The economy has been struggling all around the world as different markets contend with COVID-19 and unprecedented times loom from a financial standpoint for awhile to come. Jamie Brooks, co-founder of the iconic Brooks & Brooks salon in London, has lived through five recessions, run a business through the financial crash of 2008 and trained as a hairdresser during Black Wednesday in the 1990s. Here, he gives his insights on how to manage these present and future lows based on lessons of the past.

Jamie Brooks

“The last crash was an economic recession where money was tight, but this is more of a health emergency. So it has to be viewed on its own merit and we are learning as we go along,” he said. “The last recession was about money; this pandemic is about keeping people apart. Last time, the hair industry could just get on with it as it was mainly banks and investors that were closing, but this time we are seeing a societal change which is effecting every industry. Post-COVID, we will see a different culture, where people will be less tolerant of packed trains or busy pubs and be more conscious of cleanliness. This is going to become common place so as a business, we need to be ready for a new outlook.”  

Jamie has some key specific lessons in managing the challenges ahead, hoping to build a brighter future for salons. As he’ll teach, this positive energy is key for business itself.

“During the last recession, salon business grew as people were looking for an escape – and it’s the same now. They are looking for something away from the doom and gloom so make sure there’s a positive vibe in the salon and every client has a great experience,” he said.

Many of Jamie’s other lessons are specifically set on leadership techniques, and how to stand out as a leader and strongly aid your team through any financial crises.

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, your team won’t either. Set out a plan and stick to it – it will be the right thing for your business whatever else is happening,” he said. “Go back to your core business strengths and values and work by them. Try not to get distracted by everything else.”

In a more general sense Jamie warns against distractions and short-term solutions for what will be a long-term problem.

“Step back and look at everything – when you’re in the middle of it, it’s easy to make a bad decision,” Jamie shared. “Think carefully about introducing new initiatives such as discounting. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t be prepared to do when we get back to ‘normal’.”

The other lessons from Jamie are paramount from both his local London all the way across the pond, to our Australian struggles with COVID-19, where short, snap lockdowns by each state are still ever-present.

“Have a plan B, C and D – if another lockdown is announced, be ready. Follow your instinct and keep moving, don’t stand still,” Jamie said. “It’s a rollercoaster and many people don’t want to be on it! So try and be as normal as possible.”

Jamie’s last piece of advice is universal, something that is key to business in all times, but elevated within the unique events of the past year.

“Remember the client is king,” he said. “With some shows and education cancelled, everything is about the salon – the service, the visit, the experience. Get the balance right between restrictions and a pleasurable experience for your clients.”

These are wise words to live by and work by as we head further into 2021. Learn from the best and lessons of the past to elevate your salon’s financial future.

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