The Supply Chain Social - Interview with Toby Dicker - Managing Director at The Chapel



Supply Chain Online interviews Toby Dicker, Managing Director at The Chapel.

Name: Toby Dicker
Company: The Chapel
Position: Managing Director

What did you want to be when you were at school?

I think I had three wishes as a child and they were to be a pilot, racing driver and a fire fighter. I’ve actually managed to achieve 2 of these as jobs or hobbies so far. I’ve not made it into a big, red fire engine yet but there’s still time.

What is The Chapel, and how did it come about?

The Chapel is a group of 4 hairdressing salons based in Kent, London and the ski resort of Verbier in Switzerland. It came about when I met my wife Amanda who was working managing the bar in Tunbridge Wells that I frequented. She’d travelled around the world and using the experiences of her travels came up with a completely new concept in hairdressing. I persuaded her I would be the perfect business partner and the rest, including marrying her 2 years later, is history.

What sets The Chapel apart from your competitors?

We have a laser focus on customer retention and using technology to improve customer experience and measure said retention. We’ve distilled the way we measure our business down to this one simple metric - do we retain our customers and do we retain our team members and all key decisions are made around this one measure. Business is simple really, you can be one or two of the following three things to be successful in business, but not all three. Be Different, Be Better or Be Cheaper. 

What's been the biggest challenge you and the company have faced since launch?

People, people and people. Choosing the wrong people to work with and who don’t believe in the same core values as you do makes working life awful. If you’ve got the wrong people then make the decision as quickly as you can move them on and recruit new ones because when you’re not all pulling in the same direction it makes everything ten times harder.

There can be no doubt that social media has changed the way companies do business. How has it changed the way you work at The Chapel, and how do you think this will evolve in the coming years?

The vast majority of our marketing spend is now online so it has transformed the way we market the business. We see social media and SEO as the most important way to reinforce our brand message, chat with our customers and also the place to be recommended. Around 30% of our new business comes from online search or social media rising to nearly 40% of our London new business and we can only see this continuing. When was the last time you booked a hotel or restaurant without checking it out online and looking for reviews?

How do you manage the Procurement of the materials and services that the business uses, and have you found it a challenge to keep the costs down?

Procurement is an important issue for us. We have a dedicated procurement and and operations team who focus on purchasing most of the products and services that we use as a business and they are tasked with making savings in the business wherever possible. I actually think that there is even more competition in the market now than before so negotiating good deals is actually easier, so investing in people to help you save money is a wise move.

What methods do you use to recruit new staff at The Chapel?

We use an industry specific online jobs forum, trade press PR and word of mouth from our team to help recruit new team members. Recruiting is particularly hard at the moment in our industry so we do two things. 1. we aim to be employer of choice in our sector by paying a full pension contribution of 8%, regularly training and motivating our team and working less intensively than most hairdressing salon businesses 2. We recruit based upon attitude not skill, skills can be taught but attitudes are very hard to change.

As an international business, do you envisage any impact on The Chapel with the UK's exit from the EU?

We are only venturing in a small way outside the UK and source most of our products, ingredients and services from within the UK so as we expand our business outside the UK we become a bigger exporter of goods and services. The pound being low means that we can actually be more competitive at the moment. I wasn’t a supporter of Brexit but having found ourselves in the position we are in I think it’s important to keep making decisions and forge forward as hesitancy can really stifle business growth and opportunities. To be honest I’ve done a lot of deals when times are uncertain as potentially there are much better deals to be made.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

“I’m (you’re) the biggest obstacle to growth within my company”. Was probably the best bit of advice I’ve ever been given, At the time it hurt my ego but It was from a tutor on Cranfield University's Business Growth Program course and I quickly realised that he had no reason, other than he wanted to help me, to say it. Also that he was correct in his assumption. New businesses need the founders to have a tight grip on everything when they first start out but this becomes hugely unhelpful as the business matures.

What one piece of advice would you give to other young entrepreneurs starting out?

Make decisions fast, without quick decisions you will waste all your time analysing and not doing and your business need you to be doing when you first start. I’ve seen so many people say “when I get to ‘X’ I’ll start my own business” and they never even make the decision to start. Taking the decision is the hardest part, once you’ve decided and started moving obstacles can much more easily be overcome.

What's the latest news at The Chapel?

We’re really excited at the moment, we’ve just spent the last two years re-structuring and building a strong management team and processes as well as investing in our own brand of products. So we are totally ready for growth. We’ve got bids in for 2 new sites and want a total of 4 new sites in the next 2 years in the UK. We would also hope to get distributors outside the UK for our products so that’s a fair bit on our plate but it’s exciting.

Where would you like The Chapel to be in 5 years’ time?

I’d love to see us with 10 sites in the UK and be well on our way to £10 million net turnover, which would probably increase out Net profit percentage by 2 or 3 times. I would like to see our products exported all around the world and for us to be thinking of opening salons in key cities around the world too. If you don’t at first think it and say it then it definitely won’t happen. Enthusiasm, belief and conviction are the most likely barriers to success.

Interview by Richard Marshall - Managing Director at Supply Chain Online

To visit The Chapel go to - or CLICK HERE


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