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.”