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Massage Today
August, 2002, Vol. 02, Issue 08

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,

The suggestions in my last letter didn't seem to do you much good. You still have an ornery spa directory on your hands, and now she's threatening to fire you for no apparent reason. Beware my friend: many spa employees have lost their positions to office politics, which are as rampant in this "healing" environment as they are at any corporation. You've got to be careful! I do have a few more suggestions that you can take with a grain of salt. See if they sit well with you, and if you feel it's the right direction to go in, then act accordingly.

The suggestions come from two different angles, both aimed at improving the relationship you have with Ms. X, the troublesome spa director.

A Home in the Spa

Your spa director is someone who came to the field through the management ranks of the resort chain for whom you work. This is great, since she knows the ins and outs of budgets, overall marketing strategy, interdepartmental cooperation, upper-level policy making guidelines, and other important corporate realities, but the one attribute she sorely lacks is spa knowledge. Her heart has not brought her into the spa, like your heart brought you, or the other therapists, and she's feeling a little out of place. Since she's a human being, she probably feels the need to fit in and create a home in the spa for herself, but it's difficult. How can she truly join the ranks of spa directors without knowing, in her bones, how it feels to serve other people in a hands-on way?

Many in Ms. X's position have holed up in their spa director's office, closed the door, and waited out their tenure, hoping to move onto another assignment, in another department, as soon as possible. But that needn't be the case. There is a way for your spa director to feel more a part of the spa world, and to join the sorority of women who have found a niche for themselves there, if she so desires.

A Retreat Treat

I suggest you give your spa director the flier I've included with this letter, and tell her there's a treat in store for her if she'll sign up for the annual women's spa director's retreat, created by Tara Spa Therapy and hosted at a different spa each year. It's been going for four years now, and gets more popular all the time.

One of the women who attended it last year called the retreat a temporary escape from the craziness of day-to-day spa operations in a setting that offers spa directors an inside peek at other famous facilities. If your spa director goes on one of these retreats, she'll benefit in a number of ways:

  1. She'll be able to relax away from the workplace during four full days at a great spa;
  2. She'll feel more a part of the spa world through networking and bonding with other women in the industry, and
  3. She'll get to learn some practical ways that the sponsor spa makes things work, and then take that knowledge home.

Ms. X must have ended up working in the spa, with you, for a reason. I hope that reason is not simply to have you fired. In fact, I'm sure it's not. From what you've told me, she's someone who is a little unsure of herself and is looking for a way to really make a mark with her career. She's probably a great spa director in disguise. If she gets the chance to see her own hopes and aspirations reflected in the eyes of all those fellow female spa directors, chances are she'll come back a kinder, gentler boss

A Seminar Vacation

The other way you can approach this director dilemma is from your own end. What can you do to change the dynamic in the soured relationship? If I were you, Lou, I'd think about going on a retreat, too. What I have in mind isn't so relaxing, perhaps, as a four-day trip to a luxury spa, but it's something from which you'll gain tremendously. Maybe it will even send you in a new direction in your career. I'm thinking about a four-day seminar for people in the spa industry who want to learn more about the nuts and bolts of how spas work. Now that you're a supervisor, rather than "just" a therapist, you know that there's a lot more to spas than just making people feel good on a table. The business is intense, and there's a lot to know. That's where the seminar comes in. It will teach you things you never even thought about in terms of spa management , operations, staff issues, budgets, and other topics you might have thought you didn't care about but now realize are extremely important. Who knows, maybe it will even help you move quickly into an upper position yourself some day. It's happened before.

I suggest you find out more about these seminars, and plan your next vacation around one. They range in price, and are given in different parts of the country, which means you'll have to travel, but the investment in your career will probably pay off many times over. Several companies offer this type of advanced spa education, like Preston Wynne, the Bramham Institute, and Cosmopro. There's sure to be one that works for you, and no matter which one you chose, it's bound to give you a better understanding of your newly adopted industry.

A Spa Gap?

You know the old cliché, "East is east and west is west, and never the twain shall meet"? Well, some people think that's true of spa directors and spa employees. There's just too much of a gap, they say, between management and line staff for them ever to see eye-to-eye. However, I feel that there's a lot of room for communication, and if proactive people such as yourself take responsibility and learn how to see things from the other person's perspective and your own, it will make for a better working environment for everyone.

Talk to you later,

Steve Capellini, LMT

Click here for previous articles by Steve Capellini, LMT.


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