When we caught up with Carla Chatburn, owner of Lancashire salon group Pure Perfection, she was fresh from conducting in-house training, teaching one of her apprentices how to do a Hollywood wax – even volunteering to be the model herself. “she was really nervous but I said ‘if you can do your boss’s Hollywood wax then you can do anybody’s’. That broke the ice and she was fine after that,” says Chatburn.
This set the scene for what Chatburn is like as a boss – open, approachable and on hand to help any team member who needs it, making it abundantly clear why her salon business, Pure Perfection, was crowned Employer of the Year at the Professional Beauty Awards 2020.
Chatburn set up her first salon in Accrington in 2005, followed by a second premises in Clitheroe in 2013 and a third in Barrowford in 2015, and then opened her own in-house training academy at all three salon locations in 2018.
After winning several local business awards over the years, Chatburn gained the confidence to enter the prestigious Professional Beauty Awards last year.
“Like a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs, I suffer with imposter syndrome, and winning the PB Award in 2020 was so overwhelming,” she says. “it really was an emotional rollercoaster but after the year we’d had with Covid-19, it was the boost my team and I needed to get our drive and motivation back.”
Changing the dynamics
2020 was definitely a year of lessons for Chatburn who, like many people in the industry, went through tough times during the various coronavirus lockdowns.
“A lot of my team struggled because they didn’t have any structure and missed the day-to-day interactions with clients,” she says. “it made us understand and recognise how much we need to be around people and boost others to make us better in our work.”
She adds: “I showed my vulnerability with my team. I shared with them when I was having bad days. I opened up more than ever before and that gave them a sense that even I was struggling. I really missed the team morale and I didn’t realise how much satisfaction I got out of making someone else feel better about themselves until I couldn’t do it anymore.”
Chatburn’s main focus during the lockdowns was to ensure that everyone was kept on the payroll, but as her salons reopened around half of the workforce made the decision to leave – either pursuing different careers or going down the self-employed route.
“I’ve kept my door open to all of them because it’s important that they go and try,” she says. “i’d welcome them back with open arms but I’ve had to put my resilient head on and stay focused on the people in the company, putting my energy into that rather than dwelling on what could have been.”
Focusing on her staff is something Chatburn excels at and there’s no denying she’s an incredibly talented people manager.
Chatburn’s six tips for getting the best from your salon team:
1. Invest in your staff
Chatburn noticed that some of her beauty therapists had low confidence and self-worth, as well as mental health issues, so she hired a wellbeing coach to help them figure out what they were struggling with. “using company profits to boost morale within the team and give them confidence worked in so many ways,” she says. “I saw massive changes in some of the staff, especially the apprentices, who can feel intimidated and overwhelmed.
“Since working with our wellbeing coach, the entire team has bonded together while gaining knowledge for personal growth, so it was a no-brainer. It’s gone above and beyond what I imagined.”
2. Set clear boundaries
Setting boundaries from the start of your relationship with employees is key, she says. “if you don’t set boundaries at the beginning with your team then there’s a grey area and the employer-employee relationship can become very complicated.
“it’s important to have clear, structured rules with your team, but also to keep your door open if your staff are having complications and need flexibility for a better work-life balance. I try to be flexible to other people’s needs because if they’re happy then the business is happy,” she says.
3. Don’t feel you have to step away from the salon
Three years ago, Chatburn stopped working on the salon floor because she felt she needed to spend more time on business development. “I quickly realised I didn’t like being out of the salon as I missed working with customers. So, I went back to working 20 hours per week –I call it my paid hobby,” she says.
“I’d rather outsource the bits of work I don’t like and do the bits I enjoy. When you’re out of the salon, the expectation of what’s possible in creating a work-life balance isn’t as easy to see. When working in the salon, you can see what’s going on in the company.”
4. Remember, your staff come first
The old saying goes “the customer is always right” but Chatburn believes your employees should be your top priority. “the team should come first and then the clients,” she says. “if I don’t look after my team and put my energy, support and money into making them amazing then the business won’t grow.”
5. Know every aspect of your business
“You need to have an understanding of all the pieces of the pie,” she advises. “you should understand a little bit of HR, marketing, staff management and customer relations. If you’re aware of all of the elements that you need to be a successful employer then you can reach out to professionals in each of those fields to take it even further.”
6. Work out what drives your team
One of the things Pure Perfection’s wellness coach focuses on is helping each team member work out what drives them. “A lot of people don’t understand what their drivers are, so it takes time to identify what each individual staff member wants,” Chatburn explains.
“I knew I was driven by financial reward and I wanted my staff to be motivated by that too, but it was a bit too tunnel visioned of me.” She realised some employees were driven by a better work-life balance, while others wanted financial rewards like her.
This encouraged Chatburn to offer flexible options for her team – be it part-time working or flexible hours.