Team Development and Overcoming the Skills Shortage

By Gita McKenna

Is your business something you are passionate about or is it just plain hard work? Do you love what you do and hunger to gain as much as you can by way of knowledge to use, or are you just hoping that by knowing the information you will make your business a success? Being in business can be the most rewarding experience when you apply your hard-earned knowledge and see the results materialise: the feeling of satisfaction knowing you are living the dream of setting up and growing something that gives you what you desire in life, be it lifestyle, financial return or the feeling of creating something from a goal you set for yourself.

What is the line of separation for you between having a profitable business or an unprofitable one? Many may find this hard to answer because they don’t spend the time thinking through what really makes their business tick. Those that do realise that the line of separation is about doing what needs to be done with the knowledge and information they have gained over the years, or knowing where and how to access the knowledge specific to your needs. Keeping your finger on the pulse of the changes in consumer demand is what sets many successful salons ahead of the rest.

Some say knowledge is power; well it is only powerful when you use it. One area of concern for many salon owners is the recruitment and development of their team. Why is it some salon owners don’t have the problem of finding great staff, yet others really struggle? From my experience the ones that don’t struggle with finding good future beauty therapist are the ones that understand how to run really strong businesses that not only support growth of the team, but offer an exceptional working environment and great wages. I have always looked at the team I’ve trained and worked with over the past 25 years as being my greatest asset. How do you value your greatest assets? Training is one way to value your team, offering them a career, not just a job, and it can be one of the best steps you take when it comes to growing your business and improving our beauty industry for years to come.

Many salon owners are afraid to teach their therapist all that they know for fear they will leave and take the information with them – even maybe open up in competition with them. So if you aren’t training our future therapists who is? What knowledge source are you calling upon to build not just great therapists, but therapists who will be committed to help create a profitable and great business?

Speaking from firsthand experience, the feeling can be one of frustration when staff leave, yet as an industry we owe it to our profession to continue to share our knowledge, experience and ideas on how we can build this great industry. Don’t stop training and sharing your knowledge – our industry really depends on it. Building a solid business is what really sustains you in tougher economic times. Remember back to the ‘90s when we had “the recession we had to have” according to the government of the day? My memory of this time was one of a booming and profitable business. Why? Because the owner I trained under was a business person; they never spoke in “scarcity mentality”, they spoke of abundance and never gave up looking for ways to make it happen.

In order to grow and develop as an industry we need to be mindful that many beauty therapists leave our industry, obviously for differing reasons, however one of the main reasons is lack of financial return for the hours they invest in their profession. When the therapist leaves they take away from the industry the experience and knowledge invested in them over the many years of training. We do need to develop and continue to develop the business side of beauty business regardless. Teaching your team about the costs to run the business and how that assimilates into their daily actions does pay off. Break it down to bite-sized pieces they can understand. I’ve seen it firsthand with teams I’ve personally trained in my own business and those we have trained within Beauty Advantage over the past eight years. Where will we be as an industry if we do not continue to share our knowledge and valuable experience?

Our skills shortage is due in part to our overall approach to the business side of what we do within our beauty industry: “We are business people and our excuse is beauty”. Skills shortage is a hot topic discussed at many of the seminars my coaching team and I deliver nationally.

To address this situation and to approach it in a financially effective manner you need to know and understand the nuts and bolts of running a profitable business. Those that have learned this lesson run a more successful and profitable business. Being great at what you do is important; but we as an industry need to place just as much importance on gaining the right information from the right sources, ones that will back up the information shared and be there to help you when you need it most, not just to help you feel good at the time.

The concept of Beauty Advantage back in the late ‘90s was borne out of the identification of the need within my own business and the state of play within our industry of gaining information that was industry specific in its application to help gain financially from my business. Since then, Beauty Advantage has helped hundreds of beauty therapists who have opened their own business to be aware of and understand the complexities of running a truly successful and profitable business. The philosophies within our organisation are applied and actioned, to raise the standards in our industry by increasing business knowledge, personal development and team skills; a motto that is a reality when we work with our clients.

We all have a responsibility when we open a business to run it with clear vision and use our knowledge and experience to build a solid business. Knowing and doing are two very separate issues. If you think you know what you should be doing and don’t do it, then do you really know it? If you did you would do it, right? I’m not sure who coined the phrase: “to know and not to use is to not yet know”, but I believe it to be true.

How often do you hear your beauty therapists say: “I know how to do that and I know I should do that”, yet continue not to do it? A typical example when it comes to running a profitable business is that many owners know they should do up a budget and know exactly how much it costs to open their doors, then measure their expenditure against industry Key Performance Indicators, yet they don’t do it. The process of just doing this can bring you one step closer to building a solid business as opposed to one that struggles financially. We look at the personal development side of why you avoid addressing the nuts and bolts of your business, so we can share with you the positives and what it means to you personally by addressing these issues.

What this tells us is that we start by having an overall business plan – not just for ourselves as business owners, but inclusive of staff goals and aspirations. Why? Because with inclusivity comes commitment; commitment promotes growth; growth brings profit. Isn’t that what our ultimate goal is? It doesn’t matter what area of your business you want to grow, it impacts onto almost every other area. It is only when you are not aware of this that your business growth is stifled.

As an example, you decide you need to grow your beauty team. This leads to looking at the system of induction and training new therapists, which also leads into your Policy and Procedure Manual and how up to date and relevant it is. You will have determined that your financials, both expenditure and income, will be changing. How much does each one need to change and how will you manage that?

When you grow your team, you need solid systems. You may even need to get rid of some and implement others. This can be overwhelming without a solid business plan and plan of action.

[SUBHEAD] Some steps to engaging the right beauty therapist for your business:

Step 1: Use an advertisement that works to get the phone ringing with applicants. All advertising, whether it be for business promotions or growing your team, needs to be a reflection of your business, because clients are also reading these advertisements. Beauty Advantage has a proven effective advertisement that works. A day spa owner in Sydney we coach identified that in order to grow her business, she needed some qualified therapists, and by using our advertisement, today she has six therapists working with her when she originally only had two. The calls literally came in straight away and then the selection process started.

Step 2: Have a clear guideline of the sort of person you are after, the qualifications they need, the hours of work you would need them to do, the days you need them. If they are not qualified in some of your treatments are you prepared to train them? Do you have the funds to do this? Have you done the sums on how much the new therapist is going to cost you – all employment oncosts included – and how much do they need to make to be profitable to your business? These are all the nuts and bolts areas that will ultimately determine your bottom-line profit. Remember to do reference checks also to get the heads-up on their past work history.

Step 3: When you do recruit new team members, are you inducting them into your businesses standards or hoping they will pick it up as they go? At Beauty Advantage we have an induction probationary manual that can be adapted to meet your individual salon/spa standards. It is a great tool to use so all new employees are introduced to your business in the right way from the start. The therapist knows and understands your expectations and there are no grey areas when they are taken through the right training and induction procedure. Areas that need to be covered in the induction training encompass all areas of working in your business, from how clients are introduced through to performing the treatments and education of clients on their homecare needs. One of the features of this tool is that there is a trainer’s note booklet to train from and also a trainee notes booklet for the therapist to complete as they are being trained in each facet of your business. This means you can delegate the training to one of your longer standing employees that knows and understands your standards, or alternatively, it can be your training plan for delivering yourself. This helps in maximising your time.

Step 4: Set goals right from the start, and work with them individually on how they can achieve these goals. Review it regularly and remember to offer recognition when you see them getting close or reaching their goals. Encouragement does not always mean money, simple words of encouragement often means more when staff are genuinely trying to do better.

Even before you have employed your new therapist, I’d strongly suggest you work out a marketing strategy to ensure they are busy from the first day they start with you. Some of you may be in the position where you want to step back the number of days you work in the business, however, growing your client numbers is an area to consider when employing new therapists. One trap many owners fall into is to put on a new therapist, without thought about how to keep this person busy and then after the first few weeks finds the therapist is not being profitable. Not being busy can lead to disgruntled staff and that is when, from my past experiences, gossip and trouble starts between team members.

When you employ new therapists they, too, are a business within your business and as such need to be promoted in order to succeed. Promotion can be in-salon or localised marketing, just set aside some time to make sure the plan is there before the therapist starts; you can always fine tune it later.

To find out how Beauty Advantage could help you simplify the process of gaining more from your business and your team call 1300 735 408 or visit to find a coach closest to you. They can come out to see you and give you an hour coaching session free of charge to help identify what areas we can be of assistance.

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