The post COVID-19 business facelift

With South African salons and spas still waiting for Government to publish reopening protocols for the industry, here is a useful business guide to prepare you for your post lockdown re-entry onto the market.

Marisa Dimitriadis of The Spa Consultants writes: I have consulted with various operators around the globe and I’m ready to assist you in the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis with insight and experiences from industry colleagues. One thing is for sure, whilst you might be relieved to get back to work, and excited to start generating revenue again, your new workplace will bring a lot of unforeseen concerns and a whole new set of challenges.

A barber in Spain, where my father lives, told me that he is not sure what was more traumatic: going into lockdown or coming out of it. I found this explanation of his experience of returning to work very interesting. Let’s look at some important tips to help you get ready to return to your own business.

Have a VIP list. This is a list of clients and the services they would like to receive when you reopen. You cannot give clients a date or time until you know when you are opening, but this list will prevent total chaos when opening approaches. Once it arrives, you can simply work your way down your VIP list to book clients the services they requested. A lucrative by-product of initiating this conversation with your clients is that you may uncover a need for retail sales as clients navigate self-care at home. Guide clients to book all their services at the same time if possible. This reduces the amount of sanitisation needed between clients, as they should be receiving all their services in one room.

SOP training. All training in your new SOPs (Standard Operational Procedures) must start before you open and should continue daily after opening until the system becomes a habit. It’s important to remember that you and your staff are collectively going into an entirely new way of operating, and it may be easy to forget these new protocols and systems that you have put in place. I cannot stress it enough, start training early and keep the training up daily.

Ease into your opening. Don’t be in a rush, and do not open until you are fully ready. Key to this is preparation. The sooner you begin preparing by purchasing appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), creating signage, cleaning and sanitising your premises, as well as client communication regarding the changes, the better. I suggest that you reduce the number of bookings per therapist on day one of reopening to 3/4 of their usual limit to allow them time to acclimatise. Your client’s first impressions on day one will be remembered, so focus a lot of time and energy on making this a wonderful experience that they will talk about, and feel safe to return to. This can only happen if you are prepared and if you ease into your opening.

Pivot. This is definitely the top business word for 2020! If you have not found your pivot yet, best you hunt for it, embrace it and become obsessed with it. Understand that we will never go back to normal, you are going to create a new normal. How great and profitable your new normal will be depends entirely on your pivot strategy. Beyond the pivot it is critical to propel that new strategy into effect. One idea of an industry pivot is to offer clients virtual consultations as well as product deliveries. Remember, not all clients will feel comfortable returning to the salon just yet.

Take responsibility for your team’s wellness. First and foremost, take the time to assess the state of mind of your team members, and look for practical ways to assist them. Manage their ‘return to work anxieties’ and keep communication at an all-time maximum. Some ideas to implement include check-in work on arrival and check-out work on departure; saying a team prayer at the start of each day and having a gratitude book wherein everyone writes what they are grateful for on a daily basis. You may even include clients in this book. Refer to The Spa Professionals Guild Employee Wellness Guide for many practical ideas.

Find collaboration opportunities. It’s time for businesses to work together to grow and scale. Get creative and don’t disregard any suggestion as trivial – explore everything and brainstorm a plethora of different ideas. Consider cross-brand-promoting on social media, shared promotions and in-store activities to highlight new services and products, to name but a few.

Re-evaluate your brand partners. ‘Through thick and thin, through good and bad’ – if your brand partners have not been present or in contact and have not supported you during this traumatic time, you should seriously reconsider and seek to partner with like-minded suppliers. Your staff and suppliers are the lifeline of your business, so now is a good time to make new partnerships that are more meaningful and profitable.

Communicate and communicate more. In fact, don’t stop talking. Speak to clients, speak to staff, speak to suppliers and to landlords, if you have them. Now, more than ever before, you must keep the lines of communication open. Leave nothing to assumption. Things are changing rapidly, so be sure to communicate any and all changes / developments.