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Massage Today
July, 2003, Vol. 03, Issue 07

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,

Congratulations! You've found a location for your new spa-a beautiful 19th-century Victorian house downtown, which you'll soon begin to renovate.

I have to admit: I was definitely leaning toward that property; it has more personality than a storefront or medical office. The place is "you."

You've also done a good job getting to know your new spa's business plan. It was a great idea to sit down and have a discussion with the corporate lawyer. I know you are a therapist and that you consider yourself an "artist," more interested in healing and one-on-one interactions with clients than dry business plans; but when you are opening a spa, it's important to get focused on mundane reality: numbers; dollars and cents; square feet; contracts; codes; bylaws; and regulations.

You're buying the building, learning the ropes and doing what needs to be done to transform yourself from therapist to therapist/business owner. When it comes to making a good living in the field that you love, taking that leap into ownership is important-even essential. You must be able to separate yourself from the exchange of hands-on labor for income, if you're going to take the next step toward financial independence.

A crucial step on this ownership path you've chosen is the creation of your new corporate identity. Why, you ask? What is a corporation, anyway? How will it affect you in the future as you and your partner incorporate your new spa?

Incorporating Yourself

A few years ago, I was unaware of the power of corporations until I spread my wings, left the security of a well-paying job and incorporated myself under the name, Royal Treatment Enterprises. Wow! Little did I know that this would change the structure of my work from that point forward. What I found out about corporations is:

  1. Anyone can create one: You don't have to be a lawyer; or an accountant, or rich, or have an MBA. It helps, I think, if you're a U.S. citizen, but even that may be unnecessary.
  2. They are not "real." That's right. Corporations are just made-up things. They exist only on paper, even though they seem mighty and mammoth (IBM, GE, and others come to mind); the corporation itself is ethereal, weightless and insubstantial. A corporation exists in a virtual realm while employees toil in its name; products are created in its image; and resources are consumed for its greater glory.
  3. Corporations are a way for you to maximize your profits and minimize your liabilities.

You will be learning these corporate realities yourself over the coming months, as your spa gets up and going. Once you do, you'll probably kick yourself for not having seen the beauty and usefulness of corporations a long time ago.

There are thousands of LMTs across the country that would benefit by incorporating, but think the task too daunting. Those who make all or part of their income directly from clients, rather than a job and paycheck, could benefit by exploring the incorporation option. They can simply contact an accountant in their area to get started, and the cost is usually only a few hundred dollars.

You may feel that being your own boss and the president of your own corporation doesn't offer the same "security" as a job and a paycheck, but the truth is that these days there is no security in a job. You can lose a job, get downsized out of a position, or politics can come into play like they did back at your resort-spa job, remember? In the end, if things don't work out with your own corporation, it can be dissolved as easily as it was created. So don't worry about plunging in. Go ahead. It's time to create (fill-in-the-blank), Inc.

Finding Your New Name

There will be much more to the enterprise than just a name; the name will sum up the feeling and energy of the place. Most likely, the name of the corporation will be the name of your new spa, though it isn't always the case. It's important to choose the right corporate name: the one with the most "oomph"; the most jazz; the most energy. What will it be?

You and your partner, Barbara, have tossed around a few ideas. You want the name to elicit a sense of tranquility in prospective guests, and you want it to be something personal and unique to you and your new location.

Do some "automatic writing" on the topic. You and Barbara should each sit down with a legal pad, numbered from one to 100. Fill in number one with the first name that comes to mind for your new spa - one that you have been thinking of - then write in a name for number two. Don't stop. Keep writing, even if you repeat yourself, or the names on your list make no sense at all.

Finishing all 100 entries should take less than five minutes. This will force your subconscious to dredge up some unknown jewels. Dust them off and rub them until they shine. Afterward, you and Barbara should compare notes. Are any of the names on your lists the same? Which names are most closely aligned with your spa's true mission?

A Spa with a Mission

That's right. Your spa will have a mission, Lou. Perhaps you haven't thought of it in these terms, but just like those monster corporations, your little corporation is going to need a creed to follow. You don't want to be just another "pretty facial."

The mission statement may be an overused cliche, but it is vital. It helps you synthesize exactly what you're doing so you can do it better. It helps your customers understand what they should expect from you. It also creates a tone: a tenor that reverberates in your collateral; decor; signage; treatments; employees; and even your furniture.

Develop both a name and a mission worthy of your aspirations and the spirits of the clients you hope will come through your door; send me your ideas. In my next letter, I'll give you some feedback based on dozens of real cases from students in my spa seminars across the continent.

Good luck!

Click here for previous articles by Steve Capellini, LMT.


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