Welcome to the Salon Owner’s Podcast, Phorest FM Episode 74. 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 74

The second edition of the #30Days2Grow salon challenge has now come to an end and Killian and Zoe welcome this year’s winner of the Share Your Experience contest, Katrina Sutherland, to the show for a segment that looks back on the effects of the campaign on her salon business.


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Killian Vigna: Welcome to the Phorest FM podcast, episode 74. I’m Killian Vigna.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: And I’m Zoe Bellsie-Springer. This week’s episode is an interview with one of our #30Days2Grow campaign participants. As always, we top off the show with our 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.

Killian Vigna: So you’re pretty much nearly just kicking off your holiday as well aren’t you?

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Absolutely. Yep yep yep.

Killian Vigna: Said we’ll catch you for one last episode before you left us for what? Two, three weeks?

Zoe Belisle-Springer: It’s about a week and a half, I won’t be gone that long!

Killian Vigna: Week and a half, we’ll look, we could all do with a bit. But I’m looking forward to today’s one because we actually have an interview with a participant from our #30Days2Grow. I know the last few weeks we’ve been going through to different topics and themes and things like those, but now we actually have someone who took part in the campaign to give their two cents on it.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yes, so like last year we ran a contest asking participants for their feedback on the campaign and one of the prizes was to be featured on Phorest FM. Katrina Sutherland from Katrina Sutherland Country Spa, this year’s winner – and many congratulations Katrina – has happily agreed to share her experience on the show with us today, just like Lilac Miller of Sleeping Beauty Salon did last year. Do you remember that?

Killian Vigna: Yeah, I do, yep. So it’s the same sort of thing, again isn’t it. It’s just kind of feedback and actually I suppose talking to you guys out there and seeing how you’s did. Welcome to the show Katrina.

Katrina Sutherland: Hello.

Killian Vigna: Delighted to have you on board.

Katrina Sutherland: Thank you!

Killian Vigna: We just saw, kind of, you’re quite engaged in the Facebook page as well, and we just thought: you know what, you’d be a perfect person to reach out to. You had a nice big post here on kind of how you’re selling performed, but more importantly, you were saying that you couldn’t actually do all of the challenges every day, and we thought this was brilliant because it seemed like a lot of salon owners thought that they had to do all thirty within thirty days, well that is great to do, we know it’s not always the ideal world. So, you were kind of going through it and, like I said earlier, giving your two cents, and we just wanted to see how you actually got on. So, would you like to share just a bit of background about yourself and how you got into the industry and a bit about Katrina Sutherland Country Spa? 

Katrina Sutherland: Yes, I’ve been involved in the beauty industry, I qualified from Clydebank College in 1989. I worked in a busy salon for a year, got some experience, then I decided to set up my own business. So, back in 1989-1990, there were no beauty salons in Caithness at all. And everything was very private and confidential in those days, similar to what it is now, but people wanted somewhere discrete that they could visit without everyone knowing. So my father suggested that I use his spare bedroom. Now Caithness is a very rural place. It’s very spread out. There are only two main towns, both with fairly small populations. And my father’s place was two miles from the nearest village. It only had a population of about 1200 people.

I used his spare bedroom and set up my business, and advertised locally, did a lot of WRI demonstrations, slowly built up my business and I think after about 15 years of working as a home-based salon, I built the Country Spa. Again it’s very rural, it’s in the middle of nowhere, it’s out in the countryside. But a lot of these clients that started with me in 1989 are sill clients, but I have staff now that help me and we have quite a busy-wee salon here.

Killian Vigna: That sounds great. I just wanted to touch on your saying that beauty salons tended to be very private and out of the way. Why was that?

Katrina Sutherland: In 1989, people tended to come to beauty salons more for hair removal, if they had bad skin, if they had something that needed, not medical intervention, but it would generally be something embarrassing that they needed dealt with. And they did not like everyone knowing that they had a skin problem or a superfluous hair problem. So, it wasn’t the nice relaxation type business that it is now. People were very embarrassed often that they had to visit a beauty salon.

Killian Vigna: So it was almost like a strategic placement to stay far outside the town. You were saying you’re a couple of miles out from the village. It’s a strategic thing nearly?

Katrina Sutherland: Well, I’d say that if you were going to be in a town, you needed somewhere with a parking right at the door so that the client could get from the salon to the car without speaking to anyone.

Killian Vigna: A quick escape from door to door.

Katrina Sutherland: Basically, that’s what it was like then.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: And how did you… How was the progression? Ronan was telling us you were one of the first adopters in the UK of Phorest, and you’ve been with us for a very long time, and so how has you salon progressed over the years? How did you move away from that bedroom essentially?

Katrina Sutherland: I think beauty therapy as an industry has evolved greatly since I become involved. There are many treatments that are available now that hadn’t even been thought of when I trained. And as the treatments have evolved, so has people’s perception of beauty. It’s no longer considered this luxury or the vanity type thing. People now realise that their health is important and they need to relax and chill. I do honestly think that if more people visited a beauty salon there would be less people visiting the doctor!

Killian Vigna: I’m finding it kind of funny, because even just listening to you speak, you yourself sound very chilled and relaxed and you have such a calm tone to your voice as well. So obviously, it’s working for your clients. I mean, of course it’s working because you’ve managed to keep clients for 15 years you were saying.

Katrina Sutherland: 30! I’ve had original clients since 1989!

Killian Vigna: That’s older than me.

Katrina Sutherland: My staff tell me, Katrina, you’ve been doing beauty longer than I’ve been born.

Killian Vigna: That’s a real moral boost for you isn’t it!?

Katrina Sutherland: Oh, tell me…!

Killian Vigna: Do you know like, obviously, you have some sort of secrets. It’s not just down to the fact that you’re probably the only one in your area doing it. Like, is there anything off the top of your head before you did the #30Days2Grow that you knew your were doing right for retaining your clients?

Katrina Sutherland: I’ve had a lot of practice now, and I think absolutely first and foremost you must make that client feel like she’s the only client you have. She is your top priority. Every single client must feel like that. You must make them feel valued special. There spending their money for your time. They want to be with you for that hour or 15 minutes or three hours. You have to respect that and realise that they have a choice that they can spend their money anywhere they like. And they’re choosing to give it to you, so you have to be worth it. And given my location, there are lots of salons up here now. They choose to drive a minimum of 1o, 20, 30 miles to come to me. Bypassing other salons. So I have to make sure that’s worth their while.

Killian Vigna: I thought you were just going to say minutes there, but miles, yeah. That is dedication.

Katrina Sutherland: We just have to make sure it’s worth their while, because there are salons that are much closer to them than we are.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: That’s fair enough. And how did you even hear about 30 days to grow to begin with. What motivated you to get onto it?

Katrina Sutherland: I think I probably saw it on Facebook and it kept popping up – and it might have actually popped up on the front of my Phorest screensaver as well! And the staff and I had just been at the Professional Beauty Exhibition in London. And we’d come back quite inspired from that. We had the opportunity there to meet our suppliers, including Phorest. And we go to the seminars, the business seminars, the treatment seminars, and when we came back I think the timing was just perfect and I said to the girls, do you fancy having a go at this? It’ll be fun. And they said, “Yeah why not!” So we did, we just thought let’s go for it.

Killian Vigna: I liked the fact that you actually asked the girls if you wanted to go with it rather than taking the decision out upon yourself.

Katrina Sutherland: We have a happy team here, you know. It’s like joint decisions and I think if the team are involved it makes everything so much easier.

Killian Vigna: Well exactly, it takes a massive weight off your shoulders. Doesn’t it? Because you’ve already got a whole business that you’re having to take care of. And now someone’s willing to go, yeah, let’s all do the challenges together. Speaking of which, how did you actually find the challenges this year? Was this your first year for #30Days2Grow, was it?

Katrina Sutherland: This was my first year. We found the challenges, some of them were easier than others. Some of them we haven’t done yet, but we have made a note of them and thought that looks like a really good idea, but not right now, so we’ll do them later on in the year. Like your challenge to gather thank you cards to all the clients that come in that day. That would be a fantastic challenge for us to do in December and we will give a thank you card to every single client who comes in in December, with a nice little gift.

Killian Vigna: That’s a good point, yeah, because rather than having to do it in the 30 days, you’ve already looked at a challenge and gone, I know when that’s going to work for my salon. So, it’s not looking at it and going yay or nay, it’s, that’ll work then, that’ll work now. So, your notes for December, exactly. It’s long-term thinking and that’s what we kind of want to build this thing around. It’s not just now quick fix in 30 days and then you drop it, it’s how can we utilise this throughout the year.

Katrina Sutherland: Exactly, and there was another one where you build contacts with local businesses. We have a hotel just two miles along the road, it’s been closed for years. I’m just waiting for them to open so that we can go and build a relationship with them!

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Very interesting, yeah.

Katrina Sutherland: That’s another one.

Killian Vigna: When we were talking about that and that came up as a challenge, I was really interested to see how that worked out, the partnership one. How did you approach it at first?

Katrina Sutherland: Well, we’ve done this previously, obviously not as part of the challenge, but I have done it when I’ve been trying to build the business. We’ve approached florists and this hotel that I’ve been talking about, when it was open years ago, we had a relationship with them. If they sent their clients to the Country Spa, we would give them a ten percent discount, and similarly if they took my clients, my clients would receive a discount at the hotel, which worked really well for us, because sometimes being in the middle of nowhere, ladies would like, travel 50 or 100 miles to have a spa day, but they didn’t want to just jump in the car and go home, so they would stay at the local hotel. If they can have a discount at that local hotel, they’re probably more likely to stay over and have a really nice spa break.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yeah, a nice little weekend away, yeah.

Katrina Sutherland: Yeah, so we’ll see if we can come up with an arrangement like this for the new owners.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: And is there any plans for the hotel to be opened any time soon, or is it for a long time from now?

Katrina Sutherland: Hopefully, by the end of May.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Oh, amazing, so that could be actually coming at a really good time. Just before the summer!

Killian Vigna: You have results as well from your previous partnership with them, so you actually have a bit of backing when you do approach them. So it’s not just completely fresh, it’s: “We’ve tried this before and it worked.”

Katrina Sutherland: I can say that, whether they’ll believe me or not I don’t know, but I think if they are forward thinking they’ll at least consider it.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: So, how involved were your team? How did the girls get on board with this; did you start taking on more of the tasks, or did they really enjoy the tasks and the challenges as well and jumped on just as much as you?

Katrina Sutherland: They enjoyed the tasks, we all enjoyed different tasks differently. Emily particularly enjoyed the retail and the Facebook competition. She has been selling products hand over fist, she is showing off. Aisling, she enjoyed sort of thinking about the clients and the salon and the layout and how we could present the products better for retail. And she’s totally rearranged the retain shelves. And she’s all about image and making the rooms look nice and she’s rolled up the towels and put different towels in different rooms so that it’s just had a little freshen up. We’ve been looking at new uniforms for the salon to kind of match the new image. So she’s been involved in that.

I’ve enjoyed the Facebook interaction it’s not something I do much of, it’s an area that does challenge me greatly. So, I’ve had to get myself a little bit more okay with how to operate Facebook and how to put up these competitions and keep the client interactions on Facebook. So I think the monthly competition will be a great idea for us. We did our basket in that brought a lot of interest. So I think we’re going to do something for May.

We’ve just recently borrowed one of the ideas we saw in the #30Days challenge, one girl had put up “Facebook are hiding our posts, so if you  like this and leave us a comment we’ll know that you’re seeing it.” And now we’re going fall on from that and say, now that we know that you’re all seeing our posts, here’s a nice little competition.

Killian Vigna: I actually saw that that was put up. That was a genius move.

Katrina Sutherland: Brilliant.

Killian Vigna: First off it shows engagement. But it gives you… because with the whole Facebook thing of clamping down on how many people actually see your post that you pay to boost it…. I thought that was a genius move. Yeah. Fair play!

Katrina Sutherland: Definitely. So that was from one of your participants. And there’ve been loads of fantastic ideas from the participants. I’ve really enjoyed seeing what other people have been doing. It’s a great way for salons to help each other.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: The forum, the Facebook group, yeah, absolutely.

Katrina Sutherland: Absolutely, it’s just fantastic. Some people had such clever ideas that we can use all over the country without interfering with each other’s businesses.

Killian Vigna: That’s it. You’re so spread out from each other that it is all about contribution. Katrina, there was just one thing that I wanted to touch off about your team. It sounds like your team really jumped on board this, they really kind of got involved and basically they all identified areas themselves that they wanted to work in. So, do you now feel like you understand the skillset and interests of your team a bit better than before?

Katrina Sutherland: Oh, definitely. Just through doing the challenges, it got the team talking amongst themselves and with me a bit more. And they’ve all got different interests and they’ve all got different skills and strengths. So we’ve been able to capitalise on that and let them do what they’re good at and what they enjoy. But we’ve still got a really good balance so that the salon is not top heavy in one area and lacking in another.

Killian Vigna: Yeah, and you’ve demonstrated, or they have demonstrated shared responsibility as well. So now you can actually go off and take care of the more managerial and ownership side of things, knowing that the girls can work on things like display, the uniforms, and now I know the social media is yours. But that could be another example. And again it’s just more weights taken off you.

Katrina Sutherland: I would like them to do the social media. They’re younger than me. They’re much better at it actually. I take a lot of advice from them on the social media.

Killian Vigna: There’s even things they’re doing where they’re free courses online. And, even if one of the girls did that an hour a day, learnt how to use social media. It’s all well and good using social media personally every day, but it’s using social media for business purposes is slightly different. That could be something that they could start learning to do themselves then.

Katrina Sutherland: Yes absolutely. And I’m sure they would enjoy it far more than I would!

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Well, like we were talking about on the interview with Rowena Doyle. We were like, well, come people even just for retail. You discover people who really really enjoy retailing, but they just never spoke about it. So you don’t necessarily know as an owner.

Katrina Sutherland: That’s true. Emily has just shone at the retail. She’s absolutely put us all to shade. And she just loves it! She listened to me one day saying to a client “What products are you using on your skin?”And when the lady told me I said, “Well it’s not working is it?” And she says, “I can’t believe you were so rude to that lady!” And I said, “But it wasn’t working! And she’s coming here because she wants her skin to look nice.” So now she’s realised that she can say to the client, look, what you’re using is not working, you need to use our products if you want a result. And it’s just giving her the bravery to be a little bit more confident and just say, look, if you want nice skin you’re going to have to use our products.

Killian Vigna: The way we look at that is, she’s demonstrated that she’s the expert that she is.

Katrina Sutherland: Absolutely, but I think until this challenge she maybe wasn’t sure that she would be allowed to be like that in the salon. She thought that I might have found that a bit cheeky to the client, or unacceptable. But, I said no, Emily it is acceptable. You’re the expert; you tell the client what they need to get the results they want.

Killian Vigna: That’s fantastic to hear, I’m actually so happy to hear that. Because this is your job, this is your profession. You have to have the confidence to turn around and go actually, I know what I’m talking about here.

Katrina Sutherland: Yeah, exactly. And they’ve always known they know their job. But I think they might have just been that little bit anxious that I would have pulled them up for demonstrating it to the client. You know, in a way that the client might have thought was, “hmmm?” Now, they’ve got the confidence to do what they want to do and do it well. Without me interfering.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: So you’ve noticed a lot of change in your staff then. Did you notice any massive changes, or even smaller changes, in the running of your business per se, like, on numbers or on day-to-day activity?

Katrina Sutherland: Um, the rebooking has definitely increased, the client spend has increased. As for me running the business. I’m probably always going to be… It’s always going to be difficult for me to take time off because this is my baby and, you know. But I do think I’m definitely getting better at taking more time to actually run the business rather than allowing the business to run me. I’ve always thought of the business as a bit like my child, and we go through the stage where you have to grow out and you have to nurture it. Then, it turns into the stroppy teenager, and you have to sort it out and remind it, no, I’m the boss here. Not you. And then, I think, once you get past that teenage level and they become nice adults, then you romp along harmoniously again.

Killian Vigna: That’s a serious way of putting it, yeah. It’s basically your child and going through to development and adolescence and whatnot. I suppose every person has been there as that child. They can relate to it as well. So, I suppose, are there any challenges that stood out or, I supposed that you didn’t get around to that you know are going to help you effectively run your business down the line. Like we were saying earlier about kind of not getting around to doing the challenges. Are there any particular ones that you already have set aside that you’re going to do throughout the year? Like, what are the challenges you feel are the biggest impacts for your business?

Katrina Sutherland: Well, at the moment, I’m going to have to prioritise the GDPR. And get compliant with that. I’ve already spoken with your Phorest helpers for that one. The other one we have is the personalised cards which we’ll do in December. Team building day, I still have to organise that with the girls, I’m going to let Emily and Aisling sort that our for themselves, we’ve got two new Saturday girls and it would be lovely to organise a team building day with them. But I will let them deal with that. Building the contact and the relationship with this hotel when it opens is set aside for the future, and that won’t be in the too distant future. We have already got excellent relationships with our suppliers. We’ve already got really good customer service and maintaining contact with our customers through the Phorest email and SMS systems. We’ve got the Client ReConnect. We’re very active in keeping clients up to date with special offers and what availability we’ve got in the salon. We’ve got our online booking. I think as far as customer service goes, we’re pretty good on that, although I know there’s always room for improvement. And we’ve been taking more notes as one of the challenges suggested “find out something treatment related about your client” and we’ve been recording more and more so we can have their tea exactly as they like it when they come in. Or, we can make sure they don’t have any perfumed products on their eyes, or whatever it is that they particularly like or don’t like about their treatment. So, there’s a lot there for us to be getting on with.

Zoe Belisle-Springer: But it seems you have the upper hand on this. You seem very on top of it. You know where you’re going you know exactly what you want to do, what you want to achieve. Which is absolutely fantastic. Do you have any advice for anyone who would be struggling with the challenges, or looking into getting maybe into the challenges either this year, throughout the year, or later on next year when we run it again?

Katrina Sutherland: I think the challenges have been absolutely fantastic for us. They’ve made us look at areas of the business that we’ve never really considered before. Or, considered briefly. I think even if somebody signs up for the challenge and does three of them. It’s three more than they would have done otherwise. And it’s three that’s going to benefit their business in some way. And I think it can be a little bit disheartening if you see everybody’s posts and it looks as thought everybody’s doing great. But I can assure you that everybody that runs a business has got the same challenges whether they’re a one man band or whether they’re running 50 staff. The problems are the same. Getting the clients in the door, and keeping them happy. If you can do that as a one man band, then you can take all the credit. I think everybody should just aim to improve one little bit each day, and if you can do that you’ll get success eventually.

Killian Vigna: That’s amazing to hear, because this campaign isn’t designed to bombard you with challenges. It isn’t designed to overwhelm you and make you feel like there’s tons of areas that you’re missing. It’s purely just… Like you were saying, you’ve had clients, loyal clients for 15 years, you would have already been doing a lot of those challenges before they became challenges. So it’s just trying to find what aren’t you doing, or what could you try out and, yeah, that’s great to hear.

Katrina Sutherland: I think there were days where we missed the challenges, and I just thought, you know what I don’t feel guilty. I’m really busy today. I don’t have time, obviously, I’m doing things really well. Or I wouldn’t be busy. So, if you’re not busy on that particular day, then you get stuck into the challenge so that you will be busy next year.

Killian Vigna: So, would you, in terms of doing the #30Days2Grow next year, would you have any feedback on things that you might find would be easier for salon owners like yourself to get through it? Would there be any areas of it that you’d change? Maybe even have a challenge every two days or something like that?

Katrina Sutherland: No, no, I don’t think you want to make it easier! I think if it’s a challenge, it’s a challenge. And if it’s easier, it’s not a challenge. I think what you have to do is accept the challenge, do your best. If that means that you miss out three out of seven challenges, if four is your best, then that’s great! Next year when you do it, you could try to do five of the challenges because you’ll already have in place the ones that you’ve set up for this year. So I think, if it’s a challenge, it’s got to be a challenge.

And I didn’t manage to do all the challenges. I don’t beat myself up about that. I can set a date in the future and do the challenges I’ve missed. They’re still on Facebook, you can still read them, you can go back to it, and whenever you decide to do it and it’s the right time for you and you’ve got time to think about it. You can gather everything then and really make a success of it, or you could choose to do a challenge every three days yourself.

Killian Vigna: Well, look Katrina, you couldn’t have said it any better. That’s been absolutely brilliant, and your advice at the end… I love your advice at the end. So, what I’m going to say to you is, I’m looking forward to seeing your posts in December in that Facebook Group page – just before we let you go. Because it would be great to see that Facebook page keep going, and you were saying you didn’t get around to all your challenges. I’d still love to see throughout the year how you get on with those challenges when you do decide to do them.

Katrina Sutherland: Will the Facebook page sill be open?

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Of course!

Killian Vigna: That Facebook page is open all year long. It’s actually the same one as last year.

Katrina Sutherland: Oh, okay.

Killian Vigna: Throughout the year we had people joining it. Because, like, what was it last year we did it in, so this year was April. Last year we did it in…

Zoe Belisle-Springer: July.

Killian Vigna: But the challenges are there. Anyone can do them throughout the year, whenever they want.

Katrina Sutherland: Yeah, that’s excellent. Yeah, we’ll continue to post. It was fun, we enjoyed it. And we even had the clients taking photos. The ones that were set up with the flowers, it was the clients that arranged that for me because she didn’t like my pictures. Staff interaction, client interaction. It’s been fantastic!

Killian Vigna: That’s even better. Again because we call that user generated content, it means your clients are providing the content for you.

Katrina Sutherland: Totally. The clients all thought it was all quite amusing as well to be part of this challenge, you know?

Killian Vigna: Well, look listen Katrina. Thanks very much for joining us on the show today; for giving like your two cents on the campaign. And I wish you and your team all the best throughout the year as well.

So that was Katrina Sutherland of Katrina Sutherland Country Spa. And it was great to just get her insights on the campaign, because, like a lot of you out there, she didn’t get to do it all in the 30 days. But that hasn’t stopped her from pursuing it, she’s just going to keep doing it all for the next couple of months, and we encourage you all to do the same!

So, we’re pretty much on the second half of the show now, Zoe isn’t that right?

Zoe Belisle-Springer: Yes, so down to the Phorest Academy webinar. So the Instagram masterclass is back with Chris Brennan. Most of you probably remember this one. So it’s an hour-long masterclass about who to follow, how to set up your account the right way, how you can do a marketing for your salon through Instagram and all those things. So this webinar is taking place on Monday, May 21st. So, next week, so from 3 PM to 4 PM UK Ireland time, or 10 AM to 11 AM US Eastern time. Like I said, it’s with Chris Brennan, if you wanted to sign up for this webinar, all you have to do is, as usual, go onto our Facebook page in the events section and you click the Instagram Masterclass event there, click find tickets and they’re free as usual. It’s just to save your spot on the day. So, I hope you enjoyed today’s episode! That’s it for us today, if you have any feedback feel free to leave us a review on iTunes or on Stitcher, we’re always looking for suggestions on how to improve the show. Otherwise, have a wonderful week and we’ll catch you next Monday!

Killian Vigna: All the best!

Thanks for reading!


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