Cultivating a family ethos in your business

By Hellen Ward on December 7th, 2022

We are family….

Many businesses talk about cultivating a family ethos in their company culture – their glossy brand books talking about a caring, empathetic workplace which nurtures, mentors and encourages. But how many actually walk the walk as well as they talk the talk? I was recently asked to speak at a conference in Dublin on the thorny issue of recruitment and retention in the sector; a challenge for any salon owner at the best of times, which got me thinking – how do you really cultivate a Dream Team that truly has a Tribe Vibe?

Well, as a company with a combined length of service amongst the senior team of approaching 800 years, we must be doing something right. Our average length of service is nearly 19 years, and in this, our 30th year in business, we know that these statistics are our proudest achievement, particularly because they are so high above the industry average. So just how do you go about creating that sort of culture?

Be prepared to go for the long haul

To create a long-standing team, you have to be patient. Like acorns that turn into giant oak trees, to really develop roots and create healthy foundations, it takes time. There is no short cut, quick fixes. Cultures take time to develop and grow in their own right. Our apprentices of today will turn into our oak trees of tomorrow if we give them the time, care and space to do so. Think long term and create succession planning and a clear path of CPD (Continual Personal Development) that will give your team a reason to stay and grow with you.

Get creative

Employees like added benefits and chances to earn more money… but employers aren’t usually very creative in finding new ways to keep staff happy. Something small can mean a lot. We’ve recently started giving staff their birthdays off paid, but if they want to work they can use the time on another day. Being flexible with benefits is key. Such a small gesture but wow, the impact on the team was palpable. Another initiative was our Apprentice Travel Subsidy Scheme where our trainees (according to length of service) get a proportion of their quarterly travel expenses paid back retrospectively. Not all of our young team even live in London, so this has proved hugely popular with not only our Apprentices but their parents, too, especially with travel costs rising. They only receive the benefit if they’ve had no absenteeism, disciplinary or lateness, but for those that haven’t, they hugely benefit.

Market your strength

We all know our online presence is our virtual shop window, but what first impression do we give? If we have a uniquely welcoming team and warm environment, aren’t we missing a trick if this isn’t the first thing we shout about? Familiar faces, long service, people remembering your name as a client – they are all what make our brands unique. Yet often they’re hidden away. We can no longer compete against the big boy retail giants. But what we can do is capitalise on what they cannot – our customer experience. And we are missing a trick if we don’t.

Of course, much like we automatically defend our relatives to our partners (even if we are having a go at them ourselves!) all families- including work ones – have their ups and downs. People fall in and out of good terms with each other. They argue, then make up. I’m sure any employer would agree with me in saying that much like parents, we don’t have favourite children (or employees) and all we hope is that everyone will be come together and unite and play nicely. In the workplace, just like the real world, that isn’t always the case. But a work family behaves just like a real one, and when the chips are down, or there is a threat to the tribe – we automatically unite as one. That’s when the culture comes alive.

We spend a third of our lives at work, which is why post pandemic we’ve all had a bit of a wake-up call after being closed for an incomprehensible 8 months. Are we really happy? Is the work/life balance right? Are we really fulfilled and have we found our true vocation? What do we need to switch up to feel re-energised, both professionally and personally? Previous generations didn’t get the chance to make these life affirming decisions or take a different direction in the way we have all done in the last 2 years. We need to use the opportunity that Covid has given us to shake things up – but wisely. Some of us missed our work colleagues so much that the thought of working from home or being away from the tribe just seemed unbearable. It’s time we marketed that salon spirit in the positive light our clients see it and welcomed them into our familiar spaces and the beating heart of our work families to enjoy the unique talents of our teams.

Hellen Ward

Hellen Ward is the Managing Director of Richard Ward brands, Salon and metrospa. Hellen is a Hair & beauty industry business consultant, as well as an author and columnist. She is also the Vice President, Director and Trustee of The Hair and Beauty Charity. Hellen has been pictured on This Morning as well as GB News.

All articles by Hellen Ward

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