Buoy Salon & Spa team

Buoy Salon & Spa: 2017 New Zealand Salon of the Year

5 Mar 2018 by Kitomba

The Industry Awards is an annual celebration of the Kitomba NZARH Business Awards and HITO Next Generation Talent Awards. Held in November in Auckland, Kitomba, NZARH and HITO announced the best in business and training in the hair, barbering and beauty industry.

The night’s top performer at the Kitomba NZARH Business Awards was Buoy Salon & Spa. As 2017 marked 30 years since founder and director Derek Elvy set up his dream salon in Wellington, it’s now also defined by their dominance at the Business Awards. Buoy was announced as the winner of Kitomba NZARH New Zealand Salon of the Year, L’Oreal Grand Salon of the Year, Excellence in Marketing, and Best New Entrant. Buoy Colour Director Chinney Yeap added to the list as she took home Business Stylist of the Year.

We sat down with owners, Managing Director Phillippa Middleton and Creative Director Michael Beel to talk about their success at the 2017 Kitomba NZARH Business Awards.

How does it feel to have won five Business Awards including the prestigious Kitomba NZARH New Zealand Salon of the Year award?

It’s very overwhelming! As it was our first time entering, just being announced as a finalist was amazing. But actually winning is incredibly humbling and we’re so extremely proud.

As for Chinney winning Business Stylist of the Year, she’s just blown away. She really is a great all-rounder. Chinney is incredibly committed and is amazing with her team and her clients.

Over the years we’ve received untold recognition in this industry for our creativity, however, it’s nice to be recognised for our business successes. To be in business for 30 years is a phenomenal feat. But after 30 years to still be recognised as a thriving, healthy and successful business, and a leader in the industry from a business perspective isn’t something that happens very often. So winning these awards feels very rewarding.

Derek was, unfortunately, unable to attend the awards due to his health but he is just so proud. When we asked him what he thought he said, “Everybody dreams of keeping a brand at a 5-star level… and I can see why – it’s very sexy, being at the top is very sexy”.

Buoy accepting NZ Salon of the Year

Managing Director Phillippa Middleton and Creative Director Michael Beel accepting Kitomba NZARH New Zealand Salon of the Year award

What’s the underlying philosophy of your salon?

The philosophy that the salon lives by, printed on our menus and highlighted on our website is: “If there is one thing that stays consistent in our journey then it’s the idea of creating the sensational. Whether it’s the way you look or the way you feel, we’ve been crafting both for over 30 years. Buoy continues to sit at the leading edge of style; evident by the multitude of accolades, awards and praise we’ve enjoyed”.

Consistency is what we strive for in our service delivery, our hair and beauty and the way we run our business. It’s because we strive to always be the best we can possibly be.

We also really focus on our culture. You can have a glamourous fit out and lovely product, but if the culture’s wrong, the client can feel it. So we focus on hiring for the attitude and then we train for skill. Cultivating and training our own talent to produce amazing work, and provide that excellent and consistent experience helps make us industry leaders. We believe our clients come here because it’s a family, and the consistency and culture resonates with them.  

What do you believe your salon offers clients?

Consistency is in everything we do. And that’s across our entire team. From the way we open the door, to our greeting and onto the technical quality of a service. It’s all seamless and we do it effortlessly because we need to be on point all the time – you’re only as good as your last service.

We also keep creativity, fashion and style top of mind. That’s what Buoy is all about and why we’re a leader in our industry. However, we also find clients want things now and sometimes they want the impossible. So we also have a motto of “if in doubt, leave it out”. We won’t ever do anything that could jeopardise the client’s hair condition, our brand or our reputation. So we work hard on managing expectations of what is possible and ensure we have systems in place to work through this type of challenge. A realistic and thorough consultation is key.

What motivates you personally and professionally each day?

For me [Michael] being part of this brand for 20 years and believing in what Derek has created is what gets me out of bed in the morning. Also starting as a stylist and moving on to become a business owner is another huge motivator for me. As owners, we’re here to keep this business going, not only for Derek, but for our staff, for their financial freedom and to be able to continuously provide everyone with opportunities, both professionally and personally.

Business is what I [Phillippa] know and it’s what I’m good at. And there are 28 people who are relying on me to run the business side of the business as best I can, so they have a future and an incredible career. Derek, Michael and the team rely heavily on me to make sure our finance, marketing and staff management are all 100%. If I don’t come to work motivated to drive Buoy forward and keep it working, then I’m letting myself and everyone down. It’s like walking on a cliff face – never look down, just keep going up and up.

Because of Derek and his health, we’ve also had to support him and his journey, and celebrate his 30 years of phenomenal. This has made us work even harder over the past year so Derek can be really proud of what he created and so he can see it grow into something even more amazing.

Buoy team with their awards

Where to in 2018 and what direction do you see your business taking in the future?

Derek has created a legacy and we’re going to work as hard as we can, not only next year, but for years to come to keep leading the way, to make Derek proud and to continue doing amazing things. Hopefully, we can do another 30 years for him. We’ve had an incredible 30 years of phenomenal, so maybe next year will be 31 years of massive and perhaps we’ll get to 60 years of extraordinary.

Are there any industry developments that you see having a positive impact on your business?

We’d like to make a special mention to NZARH for supporting the industry and working towards the audacious goal of regulation by 2025. We ensure all of our apprentices become fully qualified and are pleased to know that NZARH are working towards making this positive change that our industry needs.

What part has salon software played in supporting your salon’s success?

It’s had a huge impact! If we didn’t have salon software, our salon would be a shambles. We rely on our software like a pub relies on beer.

In this day and age, you absolutely need software. We’ve got 28 staff but Kitomba is our 29th team member. Kitomba keeps us on point and consistent, it makes our business run smoothly and our systems work seamlessly.

What software features would you be unable to live without and why?

It’s the reporting, key performance indicators and up-to-date figures that are vital to us managing our business. And the point-of-sale houses everything you need all in the one screen.

Everyday marketing is extremely important to us too. It’s how we ensure each client receives automatic, personalised appointment reminders, reward points updates and how we request client feedback.

Our clients love Kitomba too! They like the reward system and appointment reminders. They’ve also become so reliant on Online Booking, so it’s very important we have that feature.

How do you feel entering the awards has helped you as a business owner?

It’s a really good exercise to complete. Entering the awards and capturing the data has made us stop and celebrate our success. We already knew all the answers and we knew we were doing well, but the exercise of putting them together, standing back and looking at our results really blew us away.

It’s made us realise how important it is to do this. If you don’t stop and celebrate your success, it’s always just going to be another day or another issue to deal with and the successes will just disappear.

Buoy Managing Director with awards

Managing Director Phillippa Middleton with Buoy Salon & Spas five awards

What advice would you give to other salons about the entry process?

Be prepared to pull everything apart before you present it. You need to know everything about your business and you’ll need to devote time, energy and resources to the process but remember it’s so worthwhile.

We also want to say how important it is to be authentic and honest. Your entry should celebrate your brand and your culture, and what works for your salon. So make sure whatever you put into your entry represents your story, your journey and your own unique point of view.

What would you say to salons considering entering the Business Awards in the future?

Do it! You’ve got nothing to lose and if you want to win it, then you’d better enter next year. And even if you don’t win, it will allow you to see your business inside and out.

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