Starting a business is no easy feat, but growing a business can be another challenge altogether. From establishing a presence in the market, to reviewing and iterating your business offering, there’s a lot to consider – and as you enter this crucial phase, hearing the stories of those who have been there before can provide invaluable insights (not to mention, an all-important boost of self-confidence).
Enter Francesca Webster, a leading woman in business with a wealth of experience to share. As the CEO and founder of award-winning beauty salon franchise, Brazilian Beauty, she has grown her business to span more than 20 salons across Australia. She’s also the CEO and founder of skin care brand, Australian Skin Institute, and a co-owner of a Queensland cattle farm.
Recently, we invited Francesca to share her insights on business growth as part of our Women in Focus webinar series. Here are some of the key takeaways from her presentation, which explored just how she grew her businesses.
The importance of knowing your market
Knowing where your business fits into the market is key to business success and for Francesca, this is an ongoing process. With the help of her team, she constantly researches her business’ competitors and benchmarks Brazilian Beauty against what they offer in terms of pricing, customer experience and expertise. “We’re also keeping an eye out for any new players in the market,” she adds. “We review industry trends by searching online for our competitors and in some cases, just visiting them and seeing what their service offerings look like.”
While it may seem counterintuitive, Francesca is also a big believer in connecting with other business owners in the same sector. “You can learn more about your market from talking to other business owners in the same industry and I’ve always been surprised by how open other businesses owners are to talking to me,” she says. You don’t have to give away your state secrets, but there are certain conversations you can share that are beneficial to both parties.”
Having clear KPIs and collating meaningful data
Working in the retail space, Francesca places a high value on having key KPIs and metrics that measure customer satisfaction levels. “We like to ask new customers how they found their experience soon after their first visit, as it gives us the highest engagement rate,” she says. “If you ask a customer how their experience was three weeks after they’ve been to see you, they’re either not going to answer, or maybe they’ve forgotten the experience.” Francesca adds that Brazilian Beauty has also performed external surveys with third party companies which, whilst sometimes costly, can be seen as more objective.
For the business owner, the key differentiator that sets successful retail businesses apart is the ability to utilise customer feedback to create positive action or change and to meet customer needs. “There’s no point having the data, and seeing the results, and not doing anything to address the problem,” she says.
Great customer service is not a point of difference
Francesca is adamant that great customer service is not a competitive advantage – it’s mandatory. “Every team member has a five-day induction to ensure our customer services standards are where they need to be,” she says. “Sometimes I see business owners complaining about customers. I will never, ever complain about a customer because they own our business.”
The business owner is also a big believer in providing customers with added value. For example, Brazilian Beauty is developing an app which will enable customers to track their treatment journeys, including before-and-after-photos. But it’s not always about providing innovative customer experiences. For Francesca, it often comes down to one small gesture – “If we’ve got a bit of down time, I say let’s do something nice for five to ten minutes for our customer,” she says.
Leveraging social and marketing opportunities
Social media engagement has been key to Brazilian Beauty’s business growth. “Social media influencers have been one of the most recent successful additions to our marketing strategy, although we found it a bit of a minefield to navigate initially,” Francesca says. “I think that identifying the right social media influencer for your brand, spending time with them and making sure that they have a true love for your brand is important.” Identifying Brazilian Beauty’s existing social media client base has also been fruitful. “We looked at who was following us and we were surprised by some of the people,” she says. “We could then reach out to them and create relationships with them.”
As well as building her business’ brand, Francesca is also mindful of the influence of own personal brand. “As the leader, the shadow that I cast over every interaction with my team, my customers and my networks can be very powerful,” she says. “I’m always mindful of being consistent.” Having regular interactions with stakeholders has become a priority. “I have learnt that I need to get out and about, outside of my business bubble,” she says.
Reviewing and iterating your offering
Francesca credits her business’ capacity to change and reinvent as a key driver of business growth. “You need to change or your business will die,” she explains frankly. “You hear a lot of people talking about doing things, but not mapping them out in a plan or a strategy. Look at your current position, decide where you want to be, put a plan in place and execute.”
Francesca is also a big believer in keeping an eye on emerging trends and technologies, as these can provide further opportunities for business and sales growth. In the case of Brazilian Beauty, this has meant continuously researching the products and treatments that Francesca believes could change peoples’ lives.
To keep her businesses agile and able to execute quickly while still maintaining growth, the business leader recommends “keeping it lean” and using existing resources where possible (for example, by utilising your existing team to work on new projects, and leveraging business networks). She also stresses the importance of keeping across your cash flow. “Understand your cash flow position and manage it over that period,” she says.