Is it a Match? Technology and the Spa.

Ruth Cox

Technology in the Spa Business is Life Changing. There is no better example for me than laser tattoo removal. Over the period of a few months, those tattoos that generated feelings from pride to embarrassment disappear into the past. The technology we use in the form of chemicals, products and equipment enable us to better serve our clients. But, what about the technology you use to create your brand, public relations and marketing, customer communications and perhaps most importantly process a sale transaction? Has the technology you’ve chosen helped your business generate transactions that result in cash and profit?

For the purpose of this discussion, let’s stay on the topic of information technology. Besides the wireless or landline telecommunication device, the most common technology application processes the sale transaction itself, whether that includes a credit card terminal; check verification system or some scheduling application and/or accounting software. I’ll confess, Bella Fontana Spa is a bleeding edge user of information technology. But this is not for everyone.

This begs the question fundamental to this blog – how do you choose what technology fits your operation?

I believe this depends entirely on the strengths and weaknesses of your operation. If you are highly adaptive to technology, then it can really benefit by creating new sale opportunities. Technology should enable the business, e.g., empower and liberate you and your staff to do what makes the operation successful. The metaphor that is most apparent to me is our daily transportation use. Most of us do not know everything about building, supporting and operating our mode of transportation, but we use it everyday without a thought unless we are buying or trying something new. Similarly, stay focused on how the technology supports the goals of your operation and mitigates any risk or weaknesses. Let technology help you do a better job of serving your customers.

When making a decision about an information technology solution, know your top priorities for your next level of success. Just what is it you need to improve, and will it add to your bottom line, or reduce some risk to your profitability?

Great accounting records and practices may not add one appointment to your day, but they sure can reduce your risk. What are you willing to do to get this part of your business in better shape, and is it critical this month, this quarter and this year?

  • On line gift certificates may increase your holiday sales, especially when holidays fall on Mondays and you are closed on Sunday. A significant portion of my online sales come from family members that live outside the geographic area, and several have come from soldiers in Iraq.
  • Does your customer base constantly tell you that they have been meaning to come in, but they just haven’t had time to call and make an appointment? Maybe on line booking and the ability to schedule anytime, without being overheard, will facilitate more appointments. This is particularly useful for certain professionals, the self-employed, mobile or travelers and those that work shifts like medical personnel.

When you are considering new technology of any kind, make sure it is taking you to a new level of success, not just fixing old problems. Find the right match, and if you struggle knowing just what that might be, contact one of us or another member of the Day Spa Association for a little help and support.


Assessing Risk In your Day Spa

Ruth Cox

Have you been receiving as many letters, postcards and emails about how hard the recession is hitting Day Spas as I have? One thing I know for sure is that whatever you decide to do to grow your business; you need to carefully analyze both the opportunities and the risk to your business. Adding a new service that is based on a new product or piece of equipment? How about new employees and services? Do employees, independent contractors or even booth renters ever drive on your behalf, perhaps, for example, to a supplier to pick up supplies as part of their responsibilities? What may seem a quite ordinary activity, can create a risk to your business. What is risk? Quite simply, risk is the instance or event that affects your financial or operational status. Good risks result in good outcomes like increased profit or cash generation, and bad risks mean you have a loss.

Spa business operations and protocols change more frequently than most other businesses. It is simply the nature of a capital intensive operation offering multiple service categories. You are doing something new all the time! To make sure you are protecting yourself, and your employees while creating better career opportunities, growth and profit, use the Four-square Risk Tool I have created below to think about managing the risk in your business. Each box represents an area that change affects in your business, and the list below contains a few of the associated risk management tools you can put into place.

Human Resources

  • Terms of Employment
  • Non-Compete/Non-Disclosure
  • Policies and Procedures
    • Employee Handbook
    • Performance Management
  • Recruitment and Hiring Practices
  • Employee Retention Plan
Property and Liability

  • General Liability
  • Professional Liability
  • Property Insurance
  • Workers Compensation
  • Major Medical Insurance
  • Security Alarms and Equipment
Public Relations and Advertising

  • Communications Management
  • Brand Development and Management
  • Charitable Donations
  • Awards and Recognition
  • Advertising Claims
    • Services
    • Product Lines
  • Marketing Plan
Regulatory and Tax Issues

  • Type of Business
  • Licensing
  • Operational Protocols
  • Inspections
  • Code Enforcement

When you bring on new employees, incorporate new product lines for services or retail, implement new equipment or make other changes to your business, take the time to check off the areas these changes may impact, and take action. Whether it is simply calling your insurance broker or updating your marketing plan, you will be in a better position to manage the risk that every change brings.

ACTS In Your Interest, State Legislatures and Boards

Ruth Cox

As Spa Owners and practitioners, we are involved every day in providing our technical expertise and excellent service to our customers. We conscientiously adhere to the regulations that help protect the health and safety of our clients. As the experts, we need to provide our state and local representatives the information they need to develop better regulatory policies and enforcement practices. You can use the web to find your State Representative and Senator. Make a point of meeting them this year, and e-mail or write them to advise them of your concerns about our industry.

Contact me at if you are interested in joining the Day Spa Associations (DSA) Legislative Committee. We are seeking members in each State to help represent the views of owners and practitioners.

Regulations for services offered at Day, Resort and Destination Spas are regulated by the States in which they reside. Typically several agencies oversee these services and license both individual practitioners and the business entities in which they practice. While your State may be different, services generally fall under the following categories, and in many states each have their own Regulatory Boards and Licensing Departments. They are as follows:

  • Cosmetology Boards regulate hair, nail, cosmetic and aesthetic services. This includes all hair cutting, coloring, wigs, braiding, hair extensions and other hair enhancements, hair removal (depilation including waxing), make up application and removal, manicures, pedicures, gel, acrylic and other nail enhancements, aesthetics/esthetics including facials and other non-medical skin care.
  • Barbering Boards regulate hair, including facial hair, shaving and other services and may or may not be regulated in conjunction with Cosmetology.
  • Massage Therapy may be regulated by its own Board but is often regulated by a Department of Health, Board of Nursing or similar Agency. Some states do not currently regulate massage therapy or have a licensing process. These states may regulate massage at the local level (county or city).
  • Other Services such as microdermabrasion, chemical peels, acupuncture, electrolysis, tooth whitening, laser treatments, mesotherapy, hydrotherapy and more may either be regulated by the State Medical Board or another agency or may also be unregulated in a given State.

Each State has over the course of the past 100 or more years, defined its standards and several methods by which practitioners, Spa Owners and consumers can monitor current regulations. The simplest of these is to join the agency listservs or email distributions. Find your State’s website or portal and sign up to receive the latest updates from each of these regulatory agencies. Make a commitment to contact your State Representative or State Senator to let him/her know, we in the industry care about our profession. Contact the DSA and join and become more active in your own future.

Ruth Cox

Passionate Every Day! VocationVacations and the Spa.

Ruth Cox

Ruth Cox

Are you passionate about your work every day? Do you dream of going in a new direction, trying a new career or even growing a small business into a larger one? Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to try something out before you made the educational, financial and personal commitment? There are such opportunities when you join the Day Spa Association, engage a Spa Consultant or even mentoring organizations, engaging a coach or even testing your dream job through VocationVacations (

There are many mentoring organizations, personal growth websites and life coaches that you can find in your area or on the web. VocationsVacations is the only company in the business of helping people try out their dreams with the support of mentors and coaches to help you get the most out of this experiential learning opportunity. Mentors are invaluable as you make your own way. The best mentors share their experience in a way that benefits your future.

Experiential learning by immersion is a unique opportunity in self-growth. Experience ‘what it is really like; from the start. VocationVacations mentor opportunities have shown that there are a few fundamental concepts that the Vocationer must answer for themselves, and interestingly enough, ideas that are guaranteed to always come up.

The first is ‘How do you want to live your life every day?’ Why do you want to change? What would your perfect life look like? How is it different than what you are doing now? How does being an Aesthetician, Spa Owner, Massage Therapist or ‘fill in the blank’ fulfill those objectives? If you envision being a Spa Owner and/or Operator, what do you hope to accomplish? If you are a Spa Owner, how much more can you accomplish if you have the right support?

The second is ‘Where do you start?’ Before you can even begin developing a business plan, you need to have an idea what you want, and then actually start by gathering the information on start up costs, financing, market analysis, prospective employees and more. There are resources available to help you here as well.

This leads into even more questions and the discovery process is iterative. Experiment with your future by checking into local and national organizations that help you grow, first by having a mentor, then by being a mentor. When you immerse yourself in learning you may create the catalyst that will expose your passion. By the way, I am a Mentor with VocationVacations, and I have hosted several Vocationers that had jobs that were very different from their dream of owning a day spa. Having them come to Bella Fontana Spa reminds me of why I went into the spa business, and helps them understand what to expect.

Resources for Personal Growth

Ruth Cox