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Massage Today
April, 2002, Vol. 02, Issue 04

Spa Letters

By Steve Capellini, LMT


Author's Note: The Spa Letters column features news, personality profiles, trends, and plenty of professional possibilities for LMTs in the spa industry. The style is epistolary, meaning the articles are letters to a fictional massage therapist friend of the author.


Dear Lou,

You've done it! You've moved into management! It's a bigger step than you thought it would be, right? And yet it happened incredibly fast.

That's the way the spa industry is moving these days. People who show promise are moving quickly to fill the many openings in spa management created by the proliferation of facilities being built. You're riding the wave of a phenomenon. Now you've just got to be careful not to fall off.

OK, now that you've made your choice, there are certain guidelines you can follow that, in my opinion, will make it possible for you to not blow a gasket and run screaming back into the ranks of full time, hands-on massage therapists. That's exactly what happens to many therapists who try working in spa management, because the job is so incredibly different than the one they're used to, with so many unique challenges and potential frustrations.

I don't mean to depress you, but rather to make this decision of yours real, as it's a decision that I made myself several years ago. It's only been a few days, but the initial celebration of your promotion is already over, and now it's time to get down to work.

It's good that you're still going to be working hands-on as a therapist at least half of the time. This will keep you immersed in the work you love while you get your feet wet in the new world of management. In the meantime, here are four guidelines I followed as I transitioned into supervisory/managerial roles in the spa world. I hope they provide some help for you, too.

Everybody Counts

As you move up in any organization, you're going to need to form relationships with people in many different fields. While you were strictly a therapist, it was easiest probably to make friends with other therapists, plus receptionists, guests coordinators, and others you came into direct contact with. But as a manager, things are going to be different... or at least they should be.

I heard a story once about the CEO of a large corporation who knew the name of everybody there, including the janitors. When I took my first managerial position at a spa, I made it a point to do the same thing, even though it might have been a little premature on my part (I never did become the CEO). Something wonderful happened, though, when I took on that CEO's mentality. As I made it a point to talk with and get to know everyone in every department, people started respecting me, and I quickly figured out that respect breeds respect.

I also was quick to figure out that people who respect you are much more willing to do what you'd like them to do when the time comes to get something done, which leads me to the next point. I believe it's a good idea to be ready to do absolutely anything that becomes necessary to do in the course of your work and the overall spa's operations.

Be Willing to Do Everything

What I mean by this is that you should be ready to get down on your knees and scrub the tiles, clean up in the bathrooms and drill holes through drywall with a ¼th inch bit. If the people who work for you and with you see that you don't hold yourself above anything or anyone, they will not feel shamed when you ask them to do the same thing.

Some managers will disagree with me on this point, thinking that it's better to retain a respectful distance from the staff, and you can take my words with a grain of salt, Lou, but over the years it's worked for me really well. There will always be times when you can get dressed up in a professional suit, sit in a board room and command the respect you deserve for the opinions and insights you've gained through your hands-on work. But don't put the cart before the horse. It's better to get your hands dirty first, then explain how to dig the hole.

Set Priorities

What you're going to find in your new position, almost immediately, is that you have a long list of new tasks to accomplish. Whereas your therapist's responsibilities included 1.) showing up;and 2.) performing a good service, now suddenly you're flooded with a lot of options as to how you're going to fill your hours and days when you're not in the treatment room.

My advice here is to set up some priorities as fast as you can. You'll discover what these priorities are quickly, as they present themselves to you on a daily basis. Grapple with the toughest issues first, spending time to work your way entirely through the problem.

With any luck, you can automate the procedure that needs attention, so it won't require so much of your attention in the future. I've done that with payroll systems on the computer, for example, and it's worked great. After you master one area, check it off on your list (you do keep a written list, right?), and more on to the next item.

You Are, After All, the Boss

Finally, Lou, you've got to remember that, even though you were a rank-and-file therapist just last week, now you're the supervisor of the whole spa body treatments department, reporting to the spa director. You have greater responsibilities and greater concerns. You deserve the recognition of the people around you because you've stepped into this position. It's a position recognized by everyone in the scenario - Spa Treatment Supervisor.

Sounds good, doesn't it? Now you have to go out and earn the respect the title demands. I can't wait to hear how it goes!

Take care,

Steve Capellini, LMT


Click here for previous articles by Steve Capellini, LMT.

 

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