Six common mistakes spa managers make

Being a spa manager is a lot of work and requires constant learning.

This isn’t specific to spa, of course. The best leaders never stop learning, and they also make a lot of mistakes. Behind every leader is a road littered with errors. Making them is normal and a part of the process. Correcting them and learning from them, however, is the key to success.

We looked over some interviews we’ve done with experts in the industry, and found a lot of valuable insight in their comments, which outline common errors spa managers make. And we’re listing them here so that you can, ideally, avoid doing the same yourself.

These are some of the common mistakes spa managers make.

Jumping on bandwagons

Spa and fitness are among the trendiest industries there are. Wellness is a heavily trafficked road of bandwagons, and if you miss one, there will be another along any minute. Trent Munday, Senior Vice President at Mandara Spa, recently told us he has “a bit of an issue with the Spa Trends lists that get trotted out each year.” He explained, “My concern is that often times these are really fads, not trends. These fads are fueled by an overwhelming desire to find something new to talk about. Fads in and of themselves are no problem. Where they do become troublesome is when a business makes investments in products and equipment based on tends that turn out to be fads. Once the fad fades away, that business is left holding the bag in terms of its investment.”

Being all business

Carlos Calvo Rodriguez, Corporate Director of Spa Training at Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, once said in an interview with Spa Executive for a special report on staffing that most spa managers are good at either business or treatment, but almost never both. “People either climb up the ladder through one direction or the other, but they very rarely have both skills,” he said. “The people who are strong in the business side tend to burn out therapists and staff by pushing too hard.” This leads to high staff turnover because people can’t keep up with the workload, and it’s hard to maintain a business when you need to keep replacing your staff. Spa staff have jobs that are more physically and psychologically taxing than many. The best managers keep this in mind and are sensitive to it.

Not focusing enough on business

A spa manager does, however, have to know something about the other side of things. Calvo Rodriguez told us, “When you are only good at the treatment or skills side, there’s no profitability because there’s no business acumen. The treatments might be really good but people don’t know about them. So, the spa just is not profitable.” No matter how great those therapists are, if a manager can’t run operations, it’s just not going to work.

Not promoting from within

One study on this subject showed that, across all industries, more than 80% of workers had to move on to move up due to companies’ refusal to promote from within. And the tendency to look outside for managerial staff can hurt spas in more ways than one. It leads to high turnover, and to leaders who don’t understand both sides of the business. As Deirdre Strunk, Vice President of Spa, Fitness and Beauty at Canyon Ranch, recently told us, “Promotion from within is ideal because those leaders understand your business and have established relationships with team members.” That new leader may be missing some key skills, but if they have been working with you for some time, they will be starting with a valuable foundation that is hard to find elsewhere.

Not properly training spa managers

Carlos Calvo Rodriguez also told us he thought it unfortunate that the industry puts all its focus on training therapists or spa attendants, and neglects to train managers. Kathryn Moore, Founder and Managing Director at Spa Connectors, who also spoke to us for the special report on staffing, agreed. She said, “In some cases they’re running these huge assets, multi million dollar spas, and they’re not making any money. It’s dead, because they don’t know how to do the sales and marketing; they don’t know how to manage the team; to performance manage, to run a training schedule; they don’t know how to make sure the inventory is looked after. So, there’s stock on the shelves that’s been there forever, or is expired, or stolen. We’re expecting these kids to run businesses without teaching them how.” Unless managers are properly trained, spas will continue to struggle.

Keeping your distance

Shane Bird, Director of Spa at Turning Stone Resort and Casino, told us recently that the key to managing a successful team is “being willing as a manager or director to do everything, and to really get in the trenches. To be able to get in there and work with someone, whether it’s at the front desk or collecting towels, and to do whatever they are doing.” He added, “You cannot stay in an office. Your team has to see you engaging the guests in the way you want the guests engaged. It’s being a part of the everyday operations as much as you possibly can.” In order to manage a team, one has to understand that team. To understand people, you must know them, and you can’t do that with a door between you.

 

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