In December 2009, I officially opened my first XY Skin and Body Specialists Salon in Mandurah, Western Australia… well in actual fact, it was called XY Body Treatments back then.
We did all sorts of things, and wanted to be a one stop shop for any person’s beauty needs. We offered Pevonia Facials, Massage, Pedicures, Waxing, IPL, Peels, Shellac… you name it, we did it.
We even did all areas of Body Piercing!
To say that the first 12 months was a success, would be an understatement!
The business exploded, and we were fully booked all the time, with a pretty serious amount of cash hitting the bank each day.
In my personal life, I had become engaged to a girl, Ash – (who is now my wife) and she had grew up in WA. Her family was there, and she had said that she would never leave.
This was important, because all of my family was in Queensland, and I had been away from them for 10 years at this point!
One day though, that all changed, when out of the blue she told me that she would be happy to move to QLD.
I couldn’t get organised quick enough, and soon enough, we were on the plane, bound for our new life in QLD.
Before leaving, I had put plans in place to allow a Manager to run the business, and I had no doubt that it would continue on as it had been… busy and profitable!
I had engaged a business coach called Evan Kolbe in previous years, and he specialised in business systems. I was confident that the systems I had put in place through Evan’s teaching would do the job, and I could get cracking on opening my second site in QLD.
I did just that, and the second one opened not long after I arrived. It went ok, and shortly after, some friends and I were talking about them opening one under a franchise model in Newcastle, NSW.
Things were going good, and it was an exciting period of growth… until things started to go south.
My first salon started dropping massively in sales, we were getting online complaints more frequently, the other two salons seem to be stagnating, and I was working harder, with longer hours and having more stress, than I’d ever faced before.
Luckily, I did end up navigating through these challenges, and ended up opening 12 franchise sites… but there were 7 massive lessons I had to learn, that I wish I knew before starting out.
These are my warnings for what you need to watch out for if you’re thinking of going from a single site, to multiple locations.
1.Finance – Make sure you have enough money in the bank to cover at least 12 months worth of operating expenses in the new business. The worst thing I did, was not having enough working capital in the bank to launch and build the second site properly. This meant, I dipped into the profits that my first site was making, and soon left it without enough resources to continue the growth and performance that I relied on! I went from having one cash cow making heaps of profit, to two average salons with little profit. Before opening a second site, you must be able to operate the new salon as its own business WITHOUT having to lend or borrow from your other business.
2. Systems – As I mentioned earlier, when I left my first site to open my second, I felt I had done enough with my systems to keep the business tight, and operating effectively. I was wrong. I can not emphasise enough, just how tight your systems need to be before you go on to operate multi-sites. Everything from how you answer the phone, to how you greet a client, how you put stock away, how many mls of product you use for each product (yes, I said mls), scripts for rebooking, scripts for retail, KPI’s and how to achieve them, how to say farewell, how to do follow up calls, how to put a transaction through, how to clean (yep… HOW to clean), how to do end of day, how to do start of day, what are the uniform standards, how to handle complaints, what should a Manager be doing each minute of every day…. and the list goes on and on. Here’s the test – Get a friend or a partner to come in and read through your systems. If there is anything in them that they, as someone who isn’t in the industry, can’t understand, then you haven’t yet simplified your systems enough… and/or they aren’t thorough enough. You want your systems so tight, that you can ask your baby brother to come in and run the salon, and they could do a reasonable job at it, solely based on the documentation and systems you have in place.
3. Staff – Remember that your staff will always behave their very best when you are there… and if you think they won’t drop the ball when you’re not there, then you are naive! Even the absolute best staff will drop their productivity and performance when you’re not there, so expect that this will happen. The truth is that when you open your second site, you will be putting so much effort and energy into that, that the staff in your first site will feel that they can take the foot off the gas. You need to make the time to ALWAYS keep checking in, keep holding them accountable, and having a Manager in place that you can trust with your life!
4. Training – Before you leave your first site, you want to make sure that your staff are trained so well, that they feel like professional athletes in your business! I cannot express it enough, how much you take for granted the impact that YOU as the Owner, has on the daily operations of the business. You just don’t realise how many fires you put out, how many questions you easily answer, how many things you ‘fix up’! Once you step out of the business, you need to rely on your Team to do all of those things with the same grace, ease and effectiveness as you do. This comes from training, training, training… and even more training. When do you know you’ve trained enough? When they know more about their role than you do, and can perform it better than you can!
5. Time – One of the biggest things to look out for is how you allocate your time. You will have a brand new baby with so many demands, and you will need to look after it like a baby if it’s going to survive. This means being there for it night and day. Feeding it (with money and resources) when it needs feeding. Making sure it doesn’t get into trouble by doing silly things! Doing all of these things is a requirement for the business, but it doesn’t mean that your other child (your other business) is just totally self sufficient. Nope, it’s still going to need feeding, still need looking after and nurturing. When you have one child, it’s easy. When you have two, it gets a whole lot harder, and you start to feel the pinch of your time being stretched. Thoughts of being cloned will start to emerge frequently, as you try to find ways of being in two places at once… but the reality is that you can’t – so something has to give! The only way you can navigate the ‘Time-Trap’ is to make sure points 1 through 4 above are checked and ticked off a thousand times over, and that you schedule every single minute of the day, so you are the most productive version of yourself that you can be.
6. Stress – You will become stressed. It is a fact. If you think that because you were successful in your first location, that you’re now going to breeze into your second… think again. The success of your first salon, could be down to it’s location, the clientele, the timing. The fact that you were there 60 hours a week and knew every Client’s name who walked in. The fact you had steady cashflow and time to plan marketing and promotions. ALL of this changes with your second site, and all these things you took for granted when you had one site, will become exposed when you have two sites to now deal with. This will cause stress and it will take it’s toll on your personal relationships, but if you have made sure to look after all the steps above, then you will reduce the stress you will face. You wont remove it, but you can reduce it.
7. Marketing – If you are thinking about opening a second site, then you better be sure that you are totally switched on with your marketing. One of the benefits of having multiple sites, is that in theory you should be able to create an annual marketing plan, and then basically use that for all your sites – simply change the contact details. If however, you don’t have your marketing sorted for site one, and you’re not confident in your marketing in site one, then all you will do is double the work you need to do to keep clients coming in the door for both salons. It will be like treading water in the middle of the ocean with an elephant on your back, until something gives and you drown. I urge you before you open a second site, that you make sure your branding, your Instagram, your Facebook, your Google Ads, your Direct Mail, your Email, your customer & lead follow up etc… are all proven, setup and working in the first site. By doing this and having these in place, it will allow you to open and build up each of your new sites much quicker, easier and WITHOUT the excessive amounts of stress that you may face if you don’t!
So I hope this helps. My story over the past 10 years, growing multiple businesses, is a more of a story of what not to do, than it is what to do.
Take these warnings as a guide, and use them as your point of reference, to always refer to before opening another location.
I know the temptation to grow is a hard one to ignore, but if you don’t take notice of these 7 warning signs, then you are either in for a long, hard and stressful road… or worse, you may lose it all!
P.S If you’ve loved this, then I’d love it if you hit that ‘share’ button and let other people know! It means the world to me! 🙂