff and let them know things are going to get better, and that they're going to be okay. It's an important message to be delivering.

You should also engage your staff in some of the problem solving and creative activity. Work with your team on how you're going to implement those sanitization practices, work with them on creative strategies for reaching out and inviting guests back in for different beauty services and opportunities. Be there for your team and work with them.

2. Preserve cash

The second thing, of course, is to focus on cash preservation. As we're still waiting in many markets for demand to pick up, as we're still waiting for capacity restrictions to ease, we really need to focus on survival. Be careful about how you use the support you've received from the government. Whether you're in Canada or in the US with PPP loans, be strategic about how you use those and pace yourself. You want to get through this period as close to breakeven as possible, if not better, so that you can, not limp out, but sprint out the other side and get back to business at your salon or spa.

One of the things that's especially helpful today is flexibility with hours. In many of our locations, we actually reduced hours. We've had franchise partners (franchisees) who started out closed on some days when they used to be open seven days a week. Now they're adding back in as demand picks up.

What's helpful about that is that the consumer is okay with that. They realize things are wonky. I'm sure we've all had that experience of going past a business that we normally give our business to—only to discover a sign on the door saying it’s not opening until 11:00 am when normally it opens at 10:00 am. Customers are being forgiving with that sort of thing.

3. Get creative to drive revenue

During the closures, our bars were offering curbside pickup; they were even doing home delivery of product. What was really neat about that was that we had customers buying products who'd never purchased product before. This was a great opportunity to introduce them to some of the great retail we offer and encourage continued retail sales upon reopening.

Focus on things like in-spa or in-salon events. Events at your locations can be a little bit tricky with gathering restrictions, but many of our franchise partners have opened up their beautiful spaces for people for private events. People are looking for safe spaces to gather with their friends, so why not your salon or spa?

Again, engage your team. How can you drive up that average ticket price? What can you be doing? Brainstorm with your team and even talk to your guests to find out what they’re looking for and how you can creatively meet their needs.

4. Engage with guests

The notion of supporting local business and local business owners—recognizing that real people are behind these businesses—has really resonated with our customer base. My recommendation to all of you, as it has been to our franchise partners, is to leverage that.

Build connections with your guests. If you've had guests that you've had great relationships with, go all out. If you've got guests you didn't always engage with, make every outreach personal. Pick up the phone, send a text, send an email—really engage with guests and let them know how much you and your team appreciate their support. Let them know how this pandemic has impacted you. Your honesty and gratitude resonates with consumers.

5. Take care of yourself as a leader

This is so hard. I can attest to that. As you're being strong for your team, as you're engaging with your guests, and really giving it all your energy, find moments to take care of yourself. I know many of us have been turning to wine (probably not a great idea). Instead, I challenge all of us to find some other, healthy ways to practice self-care. It’s important to make a point of taking that break for yourself and to focus on the positives.

Being in the beauty industry right now is tough, but we have plenty of reason to be optimistic. Beauty is an important part of our clients' lives, and, thankfully, we're seeing customers steadily return. In the meantime, keep your team strong, minimize costs and drive revenue, connect with clients, and consider your own wellbeing, and you'll be well on your way to coming out stronger on the other side.

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About the author:

Vanessa Yakobson, CEO of Blo Blow Dry Bar

Vanessa Yakobson

CEO, Blo Blow Dry Bar

Blo Blow Dry Bar

Vanessa, along with Paul Spindler and Ari Yakobson, Blo’s Chairman and Vanessa’s husband, acquired Blo in 2009. Vanessa has always been a passionate supporter of the business–as a shareholder and as a customer–and was thrilled to join the corporate team at the end of 2014, taking on the role of CEO in early 2016. Vanessa has an undergraduate degree in Drama from the University of Toronto. She started her career in Marketing and then went back to school to acquire an MBA from the J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, Chicago. She returned to Toronto to work at Procter & Gamble and eventually moved into the non-profit sector as Director of Development for the Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario. As a survivor of childhood cancer, Vanessa is passionate about the cause. Vanessa and Ari have three children.

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