Mistakes managers make in spa and wellness (updated for 2023)

mistakes managers make

Are you making mistakes that are costing your spa revenue, staff, and business opportunities? Check out these common mistakes managers make in spa and wellness.

Spa managers and directors have a lot going on and sometimes things get overlooked or go wrong because you’re pulled in too many directions at once. And sometimes we make mistakes, which can be costly. Fortunately, we can learn from our mistakes and come out better for them in the end. 

Are you making mistakes that are costing your spa revenue, staff, and business opportunities? Check out these common mistakes managers make in spa and wellness.

Relying on only one or two revenue streams

Having too few revenue streams puts your business in a precarious position, because if you lose them, you lose everything, as many spas discovered during the COVID-19 shutdowns. Multiple revenue streams help during slow seasons, and increase profits all year round. There are many ways to diversify revenue streams. Membership programs, for example, through which customers pay a monthly fee for a set number of treatments or services and/or regular use of amenities, bring in steady revenue. Subscription services are a way to stay connected with your guests and bring in extra revenue with products or packages. Partnering with experts to offer adjunct services and experiences at your spa is another option, while leveraging retail is an obvious example that some spas forget about. A spa does not have to offer only traditional services and in-store retail. Everyone can get creative with potential revenue streams, and should. 

Skipping over internal talent for promotions

Team members quitting is an all too common complaint in spa and hospitality and one of the main reasons for this is a lack of upward mobility. Overlooking internal talent for promotions is one of the most common mistakes managers make in spa (and in all industries, to be fair). People want (and need) opportunities for advancement and, if they don’t get them, they’ll move on to move up. If you have an excellent massage therapist who has expressed interest in growing within the brand but you’re holding them back because you think you need them in the treatment room, they’re going to leave you for a better opportunity, or at least become disengaged from their work (also known as “quiet quitting” these days), which will impact your guest experience and your revenue.

Deirdre Strunk, Vice President of Spa, Fitness and Beauty at Canyon Ranch, once told us, “Promotion from within is ideal because those leaders understand your business and have established relationships with team members.” Even if you feel that the person is missing some key skills, if they have been working with you for some time, they will be starting with a valuable foundation that is hard to find elsewhere, and those extra skills can be learned. 

Slacking on training

Everyone performs better when they know what is expected of them and have been given the proper training. Your spa team should never wonder what they are supposed to be doing. From entry-level employees to senior management, everyone should get the benefit of proper training and, if they don’t, your business will struggle.

Carlos Calvo Rodriguez, now Senior Spa Director at Four Seasons Toronto, once told us he thought it unfortunate that the industry puts all its focus on training therapists or spa attendants, and neglects to train managers. And Kathryn Moore, Founder and Managing Director at Spa Connectors, shared similar opinions. 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 manage performance, 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.” 

Keeping goals to yourself

Many people who work in spas come from non-business backgrounds and don’t understand budgets or how they are part of a bigger picture. Michael Tompkins of Hutchison Consulting says that this is often a missed opportunity and that including employees on business metrics and goals is key to keeping talent engaged. When people feel integral to the operational success of something, and understand their place in it, they will be significantly more invested in that success.

Tompkins explained, “Spa directors who are sharing their financials, their goals, and their metrics with their team are more likely to get buy-in from employees who understand that we’re all in this together. Particularly with the millennial generation. That generation wants to work as a team and they want to be able to share with each other, to do better. Managers who are including their staff on goals and financial metrics are getting that team cohesion that’s needed in today’s environment.” 

Ignoring the importance of marketing

For some time, spas were often viewed as mere amenities to larger businesses, like hotels and resorts, but the recent surge in interest in wellness has sparked a realization that spas and other wellness-focused businesses have huge potential of their own. Marketing is a key element of realizing that potential. If you don’t market your business, people won’t know about all the amazing products and experiences you have to offer. The opportunities here are pretty much limited only by your imagination.

In an interview with Spa Executive, Amy Chan, Assistant Group Director of Spa & Wellness at Langham Hospitality Group, said “We need to follow the world trends where the use of technology and social media are the new norm. This is one instance where the world of spas and modern technology can enjoy a happy marriage to enhance the customer journey and offer a holistic experience from the first click to the final touches in the treatment room.

“Websites are more than just a shop window for browsing what treatments and promotions are available but are increasingly used to book appointments online, seamlessly in real time, and buy retail online.

“We all talk about creating experiences and storytelling. Maintaining brand awareness via social media platforms, sharing tips, short videos and posting event photos are at least the basics people should get right. People have very short attention spans so don’t post anything too long. Word of mouth is incredibly powerful. Encourage your guests to post (positive) online reviews as customers love to read other guest experiences.

“You might also want to create a selfie area for customers to post Instagrammable moments.” 

Being indifferent to your people’s needs

Your people make your spa. You can have all the fancy products in the world and a menu listing incredible sounding treatments, but if you don’t have the people to sell those products and deliver those treatments, you don’t have anything of use. That’s why you have to take care of your people.

Daisy Tepper, Director of the Forbes 5-Star spa at the Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston once told us that taking care of her team is paramount. “Treating them with the utmost respect is very important to me,” she said. “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.”

And Sonal Uberoi, wellness expert and author of The Wellness Asset: How wellness can transform and futureproof your hotel, said spas should make staff wellbeing a priority “instead of therapist productivity and financial targets.” She added, “Needless-to-say, the latter are important, but without the former, the latter is not possible.”

Be attentive to your staff’s needs and don’t overwork them. Turn down appointments if you have to, rather than forcing people to work themselves into a state of burnout. Burning out your team isn’t worth the cost.

Fearing technology

Technology simplifies and streamlines your business operations and customer experience.

Kenneth Ryan, Vice President of Global Wellness, Spa and Fitness Operations for Marriott International, the world’s largest hotel spa operator, told Spa Executive in a 2021 interview, “We’re working on technology in the spa space and how we can make the whole experience more transformational. It should be less about the transaction and more about the experience. I love those functions and features that make that possible. That’s huge and I think people want that.” He also said,  “I’ve been a champion of online booking for spa for at least eight or nine years. If you’re a spa today, you absolutely have to be in the online booking space. Guests want the freedom to be able to get things done in their time and at their leisure, and not be confined to actually calling when the spa is open or waiting on hold.”

By now, people should be well aware of what happens when we ignore technological advancement. Just look at newspapers, book stores, and video rental stores, all of which were ruined because people thought this internet thing wasn’t going to take off. While spa’s core products and services might not be in immediate danger, the way we deliver, manage, and market them will make all the difference. Online booking, digital intake forms, and tools that facilitate personalization have become requirements to remain relevant and competitive, while reporting dashboards that show you all your KPIs and metrics at a glance allow you to save time and focus on more important things than spreadsheeting and record keeping. 

Ignoring these options is a mistake managers make, though it’s less common now in luxury hospitality where leaders know what they need to do to remain at the top.

Learn from the best and avoid making these mistakes managers make in spa and wellness!


Spa Executive is published by Book4Time, the leader in guest management, revenue and mobile solutions for the most exclusive spas, hotels, and resorts around the globe. Learn more at book4time.com.

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