Tell us what major adjustments you have made to your business going forward to remain competitive in the market during this crisis?
With everyone’s focus shifting to the online world during the COVID pandemic, we decided to refresh our branding and website to ensure we were able to stand out. This was already on the cards, but the mandatory shutdown period gave us the opportunity to really focus on this project. It meant that we were able to spend far more time and take a much more considered approach to our rebranding, gathering input from the entire team to create a greater client browsing experience. As a skin clinic that customises our skin journeys and offers many advanced modalities, it can be difficult for a client to visualise what their skin journey might look like. We created a treatment menu and detailed service descriptions to make it easier for clients to navigate their way through the website, as well as to support therapists in mapping out the customised skin programs for our clients. We have also made our website more resourceful for our existing clients to provide them with practical information and advice they need for the best, long-lasting results from their treatment programs. The shutdown was also the perfect time for us to switch to a more effective appointment and client management software program. This, together with our new website, has enabled us to provide a seamless customer experience, with online booking, gift voucher purchase and online payment all managed in the one place for greater convenience. The team was also able to review all of the informed consent and consultation forms for our treatments, which have now been improved and streamlined in digital format. In fact, we have now gone completely paperless which was a big limitation with our previous software.

Karen Meiring de Gonzales is optimistic about the future of the industry.

What impact has the pandemic had on your business?
Like all businesses, we have been affected with the huge loss of revenue and having to restructure the team with a couple of team members choosing to go on JobSeeker rather than JobKeeper. That being said, the remainder of the team has been incredible and has truly shown what it means to stand together through tough times. We have managed to do all of the things we struggle to do during the busy times. This was an opportunity to completely stand back, reevaluate, and get rid of everything that no longer served us, while also looking at more effective ways of doing things. Not only did we focus on rebranding, the new website, and moving over to a new appointment and client management software, but we also updated our treatment protocols and informed consent forms and have now gone totally paperless. We also reorganised and sorted through each of the clinics, going through all of the archives and destroying outdated documentation with the help of a local non-for-profit business that provides meaningful employment for people with disabilities. We also did some internal painting in our Shellharbour clinic and installed new flooring in our Wollongong clinic. Given this progress, I think the long-term impact of the pandemic will be positive for us in the business.

What is the forecast for the future of your business? 
With all the positive changes we have made in the business and with the support of my fabulous team and loyal clients, I believe we will recover well and flourish once again. Ten years ago, I arrived in Australia and opened our first clinic in the thick of the GFC. Funds were limited with the terrible exchange rate from the South African Rand and selling our home in the midst of the GFC, and of course, there was the huge cost of relocating our lives to Australia. Despite not knowing anyone and not even understanding the value of the AU Dollar, I was able to navigate my way to success and open our second location 18 months later. I therefore have no doubt that with perseverance and commitment, we will, as they say, rise from the ashes. I have had to reinvent myself, adapting to different ways of life in multiple continents over the past 30 years of my career in the beauty/skin industry, so this feels no different. I embrace all of the positive things that this pandemic has given us and look forward to looking back on it as just another bump in the road to success.

What is the biggest strength you have discovered during these challenging times?
To be honest, I did not discover any strength I did not already gain from previous challenging times in my life, but what I did ‘discover’ is the incredible force we are as an industry and how many amazingly beautiful people we have to support us. I came out of an 8-day silent retreat only 5 days before we had to shut down.
I was truly in shock at what had happened in the world in just 8 days! We’ve had to deal with the uncertainty of when we would be able to open and how we would financially cope, navigate through JobKeeper and JobSeeker and the lack of clarification, deal with landlords while not knowing when we could open and what was required once we did open – goodness me, what haven’t we all had to deal with? It’s only been a short time but it has felt like forever. Yet, through it all, we supported each other, helped, uplifted, encouraged and cared for each other. Industry mentors have been doing their bit to support everyone and many of us were given an opportunity to represent our industry and have our say. I have always been passionate about our industry, but have fallen even more in love and feel even more proud to be part of such an incredible industry of passionate caring people. In the words of Vanessa Main when she launched her Facebook support group Salons and Spas Surviving Covid-19, “Together we are stronger!” 

This article first appeared in the July issue of Professional Beauty magazine. Download the issue here.

Visit the #BEAUTYSTRONG hub at https://www.professionalbeauty.com.au/beautystrong/

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