This is our fourth instalment in the Spa Business Model Series. So far, we’ve considered Self Managing your hotel spa and working with a Spa Management Company and partnering with a Product House. This week, we’ll discuss how a Spa Consultant can help you run your spa.
Enlisting the services of a Spa Consultant to help in setting up your spa and getting it open is tried and tested. But have you considered getting them to assist in the ongoing management of the spa too? Using a spa consultant on a longer-term basis is a possibility that is often overlooked. Some would consider it a luxury. But that line of thinking could be short-sighted.
As we have already discussed, it can be challenging for a hotel to operate the spa by itself. Appointing a spa management company might result in a better operation. However, that comes at a price, Meanwhile, the resources of a Product House can be tapped to help do the job, but that will rarely provide a complete solution. The Product House model also has some inherent restrictions built in, like your choice of products. Similarly, using a Spa Consultant has its limitations too, especially financially. For example, high turnover of therapists means there may be several times throughout the year when training needs to be conducted. If your go-to trainer is the Spa Consultant, this can become an expensive process. Nonetheless, with a bit of creativity, a good consultant could help fill some of the gaps in the other spa management solutions.
The best part about using a Spa Consultant in an ongoing capacity is that the hotel can pick and choose how much support they want, and are prepared to pay for. By their very nature, consultants generally have more flexibility in terms of the work they do. As the needs of the business change, the consultant can adapt. That same flexibility also comes into play with the structure of the agreement, both in terms of work done and fees charged. A consultant could be engaged to do a specific task or to work a certain number of hours per month or to get paid an hourly rate with an incentive based on results, or any number of combinations imaginable with a work-for-hire arrangement.
A good Spa Consultant is a good generalist. And they are hard to find. Most are former spa managers who have either lost their jobs or have opted for the flexibility of consultancy over the daily grind of a full-time role. Some will be good at training therapists, but maybe lack retail knowledge. Others may have good marketing skills but not much training experience. But of course, take a look at their CV and you would be forgiven for thinking they are all experts at everything. Such is the lot of the humble spa consultant.
Quantitative vs Qualitative
Perhaps what makes finding the right Spa Consultant such a difficult task is the subjective nature of the spa business. What exactly is a good treatment? How are the benefits of that particular product range different from another that makes the same claims and has the same ingredients? Unless you measure specific and quantitative outcomes, the success or failure of your consultant will be a matter of opinion. The same challenges arise when you bring a Spa Consultant in to an existing operation to refresh the business. Much of their advice regarding treatment menu, product selection and even spa equipment will be based on their personal preferences.
Spa Consultants are sometimes also guilty of building monuments to themselves with other people’s money. In practical terms, a Spa Consultant is only as good as the projects they have done. Convincing a hotel to build an amazing spa facility allows that consultant to add another great project to their portfolio. Regardless of how successful the spa is in financial terms, it still looks great. Same goes with getting the hotel to spend big on the latest equipment for their spa. Neither of these things might be in the long-term interest of the business, but for the consultant who is just involved on a short-term, project basis, that may not be a big concern.
You could argue that the consultant who takes this attitude is risking their reputation in the long-term. But the spa consultant has two pretty good defences. First, they can argue that everything was working fine when they left. It was the hotel spa team who failed to maintain the spa. They did not follow the advice given. The other defence is one that we have touched on before – the subjective nature of the spa business. Who says a certain facial machine is any worse or better than others on the market? What is wrong with the massage technique that was taught? Often times in the spa business, hindsight is the only proof we have – and even then it is still subjective.
If you’re looking to a Spa Consultant as your magic bullet in terms of a management solution, you’ll probably be disappointed. As we’ve already explored in the previous instalments of this series, however, the same could be said of all these Business Models. There is no One-Size-Fits-All. Each scenario is a little different to the next. Each Pro will usually be accompanied by at least one Con. Maybe the ideal business model for your hotel spa is a hybrid of one of more of the models we’ve reviewed. And if that it’s true, then maybe it’s time for those of us providing these spa business model solutions need to start getting a bit more creative.