Fiona Russell McQueen Hair and Beauty
BBN: How did McQueen Hair and Beauty came to be?
I had always worked for international hairdressing companies and I developed and learnt the trade with large corporate companies. As I got older, I realised that I didn’t want to work for corporate companies. I really appreciated all the skills I learnt but I needed to break out and do my own thing.
My career to that point had been a great learning platform, so I decided to take the jump and launch my own business. At first, I didn’t realise how challenging business can be. When it is your own money you have a different mindset.
We started in 2009 in Tunbridge Wells and then the recession came along. It taught me a lot, and we came through it and we survived. The one thing that stood out for me from that period is how we
created our own market.
We knew people still needed their hair cut and we wanted to cheer them up, even if things weren’t going well outside. So we focused on a great customer experience.
BBN: How have you been managing your business to overcome the current economic challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic?
It’s important to understand that you’ll always face obstacles. No one teaches you in business how to deal with a pandemic. We’re all working out our own way. I am very constructive with my day and I’m always looking at the business and where to improve. I’m always analysing my strengths and weaknesses and I am willing to adapt.
We’ve tried to see it as an opportunity. We’re lucky in that both of our salons are in residential areas, so people working at home are still nearby.
It’s the first time that the Government has ordered businesses to close. Psychologically, it is a rollercoaster. You need nerves of steel and you have to keep going. It is what it is. It will be here for a while and we have got to make the best of the situation.
Because we’re up and down, all you can do is take each day as it comes. I am optimistic. If we hit rock bottom, I know that we can grow again and turn the corner.
In terms of adapting, we saw that footfall decreased because people are still nervous about coming out. So we’ve worked on our average bill per client and we are trying to increase that to make up for the lower footfall. We have created a consultation environment so we can understand clients’ problems and provide extra solutions. We are also encouraging them to re-book with us.
BBN: What keeps you motivated day after day through this crisis?
Passion, discipline and laughter. You need to have fun. I am very driven and I like to create enthusiasm and energy. There is always a purpose in our day. We have a team vision and we focus on getting it done.
BBN: What is working well with your marketing strategy right now?
One thing I have learnt through lockdown is the importance of online. We get many more online bookings now, on average 10 per day. The pandemic has made people realise that you can still get things done just as easily online.
We use Cardell Media for our website and I’m number one on Google for hairdressers in Tunbridge Wells. Google reviews are working really well for us too.
We also ask people to sign up on our website in exchange for a £20 voucher for their first visit, which means we can capture their data. We’ve been able to build up a good database of clients with names, dates of birth etc.
On social media, Instagram is our biggest platform. We use it to build our brand because it’s very visual. Facebook is useful too because we can see who likes us and who follows us, and we have uploaded videos to YouTube. We also communicate directly to clients through email and text message.
We’ve won local business awards and we’re always updating our website and blogs. Over the summer and autumn we had almost 17,000 sessions on the site and nearly 12,000 are coming back to the site several times. Our bounce rate is very low at 28%. Most visitors are arriving on the site and taking action.
The website is our virtual shop front and we try to keep it simple. We’ve user-tested it so we can see it through the clients’ eyes and try to make it as good as possible.
BBN: What do you see as your main challenges for the remainder of the year?
It is really hard to plan with everything being so uncertain but I am just going to keep going and keep moving forward. My priority is client retention.
We want to exceed expectations and we are constantly looking at ways of improving ourselves with education and expertise. We know we can’t control the media and the fear that is generated but we can control our customers’ experience when they walk through the door.
BBN: Is there one specific behaviour, action or character trait you could pinpoint as the reason for your success in weathering past and current challenges?
Stay calm, be level-headed and be a realist. You need to know what is going on in the world and how it will affect your business. We are all human at the end of the day and it’s important to look after the basics. I keep it all together and be constructive. I try to be positive but also critical in terms of looking for ways to improve.
BBN: Is there any advice you would offer to our readers and other small business owners about how to get through the current economic crisis?
Remember it is temporary. Keep costs tight and look at what is giving you value in your business. Look at where you might be wasting money and try to renegotiate with suppliers. Don’t waste money on big investments but focus on staff education and your health, especially your mental health. And have the odd bottle of wine!