The Transforming Power Of Hospitality In Business

Welcoming Your Guests

How to welcome your spa, salon and hotel guests so they are happy to revisit.

“Being Right is the Booby Prize”

That’s a direct quote from my friend Holly Stiel, who has been a guru in the world of hotel and spa concierges for years. Far from being just good advice for “hospitalitarians,” these are words to live by.

In Santa Barbara last Sunday night, I arrived at a restaurant. The host was all smiles until it was revealed that our party of six did not have a reservation. It was a cold, post-holiday evening but the little cafe on State Street was busy.

He explained with a weird, tense smile, that we would be fortunate indeed if there was a way to fit us in. Could he recommend another restaurant for us, I asked, not wanting to participate in the song-and-dance.

Turns out there was a way to get us in! A miracle.

So as he seated us, he made sure we knew how lucky we were. He told us exactly that, with the same taut smile.

This restaurant owner won the Booby Prize. By making sure we knew we were “wrong” (assuming there would be a table for us as walk-ins) he had hoped to school us (my restaurant is very popular, and you, Ms. would-be Guest, are being incredibly presumptuous sashaying in here with your party of six!) Instead, he lost my future business.

Being Right is something most of us aspire to and we pursue it, instinctively. His response is one of the most common hospitality “being rights” I see. Hosts and hostesses at restaurants do it all the time. But the gentleman could have acted more like an “agent” rather than a “gatekeeper.”  These are expressions coined by Danny Meyer, the great restauranteur, in his book Setting the Table, the Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business. (Yes, you’ve heard me recommend it before.)

What if he’d simply welcomed us with, “We’d love to get you in. Thank you for coming tonight. Give me a moment and I’ll see what I can do.”

I would have continued my twenty-year tradition of dining there.

Strategic Vision Sessions Planning

Spa Business Planning Made Easy

Registration for this webinar has closed.  Below are the topics which were discussed.  Please check the Events and Learning Academy pages for our offered trainings.

“A vision without a plan is a hallucination.”

Join us on Tuesday, January 18, for our first management webinar of the New Year, Spa Business Planning Made Easy. 

Planning is one of the most misunderstood business processes, and one of the most essential. Yet most plans don’t survive more than a few months.

If your spa doesn’t yet have a 2011 Strategic Plan in place, you’re not alone, and it’s not too late to create one. This session will give you a fresh understanding of the planning process, and the tools to build a simple and resilient strategic plan than can be continuously renewed, even when conditions change.

Would you like to tackle the New Year with a simple, executable Strategic Plan? Would you like to have a way to move from 30,000 feet vision to tactical, practical “sea level” and back again with ease?

This webinar will share with you the secrets of:

• Identifying your most important priorities

• Understanding what planning can (and cannot!) do

• Setting actionable goals

• Setting the optimum planning “time horizon” (it will surprise you)

• Getting your team to buy into your plan

• Techniques to ensure that you stay on plan, every day
• Ensuring that your Strategic Plan translates into your company’s Daily Plan
• Not getting sidetracked by the “tyranny of the immediate,” the daily crises that erupt in every company
Heres To A Successful New Year

Happy New Year? Customer Service Fundamentals

2011 is just a few days away. The happy delirium of gift card sales will be over, and the reality of the toughest quarter of the year will arrive.

Most spa owners and spa directors that I know are moderately optimistic about 2011. Optimism is all relative, of course. I don’t know any spa that’s  budgeting for growth. Most of us are setting our budgets around “actual” from 2010.  We wouldn’t mind exceeding our revenue budget–that’s never a problem.

Most spas are continuing with “just in time” pay increases, not across the board raises. We created a bonusing plan for our service providers that enable them to leapfrog up one or more seniority levels, payroll by payroll, when they are highly productive. Hit the goals this payroll, get a raise for the next payroll period. If you can sustain that level of productivity, you can keep that raise going. If you miss it, you’ll drop back to your basic level. Remember, your top producers should receive appropriate compensation, even if you aren’t officially offering raises.

If you’re concerned that your current comp plan may not be delivering the best results for your business,  you’re not alone. That’s why we spend so much time on the topic in our Spa Director’s Management Intensive.

Marketing budgets continue to shrink as social media plays a bigger and bigger role in growing the customer base. Traditional media is hurting, and that’s brought down the price of advertising across the board. We’re still not tempted by much.

One evolutionary change: spas are having to designate someone to mind the social media part of the business, and to pay them. The days of “Hey, Brandi loves to post on Facebook” are starting to disappear. (Just like the days of “Hey, Brandi knows how to do websites” did.) Facebook and other forms of social media are rapidly becoming more sophisticated and complex. Facebook advertising, like Google Adwords, can suck up a lot of money fast if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Most spas are having to think hard about taking their enterprise management software “to the cloud.” 2011 will see spas who are ready to  update their systems making this jump.  Spas need software that really supports and amplifies their online marketing efforts. No one is closer to delivering this than SpaBooker; it will be interesting to see if any large competitor will emerge.

Followers of Chinese astrology know that 2011 is the year of the Rabbit, a considerably nicer character than the Tiger who just departed. That doesn’t mean you can breathe a sigh of relief. This is no soft and fuzzy bunny, it’s a Metal Rabbit, which apparently means that 2011 will be about executing with precision and finesse. The confrontational Tiger is gone; in contrast, Rabbits are diplomats. Sounds like the perfect year to create some strategic alliances with other businesses who are doing business with the clients you want. Fitness studios are chockablock with new customers in the first months of the year–the perfect place to make some new friends.

2011 will continue to test your business. Many of the weaker players have fallen, but there will be a bit more contraction. It’s all about unemployment. While the number of new jobless claims is dropping, they’re still new claims. Without income, there’s no discretionary income, and that’s the lifeblood of our industry. Happily, more affluent folks with jobs have figured out that they can spend some money without the world ending.

When one of these rare and precious creatures enters your spa, treat them like royalty. There’s plenty of bad customer service out there, being sullenly dished out by a disaffected, demoralized part time work force.  I saw lots of that while Christmas shopping this year.

2011 should be a year to revisit customer service fundamentals with your entire team.  One of my favorite books on this topic is Janelle Barlow’s Branded Customer Service. One thing is certain: the spas that have a Happy New Year will be the ones who have great people with great skills and great attitudes.

You don’t even need a Metal Rabbit to know that.

Spa Gift Card Season

Keeping your Gift Card Clients

Hopefully, your gift card selling season is well underway by now.  According to forecasts by the National Retail Federation, 77% of shoppers are expected to purchase at least one gift card this holiday season, and many reasons are cited for their popularity, including convenience for the purchaser, and the option of choice for the recipient.  The average American will spend $145 on gift cards, up from $139, or a 4% increase, which is corresponds to the holiday sales forecasts of increases of 3-4% over 2009.  Traditionally, the spa gift card average has been between $100 and $125, although that range doesn’t account for some of the aggressive discounting and giveaways that were used in 2009.

However, as we often say at Wynne Business, gift card sales bring in prospects, not customers.  Now is the time to think about how, when those gift cards are redeemed, you will turn those prospects into return clients.  For the plan to be effective, stand back and give your business the 30,000 foot view.  The strategy for keeping gift card clients is not the same as when we cover a not-so-great Christmas present with a beautiful wrapping paper and bow.   Your fundamental business procedures need to be solid, clear, and communicated to everyone on your staff, or spending money and energy on marketing efforts becomes a lottery game; will the client experience your spa at its best, or will they visit on a not-so-good day?  We’re talking about the usual fun stuff; employee handbooks, position descriptions, operating standards, service protocols, the policies and procedures that are not much fun to create but are the backbone of a business with smooth operating flow.  Without these tools in place, your staff will be forced to make it up as they go along, which is not a consistent way to build your business, and doesn’t often lead to a spa visit that meets or exceeds client expectations.  If you are missing some, or all, of these pieces, don’t despair; with a little help, you can pull it together by Q2 of 2011 and be ready to move on to a marketing plan.

Once those essential building blocks are in place, then you can focus on creating some offers specific to your gift card recipients, such as value adds, service vouchers or upgrades, or loyalty plan points, that can be used on their subsequent visits.  Let’s plan to bring back those prospects for a second and third visit and turn them into clients, expanding your reach for future seasonal sales opportunities.  Valentines Day is only 8 weeks away!

Online Spa Management Training

Live Spa Director’s Management Intensive Training

If you own, manage, or plan to invest in a spa, this program is a must.

If you’re already involved in spa operations, this seminar will help you tackle your toughest management challenges. If you’re planning to open or acquire a spa, you’ll leave this program with a clear understanding of the requirements for business success. If you’re considering a career change or advancement into spa management, the Spa Director’s Management Program will put you miles ahead of the competition.

You’ll have a chance to meet other spa industry professionals, a diverse group of people, and often an international one. Participants typically represent a variety of industries and greatly enrich the program with their input. You’ll create a support network that will prove invaluable as your business or career grows. The small size of the class ensures individual attention and maximum interaction.

Attendees return to the workplace with new tactics and new understanding the fundamentals that underly spa success. Our enormous take-home course text becomes an invaluable everyday reference for busy directors who need ideas and help fast. (How do we know? Whenever we visit our graduates at their spas, we see the textbook open on their desktop!) Attendees enjoy an Industry Discount at adjacent Preston Wynne Spa during their stay.

Unlike most management training courses, the Spa Director’s Management Intensive is rigorously updated and relevant to the current business climate. Hot button-topics like yield management and mid-recession employee morale issue are part of the curriculum. Unlike most other consulting/education firms, we actually own and operate a successful 27 year old day spa with fifty employees. We’re in the trenches with you in this difficult business climate–we have to walk our talk. We share what’s working now.


Financial management skills for directors and managers

• Overcoming your “fear of financials: financial literacy made easy

• Managing by the numbers: how to really use the information you get from your financial statements

• Budgeting basics: how to set financial goals that make sense

• Positive cash flow vs. profit: the critical difference

• Capture rate and its impact on the stay spa financial plan

• How to evaluate the effectiveness of your employee compensation plan

• Best practices in compensation design

• Performance incentives to motivate your team when you can’t give raises

• Plugging the profit “leaks” in your operation

• Understanding the impact of discounts and promotions

• Understanding the legal and accounting issues of gift card sales

Sales and Marketing

• The only three ways you can grow your sales

• Marketing modalities for spas: what works, what doesn’t

• Event marketing essentials

• Marketing trends: the good, the bad, the ugly

• Millenials vs. Boomers: understanding the next generation of spa goer

• Best practices in spa web presence

• Getting the most out of your printed marketing collateral

• The why and how of spa packages

• Social media: roles, responsibilities and ROI

• Advertising: where to spend your budget now

• Understanding yield management

• Crafting more compelling and less expensive marketing offers

• Understanding your real cost of customer acquisition

• What “retention” means in your spa (it’s different for day, stay and med spas)

• The role of the local market in hotel spas’ success

• Introduction to Selvice: seven steps to better customer service and higher sales

Successful Spa Programs

• Establishing your Therapeutic Vision

• Why the spa menu drives vendor selection–not the other way around

• The pros and cons of “branded” treatments

• Innovation vs. profit: keeping it simple

• Trends in menu and program design

• Modular menu design

• Customization vs. chaos: how to offer one without getting the other

• Understanding the real cost/benefit of a new service

• Optimizing workflow while ensuring safety and customer satisfaction

• Best practices for managing back bar costs

Retail Management

• Ending the disconnect: making retail happen in a spa

• How to use a Home Care Consultant

• Creating a more profitable retail mix

• Best practices for optimizing your inventory turns

• Ending the sales leaks in your store

• Salesflow: redesigning internal processes to support sales success

• Effective recommendation tools that spa employees love to use

• Scripting that sells

• Best practices for partnering with vendors

• Basics of visual merchandising and display


• Understanding social styles and their impact on interpersonal communication

• What your team needs from you and how to give it to them

• Recruitment: how to hire the best employees

• Why the customer actually comes “second” in a great spa

• Why you’re doing everything yourself and how to stop it

• Why you can’t motivate your staff and what to do about it

• How to produce great staff meetings

• Best practices in employee discipline

• Performance appraisals that improve performance

Quality Management


• Moments of Truth: why little things are a big deal to your guest

• The Experiential vs. Transactional spa

• How to manage quality in the “closed door” spa environment

• “We don’t need another hero”: how consistency creates great service

• The three essential ingredients of world class service

• How to instill a “quality” mindset in your entire team

• Spa Speak 101: helping your team communicate with quality

• Process improvement 101: how to make things better, faster

• Teaching your team to effectively resolve complaints and perform service recovery

• Comps, refunds and redos: how to use them wisely

• Inspection: the key to success

Taught by Lisa M. Starr of Wynne Business Spa Consulting and Education.

Please check the Events and Learning Academy pages for our offered trainings.

American Spa Magazine Spa Consultant Of The Year

Thank you! American Spa Magazine 2010 Professionals Choice Awards

A resounding thank you to the readers of American Spa magazine, for naming me as one of your Favorite Spa Consultants for 2010! It’s been an privilege to be part of this industry for over 26 years. I join some marvelous company in this honor. A great way to end the year!

See the article here

Customer Experience Experts Wanted

Customer Service: Mastering Complaint Resolution and Service Recovery

You can find this training in our Learning Academy listed as

Part 4 of our Spa Concierge Finishing School.

Get your team trained in “extreme customer service” (just in time for the holiday rush.)

  • Are you confident in your employees’ ability to resolve guest complaints?
  • Do they know how to handle the inevitable issues that arise in a busy spa operation?
  • Are you certain that guests leave your spa satisfied?
  • When was the last time they received training in complaint resolution?

A great reputation has always been the best way to market a spa. But the internet has made superior customer service a crucial survival skill.

Web search is one of your top marketing modalities, and negative reviews can cost you thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

Our employee training webinar, “Moments of Truth: Mastering Complaint Resolution and Service Recovery” can give you a chance to economically and quickly get your team up to speed. The webinar is co-presented by Lisa Starr and Peggy Wynne Borgman. We include time for your questions at the end of the presentation.

Don’t let another month pass without inoculating your front line team against mediocre customer service, and common errors.

“The road to success is paved with mistakes well handled,” said the founder of Neiman Marcus. This webinar is designed to enable your front desk team to manage the inevitable mistakes and mishaps of a busy spa operation, while strengthening customer relationships and improving customer service. The adrenaline-charged moment when an upset customer complains is a make-or-break event for your business. Make sure your team doesn’t hide their heads in the sand–ensure that they will ride to the rescue of your reputation!

• Why your team must treat complaints as an opportunity
• 96% of your guests won’t complain; how to treat the 4% who do
• Using complaint resolution to improve relationships
• How online review sites have magnified the power of unhappy guests, and what to do about it
• Managing the “fight or flight” response when confronted by an upset customer
• The five steps to masterful complaint resolution
• Cultivating awareness: the ounce of prevention
• How to ask questions that get real answers from your guests
• Making it easy to complain
• How and when to apologize
• Helping the guest realize you’re “on their side”
• Avoiding the common mistakes of complaint resolution, including explaining, blame and scapegoating
• How to effectively manage a “venting” guest
• Techniques to improve your listening skills
• How to tell the difference between an upset and an abusive customer–and what to do about it
• Restoring a guest’s faith
• Making amends without giving away the store
• What most clients really want from “amends”
• The hidden danger in giving refunds too quickly
• What to do when your offer of amends is rejected by an upset guest
• How to prevent problems from recurring

Please check the Events and Learning Academy pages for our offered trainings.



ISPA Day 2 Inspires & Motivates

Second full day of conference began with early morning  Professional Development Sessions.  Well, truth be told, it actually begins even earlier in the morning in the Precor Experience Center, or at the Greet the Day session, but due to the all of the parties and dinners the previous night, 6:30am does not have a lot of takers.  Excellent morning sessions were offered, including timely, actionable advice on using social media from Kathleen Turpel of Imaginal Marketing, who works with many beauty and spa businesses, and suggestions on incorporating stress management therapies into your life and spa menu from Brent Bauer, ISPA Board member and Mayo Clinic Associate Professor.

After the morning sessions, it was time to review and bid on Silent Auction items, which were incredibly numerous, and hit the show floor.  One of my interesting finds included Kumani Essentials, a new line of skin, body and haircare started by esthetician, massage therapist, aromatherapist and Spa Director Stacy Fader that is made with Fair Trade Certified shea butter, sourced in Burkina Faso.  These high-quality products allow spas to create effective signature treatments and address social responsibility concurrently.   Another new introduction is the Sidekick sunless tanning unit from Evolv, which along with advanced chemistry and engineering, offers the first-ever heated airbrush tanning technology.  Several vendors still had missing booths, due to a shipping snafu, but leave it to Boldijarre Koronczay of Eminence to turn that into a humorous marketing opportunity!

Afternoon Professional Development Sessions were all excellent, and I found myself bouncing among three topics; an up-to-the minute Global Trends panel moderated by Susie Ellis of SpaFinder and featuring Andrew Gibson, Liz Terry & Andrew Jacka; “Seven Financial Habits of Highly Successful Spas,” always timely and relevant financial advice dispensed by John Korpi and Ryan Crabbe, and a very informative Risk Management lecture by field experts Lori Wood and Tony Hirsch of the Resort Hotel Association.  All of these sessions were valuable, and in particular Ellis’s just released 10 trends to watch for 2011 gave us a taste of the year ahead.  Keep your eye out for the list, which is usually released in early December.  There were additional breakouts on social media and loyalty which were also reportedly terrific.  As usual, too many topics for one person to cover, you really do need to bring a team.

Our afternoon General Session featured the truly inspirational Doc Hendley, a tattooed bartender who, at the age of 30 started his own non-profit, Wine to Water, and to date his group has dug, repaired and sanitized drinking wells to supply water for 25,000 people in 5 Third World countries.  Hendley is a self-described “average guy” who took what he saw around him and turned it into something to benefit thousands of people and make a difference in the world.  His story of determination and willingness to undertake personal risk to accomplish his goal was one that made me think about the power that we all have within ourselves.

The 2010 ISPA Foundation Silent Auction took place after the general session, and raised more than $70k for the ISPA Foundation, which funds educational and research needs for the spa industry, and then everyone dispersed for more parties and dinners.



Report from ISPA 2010, 20th anniversary edition.

Spa industry executives and vendors from around the globe are gathered in Washington D.C. for the 20th annual ISPA conference.  The conference is an annual “must-attend” for many due to the high quality educational breakouts, motivational keynotes, and networking opportunities.

Monday offered 10 Professional Development Sessions on a variety of topics.  Barry Moltz gave an impassioned presentation entitled “Customer Service is the New Marketing,” point being that now that customers are online talking about your business in so many channels, if you focus on providing high quality client experiences, the clients do the marketing for you.  Neil Ducoff gave a compensation presentation, and I was so happy to hear him mention the “sweet spot” of 30-35% of revenue for provider pay; as a country, we need to keep working on that.  There were other excellent presentations on marketing, communications, and menu engineering, and a “State of the Industry” session where ISPA shared 2010 performance statistics.  More on those in another blog!

The opening General Session is the first time during conference that all of the attendees convene in the same room, and we find a bag of spa products and goodies on each seat.  This year the bag was a little light on products, another sign of the tough economy, I suppose.  Or perhaps vendors do not feel that this mass giveaway is a worthwhile endeavor.  ISPA Chairwoman Jean Kolb greeted us, and then we enjoyed an unusual and inspirational story-telling session, using spoken words by Eric Saperston which were illustrated by the folky singing and guitar playing of Edwin McCain.  The message was, take the twists and turns your life journey presents you with and go with them.  Do what you love, follow your passion.  A story we’ve all heard before, but told in an imaginative way.

Following the General Session the Expo floor opened for the first time and we enjoyed wine and hor’s d’ouevres while greeting vendors and fellow conference attendees.  Some of the new innovations include a new treatment table, the Clodagh Libra, on which clients can receive manicures, pedicure,s facials and massages; skin and body products that smell and sound edible from Farmhouse Fresh; and exciting music management options from Imagesound Americas.

Tune in tomorrow for more on the ISPA Conference.

Oakworks Founder Jeff Riach shows off his wares

Spa Competition

Lisa Starr’s presentation, the Four Cornerstones of Spa Success

Lisa presented at Les Nouvelles Esthetiques in South Africa–she loved every minute of it. The vibrant spa community members she met there impressed her with their professionalism, vision and a real thirst for practical, real-world management education. Here’s the Powerpoint from her presentation at the conference, one of her top-rated and most impactful classes.

Questions and comments are always welcome!

Four Cornerstones Of Spa Success