Spa Leadership Planning

Spa Leadership: Managing Spa Staff Vacation Time

Spa Leadership PlanningSpring is upon us and summer is around the corner. Which means that your staff will probably be looking to take some vacation time.  While everyone deserves a vacation , it can be hard to look at empty treatment rooms.  Planning ahead can help you to manage the vacation season so that the spa still operates smoothly and clients can be serviced.


First of all, does your spa even offer vacation or PTO (paid time off) benefit?  Back in the “old days,” beauty therapists never received any paid vacation, but with the modernization of compensation plans, we are seeing much more of this.  In fact, PTO is the second-most desired benefit to spa staff, after health insurance, and it is not all that difficult or expensive to offer.


Let’s say you have an esthetician who books $1500 in revenue per week, and she is earning about 1/3 of that or $500 per week.  You can offer her two weeks of paid vacation every year, and the cost to you will be about one percent of her revenue production.  In other words, not expensive as far as benefits go.  If your staff receives a more aggressive pay plan, you can still likely offer one week paid vacation for a little less than one percent of their personal revenue production.  If you are in the dark ages of high commission rates – you probably can’t do anything, and that’s a different conversation.


We know that working in a spa, while enjoyable, is still hard work.  Your beauty therapists are giving, giving, giving to their clients all day, it’s a very “on stage” kind of work.  They really do need some downtime; whether they take it all at once or in a couple of long weekends, it is something they should be encouraged to do.  Everyone needs to recharge their batteries.


However, when you don’t have a therapist column available to book, that causes a decrease in revenue for your spa, unless you are lucky enough to have a substitute therapist arrangement.  So the spa has to focus on ensuring there are available therapists, and that cash flow is not negatively impacted by paying for vacation time with money you did not receive.


Here are a few guidelines that may help you to be better prepared for vacation time:

  • Be clear when you are interviewing & hiring, and in your employee manual, in defining what your vacation or PTO benefit is, and what are the guidelines for using it, such as:
  • How much advance notice is required?
  • How long do they have to be employed to receive the benefit?
  • Does the benefit renew on a calendar year or date of hire?
  • Can the time off be pro-rated; i.e. can a 5-day per week staff member take 2 days off half-way through the year?


It is generally advised that PTO not be rolled over into the next year, and not be exchanged for money.  Especially in a wellness-based industry, we WANT the staff to take the vacation.


There should be some restrictions so that the business is not negatively impacted; for instance, your entire esthetics staff cannot take vacation at the same time.  Depending on the size and arrangement of your staff, you should set expectations that no more than one or two people can be out at the same time.


Do consider developing a group of reliable substitute staff; this is a good option especially for massage.  When you interview a potential candidate that you like but do not have a position for, you can offer them work on an occasional, substitute basis, like filling in for vacation or taking a shift for a current staff member who has a conflict.  It’s a great way to get to know someone before making an employment commitment, plus it provides a revenue option for the missing technician.


Do you need help creating a solid plan for staff vacations? Contact us for a free consultation.




Developing Your Spa Leadership Vision

When is the last time your spa management to-do list said “plan for tomorrow?”

I don’t know about you, but I’m a list-maker. I keep piles of pads near my desk, and every day I make a list and date it. I place the high priority at the top, low at the bottom. Every other week I take the pile of notes with half-scratched-off items and start over. It’s an old-fashioned system but it works for me.

Spa Directors and managers never need to sit down and make a list of what they will do each day, in fact, they rarely get the chance. Spa operations are very fluid and in-the-moment, and it’s easy to just go with the flow. Chatting with clients, listening to an idea or complaint from a staff member, meeting with a vendor who stops by unannounced (so annoying!), taking a call from the media, and maybe you get a chance to review yesterday’s numbers somewhere in the mix. Spa management is definitely not a desk job, although sometimes you may long for a few minutes alone in your office.

Is this a good thing?

It’s certainly essential that spa management is readily available, and up-to-speed on everything that is happening in the spa on a daily basis. But this focus on the here-and-now can result in a lack of focus on the future. Thinking about the future feels like a luxury to many spa managers. However, it is no luxury for the health of the business; it is essential that someone is thinking about tomorrow.

So where is the balance?

Finding balance is a different trick for everyone, and there is no quick or obvious solution. But one key is to notice that you need it and to start looking for ways to create it. Yes, the everyday details of the business need to be dealt with, but very quickly you will find yourself immersed in today (and sometimes yesterday) and leaving the “plan for next week, month, year” entry unticked on your to-do list. Spa business managers often operate from a reactive, rather than proactive, approach, because of the non-stop demands on their time. The only way to stop this is to carve out a period each day, or even a few days per week, to have some quality alone-time; this may be more readily accomplished out of the spa, in fact.

Spa Leadership Planning

Start small – an uninterrupted 30 minutes can do wonders and can be a springboard to more regular time-outs in the near future. Make some rules for yourself; this is not review time, it is forward-thinking time. Whether you use it to catch up on ideas from the spa trade magazines or to read the latest in business management trends and new concepts from Inc, Wired or HBR Magazines, or you just wander the local shopping mall and observe the stores and the people in them, you will open your mind to ideas and possibilities.

The hugely popular Mindful Magazine has many tips and methods to help you find some balance between high levels of activity and mindful pursuits. We can’t turn away completely from the demands of our daily schedule, but we do need to ensure that we create a plan to move the business forward, not just put out fires all day.

Help is only a few finger taps away; the Wynne Business Spa Director’s Management Intensive is now available as a self-paced online course. We offer an entire module dedicated to spa leadership essentials. Make 2018 your year to advance and register today.

Learn More About The Spa Director’s Management Intensive

Inspiration For Spa Leadership Challenges

Inspiration for Spa Leader Challenges

Do you ever wish you had more information that would help you to solve a problem?

Do you ever wonder whether you are the only one experiencing a particular challenge?

Fast Company - 30 Second MBAAs the spa business model continues to evolve, you may be presented with operational challenges that you don’t know how to approach.  But, as usual, if you are near a computer, inspiration is on the way.  Check out 30 Second MBA, brought to us by the folks at Fast Company magazine.  This website consists of video interviews with a variety of business-world movers and shakers on an array of issues, and they each last, you guessed it, 30 seconds or less.  The videos are organized by topics such as leadership, employee management, customer relationships, innovation, communication, and more, and the “professors” include luminaries like Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, Tony Hsieh of, Jay Adelson, CEO of Digg, and many more.

Read more

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.