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Success story: Buoy Salon & Spa

15 Apr 2021 by Kitomba

Wellington’s Buoy Salon & Spa has been in business for more than 35 years and has developed a fine reputation for excellence. The salon and spa’s expansive collection of awards alone speaks volumes, so we were excited to get the chance to meet with Managing Director Philippa Middleton to talk about what has made the salon and spa so successful.

Watch the videos and read the full article below to find out about KPIs, culture, selling retail and how they keep their rebooking rate well above industry standard!

Buoy Salon and Spa (Part 1)

Buoy Salon and Spa (Part 2)

Tell us about Buoy Salon & Spa and how you got into the industry

The founder, Derek Elvy, was a really good friend of mine. Unfortunately Derek passed away three years ago now and is very sorely missed, and he left a wonderful legacy for us to carry on. 

My thing in the industry has always been business. I’m not clever enough to be a stylist or a beauty therapist, so I can only ever work on my business 100% of the time. 

I decided that Derek had a great brand and a lovely spot, but it wasn’t really operating as a business. So with the right tools and support I thought I could help him initially, but then if I went away he might end up back where he was, so I decided to stay and we went into business together. 

Buoy has blossomed since then and has become a very profitable, renowned business. 



What is Buoy’s key to success? 

One of the keys to success for having a great business is, other than profitability, culture. 

Our clients buy an experience. They buy the experience of the 35 years we’ve had in the industry and the fact that we know what we’re doing, but they also buy the experience they have on the day. They’re not just coming in for beautiful hair, they’re coming in to find their happy place, their cappuccino, the thousands of dollars worth of magazines that we have laying around, the atmosphere and the culture that the staff bring in here. 

I focus on culture as my number one thing in this business, that means profit comes down the list. It’s very important, but the most important thing is culture, and that’s what brings the clients back. 

That’s also what keeps the staff from thinking the grass is greener elsewhere. The grass is green in here, and we need to look after them, nurture and nourish our staff and encourage fun and kindness, and then that floats down to the clients. 


How do you attract and recruit new talent? 

In this industry there’s a big shortage of available talent. We have anywhere between six and eight apprentices who we keep, and we grow our own talent. It’s the only way to fill the gap that we have with recruitment in our industry.  

If we’re recruiting for new people we invite the candidate to come and spend the day with us and work alongside us. I ask the team if they want to spend time with this person and help them into a career. If they say yes then I interview them. Otherwise, what’s the point? If I hire the wrong person, the team’s like wolves. They will not let them in the pack. 

We hire for attitude and we train for skill. It’s more important to ensure the team is cohesive than to hire somebody with fantastic skills and a bad attitude. 

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buoy-80How do you retain your staff? 

If you’re a salon owner or manager and you treat your staff better than your clients, you’ll keep them forever. The most important people are your staff, because they are the people who deliver the service. 

Specialisation was a trend for a while, but we found that if we tried to pigeonhole people into ‘well you’re good at cutting, so just cut’, or ‘you’re good at colouring so be a colour specialist’, it wasn’t working well. We do have people that do just cutting or just colouring, but we let them choose what they want to do. We let them play to their own strengths instead, so some of our top-end, world-renowned colourists do hair cuts, but if they don’t want to do hair cuts they don’t have to. 

While doing it this way is hard to manage, the results speak for themselves, so that’s what we do because that’s what works for us. 


What does success look like to you? 

I strongly believe that the future of our industry will come down to the people that offer the best client experience and the best staff experience. 

The whole start to finish experience for the customer is actually what makes them want to come back. The hair or skin is just part of it. It’s everything, from how they’re greeted at reception to how they’re seen out. How they’re communicated with in-between their visits, and how they’re cared about, basically. That comes down to staff as well. 

To measure this, it’s important for business owners to know what to look for and track in your business. We have four major KPIs that we track daily, weekly and monthly. There are others that we look at too, but the most important are: how many services a team member is doing; how many of those clients also purchase retail, or home care, as we call it; the treatment ratio to that; and the rebooking rate. Because even with the best quality hair or treatment, without the right home care, if you leave it up to them, it can undo their results. 

We need to make sure that people are using products that will help them to maintain their hair or skin after they leave the salon, otherwise it’s a waste of your talent because 80% of what happens to their hair and their face happens at home. 

We monitor those things really closely and have strong KPIs that we reward our staff with. We don’t let them fall below a certain barrier, otherwise it goes against our culture and why we’re here. 

Our rebooking rate is 70-80%, and that’s with having 29 staff at the moment. Our top staff have a 90-100% rebooking rate. The word “Rebooking” is jargon, it’s our internal talk. You should never ask a client to rebook, you should give them a reason to come back and secure their next appointment. 

The most important thing is giving them the reason and securing that appointment. They’ll change it, move it, whatever, but you need to always get them in the habit of it because that’s your future business. 

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buoy-24What Kitomba features couldn’t you live without? 


When we’re monitoring and gauging our KPIs we use the Kitomba Business Summary report. It has everything you need to know in one report to monitor exactly what’s happening with your business and with your individual staff members. 

If you don’t run a daily, weekly, monthly reportstart it now. That’s the one report that you should never live without. 

Online Booking 

Our clients love the freedom of Online Booking and they like to schedule their own appointments. 

Even though we do have a high rebooking percentage we still have 30-50 online bookings a day, and that allows our clients the freedom to manage their own calendars and appointments, and it works wonders to fill in empty slots in our calendar. That’s been really invaluable. 

Stock management 

A lot of people wouldn’t have a clue what stock they’ve got. Kitomba enables us to know exactly what we have and order stock so easily. We order weekly because we move so much product and it works a dream. 


How does Kitomba help your business to succeed? 

Kitomba has been absolutely indispensable for me as a business owner since the early 2000s when it was first invented by Tom and Alistar. We’ve grown with it, basically. 

It makes my life a lot easier. The staff can access it at home on Kitomba 1 to see what their day looks like. We use all the reports and do all our ordering through Kitomba. In a big busy salon like this we simply couldn’t live without it. 

The phone support from Kitomba is one of the reasons we’ve never changed our software system in 20 years. If things go wrong we can’t operate, so having that support there and having things fixed instantly in front of your eyes is invaluable. 

Want to find out if Kitomba can help your business thrive like it has for Buoy Salon & Spa? Book your free demo where we’ll discuss your business’s unique needs, goals and vision, and what features will help you to achieve your business goals this year and beyond. 

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