Live Spa Staff Training

Employee Handbook, Does Your Spa Have One?

In the high-touch spa, we tend to shy away from official-sounding terms like policy guidebooks, employee manual, and employee handbook.  But having these useful tools in place can enable spa management to focus on more important issues, like growing the business.

Sure, when you started your spa business, you only had a handful of employees. They worked alongside you to get the spa up and running.  They all know “how it works” in your business, and you feel that you don’t need an employee manual, with a lot of rules and regulations.

Those are for big companies, right?

You don’t want your business to be perceived as “corporate.”

Your Spa Business is Growing

Spa Employee HandbookBut the thing is, if you’re one of the hard-working lucky folks whose business is thriving, you’re probably doing a lot of things right, which means that the business will continue to grow.  Leading to more clients, longer opening hours, and more staff to take care of the demand.  And the next thing you know, your small group of compatriots has blossomed into a medium-sized group of people who are not necessarily on the same wavelength as you when it comes to how things get done.

Do you find yourself regularly answering questions such as these?

  • When do I get to take a vacation?
  • Why does so-and-so have more clients today than I do?
  • Can my sister come in on Saturday for a pedicure? Does she get a discount?
  • Who is going to review my performance and help me to improve my earnings?

If so, then your business is ready for a little more structure.  These and numerous other issues can be easily resolved by writing down how you want them handled.

Remove Yourself from the Role of the “Answer Person”

As an owner/manager you are probably already stretched very thin. Imagine what you could do with an extra 45 minutes per day in which you were not answering the same old questions over and over!  In one of my client meetings with a spa owner, I observed how, during our meeting, the staff interrupted her to ask her how to handle an issue with professional inventory, how to respond to a phone call from a bridal party, and which of two possible locations a particular technician should use to perform a regularly scheduled service.  While all of these issues seemed important to the people asking the questions, they could have been handled easily if there had been written policies in existence, without interrupting the owner multiple times.

As this situation illustrates, the purpose of the handbook is not to go corporate, but to provide a strong foundation which enables your staff to fully understand what is expected of them in the situations they are likely to face during the course of a day, and to remove yourself from the role of the “answer person.”  Plus, the added benefit of having written policies is that it removes any suggestion of favoritism that can occur otherwise.

Let’s Call It a Policy Guidebook

One way to make an employee handbook feel more user-friendly is not to call it a handbook; a policy guidebook sounds a little nicer.  Whatever you call it, Staff Guidebooks are a legal document and should include numerous federal and state policies on how employees are treated and their rights.  Helpful guidelines on employee handbooks can be found at the SBA website, the Society for Human Resource Management website (, and numerous private sites such as this one from the HR Group.

Basic legal requirements are all included in the employee handbooks that you can purchase off the shelf; however, those handbooks never include any policies or guidelines that are needed in a spa environment, such as the bullets above.  Your best bet is to purchase a basic manual, and then add your own policies to it.  Human resources law is quite complex, and you would certainly want to have your final draft reviewed by a local attorney before distribution.  It is very helpful to design your handbook in a way that it can be regularly updated, which it will need no matter how careful you are.  As the business grows, needs change.  Have your staff members sign an acknowledgment page, stating that they understand they are responsible for keeping up to date on your particular guidelines, and then you can turn your focus to more important things, like sales & marketing.

If you don’t have the time to put together an employee handbook, let us help. Contact us for a consultation.


Spa Staff Engagement

Why Staff Engagement Is Key To Spa Success

Ever look around the spa and feel like your staff is just going through the motions? They’re showing up at work, they’re servicing clients, but there is not a lot of energy or enthusiasm?

Staff engagement is a key component of your spa success, but how do you get it?

And how do you know when you have it?

Happy employees are not the same as engaged employees. Staff members can be personally happy, but still not engaged in their work.

The Changing Faces of Spa StaffA recent State of the American Workplace report found that while 32% of employees are committed to doing a good job, 50% of employees are just putting in time, and 17% are actively disengaged; they are disrupting their coworkers and driving away clients through poor communications and bad service. Imagine how much more productive, and profitable, your spa could be if you could make some inroads in engaging that other 70%!

But it’s easier said than done.

Why aren’t your spa employees engaged in their work?

There are multiple reasons, and it can be a combination of more than one of these:

  • You may not be selecting the applicants who are the best fit for your business and culture.
  • Your compensation plan may not reward high-performers or provide a career advancement path, causing people to stagnate.
  • There is not a clear vision and leadership driving the business forward.
  • The spa is not well-marketed and is not attracting a diverse clientele to keep your “artists” motivated.
  • There are too many cliques operating in your business, and those on the outside tend to disconnect.

We Are Not Human Resource Professionals

Part of the challenge facing spa management is that we are not human resource professionals. Our creative orientation sometimes causes us to believe that if we hire someone who is technically good at massage or esthetics, the rest will take care of itself. But all too often, that’s not what happens. Engagement in our work doesn’t just happen. It requires the creation of behind-the-scenes processes and structure to select the right people, and ongoing training, compensation and career development to keep them mentally tuned in. Certainly, spa staff members are interested in their earnings potential, but they’re also interested in opportunities to train and grow as professionals; in fact, their artistic backgrounds often mean that these factors can outweigh financial compensation. That explains the importance of creating annual budgets that allow the business to provide regular high-quality training for all staff members.

Human Resource consultant Josh Bersin of Deloitte explores tactics business leaders can follow in this post titled “Five Elements of a Simply Irresistible™ Organization;” while these are targeted to large employers, the basics he espouses are exactly the same for spas and small businesses. Put a little energy into considering the environment and culture you are providing, and it will come back to you in multiples.

In many cases, as spa leaders, we just need a refresh.

We need to step outside of our spa and refresh our skills and our minds. If you need a refresh, consider registering for the Wynne Business online Spa Director’s Management Intensive. Our online course is available on-demand to fit into your schedule. Learn more about this valuable resource here.



Changing Faces of Spa Industry

The Changing Faces of Spa Staffing

The Changing Faces of Spa StaffThe right time to run a business is . . . well there never is a perfect time.

Economic indicators, elections, global events, volatile weather and changing trends all contribute to positives on the one hand and negatives on the other. Post-recession, the spa business has changed quite a bit. The spas that made it through are running lean and smoothly and have been consistently busy for the last couple of years. Read more

World Class Customer Experience The Roots

World Class Customer Experience: The Roots

We believe that there’s a formula for great Customer Experience, or CX. There are three key ingredients. Like any deceptively simple recipe, it’s highly dependent on the “cook.” Like whipped cream, it may have just a couple of ingredients, but it’s still possible to get it completely wrong. The three ingredients we’ll be cooking with are

  • ART

Here are the basic definitions, so you’ll know where we’re going:

Roots are your Core Values. This is what feeds and nourishes your Customer Experience. Without core values that are aligned with creating customer delight, you’ll never achieve that World Class level–the place where your customers are passionately spreading the word about the experience they had with you and looking for any excuse to come visit you and spend their money.

Structure is what you build atop those roots. Structure is everything from the physical structure of your business to its systems and processes. It’s what gives your CX form, and consistency. Core Values provide the nourishment, but Structure is what grows from the Roots.

Art is the creative, above-and-beyond magic of your CX; it’s how you elevate your CX to the World Class level. This is where it blossoms.

So let’s start at the bottom, deep in the “soil” under your organization: ROOTS. Core Values are a business cliché, right? Companies post Core Values, but don’t live them. If you really value a Value, it’s part of your conversation every day. It’s not a slogan or a bullet point in an employee manual. When someone screws up, you talk about the screw-up in terms of how it offends or contradicts a core value. When someone does something amazing, you praise the act in terms of how it supports and expresses a core value. When you do performance appraisals–well, you get the idea. So what are some of the values that support brilliant CX?

  • Respect for others: I would say “duh” but that would be disrespectful.
  • Self respect: No one with low self esteem gives great customer service
  • Empathy: The ability to put yourself in the customer’s shoes is crucial to a great CX
  • Desire to create delight and make others happy
  • Desire to do a good job for the sake of doing a good job
  • Curiosity: Key to problem-solving and digging up the “root cause” of quality issues. Passive people don’t give world class service.
  • Relentlessness: The drive to keep going until you get it right. This is not just patience, it’s doggedness.
  • Honesty: You’re going to make mistakes: a great CX is not just about what happens when things go right.

You can probably think of a couple more values that are specific to your company or your industry. We see the value of transparency showing up a lot these days for tech businesses. Who are Core Values For? Core Values are not about telling your employees how to behave. They are something that everyone in the company has to live by. Even the people running it. This is easier said than done. A lot of folks who run companies have a social style that’s a little different than the folks on their front lines. Yes, I’m talking about you, Mr. and Ms. Type A. This is a source of one of the biggest disconnects in creating world class Customer Experiences. Let’s just call it by its handy nickname: Hypocrisy. You want your employees to bend over backward to delight a customer? You have to bend over backward first. For your employees. It’s not easy to embody World Class Customer Experience on Monday morning at 10:30 a.m. when your coffee is starting to wear off and someone on your team hits you with yet another Issue from operations. But that is precisely what you must do. Because each employee you interact with, regardless of their role or their rank, is a “Carrier” of your CX. Right down to your accounting team (scary, I know.) No one gets a pass when it comes to living and expressing core values.

I once pushed an accountant too far, requiring that she try to get along with her co-workers. I tried to mediate a session to help her with her appalling communications skills. She quit the next day and dropped off her keys at the front desk without saying bye-bye. It was a terrible disruption to our company, but I couldn’t make an exception for even a hard-to-replace person. Just because you have an important job doesn’t mean you are excused from living the company’s core values. In fact, the more important your job, the more visibly you need to embody the core values of the company. That’s why the only way to identify and define your core values is to do it with your team.

Tony Hsieh of Zappos is famous for this; he engaged his entire company in an exercise to identify and distill its core values down to a manageable…ten. I know, it’s a lot. I’m a fan of having three core values, because it really helps if people can remember them. Identifying core values is not about “making up” values that you aspire to. Your Core Values are already in effect. They are part of your brand DNA. If you have not yet started your company, your personal core values will be the jumping off point. A Core Values Discovery process is about unearthing them and naming them in a way that creates clarity for everyone. And don’t worry that your values have to be single words, as has long been the fashion. I think that sometimes leaves a little too much open to interpretation. Of course, a value like Honesty doesn’t need much word-smithing. Here are the three core values of the customer-centric company that I led for thirty years:

1. WOW our customers 100% of the time

2. Build and protect a fun and harmonious work environment

3. Achieve our goals and keep our commitments

I could engage someone in a semantic debate as to whether these are values or directives. But this format worked well for us because –well, it told us how to act.

Motivating Your Team with Core Values. When our clients lament the lack of “motivation” on their team, they’re often talking about the feeling they have that their team members don’t “get” what’s important. Articulating your Core Values is the first step in “motivating” people to create a better Customer Experiences. The best way to motivate your team is to hire people who share your workplace Core Values. They come pre-motivated. Core Values can’t be implanted, but they can be sought out, brought out and given a chance to shine.

Wynne Business facilitates powerful Core Values Discovery Sessions with teams of every size and companies in every life stage, from startup to turnaround. Tell us about your current values quest and we’ll tell you if we think we can help. Send us an email: Next time: Structure and its role in World Class CX

Creating Delight Making Magic At The Spa

Making Art, Creating Delight: The Top Tier of Customer Experience

It’s time to talk about the final component of World Class CX: Art. The dessert. The frills. The fun stuff.

You can’t have a successful business without these first two ingredients:

1. Core Values: the “soul” of the business, what you stand for, your commitment to your customers

2. Structure: the “body” of the business: its muscles, sinew and circulatory system. The stuff that holds it together and makes it work.

Only when these foundational layers are securely in place can we turn our attention to the final layer, Art.

Art could also be called Magic. And magic happens when you anticipate a customer’s unspoken needs. Things they themselves may not realize they want or need. This is true whether your business is a highbrow spa or a local-color brewpub.

If you’re not psychic, the way that this happens is that you pay close attention to what your guests want and need, and you codify that as part of your system. So that when customer number ten thousand walks through the door, you dazzle her with small touches that elevate the CX to art.

Art is all relative. A friend and I were comparing notes about the warm blankets provided at the outpatient surgical center we’d recently visited. You’d think we’d visited the St. Regis.

Art is the level of CX where we “exceed expectations.”

As such, Art is a fragile flower. It only grows if it is fed by Core Values and protected by solid Structure. A lot of businesses want to skip right to Art, because it’s fun, the dress-up part of “playing store.” A lot of businesses think that Art means spending a lot of money decorating your restaurant or hiring pretty people. However, you can’t exceed expectations if you haven’t even met them in the first place. (No, you don’t get to skip to the head of the class because of your shagreen banquettes.)

We’ve all been in gorgeous retailers, where every effort and expense has been expended to dazzle you–yet it falls flat. You’re not greeted warmly. The staff doesn’t know their inventory. You walk out without making a purchase. Art, schmart.

Maybe it’s the new restaurant with the marquee-name chef, million dollar kitchen and the spectacular hostesses helming the podium. You eat there once and, though you can’t fault them for anything, you just don’t see a reason to return.

Art isn’t just for the high end–though it’s essential if you’re going to compete in the stratosphere. Art doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s not just about fountains or new signage or expensive floor coverings. In fact, much of what turns into Art in your CX is human-generated. And a lot of it is discovered accidentally.

Artful CX is generated by:

  • freshness
  • creativity
  • thoughtfulness
  • anticipation
  • ease
  • exploration
  • refreshment
  • authenticity

But if we are to make this tangible, let’s identify some of the best artful touches:

  • A sincere and prompt greeting
  • Remembering a customer’s name
  • Remembering a customer’s preferences
  • Acknowledging special events in a customer’s life
  • Hand-written thank you notes (or a phone call saying “Hey, we’ve missed you.”)
  • Invitations to special events
  • Regular “refreshment” of the environment, displays, menus
  • Staff members whose appearance expresses the brand
  • Opportunities to personalize and customize our experience
  • Immaculate facilities

If that list doesn’t look dazzling, there’s a reason. The best “magic” is human-scaled.

You can already tell that Art is a much more elusive quality than the two components we’ve already discussed. Not every business manages to get here. Not every business can provide its employees the freedom to create art…because art isn’t made with cookie cutters.

In the upper stratospheres of the marketplace, Luxury Consultants are making it harder to be magical. There is a lot of heavy-handed engineering of artful experiences these days, in the five-star world. While we appreciate the effort, it often feels just like that: effort. The creation of faux “rituals” is one trend that can be downright embarrassing. (Quasi-indigenous faux rituals are the worst.)

So where do you look for inspiration? The biggest focus groups in the world: online review sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor. Sure, there is a lot of information there about what annoys people who visit you and your competitors. But just as important, there is a lot of information there about what delights people, much of it small and affordable stuff.

Art isn’t made once and then permitted to gather dust. Art is “made fresh daily,” over and over. That takes energy, effort, and leadership. It takes good examples. It also requires supporting risk-taking by your front line and supervisory employees.

Many good Systems begin life as Art. When a “delighter” is discovered, it’s often worth codifying as a system. Back to our dinner at Shadowbrook and the question about whether we were celebrating a special occasion. That question was probably discovered by an on-the-ball server, who shared the idea with others, until it eventually became part of the System. Yet it still functions as Art, creating opportunities to delight guests, who feel that our needs have been anticipated.

Roots, Structure, and Art: put these three components together effectively and you’ll have a supply of loyal customers that lasts as long as you’re willing to Make it Fresh Daily.


Discovering The Heartbeat Of Your Small Business

Discovering the heartbeat of your small business

Most companies today recognize the need to articulate their core values. Core values provide the compass that guides the business. While business strategies should constantly be evolving, core values, like true North, don’t change. In stormy times of stress and change (hello!) Core Values provide a secure anchor. They can remind us of who we are when we are considering compromising our principles. They can help us focus on what’s truly important. They can help us make decisions and set priorities. They can be used as a touchstone when coaching an employee and a measuring stick when hiring a new team member.

But where do Core Values come from? Jim Collins is one of the world’s experts on the importance of core values in organizations, having researched them extensively for his books “Good to Great” and “Built to Last.” He writes “… you cannot “set” organizational values, you can only discover them. Nor can you “install” new core values into people. Core values are not something people “buy in” to. People must be predisposed to holding them. Executives often ask me, “How do we get people to share our core values?” You don’t. Instead, the task is to find people who are already predisposed to sharing your core values. You must attract and then retain these people and let those who aren’t predisposed to sharing your core values go elsewhere. I’ve never encountered an organization, even a global organization composed of people from widely diverse cultures, that could not identify a set of shared values. The key is to start with the individual and proceed to the organization…”

Who should create your core values? Management teams or owners usually initiate the process of clarifying and identifying values, but as Collins points out, this can’t be a top-down activity. If Core Values are simply handed out to the team, they are often ignored or even ridiculed as more silly management-speak, or worse. (As the cynical Dilbert proclaims, “values are a type of emotional illusion common to children, idiots and non-engineers.”) Identifying Core Values is a process of discovery, and for that process to be relevant and resonant in the lives of your team members, it needs to involve as many of them as possible.  Agreeing upon your most cherished Core Values is a ritual that, when properly facilitated, can bring all an organization’s members closer together. Articulating core values is not simply an exercise in word-smithing. Word-smithing is important, but it actually comes last.

How do you identify core values? We like to compare the process of identifying and articulating an organization’s values to diamond mining:

  1. We collect a lot of ore, filled with rough diamonds
  2. Together, we sift through the ore and carefully select the best gems
  3. We polish and cut the best gems
  4. We proudly set and “wear” our gems

How many Core Values are enough? Good management is a lot like parenting, according to business “growth guru” Verne Harnish of Gazelles (  He says, “have a handful of rules and repeat yourself a lot.” That “handful of rules” are your Core Values. Three to five concepts is more than enough for people to remember.

 What if I don’t like the Values my team comes up with? It’s extremely rare to have the Core Values process deliver Values that are different from yours. Why? The people in your company ultimately reflect and agree with your true Core Values—that’s why they’re there. One important reason to work with a facilitator in this exercise is to ensure healthy balance in the Values. For example, when you talk about Core Values with your team, especially teams from hospitality and helping professions, expect the conversation to get fairly animated. Teams that deliver intensive customer service are highly interdependent. Positive interpersonal relationships are crucial to their happiness. Their values tend to focus on interpersonal relationships with one another.

The facilitator ensures that all stakeholders are strongly supported by at least one of the Core Values: employees, customers, and ownership all have slightly different needs and agendas. The “kumbaya” values of your team may not acknowledge the necessity of making money, for example. An easy way to describe this is to think about the “three relationships” each team member experiences in the organization:

  1. Relationships with co-workers
  2. Relationships with customers
  3. Relationship with the business

Rather than establish these limitations at the beginning, we try to encourage a very unstructured discovery of personal values as they relate to work. Too many rules early in the process can restrict the free flow of conversation and ideas. Instead ask

  • What’s important to you at work?
  • Why do you work here?
  • What’s usually happening when you’re having fun at work?
  • What do you like most about your coworkers?
  • What do you like most/least about the organization?
  • What behavior do you think expresses a true professional?

If you’d like help articulating and capturing your company’s core values, we’d be happy to help. Contact us at, subject: Core Values! And we’ll figure out if it’s something you can do yourself or if you might need to have your process facilitated by an expert. Either way, prepare to see your team in a whole new light. And prepare to keep that light burning bright for a long time!

Seven Steps To Abundant Sales And Stellar Customer Service

Spa Employees From Hell!

We posted this short, funny, customer service video on YouTube, showing common sales and service “horrors” that happen in spas and salons everywhere, ruining chances of retaining guests, rescheduling, and retailing. Each vignette illustrates a fatal flaw–some obvious, some more subtle–and all of them re-enactments of real spa employee behavior I’ve personally experienced. It’s a great clip to show at a spa staff meeting, and certain to get people talking.

When you’re ready for the horror to end, you’ll find each of these scenes, along with vignettes showing the proper way to “replay” each, available on DVD and mp4 format, titled Selvice: Seven Steps to Abundant Sales and Stellar Customer Service.

Please email us to receive a copy.

Thanks to BoomCycle Online Marketing for their stellar video editing on “Tales from the Spa.”

Live Spa Staff Training

How can I train my front desk team without any time and budget?

Virtually every spa has cut back on meetings and education during the downturn. There’s good news, though. Training your team is less expensive, and more convenient, than it’s ever been, thanks to–yes–the miracle of modern technology.

We’re talking about online training. These are almost-as-good-as-being-there presentations that will engage and inform you and your team.

We suspect, if you’re reading this blog, that you’d be willing to spend $15-$25 per person to get your front desk team world-class training in the following subjects:

  •  Mastering the Mindset of World Class Service
  •  Mastering the Reservations Call
  •  Checkout that Maximizes Revenue and Retention
  •  Mastering Complaint Resolution and Service Recovery

These are part of our Wynne Business Spa Concierge Finishing School and each includes a Powerpoint presentation and audio lecture, full of fresh, use-it-tomorrow content. They’re just $69 individually, and $234 for the complete set. Choose one segment for a specific need, or for even better results, spend an hour or two each week bringing your entire support team through the series. It will be especially impactful when they learn together, and you should see an immediate improvement in focus and results from this crucial group of staff, who are often overlooked when it comes to training, and yet are one of your strongest links to building a loyal repeat clientele.

To access these as well as others in our training library, click here.