Women in Business Q&A: Lesley Reynolds, Harley Street Skin Clinic

Lesley Reynolds is a successful entrepreneur who along with her husband has helped mastermind the growth of the Harley Street Skin Clinic and Harley Street Skin Care Range.

Lesley has always been involved in beauty. From a young age, she would watch her mother mix lotions and potions into new beauty products, engendering a fascination with beauty and the skin.

Her training has taken her from Aromatherapy, Indian head massage and Reflexology right through to anti-ageing and acne treatments, which have become her specialty.

A keen advocate of the power of advanced technology, Lesley is always alert to the latest ingredients in the beauty world, and is one of the pioneers of cosmeceutical products in the UK.

This is something seen frequently, as Lesley regularly writes for Best magazine and The Daily Express - giving her advice on must-have ingredients.

She started running a small salon in Essex and concocting skincare products in her kitchen to building a practice that has 22,000 customers that include a large celebrity following.

She was one of the first to introduce collagen products into the UK and today continues to produce products that are specially tailored for women pre and post-cosmetic treatments.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
It's been emotional! I grew up with hard working parents who owned restaurants and public houses so I got used to working at speed and turning my hand to whatever needed doing from cooking, waitressing, finances, ordering or washing the dishes.

When I was 23, my former husband and I bought one of my parent's restaurants. I was fearless and because he'd financed the deal, I had to make it work! And it did!

However, I soon discovered when you ignore a small problem it only gets bigger, and to nip a situation in the bud. It's important not to let a problem or argument fester, be honest, open and always polite. It's also vital to have the best team around you and I always praise staff when they have done a good job and let them play to their own strengths.

How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Harley Street Skin Clinic?
I was taught never to ask anyone to do anything you wouldn't do yourself, and I still clean the loo if needed. Appearances are important in any business, but in aesthetics it's even more so, not just your own appearance, but that of the products and premises.

I was also taught by my father to believe in being and providing the best in everything and having a hands on approach to everything we do.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Harley Street Skin Clinic?
The highlight was undoubtedly watching the first episode of our series 'Stitch Me Lift Me Tuck Me' at a private screening at the BAFTA Members Club in London, it was a surreal experience, watching close friends and family members reaction was amazing.

The challenges, in hindsight, have been making the huge leap from two rooms in Harley Street to a massive six-story house! I didn't quite know how we would make it full and busy all the time, but I knew we would and we have.

What advice can you offer to women who want to start their own business?
Only do it, if you are passionate and absolutely believe in your idea or product, as that passion and belief will come through in everything you do. Keep mentally and physically fit so that you have the energy to sustain the good and the bad times.

Trust your instincts too, keep negative people at bay, be patient, open minded and stay confident. Have the determination to make your dream come true, you know it will work! Oh yes, and keep some chocolate in the top drawer....

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
Keep your finances in check, don't let anyone 'run' them and blind you with the 'finance science'. Know what is in the bank on a daily basis and check weekly where you stand. Weekly reports and charts are very important for me to know what's profitable and what's not, where the business is coming from, what age groups and what treatments are top.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
It's important when you are running a business to be able to switch off and not let it take you over. But, I admit it's easier said than done and remains my biggest challenge. I have recently started to have two consecutive days off a week which helps - until earlier this year I worked six or seven days a week.

It's a family business and I work with my husband, two of my children and my nephew, so I have always had dinner with them at least twice a week, and my eldest son, who also lives in London joins us most weeks. My Mother also stays with us most weekends and as I am family orientated this is a great balance.

I also firmly believe that a close family bond can create a successful because of shared commitment, easy communication and of course fun times. We all get on very well and will talk through problems or ideas and support each other. I go to the gym once or twice a week, and usually meet up with friends once a week.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Of course, childcare is the most difficult thing for women. Nowadays, there's often little choice but to have a two income family and a huge amount of working mothers still have absolutely no flexibility and have to work set hours. There's also a big gap in the provision of childcare and the cost is breathtaking.

Also, I really hate to say this in 2014, but I think it is still harder for a woman in business than a man. I've had personal experience of being treated like" the little woman". Unfortunately it does tend to make you become a little hard.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
It's so important to surround yourself with talented people. People who you can use as a sounding board, who can feedback on ideas and give you perspective when things are not going as you'd like. With the Harley Street Skincare range, we have relied on Umbrellabrand to keep the momentum going, working with us on formulations, packaging, pricing, and product placement. I am really trying to learn to delegate!

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Jan Marini, an amazing woman who has developed skincare since 1994. She's not a medic or chemist, but a woman who had acne and her quest to have clear skin made her one of the best researches I have ever met. She was unstoppable. I had the privilege of working with her for several years and it was incredible.

I also admire Judy Finnegan in another way for not bowing to the pressures of her industry to have surgery.

What do you want Harley Street Skin Clinic to accomplish in the next year?
This is going to be a very exciting year. My daughter Sophie and I have just launched a new skincare range called Rosina's Lotions and Potions. It's influenced by my mum, Rosina, who was a dancer at the Eve Club. She used to concoct lotions and potions in her kitchen to counteract the negative effect of the heavy makeup she wore for work. Sophie has chosen some beautiful natural ingredients for the new range and I have added a hint of science. A true family affair.