Doing Salon Business with the Keeleys - HairBiz article

 We're so flattered and humbled by this article in Hair Biz magazine this month. Thank you to the editors for featuring our journey in the Salon Business world with your readers. We thought we'd share the article here also...


Doing Business with the Keeleys

'It’s one of the industry’s most well-known surnames and it’s synonymous with salon business success. Carl and Belinda Keeley are industry veterans who have mastered both the creative and business sides of the industry, and walked their talk building several highly successful businesses along their almost-17-year journey.'

'They’ve been sharing their knowledge with other salon owners for years but, having launched their most recent membership program, ‘Salon Business By The Keeleys’, we thought it was about time we learned a little more.'

'Hair Biz Editor, Kym Krey spoke with Carl and Belinda Keeley recently.'

 

 "TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS JOURNEY SO FAR."

'C & BK. Our first Chumba salon was ‘born’ in 2003 in regional Victoria and we still have it 17 years later. We founded our Chapel St, Melbourne salon in 2008 and we also had two franchised salons under the Chumba brand at one point.
At the very start of our businesses, we entered a lot of business and hairdressing awards to establish our brand and are blessed to have won our fair share. In between running our salons we were also asked to educate and mentor other businesses and we did this without necessarily publicising anything as we were not in it for the money. We just wanted to help others along their path.'

 

HOW DO YOU FEEL YOUR OWN EXPERIENCES HAVE POSITIONED YOU TO NOW GUIDE AND ADVISE SALON OWNERS?

BK. After 17 years of running a regional salon, a city salon, a partnership salon and two franchises we’ve experience a lot! As any salon owner will tell you, the daily hurdles and pitfalls are both many and varied. It’s not an experience that you can read about or study from afar - you have to live it. Perhaps we’re best thought of as ‘practitioners’ rather than ‘cheer leaders’ or ‘theorists’ -as we 

actually run successful salons. That’s our core role in the industry. We also teach business skills/ systems to other salon owners and have done so for many years now. We consult directly to a select number of salon owners daily - all high profile and mostly in the $2m+ turnover category as that’s what we know best.

 

YOU GUYS HAVE DEVELOPED STRONG EXPERTISE IN SALON MANAGEMENT, PARTICULARLY IN THE AREA OF FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT. WHAT LEAD TO THIS FOCUS FOR YOU?

BK. That’s an easy one. We hit a wall of not knowing what we were doing! We had piles of awards- even business ones- a huge staff and brand presence for Chumba, but no real training in handling all of the money that was pouring into and out of the businesses. We had no idea what to do with taxes, budgets, financial KPIs or even how to read our P&L - it was super stressful!We discovered that it is actually a pretty common problem in our industry. We achieve pseudo ‘fame’ but often little financial rewards. We say ‘ego but no profits’ and it’s a fun moment but not a healthy one. Hairdresser aren’t the only ones by the way; most small business owners are technicians and great at what they do (builder, IT, retail etc) but unfortunately the vast majority have no business skills when it comes to running their companies. So we searched around for some type of education on the finances of salons and found zero answers.
We did some formal Cert IV qualifications and they were quite frankly useless. In fact we ended up teaching the teaching staff. We even hired a business coach, only for her to tell us one day that she ‘doesn’t do that financial stuff’... of course we fired her. My accountant is great, but of course he didn’t know our industry intimately (how could they be experts in all industries?).
 
So through lots of searching and piecing together of all the information, it was obvious that nobody could help us - nobody could actually explain or teach salon financial management.
 
That’s a big problem that needed solving for us and the industry as a whole, so Carl being Carl decided to take it upon himself to figure it all out. He learnt bookkeeping, accounting, spreadsheet design, workflows, finances, management best practice etc etc. Some of it was fun and a lot was absolutely boring (bookkeeping in particular), but after a couple of years, we were sorted.

After ten years of running these systems and testing them in our salons, we started to teach them to others as people had begun to ask us for

help in this area in particular. It took two years to make the systems and ten years to test the systems, so it wasn’t a quick fix but it was the right pathway.

Today, in less than 10 minutes, we can pull a salon apart financially and diagnosis business issues. It’s a skill that we think is quite unique and worth sharing with others.

 

WHAT DO YOU FEEL ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES THAT SALON OWNERS FACE WHEN RUNNING THEIR BUSINESS?


BK. Lack of business knowledge and training, particularly financial competency. Most salon owners have no idea and even more have no willingness to address the problem. They know they’re broke but won’t take the step to ask for help or education and eventually they give up or go under. It’s a horror story out there, unfortunately. Having said that, we’re blessed with quality coaches , mentors and trainers in our industry. The results through great coaches are excellent client outcomes and quality standards, but we often see amazing salons on the brink of going under through lack of business understanding. It’s a shame that salon owners often design a system that guarantees failure through ‘not know what they don’t know’.

 

WHY DO YOU FEEL THESE ISSUES ARE SO COMMON?


Honestly, because we’d all rather be doing great hair than being stuck at a computer! Hair is fun - business can be hard. Plus, it’s tough to go back and learn the business skills when you’re ‘the boss’ and therefore ‘should know this stuff’. Hairdressing and hair-business are two separate things.

 

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU HAVE FACED IN YOUR OWN BUSINESSES?


BK. Staff - finding the right people to invest in and trusting that they can perform to our salon’s standards. We have been blessed with some amazing, quality people in our company, and we are incredibly thankful for that. Some days though... it’s challenging. Salon owners know what we’re talking about!

 

HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THESE AND WHAT DID THE TEACH YOU?

BK. Resilience, Passion and Vision - all wrapped up in a learner’s mindset. We are lucky that there are two of us to share the load. We love to learn so we are always improving and adapting. We love our salons and industry, so the fire is still there, and, most importantly, we’re resilient. We’ve had very testing times over the last two decades. We’ve also had amazing times. Each experience is there to teach us and to test us and so far we’ve done pretty well - it hasn’t killed us yet, lol!

 

TELL US ABOUT THE BUSINESS PROGRAMS YOU OFFER AND HOW THEY BENEFIT SALON OWNERS.

BK. We offer a few. One is our Financial Management class which is two very full-on days. It’s basically financial bootcamp followed by a financial intervention on your company. It’s a very challenging course but the rewards are enormous for salon owners who have decided to turn ‘Pro’ and stop being a ‘hobbyist’ in their business.

We also run our Salon Manager’s Course for owners and managers. This course is designed to build out your management teams and systemise your salons. New this year is “Salon Business 

by the Keeleys” which is a weekly webinar and membership community on different focused topics. This is a bite-sized taste of what we do and is designed to give you actionable lessons for that week to build your salon business.

 

WHAT DO YOU FEEL ARE THE SECRETS TO GETTING THE BEST RESULTS FROM YOUR STAFF?


BK. Culture. Culture is King. We live a culture of professionalism within our salons. We are proud to be hairdressers and thankful for the relationships our industry enables us all to have. We value diversity and individualism; all are welcome at Chumba. We are team-focused at all times.

Our salon’s mission is to provide world class hairdressing experiences to our clients - everyday to every person. It’s easy to say, but hard to maintain and we work on this daily and live our values in all areas of our lives.

 

WHY DO YOU FEEL THAT STAFF PERFORMANCE AND PRODUCTIVITY IS SUCH A SIGNIFICANT ISSUE FOR SALON OWNERS?

BK. The best thing about hairdressing is that you get to decide on your services and pricing, but it’s also the worst thing as most salons price their services incorrectly. By doing so, they set their team up to fail. How can you hit goals or targets in an equation that makes it impossible to do so? Unfortunately, salon owners have to take responsibility for the situation and charge rates that make economic sense. Only then can your staff ‘win’ the game you’ve designed.

 

IF YOU WERE JUST STARTING OUT TODAY, KNOWING WHAT YOU KNOW NOW, WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY?

BK. Starting out today, I’d invest heavily in social media (it wasn’t around when we started). I’d also set up our structures correctly and save myself the years of learning the hard way that ‘the boss’ had better be good at running the company. I’d act faster when it’s obvious that a staff member isn’t working out or has gone off the rails. Those are the main three areas - everything else has been a blessing.

“SALON OWNERS HAVE TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE SITUATION AND CHARGE

RATES THAT MAKE ECONOMIC SENSE. ONLY THEN CAN YOUR STAFF ‘WIN’ THE GAME YOU’VE DESIGNED.”

- BELINDA KEELEY

 

WHAT’S THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE EVER BEEN GIVEN (AND DID YOU TAKE IT?”)


1) My lawyer told me to “write that angry email but don’t send it - instead bin it” – and yes, I follow that advice now, but it took me a few years before I did! 2) “Sales minus Profit = Costs”. Learnt it, did it and I teach it. That equation will change your world if you’re a business owner. You must commit to taking your profit first- not taking whatever is left over.

 

WHAT’S THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’D NOW OFFER OTHER SALON OWNERS?


BK. Recognise that learning a new cut or colour technique is always important and you must do that throughout your career, but... learning to run your company competently is actually your JOB. You choose to be a business owner willingly; nobody forced you to do it and nobody can do it for you.
At the end of the day, nobody cares as much as you do. Nobody has as much to lose as you do either. You are the CEO - do your job 100% or you will fail yourself and your people.If you don’t know how to do any key business skills then learn it. If you know it then do it. You are the BOSS.
 
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