A beauty therapist since 1998, Karla took over Macquarie Medi Spa in 2001 when it was a small salon with only three staff, and grew it to the bustling business it is today. We chatted to Karla about her super successful business, and her top tips and advice to help business owners thrive during and after lockdown.

Business tips for the beauty industry with Karla McDiarmid

What’s your favourite thing about your job?

There are so many things, but mainly the people; my team and my clients! Also, you never have the same day twice in the beauty industry, I love that. There’s also always training to do, and things are always changing.

How do you balance work and life, and make sure you have health and relaxation? 

It’s very hard, but you have to make sure you schedule it and tell your staff what you’re doing! I don’t need to have secrets; I think it’s important to let them know and be transparent so that the girls can see that you’re looking after yourself, because then they look after themselves too. 

How important have retail sales been to your growth and success? 

It’s been huge, because we’re about 40% retail! A lot of people look for the brand for their business that’s the cheapest, but it’s actually more important to find what’s going to sell. You want the brand that your clients are going to love and come back for, that has good marketing, samples to offer, and training. Covid has really taught me which companies I’d like to work with closer, because they’ve been there for me during a tough time. 

What are your top tips on how to work smarter, not harder?

One of the smartest things my business coach Faye Murray taught me is to make sure you show what you’re doing in your calendar column. Your team can’t always see what you’re doing, so whether it’s marketing, wages, or working on the business, it’s in my calendar so that my staff can see that I’m busy and working hard. 

As soon as I started allocating time to each business task, entering it into the calendar, and dedicating time, my business started to grow (and it will for you too)! After that, I had to step away from working as a therapist and focus on the actual business – I just couldn’t be Superwoman anymore. I started to delegate tasks and get other people to do jobs for me, and now I have a few different full-time trainers for different services, like a brow trainer and a laser trainer. That also means that the girls have responsibilities, so they stick with you longer because there’s room for progression. 

What advice do you have for salon owners that are wanting to learn more about running a business? 

I would definitely recommend finding a great business coach, because most people that are like me – a beauty therapist – won’t have business knowledge. Work with someone who you trust and that you feel comfortable with, because they’ve got to know the ins and outs of your business and get to know your team. 

I also invest in courses and further education so that I continue to learn, and all the reps from the product companies are really great help. If you can do social media training as well as your business training, that’s amazing. 

How was the lockdown for your business? 

It was actually a great time to get things done. One thing that we’ve been working on is internal training portals we’re creating through Facebook, so all our treatments and procedures will be on video so the staff can learn online. A new employee will be able to tick which modules they’ve completed, and I can see when they’ve watched them all. Plus, if they ever forget anything, it’s easy to access for future learning.

How did you keep team morale high during the lockdown? 

We did online zooms and every week we had a different theme; I started by picking them and then the girls in my team started picking them. We had beanies, hats, facemasks, and fascinators!

We also did mailbox drops, dropping off flyers – great for marketing and also for exercise! Each flyer had a discount code for clients to order products online, so it was good for the team and for our clients.

Have there been any treatments that you couldn’t do since reopening, or that you’ve chosen not to do?

Every state is different in Australia but we chose not to bring massage back until July 1 because we knew we had to get the facial beauty treatments through first, like brows and facials. The other part of that decision was because I have done massages back to back all day before in the past, and I know that everyone needs time to get used to massage and body treatments again. 

This meant I could look after the wellbeing of my team; they had just had a 10 week break because of covid, and I didn’t want them to come back and be exhausted and hating their job. I was also thinking about their mental health because I know some have been a little bit down, but since we’ve reopened the girls have been so happy! If you can think of those little ways to make your staff happier in their job and they’re not stressed out, you’re on to a winner. 

Have you increased your prices on services?

As well as adding 15 minutes extra onto our services (everybody’s eyebrows needed more time!) we made sure we priced our services properly when we reopened, otherwise we’d end up losing money. We knew it was going to be a lot of beauty and brows so we did an initial price increase on those services, but when everything reopened, I realised we had to raise them again. 

Also, having to use additional products now – like disposable bed sheets for all services, face masks for all team members each day, and extra sanitisation time allocated – there are lots more expenses that we need to factor into our pricing to reflect these costs.

Watch the full interview with Karla here.