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.

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