In March, 2019, The Spa at The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston became the first spa in Texas to earn a Forbes Five Star rating. This impressive accomplishment becomes even more impressive when you consider the fact that The Spa at the Post Oak Hotel only opened three months earlier, in December, 2018.
How did they achieve this? We decided to talk with The Post Oak Spa Director, Daisy Tepper, and find out.
In her role as Spa Director at The Post Oak Hotel, which is owned by billionaire TV personality Tilman Fertitta, Ms. Tepper oversees the day-to-day operations of The Spa and manages all wellness activities. Her previous roles include Director of Spa and Wellness at The Forbes Five Star Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, Senior Director of Spa at the Four Seasons Spas of the Americas, and Director of Spa at the Beverly Wilshire and the Four Seasons Beverly Hills Spa. She also served as the Spa Director at the Peninsula in Beverly Hills for nine years. Originally from Australia, Ms. Tepper holds a degree in Business Management from Sydney Business College.
We asked Ms. Tepper about how she managed to achieve a Forbes Five Star rating just three months after opening, about her training process, and about her candidate selection process.
Were you aiming for a five star rating?
It was our goal from day one. Houston doesn’t have any five star hotels or spas. The people here don’t really understand what “Five Star” is. So, it was a very interesting journey from day one.
How did you do it?
By working very hard! We did a very intense eight-week training. We also had Forbes come in and spend a day with us. That actually made the team very nervous. That’s when they realized they signed up for something a lot bigger than what they thought.
I would start every day by asking everybody, “What are you grateful for?” And we would spend a good half hour on that. It was very important to me for us to really understand what makes us happy. It put everybody in a good mood, and then we would start our day. The other thing I would say is, “We want to make history. You were selected from hundreds of candidates to create the first five star spa in Houston.” It always went back to those two things.
There were a lot of tears, a lot of frustration, and a lot of “I can’t do this.” But they hung in there.
What were the tears and frustration about?
The intensity of the training. All of them said they had never in their career done anything even close to it. They were here eight hours a day, five days a week, training for eight weeks. The expectations were high. There was frustration when they were trying to get it right and couldn’t. And there are so many tiny details: your uniform’s got a little stain, your badge isn’t straight, your hair has to be back in a bun. Everything has to be perfect.
I would tell them, “Don’t give up, don’t throw it away, hang in there.” And they did. They came to work looking impeccable and ready to do this every single day. They were determined.
Tell me about some of the traits you looked for in service providers.
Confidence is the biggest thing. If you’re confident in what you do, everything else comes naturally. Caring is another thing because the guests can tell right away if you care about the service you’re offering. We looked for passion, because if you’re passionate you’re going to try to do well, and ability to work under pressure.
During the interview process, there were times when I was hard on them. I wanted to see if they were able to work under pressure, because achieving five stars is pressure. Those inspectors are coming, you don’t know when they’re coming, and they’re looking at absolutely everything.
On top of two interviews they also had to do a practical. We would ask them questions while on the massage to determine how much they knew about the body, and challenge them while on the table to find out whether they would give us attitude.
What, besides the people, makes The Spa at The Post Oak special?
Visually it’s beautiful, but the biggest thing is the attention to detail. We make sure every little thing is thought of.
From the moment we welcome the guest we’re watching for little things we can do.
A guest commented on how much they loved the little peanut butter spheres we offer, so the attendant got a little box, packaged them beautifully with a ribbon, and gave it to the front desk so they had it when they checked out. We had a mother and daughter come in who hadn’t seen each other for a while and came to spend time together. We took a picture of them, put it in a frame with a ribbon, and left it at the desk as a gift. It’s the little things that we do for the guest that they don’t expect and that make people walk away and say “Wow. This is something that I’ll remember.”
We make sure to talk about this. We ask “tell me about how you went above and beyond for a guest today.”
I think that’s what makes our spa special.
What do you think it takes to be a good spa director?
Caring for your team and being there. Leading by example is a big thing. Treating them with the utmost respect is very important to me. The way I see it, they’re my internal guests, and if I take care of them, they will take care of the other guests. The bread and butter comes from these people. If you treat people well, they will go above and beyond.
What is something you’re excited about?
I’m excited that we are the first and only Five Star spa in the state of Texas, which is huge because Texas is the second largest state in the United States.
Also, working for such an amazing, influential man as Mr. Tilman Fertitta. He inspires me and has taught me so much in the two years that I’ve been here. I was able to come to Texas from L.A. and achieve this big accomplishment, I’m extremely excited about that.