Welcome to the Salon Owner’s Podcast, Phorest FM Episode 46. Co-hosted by Killian Vigna and Zoé Bélisle-Springer, this show is a mix of interviews with industry thought-leaders, roundups of our most recent salon owners marketing tips & tricks, all the latest in and around Phorest and what upcoming webinars you can join. Phorest FM is produced every Monday morning for your enjoyment with a cup of coffee on your day off.

Phorest FM Episode 46

In late 2016, as we were in the process of writing the Salon Owner’s Ultimate Guide To Shaping A Retail Culture, we interviewed salon owner Lynda Tarpey, from Pretty Woman in Leeds, UK. One the main things she highlighted was how the industry was lacking beauty therapists coming out of colleges these days. In this episode of Phorest FM, we re-introduce the topic and discuss it with salon owner Sam Pearce, from The Potting Shed Spa, in Batley, West Yorkshire, as she asks, “Where have all the good therapists gone?”



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Killian Vigna: Welcome to the Phorest FM podcast, episode 46. I’m Killian Vigna.

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

Killian Vigna: This week on the show we interview Sam Pearce, the owner and founder of award-winning salon, The Potting Shed Spa in Batley, West Yorkshire. We’ll discuss her views on the current recruitment crisis for salons, and some of the hard truths of working in the beauty industry.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: As always, we top off the show with our upcoming Phorest Academy webinars.

Killian Vigna: This podcast is produced every Monday morning for your enjoyment with a cup of coffee on your day off. Now, let’s get into the show.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Today we’re chatting to Sam Pearce. Prior to opening The Potting Shed Spa, she had actually spent 12 years in a partnership running a beauty salon building the confidence to eventually go out on her own. It’s worked wonderfully. She has a really unique approach to interior design, it is a garden-inspired spa. It is quite different to what you’d usually see.

Killian Vigna: Completely recommend anyone to just check out her website, it’s an amazing setup.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Even the treatment menu is all garden inspired as well. She has an amazing customer service experience. She’s actually won the Client Experience award from Phorest. She’s also won over 20 industry awards, including one for the best in the country after only eight months of opening.

Killian Vigna: And a Mumpreneur one as well that was completely outside her salon industry.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yeah, exactly. So without further ado, we have Sam on the line to discuss her views on the industry’s current recruitment crisis, and the essential skills a beauty therapist should have to be able to fulfil a role. Welcome to Phorest FM, Sam. Thanks for joining us on the show today.

Killian Vigna: Hi, Sam.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: You are so welcome, it’s a pleasure to talk to both of you.

Killian Vigna: We were just literally talking, I suppose the little bit before this recording that we were saying, we wanted to focus on this guest blog that you’d done about the, “Where have all the Good Therapists Gone?” That’s on Professional Beauty’s website there for anyone that wants to check it out. We decided we need to press record now because we’d already kicked it off and we just thought, “No, no. This is gold.” Like we said, it was a topic we’ve covered on the blog before on the Phorest blog.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Very briefly.

Killian Vigna: Very briefly. Zoe had interviewed another salon owner before as well on it. Like you were saying, it was good that you’re not the only one talking about it. We have you now and we just want to get your points on it.

Sam Pearce: Of course. I mean I’ve been involved in the beauty industry for 18 years, and 18 years ago we were all in a very different position. People were very keen and very hungry, they saw a career opportunity to work in the beauty industry. Eighteen years later, despite the saturation and increase of high street salons, and excellent spas, the staff don’t exist anymore. I think it’s an epidemic for people with businesses to be able to expand or to even meet the requires and the demands on a day-to-day basis. It’s just so hard to be able to find staff of a certain calibre that are employable.

It starts from the beginning, it starts at the colleges, and that’s where my biggest concern is, that the actual qualifications these days don’t mean anything at all. They’re almost archaic. They’re not preparing students, either male or female, to be able to go into the big wide world on these fast-tracked courses. I mean, offering a course in massage where you never actually physically touch a person, but you can pass with a so-called qualification. I just find it ridiculous.

Killian Vigna: What you’re getting at here is, they’re teaching you the theory of the skills, and stuff like that. The students aren’t getting enough actual real world, like you said, physical practice, is it?

Sam Pearce: There’s no life experience for them. They go in and they do a qualification, and then they go into the to big wide world, and then expect an employer to take what they know, and make them workable, and find a career path for them. The biggest problem you’ve got is, they learn the basic skills, but the actual delivery is such a different thing. That can only really be a learned skill.

And whilst I’m not saying that all college qualifications aren’t up to scratch, times have changed, clients are a lot more savvy people and understand more about what it is that they want. The colleges and the education have to move with the times in terms of changing the specs. It’s the electrical facial treatments. That’s fine, but it’s so archaic, and there is probably a very small percentage of people that are actually doing that.

Teaching them about how to come to an interview, and not talking to in text speak with love heart emojis. The things I’ve had to go through have been absolutely… I could write a book, in fact I probably will… “Sam’s Interviewing Techniques.”

Killian Vigna: No, it would. It really would be a good idea, because again, we’ve even talked about the interviews. Sometimes a lot of salon owners, they just look at the skills, but you have to look past the skills as well. Like you’re saying, you can teach someone skills but you need that… Are they a culture fit for you? Are they a real people person? Like we said in the speil, you’ve spent 18 years in the industry, your 12 years in a partnership before you eventually became confident enough to open up your own salon. Throughout that time, was this something that you picked on early enough that the colleges weren’t… Yeah?

Sam Pearce: Yeah. Absolutely. I’ve been in a very privileged position to be one of the industry judges for the last, probably, 12 years. It was a real eye-opener having the opportunity to be able to travel the country and see different business models and see levels of training, and have a real insight into how things were being done. Things are being done very, very differently.

I think we have a duty of care to our customers, and to the industry, to provide a platform of knowledge. We really need to know more than the clients do these days. I think that’s something that just isn’t being taught. It’s so hard to be able to find the time to really invest in the potential new future for the beauty industry, because, coming in with limited knowledge… 86% of all beauty therapists never ever work in the beauty industry, despite qualifying. It’s such a high percentage and it’s terrifying.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Would there be any models that would work? That you would see, could potentially work if we changed them, and adapted them to 2017?

Sam Pearce: I think it needs to start at the grassroots, no pun intended, [inaudible] from The Potting Shed. I think that it needs to be really realistic. I think they need to explain to future potential beauty therapists, that this industry is brutal. That’s the only word I can describe it, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I used to work for Lynne Franks, in a PR company in London.

It’s preparing people. The word therapist means to serve. I think if you can instill that attitude within the person, that their role is going to be incredibly satisfying. They make a difference to people’s lives by doing what they do, even on an incremental level. Painting somebody’s fingernails, you never know the journey that somebody had to get to you. I’m not just talking about on the motorway to get to the appointment, I mean their life’s journey. It’s about teaching confidence and instilling intuition. You can’t teach intuition, but you can give them the flags and the things to look out for, to ensure that people are providing an outstanding service. They are fully qualified, and fully armed, and fully knowledgeable to be able to do it to the best of their ability.

Killian Vigna: Yeah it’s true, because I suppose no one actually goes in, wants to be a beautician or a hair stylist because they want to make themselves look good. You’re going into the industry with the intention of making someone else look good. Like you’re saying, it’s all about you helping someone else. So just on that there, you were saying its tough for salon owners to hire, I suppose, good therapists. It must also be tough on the student, because the student doesn’t know… Originally signing up to these courses.

Sam Pearce: Absolutely.

Killian Vigna: They’re assuming that they’re gonna go in and learn it. They’re paying all this money, they’re going to learn all these great skills and get hired, to be able to go on to that journey. That’s not always the case.

Sam Pearce: It’s heartbreaking, because their belief is that they’ve spend £2,500 on a fast-tracked course, which are the bane of my life, and they want a return on it straight away. It costs me £3,500 per new starter, somebody that I employ in my business, before they ever touch a client. £3,500 in training, in courses, in… Because I’m a mindfulness teacher, I do a lot of mindfulness work with my staff. There’s a proper program that’s in place so they have a beginning, and a middle, and an end, and that’s the goal.

It’s no longer a goal anymore to actually get through college, it’s actually a goal to achieve, get past an interview, stage. I would probably say that 98% of people that I interview, I just spend time consoling them to hear about that fact that they’ve left their boyfriend, and they haven’t got the right shoes on. It’s just there’s nothing in place there that’s giving them the skills to be able to be a perfect interviewee.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yeah. It’s interesting, I copped onto something that you said there. When I was chatting to the other salon owner, Linda Tarpey, last year, she was saying the same thing, actually; that, when she hires someone she has to spend so much mone and so much time on these therapists before they actually even touch one of her clients.

Sam Pearce: I don’t think they appreciate they’re carrying the weight of the reputation. I always say to anyone I employ, “You’re coming to a business that’s achieved 20 awards in six years, and you’re carrying my six years, and my 18 years of responsibility on your shoulders. It’s a big responsibility to have, and I want you to be the best version of you, and you’ve got to trust me. It’s like a rollercoaster. Until you find your pace and your rhythm and what you want to specialize in, or whether you’re just very good at everything. Then what you do is you just listen to the people that are there to support, and guide you, and make you the best version of who you can be.”

This is what leads me onto why we’re opening a training academy next year called The Greenhouse, because I want to be able to say to a future employer, or somebody who wants to set up on their own, you can start work today, because you’re that skilled. And that’s all I want to do.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: We’re seeing a lot of academies popping up here and there from salon owners with that same intention. What is your angle in for your training academy? What do you have in mind for it?

Sam Pearce: The angle that we want to do; it’s interesting because what’s actually needed to make the future therapist employable is a finishing school. They learn all the mechanics at a college, they get their NVQ, or VTCC, or whatever qualifications they get. This is like a fine-tuning thing, but it’s interesting because the perception of the need for that isn’t understood by the future therapist. You see what I’m saying? They don’t see the value in that, they just think, “I want the skills to be able to just do massage or facials.” Sort of thing.

The difference with The Greenhouse Training Academy is that we are… Obviously, The Potting Shed is themed, The Greenhouse is a bit like nurturing little seedlings and making them bloom into amazing therapists that can… I mean, I’m in a position where nobody ever asks for a reference for any of my staff if they ever leave, because they’re confident in knowing that they’ve had the best training that you can get. The issue with The Greenhouse is going to be that we create a qualification that is so widely recognized as a qualification of excellence, because we’ve covered everything. We’ve covered the opportunities for branding and social media knowledge and also how to…

I’m going to be working very closely with an osteopath so that we teach them about how to stand correctly and healthcare. It’s really, really so… I don’t want to give too much away because it’s all very tentative in my dreams. I don’t want anyone to pinch it because that’s what happens to me, everything I do. No, I’m joking. Well, I’m not. Essentially, nobody’s ever done what we’re going to be doing, put it that way.

Killian Vigna: Essentially, what you’re doing is, you’re taking students who have gone to these colleges, these academies. This is where yours sets the side apart. You’re taking the guys, they’ve learnt the theory of it, and now you’re giving them the fine-tuning, the opportunity for that real-world experience, and the overt business knowledge.

Sam Pearce: Well, we’re actually making them employable.

Killian Vigna: Yeah, you’re making them employable.

Sam Pearce: They’re not. What we want to do is instil this passion and love and really, really get people excited about this amazing industry that we work in. That’s absolutely something that we’re really, really, really keen on doing because people have fallen out of love with it. I want people to realize the difference that they can make, and how incredibly rewarding it can be in the future potentially. People want to be able to open their own businesses, and they want to know that they’re carrying the skills and the knowledge, and they are spreading these wonderful businesses out there, rather than them being stereotypically predictable and a bit shoddy.

Killian Vigna: I like what you just said there. Basically, we’ve talked about this book before on the show, it’s called Good To Great. The whole idea of it is, a good leader is someone who brings someone in under their wing, essentially, to learn everything they know. I suppose there’s this whole fear of eventually they’ll surpass you, or surpass the master and go and open up their salon, but with you, you want to encourage that? You want them to do that?

Sam Pearce: Oh, yeah. Yeah, absolutely, because then I know that I’ve made that little bit of a change. Rather than just behave in a certain way that, actually that, they just have a little bit more knowledge, and maybe handle a situation slightly differently. They have the confidence to say to somebody, “Actually do you know what? This is going to be far more beneficial for you. I’ve checked your medical history. I want to make you feel confident that I know what I’m doing.” It’s all that, it’s that bespoke service.

I know that most people coming to work for me because they want to open their own business, and it’s happened to me forever. I’m more than happy with that because we’re not defined by one person, you’re a team. Whoever you employ, they are an extension of who you are. They have to have your values and your ethos. I think it’s just really important that we embrace people’s… Their wishes and their desires, and give them the confidence and independence to go out on their own and make a go of it. It’s a win-win for everybody.

Killian Vigna: That’s what I find amazing about what you’re saying there. Like I said, like we’ve already just touched off, rather than hiring people who would just stay and work for you and follow your brand, and stuff like that. You’re actually encouraging them to move out. Which, like you said, if someone leaves your salon and a potential employer looks at their CV, they don’t need to ask you for a reference because they The Potting Shed. That actually stands for you. Now when someone goes on an opens their own salon, where did you get your training? The Potting Shed. Rather than fearing that these staff are training with you and then leaving you, it’s a testament to yourself.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yeah, essentially.

Sam Pearce: That’s so lovely. I think that what I’d love to be able to have, because obviously, the recruitment agencies are absolutely fleecing… Well they’re not, that’s not fair, because they’re running a business. The costs are so astronomical that it’s really only the big heavy hitting residential hotel spas that can afford the turnover of cost to employee, but you’re desperate. I hear so many other fellow business owners who are going, “Sam, I want to retire and I’m back in doing massages because…” Then you become very weary and very tired and can be very despondent. Hopefully, we will eventually create a plethora of amazing on the ball, shit-hot… I can’t swear on the thing, sorry. Amazingly talented, incredibly motivated new therapists that will go out there and continue the good work. That’s my dream.

Killian Vigna: You want to fix the industry, yeah. Sorry, go on.

Sam Pearce: I thought, kind of in my own little way, I’m trying really hard. I just think that everybody deserves the best opportunities they can. It doesn’t necessarily actually have to be down to the financial contribution to learning or training. I think that it’s quick money for training schools, and they’re not necessarily realizing the fallout at the other end, if that makes sense.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yeah, of course.

Killian Vigna: Yeah, it did. They don’t care, they just see the money, they see the quick turnover, and that’s it.

Sam Pearce: Do they care? Yeah, they don’t care. I had a poor girl, she came up and she’d spent £3,500 for a three-month course, and I literally just spent two and a half hours with her saying, “You cannot come to an environment, until you’ve got some experience.” You feel awful because you are kind of shipping them out to somewhere else. I can’t risk my reputation based on somebody believing that they’re owed something, because they’ve parted with a lot of cash. It’s just so frustrating.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yeah. No, I totally understand that. Obviously, you’re looking for people that are passionate and that have an experience. What else specifically are you looking for in someone, in terms of skills or values even, that would match you and your business, or even your academy?

Sam Pearce: Okay. A general feeling, a lot of what I go on is intuitive, which is not very helpful. My gut feeling is another thing. I think if somebody is well presented, and they are conscientious, and they are professional in their appearance, they know how to communicate and they are quite strict and specific about what their beliefs are and what their future is. If they [inaudible 00:18:51], I never not want to give somebody a chance.

I’m so hardened to it, that I can see whether somebody’s in it for the longterm, or whether they’re just doing it because they don’t really know what else to do. There’s just the misconception that these therapists are doing beauty because they can’t do anything else, it’s just so insulting. Somebody said to me, “Don’t you think you’ve wasted your life because you’ve…” Also, she said, “And you’ve done really well, don’t get me wrong, and you’re really successful with it, don’t you think you’ve wasted your life.” I said, “Why?” And she… “By being a beauty therapist.” I said, “But why would I …” I said to her, and then I said the wrong thing, I said, “But I’ve got a first class honours degree.”

Then you find yourself justifying it, and I thought, “No, I need to change this.” I need people to see the value in what it is in our industry. See that these girls are brilliantly skilled and all-rounders.

Killian Vigna: Yeah. No, exactly. Sam, this has been absolutely brilliant, and I’m loving what you’re doing here with this new academy. I think it’s definitely something that is needed.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Definitely, yeah.

Killian Vigna: Especially from what we’ve just covered there. It’s heartbreaking for the salon owner like yourself to have to sit through all these interviews. Like you just said, you can’t keep relying on a recruitment agency, it becomes costly, especially if you’re a small salon. It’s also heartbreaking for the students as well, who are spending all this money…

Sam Pearce: It breaks my heart.

Killian Vigna: …on these crash courses will get them there when it’s just not enough. Sam, just to wrap up the show. Say I want to now get into the industry. How do I go about applying for The Greenhouse?

Sam Pearce: At the moment what we’re doing is we’re looking at the different grading for our courses. We would probably have a one-to-one. What we’re doing is we’re bringing back in the old school methods of interviewing, where you actually have to be interviewed just to secure a place. It sounds really elitist, but actually, we know if you’ll fit and you’re the right person. What we don’t want to do is put somebody in a position of wanting to be part of a training academy and actually just being… Drowning. It’s not something that we can do for them.

It would be quite a strict interview process to be able to provide the right skill sets for them. We would look at what they know, what they want to know, what their dreams and aspirations are. Then build on it with that. Particularly people who are interested in going out on their own. I think to having a multi-award-winning salon running alongside the school, so they can get the hands-on experience, then go out and do what it is that they wish.

It’s almost like a little seal of approval that they get. A stamp of approval that says this person can start today, and will over-deliver, and will bring, and be a massive asset to your organization. Did I actually answer that question or have I just waffled?

Zoe Belisle-Springer: No, that was brilliant, don’t worry, yeah.

Killian Vigna: No, that was the answer, yeah. I was going to ask you a question but then you answered it again, so perfect.

Sam Pearce: Oh my God, that’s great.

Killian Vigna: Absolutely summarized it all brilliantly. Like you were saying, you might come across tough in the recruitment but, at the end of the day, you are a multi-award-winning salon owner and entrepreneur yourself. You need to carry that brand, you need to make sure whoever you take on is going to carry it. While you’re giving them the chance, you have your brand to protect. All salons should be aware of that as well. You want to encourage their own professional development, but you have to take care of yourself too.

Sam Pearce: However good you are, whoever’s performing and delivering what it is that you offer as a service. If it’s not good then it really doesn’t help anyone on any level. If they are not basically making your dream a reality.

Interestingly enough, the one thing that I’m really looking forward to is encouraging and pushing future therapists, or new future business owners to be part of the award’s system within the beauty industry, like the BABTAC and Professional Beauty. We can offer this, we’ve got so much knowledge to be able to offer a way of giving people the confidence that they can actually be considered, or consider themselves to sal-… You know, I always say, “Nobody will ever shout as loud about yourself as you will.” It’s about giving that confidence and creating our future. People who will move forward and will continue the dream. We’ve been very fortunate [inaudible 00:23:28] the business. It’s got to be the right person, and I’m very protective of my baby. I’m very happy with how things are going, and I am so excited and motivated, that I think that we really could make a difference with the future.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Oh, definitely. So, for anyone who would be interested, when do you think we can see The Greenhouse up and running?

Sam Pearce: I have absolutely no idea. It’s changing all the time, and I want it to be right. I want to get people so hungry and excited about it that they are chomping-at-the-bit. When we can announce everything and we can offer the opportunities to everybody, that basically they are ready and waiting, thorough and exceptional. I just want to make sure that I’m so… I would imagine it’s probably going to be sometime, probably early Spring next year. We’ve got a wonderful shed where we’ll be doing all our training. It’s going to be so exciting. Anybody who’s going to be part of it is part of a really great initiative for them. It’s really for them and their future. I’m really excited.

Killian Vigna: Just based off this talk alone, we’re already excited to see how it kicks off.

Sam Pearce: Are you coming? You can come too, it’d be wonderful.

Killian Vigna: Oh, yeah, I’ll sign up, yeah.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: I’ll pop over, yeah.

Killian Vigna: Definitely.

Sam Pearce: I’m just so grateful that Phorest is such a big part of our lives, in terms of business and moving forward. Connor and Ronan and everybody has just always been so incredibly supportive. I just think you guys are outstanding. I just thank you, really.

Killian Vigna: Well that’s absolutely lovely to hear.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Awesome. Listen, thank you for doing what you do and trying to elevate the industry at the best of your capacities. We need more people like you to do that, to make a change.

Sam Pearce: Oh, that’s so lovely. There’s a lot of love in the room at the moment, I’m loving it. I think you guys should be applauded, seriously. I tell anyone that will listen to me about you guys, I just think it’s wonderful what you’re doing. Thank you for allowing me to talk today because it does mean a lot.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Of course.

Killian Vigna: It’s no problem at all.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Thank you so much for joining us.

Killian Vigna: Just on that note, we wish you all the best. Like you said, we’re going to keep in contact for when you do kick off.

Sam Pearce: Definitely.

Killian Vigna: We’re excited, so you must be overwhelmed with excitement at the moment.

Sam Pearce: Really giddy.

Killian Vigna: Thanks so much for joining us on the show today.

Sam Pearce: Bless you. You’re so welcome, it’s an absolute pleasure. Have a lovely day guys.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: You too.

Killian Vigna: You too.

Just to wrap off our show as always, we have our webinars.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Of course. Our first one is on October 10th, so that’s Tuesday, tomorrow. It is the Salon Growth Series, so this is more client focused, so Phorest Salon Software clients, but anyone can really get onto it anyways. It’s all about getting more bookings and working less. It’ll take place from 3:00p.m. to 4:00p.m. UK/Ireland time, or 10:00a.m. to 11:00a.m. US Eastern time. We’ll discuss how to increase your salon’s bookings and revenue, eliminate no-shows and last minute cancellations, and getting up to seven hours of your life back a week.

Following that, Phorest Salon Software will be at Salon International & Excel London from October 14th to 16th. So that’s the Saturday to the Monday, and we’ll be on stand H170. Come chat to us, get your creative juices flowing.

Then, for our last of our webinar announcements, we have our very first instalment of The Salon Manager Development Series, and that’s on October 18th with Valerie Delforge, who’s been in the industry for many, many years. She’s also CEO and founder of Delforge + Co, and she’s a guest contributor on the blog very regularly. Her first webinar is “How To Manage Your Staff”. That will take place on October 18th, I repeat, from 3:00p.m. to 4:00p.m. UK/Ireland time, 10:00a.m. to 11:00a.m. US Eastern time.

To register for any of these events, or save your spots, Phorest Academy is free. You simply go on our Facebook page, in the events section, select the event that you are interested in. Go and click, Find Tickets, and it’ll bring you to the registration page. Just hop on that. The Valerie Delforge one is definitely not one to miss, it’s a one-time-only webinar. Make sure you save your spot.

Killian Vigna: As always guys, if you have any topics you want us to talk about on the show, or if you want to leave feedback, you can go onto Podbean or iTunes. Let us know what you think.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: We wish you a wonderful week, and we’ll catch you next Monday.

Killian Vigna: All the best.

Thanks for reading!


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