Some 20 years ago, Jolene Rees joined Innovations Beauty as a beauty therapist, taking its team of three to four. Two decades later Rees, now the owner of the business, has more than doubled the staff to create a team of 10 – ateam that walked away from the Professional Beauty Awards 2022 with Spa/Salon Team of the Year title.
“When I joined, the salon was very small…and the owner went off and had a baby. She asked if I would be the manager and look after the business while she was on maternity leave and I said yes. It grew organically from there.”
Innovations, at that time, only housed two treatment rooms. Rees went on to become a 50% partner in the business, helping to build it from the two treatments room to a larger property while expanding the team. She then bought out her partner in 2015 before purchasing a larger space two doors down in 2018 and rebranding the business to Innovations Advanced Skincare & Beauty. Rees says the new space became her “dream salon”, thanks to the help of her joiner husband, as well as input from his architect friend.
The reason behind the success of the current team, consisting of eight therapists (including Rees, one also a retail and operations manager and one a training and development manager), a junior therapist and two receptionists, is Rees’s encouraging approach to team management. She set out to “nurture the team rather than dictate” – an approach she’s passed on to her managers.
“If one of the team makes a mistake or does something wrong, I’m not going to go in like a bull in a china shop and start asking why they did it. Instead, I’ll say, ‘It’s okay, this has happened; it’s not ideal but this is what we’re going to put in place so it doesn’t happen again’,” says Rees. “It’s more about the training, the development, the consistency and I think that makes the team feel respected and valued.”
Making sure her team know their work doesn’t go unnoticed is a priority for Rees, who ensures she takes to time make her team aware she’s grateful for their efforts.
“Two of my team came to me from the same company and both said they were spoken to badly and never praised or thanked,” shares Rees. “I think that’s where people go wrong – if you say thank you, the team will think ‘Oh, she’s noticed that, she’s bothered, she cares’, which, as a boss, you should do. It’s about having empathy and understanding and showing that.”
When it comes to expanding the team, it’s about more than what’s on a CV and performance in a trade test for Rees. “I look at their attitude. I leave interviewees in the reception for a minimum of five minutes to see how they interact with the reception team, and occasionally ask them to go to the staff room without me then ask the team how they acted in there.”
Once the interview and trial day are over, integrating a new member into the team is something Rees takes seriously. “The first week will be spent split between the management team. I put them more with my managers to shadow them and soak up the atmosphere of the salon. We make them spend time at reception too, and go through the paperwork about the client journey so they know exactly how we operate and what we expect.”
That first week in the salon isn’t just for the new starter’s benefit. “It’s a great time for us to assess their attitude and find out what motivated them and what excites them within the business. We have a therapist who loves nails, brows and lashes so we know she’s probably not going to be on the spa floor that much – and that’s fine. We take our therapists where they’re passionate, so that they excel not only for themselves but for us too.”
Beyond the salon walls
For Rees, the bond of the team is important to ensure its success, which means taking time away from the salon to grow their relationships.
“We all came to London for the Professional Beauty Awards and I paid for everything for the whole team. I wanted everyone there to enjoy the night, and I wanted them to know they had all played a part in winning and in creating the salon and the team we are now,” she says.
“Even little things, like on the jubilee weekend, I took them all for afternoon tea and let them finish early but still paid them for their full hours. They didn’t know they were being paid – Ijust offered them the option of an early finish and saw how they responded. When you’ve built a good team, they won’t be asking ‘Will we be getting paid for it?’.
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“We do as much as we can, and do things for birthdays and Christmas, but as the team gets bigger, getting everyone together does become harder and harder.”
The team’s understanding of the full operations of the salon is part of its success, so, when it comes to training, the therapists often take the time to work on their skills together.
“I think team training really works – instead of one idea you get eight, and everyone just bounces off one another,” says Rees. “If anyone’s struggling with one aspect of the training, someone else can help them – it supports how we are as a salon, our ethos.”
The team training environment can help relax the therapists as well, helping them get the most out of each session. “I underwent an intense training course alongside one of my managers and had Covid-19 so had to do it alone virtually. I felt overwhelmed, if I’m being honest – that’s why I like team training,” says Rees.
Keep them motivated
Rees is a big fan of morning quickfire rounds and lighthearted ways to build healthy competition among her team. “I just try to keep it fun and buzzy and bouncy,” she shares. “One day I might say, ‘Here’s a £10 Costa gift card – first person to upsell three products gets it’ or ‘There’s £20 at reception, whoever sells a product has it on their name and the last one wins’.”
Rees’s understanding for her team’s needs comes from her time on the salon floor, spending two days a week in the treatment rooms with clients herself. “I have an understanding of every aspect of my business because I see and experience what happens on the floor,” shares Rees. “It sounds silly, but I just paid for air conditioning to be put in. If I hadn’t experienced myself how hot the rooms can get, I wouldn’t have thought to. Every manager has a column at some point in the week – it just puts you on a different level of understanding.”
It’s not just her own experiences that influence her business decisions, as Rees takes time to hear from her team. “Each month, we have a staff meeting, and everyone will have a one-to-one as well. It’s a completely safe space where the team can be honest – if they feel they need something, or something isn’t working for them, I’ll do what I can about it.
“There’s nothing my team can’t tell me, and this helps on the retention side – it’s about looking after the team, not taking them for granted, listening to their concerns, and communication.”
Rees qualifies as a beauty therapist
Begins working at Innovations Beauty Clinic
Is promoted to manager at Innovations
Innovations moves to a larger premises, Rees becomes 50% partner
Rees buys out business partner to become sole owner
Moves to a larger premises and builds her dream salon.
Business rebrands to Innovations Advanced Skincare and Beauty
Wins Large Salon of the Year at the Professional Beauty Awards
Wins Spa/Salon Team of the Year at the Professional Beauty Awards