How to overcome adversity in your business

ABT's Dave Horton discusses why you must have a back-up plan for your hair or beauty business to over come the unexpected.

In business and in our careers we all face challenges; sometimes our best laid plans just don't go to plan! The key is to learn how to react to what we might initially perceive as a disaster, have an action plan for dealing with such situations, and then move forward.

Never has this been truer than for myself and the ABT team recently. You may have heard that this year's Irish Beauty Show, which ABT organise and run in Dublin annually, had to be postponed due to the terrible weather we experienced at the start of March. After more than 12 months of planning, including booking the leading beauty brands to exhibit, marketing the event, selling entry tickets, organising nail and make-up competitions and so much more, the one thing that was out of our control – the weather – forced us to take the very difficult decision to put the show back a month until April. To say we were devastated is an understatement, and we knew that our exhibitors and visitors felt the same.

However, when the ‘Beast from the East' converged with Storm Emma over the Republic of Ireland, not only was it impossible for companies travelling from the UK to make it across the Irish Sea via ferry or air, but essentially Dublin and the surrounding areas were on lock-down due to the red weather warning. Attempting to push ahead with the event, we felt, would have been ethically wrong; how could we expect people to literally risk their lives to attend our trade show?

So, with just 72 hours until the event was due to take place we had to switch to Plan B – contact the venue and see if we could reschedule the event. Thankfully, we were able to book the dates of Sunday 8th and Monday 9th April meaning that companies can still exhibit their Spring 2018 launches, and visitors don't have to wait too long before stocking up on the latest products. It has been a very stressful time for all of the team working on the show, but by keeping a cool head and trying to remain calm and working together with everyone involved, we found a satisfactory solution.

After reflecting upon how we dealt with our problem, I wondered how many beauty salons or mobile nail techs have a contingency or back-up plan for their business? What did you do when clients cancelled because of the weather; or did you have to close your business and call clients to tell them that you wouldn't be able to honour their appointments?

Let's look at how you might deal with some of these, and other, situations you may face in the future:

A client has booked a two-hour treatment slot, but calls and cancels an hour before…

Immediate action: Take to your social media accounts and publicise that you have two hours of treatment time available – suggest treatments that clients might want to book at short notice and include an offer or discount to get the time booked. It's better to have those two hours of your time generating 50% of your usual income rather than 0%. If this fails, then make use of the time to work on your business or marketing plan – use every minute your valuable time wisely.

Action plan: Implement a policy whereby you take a non-refundable deposit, or even full payment, for treatments that take over one hour. Genuine clients will have no problem paying this if it secures their appointment slot; you'll soon weed out those clients who are not committed to attending and refuse to pay a deposit. Don't be afraid of this – clients who mess you around or are regular no-shows are not good for your business. If cancellations occur because of bad weather or events out of your clients' control, then you should, of course, use your discretion.

You have a full day of treatments booked but are unable to get to your place of work due to bad weather…

It's unprofessional if a client is waiting for you to visit them for an appointment, and you just don't show up. Make sure you can access clients' contact details wherever you are.

Immediate action: If the weather if so bad that you or members of your team can't get to the salon, it's unlikely that many of your clients will be able to either. Pick up the phone and call each of your clients explaining your problem, and immediately offer them an alternative appointment slot. It may mean that you have to work additional hours later that week, but in the long run it will pay dividends for client loyalty. Plus, you will need to recoup the money lost when your business was closed. If you work mobile, again call your clients and explain the situation; as long as you're honest they will understand.

In addition, make sure you post on your social media pages that your business is closed for whatever reason, and if you can, add something to your website's homepage.

Action plan: Imagine how unprofessional it is if a client can get to your salon or is waiting for you to visit them for an appointment, and you just don't show up. If you're the business owner or manager, make sure you can access clients' contact details wherever you are. This is where investing in a salon software programme could be priceless. Having their details securely inputted into a software programme that you can access on any device will prevent you from carrying your box of consultation cards around with you in case of emergencies! Remember that the way you capture, collate and store data will be affected by the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) that come into place in May of this year.

You manage to open your business in bad weather, but a client slips on your premises and has to be taken to hospital…

Caution Wet Floor sign

Immediate action: Contact your insurance provider in case your client brings a Public Liability injury claim. Make written notes of exactly what happened, including statements from any witnesses. Take photographs of the area where the client slipped, showing that you made all reasonable effort to prevent the accident. A reputable insurance company such as ABT will support you and talk you through the process, but it's imperative that you call as soon as possible to ensure that you follow the right procedures.

A complaint or claim against you or your business can be very stressful, time consuming and costly, with potential unexpected knock-on effects that may be hard to quantify; a claims team, such as that at ABT, is here to help, it is what you purchased your insurance for, and the earlier you advise us, the sooner we can give the support you may need.

Action plan: Firstly, ensure that you have adequate insurance in place to cover you for Publicity Liability claims, for example ABT's policy covers you for up to £6 million Public Liability Insurance. Ensure that your business' health and safety procedures and policies are followed to the ‘T'. If you don't have procedures in place and are unsure where to start, there are specialist companies who will carry out a risk assessment of your place of work. Alternatively, take a look at industry website who will soon be offering a selection of salon owners' business tools.

Dave Horton is Director of Associated Beauty Therapists (ABT), the industry's leading membership and insurance provider representing over 17,000 clients. For more information telephone 01789 773573, email or visit