10 questions to see if you’re ready for salon & spa ownership

10 questions to see if you’re ready for salon & spa ownership.
Douglas Preston
makeup retail sales
Want your own business someday? This 10 question test will help you discover if you’re REALLY ready for spa ownership.

Whether you’re an esthetician, body therapist, hairdresser or manicurist, chances are you’ve dreamed of running your own spa or salon one day. It’s an attractive prospect, isn’t it? Being your own boss, setting your own work schedule, making a lot more money–who wouldn’t want a future like that? Then there’s the prestige, long vacations from a business skillfully managed by trusted employees, and the big cash buyout when it’s all over and you’re ready for an early retirement. This would truly be the way to go–if it were the whole reality. Now let’s look at business as it most likely proves to be for the brave entrepreneurs among us.

I’m a spa business consultant. I’m hired to fix businesses that have broken down or are about to, and there are many, many of them out there–some aware of their problems and others still in denial about them. They all have one refrain in common: “I never thought it was going to be like this!” And it seems that no one ever does, which possibly explains why so many Americans are eager to rush into the high-risk, demanding embraces of independent business ownership. Don’t get me wrong here–I’m a successful independent business owner myself twice over, and I wouldn’t reverse that fact for anything in the world. But, I’m also one of the lucky ones, a rare survivor in a sea of foundered and forgotten companies that have put the small business failure rate at a staggering 99% over 10 years. I waded, worried, and writhed through a perpetual tempest of threats to my companies: three recessions, three fires, three lawsuits and countless employee defections with clients in tow. We had every imaginable financial crises, equipment breakdowns, earthquake disruptions, and new competitors closing in from every direction. Somehow, miraculously, we navigated safely around the rocks and shoals to stay profitably in business for 20 plus years. And the personal cost for this achievement? Thousands of long, unpaid hours of work, threats from worried bankers to close our deeply overdrawn accounts, the erosion of a partnership/marriage, and the terror that caused the awful sleepless nights that had become an unavoidable facet of life. I never thought it was going to be like that!

So for those of you who are about to trace the footsteps of the hardy, the foolish, or the fearless entrepreneurs of spa business investment, evaluate your willingness to face the realities of your probable future as detailed in the questions that follow!

1. Can I financially and/or willingly accept a potentially long road to making money, any money?
The stark reality is that you may go many months, or even years, before the tide of cash begins to flow in a positive direction–that is, if it ever does. Most new business owners end up funneling far more up front cash into it than they ever imagined they would, and unfortunately many go into business without realizing what kind of cash reserves will be necessary to stay afloat. In addition to the financial resources, you will also need large reserves of confidence to keep your spirits high as you work hard for very little initial return. You are almost certain to experience this! Do you want to? Can you afford to?

2. Am I willing to work long hours without a break for little or nomoney, no gratitude, and no end in sight?
It’s important to realize that work-free vacations, relaxing weekends, and sleeping in will probably not be your realities as you build a business. Work/life balance also becomes very difficult as the constant demands of owning a business settle in. Your new reality will include a vast workload, including emergency calls at home or on your cell phone at any time. Be prepared to cancel plans at the last minute to fill in for an employee who calls in (or doesn’t call in) sick, to do the most menial jobs at the spa, and face the ire of angry clients affected by your battered service schedule.

3. How will I keep (or afford to keep) my employees around now that we’re not as busy as we expected to be?
Even if you’re paying your team a wage or salary there’s little that they loathe more than a flat service schedule. Boredom sets in faster than brown spots on bananas, and you’ll soon be dealing with an expensive and restless crew. Without the know-how or skill to inspire them during the lulls all new spa businesses experience, you’ll soon be spending your precious time recruiting, training and interviewing in regular cycles. What fun!

4. I thought that I was hiring professionals! Wasn’t I?
Uh-oh! The unfortunate revelation all spa owners discover has arrived at your threshold, too. Your spa therapists seem to have a curious habit of showing up late for work, running late on appointments, ignoring the dress code and slacking on sales of your retail products. How can they be so unprofessional?

One thing you will learn very quickly as a business owner: as wonderful and professional as some of your staff may be, employees will not care about the business the way you do–ever.

5. Do I know how to bring in customers?
Your potential customers are out there–circulating in the great mass of your local population, one that won’t necessarily drop everything and flock to your new (and possibly me-too) spa when you open your doors. Think about it: do you notice every grand opening you read about, even if it’s a business you might eventually patronize? As the Wicked Witch of the West said, “All in good time, my little pretty, all in good time”! You’re going to have to work hard to get noticed, then convert that attention into steady, long-term business. Until then, you’ll need cash reserves or a credit line to keep you afloat.

6. Do I know how to find good employees?
Great recruiting takes skill and time. Be prepared to educate yourself about good interview techniques and to talk to a lot of people before finding the professionals that will really help your business thrive. You can also count on the fact that recruiting is an ongoing and often constant activity throughout the life of a business.

7. Do I know how to manage people?
As a potential business owner you are about to set yourself up to be the leader of people, the example, the one that all turn to for direction and motivation. Even if you put a wonderful manager in place, you are still the ultimate authority in this operation. Management ability, patience, and firmness in the face of inevitable employee challenges are crucial to success–no wimps allowed. Are you really up to, and willing to take on, this challenging task?

8. I don’t like financial figures, computers, record keeping, and inventory management. Is it really such a big deal?

Yes, it is. While you may be able to hire someone to help you with accounting or business management, that doesn’t mean that you can ignore the numbers and what they say every day about your operation. Sticking your head in the sand when it comes to understanding these crucial indicators of business health will very likely lead you into financial trouble–and quickly.

9. But our concept is different! That’ll make the difference, won’t it? Won’t it? WON’T IT?
No, it won’t.

10. I have business partners that will help me through the rough spots so we’re going to be fine.
Yes, and the Titanic had a captain, first officer, a chief, and even the ship’s designer on board. Still she sank. It was what they overlooked that sank her, not what they believed they already knew. Little good that did then. It was the sister ship that benefited from the lesson–a retrofit the first one needed from the beginning.

There are two phrases you should never utter when forging ahead into a new business venture: “We’ll deal with that when we come to it,” and, “We already have that solved.” Revisit your plan often, get the opinion of a qualified professional, and prepare for the ride of your life! With skill, determination, money, and lots of luck you just might reach the end of the rainbow. Those of us who’ve made it can attest to the hard work but also the joys of success.

Good luck to you!

Is HydroTherapy Right For Your Salon & Day Spa?

Is HydroTherapy Right For Your Salon & Day Spa?
Douglas Preston
day spa hydrotherapy
When thoughts turn to starting up or expanding into a spa business, the entrepreneur will often focus on a few compelling concepts that will eventually decide the design, and fate, of the business-to-be.

Chief among these ideas is a spacious and relaxing environment, a unique spa concept, and glamorous, seemingly fun-to-perform services that include the use of Vichy showers and Hydrotubs. It’s exciting to imagine that equipment getting a good workout from throngs of eager, hydro-savvy clients that will make your business investment a successful one. But it seems that few spa business owners have investigated thoroughly just what’s really needed to make an investment in specialized, sophisticated equipment and services profitable.

Many hydro equipment vendors have expressed dismay with customers who sometimes fault the costly devices for their failure to generate adequate customer demand. Vendors correctly feel that if the equipment is working properly, has been serviced promptly, and sufficient operational training has been provided, then their obligation to the customer has been dutifully fulfilled. However, many spa operators have begun to expect, even demand, that equipment vendors also provide marketing assistance, service plans and protocols, pricing help, and routine technical training for a revolving door staff. And while the price structure of hydro equipment sellers does not–and competitively cannot–include the cost of all these post-sale services, it is also reasonable to understand that the seller may not feel obligated to do so either. Think about it–you may plunk down $75,000.00 for a new Mercedes Benz, but the dealer is not going to provide you with driver training, auto insurance, or vacation planning. You get a warranty, care and maintenance tips, and some basic operating instructions–all that anyone should or can expect. Anything you need beyond that must be obtained from resources whose business it is to provide it: insurance companies, driver training schools, and travel agencies.

Somehow a trend has developed for customers to insist upon services that go above and beyond what’s realistic when purchasing high-end spa equipment. But if we’re going to plan and operate a spa successfully, we’ll need to face the fact that we will need to independently locate, utilize, and incorporate the best overall service and management systems we can find. And this means taking full responsibility for our decision to run our companies. Think of it this way: as business owners we love our spa customers. We recommend appropriate home care regimens and give instructions on daily use, and troubleshoot if they run into a problem with a product. Beyond that–it’s up to them to decide what to do with what we’ve provided. We cannot, and should not, be expected to do more.

Hydro equipment and the specialty treatments they permit are fun and interesting to work with, but how much did you really know before setting up shop about attracting the hydro client, keeping them returning, and actually making a profit from those sales? Unless you have a clearly detailed and working business plan for this service department, you have no plan at all. No planning means no direction, and no direction means you bought the car but can’t think of where you want to go, and don’t have a map to get there even if you have a destination in mind. Yet you do have the car and at least some people are willing to ride along with you somewhere–but where?

Rather than print an entire business plan (also known as an educated guess) let’s simply assume that our goal is to keep our hydrotub from becoming a convenient place to store used linens. It would also be nice to turn on the Vichy shower for purposes other than rinsing the dust from the table below. In other words, we want strong service sales generated by the mere presence of this miraculous machinery in our spa. We open up for business, stand ready at the keyboard and then…well, maybe almost nothing. It may be slow in the beginning, and it will take enough effort to get our standard services such as facials, manicures and pedicures going let alone the more esoteric. Should we call our vendor and complain about this scarcity of customers? Should we demand that they give us more training, treatment ideas, and a foolproof marketing campaign? Were we falsely lured into this expensive investment by predatory, heartless salespersons? No. The vendor delivered and we have now painfully discovered what failing to plan properly will do to any part of any business. So instead of attacking a sales let’s learn how to make a hydrotherapy operation as successful as it can and should be.

There’s going to be some new work to be done by you but it’s better than doing a lot more of the wrong things. As the saying goes, the definition of insanity is in doing something over and over again while expecting a different outcome. And remember this article is for those of you who are just now planning to enter the hydrotherapy business, and those still looking to get it out of the starting gate. If you’ve already built a prosperous hydro department in your spa then just…keep reading a little longer.

Day Spa Startup Horror Stories – Part 2

Day Spa Startup Horror Stories – Part 2
Douglas Preston
day spa horror stories
Lindsay S., operates a day spa she purchased from former owner, Lake County, CA: on facilities

When I bought my day spa from its former owner, everything told me that I was getting the deal of a lifetime. Health problems were forcing her into an early retirement, demanding the sale of her business. The décor was beautiful, most of the fixtures and equipment were like new, and the lease was affordable with an extension. After two years in operation the spa was still a fairly new business, and I saw lots of potential for service improvements and new clients. What I didn’t know then but wished I had thought to investigate was how the facility actually functioned as a facility. I hadn’t actually ever had a service there myself and had no idea what the working environment was like when in normal use. Since purchasing my deal of a day spa 18 months ago I have had to invest considerably more money to correct poor soundproofing in the walls, replace an inadequate water heater, upgrade the cheap carpeting, and implement a better working point-of-sale system. So far, my total out-of-pocket cash has soared to almost $11,000. It scares me to think of what might come next.

I would recommend that anyone thinking about buying a business do the following before signing on the dotted line:

Have a service or two in the spa and pay attention to the building more than the therapist or the treatment itself.
Spend some time in the lobby during a normal business day to get a feel for the flow and functionality of the working area.
Ask to see a copy of any recent building inspection, if possible (will possibly require the cooperation of the landlord if the business space is leased.) Termite repair may be someone else’s responsibility but tenting or reconstruction will certainly affect your business income.
Closely inspect the quality and source of the equipment and fixtures you’re about to buy–maybe they only look good.
Learn as much as you can about POS systems so that you’ll know in advance the difference between high and low-performing programs.

John W. MD, medispa partner, TX: on compensating employees
I think that my physician/partner and I soundly reinforced the cliché of doctors as poor businesspersons by adding a spa component to our dermatology practice. Evidently, we had become intoxicated by the trade articles and presentations touting the merits of a spa as an added marketing and income source. Our area had become increasingly populated by medical services, so we felt that having a spa available for patients would provide us with a competitive advantage. It’s probably too soon to know if the experiment has proven correct or not but one thing we did realize soon after opening the spa: it was far more expensive to operate than we originally believed. Our weekly payroll was killing us and we didn’t think we could sustain the cash drain rate for more than a year, maybe less. While we came to regret it we had based the rate of employee pay on local averages and the results of a survey published in a spa trade magazine. I’m not sure how others have fared with those pay programs but they seemed to be failing us.

Our solution was to hire a highly regarded spa compensation consultant who overhauled our plan and instituted an intelligent merit system that rewarded productivity. The change wasn’t exactly well received by the staff, resulting in some employee turnover, but the situation has stabilized. We’re not making impressive money yet but our cash flow is positive and we’re finally positioned to grow the business.

Janette K., day spa director/owner, AZ: on leadership and boundaries
I’m a big pushover and I admit it. I just had no idea how that attitude would haunt me while trying to act as the director of my spa. We’re not a large business–only 12 employees including myself–but it’s still more than a full-time job for me. I’ve got a young daughter at home and a husband who travels for his career so there’s a lot of responsibility both in and out of the spa! The trouble I have is in saying no to people when I know that I should. I imagined that my employees would be more like family and that, as professionals, would behave as such. While most of my staff is very cooperative, there are a few that are really demanding and lean on me pretty hard to get their way. They constantly push for work schedule changes, more personal time off, and privileges like free spa services and expensive training classes. It’s not that they’re rude about this, but the constant demands and my old inability to draw a line between my employees and me has been a real hardship. I think that I lost control of my business from day one and just didn’t know how I was going to fix the situation.

At this point things are beginning to improve quite a bit but are by no means fully corrected. A friend of mine that has attention deficit disorder raved about a personal life coach she began working with to help her manage her family life and career, and how helpful it’s been to work with someone who understands her challenges. I made an appointment with the coach and in our first meeting she described a plan that would help me become more assertive and set some personal boundaries with both employees and, sad to say, my daughter who has become quite the controller thanks to my permissiveness and my husband’s long absences. We now work on weekly goals, set boundary limits, and then I am given little challenges to test my commitment to improving. All I can say is that it’s really worked for me. Initially I was worried about being the bad guy with my employees, and some of them clearly resented my sudden no-ness! But I also have less day-to-day stress now and feel a lot more confidence and self-respect. I think most of my staff like the change, too. Anyway, before becoming a people manager I would highly suggest that boundaries-challenged persons like myself read books on assertiveness or get some professional assistance in that area. It’ll save you a lot of misery, that’s for sure!

Good luck to you!

Salon Spa Startup Horror Stories – Part 1

Salon Spa Startup Horror Stories – Part 1
Douglas Preston
day spa horror stories
Considering the startup of your very own day spa? A parade of beautiful, customer-filled spas and retreats has finally tempted you to bet with the players in this glamorous business.

Let’s assume that you’ve done your homework well. Feasibility study by an industry expert? Done. Stealth visits to your local competitors? Done. Trade show research on equipment, marketing, products, service menu, feng sui, and scented candles? Done. Bank loan? Done. Location and lease? Pending. You’ve planned, and planned and planned, and waited long enough. What more is there to do? Just one thing: reading this article!

I’ve assembled some testimonials from experienced spa owners that were willing to share hindsight lessons gained from the months and years since starting their businesses. All believed that they had conducted adequate investigation into the realities of costs, management and future trends prior to opening their spas. And while it’s normal and expected that any good business plan will require adjustments as you go along, here’s an opportunity to learn what other spa owners wished they’d known earlier than they did. So get out that completed business plan and double check it against the pearls of wisdom that others suffered to offer you!

Monica S., day spa operator, northern OH: on partnerships
I had a successful career in real estate but had become burnt out from the 7-days a week grind of paperwork, sales, open houses, and property tours. The stress of this career was partially relieved through regular visits to a massage therapist, one that had a dream of opening her own day spa. She had the industry expertise and skills, and I had saved enough to fund the investment so it seemed as though we had the perfect plan. Our troubles began soon after opening our six-room “dream”. We spent much time developing the look and feel of the spa but in hindsight, virtually ignored other seemingly less significant details such as our roles and responsibilities, communication styles, and personal accountability. Since I needed to maintain my sales career in order to support myself while we built up customers, it was important that I remained free to see clients and prospects as before. I quickly learned that my business partner had neither the ability nor the desire to manage people, plan marketing, or even to balance a checkbook! She had also become steadily more resentful of my absence from the spa–although I thought we had agreed to that–and reflected this by spending more and more time performing massage while allowing day-to-day management to flounder. It wasn’t long before our spa’s service reputation was nearly shot, I was pumping even more money into the business, and my partner and I were barely on speaking terms. Since then we’ve been locked in a lawsuit over my proposal to take over the business and let her just walk away. She feels that she’s earned thousands of dollars in sweat equity, and yet I’m the only one that’s ever contributed a single dollar into the project. At this point I’m more deeply invested in this thing than I ever expected to be, am emotionally and physically drained, and there’s no end in sight to all of this.

If I could do it all over again I would have chosen a partner more carefully, properly defined our roles and activities, and discussed how to handle disagreements or conflict before going into business. I’m amazed and embarrassed that I overlooked such an obvious trap!

James R., day spa operator and esthetician, WA: on management
In deciding to expand from my small, busy skin care practice to a 2000 square foot day spa, I knew I didn’t have the time or desire to be its manager. Honestly, the reason I expanded the business at all was because of all of the new clients I had to turn away–it just drove me crazy doing that! At first I only wanted to add a couple of new facial rooms but then it seemed smarter to try and attract customers for services we didn’t already offer yet–massage, body treatments and reflexology. I wound up spending more money that I had planned to but figured that it would pay me back pretty quickly. Boy, was I wrong about that, but that’s another story! I then quickly found out how hard hiring an experienced spa manager was going to be. Not only was it a struggle getting anyone to even apply for the position (we had advertised in our city newspaper for three weeks) but, when someone would show interest they weren’t even close to being qualified. This was a major shock for me, and I panicked as the finish date to our expansion got closer and it was looking more and more like I was going to personally manage the place. Since opening the new spa almost two years ago we’ve been through two managers and are searching for our third. My sister-in-law has been helping me with some of the management duties but is pregnant and needs to stop soon.

Looking back I can see how much I would have benefited from taking a closer look at our management needs and the local availability of skilled personnel–like making sure we’d be able to find what we needed before needing them. On the other hand I’ve had to learn more about my business than I might have otherwise but I’m still reluctant to slow down my practice and take on this job.

Cassandra L., day spa owner & former chiropractor, 3-locations, FL: on business growth
How many times have I kicked myself for not listening to my business advisor’s advice? There I was, all in a lather worrying about some hot, new day spa opening up and stripping away my hard-won customers! I knew it was only a matter of time before we had to deal with that so I made up my mind that I had to corner the market on spa services in our area. There went my life in one crazy decision. Suddenly I had three locations all within eight miles of one another, debt for the first time in years, and more hats than heads to wear them. Now I’m dealing with higher employee turnover, frequent customer complaints, and the world’s worst landlord. To really salt this self-inflicted wound, I now make less money than I did before the expansion got underway–a LOT less! So, instead of freaking out about potential competition I’m totally swamped with trying to make these spas survive. And the worst part is that I now have two competitors nearby anyway.

My lesson? Having foolishly overridden my advisor’s warnings even though I knew (and feared) that he was right. I should have remained calm, waited to see who might come along while spending my time improving our product and service sales. I’m still optimistic about getting through this mess but I can’t help wishing that I hadn’t been so headstrong at the time.

…now read part 2!

The Best Day Spa Skincare Line

The Best Day Spa Skincare Line
Christopher Brazy
best day spa skincare line
Skincare and body products are everywhere. Everyone has their own personal idea on what’s “best.” What’s really important? That’s what everyone ignores. If you want your retail sales to soar, pay attention to these qualities.

Ask 100 different people on what the best skin care is and you’ll get 100 different answers (really, see our forum post). “This line sells the best” …”that product line has the best ingredients.” It goes on and on and on. What we’re dealing with here is ego. A personal testimonial …advice. People love to give it. It’s all based on who they know, much like everyone’s favorite sports team is always their home state’s team. Who from Indiana likes the Denver Broncos? No one. Or WORSE yet, it’s based on image. We’ve all been “Brand-washed.” The medspa industry is the WORST at this. Call 10 doctors and see what they carry. I’ll tell you, Skinceuticals or Obagi.

Let’s look past the emotional attachment we have to what our top esty likes (only because she used it in school) and find out what you should REALLY be looking for in a spa product line.

Exclusivity
We carried Dermalogica way back when. We were 1 of 2 in town. Within two years we were 1 of 20. Look at Aveda, there are now Aveda retail STORES (not salons/spas) selling product only. Why would anyone come to you to pick up something they can get elsewhere? People want their own little secret place to get those exclusive items you can’t find elsewhere.

Internet presence
Tying in with the above, if it can be had online at just over your cost, why would they buy it from you? A friend of mine told me about her lunch with a first time spa-goer. She asked how he liked his facial. He LOVED it! She asked if he bought product, he said of course. Where did he buy it? Not from the spa that recommended it, but from online for 40% off from some super skincare store.

Branding (not)
The public does NOT know about skincare lines. We do. After all look at their advertising. Do you see them in “O” or “Cosmopolitan?” No, you see their ads in spa professional magazines. Why is that? It’s because they advertise to us, so we do all of the word of mouth advertising for them. We put it up in our ads, on our websites …why spend time building someone else’s brand? If you ever do see a national skincare line advertising in women’s magazines that means they’re ready to go public with it.

Ingredients
I almost named this “quality” but switched. Really it’s two fold here since clients don’t really care about ingredients. Sure, if it’s au’ natural, not tested on animals and the such those are benefits, but no one walks up and asks. Even organic, who has actually ASKED for it? Or is it US hyping it up? “Our line is organic!” Actually, organic product is VERY expensive and goes BAD very quickly. So what do our clients care about? Did you guess results? Good guess! Clients would like to see results, something more than what they could buy over the counter. So look for effective ingredients (which will more likely than not mean leaning away from the “all organic” lines). Botanicals are a great mix between “earth friendly” and “result oriented.” But I’d have to say the smell is probably one of the top deciding factors in buying, so that means essential oils (not perfumes).

Look
We don’t try stuff out before buying (sampling is the quickest way to lose a sale), we look at it! Do the labels look like return address envelope labels? Cheap. We feel it. Does it have some weight to it, is it substantial. We smell it. Is it YUMMY? Our first impression with a product (along with personal recommendations, below) has considerable impact.

Can you believe in it?
Whatever line you carry, it has to be YOUR choice. If you leave it up to staff you’ll be getting in a new line for every new hire. Let your staff know this is the line we’re using and be it’s number one cheerleader. Get staff psyched up about your skincare. Talk about how wonderful the ingredients are [our own line uses the 2 most stable types of vitamin-C out there, bonded together to further stabilize it and add to its effectiveness]. Talk about how wonderful it works and see how nice the clients’ faces glow afterwards. Your personal recommendation will have the MOST impact on sales, to your staff and your clients.

…and we saved the most important for last.

Markup
We assume a regular branded line has a decent markup. It costs $10, we sell it for $20 (100% markup, that’s called a “keystone”). A keystone used to cut it, but not anymore. You’ve got 50% in cost. 5% shipping cost. Up to 5% merchant fees for using the credit card. 10-20% commission. Then there’s the time of the receptionist to ring it up (that’s not free) and MORE importantly the LEASED SPACE that it occupies. A 500 square foot retail/reception area probably is costing you at least $1,000/month. If you’re selling $10,000 worth of product/month that’s another 10% there. So what’s left for you? 10-20% …Is that worth it?

The answer? Find a line with MORE than just a single keystone markup.

When we found a manufacturer to develop our line “Alexandra” we didn’t go with our personal favorite for everything. We went with what worked best, what smelled the best and was the best for business-sense. We didn’t have to put our “personal favorite stamp” onto every product. I personally HATE lavender. But it’s the #1 most popular scent. So guess what, we have a lavender cleanser.

To recap, find a fairly exclusive line with limited presence (especially internet discount stores). Preferable a website that would refer back to you. Make sure it looks worth it’s price, has an incredible markup %-wise with quality ingredients and stand behind it with your staff.

A Salon Spa Owners Duties

A Salon Spa Owners Duties
Christopher Brazy
salon spa owner
Have you ever felt overwhelmed? Does your day just fly by and nothing ever seems to get done? Too busy handling all the small details to ever accomplish anything? If so, you’ve got “owner-itis.” Curing yourself of this disease will GREATLY increase your profits.

When we opened our first spa, we worked. I mean we worked! 80+ hours/week and then some. Into work at 10, out at 9, 6 days a week and then 7 hours on Sunday. Eating out at the restaurants wolfing down food in 10 minutes then off to home to sleep and start over. Then we began to grow. A larger location, an employee, then two, then a dozen. Eventually Jennia had to get out of the room and start managing (it’s UNBELIEVABLE what trouble staff will get into unwatched). Our first esty stole all the client info. The next one stole clients from her fellow caregivers. We even caught a receptionist and massage therapist giving each other brazil waxings on the clock (how do you book an appointment while being waxed?). So the caregiver hat got put on the shelf and the management hat went into action full tilt.

Guess what. Our “income” was down since we had to replace Jennia as a caregiver and she was miserable running the business. What was wrong?

She was working in the business, doing all of the daily grind. It was very tiring and starting to burn her out on the whole idea. What should she have been doing? Working ON it. By working on your business you can create a plan for growth and follow through on it. How? How can your business survive without you there to oversee every single transaction? How do you get out from behind the counter and take control of your businesses future? This is how.

start quoteWork ON your business, not IN it.end quote
– Christopher Brazy
1 – Don’t be the staff’s goto person or gofer. This happens when you don’t teach your staff to think for themselves. Do you hear “where’s this?” “how do I do that?” “we’re out of this product” (when there’s a gallon of it on the shelf). If so, you’re the gofer. If you weren’t there the place would fall apart because you answer everyones’ questions for them. Ask them a question back, “did you look?” Teach them to only come to you if it’s an emergency.

2 – Put systems in place. Create Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) so people know what the procedure is. Give them a checklist so they know how to answer the phone, what info to get, how to book, how to open the door and give tours, how to ring up sales and ask about retail and rebooking. How to take care of the clients, perform the service, consult, offer retail, reschedule, all of it. THIS WILL TAKE SOME TIME TO IMPLEMENT and then you need to Practice, Practice, Practice. Then eveluate them and RETRAIN them until they’ve got it right.

3 – Next, learn to Delegate. Make others responsible for certain duties and check with them to make sure they’re getting done.

4 – Outsource. There are things that are NOT our specialty. Bookkeeping for me, I’m horrible at it. But accounting, taxes, legal documents, etc. Just pay a professional to do their job (money saving TIP: find someone to TRADE services with). Even if you can’t trade for it, you’ll save enough time and headache to make paying for it worthwhile.

The results? The “daily grind” that burns out so many of us will go away. Staff will know where to look and what the procedure is because they were taught to operate that way. This takes work but it’s worth it. Delegate away the small stuff, outsource the boring stuff and you will have time to work ON your business. So what then? Create a goal. Create a means to achieve that goal. Put a marketing calendar in place to coordinate your efforts. Get out your PNL and look at what’s happening! You can adjust, adapt and overcome (is that the marines slogan?).

This can’t be done in a week (well, we do have some resources that will speed up the process). First you have to have the right MINDSET about what your responsibilities are. Write down, right now (really, get a big marker and do it) “Work ON your business, not IN it.” Then break it up into baby steps and start doing it. Take ACTION.

Front Desk Scheduling Checklist [DOWNLOAD]

DOWNLOAD: Scheduling Checklist
Christopher Brazy
Front Desk Scheduling Checklis
Scheduling is more art than science, but with these easy to follow steps the blandest receptionist can turn into a scheduling machine.

Your receptionist should be knowledgeable about the importance of their job and how much it took to get that phone to ring. Follow these steps to best utilize your schedule times, provide top client service, offer add-ons and keep Satrudays open for our regulars.

Vist our download area or use the link below to go straight to it.

How to Eliminate Your Salon Spa’s Competition

Be Competition-Free with a USP
Christopher Brazy

Would you like to be competition-free? Do so by differentiating yourself. Actually, if you don’t differentiate, you will be seen as a commodity, the same as everyone else. When given a commodity the only way the client knows how to differentiate is by price. Your USP (unique selling proposition) will set you apart and remove you from the price wars.

Dyson vacuums did this really well. “The vacuum that doesn’t lose suction.” They took a problem and made it their specialty. Not only that, but this implies that all other vacuums DO lose suction. Money is tight, but people still CHOOSE to pay HUNDREDS more for a Dyson. They were educated on the difference.

If you don’t have a USP, which is more than a tag-line or slogan (i.e. relax). “Relax” says nothing about you. Develop your USP now. It should be at the forefront of all your advertising/marketing. Since a USP is unique, I can’t tell you what yours is. I can tell you how to make one though.

Go through the list and figure out where your strengths are. What’s your spa’s name? (notice FaceLogic doesn’t offer massages). Start by compiling a list of what you do that is different. What is your position in the marketplace? Do you have an affinity or relationship to any groups? Do you have a hidden benefit or added-value no one else does? Do you creatively solve any client problems/concerns? Can you get a celebrity endorsement? What’s your guarantee? What message do you want to send? Something owner- centered (based on credentials/celebrity)? Service/Procedure centered (great for niches, specific treatment)? or Client centered (result-oriented, emotional ties, WIFM)? Look over the list and see what sets you the furthest apart from the rest. Look at what is in highest demand. Look at what your competition is doing. Decide what will be your USP.

For example, at your spa you offer botox, laser hair removal, massages, same-ol’, same-ol’, blah, blah, blah (the same laundry list of services everyone else offers …see why listing this in your ads is deadly?). You also have gotten REALLY good at treating Acne, are a no- tipping spa and have staff that’s been with you for 10 years. There’s 3 other places that treat acne in town, plus you do a lot of massage business, so that’s out. Everyone else accepts tips, plus people love a bargain, so you choose to go with that and add on your guarantee info. You come up with: “Keep your money – No tips allowed, guaranteed”

Not the best, but the best I could come up with in 10 minutes. Now you try it. Then sleep on it and look it over the next day. Think about it all week. Ask your staff and a few clients what they prefer. Tweak it but don’t sit on it forever, give yourself a five day deadline (no one takes action without a deadline). A mediocre idea that is out working will bring in more that a perfect idea that never gets implemented.

Set yourself apart now. Get out of the price wars. Take action. Let us know what you come up with in five days.

Proper Salon Spa Compensation Plan

Compensation Must-Do
Christopher Brazy

You KNOW you should stop overpaying your staff. You know you NEED to if you ever hope of making a penny for yourself. Now when times are tough is the best time to make the dreaded switch-over with your staff. Do it and thrive. Fail to do so and go under with the other spas that pay out more than they bring in.

Get Ready
First off, if you happen to be on a high percentage, you will lose your staff, BUT THAT’S OK. Really, it is. It really, really is. It’s a shame, but it necessary. THAT PAY IS PUTTING YOU OUT OF BUSINESS. And changing pay will worry staff and they will leave (even if it’s just a different way of doing basically the same thing). Please, realize your worth, realize your situation, and realize you HAVE to make a change.

Bringing new staff in, or having them ready in case everyone “jumps ship” wouldn’t be a bad idea. Again, you need to watch for staff talking, old ones that are against the idea and plan on leaving will spoil the new ones in about 1 minute.

Common Sense
You would think that someone should be concerned with how much their paycheck IS. In our industry they’re concerned with how much of the pie they’re getting (what %). I try to educate people and be very straightforward with them. With new hires, people tell me they made 60% …I ask “how much was your paycheck?” They say $280 per 40 hour week (tips included). I show them that they were working for $7/hour ($280 divided by 40). So this setup (hourly, fee per service, whatever) is more. They ALWAYS get stuck on the percentage (they’ll even figure out the percentage if you’re on a fee/service setup). YOU need to keep educating them and showing them what they are making HOURLY (on average), tips and retail commission included.

Attitude is KEY
You must have confidence and believe in your compensation plan. If you don’t buy it they won’t. They will SMELL your fear, your uncertainty, your desperation. That’s why we spoke on the philosophy of it for a bit in “stop being the lowest paid person in your spa,” to get your mindset in the proper place. But if you’re an owner in todays economy that shouldn’t be too hard to accomplish.

Don’t get too technical
We initially moved from a % to a fee/service and explained all the benefits. Instead of figuring out the money that came in, deducting coupons, deducting package discounts, etc. we figured staff was really making about $20/hour, so we setup a fee/service plan based on that and now they don’t have to worry about who has a discount or who is in a package, it’s always the same pay. Some staff stayed, some quit (we went into too much detail and it looked like we were defending our position), then the ones that stayed quit. However anyone new that came on, and wasn’t aware of the previous setup they had no problem with it at all.

When new hires ask about pay, just say this is our compensation plan and we’re very happy with it. Don’t be too defensive or explain too much, it’ll make you look desperate and make them think something is fishy. Like accepting tips (you should say “thank you” and that’s it), just say “here it is and we feel it’s very fair.” That’s it.

Baby Steps
IF you feel you can’t accomplish this move but need to do something, try this for a baby step in the right direction.
The least you can do if you’re on a percentage deal is to deduct any discounts/promotions before figuring out their cut.
Or you can keep your staffs pay but instead of figuring it out as a percentage, set it up as a fixed fee. So instead of 50% for an $80 massage, just pay $40/massage. Now you can do a few things. First, raise your prices. Since your staff isn’t tied to the price via a % this is pure additional income for you.
You can also associate fees to be deducted from their pay. Let’s say a linen fee (it costs us $1/sheet to clean them) or a product/backbar fee. You could subtract the merchant transaction fee from the service and/or tips.
Years ago when we first moved from the % setup to a fee/service we figured all those expenses and discount coupons in and lowered it from $30 (half) to $20 and told them “whenever there’s a discount you don’t have to worry about it, it’s already figured in.”

Probably the best answer is an hourly setup (with a tight watch on how you schedule!). So instead of arguing about coupons and charges, say this:
“We’re going to help you out during these tough times by giving you a steady income you can rely on, an hourly setup of $10/hour (or whatever) PLUS tips AND retail commission” (up their retail pay for goals met) …so they should still be making $20/hour. Put that way, who would turn down $20/hour?