This video is based on a presentation I recently shared at Professional Beauty GCC 2022. It is based on research conducted on the salon and spa industry post-Covid. The industry has changed and shifted and this presentation provides you with key action points that will allow you to future-proof your businesses. Understanding these shifts hold the key to being able to hold your ground in a very competitive market and if you think strategically, they will enable to reach even higher levels of success!
Valerie Reynaert is the Founder of VR Beauty Consulting, a consultancy that helps aspiring and current beauty salon owners to create breakthrough success in the industry by leveraging best practices.
With a career that started in beauty therapy and then saw her working as a Brand Director and Managing Director for leading beauty salon chains in the region, Valerie has 20 years’ experience in writing training programs and manuals, setting up salons, expanding existing ones, growing brands, setting up franchising opportunities and managing operations and recruitment.
As the founder of her own start-up business Valerie understands the dynamics and pressures of being an entrepreneur and her extensive experience in the beauty industry enables her to develop expert strategies for salons wanting to rise up and take their place in the modern beauty landscape.
More than anything, Valerie is a Business Coach and Mentor who is driven by a passion for empowering women to reach new heights of success in the beauty industry.
“I have worked with numerous female brands in the Middle East – from smaller start-up businesses to rebranding of well-known industry players and have helped others turn their businesses around to become top-performing salons,” says Valerie.
“This has all been possible because of the core values that guide me when giving advice and an expert opinion. My work is deeply rooted in my values – they underpin my business and guide everything I do. These values are People, Processes and Performance.
According to Valerie, for any business to be successful, you need to invest in your people. This is even more important in salons and spas. Your people are the key to happy clients.
Secondly, focus on processes instead of outcomes and you can create a more efficient and effective business. Processes need to be simple and easy to understand and implement.
And lastly, performance – to be able to deliver consistent performance, you need to measure where you are and plan for where you want to be.
Through working with her clients in recent months, as well as through her personal research of the Middle East beauty industry, Valerie has highlighted that there are currently many opportunities for salon businesses to grow and reach higher levels of success.
“These shifts hold the key to being able to hold your ground in a very competitive market and if you think strategically, keys that will enable you to reach even higher levels of success. Things have changed and I believe that if you take the correct action in response, you can future-proof your businesses,” she said.
According to Valerie salon owners can do this by focusing on and improving three key areas – being employers of choice, being active in the phygital space and by becoming more sustainable.
“We have seen that closed borders, lockdowns and quarantine have had a significant impact on the industry’s talent pool. Not only are there less staff available but staff poaching has increased as a result. This trend has a major impact on businesses when you consider the investment required to recruit and train staff,” she said.
Her advice is to retain the staff you have by creating an environment that ticks the boxes of inclusion, empathy and empowerment as this is what the younger generation of salon employees are looking for. Staff want to feel included, heard and empowered and do not accept a micro-management leadership style. Do all of this and she believes that your existing staff will not be easily swayed by other offers.
“An employer of choice is one who values the individuals in their employ and one who is invested in offering ongoing professional and personal development. Attractive salaries and strong, achievable commission schemes are also as important as looking after the individual. Furthermore, keep your staff motivated through motivational and engaging weekly meetings, team building and quick and effective conflict resolution. All of these go a long way towards having happy employees and being known to be an Employer of Choice.”
With regards to being active in the Phygital space – this is about creating an experience that is as engaging and consistent in your physical environment as it is in your online environment i.e. social media channels and your website.
“It is about connecting your physical experience to your digital channels – the two worlds must connect. There are many ways to achieve this,” says Valerie.
She suggests leveraging your social media inside your salon by creating Instagrammable areas in your salon, rewarding those who tag you or by having live sessions in your salon with a hair stylist or makeup artist. Building an attractive website that is easy to navigate, shares all your major information with regards to pricing and loyalty programs, for example, and allows you to book online will also be effective.
“Be sure to drive engagement and new clients through your social media channels and implement eCommerce to drive your retail sales. Building an app that creates a one stop destination to provide convenience to your clients will be the ultimate step in going phygital,” she says.
The last area to focus on, but definitely not the least important is Sustainability. According to a report released by Euromonitor International in 2020, natural, sustainable and ethical beauty products are the main growth drivers in the Middle East’s beauty and personal care market. These products are estimated to reach a value of USD $32.2 billion by 2025.
“Recent research conducted with several hair and beauty salons has revealed that the pandemic gave people the time to reflect on their impact on the environment and time to research brands that help them to achieve this. This trend is taking place in skin care as well as hair care, with clients querying with salons about products that do not contain parabens and harsh sulphates in growing numbers. Vegan and products free from animal testing are surfacing across the industry. You must address Sustainability in all aspects of your business if you want to be a step ahead,” says Valerie.
“In conclusion, this is an exceptionally exciting time to be in this industry. By harnessing knowledge, reassessing your current practices and applying passion and creativity, there is no limit to what salon owners can achieve in the current market.”
I started my career as a beauty therapist some 20 years ago. Once I joined beauty school, I became convinced that I would learn so much more working on the salon floor than sitting on the school bench. So I made a deal with the school director that I would work half the time in a beauty salon and spend the other half attending school. And that’s how my career started.
What I learned there has been invaluable. I had the first-hand experience of how a boss develops an individual to become stronger, both professionally and personally. She had so much belief in me that I had no choice but to believe in myself. She trained me, motivated me, and before I knew it, she let me work on clients independently. One day, she announced she was going on holiday and she would let me handle the salon all on my own. Apart from being a little nervous, I was extremely proud of myself and very grateful. It gave me so much confidence! From then on, I knew I had it in me to succeed in what I was (and still am) so passionate about! I do realize that I am extremely blessed to have had such an incredible boss (who is still a dear friend of mine) upon starting my career. Because of her support and belief in me, I was able to build strong foundations that helped me get where I am today.
In 2003, I unexpectedly moved to Dubai. At that time, I had no idea what to expect from Dubai, let alone know what the beauty industry looked like. Being young and full of passion, I was on a mission to find a job. I went through the Yellow Pages, searching for beauty salons who would need a beauty therapist. I began cold calling and then I found a salon.
A gentleman told me that they were in urgent need of a beauty therapist and invited me over for an interview that very day. I was thrilled! I put on my best clothes, and with butterflies in my stomach I drove over there. I was convinced I would walk out of there with a job. But the disappointment couldn’t have hit me any harder. He did offer me the job, but he also offered me AED 1500 to work 6 days a week, 12 hours a day. So, with great disappointment I went home and thought ‘’What am I going to do?” I’ve never been one to sulk for long, so I went through my options. I went back to the Yellow Pages in search of beauty suppliers. I wrote my introductory letter, added my CV and posted them, in the hope that someone would call me. And did they call! I was invited for an interview for the position of beauty trainer at one of the leading distributors in the Middle East. What an opportunity! So, I accepted the job and my career started in the region.
Working for one of the leading distributors gave me the opportunity to understand the ins and outs of the hair and beauty salon industry. It gave me such great insight! I couldn’t have started in a better way, as this strengthened my foundations for the growth in my career.
I spent several years with this company. After a time, I could no longer see any potential for growth and decided I was ready to take the next step. Luck was at my side because I was approached to run a chain of hair and beauty salons. In fact, the initial agreement was to develop a male grooming concept, but on my first day, I was asked to take care of the chain of ladies’ salons. I learned that they struggled managing some of the employees and my new boss was convinced that I would be perfectly capable of handling them. And so I became the General Manager of a chain of hair and beauty salons. It was a wonderful opportunity which I grabbed with both hands, but I had put myself on a never-ending roller-coaster. From running one chain to running multiple chains to setting up an exclusive distribution company; what a journey! That job taught me so much. Unfortunately, it also taught me how not to run a business, which turned out to be beneficial as I moved through the rest of my career. The company culture was so far removed from my own values that I no longer understood what I was doing there. Mentally, I couldn’t allow myself to continue being a part of it. So, after 4 years of trying to fix this culture and exponentially growing the business, it was time to leave.
Once again, luck was on my side! I had been approached by two different companies that wanted me to join them. Both were great opportunities, but I ended up choosing the job that would bring me the most challenges (and the most growth), as it was a type of business that was new to me.
Stepping into something new required hard work and dedication, as I had a lot to learn, but at the same time expectations to deliver results remained high. But that is what I’ve always been looking for: challenges! I thrive and perform best when I’m challenged. If the job isn’t challenging, then it isn’t worth my time. I would be bored.
Running a hair and make-up academy brought me exactly the change I’d been looking for. During that period, I had the opportunity to work with and build a team of creative and wonderful people. I was able to build lasting relationships, not only with some of the team members but also with the students. I was also blessed to work for a boss whose leadership style was built on trust. That was new to me and it’s something I have embraced in my own leadership style going forward.
While running the academy, I enrolled at Middlesex University to do a Masters in Marketing. I decided to do this because I wanted to improve my knowledge and as well have a Masters degree added to my CV. I was at university four nights a week, and once we started our dissertation, it became five nights a week. It was an intense time and it required great time management and dedication, but I was so proud when I was handed my diploma.
After the amazing experience of managing the academy, I made the leap into the corporate world. It was a tough decision at the time as I loved the team and environment at the academy and I knew I could still make so much difference, but the opportunity that came along isn’t one that comes along often. I realized that this was my chance to take my career to the next level.
To date, I know it was the right move. An entire new world opened up for me. There was so much structure and so much support. It was so different from everywhere else I had worked before.
As strong as I was when it came to running salon businesses, I was that weak when it came to numbers. One of the many things this company did for me was push my boundaries and make me excel when it came to numbers. I’ll be forever grateful to the CFO and Deputy CEO for the patience and energy they had with me getting there. I never imagined I would ever enjoy numbers, but did they manage to make me love them! What a difference it has made to my ability to run a business more successfully.
I can honestly say that the time I spent with this company will remain the best part of my career working for someone else. It wasn’t all sunny days—it was challenging and tough at times—but the values of this business were so in line with mine.
For many years, I had a boss that I still call my best mentor (and friend), and the entire time I was there, I never stopped learning. Most importantly, I was able to build an amazing team, based on empathy, trust, and respect. I am still in touch with many of them. They reach out when they need advice or support, or they just check in on me to see if all is well. That alone I call a great achievement, because at the end of the day, our industry thrives best on happy people; I still believe that one of the major reasons I was able to turn around this business from millions of losses into millions of profits was the strong relationships I had built with the team.
As I always say, “When you are good to your people, they will be good to you. And that will reflect in their performance and in your bottom line.”
However, as with all large enterprises, structures change and I found myself reporting to a new person who entered the business. She couldn’t have been more different from the boss she replaced. Unfortunately, each day saw her sucking the energy out of me and my passion for the company was slowly disappearing. It was heartbreaking, because I loved the brand that I had put so much of my heart and soul into and I really cared for the team. But deep down, I knew it was time to go. I couldn’t allow myself to lose the passion and love I’ve always had for this industry. It is so true that people don’t quit jobs, they quit their bosses! And so did I.
A year before I made that decision, I’d been approached by the business I would be joining next. I was strongly advised against this by people who have my best interests at heart. One of their reasons was that it wouldn’t be an environment that would align with my values. I was told I would enter a world where empathy was non-existent, a world where people didn’t matter. The bottom line was numbers, nothing else. In hindsight, I should have listened, because they all ended up being right. But at that time, I thought it was going to be the next big step in my career. I would be setting up the franchise department of the biggest group of beauty businesses in the region. How could I turn down that new challenge? My excitement was short-lived; it wasn’t long before I realized I’d made the biggest mistake of my professional life. I have never seen so many people working in one company who were so unhappy. The energy was dreadful. It’s hard to describe, but it was terrifying. I entered the job full of energy, but it was soon depleted. The day I realized I didn’t have an ounce of energy left inside me to lift the team’s spirits was the day I decided to leave. It was an environment I wasn’t able to perform in, but most of all, it was an environment I didn’t want to be part of. I was beyond exhausted; I had reached a point where I was the unhappiest I’d ever been.
At that point I knew it was time to figure out what I wanted to do most in life. One thing was clear: I did not want to look for another job where people would be able to take away my passion and energy. I wanted to find a way to do what I love most, to inspire those who want it so badly but are held back because they lack the know-how. I realized I wanted to share my experience with women as passionate as me and for whom I could make the difference they had been looking for or help them realize their dreams. I also wanted to reach out to so many to inspire them to be good to their people and show them how it will positively impact not only their business, but their life and the lives of so many others as well.
After taking 9 months off, after conquering my burn-out, I came back stronger and better than ever.
VR Beauty Consulting was born!
As 2020 comes to an end, it’s time to reflect on what we can call a very “special” year: “special” in a positive sense when it comes to the start-up of my business.
The start of 2020 also meant the birth of VR Beauty Consulting.
Full of excitement, I commenced this new chapter in my life. I could never have dreamed of a better beginning. I hit the ground running with two beautiful projects from two fantastic clients. I was excited and extremely grateful.
Very often, over the past few months when I’ve told people I was lucky, I received the same reply: “It’s not luck; it’s the many years of hard work that are now paying off. The connections you’ve established over the years, the great relationships you have built, and the way you have always treated people.” I’m not mentioning this here out of ego; I’m mentioning it to emphasize how important it is to be a good person in whatever you do and whoever you deal with, whether it’s in your personal or professional life. Be good to people and they will be good to you. It is reality, and it is what helped me to get my business off the ground much quicker than I could have imagined. So, with the year coming to an end, why not reflect on the kind of person you’ve been and learn which areas need refining. Let’s all try to make life a little bit better, not only for ourselves, but for those around us as well. Let’s try to make the world a better place, one person at a time.
Two months into the launch of VR Beauty Consulting, the coronavirus happened. I remember my first thoughts: “What now? How will I get through this? What if my clients cancel? I won’t be able to get new clients!” But I quickly banished those thoughts from my head; I was very much aware that being negative wouldn’t get me anywhere. Instead, I sat down and asked myself “What can I do to be productive and to build on the future of my business?” As I’m a start-up, there are so many things I want to do going forward, so I decided to start building on that, to create new content, additional training courses, etc.
I also did my first webinar, and several followed from there, which then made me decide to record and broadcast videos, related to the subjects my business has on offer. I had never done anything like it, and to be honest, I didn’t feel the most confident, but I did it! I pushed myself and I pushed my boundaries.
And I’m proud and happy I did. I’m aware that there’s still a lot of room for improvement and that’s why I’ve enrolled in a course focusing on this area this coming January. Keep learning, every single day. Keep pushing your own boundaries, every single day. And be proud of your achievements, even if they are only small. Small ones eventually lead to big ones. And remember to reward yourself after every single achievement. Every one of them deserves a celebration.
How did I stay sane during lockdown? As reading is one of my passions, I decided to take the time to read so many of the books that kept taunting me, unread, from my bookcase. And lucky as I am, a dear friend of mine has the same passion when it comes to books, and we came to an agreement to read two books a week. If I remember correctly, I read 27 books during lockdown. What a joy that was! I also saw different people posting about their jigsaw puzzles, something I hadn’t done since I was a child, so I decided to give it a go. As I’m an advanced diver, and as I was missing the ocean enormously, I decided to get a jigsaw puzzle of the ocean. There was also a turtle in the image, the animal that makes every dive successful whenever one appears. So, I started to puzzle and relive childhood moments. I’m not going to pretend it was all fun and games at the beginning; believe me, there were moments of frustration as well. But when it all became too much, I always had a book to turn to. Something else that really helped me during these unprecedented times, was Dr. Wayne W Dyer’s book, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life. It’s about living the wisdom of the Tao. Every day I would read a Verse and Dyer’s interpretations of the Verse and then I would reflect it in my own life. It was eye-opening at times, but mostly extremely inspiring. It has taught me a lot about how to live a more conscious and happier life.
For those who know me well, they’d confirm that I’m always there to help and that I’m always generous to those around me, especially to those in need. I believe in karma, and out of experience I know that when you do good, the good comes back to you. So, during this difficult year, I made sure I helped where I could. I reached out to people around me who I felt were struggling to make sure they knew I was there to support them.
Doing good, even during my not-so-great moments, brings fulfillment, and that’s what I promised myself when I left the corporate world. Fulfillment would be a key element in my life, every single day, and never will I step away from that. That being said, doing good, the focus on becoming a better version of myself, did pay off once again. At the end of lockdown and the short period after, I was blessed with three new projects. And, fortunately, since then, the business has kept growing. I feel extremely grateful for how the business has taken shape so quickly and I am so thankful to all those who have contributed towards my start-up success. A few days ago I received the message “Never forget who was there for you when no one else was,” and instantly my mind said “NEVER! Because those people are the pillars in our lives. It’s so important to treasure them.” Don’t take anything for granted, always be grateful, and thank those who have supported you and contributed to your success.
As the end of the year approaches, I ask myself “What are your hopes and dreams?” I find it such a beautiful question, because what brings more joy than hopes and dreams? I believe it is a question we should all ask ourselves as it will make you take some time to reflect on your life, on you as a person, and make you realize what it is you really want. Defining your hopes and dreams is a wonderful thing to do, as it will give you something to long for, to work towards. You will be working towards creating your own happiness going forward in life. Remember that happiness does not just happen, it is something you need to create for yourself. So, let me ask you, what are your hopes and dreams?
On this last day of the year, I kindly ask all of you to make this day count. Make it special. Make it memorable. Find a way to mark it in your mind, and other people’s minds, for whatever reason you like, but make it a positive one. It doesn’t need to be something big, but make it count. Call the person who is all on their own; getting a phone call and hearing someone’s voice can have a huge impact on that person’s last day of the year. Smile at people you don’t know; smiling is infectious! Spread some happiness! Reach out to that one person you wanted to reach out to for so long. Make up with that person you fell out with a long time ago. Apologize to that person you hurt. Send some messages filled with love and gratitude to those you love and appreciate. Spread love! Spread happiness! Make a special effort and have a positive impact on those around you on this last day of 2020. Throw love around like confetti.
I wish you a wonderful 2021!
I am so grateful to have received the training that allowed me to start working as a beauty therapist, in this amazing industry, all those years ago.
Not everyone is as fortunate as I was to afford the training.
By supporting the inspiring HOW Awards, through the sponsorship of 1 Scholarship, we are creating an opportunity for a fulfilling and wonderful future for a young person.
It is my honor to ‘pay it forward’ in this way.
Please consider joining me and sponsor a beauty practitioner of the future!
To find out more about donating a Scholarship package to the HOW Scholarship Fund, please email email@example.com