What a week it's been! And now it's great to have a sunny bank holiday to take a step back, reflect on the success of the Delforge + Co launch event and the journey I've taken to get where I am today.
I'm so grateful to everyone for all the support they've shown. Not only were there a great number of people at the event but I received many, many really encouraging messages. I could easily use this blog to thank every single person responsible but, don't worry, I will do that individually.
Seeing my boss from my time at Clarins (over 20 years ago!), the lovely Kim Grassby who took 2 hours to get to the event, was really humbling and highlighted how much I've learnt from the journey so far.
It helped me to realise that every job I've had over the past 25 years has given me something back.
As manager of large teams early in my career, I became extremely operational.
The key, however, is to remain commercial and that comes once the operation is in place. There's no point, in my view, to try and gain more customers until you're completely secure with operational procedures.
Strong operation will create a strong business and one that does not haemorrhage money (from bad recruitment to poor stock management). And the best customer journey will ensure you're building a brand that everyone wants to come back to.
Growth starts within. You then flourish and reach further. In other words, build from within your team and existing customers, then attract and retain new customers. This also translates if you work alone.
To me, operation is at the core of the business. Without it, the foundations will remain very shaky and this will in turn damage the all important customer journey.
Someone once asked me when I was Head of Spa Operation for Steiner, what operation actually meant?
I took a moment and said:
"If you think of the business as a cake, operation is the cream that makes all the ingredients stick together. The smoother the cream, the smoother the finish"
Operation is never at the forefront of the business but it affects everything. And it's the decisions you make as operations manager that will result in happy customers and an easier day to day working life for your staff.
I remember Kim saying to me: "Valerie, what do you think is the most important thing within your business?"
"Staff, training, motivation", I said.
"Nope - your stock." She replied.
She went on to explain that without stock you cannot retail and without retailing you cannot reach your target. Conversely if you have too much stock you will waste the budget on products that just sit on the shelves.
This is why I'm a stock fanatic! Whether it's professional or retail stock, every penny counts.
My own beauty salon made me look at costs, costs and costs!! Every penny was mine. I learnt from the mistakes I made and paid for them! But I also learnt from the success I enjoyed through all the activities I created and the consequential financial growth.
UR Beautiful by Urban Retreat with 80 lines of stock, working with hairdressers and managing a brand new venture gave me the insight into how a strong operation can help you survive shaky beginnings.
Tina Robinson, my boss who became my mentor throughout the years, made me realise how important the commercial aspect of the role was. Also how crucial it is to inspire productivity into each member of staff. After all it's thanks to the staff that money goes in the till.
She always used to say, "You are only as good as your last month's figures". A harsh but true statement which still makes it's mark on everything I achieve.
L'Occitane made me scrutinise the details and what I felt sometimes was unnecessary became what I lived by. There is logic in the cliche, 'the devil is in the detail'.
You cannot deliver if you have not looked at every aspect of your business.
It's when I joined Bliss Spa that all of the above became important. It took me over 3 months to ensure that operation was up to scratch and working from within. Ensuring the team were functioning without any glitches. It was only then that I was able to network locally to generate a buzz around Bliss as a Spa and brand.
At Bliss, marketing, networking, PR, digital media and brand rebuilding was at the forefront of everything I did.
As the Head of Spa Operation for Steiner, I was managing the managers and ensuring they reached their goals with detailed analysis of their plan of action.
All my working experiences have made their mark on me and every situation has further expanded my knowledge. But at the end of the day, there is one goal and one only - the needs of the business.
I want to give you an example of all of this:
I went for a facial as I needed to feel good before the launch party. Something local as time was not on my side. So after reading some reviews online (this being one of the deciding factors as a customer) I decided on an £85 facial in what seemed like a lovely place. Until, that is, I lay on the bed and found the ticking of the clock was so loud I couldn't hear myself think! That was bad enough but then the music, which had been mostly muffled by the clock, suddenly changed to reggae! Now, don't get me wrong, I like reggae but not when I'm having a supposedly relaxing facial! Then out of nowhere a stampede of feet, a dragging of boxes, banging of doors and hoovering. I asked the therapist what was going on and she said they have a delivery on Wednesdays which makes a mess which they have to hoover up.
After my facial, I was asked to get changed and go to reception - the therapist was nowhere to be seen. A glass of water was visible but I was not offered it and even though I'd had some kind of consultation at the beginning, I was not told what I needed for my skin, not recommended to rebook but asked if I wanted a loyalty card. I suspect the receptionist was on some kind of commission for the loyalty cards as not once did she ask if I'd enjoyed the experience.
Yes my skin looked brighter and she was a good therapist, but no I will not go there again. The facial alone is not enough - the experience is what the customer wants regardless of the price they pay. After all they have many places to choose from. Admittedly £85 is not a high price for a facial but a treat nonetheless and to me the whole operation failed.
Who said it was ok to hoover when there is a customer enjoying a treatment? Why not choose a quiet time to put the delivery away? Why not invest in a broom? Why have such a huge clock in the room when digital clocks are available in Argos for £9.99? How can you retail after a facial when the therapist is busy with other clients? (after a facial is where the customer will spend the most) and who should offer the water? The receptionist? Or should it be the therapist at the end of the treatment? And why give out a loyalty card when you have not assessed if the customer enjoyed their time with you?
it's all of these details which go towards making a spa experience a great one. And always remember to offer the cherry on top in order to entice your customer back and ensure they become a regular and valued customer.
When I launched my consultancy agency last week I wanted to create something that would provide answers to every aspect of the businesses. I have a passion for delivering results and a love for people management. Working with owners and managers will give me the opportunity to utilise all the tools I have learnt on my journey so far. I have been enlightened by so many people on my way here - too numerous to mention. Everyone I have worked with has played a part in the development of Delforge + Co - I cannot wait for the next chapter. Last week's event was a stamp that I was keen to make, and I want to thank you all for being a part of it.
Valerie Delforge - Founder and CEO of Delforge + Co
Judge, Key Note Speaker, Commercial Trainer & Coach for the Beauty Industry
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