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Massage Today
December, 2013, Vol. 13, Issue 12

Adding Vision, Momentum and Growth: Working Beyond the Day-to-Day Business

By Ann Brown, LMT

As a spa director, I try to do my very best to not only manage my business day-to-day, but also steer it with some vision. It's a challenging task to take care of the present and look into the future at the same time, trying to see the forest through the trees when you are taking care of all the day-to-day operations that need your attention. It's hard to be the visionary and the operations manager as well.

To make sure I don't lose sight of the goals and mission, I try to spend a portion of my day thinking about the big picture. For me, reading articles about leadership, management and entrepreneurism really help me get excited and ready for the future. I don't want to stand still. I realize that no one really stands still in the spa/massage business because it is very physical work and sometimes very emotional as well. But we can end up standing still in where we are going personally and professionally when we just do the work and don't think about why and where we want it to take us.

Trying to just handle daily operational tasks can take up a lot of time, especially if you are a hands-on performer in your business. Oftentimes, the financial, management and leadership things are left until the end of each business day. I know many of you reading this article are hands-on and it may be very challenging for you to find the time to do the daily, weekly or monthly financials or set out a marketing plan for your business's future – the end-of-the-day tasks that can often get lost to dinner, family, kids or other obligations or to some simply much needed downtime.

business form - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark I recently read a really good article, "Is your company willing to be challenged?" by Baron Christopher Hansen. I happened upon the editorial on Twitter and don't know Hansen besides reading his brief biography, but I really enjoyed what he had to say. I recommend you read it. It does have a big company/corporation feel, but I often look to the bigger fish for ways to grow and develop. Even if you are a small business – a one-man shop or managing only a few employees, you can incorporate big ideas into your personal and professional world.

In Baron's article, he said, "Some owners and CEOs are unwilling to be challenged or to implement improvements ‘under the hood.'" Some are fearful or insecure, in a complex conundrum or just plain stubborn. However, if your company plans to face today's economy and the future, being open to challenges as a leader and as a business may be the difference between your organization prospering or fading away. He goes on to talk about a competitor either "nearby or upstream."

I know that when the economy took a nose dive, it hit us hard in the third quarter of 2007. I decided to ask our entire team (40 at the time) to come to a strategic planning session to do a SWOT analysis to look at our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. This was not a mandatory meeting, but we had more than 20 staff members show up to help in this process and I thought 50% was a pretty good number. I know I was "fearful and insecure" because up to this point, it had been mostly smooth sailing for our spa. Since we had opened in 2000, our revenues had climbed each year. More and more LMT's were looking at our company to be a part of our team and we were seeing more and more referrals from clients that had already been with us.

I went into that SWOT analysis feeling really paralyzed. I wanted to keep growing our revenues and keep our staff making good money, but there seemed to be less and less appointments, less groups in our resort and less leisure guests taking vacations. Together, the 20 staff members and I spent four to five hours with a facilitator going through the SWOT process and it was one of the best things ever for our company. I think one of the largest outcomes was we made a decision as a team, not just a CEO or spa director or GM or manager making it – it was all of us together looking out for each other.

We were straightforward and honest with each other without hurting feelings and we tried to keep it at a level that affected our guest expectations and our bottom line, beginning by adding some new referral programs to ask guests back. It was so interesting to me to hear other perspectives and to hear some thoughts and concerns I had never thought about. The dialogue was very relative to the health and future of our business. It really brought the team together, and I think, even at this very moment, I still have 80 percent of the 20 staff members that came to that meeting because the task really bonded us to the big picture, helped us to focus on some new things and gave everyone a sense of ownership.

I realize many of you don't have 39 other team members and are running your own small business with just yourself or two to five others involved, but I would hope you would entertain the idea of doing some type of strategic planning session even if it is with you and a mentor, friend, business colleague or a coworker. Baron writes about a "turnaround-management team" coming in to examine your business piece-by-piece for potential leaks, operating flaws or critical areas of improvement. Many of us are not in the position to find that type of "spa/massage detective," but what can you do to help your business still grow revenue, thrive, grow your customer base and sustain?

Challenge yourself and set aside some time to look at all the pieces of your business and see what is working and what is not. I think it could be as simplistic as a list and maybe even a running list (something that you keep in your pocket while you are working) because sometimes thoughts are in and out, and it is best to capture them when they appear. A simple SWOT analysis can bring to mind some visionary goals you want to achieve and reveal some dynamics of your business that may need immediate tweaking to benefit your client or your bottom line. I also believe surveys (anonymous or not) that have a special something tied to them work very well. Plainly ask the guests in your business what they think – Who better to ask? This survey can be done by typing up three to 10 simple questions to hand them before they leave, or ask for an email address (also great to use in future marketing efforts) and send them an online survey. Easy to do! Give them $10 off if they fill out the online survey or the hard-copy one, and hopefully you get two things: (1) needed information about your current business and (2) a repeat client that wants to use their incentive.

There are so many ways to engage and grow your business. Don't get paralyzed thinking it will get better by doing nothing because that usually doesn't happen!

Ann Brown, a licensed massage therapist, is a member of the International Spa Association's board of directors and serves as spa director at Spa Shiki at The Lodge of Four Seasons in Lake Ozark, Mo. She also provides management consulting services through Spa Insight Consulting.


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