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Massage Today
July, 2002, Vol. 02, Issue 07

Step Seven: Operations

By John Fanuzzi

Last month, we dealt with construction planning; this month we'll shift gears a bit and focus on the actual internal operations required to run a successful spa or day spa.

Before we hire our therapists, we've hopefully done our homework as to appropriate theme planning, and should have penciled out our menu to some degree.

That means we know our specialty treatments will fit right into the particular personality and image we want to manifest. Sometimes situations come up in the hiring process, such as finding a massage therapist with other skills that might be beneficial to offer, that triggers new menu items. Modalities such as polarity therapy; chair massage; aromatherapy; Ashiatsu foot massage; etc. could be added to expand your spa theme. There are many more potential additions, but the point is that any employee's extra skills could add more depth to your spa menu that will set you apart.

When you hire staff, there are many qualities to consider. Personally, I would look at attitude first and a passion for work second -- they must love. Don't forget, you are in effect married to your employees, so communicate and make sure their vision is in line with your vision. I recently visited the DePasquale Day Spa in New Jersey, which is in my opinion an extremely well-managed, five-star operation. What most impressed me was the spa's hiring procedure, and the steps it takes for a new therapist or stylist to actually work the main floor. First, employees train in the school area; then perform their skills on the department heads; and finally, on the spa owner(s). Only then are employees "ready" to treat paying customers.

Generally, you should start your staff training about four weeks before your spa opens. Employees need to learn much more than where they will be working; they need to know your philosophy, theme, internal operating systems, and products, so they can sell products and services besides their own. Employees must be trained as team players and be ambassadors to customers and the public. This can only happen if they are happy with their relationship with their supervisors or owners.

Another important key to success is to set up a computer system that will give you all the information you need. With access to the right information, you can manage and make decisions based on facts. Computers will not solve your problems if your systems are not prepared; and wrong or incomplete data is worse than a manual system. In choosing your software program, do your homework. Ask yourself some questions. Will it be easy to learn and operate? Is it a complete bookkeeping and operations package? Can you get any kind of report you need easily? How does it handle commission splits? Does it create barcodes for your inventory? Will your reports produce graphs? If used correctly, your computer system will save you lots of work, so don't skimp.

A few months ago, in my article on spa budget and finance, I presented several charts illustrating startup cash requirements and cash flows. (Editor's note: See "Step Four: Budget/Financing" in the April issue). It would be a wise business practice to prepare those same charts with real everyday numbers, so you can immediately see where you are winning and where you are losing. This type of daily record will reveal trends and allow you to make adjustments before you lose big money. I like to post daily sales figures and employee performances, which help build teamwork and create a challenge to set higher goals. From that original business plan with cash requirements you should be in the ballpark to know what your marketing budget is and at this time there will most likely be some adjustments since the original was done before the final design.

Retail sales is one of the most important, but often neglected, facets of spa operations. Retail sales can be a tremendous source of "extra" revenue. When setting up your retail sales operations, consider a full time retail sales manager and an incentive program for therapists who sell. A good salesperson can make you a lot more money than just letting the receptionist ring up a passive sale. Your retail sales revenue may depend on how big or small your operation is, and how well your employees know your product line.

If you've hired a spa consultant, you may already have a complete operations manual based on experience from similar past clients. Don't forget to allow for regular cleanup and maintenance in off hours, so your place will always stay sparking.

Next month, we will discuss the initial startup marketing strategy for your spa. Until then, keep reading those spa magazines!

Only Victory,

John Fanuzzi

Click here for previous articles by John Fanuzzi.


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