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Fear Factor In Managing Own Spa

Published by Ajit Kalloor in Spa Mangement · 10/9/2012 11:36:29
Tags: SpamanagementSpatreatmentsRunningaspaBodytreatments

Many Spa owner has reported to me that a chief reason they don’t want to invest in employee training is the fear that once they’re trained they’ll take off and open a competing business nearby. This is perhaps the most irrational approach of all to operating a spa. When training is withheld, everyone loses—customers, employees, and the owner as well. It’s like telling a child that you won’t allow him near a bicycle until he learn to ride one first. It just doesn’t make sense. There is always risk in a business investment. Attempting to limit or deny vital employee training will automatically convert that risk into certain disaster. There are better approaches than this.

Business owners, whether working in the spa or outside of it, can contribute substantially to the environment of fear. Frightened and tense over financial disappointment and mounting expenses, an owner might be tempted to place unrealistic improvement demands on staff and management. Often these increased expectations arrive without the means with which they can be accomplished: training, tools, and funding. Managers are now under compounded pressure to elevate sales, reduce employee turnover, and trim operating costs, while already struggling to meet their present goals. Further hampering the value of existing sales is the fear of setting service prices at levels needed to support the cost of operating the business. Few spa owners that I have worked with actually knew how much to charge for services in order to make ends meet. Most pricing is based on "going rates" for the market area, or the untested notion that a given price was the highest customers would pay. But this often proves to be an owner’s self-valuation rather than a reflection of their customers’ spending limits. When we don’t believe in ourselves, how can we convince others to?

Another destructive influence is the frantic spa owner who vents anger and spreads insecurity openly among employees. Such practices have no useful place in a business but have enormous power to demoralize, hasten job turnover, and cripple management.

Identifying the Problem
It’s evident that rampant fear in the workplace, especially when expressed by all levels of operations, can have a hazardous effect on quality and company culture. Service and retail sales will stumble, customers won’t return, and cooperation among the staff will amount to little more than defensive camps built around shared grievances. We can shut the place down, fire everyone and start over, or apply even harsher direct management, but none will solve the problems inherent in the typical spa working body. What’s needed first is identification of the problem and a commitment on the part of all to disclose the real conditions affecting them, and an agreement to work out meaningful solution. This is a big job for any individual but especially for a group who have unique needs and abilities.

Where to start

Start with a series of team meetings facilitated by a neutral and skilled leadership expert or business consultant. All spa personnel, including ownership, should be speaking on a level playing field in an atmosphere of support that’s free from the risk of ridicule or punishment. The facilitator will set up an agenda that first seeks to uncover the facts concerning company frustrations, fears, and perceived or real limitations. The idea here is to determine exactly what is affecting the company’s performance, particularly from the individual’s perspective. This meeting must not attempt to resolve disputes, digress into arguments or blame, or to set any new policies! Pent up steam must be vented creatively, that is, in a controlled, positive, and carefully directed manner. It’s the end goal for everyone together that ultimately matters here. One-on one meetings with staff and management should follow that explore more deeply the beliefs and sentiments of employees and managers. Hopefully they will be encouraged to disclose freely now that the wall of silence and resentment has been breached.
The company can now begin to set new service and sales goals, quality targets, and morale improvements based on the actual rather than the perceived characteristics and abilities of employees and managers.


Most spa employers will discover that step-by-step, hands-on education will be far more effective with employees than "read it and do it" methods. A protocol sheet or manual will get little attention from people who do not enjoy reading. Invite specialized trainers to teach positive communication techniques to employees. Many of these are offered in the spa and salon industry today. Exasperated managers and owners will do well to learn how to skillfully and consistently praise employees for their truly productive efforts—one of the most highly prized aspects of employment among spa professionals. We must remember that for everything that goes wrong in the workplace thousands of things are going right, right now! Most employees value recognition above pay, so when the praise isn’t there they’ll resort to asking for more money more often.

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