Welcome to the Salon Owner’s Podcast, Phorest FM Episode 61. Co-hosted by Killian Vigna and Zoé Bélisle-Springer, Phorest FM is a weekly show that puts forth a mix of interviews with industry thought-leaders, salon/spa marketing tips, company insights and information on attending Phorest Academy webinars. Phorest FM is produced every Monday morning for your enjoyment with a cup of coffee on your day off.

Phorest FM Episode 61

People quit their jobs for various reasons: some leave because of a work-life imbalance, others for lack of growth opportunities or for feeling undervalued. In fact, did you know that a Forbes article from April 2017 reported that a research led by Office Team found that 66% of employees say they would “likely leave their job if they didn’t feel appreciated?” To put that number in context, in 2012, it was at 51%… For the sake of one’s business and customer experience, the goal is to maintain consistency within staff teams. So, on this week’s episode, Killian and Zoe welcome to the show Saad Aslam, CEO of HC MedSpa, an award-winning chain of Luxury Beauty Clinics in North London and Hertfordshire. Set out to raise standards and redefine the client experience, the ambitious entrepreneur discusses the cost of high staff turnover rates and shares some of the strategies he considers crucial to keeping those numbers at their lowest.



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Killian Vigna: Welcome to the Phorest FM Podcast, Episode 61. I’m Killian Vigna…

Zoe Belisle-Springer: And I’m Zoe Belisle-Springer.

Killian Vigna: This week’s episode focuses on the cost of staff turnover, and ways to keep that rate at its lowest.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: To discuss this, joining us on the show today is U.K.-based CEO of HC MedSpa, Saad Aslam. As always we top off the show with our upcoming Phorest Academy webinars.

Killian Vigna: So, grab yourself a cup of coffee, sit back, relax, and join us weekly for all your salon’s business and marketing needs. Good morning Zoe.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Good morning Killian, how are you doing this morning?

Killian Vigna: I am good now. Well, it’s morning for you; it’s afternoon for us here.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Fair yes, and I’m going to get used to this eventually.

Killian Vigna: Yeah, so an interesting topic this week, because it’s something that we haven’t really covered ourselves on the blog or anything, have we?

Zoe Belisle-Springer: No not really actually. We’ve covered a lot of like client retention and things like that, but staff retention not so much. I was just reading about that online and actually the U.K. average employee turnover rate is kind of around 15% a year, but obviously, this varies depending on the industry. And there’s loads of different reasons for people to leave work and things like that, so I think it’ll be very interesting to have a take on that particular topic, within the salon and spa industry.

Killian Vigna: Yeah, and when we were talking about these topics this week, I was actually chatting to Ronan, our CEO, and he put us onto Saad, because Saad is the CEO of his own four clinics based in North London and Hertfordshire. And we thought well, if he’s got four clinics, surely he knows a thing or two about staff retention, when what, you’ve got 70 people here working for you, so welcome to the show Saad.

Saad Aslam: Hi, thank you for having me.

Killian Vigna: More than welcome.

Zoe Belisle: A pleasure.

Killian Vigna: So, Saad, just for our audience here, do you want to give a bit of an introduction to yourself there?

Saad Aslam: Yeah, my name’s Saad Aslam. I am the owner-operator, you know, CEO, for HC MedSpa. We have four clinics based in the north of London and Hertfordshire. We specialize in your day-to-day beauty, but then we also offer the more high-end, non-surgical aesthetics, which is approximately now 70% of our business, which is something that we’ve transitioned into. We employ throughout the clinics and our head office team, yeah between 70 and 80 at the moment, growing. So obviously staff retention, employee retention, is something that we focus heavily on. So yeah, it’s an interesting topic and one that can really make or break a business.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yeah definitely, but at the same time, turnover rates are kind of, they’ll always be there; it’s impossible to think that they’ll never, ever exist anymore. So the real question I suppose is kind of how do you adapt to those rates and like, excuse the pun, but turn things around I suppose?

Saad Aslam: I think that staff turnover is as you rightly said, is always going to be up there. We do our best to minimize this as much as possible; I think that employers, companies, could do a lot more to retain the staff that they have. Ultimately, if you have a top therapist who’s greatly valuable to your business, it’s in your interest to keep her onboard as long as possible, but not only to keep her, but to make sure that every year she’s re-motivated and fresh and sort of, almost reinventing herself as well as your brand is reinventing themselves, so that increases the chance of success for her and your business. Obviously, clients also don’t really want to keep seeing a new therapist as well, which can have a massive effect on business.

So our first priority is always to look at the team that we have: how do we ensure that they’re happy today and they have a plan for tomorrow? And that is a huge priority; we invest a lot of money in training and education and progressive planning into our employees so that they have a future here. You know, at HC MedSpa we’ve got employees in some of our clinics that have been here for now 15 years. I mean literally, 15 years, 10 years, 8 years. So we’re really proud to be able to boast those numbers that we’ve managed to, you know, give futures and actual careers to these people. When they started here, they were, you know, working part-time, maybe grew to full-time, and now they’re homeowners, and we’ve managed to put certain plans in place to make them achieve that. And likewise, they’ve been excellent for our business. So I think it’s very much a partnership.

However, as you’ve rightly said, turnover is not going to go away; there is going to be a high percentage of turnover. So what do you do when that happens? And the best thing is that, you know, as a business, we know who we are, and we don’t change that. It doesn’t matter who the employee is. HC MedSpa stands for luxury, stands for high standards, quality of treatment and experience, and as long as we maintain that and every employee that comes in, that walks through the door, is given the same four to 12-week training plan. If we employ someone who’s got 10 years’ experience, or if we employ someone who’s got three years’ experience, or one years’ experience, they all go through our vigorous training. So the end outcome, and by the time they get to that client, you know, the standards should always be high.

Killian Vigna: So you’re saying you have staff there for 15 years and after obviously growing it up to 70 staff, has this always been something that’s important to you from the very start? Or has it been kind of like a trial and error to discover what does make your staff members stay around?

Saad Aslam: I think trial and error, definitely. By no means are we perfect, but at the end of the day we realize that our product is our staff. You know, no company can be successful based on one person. You know, you need your people around you, and they’re very valuable. We did see that quite early on, and we also understood the value of the relationship between the client and therapist is priceless; it’s very intimate, it’s very personal. The last thing you want to do is have that changing over and over again.

You know, like I said, we can’t force people to work here when it’s their time to say sort of, we want to move on or want a change in career. We see what we can do, but at the end of the day, we then fall back, like I said, to our training program and to make sure that everything is excellent for the client.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: So what would be kind of like, the ideal staff turnover rate, in your opinion, at least for your business, and how do you determine what’s healthy and what’s not healthy?

Saad Aslam: Look, if you’re changing staff, you know, every three months, which I know some places, that does happen in the industry. I think that’s a problem. I think that as an employer you’re doing something wrong. I think also the clients will see that, the clients that you’re working so hard to get, they’ll see that straightaway.

I would say, a good amount of time is, you know, two years on average, I think is a good amount of time really where someone’s come and worked for you, they’ve spent two years, and maybe then they find that it’s time to move on. But I think a minimum of sort of 18 months to two years is a good show.

Killian Vigna: So you’re obviously, you’re saying that you have a rigorous training plan. Do you believe it’s all about the training plan, or your recruitment process? Is a lot of that put down to how you hire and who you hire? What style? Do you have kind of, like your culture fit, that people often talk about?

Saad Aslam: Yes. I mean every brand has its culture, you know, has its values. HC MedSpa is a luxury brand; it’s a very ambitious brand. We want to grow; we want to get bigger. And at the same time, we don’t compromise. You know, we offer a certain standard, a certain quality. So we know, when people are interviewed, we have a really in-depth interview process, and we can find out by people’s, when we’re interviewing them, you know, what are their plans, how successful do they want to be? Or is this just something that we can feel is a stepping stone or something like that, they’re probably not right for us. But if someone walks through the door who’s obviously highly qualified and also has dreams, has targets, has goals, ambition, that’s what we’re looking for. That’s the potential that we’re looking for. And then we put a lot of development into them that hopefully makes a perfect package all round.

Killian Vigna: So you’re saying that, like obviously, they have to have the skills necessary. But is it more for you kind of like that, their own personal development, looking for somewhere that they can grow, so you’d kind of build onto that with them, or do you like just kind of, taking in the package and hoping they fit your training plans?

Saad Aslam: No I think you can tell. I think you have a sense, as well. We’ve been doing this long enough. I think that we do have a sense. So yes, it doesn’t matter how good the training plan is, and all of that. We do go with our gut instinct here; we do have a sense of who we feel will fit. You know, it’s not for everyone; there’s no right or wrong. But if you want to be, sort of the way we look at it, if you want to work for HC MedSpa you do need to be ambitious. You need to want better; you do need to have the ability where you’re not compromising and you really are aiming high. So, I think we have a sense, and that has value as well. But obviously yeah, we do have the protocol, the systems in place also to support.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Of course, and I’m assuming that you wouldn’t just 100% rely on the training program; I’m assuming that you possibly have some sort of incentives and things that people can kind of look forward to coming into the new year?

Saad Aslam: Yeah. I mean at the end of the day, yes, we very much work, and I think everyone should work, on a very much, almost a partnership basis. Where our therapists that come in, we are very transparent with how well they’re doing. You know often I’m quite shocked when people come in, they’ve been successful in an interview, I might finally meet them, because I like to meet everyone that works here. And I’ll say to them, you know, “What were your performance numbers like at where you were before?” And then, “How much revenue did you generate for your company?” and things like that. And they genuinely don’t know.

I find that quite surprising in this day and age. Like, we really make our therapists feel like they’re almost in their own business, and we’re very transparent with them, and we make them see how they’re performing, how well they’re doing. We make them look at their targets, look at their sales figures. So they understand that, you know, I’m doing really well for the company; therefore, are they doing well personally? Are they being well rewarded on a personal level?

Now if the answer was that they’re doing really well for the company but their personal rewards weren’t up there, there’s something wrong. We don’t have that problem. When people do well here, when they achieve well, they personally do very well also, and I think that’s how it needs to be. That way there’s no bad feeling towards anything.

Killian Vigna: Well people like to know their worth. But they also need to know what impact they’re making in the company that they’re with.

Saad Aslam: Yes. Absolutely, and they do. And we genuinely like, on a daily basis, every clinic has its own manager, and we start every day with a morning brief. And we look at how everyone’s performing, and we celebrate those that need to be celebrated and those that might need a bit more push or motivation we do that for them also. So hopefully we are covering all the ground there.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yeah, I like the thing that you were saying about the feedback and things like that. We kind of have, in Phorest essentially we have a thing that we call “360Feedback,” so essentially every year we kind of have everyone on the team who works with you closely review how you’ve been doing, what have you accomplished, what you can improve on. But also, it’s not just in terms of performance and targets, it can also be even attitude and things like that. Do you have anything kind of similar or do you, don’t really go into that much?

Saad Aslam: Obviously numbers is a huge thing for us because that does tell a story. But we are looking at overall morale. And overall, just the person. You know, making sure, I always say you should be happy where you work. If you’re not happy you shouldn’t be there.

So I think that, our staff know that about us. And we want everyone genuinely to be happy here. So we’re looking at it as an overall package. But numbers, at the end of the day they don’t lie. We are here to be successful, so we do give that a lot of emphasis. But we want to make sure that every part of their life is going well, whether it’s their personal problems or whatever it is that everyone has, you know, we’re all human, we try to take part in everything and at the end, you know, support them as much as we can.

You know, in my last management meeting I told my team of managers that, “Look, I want you guys to write out three personal targets unrelated to work that you want to achieve in the next year to two years. And we’ll sit down and have a one-to-one; I want to know what those are, because I’m going to help you get there. You know, there’s nothing that you want that I haven’t done, or probably wanted, and in my time and in my career I’ve managed to do so many amazing things, and I want to help you get there. Whether that’s your first apartment, first X-Y-Zed, or whatever it may be, I want to show you how you can do it.” So that’s an example of the stuff that we do.

Killian Vigna: And there is always some part of your career where you’re going, “Is there something else I can do? Can I move on?” But for you, you’re so motivated to keep your staff with you, how would you go about that now, if someone came up to you and said, “I’m actually thinking of moving on; I’m looking at getting a new job,” or anything like that?

Saad Aslam: I mean that happens. And often, you know, it might be someone that is just of great value to your business, and she’s like, or he’s like, you know, “I feel like it’s time for me to move on.” And we really take the time to understand it.

And you know what? At the end of the day, you could get to a point where you think, “You know what? He is she is right. Maybe this is the time for them to move on.” That does happen, and it has happened actually in the last year or two, where key members of staff that have been here for a very long time, one of them, an example that’s coming to mind, had been with us for eight years, but she genuinely felt that she wanted to try something different; she’d done everything she could here. And actually, I kind of agreed with it. And we supported that decision.

On the flip side is where you feel that, “You know what, maybe they’re not thinking straight, or they think the grass is greener, or X-Y-Z.” We try to reassure them, you know, and we try to evaluate their near-term goals, or whatever they maybe, what are their reasons for leaving. And we try to really home in and work on those.

Again, you can’t force people to work for you; if they want to give notice they can. But we do our best; we don’t just accept a resignation and do nothing about it. We try to understand it, because obviously, we don’t really want that happening too often.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: No, of course, yeah. But if it does happen, do you have some sort of plan in place, especially for like key members of teams? You know, obviously it will have an effect on the other people in that same team, so do you have some sort of plan to kind of smoothen out the transition or anything like that?

Saad Aslam: There isn’t an official plan. Because everyone is different. And also I think for us to have a plan like that, that would feel almost made up in a way. It’s just not how we operate. And it wouldn’t be genuine; do you see what I’m saying? So we would just look at who that person is and how long they’ve been with us, what their valuation is, and is there a solution here. And sometimes there isn’t and we accept that, and sometimes, hopefully, more than not, there is a solution. You know, we want people to be here and be successful. So hopefully everyone that works here is happy now. And that’s something that we work on. But yeah, there is no official plan, no.

Killian Vigna: So Saad, do you actually provide anything, kind of like, cultural aspect with your staff? Like, I suppose team-building events or anything like that?

Saad Aslam: Honestly, we are very, very busy here, and we have so much intention at the start of the year; and this is where we need to improve as a company. And you know, I’m talking about companies that need to learn how to attend to their staff, and we also need to make improvements.

And being completely honest, I think we should probably be doing more. I think it’s really important. But also then, the teams work so hard all year long; businesses these days can’t afford to be closing in their working days and then arranging team days out. When people have a day off, they kind of want to get away from work, so sometimes they don’t necessarily want to have those days out. So it’s really hard to find that balance, but we do have a lot of intention to do that. But it just doesn’t seem to stick for some reason.

So, I think time is a factor, you know, because we are so busy. Because, I’m very grateful that my staff across the board work so hard all the time that, when they do have their days off we try to sort of leave them alone. But it would be nice to do more. But we do other morale-building exercises that vary from time to time.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: That’s brilliant. So from my side of things, I think I kind of got the grasp of what you’re saying there, and correct me if I’m wrong, but everything kind of has to do with being transparent and keeping your staff engaged, not only with the business but also with their own targets and what they can achieve and bring to the company, and then in their personal lives as well?

Saad Aslam: Yeah, you’ve hit the nail on the head there. It’s exactly that. Just be clear to people, we have a simple thing here. You know, come onboard, get great training, great support. You know, if you want to work in this industry, there aren’t many places that are better, that look to progress you as much. You know, have a really honest relationship from employer to employee. And that really is it; there is no magic trick.

But, you know, giving people, I think giving them enough attention on a regular basis… So, not just like leaving it to the annual review, for example, like a lot of places do. You know, we don’t rely on that. We are constantly communicating with our team. You know, our managers, every week, in fact, have a 10-minute sit-down, how are they doing? Every morning they have a morning brief. So I don’t think we can afford to just sort of wait a year or wait six months to sit down and understand how people are doing. You know, things happen so fast now.

Killian Vigna: So basically you kind of, what you’re saying, it doesn’t sound anything too intricate. Like, at the end of the day, for a business to grow, the staff has to be happy. If you keep turning your staff over and over again, you have to keep hiring. Hiring process could take up to three to six months, depending on what sort of role you’re looking for. Now, I think the average is only about six weeks. But that takes up management’s time. And if managers are constantly just shuffling through CVs, interviewing, that takes them away from looking for targets, looking for new ways to take the business, new direction. It takes up your time as well, constantly replacing staff.

Saad Aslam: Yeah, and it’s expensive. When we train and educate people, it costs us quite a lot of money. So absolutely. And we are really fussy with recruitment. So for us, it takes a long time. So there is definitely that drawback to having to replace staff.

And that’s why we have a policy where we always have recruitment adverts out, even if we don’t have a job advert. You know, I would always say that if you’re a clinic owner or a salon owner, spa owner, always meet people, even if you don’t have a position because likelihood is that you will eventually have a position.

Also, I think it’s really important to build relationships with people that may not work for you today but might work for you for tomorrow. So we constantly are meeting people, engaging, networking, and understanding who is the talent out there today.

Killian Vigna: I really like that, because that has come up before, where, don’t just hire when you need staff, because when you need staff you’re busy, and then you’re too busy to hire staff. So you either end up taking someone on quick who you’re later going to regret. So that whole thing of always advertise or always keep building a network of people who could potentially work for you, that’s a really good bit of advice there.

Saad Aslam: Yeah. Literally, what you just said about hiring staff in desperate times, that’s one of the worst things you can do. Like, that happens so much. And I know it happens, sometimes people they come here and they have a job interview and they’re successful, and they’ll literally ask “Do I start today?” And we’re like, “No, no, we don’t work like that.”

But it happens so much now, a salon owner can be so desperate, unfortunately, because you’ve got a column that’s full and you haven’t got staff to fill it, to work on it, and they’ll literally say, you know, “You can start today.” And this is the worst position you can be in as an owner of your business. You don’t want a desperate hire; no, that’s something we definitely avoid.

Killian Vigna: Well listen, Saad, that’s been absolutely brilliant, some really good advice in there. Just on an end note; do you have any kind of top tips just to kind of recap this whole episode? What would be your top tips for any salon owner out there, who is currently struggling with staff retention?

Zoe Belisle-Springer: And potentially even like small business owners, because as I see, you have branches and you’re very well established, but even like potentially smaller business owners, that wouldn’t necessarily have the same resources as you have?

Saad Aslam: Invest in your staff is the key. And when I say “invest,” I’m not just talking about money, because obviously as you’ve said, different companies have different budgets. Invest in them, give them time. Invest in them, you know, with your own time.

Listen. I think listen as well. Listen to what they need. What do they want, why are they working for you? If you’re literally just hiring someone who’s seen an advert, hasn’t even looked at who your company is but just wants to get paid, that’s not the sort of person that you want to have on. So I think you really need to understand who you’re sitting down with, who you’re talking to, what their goals are.

And they need to marry yours as a business owner or as a clinic/salon manager. You have to have synergy there. If you don’t, long-term it’s not going to work. I often say that I’d rather not do a client than give a client to the wrong therapist. Because ultimately, all you’re going to do, every client that’s been seen by the wrong therapist is a risk to your brand, is a risk to your reputation. And once you kill that there’s no coming back.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: That’s brilliant, yeah.

Killian Vigna: Yeah, completely.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Well thank you so much for being on the show with us, Saad. I think this episode is going to be a great help for many salon owners out there and spa owners out there. So thank you very much.

Saad Aslam: No no, thanks for having me, and I hope to speak to you guys again really soon.

Killian Vigna: Thanks very much Saad.

Saad Aslam: All right, great. Thank you so much, guys.

Killian Vigna: And now for the second half of the show, we have the Phorest Academy webinars by Zoe.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yes, so coming up we have two new webinars. So one is the “HR, Recruitment & Training” with Valerie Delforge. I mean, it kind of ties into this whole episode, when you think about it. So that’s on February 5 from 2 to 3 p.m., U.K./Ireland time, or 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. U.S. Eastern time. And then we have the “Salon GDPR Introduction Masterclass” that will be given by Connor Keppel, the head of marketing here at Phorest Salon software, and that’s on February 12 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. U.K./Ireland time, and I’m not actually giving out any U.S. time because American businesses are not actually affected by this data protection law.

Killian Vigna: So yeah, as always, if you go to the Events section of our Facebook page, and then click into each of those events that you want to attend; scroll down a little bit in the event page, and you’ll see “Find Tickets.” Now, as always, these events are free, you just click the link, register online, give your email address, and you’ll receive your webinar links from there.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Great. So that’s it for us this week. I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you have any feedback or any comments, feel free to leave us a review on iTunes or on Stitcher or on Podbean. Don’t forget to subscribe; have a wonderful week and we’ll catch you next Monday.

Killian Vigna: All the best!

Thanks for reading!


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