If you’re looking for a magic wand, there isn’t any.
“It’s a combination of vision, purpose, a good leadership culture, differentiation of your product, and a strong financial structure that supports where you need to go,” Lisa M. Starr, an international spa consultant, told a group of spa owners/managers at a special seminar at Continental Cosmetics.
And, above all else, enough money to see you through your first year.
At least eight-to-12 months of operating capital, depending on the size and scope of your spa. In dollars, that translates into $500,000 to $600,000 – and that’s after you’ve built your spa, she adds. “You need that much to fund your day-to-day operations for cash flow. If you do it well, it could fund itself in the eighth or ninth month.”
Capital requirements for smaller spas would, of course, be less.
Lisa lists cash flow – “and the lack thereof” – as one of the biggest challenges spa owners face today.
Second on her list is staff. “You hear a lot of people in the industry say they don’t have enough staff. No one seems to want to work anymore…I haven’t found one thing that works unfailingly.”
How to deal with this?
You need to maintain a culture that attracts people, to be clear, fair and create an environment that gives everyone an opportunity to earn more, without crippling your business. “You have to make it fun, and an opportunity to learn.”
In her experience, spa staffs want to learn, to feel they’re doing the right thing. “And the more training, the better.”
Building a great team is paramount. It requires a combination of skills but it can be done. “It requires someone who really cares about people, has a vision and is able to articulate that vision to everyone in the spa, and be willing to go on that journey with their staff. It evolves together.”
As a leader, you have to wear a lot of hats. You have to be a consumer advocate one day, a scape goat, a janitor or a quality champion on the next, and a teacher, student, a recruiter, a diplomat, a referee and a cheerleader and even a fall guy at times. “It’s all that and more.”
“Leadership means getting people to want to do what needs to be done. It’s communication at its core. It’s creating an environment for performance as well as fulfillment and growth. Above all, it’s treating people the way they want to be treated. Leadership is an art, not a science.”
Keep in mind that you can’t do everything yourself, says Lisa. You can’t be in touch with every client but your staff can be. They are the ones who touch your clients, and their feedback is important.
“You may hear from your staff that your clients are complaining because you’re not offering this or that treatment or lack a certain amenity. Instead of brushing their comments off, tell them let’s fix that and do something about it. Together, we make a stronger team.
“Clients are attracted to a calm, professional atmosphere when it comes to personal care services.”
Above all, she adds, reward staff behaviours that drive growth, not necessarily longevity and seniority. Build loyalty by helping them develop their skills by offering an annual education incentive, holding education events for each department as well as life skills training, sales and communications, and a compensation plan that promotes career growth.
A strong, dedicated team can make all the difference in ensuring that very client’s experience is a good one, that your clients enjoy coming in, and that their experience feels enjoyable, not transactional. ”Your clients don’t want to feel they’ve just bought something from a stationary store. It needs to be fun and enjoyable. We need to build a sense of community.”
It all begins with choosing the right people for your team.
“Don’t be in a hurry. Do it right,” says Lisa. “Job turnover is costly, not just in the disruption it causes in your spa but in the loss of trainer wages and the trainee’s wages and recruiting costs but also in customer dissatisfaction. Market your business as an employer of choice.”
For Lisa, it’s a four-step process that starts with a telephone interview, followed by an initial interview and a second at the spa before a practical audition, followed by reference checks and support documentation.
She is a great believer in protocols and manuals, starting with a department manual that outlines the dress code for each department, detailed service protocols, product knowledge from vendors and inventory guidelines. Training protocols should include the training for each department, customer service, communication sales skills as well as a training grid for each department. Your service protocols, she adds, should outline an over-all description of service, ideal target for service, supply and product check list and home care recommendations.
And above all, retail. It’s more important than just the income it provides. It also connects clients to your spa, she notes.
Despite that, it remains an under-used opportunity for many spas, essentially because many therapists feel uncomfortable pushing products. “Today’s therapists are relationship driven, not money driven. A 10% commission does not outweigh the feeling they have about not wanting to offend or overreach.”
That said, many therapists may never feel really comfortable doing it. Something, says Lisa, you may want to think about when your interview prospective therapists.
But what is often overlooked, it’s also important for clients. Your therapist may work very hard to make a client’s skin look great only to have that client go home and use whatever they’ve been using all along.
“How can they maintain the results they achieved at your spa doing that. They’re not. The result: They feel they wasted their money at the spa and that their skin doesn’t look any better. It’s not selling so much as sending every client home with the tools to help them maintain what they’ve just invested in. Your therapists need to understand that as well.
“It goes back to providing a script to make it easier for your therapists to do that. Something like: What would you like to take home with you today?”
Whenever possible, she advises the therapist begin and end the client’s treatment journey in your retail centre.
Worth Noting: Clients who purchase retail products are 78% more likely to return to your spa.
During her visit to Toronto, she visited a mall that was crowded with young families with their children. “They needed some place to go to and be with people.” It occurred to her that we’ve made spas exclusive and separate. But what she saw made her think it may just the opposite.
“We need to think a lot more about the community aspect of our business and how we can make our spas more social.”
It’s in keeping with the fact that spa goers today are more socially responsible and expect businesses they patronize, including spas, to be more sustainable in their business practices. “They want to know that you’re doing something good and giving back.”
It’s important today, especially among millennials, that they see that your business has a social mind.
Successful spas know they need to have a unique services proposition today. The operative word is “unique” – what makes you and your spa stand out. It could be your spa’s rigorous training program, or that you focus on results, or that you offer a unique spa treatment or experience, or that you offer special treatments at lunch hour. Whatever it is, it should make you stand out.
That’s where your branding comes in. It’s what sets you apart in a single word or sentence – something that stays in the heads of your clients whenever they think about your spa.
Lastly, should you have a brochure? A few spas have done away with them. But you still need something to hand out. Your website may be great but something printed stays with them longer and it’s something they can show others.