Phorest FM Episode 235: Sian Gray on Phorest’s Commitment to Helping Salons Reach Their Growth Potential

In CEO Ronan Perceval’s words: “We have taken the next step in our growth journey with a brand new look, but it means nothing unless our salons are on that journey beside us.”

It’s what comes with our new look that matters most to us and this industry, our industry.

Introducing the Phorest Growth Fund: a new initiative announced by Phorest Salon Software and our commitment to helping salons worldwide reach their growth potential by providing a financial boost to their growth plans. In this episode, hear Sian Gray, Director of Global Marketing at Phorest, discuss the initiative’s “why,” share its exciting details and answer some of the most frequently asked questions.

Guests

Sian Gray

Sian Gray is an expert customer-focused strategic marketing and communications professional endowed with strong commercial acumen. No stranger to competitive environments, she has worked for large companies such as Lidl, Lloyds Pharmacy, Nokia, Rebook and Vodafone before taking on the Director of Global Marketing position at Phorest Salon Software in 2021.

Transcript

James Davis, Phorest FM S04E175: Clay Hair Salon is based in Oxshott, a small village in Surrey in the United Kingdom. We opened the doors in 2009. We just only… As we came out celebrating our decade anniversary, COVID-19 kicked in. So it was an element of, we’re there celebrating a huge milestone for the business as we’re about to enter an unparalleled chapter. But yeah, over these ten years, in year one, we were recognised as “Independent Business Newcomer” in the British Hairdressing Business Awards. Then subsequently, in multiple years following that, “Salon Team of the Year,” “Salon Design,” “Retail Salon of the Year,” “Front of House Team of the Year.” I mean, ultimately, after five years of owning Clay, it was a question of, I wanted to diversify and continue to grow as a business, but really… So alongside business coaching other people within the industry and trying to support or help them in their journey, I also launched my own haircare brand Herra.

But I guess of late, my kind of real focus has been investing even further in the village that has given me and my family real stability and that, and so I’ve invested heavily as a landlord across multiple shops and flats in the village of Oxshott.
Mindset. So I can’t explain it too much, but I don’t really fear failure, or… I look at it as a big test to continuously learn and evolve.

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: You might have recognized the voice of UK entrepreneur and salon owner James Davis, who we interviewed on Season 5 of Phorest FM in August of 2020.

With each new business that joins, Phorest is inspired to be better. We understand that behind these businesses are real people with very real ambitions for growth. And so their dreams become ours too.

Celebrating that journey and growing with its innovation and team, Phorest has revealed a brand new look for a new era. One with the people behind the industry right at the heart of it and innovation and passion behind every screen. But it’s what comes with the new look that matters most to us and this industry: our industry.

Joining us on today’s episode is Phorest’s Director of Global Marketing, Sian Gray. An expert customer-focused, strategic marketing and communications professional endowed with strong commercial acumen, Sian is no stranger to competitive environments and has worked for large companies, such as Lidl, Lloyd’s pharmacy, NOKIA, Reebok and Vodafone before joining Phorest knee-deep in the pandemic in April of 2021.

Sian, welcome to Phorest FM; it’s a pleasure to have you on the show.

Sian Gray: Thank you so much, Zoé. I’m so happy to be here.

Phorest's new brand and tagline [03:12]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: The pleasure’s all mine. You joined Phorest, and almost immediately, you took part in one of the most beautiful and inspiring projects we could’ve worked on coming into a new era, this new look we revealed just a couple of weeks ago. And with that came a new tagline. Where in the past we would have used “Let’s Grow” almost everywhere, today we now use “Together, We Grow.” What does that tagline mean to you in relation to Phorest?

Sian Gray: Such a good question, Zoé. And yeah, I’m with Phorest now eight months, very early days. My background has always been working with brands. I’m really passionate about branding and the importance of having a strong narrative around who we are and, more importantly, what makes us different from everyone else.

Very quickly, Zoé, after working in Phorest for a week or two, I knew so clearly how we were different. And that was about us genuinely caring about our customers. I’ve never seen such passion and energy towards our purpose, being that we’re here, very simply, to help our customers grow. We’re here to make their lives much easier. As you said, we went through this process of building a really beautiful brand, and I love how it’s turned out. That was such a group effort. It’s really clean, modern, and suits our industry really well.

But very quickly, Zoé, when we’re looking at the tagline, “Let’s Grow,” it was maybe a bit too insular for us in terms of; if our purpose is all about caring about our customers and helping them grow, well, then, therefore, our tagline needs to respect that and start that. So that’s where “Together, We Grow” because our narrative is very much around we are here to help our customers grow. As they grow, we grow. It’s a collective. We’re all parts of the one community, and we genuinely care about adding value to help our customers get to that next growth stage. So that’s very much where our tagline came from.

But to be honest with you, it was so natural. This whole process of our brand was so… I was going to say it’s so easy. Nothing is easy, but it flowed very naturally because Phorest is true to itself. It knows exactly who it is, and there is no… Sometimes you go into a brand, and you have to do a lot of deep digging to find out who they are and what their purpose is. But actually, as I said at the beginning, one week into Phorest, I knew exactly who we were. I knew exactly what our purpose was. And our brand and our tagline, I think, really reflect that.

The response from our customers has been really positive; I think because they can see that our brand is so true to us, you know? And I think it makes sense.

And sometimes there can be a… When there’s a disjoint, it’s because a customer sees a brand and it’s not true, or they feel it’s not reflective of their engagement with their brand. But with us seeing the feedback so far, we know it’s very early days, but people are resonating well, and I think that’s because it’s built on a hundred percent truth and honesty and transparency. So I feel that’s what’s getting us that really good feedback so far.

The financial realities of owning a salon [06:29]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Many people dream of setting up their hair or beauty salon, clinic, spa, or barbershop. However, turning that dream into reality, learning the ropes of business and people management, and making it work when your livelihood depends on it, it can often leave salon owners overwhelmed by the weight of those responsibilities and hampered by feelings of self-doubt.

As any entrepreneur will tell you when dreaming of setting up their own business, the passion lies in the product or service they wish to offer. Rarely, if ever, does the dream involve paperwork, invoice payments, or accounting. And on that, hear from Michaella Blissett Williams, Jen Baudier, and Ronit Enos, three salon owners, coaches, and mentors, all featured on previous seasons of Phorest FM.

Michaella Blissett Williams, Phorest FM S04E167:

Money is such a funny thing. People always say that money is the root of all evil. I realized that a lot of people who didn’t have money were struggling. So I couldn’t really understand that concept. And as the years went by, I realized that lack of money is the root of all evil, and you don’t need to worship money, but you need to understand how money works as a tool.

Jen Baudier, Phorest FM S04E188:

Most salons are zero to five percent profits at the end of the day. We’re payroll heavy, and then we’re expense heavy because someone is always needing something. We’re always out of foils or gloves or whatever the case is. And so it’s just this cash-eating monster. So I started shifting, looking at my business over the last two years and saying, “Why can’t we run our businesses like corporate America?” Just because we’re creative people doesn’t mean that we’re not smart.

Ronit Enos, Phorest FM S03E140:

Once we opened the salon and had my vision, I knew exactly what I wanted for the salon. I knew exactly what I wanted for culture. But I really didn’t know how to run a business. I never did. Right? So you make bad mistakes, and that is the main, main problem that we see over and over again.

We want to do this. We want to invest in this. We want to open another one. We want an education department. We want this department. We want to have a vacation. But where’s the cash to support that?

I had the same problem in my salon, okay? The problem was that I was working around the clock, and I had two children. I opened a salon. We were very, very fortunate in our salon. We won a “Best Of” award a year into opening a salon. I didn’t even know what “Best Of” was, but we did it. And oh my God, the sky opened up. Clients dropped in from the sky nonstop. I had to hire another person, another person. I hired everybody I could, and six months later, I said to my partner and my husband, this is so good. I’m going to get a second floor, and I’m going to open a spa now.

And then, before you know it, I never see the kids. I go home at 10 o’clock at night because there are just so many people. And the first thing in the morning, I want to feel like I’m a true mother. So I get up, and I wake up the kids. They don’t want to wake up at five o’clock in the morning. So guess what I do. I answer emails; I do other things. And then comes the time to wake them up and go to school, and it’s Bill who takes them to school.

And that thing keeps going. And it wasn’t until, I think about two years into it, even though I hired coaches and consultants to help me with everything; still, I could not see a paycheck at the end. And I was exhausted.

And at the end of it, I said to my husband, “You take Gabby every Saturday to play the cello, and I never see it, and I don’t have money to show for it. So I don’t see a future. So you know what, maybe I’ll go back and be a hairdresser. I don’t need that salon. I’ll give up my dreams. I’ll give up the legacy, the impact in life. Because I’m exhausted, I’m tired.”

What the Phorest Growth Fund means and entails [10:23]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: In Phorest CEO Ronan Perceval’s words, “From our own research, we know that for 42% of salons getting established, business planning and finances was the biggest challenge they faced, while 24% —a quarter of all salon businesses— struggle with getting appropriate loans or funding.”

On February 7th of this year, we announced a new initiative via Facebook Live streams to our various markets and regions. In its shortest description, the Phorest Growth Fund was created to invest back into the industry with salon professionals at the forefront. Sian, can you tell me more? What exactly is the Phorest Growth Fund, and why is this such an exciting time for salon owners?

Sian Gray: Yeah, we are so excited about the Phorest Growth Fund because, again, when we started looking into our brand and how we wanted to differentiate ourselves from our competitors in this space and how we wanted to give back to our customers, it became very apparent that, well, we say we’re here to help our customers grow, why don’t we just do that?

Why don’t we put our money where our mouth is and create a global fund to show our customers that we genuinely are here to help you grow? And now there’s a fund that we’re making available.

Now, Zoé, like anything, a fund like this… No one has a favourite child; we love all our customers equally. So there is this difficulty in that if we had our way —if Ronan had his way— everyone who applied would be getting some of the [Phorest Growth] fund, but it’s not an empty pit of money. There is a defined amount there for a global fund, and that’s broken down by all our different countries.

So what we’re doing is creating this global fund, which we announced. There’s a website available, which I know you’re going to have a link to for people to view. And then we’re going to create a panel, whereby once you send in your application, the panel then selects who is and isn’t successful in that application.

This group of panelists that we’re working on will be a global panel. They’re going to be 100% removed from Phorest because, as I said, we’d give everyone some of the funds if we had our way. It’s very hard for us to select, so there will be key criteria that we’ll make available on our FAQ on our website. There will be very clear parameters around what the fund is and isn’t, which people can view themselves. And like I said then, there will be a panel of people who will then be selecting, based on those clear criteria, those who are successful in the [Phorest] Growth Fund.

This is year one of the [Phorest] Growth Fund, of course. In my mind, I want this to be forevermore. I want this to be something that we… As we grow and our customers grow, the fund grows. I haven’t got that approved by everyone yet, but that’s my vision for it. As we become bigger and a bigger entity, that fund becomes bigger. So I’m hoping this is year one, that we see great success, and then we build upon it for years two and three. As I said, the fund’s purpose is to give back to our customers. And like I said, our job is to celebrate them. Our job is to help our customers grow. And this is exactly what the fund is about to help, to give those customers an extra helping hand to allow them to grow.

Another key thing, Zoé, about the [Phorest] Growth Fund is that because there’s an application process, of those who apply, not everyone will be successful. And that didn’t sit right with us. If you’ve gone to the effort of going through an application process, for us to say, “No, we’re not going to award you this time,” it’s very difficult to hear that. We’ve all been there in terms of rejection; [it’s like] give me some feedback.

So our plan is, Zoé, that those who aren’t successful are entered into another kind of educational platform, whereby we’re going to build out a module with coaches to help them and give them feedback around why they weren’t successful. We’re here to provide them with feedback and to help them. If it’s an application to our fund for next year or even to get some coaching expertise in certain areas, we will make that available.

We feel that piece is really important to us that while not everyone’s going to be successful, those who aren’t are still going to be added to this educational platform, which we’re really excited about. We’re pulling together some excellent coaches so that everyone is growing. There’s this kind of an opportunity for everyone, and that’s something that I’m very, very proud of—that we have got the educational piece and the fund available.

Who is the Phroest Growth Fund for? [14:58]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Of course, those watching the Facebook Live streams on February 7th had the time and opportunity to ask all the questions they might have had in real-time. But for those who might have missed out on the live streams, I had Sian answer some of the Phorest Growth Fund’s most frequently asked questions, i.e., who is this for?

Sian Gray: The good or bad news is that the fund is only available for Phorest customers. So the good news is any salon could become a Phorest customer. So if you aren’t one now, then join us, and you can enter the Phorest Growth Fund. One of the key criteria we’re looking at is that customers must be with us for a minimum of three months. That’s one of the key criteria.

Where and from when can salons apply? [15:40]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: Where and from when can salons apply?

Sian Gray: The [Phorest] Growth Fund itself will be open on March 1st. So our website and everything, there’s a landing page now, but the full website will be available from March 1st.

The application process then opens on March 21st. So people can start applying on March 21st, but they have that period beforehand to read all the FAQs, see the application process, etc. There will be videos and content to help people understand how to do that. Then there’ll be a six-week process whereby our panel will review the applications.

What can a salon apply for funding for? [16:15]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: What can a salon apply for funding for?

Sian Gray: Funding should be requested for a business growth purpose that can show proven ROI —return on investment. So we’re looking for growth plans in the categories of marketing, for example. And if there is a specific social marketing campaign they want to launch and there’s X amount of cost for that, we can contribute towards that.

Coaching, team coaching, again, helping your team grow; we can absolutely contribute towards that. Team education, scaling business, etc., are some of the key growth categories we want to fund. Again, all of that will be available on our FAQ with more details on the application parameters.

The Phorest Growth Fund limitations [17:02]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: And what are the limitations?

Sian Gray: In terms of the limitations, we had to put parameters around what the [Phorest] Growth Fund is and isn’t for. I mentioned earlier that one of the key things is that the salon must be a customer of Phorest for the last three months. So that’s one of the key criteria.

And we’ve also put in a maximum amount. Depending on the region, there will be a maximum amount. So say, for example, within the US, there’s a maximum amount of $2,000. And the reason we’ve done that is so that we can allow as many people as possible. So this will be kind of a contribution towards a bigger plan that they have.

Planning for salon business success and growth [17:43]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: At Phorest, we don’t have a job. We have a purpose. It’s to help salon, spa and clinic owners like you succeed.

If you were to Google rethinking business and growth, one of the first set of results you would get would identify five steps to help you on your way: knowing yourself, being proactive, considering external growth, getting input from your team and using criteria for objective decision-making.

But, of course, thriving salon businesses don’t become successful by accident. Pure passion for succeeding goes a long way, but we know that grit and determination need to be underpinned by strategy and planning to hit the dream success. The following clips also feature previous Phorest FM guests, Marcus Allen in the UK and Billy Rickman in Australia.

Marcus Allen, Phorest FM S04E150: Everybody wants to do all these amazing things. How are we going to pay for this? And if you look at SWOT reports, and if you look at those ways of justifying things, then all of a sudden, you have the confidence, and you have a plan. And that plan is what corporations do and why they succeed and make millions and millions, and we buy all the stuff they sell.

Billy Rickman, Phorest FM S03E126: You either commit to being, what we’ve discussed here, a salonpreneur, and you go, “Right, I’m all in as a business owner now on the business,” or you say, “No, I love cutting hair. I don’t want to get out from behind the chair. I’m going to go all-in and stay as a hairdresser.”

But if you want to survive over the next five or ten years in business and certainly longer, you have to have someone who fills that void. So you need to hire an operator who will do the business development side, who’s going to be full-time on the marketing. Who’s going to be full-time on the mentoring, the training, and the career development. Who’s going to do all of those things from a business perspective. You just can’t do half and half.

How to apply for the Phorest Growth Fund [19:27]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: So let’s say you’re a salon, spa, or clinic owner looking into the Phorest Growth Fund, and you find out you’re eligible for funding. I asked Sian what would happen next?

Sian Gray: So you feel you’re eligible for funding. You then basically apply online. We will have an application process very clearly outlined on our website. And it will be probably a little bit of work, but again, for anyone who has a growth plan in place, it’s going to be very simple because they’ve already thought through things like, what is my return on investment? And what exactly is my plan for growth? What areas do I need support in?

As I mentioned, a marketing growth campaign for which you have a social plan, that you want to spend X amount of your money, a budget and you’re looking for X return. That you plot out those growth parameters within the application process. And there also will be details around your kind of social plan, etc., what your growth trajectory would look like. So I imagine the process will be as straightforward as possible. And the key thing for us, Zoé, is to make sure that we have a very detailed FAQ and people available to answer any queries salon owners may have.

This is our first year doing the [Phorest Growth] Fund. So are there going to be questions that we haven’t thought of? Probably. There probably will be. But what I can sign up for is that we respond incredibly quickly, and we add questions and answers to the FAQ for everyone else to see.

There is a six-week period for application, and we’ve given ourselves that space to make sure that we have allowed people time to prepare for it. But we are not going to make it too cumbersome; we will make it as streamlined as possible so that you can apply, like I said, on our website using our application process.

More than just a technology company [21:23]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: And my last question to Phorest’s Director of Global Marketing was one I asked Ronan Perceval just last week, “We say this all the time, but it’s true. Phorest is more than just a technology company. When you think of the impacts of the system on the industry, what are you most proud of?”

Sian Gray: Zoé, when I look at our industry and our customers, I am most blown away by what a courageous, creative entrepreneurial group of people our customers are. I don’t think there’s an industry like it — that matches that business acumen with the creativity, etc. It’s an incredible blend.

And what I’m most proud of from Phorest’s perspective is that I believe our software allows our customers to be better at what they’re passionate about, by us —or our functionality— allowing for better booking, salon optimisation and things like that. That enables our customers to be incredibly creative and build teams.

Things like our staff performance functionality will allow them to understand their teams better and make sure that everyone’s delivering at a very high standard.

So I believe our software allows them to be brilliant at what they’re brilliant at, if that makes sense, and that our software can just make sure that the business side of [the salon] is running as smoothly as possible. Our job is to have our software continuously innovating, to make sure that we are thinking ahead of the curve and always have the next piece of software to allow salons to grow.

I think I’m most proud that we enable our customers to be the amazing creative individuals they are. So hopefully, our software makes that world —their job— that little bit easier.

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: I couldn’t have said it any better; that was beautifully put. Sian, thank you so much for coming on the show. It’s been an absolute pleasure to have you on.

Sian Gray: An absolute pleasure, Zoé. I really enjoyed that. Thank you so much.

Final words and ways to support the podcast [23:34]

Zoé Bélisle-Springer: The Phorest Growth Fund. Our commitment to helping salons all over the world reach their growth potential by providing a financial boost to their growth plans.

Stay in the loop for all upcoming updates at https://www.phorest.com/resources/the-phorest-growth-fund/. And for any other questions, you may have, please email growthfund@phorest.com and someone from the team will respond to your query.

If you’ve enjoyed this episode and you’d like to support the podcast, please share it with others, post about it on social media, or leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts.

As always, you can head over to phorest.com/fm to catch all the latest from the show, as well as check out all the links and resources mentioned throughout the episode. And if you’ve got any feedback, be sure to let us know. Send us an email at phorestfm@phorest.com.

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