Looking back over the 26 years I’ve been in this business, the piece of advice I wish a younger me had known is that life’s not a dress rehearsal, you have to make every moment count. Joan Collins once said don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today and it has always stayed with me.
“Be the best you can be and never think you know it all”
I was first trained in manicuring by Revlon, that’s when I caught the beauty bug. But it wasn’t till my husband Ian and I went to America for our silver wedding anniversary in 1992 that I discovered Jessica. I was intrigued by her technique of manicuring which was, at that time, a much higher standard than anything done in the UK. At the age of 46, I began to promote Jessica products and treatments nationwide. I launched Jessica at a beauty exhibition, I personally trained hundreds of manicurists and, within one year, I had over 100 accounts.
If I could go back I’d tell a younger Susan to be the best you can be and never think you know it all. We can always learn from each other. I wish I'd known sooner that I had the confidence within me to grow a company, but if I were given the chance to start again I wouldn’t change a thing. Absolutely nothing.
We all face challenges, and my toughest by far was continuing to run the company while undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, 24 years ago. It was enormously hard, but on the other hand it helped to have something other than myself focus on. I visited spas and salons on my good days, training teams in Jessica manicure techniques because I really enjoyed what I did and didn’t want to give in. I’m sure that helped immensely with my recovery.
“If you put your mind to it, anything you want can be achieved”
My experience of cancer taught me that if you put your mind to it, anything you want can be achieved. It gave me the strength and confidence to trust my judgement and just get on with it. I would love to go back and help the me of 25 years ago believe in herself, because back then I didn’t. Of course I made mistakes, perhaps the biggest was when, in 1994, QVC wanted to feature Jessica and I refused. I thought it would compromise our spas and salons, but I was wrong; it would have created more customers. It was right for that time, but not so much now.
I’ve done things I’m extremely proud of, like developing my own range of hand care products in 1995, LeRemedi. It’s like a facial for the hands and is still as popular today as it was back then. I created Mii make-up, tanning and brow products eight years ago and it’s one of my proudest achievements. My only regret is I didn’t develop it sooner. I had no idea what a success Mii would be so I wish I’d had the confidence to launch the brand earlier. It’s easy to say that now, but through knowledge and experience comes greater confidence.
“The future lies in training and educating, it always has; a high standard of training is the only way to progress”
I take inspiration daily from our loyal spas and salons. It motivates me to keep going, always striving to offer new and exciting products that benefit them and their clients even more. The fact that everyone loves using our products is very special for me.
The future lies in training and educating, it always has. There’s so much more on offer in the industry, competition is great and clients are much more savvy. If you’re anything less than your competition then you lose business. A high standard of training is the only way to progress – constantly learning new methods of application and new product development, as well as sharing ideas and offering a chance of career growth in new directions. The more you learn, the more you want to learn. Looking back at where I started, training gave me the drive to move forward in a new career, which is why we have just launched the Susan Gerrard Beauty Academy.
The Academy will offer opportunities for those looking for full or part-time work to gain in-depth knowledge and confidence to pursue a long-term career in beauty.