Secrets of Success – Salvar Björnsson

What is your start-up story?

Vinci Hair Clinic was founded in 2005 after I had a hair transplant. This was a fantastic and life-changing event for me, especially after spending over a decade looking for solutions for my hair loss. I couldn’t believe I’d spent all that time looking and the service to solve my problem was out there and that it was this good!

I managed to combine my personal experience with my business background and a burning desire to help people experiencing similar problems to me. This is a lot more then a business, we have a mission that is making a difference in peoples lives and allowing them to live their lives to the fullest.

What is your turnover, employee numbers etc compared to previous years?
Vinci Hair Clinics globally turned over $8.5 million in 2014, which was roughly a 30 per cent increase from the previous year. We have just reached 100 employees earlier this year, and we’ve struggled to hire and train people fast enough to keep up with our growth. We’re currently looking to employ at least 30 more in the next 12 months in various locations around the world.

What products or services do you provide?
We provide a wide variety of hair loss solutions, from hair transplants and Micro Scalp Pigmentation to medical treatments for hair loss and related products. Micro Scalp Pigmentation is a highly sophisticated treatment based on a very specialised scalp tattooing procedure. When performed by an expert practitioner it creates an incredibly natural looking simulation of micro hairs on the scalp.
For sufferers of regular hair loss or some form of alopecia, it can offer an extremely effective cosmetic hair loss solution, resulting in the appearance of a short, cropped hairstyle.

What problem does your company solve?
In a nutshell, we solve hair loss and balding problems. Regardless of the type of hair loss, we have a suitable solution for every persona and problem: men, women, genetic balding, balding due to hormonal imbalance, lifestyle, medical or cosmetic and the list goes on. Balding and hair loss can affect people’s self image, self-esteem and affect them emotionally in so many ways. By solving this we allow them to put the hair loss behind them and start focusing on more important things in life.

What is your USP?
We are a foremost authority on hair loss solutions and a ‘one stop shop’ for hair loss patients. We offer a wider range of services than any other hair loss clinic and have more clinics worldwide. People come from all over the world to train with us and we do all this while maintaining a fair price for our patients.

We have taken a service that is scattered, hard to find and historically not very accessible and we have made it simple, customer friendly and based around the customer rather then a product or doctor. We have built a strong brand that consumers in our industry know and trust and offer a unique training program to make sure our staff are able to truly guide our customers to the best possible solution for every case.

Any thoughts on the future of your company?
We have 36 clinics operating around the world, with the goal to have 40 before the end of the year and 50 by the end of 2017.

We are always looking to add services and keep up with demand as well as making sure we’re on top of every medical and scientific breakthrough in battling hair loss. There has been a lot research done in the last five to ten years and we are following these advances closely as well as undertaking our own research. The future is promising for these procedures but unfortunately they are not ready to offer to the public just yet.

What have you done to make sure you get the right people with the right skills in place?
I think it’s safe to say that we select for attitude and train for skills. A big portion of our employees are actually former clients, who were so thrilled with the services and results that they decided to help other hair loss sufferers out there. That’s a pretty unique thing to our company and it certainly makes all the difference as our clients speak to people that truly understand them and this brings our service to another level.

On top of selecting the right people we have also prepared excellent training and manuals, keeping an active educational library. We conduct exams on our staff to make sure we identify any gaps in their knowledge, regardless of whether that product knowledge, our CRM systems, patient care and so on. These exams are not designed to grade people but to identify where we can help them to do a better job.

Do you have any tips for managing suppliers and customers effectively?
Listen to your customers! I tell all our staff to remember that we have two ears and one mouth so that’s the proportion they should be used in. I also spend time talking to our clients, making sure that I don’t distance myself from them and forget our origins and the reason for us being in business.

Any finance and cash-flow tips?
I like to make the business pay for itself. I have never taken out any loans or financed anything with our business, instead preferring to build up clinics slowly and growing our client base. This has allowed us to focus on the business and not worry about repayments to the bank. I think many business people have it stuck in their heads that they need to secure big investment from somewhere to get started – I don’t believe in that. Start smaller and grow your business slowly. Even though we are growing fast today, it’s only because we laid strong foundations in the early years.

Any advice for the Government?
There is no better place to do business than in the UK and many other governments could learn a lot from how things are done here. Having said that, I believe that the government’s role is to make sure that you can focus on your business and less time on red tape and reporting.

What is your attitude towards your competitors?
Competition is healthy – it keeps us on our toes and in many ways help to expand our markets. The majority of clinics operating out there, however, are fighting over the very small percentage of people who actually know about the available hair loss products and services, while a far bigger percentage have no idea about all the options. I think there is more to be gained by clinics focusing on educating that part of the market and expanding into it, rather than all competing for a tiny minority.