In the workplace with . . .
PUBLISHED: 11:57 17 December 2010 | UPDATED: 15:23 20 February 2013
Julie Cole, co-owner of the Lawrence Anthony chain of hairdressers
Julie Cole owns and runs the successful family business Lawrence Anthony and wantthelook.com. Along with her husband, Lawrence, daughter Charlotte and son Oliver they have four hairdressing salons in Stratford-upon-Avon, Banbury and Oxford along with an e-commerce site selling professional hair and beauty products across the world.
What made you open Lawrence Anthony?
When I met Lawrence in the 1960s we had this vision of opening a group of hairdressing salons and for Lawrence Anthony salons to be recognised as a leader in the hairdressing industry. The company has received many awards for hairdressing and customer services with the most prestigious awards being three times Midlands Hairdresser of the Year in the British Hairdressing Awards.
What's your hairdressing background?
My background is in banking and I grew up in a family business. In 1983, we opened the Lawrence Anthony Beauty Salon and I went on a beauty therapist's course at Champneys in Tring where I qualified and won Health Student of the Year.
How did the first few months go?
With two young children of two and four it was a big step to give up our jobs, secure investment against our home and take the plunge but we were amazed at the reaction when we opened the doors and the telephone never stopped ringing! We were so fortunate that staff wanted to work for us and we created an atmosphere in a salon the clients loved and loved their hair too.
Obviously it was a learning curve handling staff, the day-to-day running of a business and keeping up our high standards of customer service but the feedback was well worth it.
How are things now?
Now having the four salons, an e-commerce site and employing around 60 people life is hectic! Winning Midlands Hairdresser of the Year three times has been phenomenal but obviously that was achieved by hard work from all the team. Many of the team have been with us over 10 years plus. It is not only the hairdressers but also the back room staff of PR and management that bring the business together, marketing it and taking it forward in an ever changing market place and striving to achieve the high standards of customer service we set ourselves.
One of our newest marketing ideas was the campaign with mature models. This saw professional hair makeovers on mature women from the ages of 30 to 70 that was then promoted throughout the salon and the media. The media, within the industry and the national press loved it and great coverage was achieved but more importantly the clientele increased as all age groups felt Lawrence Anthony was for them too.
How do you manage family life?
Running a business definitely does take over your life and juggling family within it can be very tough but the children, and the now the grandchildren, always come first.
The children Charlotte and Oliver are now part of the business. Charlotte is the Manager at Stratford-upon-Avon and Oliver runs the website, wantthelook.com so they now are more aware of how business infiltrates family life.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
As the finance and general business director I am involved in many aspects of the business. One of the key pleasures of the job is having an idea and seeing it really working in the salons and benefiting all the team and the clients.
What do you enjoy least?
The least enjoyment is the time it does take out of your daily life and the frustrating days you can have when staff or suppliers create issues that waste your day.
What are the most important qualities of someone in this line of work?
Focus on your number one priority - the client! Without them you have no business so you have to have very good customer service skills. You need to recognise that you are always striving to improve and as this is a staff orientated business you have to be fair, motivating, patient and professional at all times, all done with a smile on your face!
What's your advice for other women going into the business?
Women going into the hairdressing business need to be able to multi-task. The biggest learning curve is prioritising your day along with your family life. Business is a buzz but if there's no one to share it with what's the point? Keep time for family, friends and more importantly yourself (but that's the hardest one to achieve!).