Barbara Haigh, the Laser Lounge

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Hi Barbara. You’re a true-blue Coffs local; tell us what you love about calling the Coffs Coast home?

This postcode has retained me due to its diverse range of features, from the soul of a small community, its natural jewels, most temperate climate, through to its vibrant lifestyle. As a place to call home, it’s becoming increasingly connected with airports and highways, which ensures resources can get to us and we can get to them. Its growth over the years has evolved, creating large network referrals and scalable business opportunities with the local town touch. All of this is why I love the Coffs Coast!

You’ve been in small business and professional education in this space for many years. Tell us a little about your background. 

My professional experience spans more than 25 years across beauty therapy, business mentoring, training, small business ownership and people leadership. I was teaching and mentoring small business owners and front-line managers, while successfully running a boutique home-based beauty studio for the last decade. In 1997, I established and operated a successful beauty salon. The business was developed with a strong focus on customer service and was eventually awarded for excellence in retail sales. After 11 years of trading, this salon was sold and continues to operate as a leading salon in the region.

You recently started a new business, The Laser Lounge at Park Beach Plaza. Can you share with us how the first year has been?                                                                           

The first half was calmly spent researching the business case, raising capital, negotiating terms, transitioning roles and constructing the clinic. While the business case was compelling, it was a little unnerving trading-in a steady income for a large investment and new venture. 

The second half of the year was explosive. We were fortunate to have a running start courtesy of pre-marketing, so when the doors opened in June, it was full throttle. Prior to launch I had heard, but not fully appreciated, the cliché “drinking from a fire hose”. The last six months have been the hardest I have worked (long hours, broad range of tasks) in my 25 year+ career. 

The last six months have also been the most rewarding. The joy in running a laser clinic lies in using proven paramedical procedures to help clients feel better about themselves. This can manifest in many ways, including acne-scar treatments, pigment reduction, unwanted hair removal, through to cosmetic enhancements. The other dimension is the joy of building a team of professionals who can laugh, cry and fist pump alongside you. While I still have plenty of stressful and frustrating days, I feel blessed to be working with a great team to serve Coffs Coast residents.

What are you most proud of? My team. I’ve tried to create a cool group of nerds. From courageous personalities, desires for text book processes, problem solvers, addicts to active ingredients and sales targets and nurturers who can consult and evaluate risk against reward. We are the reverse mullet – party up the front and business out the back. We continue to assemble a highly trained team of dermal therapists and Registered Nurses, more faces and safe hands. We expected to work hard in a very fast-paced environment; every day is different, and every day we strive to be better and more effective than yesterday.

You took out a prestigious award at a Laser Lounge Franchise Event recently; tell us about it. This was surprising; we even surprised ourselves! The Laser Lounge Coffs Harbour was awarded the “best emerging clinic” across a network of over 20 clinics. The award recognises early-stage excellence in serving clients and building a sustainable business. The award was targeted at clinics operating less than three years, and we were fortunate to win just six months into trading. It was nice to travel to Sydney and see Coffs Harbour up in lights. It was also great validation for the team and clients. We proudly display this award in the clinic.

As a successful woman in business, what are some “pearls of wisdom”, if you like, that you can impart to other young female professionals looking to have success in their career of choice?

1. Courage and resilience. It can be challenging as a female to stand up and lead. I’ve endured unexpected setbacks and weighty responsibility over the years and powered through with a complete “can do” attitude. Your attitude is in your control. Don’t be afraid to be accountable.

2. Ignorance and confidence. Often not having any idea what I was doing; however, backing myself to know that I could do it. When confronted with “what do you do”, my answer in my head is, “whatever it takes”! 

3. Stack your team! Surround yourself with people who love and support you. Always strive for self-development and continuous improvement. Mistakes are made, and tough times are unpredictable. It’s about how you manage them, your attitude towards them and what you can learn from them. 

4. Always ensure that your own values align with the choices you make.

What have been your biggest challenges in owning a small business? Successfully operating an integrated laser clinic is complicated and intense. It is a fast paced operating environment involving complex client needs, expensive machines, delicate medical treatments, technical subject matter and precise scheduling. 

While the desired outcome of “smooth confident clients” sounds simple, the process to get there is not. Like in many businesses, the key to realising success is a skilled and motivated team. The biggest challenge remains ensuring the team feel adequately resourced to deliver outstanding client outcomes, while feeling valued as contributors to the business success. I am really proud of the team, though recognise the importance of continued investment in development and reward. 

When it comes to growing awareness and customers for a new business like The Laser Lounge, what marketing activities have you found most useful? 

It comes down to a mix of messages and mediums, primarily our website and social media (@thelaserlounge_coffsharbour) has been a valuable touch point to engage, entertain and educate our target market. As our database built, email direct messaging became a good marketing strategy; we added a radio campaign and some ads in the paper. 

A huge shout out to our valued clientele and advocates, who are sharing their experiences and results from in clinic, and now word of mouth as a referral is rapidly becoming our best marketing. Our beloved clients have become our billboard.                                                             

Have you got a motto that you live by?

“When was the last time you did something for the first time?” It’s about being brave enough to continuously look for new experiences and opportunities, while simultaneously being cautious and calculating risk. 

“The key to continued success is to always deliver more than you expect of yourself.”

Thanks Barbara.

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