Strategies of Businesses that Thrive in Tough Times!


As we prepare for a 'new' normal in the coming months I thought I could perhaps throw some perspective on the future. I'm not a fortune teller - nobody really knows what it's going to be like, however as many of you know, I am a compulsive learner - which means that I do have an idea from the history of past recessions of the type of businesses and individuals that have a chance of prospering in the next few years!

History tells us that many of today's success stories either started in a recession or used the volatile and disruptive business environment to become market leaders.

So, what can we learn?

I've broken it down into four questions and one statement:

1. Are you prepared to act?

2. Do you sell shovels?

3. How many legs are on your table?

4. Do you have fans or customers?

… and now the statement:

Nobody - and I mean nobody - can do it on their own!



You'll always hear me say that ACTION is the 'one' secret to success - all my learning and research of successful people and businesses has led me to agree with this. Of course there are many reasons why people are successful but the one common factor in every case is action - consistent action.
However, I want to add something to this understanding in these turbulent times. This question isn't about whether you are taking action - it's whether you are PREPARED to act?
I love ambiguity - when one word can mean completely different things - let's look at the two meanings of 'prepared'; 'are you ready' and 'are you willing' to do what you have to do?
Let's start with 'are you ready?':
When all of this started, I did a blog post on critical steps to take survive the lockdown, now we've come out the other side of this, it's time to plan to thrive!
Understandably, the last 2-3 months have mostly revolved around getting ready to re-open, followed by an absolutely nutty period of what I've been calling 'the bounce' - this is stage one. My biggest fear though, is that this has consumed us so much, that we've not looked beyond to the next stage - where some salons are already getting to now. There's been a crazy few long and exhausting weeks trying to fit everyone in (some of you are still in this) and now it's beginning to quieten down.
Some businesses will have used the time during lockdown to get ahead of the game and prepare for this next stage - and if you have, that's fantastic, well done! However, if this isn't the case, you need to take action NOW to pull ahead and stand out from the crowd as you may already be behind the game with your competitors. This is often when price wars start as it feels like the only way to catch up and gain business back is by discounting.
I'm always talking about how difficult it is to stand out from the crowd, however, now is the best opportunity, quite simply because a high percentage of 'the crowd' will still be so focused on stage one that they will be inwardly facing - meaning the crowd is much quieter than usual, giving you the opportunity to make the most of the silence and ensure your business is overshadowing your competition.

QUICK NOTE: Remember your competition isn't just other salons - it's anywhere people are choosing to spend their money - you need to give people a good reason to spend it with you!!

Airbnb grew rapidly in the last recession by giving people with limited funds a reason and an opportunity to spend on a vacation when many people couldn't justify spending on traditional resorts or hotels - however it also probably took business away from many other sectors - with limited disposable income, people must have been making decisions to reduce spend in other areas of their life, so that they could afford an Airbnb break. The really clever thing about the model though was that it also gave people an opportunity to actually grow income by becoming an Airbnb provider - this was something their competition couldn't do! They stood out from the crowd by offering a unique solution whilst the rest of the crowd was engaging in a discounting price war!

The Apple that we know today grew massively in the last recession with high price products and zero discounting whilst the rest of the world was doing the opposite. They were able to do that because there was no crowd - look at the competition they have today - it's a heaving mass of competitors - there is no way they could price their product 2-3 times more than the competition today.

QUICK NOTE: Tim Cook the CEO of Apple announced a few days ago that they would repeat their recessionary tactic of 'investment' in their business, people and products to emerge stronger than ever. (It will be interesting to see if in a few years time, whether this policy will reposition them as market leaders once again - who knows - but we do know that not using this time in that way is a sure fire way to continue the slide they have been experiencing in the last few years).

How about the other meaning now - 'are you willing' to do what you have to do?:
Well it's quite simple this one - of course - it will be tough - it will be hard and it may be a long road. Has that ever been any different? The sooner we scrap the idea that success is easy, the sooner we will get on with it - this is not new - it's not a revelation - look anywhere at the history of success and you will see the same thing repeated over and over again. Successful people simply do the stuff that unsuccessful people aren't prepared to do!

QUICK NOTE: As you have perhaps enjoyed the personal time this situation has given you, don't fall into the trap of thinking that this is about becoming a workaholic - that's not it - it's simply being prepared to take the action that will make the difference.
Are you prepared to increase your prices?
Are you prepared to let staff who aren't performing go?
Are you prepared to radically change your team training policy? (Introducing the personal and life skills that really make the difference)
Are you prepared to book yourself off the floor to run your business properly?
Are you prepared to invest in your business and your team's development?
Etc, Etc, Etc!



In the Great Gold Rush (there's gold up in them there hills!!) a few people found gold and got rich, but the majority never found any. However, there was one group of people who became very wealthy in the Great Gold Rush - the people selling shovels!
A more current example of course would be Zoom - they have become the 'shovel' of the pandemic.
What shovels do you sell? In other words what can you provide that helps other people to achieve their goals? At first glance it may not seem that we have much, but the last six months has proved something to many people, including ourselves - the look and feel good factor that we provide for people is not just fluffy - it's essential. It's astonishing that when pretty much everything apart from essentials has been taken away from us - the biggest fuss was about not being able to visit salons!

We do sell shovels - but I'm not sure we always believe it ourselves and I certainly don't think we market and sell ourselves that way!
One of the biggest goals many people have at the moment is to feel good about themselves - and that's where we step in. I've been saying for years, we don't just make people look good - we make them FEEL great.
However there are other shovels that people will need and it's the business that thinks creatively that will start innovating services and opportunities to help your client to achieve their goals - which actually takes us on to my next post in a few days time... How many legs do you have on your table?
QUICK NOTE: I always talk about being BUY focused rather than SALES focused. In other words thinking about what people want/need to buy rather than just what we want to sell them!



Cut one leg off a table with 4 legs and guess what - it falls over! Cut one leg off a table with 5 legs and it still stands!!

The more legs your table has, the more future proof your business is - as well as expanding your market.
"The more hooks you have the greater the chances of hooking" Tom Peters
That’s a great quote that is related to the marketing side of my question, however I want to focus on the ‘future proofing’ element.
If this pandemic has shown us anything, it's that although it may have felt like it before, nothing is stable, the world moves so fast that literally everything can change in a matter of weeks.
There has never been a more level playing field with industry icons and award winners, salon groups and successful businesses all in the same boat.
Who knows what may happen in the future - we certainly couldn't have anticipated this, but it's been a great learning experience for all of us and I think we will come out of it with an understanding that we can't take anything for granted.
We have been hit hard as an industry as we often only have 4 legs on our table - as soon as one was taken away, we were in trouble. But what about the salon who has a strong online product shop - that's a 5th leg. Or the salon who has created an active client-facing online community giving advice and tips to struggling clients - or what about the salon that passionately believes that mental health and mindfulness is a key part of looking and feeling fantastic and is running online yoga and meditation classes. I know salon owners who are doing one or more of the above and they were so busy during lockdown - keeping their clients engaged and connected to the salon as well as generating income.

‘Future proof’ your business by creatively adding 'table legs' to your business. (Link this to 'shovels' and you could be creating an interesting strategy for your business).



**Please note, this was written just before salons re-opened however the content is still relevant**

Well anyone who follows me knows how passionate I am about this and I talk about it all the time - so won't spend too long here. However, it's vital right now so I couldn't leave it out. 

With possibly a few weeks left of lockdown, can I suggest one thing in your short term strategy - if you have been using this time to develop yourself with lots of hair, personal and business skills development - well done! Now though is the time to switch focus and start connecting with your 'fans' online, but not just with 'news' of when or not and how you will be opening again. The absolute key to marketing today is content! Be the place your clients love to follow because you make them feel better with motivating, confidence giving, humorous, caring, helpful content in difficult times. 

For example, I will guess that a lot of your clients are struggling with homeschooling their children right now - so research and get some great content that is helpful and post it! Don't limit yourself to hair and beauty - we are so much more than that, we are part of the community and we help to make people feel fantastic - bring that into your communication with them and you will start to generate more fans. People will remember that you helped them in tough times - they will become fans.

QUICK NOTE: We will need fans in the short term when getting an appointment and visiting the salon may be a stressful experience for your client - fans will be more tolerant and forgiving!



To summarise this post, let me just say that there is a lot of work to be done, a lot of new skills  to be developed, along with the creativity and innovation needed to set yourself apart and stand out from the crowd - the future may feel bleak but I truly don't think it is. We have a new respect from the public and media and I believe this can only help to attract new people into the industry.

What we offer is relatively recession proof (as long as we don't start discounting again!)

We have been learning so much and strengthening our knowledge and skills (your key assets are simply knowledge, skills and health)

We have been planning for stage 1 and 3 - hopefully this post will also focus you on stage 2 to help you stand out from the crowd

It won't be long and all that work will come into play, however this statement comes from every successful person I have ever met or read about - they all understand that they need people - that they can't do it on their own. Whether it's collaboration with other local businesses to strengthen both your and their offering, whether it's learning to involve your team and your clients in future business development (Buy Focused!) or whether it's realising that education and coaching is not a luxury - not a choice - but critical to your success. Name me a successful sports person who doesn't have a coach/mentor - name me a successful performer who doesn't have a manager!

Nobody can do it on their own!

We have never needed to work together more - to put aside petty differences and seize this opportunity to change this business - to achieve the success we all want and quite frankly deserve!

Collaboration not Competition has to be the future!!

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