Back to Business: Sean Taaffe of Sean Taaffe Hair & Beauty
For our Back to Business series, we wanted to see how business owners are coping in Ireland, so we turned to Sean Taaffe to get his latest advice and insights on how he is navigating his business through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sean, are there any tips you can offer salon owners to help them get through this lockdown?
I think now as always, the two most important groups in a salon owner’s life, except family, is their team and their clients – it is critical to keep in touch with both groups. Update the team as to what you are doing currently - share education sites, and perhaps do a Zoom seminar with them or a coffee morning. For your clients, remind them you are still thinking of them and encourage them to message the salon if they have any questions or need advice during this difficult time.
What measures can salon owners take now to ensure their salons are ready to reopen when the lockdown ends?
I guess this depends on the measures that have been taken initially. What I mean by this is for example in our salons we turned the water off at the mains and switched off the water heating and salon heating system. I would suggest now is the time to plan all this. Write down a checklist mentally. Go through day one when you return (imagine it is a Christmas Saturday), what could possibly go wrong… phones, water, computer system etc? Make sure to do a stock check, it is the perfect time to do this and it brings your levels up to, like I said, a Christmas capacity because that is what will be needed.
I would also suggest walking through the salon and figuring out how social distancing might be managed, as this may well be an issue when we reopen. PPE is something that should be ordered now and be in place to protect staff when salons reopen.
What are the main changes we will see when salons initially reopen?
Demand! I think the demand will be something we have not seen before and there is a potential to lose business if it is not handled correctly. Social distancing, I think this will have to be maintained for a while and will present an issue for many salons and barbershops.
Can you highlight the key areas upon which salons need to focus when they reopen to ensure the business will thrive?
Front of house is key here! Dealing with appointment demands both face-to-face and by phone or social media will be challenging and will need to be handled in the right way to ensure clients are not lost as a result of having to wait. Keep clients informed of what you are doing or intend to do to cater for the extra demand.
How will you ensure staff are confident and as upbeat as possible when they return to the workplace?
Like I said above, checking in with the team is critical, it keeps the relationship alive. I think having ongoing education opportunities for them either online or virtual classrooms are very valuable to keep the team spirit up, so they are raring to go once they come back.
What lessons has the lockdown taught you, and are there things you will now do differently when it comes to running your business?
You cannot control everything! The best planning in the world did not account for what we are experiencing. I do think it has brought balance to a lot of us, and even though we will have perhaps six crazy weeks, I think many salon owners especially will be trying to get a better home/work life balance. Either that, or because of the lockdown they will not want to go home at all!
How do you plan to cope with the deluge of clients wanting to get their colour done or cut booked in when salons reopen?
We have a team of 55 and I am just in the process of contacting them all to see what extra hours they will be prepared to do for the first four weeks. We will certainly extend opening hours and will consider Sunday opening as well.
If there was one thing that you would have done differently in retrospect (knowing what we do now) that would have helped you weather this storm, what would that have been?
Connectivity! I had never used Zoom or any other video conferencing prior to this. A rainy-day fund also would be a good one! Not easy to achieve in business as there is always something to pay, however I do think an idea would be to see what your business monthly costs are, excluding wages, and then double it as a target for your fund.
Anything else you would like to add?
We are all in this together. The way I see it, the one thing we have more of now than ever before is time! With that you can fall into one of two groups: 1. You use the time wisely, structure your day while you are off, and assign time for your business or education or both. Or 2. You watch everything Netflix has to offer!
I know for me what group I want to fall into!