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Resources & Development - Blueprint to Success Part 2

Blueprint to Success (part 2), By Skip Williams
Continued from Part 1


Design the Décor

Anyone can be a decorator if you have an unlimited budget, but real creativity comes from someone who can take pennies and make it look like dollars where spent.  Am I describing you?  Do you have an “inner designer” yearning to break out?  I find that many people have great instincts and a wealth of creativity within our industry, and if that is you then by all means go for it and decorate yourself, if not then hire a professional, but find one that knows the value of a dollar and can enhance YOUR vision not make a vision of their own.


Some of the loveliest Spas I have been in have used plants and fabric and wonderful colors to make a far bolder statement then expensive furnishings and art.  Find the balance that best speaks to your “Feng Shui”.

Design the Menu

You may have a pretty good idea of what services you want to offer and your product vendors will help you come up with some more, but here are a few guidelines that you may not have considered:


“Do Not Try to Be Everything to Everybody”, this is a common mistake made by Day Spas.  They have a huge variety of services so that they offer something for everyone.  First, this is a waste of time because 80% of the sales you do will be the plain vanilla massage and facial.  Second you need to specialize in one or two services that you want to become known for so that anyone wanting “Cellulite Reduction”, “Microderm” or whatever your specialty is, will think of your Spa first and know that they are getting the very best of these treatments and not a mediocre version of 32 different flavors.  Third, this will simplify training, and allow you the time you need to build consistency into the delivery of ALL your services.  Forth, a wide variety of services requires a wide variety of labor with various licenses standing by and ready to deliver when someone orders that specialty.  Simplifying the menu allows you to minimize your staffing requirements, thus saving you money and aggravation.


Try to make the menu simple, in order to facilitate an immediate buying decision.  Nothing is worse than someone needing to “study” your menu for a few days before they are comfortable making an appointment. 

Select the Product Lines

It only takes one trade show to know that the biggest problem with picking Product Lines is trying not to be overwhelmed.  Attempt to work backwards, by asking yourself; “What am I trying to accomplish for my Guests/Clients?”  “What do I really need from my Product Line?” and “Are my Clients/Guests on a budget or is money no object?”


Then you can begin to narrow your choices down to a small handful.  For example if your Spa approach is “Holistic” then Products with artificial ingredients are not an option.  If “Anti-Aging” is the focus then the more high tech Product Lines are probably your best option.


Once you have narrowed the field then invite the salespeople of these few companies to come visit you to analyze them further.  See if they are a company that you can deal with the investment, payment, and delivery requirements and then sign-up and make your best deal.  One word of caution, my experience is that they will always want to sell you far more than you will need to get started, be very protective of your cash flow and do not spend more than you need to.

Purchase the Equipment

Much of the equipment will have lead times of about 6-8 weeks but check with each manufacturer or distributor when specifying the equipment so that you can plan accordingly.  Then reassess your construction schedule prior to placing these orders so that you can request a time for delivery that allows you to accept the delivery and begin any set-up and assembly that may be required and not interfere with incomplete construction.


Careful planning will also prevent you from having to “overnight” or rush deliveries, saving much in shipping expense.  Any piece of equipment that will prevent you from opening should be followed up on regularly to assure on time delivery, words of experience here; “Never trust that a vendor will do what he/she promised, always check and double check”.


While linen and uniforms are not technically equipment this is also the point at which you need to purchase and schedule their arrival as well.

Begin Writing the Employee Manual, Operational Procedures, and Job Descriptions

This can de a daunting task if you start from scratch, and if that is your plan then you should have started them even earlier not because you needed them prior to this time but because at this point you have dozens of things you are working on simultaneously that need your attention and writing these takes a lot of concentration.  There are however a couple of remedies, you can find Ready-to-Use business tools out there that can save you about 70-80% of the time it takes to write these important documents and guidelines, or you can hire your Assistant Manager at this point and assign that task to them (or both).


Why are they important?  The short answer is that you will need them to assist in the hiring process and the training process.  They will help you build consistency in the delivery of the services your Spa sells, simplify the training process and allow your employees to know what is expected of them.  Waiting until after you are open to do this is too late, this is what will insure high quality personnel, high quality customer service, and high quality services.  For the long answer see my article “Aesthetics and Politics” – Dermascope January 2001 (I know the title is misleading) which is all about “Rules, Tools, and Goals” and how they will help set-up your staff (and business) for success.  

Create Processes and Systems for Reservations, Accounting, and Marketing Information

Computers can be great and they can make this job easier, but you will need to design the steps in the system that will insure; great customer service, keep employees honest, provide accurate accounting, and keep important marketing information on all your clients/guests.


Always build checks and balances into the system so that “Closers” are double checking Front Desk Agents and then Managers or Controllers double check the closing reports and Owners see Daily Reconciliations and Bank Reconciliations.  The systems you design should also be Customer friendly and make the accuracy and timeliness of their appointment smooth and seamless.  The process should also be collecting data on all your Clients/Guests so that you can accurately market to them via phone, email, and direct mail.  For more detailed information of “Checks & Balances” and how to set up an accounting system for a Spa please see “Curbing Fraud” – Dermascope February 2000.

Select the Employees

Besides designing the right compensation system, which is a pet subject of mine that we will NOT be covered in this article, selecting the right employees is the MOST IMPORTANT task in front of you.  The right people will make it a pleasure to go to work, the right people can make your customers day, and the right people will make your business successful.  Of course the wrong people will have the opposite effect!


How then do we find them?  When it comes to recruitment I have a saying; “You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a Prince!” and that means you have to have a large inventory of applicants if you expect to find that nugget of gold.  Do not be shy about finding a Human Resources expert or consultant to help you with this most important task.


So advertise a job fair creatively, newspapers, bulletin boards at massage and beauty schools, word of mouth, and referrals.


Next, know what you are looking for.  If you spent some time creating the “Job Descriptions” discussed above you will know the requirements needed for each position.  But I like to go further than that and find people who have the natural talent that I am looking for, such as the natural ability for customer service, sales, career oriented, care giving, etc.  


Design the questions you want to ask around what amounts of these or other characteristics that you are looking for.  They will vary from position to position so design a set of specific questions for each position and decide ahead of time what the “desired answers” are.  This will allow you the ability to have an unbiased process that will obtain the very best “picks of the liter” and take the “subjection” out of the process.


If you’ve done your homework or hired a Human Resources expert that believes in the same process to help you, then you “will have found your fair Prince(s)!”

Training the Employees

Copious Training and Adequate Testing will insure that your Spa delivers services uniformly and with your companies flare and details.  This will allow you to “Build a Brand” which will be important for future retention of Clients/Guests.


Providers may know how to give a Swedish Massage, but they must learn your version of a Swedish Massage, the correct order of events, and the flourishes you want added to the service to make it uniquely your Spa’s.  Train to the specific Standard Operational Procedures (SOP’s) that you designed previously.  If your staff comes up with suggested changes to the SOP that will enhance the service feel free to implement it, but be sure EVERYONE incorporates the changes into their routine.


Then test your Providers to make sure that they are doing the procedure step for step and stroke for stroke.  Do not allow them to perform the services until they are doing the steps perfectly.


Finally this process is not just for Providers, it should also be used for Front Desk staff, Attendants, and any other positions that will have repeated tasks involved.  SOP’s, training and testing will allow you to build the quality into all that you do and consequently build a brand that will bring your Clients/Guests back for years to come.

Customer Service Concepts

Establish the level of Customer Service that you would like to achieve.  I like to use the “Stars” and “Diamond” ratings that you find in Hotels.  Do you want to be a 3-Star Spa (customer service wise) or a 5-Star?  If you are not already familiar with the differences then visit a few hotels with various ratings to she the difference in how you are treated.  High Tea at a Ritz-Carlton would be an example of just how good customer service can get with the right people and training.  Perhaps that is too “High-Brow” for your cozy Day Spa, that is fine just decide the level that you want, then quantify it, and then train to it.


One last note on the subject however is that without the right people, people that have the natural talent of a servant’s heart, then training alone will not work, it is like trying to teach a dog to quack, it isn’t going to happen, sometimes the dog might sound a little like a duck, he may even be able to imitate the duck, but he will never be the duck!  Talent comes from the inside and who we are, it is not a skill!

Install Equipment, Furniture, Décor, and Fixtures

Deliveries should now be arriving, you have the staff on board, and hopefully the construction has left the building (or at least no longer in the way).  So we all work to begin assembling the equipment, moving things into place and decorating.  It can be a frantic time but usually a fun time with everyone pulling together to prepare for opening.


This is also a good time to call in help from friends and family (if appropriate) to help with some of these tasks, because each can be time consuming and “many hands will make light work”.

Install Information Technology

Phone systems and computer networks are usually best left to professionals and this is the time for them to be installing their systems.  Make sure the installers are keenly aware of your exact needs, for examples: Exactly how many phone lines you will need, and how and where they should ring to.  Where will you need your work stations, printers and faxes set-up, and any specific needs of your Spa software such a SQL or Server requirements?

More Training

Now that you have several things installed, phones and computers in particular, you may find that you need to modify the SOP’s for a few things based on new information that you did not have before.  This is the time to change your processes and train with the modifications in mind.


Also this is your last chance to review the existing processes and practice as it may have been a week or two since your staff worked on them.


Training however is an ongoing process and it should be the second priority of what everyone works on right after taking care of the Clients/Guests.  This is what will separate you from your competition and make a smooth running profitable operation.

Open the Doors

The day that you’ve been waiting for has finally arrived!  Because you did your homework, started your marketing early, construction and décor are complete, and you have the best selected and best trained staff in town, you are in great shape.  A grand opening party would be nice, but at least have an open house that potential Clients/Guests can feel free to come see your beautiful facility and learn about the wonderful services that you will be providing.

Continuous Analysis and Improvement

“Always be Better Business Today than You were Yesterday” should be your motto from here out.  Your processes should get better, your staff become more efficient, and your marketing more effective and further reaching.  Training should continue, as mentioned before, and new ideas incorporated into the operation on a regular basis.  Never be content with the services levels or the profitability of the business!


Remember that you must always think ahead and you can not be totally focused on one step without thinking ahead to the next steps, I hope this chronological blueprint of events to opening your Dream Spa is helpful. 


Please also know in any project there are at least a thousand other overwhelming details, often unforeseen that we could not write about in this article, this is where getting the advice, guidance, or better yet the full time help of a consultant or someone who has been through all or most of this process before is invaluable, it can save time, money and most of all your sanity!


If you are presently at some point on this timeline and have opinions or questions I would love to hear from you, please let me know how useful this “Blueprint” is and what challenges you are facing.


Best Wishes & Healthy Profits

Skip Williams


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