Sharon McPherson owns two award-winning bridal salons in West Kilbride – Opus Atelier and Opus Couture. Her diary is action-packed, every hour, every day, every week…
6.45am First alarm goes off… I try very hard to surface but I’m not great in the morning so this can take a while.
6.55am Second alarm goes off… and I get up this time as I know I have to do physio exercises for my knee.
7.30am Stewart (Mr Opus, our Financial Director and my partner in business and in life) makes some coffee and we plan our day together. We both work in the business but have separate offices, diaries, agendas, and separate meetings each day. If we don’t take this time to check in we may not even speak until late in the evening, when we eventually arrive home by which time neither of us are capable of communication.
7.45am We often speak to our daughter at this time, who will be on her way to work and walking to the tube. She lives in Holloway with her partner and works in central London for Alexander McQueen, so I love to hear about what happened yesterday and what might happen today. She is my only child and we are very close. We talk about everything, especially Opus and fashion. When she was studying during the summer break, she spent many hours working in our sewing room with our seamstress. She has picked off enough lace hems to circle the earth and her own body weight in crystals and pearls. I think I may have sparkled her out by the time she reached ten!
She also has her own studio and takes haute couture commissions as well as teaching master classes on natural dying at the weekend. Her schedule is crazy, and I do worry about her doing too much.
8.15am By this time I really need to be showered and dressed and on my way to work for a 9.30am start. We don’t live far from the salons.
9.30am is our official starting time on weekdays but it’s 8.45am at the weekends.
The first thing I do is open up the lap top and check Bridal Live to see if anything has changed, then I check the phones and emails, phone texts, Messenger, Face Book, Instagram, and WhatsApp. We really do get contacted from every direction these days, and you have to keep on top of it all.
My Atelier assistant Lauren, who starts at 9.15am on school days, will be beavering around gathering together my fitting appointments and collections for the week, so everything is in order when the bride arrives for her appointment. We have two salons Opus Couture and Opus Atelier.
9.45am I have anything from 15 to 45 minutes with my Opus Couture manager, Susan, or assistant manager Khara, depending on the rota. On Tuesday mornings we have a full senior staff meeting. This is when we present our weekly KPIs [key performance indicators], conversion rates, figures, and financial reports, as well as our plans for the week ahead and deal with any pending issues.
On Tuesdays in the winter months, I also try to fit in a Tai ji quan or Tai Chi class early in the morning and then phone my daughter in the evening.
10.30am is usually my first appointment on weekdays. It could be a new bride appointment, a fitting appointment or a meeting. These appointments will take me up to lunch time and, if I’m lucky and they don’t run over, I will have time to have a cup of tea.
It’s pretty full on at the moment as we are in the middle of the bridal season. Every second is taken up with steaming, alterations and fittings on top of new bride appointments.
1.30pm is my next appointment time.
Monday, Tuesday and Thursdays are all fitting and selling days, and each one can be a late night in my Atelier Salon, whereas in my Couture salon a Monday and a Thursday are late night fitting days, with Wednesdays on standby for really busy months.
We have three members of staff on fitting appointments at one time, usually one fitting per hour on the hour, so these are busy evenings and we all go home exhausted. This year our busiest month is September for weddings, so we really are in the thick of it just now.
Wednesdays are my meeting days where possible, especially when the meetings are not in Opus. This also works well for the RBA meetings, as I am an Executive Councillor and we meet in London, so I can travel down and plan my work diary around them.
I love meeting with the RBA Council. We are from all over the country north to south, as are our members and it helps me stay connected to the industry as I am up in Scotland.
We have a Facebook group and our members are always chatting about how things are going with them and encouraging each other and helping with support and advice.
The Council meetings, on the other hand, are full on. We start at 9.30/10am depending on trains, planes and automobiles, and don’t lift our heads until 6pm. Someone will run out for lunch or we bring something with us – there is an M&S close by thankfully, so I keep fully stocked up with Percy Pigs!
Every six to eight weeks, on a Friday – depending on the time of year (we do more in our quieter months) – we have staff training days.
Altogether as a team, we meet from 9.30am to 12.30pm and have an in-house session, sometimes with an invited guest, or external training which usually consists of learning new skills, sharing tips on closing the sale, product training, information sharing, brainstorming, pin fitting and alterations information, team building and of course lunch – Kandy Bar Bakery Rolls and Yum-Yums (it’s a Scottish thing, a bit like a Danish pastry and we all love them).
These days have proved invaluable to our business and have helped us build the team we have. It’s hard work but our managers prepare for them and I help deliver on the day. Everyone attends – even the tech, alts and finance staff – and it’s so worth it.
Most days I try to finish before it gets dark as I love to go for walks. Where we live is right on the coast and the views and sunsets are amazing. So a good walk will blow away the cobwebs and all the pressures of the day. I have a few favourite spots that I aim for and I stop and take it all in. On these quiet rocks, just at the edge of the sea is where I sit and meditate. I know it sounds crazy and it’s weather permitting, but it really helps me to not feel overwhelmed by this crazy industry we are in.
But you have to agree… we all need a certain amount of crazy to survive.