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Massage Today
July, 2004, Vol. 04, 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,

The moment has arrived.

This Friday is opening day for The Spa House, your new day spa. The festivities are set to begin at 5 p.m. with a big grand opening party, and I know you couldn't be more excited. You're rushing around with a thousand concerns on your mind, feeling more like a host than a business owner. But even though your life may feel like it's all about the future, I thought I would take this opportunity to look back at the past and review your progress up to this point.

My intention is to provide you with a reminder of why and how you got to this point of opening your own spa in the first place. I feel there are four reasons why you will be the perfect spa owner: You're a caring, giving, feeling therapist who carries the therapeutic torch, or vision, for your spa; you're willing to learn, grow and change, passing this torch along to others when the time is right; you've got a strong business partner; and you're lucky.

Carry the Therapeutic Torch

In my mind, Lou, first and foremost you've always been and always will be a massage therapist. The core inspiration for you to get into the spa business in the first place was your passion for helping others and interacting with one individual at a time in meaningful, therapeutic encounters. You wanted to take that inspiration and apply it in the spa setting, where more people experience therapeutic massage for the first time than in any other venue.

So you went forth and found work in the spa industry, after applying yourself diligently to become trained as a first-rate bodyworker. A spa without a therapist with a deep commitment to the therapeutic process (like yourself) is like a restaurant without a good chef. Keep this in the forefront of your mind when you're dealing with payroll, scheduling, marketing, bookkeeping and other non-therapeutic necessities of the spa. Always make the therapeutic encounter the spa's main focus. Spend time every week and everyday thinking about it.

When Mel Zuckerman, founder of Canyon Ranch spa, first started his business, he personally signed up for an herbal wrap every day for the first year. That way he kept his therapists busy while sending the message that he focused on the therapeutic process.

Pass the Therapeutic Torch

Paradoxically, even though you're the one with the vision to carry forward, you're also the one who needs to be able to relinquish this vision - to pass the torch along, so to speak. Mel had to do the same thing eventually, as his business grew. Some spa owners/therapists in your position make the mistake of tying the spa's success too tightly to their own therapeutic prowess. They make their touch the showcase of the spa, and somehow they never seem to find other therapists who are quite good enough to attract more clients and expand the business.

This is the paradox: You must hold tenaciously to the vision, but at the same time you've got to be willing to let it go. In other words, your vision must be so strong that other people on your team internalize it and make it their own. This will be your number one mission as your business expands.

Business is Business

There's a saying, "Do what you love and the money will follow." I'm not a firm believer in this bit of wisdom. In fact, I think it is a bunch of baloney. I would rephrase the saying so it reads something more like, "Focus on the money and the money will follow." Too many therapists are unwilling to focus on the money. This is why your partner, Barbara, is such a crucial element to your potential success: She is a businessperson; she will focus on the money.

I'm always telling massage therapists who are would-be spa owners to focus on the business, marketing, promotion, keeping costs down, building clientele, retail, compensation options, and the bottom line. But quite often, these terms are foreign or antithetical to their personalities to really sink in. They resist real-world monetary success. I wouldn't want you to think that I am solely a "numbers" person - you know me better than that. But I do firmly believe that you have to equally combine therapeutic savvy with business savvy in order to be truly successful. So, treat Barbara with kid gloves. Believe me, everything depends on her know-how.

Good Luck

And finally, Lou, there is one other key element to your spa's success - plain, old-fashioned good luck. That's right. Every mega-successful person knows this. And somewhere in your psyche you feel it too. Much of what happens in your life feels preordained to some degree, doesn't it? Many people feel the same way.

I've spoken with "multi-hundred-millionaires" about their successes, and they've told me the single most important factor in their ultimate triumph could be summed up in that one word: luck. They followed their hearts, worked hard, and prepared for those lucky breaks when they finally showed up.

As another saying goes (one I believe) "The harder you work, the luckier you get." So, keep working at it, Lou. Make The Spa House everything it can be. Go for the biggest vision you can conjure up. And good luck!

Until next time,

Steve Capellini, LMT

Click here for previous articles by Steve Capellini, LMT.


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