I wish someone had told me that… Shane Henning, Noddy’s on King
This is the fourth instalment of Prospa’s ‘I wish someone had told me that’ series, where we speak with seasoned small business owners to hear their advice on growing a business and what they wish they were told along the way. Read other stories here.
It all started when…
A dear friend of mine, Christine Brown, opened Noddy’s at the University of NSW (UNSW) back in the ‘80s to offer low-cost, high-quality hairdressing to the students on campus.
She employed a few casual staff, myself (pictured below) and my now business partner Philip Galbraith included, but had no grand plans other than to keep running her own small business. However, the salon became so successful that ex-students kept returning to have their hair cut years after they left uni, so Philip bought her out and opened up Noddy’s on King in Newtown, in Sydney’s inner-west, in 1990.
At the time, I had just returned from a stint in London and Phillip asked if I could manage the business, which I now co-own. We’ve been growing steadily over the past 30 years to become the 25-strong team we are today.
I wish someone had told me that…
It’s okay to take pride in your achievements. I’ve won Australian Hairdresser of the Year six times and Noddy’s has won Salon Team of the Year four times at the Australian Hair Expo Awards.
Although my clients always liked to hear about it, I never used to want to create a fuss in front of other staff members. The way I see it, we’re all equal – but I probably could have promoted myself a little more.
It would also have been handy to know that there’d be so much administration and paperwork involved in owning a business. Policies, labour laws and wage thresholds are constantly evolving, along with updates to laws around apprentices and penalty rates.
What keeps us up to speed is linking up with our profession’s advisory body. We’ll often call our hairdressing association for advice on different rules and regulations, and they’ll walk us through it. I’d advise other business owners to join a networking group early on.
Long-standing success is based on…
Your reputation. We built our business through word of mouth. When a client walks through your doors, the way they’re treated is your best asset for promoting your business. You only have one shot, and if you don’t pull through they won’t come back – and they’ll advise their friends and family not to either.
That old mantra, the customer is always right, still rings true. You never know what mood a customer is coming to you in. If someone’s having a tough day and you ignore them at reception for more than 30 seconds, it will have double the impact.
Our company motto is ‘Hairdressers for Humans’ and we try our best to make everyone feel welcome from the moment they walk in until the moment they leave – which is sometimes three hours later. It’s something we cultivate from within.
My tip for growing a business is to…
Grow with your business. We had a skeleton staff at first and it was only when we were too busy to pick up the phone that we brought on a receptionist. When we expand, we consider whether it will save us money in some way. We hire new staff when we’re booked out at our busiest times instead of turning away customers.
It’s also important to keep an eye on quality control and make sure your service is growing at the same rate as the business. At one point we were growing so fast that our systems weren’t keeping up. We had to take a step back and put some service rules and guidelines in place, so we matched customer’s expectations.
We also ensure that our staff are constantly progressing and growing by attending annual training seminars and hair shows.
Image: Noddy’s on King self-styled salon photography
We built our brand through…
The right exposure. Any advertising we do is branded with our own imagery, and each year we do a hair photo shoot to display throughout the salon, which all staff are involved in.
We started entering awards as a way to get our name out there, which then resulted in new clients and attracting great hairdressers to join our team. Along with Hairdresser and Salon of the Year, we’ve also won Apprentice of the Year and Entrepreneur of the Year Australia at the inaugural Global Salon Awards in London.
Partnering with another brand is another good way to market your business. I’ve been an educator with Goldwell [a hair supplies business] for the past 25 years, and every year I teach seminars all over the country – although this year it was via Zoom.
Running a high-contact business during a pandemic means…
Safety first. We’ve had people just come back into the salon after months-long breaks, so it’s important to ensure they feel secure and comfortable.
When the pandemic began, we removed every second chair and we’ve now established a pop-up shop next door so we can adequately social distance. We have plastic divider screens at the basins, hand sanitiser throughout the salon and all our staff are masked. When people leave, we make sure to wipe down the chairs and benches before someone new sits down.
Protecting our staff and clients throughout this time is our top priority.
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