It’s human nature to compare ourselves with others, but we tend to look at the superficial picture without delving deeper to see the layers beneath. Gardening is a perfect example – let’s take The Great Australian Lawn and examine why the one next door always looks so much greener and lusher than our own.
Are we just innately poor at gardening while our neighbours are blessed with green thumbs that transform everything they touch? Are they just lucky? Did they just sprinkle a few seeds on bare sand and go back inside for a beer while it grew and flourished like a horizontal magic beanstalk?
No. Everything was planned and prepared. It starts with bringing in the right soil, and laying it to the correct depth to provide a solid foundation and allow drainage. Selecting the right type of grass seed for the location, the purpose of the lawn and the amount of sun and rain it will receive, and sowing it at the right time of year. The lawn-to-be is now a nursery, nurturing the first tender shoots of grass that can so easily wither and die if the conditions aren’t perfect. After four weeks, the really hard work starts – watering (not too much, not too little), fertilising, cutting to just the right height to encourage growth, and weeding are just the starting points. Fill in gaps that appear, top dress, weed, stop the kids playing cricket on it, aerate, weed, control shade, weed, clear up the dog poo, weed, cut and start all over again. Did I mention weeding? The result is a gorgeous green lawn – the envy of all the neighbours who went inside for a beer and a lie-down.
So - how often then have you looked at someone else’s business – perhaps a café with customers queuing out of the door, or a beautician perfectly located in an exclusive suburb and thought “Now that’s the business I want. Why is theirs so much more successful than mine?” The grass truly seems to be greener on the other side of the fence.
Nurturing your business works on exactly the same principles as gardening (but with less dog poo). There are so many elements contributing to its success or demise, demanding to be monitored and controlled constantly, that 16 hour working days are the norm for the diligent business owner.
For those though that want a life as well as a business, the news isn’t all bad. Of all the demands of a business, some are more important than others at different stages of growth, and a little wily prioritisation will earn you the greatest yield for your time.
Marketing is the soil in which your business is sown. Those who look it as just a bit of top dressing that’s thrown on it once the business is started are missing the point and setting themselves up for failure. There are now seven ‘P’s of marketing - place, product, price, promotion, people, processes and physical evidence - but for now let’s just address a core group of three in the context of a hairdressing business.
Number one – Place. Where are you going to thrive- in a sunny position or dappled shade? Look at traffic flow and check out development plans for an area too, before setting your heart on a location. My local council had the blood of numerous businesses on its hands when it spent eight months digging up a main street to pedestrianise it. When I contacted them recently to ask how many hairdressing businesses were in the area they confessed they had no idea. So many had opened up and closed down they had lost track. Do your research and plan for future growth too in the size of premises you take on.
Number two - Product. Easy – hairdressing, right? Not so fast – are you cooch or are you buffalo? What makes you so different from the other hairdresser three shops down that their customers will beat a path to your door? Are you a virtuoso with the scissors or a Rembrandt with colour? Do you have the happiest customers around after they’ve been pampered with nibbly things and champagne or do you provide the best aftercare service to help them maintain their hair? You can’t be all things to all people, so look at your strengths, look at your competition, do some research to find out what people want in a hairdresser and what they value, then do that.
Number three - Price. On entering a market, many new salons set their prices at a level above those of their competition to establish their superiority, without necessarily having the evidence to back this up. Others will go in below the market price to draw thrifty customers away from other salons. Neither of these is a sustainable approach.
Revenue is the lifeblood of your business – its water and fertiliser. Before you can set your prices your need to know how much of each you need. This means planning and costing from the bottom up, calculating the income you need to sustain and grow your business and recompense your time.
Your pricing model is determined accordingly, depending on the socio-economics of the area in which you’re located. Lower income areas demand high volume and low prices, while higher socio-economic areas will calculate price against quality and other characteristics such as image and services.
In high-value areas, quality is simply a given and price is less of a factor, but other less tangible elements are considered, such as ambience and who they’re likely to be seated next to at the wash basin.
A strategic approach in establishing your business starts with understanding your costs and your clientele. From this basis you will have the ability to flourish and grow because your efforts are being rewarded.
Your business will be the grass that everyone else is looking at from the other side of the fence.