Hello Corporate Spa Raiders….this is not a minimum wage business. A recent ad in a local paper offered work at a hotel spa–Nail Technician-$6.95 per hour plus tips. Yes, the schools we go to don’t offer a four year degree, but we are professionals who have spent years perfecting our skills. We spend a great deal of money training, learning and practicing our skills.
Do you really think it is appropriate to pay minimum wage plus tips for a perfect manicure or pedicure? Let’s see, you get what you pay for? Or do you really want to hire a professional, someone who knows about diseases of the nails, who knows proper sanitation, who knows how to file properly, who knows how to massage to perfection? Which do you want–the skilled professional technician or the just out of school untrained, will work for minimum wage.
How about you? Will you pay a little more for a skilled and knowledgeable technician? Do you want someone who is touching you to be a professional?
Maybe the corporate spa director never had a pedicure before? Who would have thunk it?
This past weekend marked the Les Nouvelle show in Miami Beach. Primarily an esthetician show in years past, it has now turned a little green and way more “spa-like”. Walking the trade show floor, there were vendors showing their “stuff”. Up and down each row, you heard manufacturers and sales reps preaching their gospel.
- Lesson #1: Don’t Buy Immediately. Here, let me put this on one hand. Wow, look at that. Compare the two hands. Wow, look at that. Lesson #1….walk away, and compare your hand in 5 or 10 minutes. Does it really look different? Betcha, it doesn’t after ten minutes, but if it does, run back and buy it!
- Lesson#2:Vendor Training Is a REQUIREMENT, not optional and not at a cost. One vendor proudly announced to me–“Your first training is FREE.” Are you kidding? You want to sell products to me that you want me to sell to my clients and you will graciously give me the first training for FREE? PLEEZE! Have you heard of vendor partners? Please don’t do me any favors. On to the next booth.
- Lesson #3:Packaging Sells. Booth after booth, we kept looking at some of the worst packaging in the world. Some of the manufacturers have some of the best products in the world, but they put them in the worst bottles, with labels that look like they were designed in a word document. Welcome to the new millennium and take a trip to the mall to look at your competition. If you have a great product, make it look great from the outside too.
Every show has highlights and lessons. It’s how we learn and grow in the industry.
If you own a spa or if you are a spa director-training is draining. No kidding. I ran across a word document from 4 years ago entitled “Spa Training Issues”. I expected to open and find an outline of a monthly meeting to the staff. Instead I found a seven page document of issues that I felt were critical to the success of the spa.
It started out with “train on the basics, like don’t point” and ended with the expected values created for a customer–“was it the expected value or was it beyond the expected value”. What the list told me was that training never ends. The issues that were critical to the success of the spa four years ago are still critical issues in the spa.
Engaging the guest, checklists for perfection, standards, etiquette, culture, service information, consultative selling, guest complaints, housekeeping,….and the list goes on and on and on. You see training can be draining, but it is critical to success.
Imagine the horror when you hear that a therapist is telling new clients that she only takes tips in cash. The ongoing debate on tips in the spa has reared its ugly head. Some spas charge the tip automatically giving the entire tip to the therapist, while others split the tip with a percentage going to cover overhead. Others have even been known to use the tip as part of the therapist’ compensation plan. The latter, I think has some type of moral repercussions, if not labor laws.
- Last time I checked, a tip is not required.
- A tip is an appreciation for super service above the norm.
- Why only in cash, because you get it sooner?
- Did you also tell the client that you have to wait until your paycheck to receive your other tips?
- Did anyone share with you spa etiquette?
Whether your spa collects tips automatically or as a thank you, my southern hospitality tells me that from the dawn of ages, a tip is a special thank you for going above and beyond. It should not be automatically added to the check unless you have a large party and it definitely should not be part of a compensation plan.
The client’s motive for telling us about her experience, was that she thought it was inappropriate to discuss tips before having and during the service. The client also questioned as to whether we actually paid the whole tip to the employee (a practice which some spas use by taking a portion of the tips). In this particular case, the employee had breached the client/staff line, where something that should be private is aired in public–like airing your dirty laundry.
When approached, this employee, of course, denied telling the client she only took tips in cash. She said that the client must have misunderstood. We walked through the inappropriateness of the conversation and why you do not discuss tips with your clients and guests. Discussing money with anyone except your accountant or a financial adviser is etiquette taboo.
On a recent visit to a gorgeous spa, we experienced a 2 day training event that made us very glad to work at our spa. You see there were some major differences in our culture (fun, family, client is king) versus their culture (cold, lack of customer service, no sense of spa culture).
On the way home, my manager and I discussed the animosity in the training room, and the therapists that showed disrespect. The culture and vision of the owners and manager did not match the vision of the therapists. We basically felt that the spa should wipe the slate clean and start over with new therapists that understood their mission and vision.
- What happens when your therapists don’t see your vision?
- What happens when you are not able to express your vision?
- Does your vision clash with religious or political beliefs?
- Is your spa vision in conflict or are therapists getting mixed signals?
- Does your vision match your mission?
This spa has a wonderful opportunity to be an outstanding spa, but the spa culture and mission must live and breathe in every one of the therapists. Sometimes it is just not a fit. Do your therapists believe in the mission of your spa?
Having friends that own spas, we are constantly discussing opportunities, staff changes, and growing the spa. One spa owner recently had a group of stylists that were being lured to a defunct day spa that is now operating as a booth rental for stylists. The booth rental operation was exclaiming to stylists that they could keep 80% of every dollar that they charged. Does this sound too good to be true? Yes, they have free lunches too.
You do the math, but last time I checked, the booth rental stylists have some facts that they need to face.
- Are you prepared to pay quarterly taxes to the IRS? And the self-employment tax. And don’t forget taxes on tips.
- Are you prepared to pay retail sales tax?
- Do you have your own phone line to make your own appointments? There is no receptionist (if there is, this is not a true booth rental)
- Wait until you wash all of your laundry, clean and pay your (I gotta have) assistant.
- Oh yes, don’t forget the insurance, liability, property, and 100% of your health insurance.
- Are you a self-starter, a go getter….out to bring in the business?
- The cost of doing business does not change, just how you handle the money. It is fairly industry standard that you will make at the most 15-20% profit if money is handled appropriately–80% is someone pulling the free lunch over your eyes.
- If you want further education and training, you must pay for everything yourself.
Immediate cash to the stylist may be the only be real benefit to the rental business model–as you don’t have to wait for a paycheck. And if you think you can fool the IRS for long with not paying taxes on cash….hmmmm. You must also be a real go-getter to continue bringing in business with referrals and marketing, plus you need a sharp business head to watch expenses.
Working as a stylist at a spa gives you a real career and something even more important- security and a safety net. When times are good, you will do great. When times are not so good, you will do great. Do you want a career? or Do you just want to be another stylist?
- Skin: 20%
- Massage: 45%
- Nails: 20%
- Hair: 10%
- Fitness: 5%
Of course, you match your retail to the service mix to see how each department performed. The retail percentages were as follows:
- Body Care: 5%
- Clothing/Fitness: 13%
- Gifts: 5%
- Hair: 16%
- Makeup: 5%
- Nails: 10%
- Skin: 46%
Without becoming too number obsessive (I have a fixation on numbers), you can easily see which departments are performing with retail. Other numbers that are reviewed on a daily basis include:
- Average Service Ticket ($127) – Above National Average, But Below Our Goal
- Average Retail Ticket ($55) – ($1.00 Above Goal)
- Pre-Book Percentage (34%) – (6% below Goal- we had a bridal party of visitors)
- Retail to Total Service: (28%) – (5% above target)
- Add-Ons & Upgrades: 24 Massage, 5 Skin, 4, Nails, 4 Hair (Look at those Massage Therapists!)
For a Saturday, not a bad performance. So this begs the questions, which numbers do you look at and why? Which numbers should you look at? At the end of the day, should it just be the profit for the day, or are the indicators above the drive for profit. The drive for profit should have started from day one of doors opening…just like you build a car for speed, you need to build your spa for profit. The key indicators above are your road map to success–do you have your goals in place? Do you check your numbers?