Having started in the industry in 1979 with her own hair and beauty business, Marian Harvey joined Thalgo in 1984, and hasn’t looked back. She became managing director in 1995 and is now also responsible for group brand Perron Rigot. Here she tells her younger self what she’s learned from 34 years in the spa business.
What do I know now, after 34 years in the same company, that my younger self didn’t? Oh so much! I very much learned from the bottom up and I’ve been fortunate enough to experience all aspects of the business; I would never expect anyone in my team to do anything I hadn’t already done or wouldn't be prepared to do myself.
success is about bringing in expertise and surrounding yourself with a team who are willing and able to support you
What have those 34 years taught me? That you can’t be an expert in everything; you can’t do it all yourself. When you’re young and headstrong it’s easy to think you can, but success is about bringing in expertise and surrounding yourself with a team who are willing, and able, to support you. Believe that everything has a solution and seek advice from the experts to manage the challenges you come up against.
If I was starting out in the industry again, today, do you know I wouldn’t change a single thing? I was lucky enough to kick off my career by completing a three-year, full-time hair and beauty course. The training was superb, I learned so much and it perfectly set me up for what lay ahead. Aged 19, my first job was running my own hair salon. I had to learn fast about business practice – learning and implementing all the process stuff was by far my toughest challenge – but I went into it with my parents’ advice ringing in my ears. They always said to do my best and work hard in everything I did, and the rewards would come. They did, and not just in a material way, emotionally too. Now my motto is do the best you can, enjoy doing it and be kind along the way.
My motto is: do the best you can, enjoy doing it and be kind along the way
One thing I would like to have tried is being on the other side of the business, maybe as a spa operator or spa business owner, putting together and designing my own beauty space. It would have to be all glitz and glam of course! And if I could go back and talk to my school girl self, I’ll tell her to spend more time learning languages; I’m in awe of people who have and I think it should be compulsory in schools.
You’ll have many proud moment, but even now I’m most proud of securing my first big account for Thalgo, which was The Sanctuary Spa London in the 1980s. They decided to make the monumental change from using a huge, well-known premium beauty brand to using us, a little known brand that was new-ish to the UK. The Sanctuary has 30+ treatments rooms and it went on to be an amazing partnership for many years.
Listen to advice, or at the very least consider it, even if you don’t take it
I’ve experienced many challenges along the way, especially when it comes to being tough. I’m a creative person at heart and not naturally a ‘say no / have a challenging conversation’ type. And change is always a challenge. Thalgo are currently moving after 25 years in the same office and that definitely is a tough for me. Did I really need to keep all those documents from 1994?!
The best advice I can give you, my younger self, is to listen to advice or at the very least consider it, even if you don’t take it. Jump on all chances to learn new skills and opportunities that make you think outside your comfort zone. And most of all, make time for yourself. Be kind to all those you meet, see the best in people, trust your gut instinct and don’t be scared of change!