by Greg Milner

There’s an old saying: the teacher will appear when the student is ready.
Unfortunately for most business owners, they leave it till they’re on their last legs, the bailiff hammering at the door, the kids starving, the bills piling up like autumn leaves before they seek help, and join.

Long-term Members will be familiar with some of the names – Tegan Messineo, who was just 21 and pregnant with twins when she sought out WSM, and built her one-person business to a two-salon enterprise with ten staff, while she looked after her babies at home. Tracey Orr, who has been with us for more than 7 years, started her  two-person salon in sleepy Tasmania, which is now a million dollar salon.

WSM member Nicole Lopez – enjoying the two-wheeled and four-wheeled fruits of both hard work and smart-thinking

Nicole Lopez is another one. When Nicole joined WSM in July 2011, her Perth salon was already growing rapidly (notably, not in a recognized affluent area, but one of the city’s poorest). But as Nicole reveals in this recent letter to me, success isn’t neat, clean and stress-free – something I’m sure she reflects on as she cruises the streets in the new Mercedes convertible or astride the shiny black motorcycle that a combination of hard work and smart thinking has brought her. This is a lesson in honesty, ambition and achievement.

I’ve bolded some of Nicole’s words for my own comments at the bottom of her story.

“When you said I was the WSM Salon of the Week I was not sure if I was worthy of such a privilege.

My life leading up to this moment has been full of challenges and thinking that I hadn’t yet reached my goal made me ponder my success up to this point, AND the fact I am almost always overwhelmed and stressed with anxiety surely couldn’t make me a success either?!

Owning a salon, much less all three types together, in my case Hair, Beauty & Day Spa, has proven to be the biggest challenge I have ever lived. I am passionate about business and succeeding, and doing all this without knowing there is something to fall back on! I believe that to succeed in life you need to take the plunge and do what you need to do to succeed, even if it means sacrificing everything to make that one thing work.

I believe that life hands you opportunities and it is up to you to grab them with both hands. That’s why, when I bought my salon and it was quiet and lonely, I took to the front door and welcomed each person as they walked past to admire my A-Frames.

If there was ever a person who walked up to the front window to look at my signage I would take advantage and leaped to the challenge of making them my salon client. We are surrounded by salons, 5 in just our complex. And to any person looking from the outside in, everyone is quick to judge whether I made a good choice in buying the salon I did, in the area I did with so much competition around me. But in my eyes there is no competition because I have made people/clients aware (and advertised) why they should be coming to us and not to the salon next door.

Some of my secrets to fast tracking success has been to be the first point of contact to every client, phone, walk-ins  and client bookings. I don’t work on the floor (and never have as I knew this would hold me back in the present and of course in the future when trying to pass the clients away) even though I am a qualified Hairstylist. As the business owner, no one ever sells the business as well as you do. I pushed through the financial strain this caused (by me not working on the floor) and made it my job (that if I wasn’t going to be doing clients) I would be trying anything and everything to get people to walk through our door. My weekends are non-existent – through my own choice – I spend every waking moment on the internet searching and Googling anything and everything that may involve free advertising, promotions or YouTube videos on ways to advertise for free.  Or ways to bring in more money that wouldn’t involve me spending money.

Every day I am presented with new challenges that sometimes make me want to run and hide under a log or fly away to another country, I mean I am a normal person. I suffer from stress and anxiety and am naturally quite shy. BUT when I think about my business and how much I want to succeed it all disappears and I just do what I need to do to service our clients and become the most reputable salon in Perth – and become wealthy in the meantime.

To date, my motivation to do what it takes has benefited me in so many ways. I would never wish my anxiety away as this is what drives me to do what I need to do! It gives me my enthusiasm and it gives me my driving force for life! So unless I hadn’t pushed through all my life struggles and fought to take my business to new heights, today I wouldn’t be riding my very own 800cc shiny black motorcycle and driving a beautiful Mercedes SLK 350 silver Convertible!”

Key points that I’ve highlighted with bold text:

“without having something to fall back on”; during World War One, British officers would often stand behind the Tommies as they lined up to go ‘over the top’ into the teeth of the German machine guns. The officers carried pistols. The Tommies knew if they refused to attack, they’d be shot by their own officers.

I’m not suggesting instant death as alternative to commitment in business. But it’s all too easy to say “I’ll have a crack at it, and if it doesn’t work I can always go back to sweeping floors…”

“I took to the front door and welcomed each person as they walked past…”
A few weeks ago I visited one of my favorite restaurants, for the first time in several months. Much had changed. Once thriving, the place was pretty much empty. The owner, whom I knew, was slumped at the bar, drinking a coffee and looking disconsolate. “It’s lousy,” he told me. “Business has just fallen through the floor. Nobody’s coming in any more. I don’t know what to do.”

Well just for starters, he could have gotten off his lazy backside and did what Nicole does – rush out and sell to people walking past the front door. Show some enthusiasm, passion, excitement. Money won’t get excited about you until you get excited about you. Instead of standing inside your empty salon, staring open-mouthed at prospective customers as they walked by, when was the last time you went outside your comfort zone, actually opened the door and attempted to talk to them?

“…why they should be coming to us and not to the salon next door…”

Most businesses don’t bother giving valid, well thought-out reasons why their prospects should buy from them rather than the competition. ‘Reason why’ marketing is so little used, yet so powerful. What written, verbal and visual reasons do you actively give your prospects? Anything? At all?

“…be the first point of contact to every client, phone, walk-ins  and client bookings…”

The business owner’s job is not cutting hair. It’s doing what Nicole does – being the PPRO: the Prime Public Relations Officer. There’s nothing fluffy and wasteful about meeting and greeting. These customers are and will remain customers of the salon, not customers of an individual stylist or therapist.
Think about that the next time you worry about a staff member leaving and taking clients with them.

“I suffer from stress and anxiety…”

There isn’t a champion athlete who doesn’t suffer nerves as he steps up to the starting blocks. Sir Lawrence Olivier was always anxious on the first night of a new play.

It can’t be any other way. A certain amount of anxiety is necessary. Every day, you’re going into battle. Nerves are what give you an edge. I’ve never met a successful person who sails through life without a care in the world. And let’s face it, everybody has anxieties. I used to be a highly paid TV producer, often going to work – for somebody else – with a knot in my stomach. If I’m going have a knot in my stomach, I’d rather have it generating anxiety, and productivity for my own business than someone else’s.

“…do what it takes…”