Lars Skjoeth, Founder & Lead Researcher of Harklinikken, discusses what it takes to build a global brand based on science and deliver hope to those battling hair loss.
What do your first 30 mins of the day look like, your morning routine?
I get up quite early, so I have one hour for coffee, calls, answering emails/messages and writing/journaling.
How did you define hair loss as the channel for your research from the outset?
I felt that all communication about hair loss was directed towards men. Female hair thinning was a completely underserved category, and it was misunderstood with regards to how it affects a woman when she's losing her hair and how communicate to and with women about the issue.
How important is patient compliance when related to the results?
The cornerstone in the Harklinikken hair regimen is the customized Extract and the more effort you put in applying daily and in the correct way, the more result you get - so compliance is of utmost importance.
What have been the biggest challenges to date and how have you overcome them?
I feel there have been many "biggest challenges" over the years. When you try to build a global company and finance it all yourself there have been months where I thought to myself "can I handle all this and will we make it" but the biggest challenge has been building the right teams in all the countries we're in - because without the best team you can't be the best in your field. Another biggest challenge is patience. It sometimes takes more than a decade to develop a new important ingredient that could be a gamechanger and sometimes you get disappointed when it turns out not to be which is why I have numerous different new ingredients on trial simultaneously and several of them have come out like I hoped and some have exceeded my expectations.
"Many of the signs of hair thinning come quite early and if you're aware you can intervene early"
Did you have any mentors in the early days and how did this help navigate the right path?
My two grandmothers were my biggest mentors in life. They had both been business owners and both gave me great advice, love and care and they believed in me.
Which has been the best piece of advice you've had in business?
To be focused (give the attention time and effort to one business or area) - if not you'll never be the best at what you do.
What has been your approach to scaling the business to date?
The approach has been on product effectiveness and quality first, scaling has been second. We've had very good organic growth all the years, since I started the company, but this year, 2021, we expect to scale 100% or more worldwide as so many things are coming together and we're ready to do so. We have the right products, new ingredients, new systems, we have all the top team members in place, like a new CFO, CMO, COO and we have a new flagship in New York on 5th Avenue and we're opening a new flagship clinic in Beverly Hills/Los Angeles, in 2 months. We have automated online assessment so that we can start out thousands of new clients every month that live in places where we don't have clinics. Again, patience is important.
Mixing room in Harklinikken's flagship clinic on 5th Avenue in New York City
What is the value of social media in business growth relating to luxury and which platform do you feel will next drive most success?
Social media is so important to communicate our brand and even though Facebook still plays a role, especially in Europe and US, Instagram is more important to us. TikTok can become a new important platform, especially because the ads feel a part of the overall experience and aren't too disruptive, and this means a responsive audience.
The service at Harklinikken is bespoke. How does this evolve throughout the treatment process and how do you retain this level of personalisation at such scale?
The reasons it's been taking time to grow to the point we're at is because I've been sitting with my foot on the brake until I knew that we're able to grow exponentially without compromising quality. We now have all the algorithms in place that allow us to grow almost unlimited, which is a mix of ingredient technology, patents, system technology, onboarding processes of new team members, capital and leadership.
You have clinics in multiple locations globally. Do you see similar issues relating to hair loss arising globally?
For the past 15 years, I've been studying hair loss, scalp and hair health on clients from all seven continents of the world and I can say that it does develop differently in different parts of the world but it is almost equal importance wherever I look.
You treat both men and women - which proportionally makes up the largest part of your client base?
80% of our client base are women.
What signs can you look for at the early stages of hair loss?
Many of the signs of hair thinning come quite early and if you're aware you can intervene early: Brittle and dry hair is often a sign of hair thinning; Oily scalp can lead to and/or be a sign that hair thinning is in process; See through (see more scalp); Ponytail is smaller than it was when you were mid teens and the longer the hair gets the thinner the ponytail is. If all hairs are healthy, you're not thinning, your hair should be able to grow as long as it did in your early teens without looking brittle, dry or comprised.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs in the current market?
Create, develop and/or market something that really works and preferably something where you can remain different for a while until you get a loyal client base and when you get enough critical mass perhaps it's time to get foreign capital onboard and market broader.
How important is sun protection for the scalp in preventing damage and protecting the treatment process?
It's very important as sun can create damage on scalp like skin cancer, skin inflammation and follicle infection (which can lead to scars in hair follicles and result in permanent loss of hair in inflamed follicles). As hair will become sticky and oily with sunscreen on scalp the absolute best approach is to wear a cap or hat, or stay in shadow most of the time. If you go swimming, take a quick dip and move into the shadow or if you stay in water for longer - wear cover while in water.
When you travel - how do you maintain any kind of routine and what do you always need to travel with?
We have travel sizes for most of our products and I travel 200 days a year and compliance and routine has never been a problem. You travel with your customized Extract, your shampoo and your hydration products.
This is 'The Beauty Issue' - what is beauty to you?
A person or a thing that gives pleasure to my senses.