David and Lynsey Baker are the brother and sister team behind The Vault Hair and Spa in Claygate. The studio opened in April 2013. It employs 13 people and was breaking even by the end of the first month.
What are your secrets for success?
Having a clear vision, not a mishmash of ideas. For us it’s about creating an edgy atmosphere that attracts young, trendy professionals.
It’s important to be visible, for example David is the UK ambassador for Milkshake and z.one concept in Europe. If you spend money on getting the image right, you attract the clients that you want.
We are open seven days a week and three late nights, which makes it easier for customers to fit us into their busy schedules. Location is also important – we’re near the station, so commuters can step off the train and get their hair done when it suits them.
Having a business plan is essential – without that we wouldn’t have been able to secure the investment we needed.
What is your biggest challenge?
When we first opened we wanted it to be fun – we didn’t want to be telling staff what to do. But we soon discovered that you need someone who is quite tough, so we appointed a manager to take on that role.
We quickly learnt that no one will love our business as much as we do. You have to do everything you can to get them to love it by setting targets and rewards, promoting people, offering training and photo shoots and organising team bonding days.
You need to account for the fact that some staff will leave and take clients with them. Having good contracts in place can mitigate the risk, but it’s also important to build a unique atmosphere so that customers come because they love the salon and not just the individuals who work there.
How does NHF help you run your business?
Our NHF membership gives us an excellent return on investment.
We are new to running a salon and being able to get financial and legal advice from an organisation that understands hairdressing is incredibly useful. It gives us the security of knowing where we stand if a member of staff is off sick for ten weeks or someone has a reaction to colour.
I recently attended the excellent NHF ‘profitable business’ event. One of the speakers asked if we knew how many clients we had to see in the week before we started turning a profit. As hairdressers you sometimes try to ignore numbers but you can’t do this if it’s your own salon. When we open other salons in the future, I will send managers on similar NHF courses.
Being part of a large organisation also gives you a voice in the industry. It’s great that NHF lobbies on our behalf, otherwise there is a risk that we would be walked all over.