Resolutions Aren’t Just for New Year’s

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When I started my new spa, Inspire Skin & Body, in July of 2008, I thought I had a foolproof business plan and model in place. Even though the economy was in a bit of a rut, I felt confident that my target market – Baby Boomer consumers with high disposable incomes – would still happy to pay for facials and massages in my upscale, service-focused business. And with all of my past experience as a spa owner and spa consultant, I felt like I’d done enough research and fieldwork over the years to be able to skip past many of the hard knocks small business owners face.

I was wrong. Although the business was up and running without much of a hitch, I ran into a lot of unexpected surprises and hidden expenses. And as each month in 2008 passed, clients became more and more careful with the dollars they spent, especially on things deemed “optional” or “pampering.” So despite a loyal staff with tons of experience and regular clients, my business has been anything but profitable thus far. In fact, I’ve had to put a lot more of my own resources (i.e. cash) in since we opened just to keep things afloat.

So in 2009, my biggest goal (I really don’t like the word “resolution” too much) has been to make my spa not only self-supporting but also profitable. That may seem like a tall order in our ever-changing marketplace, but I wanted to share what I have been doing to make it happen. And as we enter our third month of the year, I am even more convinced that these steps are key in my ultimate success.

Focus on gratitude for all of my blessings. This is absolutely imperative to our success as well as maintaining our positive attitude. When you really stop and appreciate all of the things we have in this life – especially in the United States – it is hard to do anything but smile. A few that I’m aware of right now…my wonderful husband and family, four extremely loving yet comical dogs and cat, an amazing staff, and the most supportive, caring group of clients that a business could ever ask for.

Envision and write down a specific goal or outcome for my resolution. It is a great thing to declare your goal(s) and to tell people about them. But without a really clear vision of that goal – that is one that is specific and measureable – it could all be for naught. I have written and re-written a detailed description of what my goals really are (i.e. how much money we need to make to pay our bills and be profitable) so that I know what steps we should take to get there.

Share my vision with my staff and other business allies. The more people know about your goal the more they can do to help you achieve it. So I communicated my goal to the staff in January and keep them posted about our progress each week and month so they know if what we are doing as a team (and how they are performing as individuals) is working well. Each month we are setting specific goals for them to work towards and for the spa as a whole to achieve. Together we have monitored our progress and determined the steps needed to keep us on track toward the ultimate goal of being profitable.

Solicit and accept suggestions, feedback and help from others. I tend to be something of a loner, often feeling like I have to do it all myself or that I cannot ask others for help. I also tend to think I know what is best for the business and forget that the people around me are a wealth of energy, ideas and information that I need to rely on more than I do. This particular step may be my biggest challenge in achieving the goal, but I am motivated more than ever before to let go of the need for control in order to take the company where it needs to go. One thing I have done recently is a client survey that has produced a great amount of feedback and suggestions about what our clients like and dislike about the spa. Although it is not always easy to look at the “helpful suggestions” people offer, more than anything the survey has affirmed that we do a lot of things well already.

Maintain a positive attitude and outlook no matter what. This can be challenging to do amid all the media reports of failing businesses and high unemployment. But I feel the biggest key to the success of my business and achievement of my goal is to shut out the negativity around me and keep myself and my staff looking at the bright side of life. I have all but shunned the newspaper and evening news in order to stay focused on what needs to be done in my business. As we are able to keep ourselves motivated and “inspired,” we in turn have a greater impact on our clients and the world around us. And this, I think, is what will really make the difference in whether we succeed or not.

Whatever your goals or resolutions were in January, I think that these steps can help you get what you want in your spa and life. Start with having gratitude and a clear vision that you share with others. Then be willing to ask for help in getting what you want. In the end, your positive attitude (and of course the achievement of your goal) will inspire you (and possibly others) on to greater challenges and achievements.

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Felicia Brown, LMBT

felicia@spalutions.com

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Using Crisis to Find New Opportunities in Your Life and Business

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For many years I have had over my desk a piece of “art” that is very meaningful to me.  It is actually a postcard that a financial planner gave to me at some networking event over a decade ago. The postcard has two Chinese characters on it that stand for “crisis” and “opportunity.” When they are shown together they are supposed to mean “success.”

I really liked the postcard and had it professionally framed so I could hang it up and see it every day. Recently, I found the characters together again, this time on a decorative print in an online catalog. With them was the following quote:

“Every crisis carries two elements, danger and opportunity. No matter the difficulty of the circumstances, no matter how dangerous the situation, at the heart of each crisis lays a tremendous opportunity. Great blessings lie ahead for the one who knows the secret of finding the opportunity within each crisis.”

Through my own crises (and the blessings that have come from them), I have long been a believer that everything happens for a reason just like the quote suggests. In fact I have come to learn that the crisis in our lives is sometimes imperative for making needed changes and adjustments to reach our ultimate happiness and goals.

Need some examples of what I mean? Let me use a couple from my own life to illustrate how crisis can provide some amazing opportunities for growth, changes and opportunity.

When I was growing up my family was very poor. I wore hand me down clothes and my mom shopped at second hand stores and flea markets for a lot of things we needed. Meanwhile, I was a scholarship student at a local private school from kindergarten through 8th grade. While this was an amazing educational opportunity, it was somewhat of a challenge to be the “have-not” in a sea of “haves.”  At the time it caused me a lot of personal embarrassment and emotional pain.

Several years after I left the school I ran into one of my wealthy former classmates while on a break from my job. We chatted briefly – about what I have no idea – but I walked away from the conversation with an amazing epiphany.  I was the lucky one of us by growing up poor. Why? Because I appreciated everything I had growing up and everything I had worked to obtain on my own by working. I was also proud to be supporting myself financially and for becoming independent at an early age. What a break through!

Another example…after taking up running many years ago I developed shin splints in my left leg. As a massage therapist I used this pain and injury to learn about what would help it both on and off the table. This knowledge allowed me to help my clients who had the same problem – which made them feel better and put money in my pocket.

But what about in the spa? How can you use a crisis to create or discover an opportunity? Here are a few ideas…

  • When a client comes to you with a complaint, you can use the information they give you to make changes that will improve your spa’s level of customer service or adjust the protocols in a particular service. You can also strengthen the client relationship by listening appreciatively and thanking them for taking the time to tell you which can lead to all kinds of opportunities in the future such as increased loyalty, referrals and more.
  • When an employee makes a mistake (not offering to put your best client on an appointment waiting list when the service they request is not available, for example ), use the error as an opportunity to re-train that person or educate them and the rest of your staff on the value of a lifetime client (and cost of losing one.) You’ll smooth our internal procedures and help everyone to understand the real impact of their actions.
  • When sales are slow, use the down time to reorganize your priorities, train staff or create new services. Allow that “pinch” to fuel your creativity in adding new marketing activities or events to drive in old and new clients alike. When things are busy, you’ll be better prepared and perhaps have a few new marketing tricks up your sleeve to boot!

So here is my challenge to you…think about the crisis in your life or business, past or present, and aim to find an opportunity or blessing hidden in it.  Or take a look at past situations and circumstances in your life and acknowledge the opportunities for growth and learning that you gained as a result of them. Write down what you come up with so that you have tangible proof of how these difficulties and crises have actually made you a better person or improved (or are improving) your life and/or business in some unexpected way.

The bottom line is that no one wants to have problems or unfortunate events in their lives. But by taking the time to look for the gifts and possibilities in each situation, we do become better people and business owners. And that is the biggest opportunity I can think of.

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Felicia Brown, LMBT

felicia@spalutions.com

Breaking Up Isn’t Just For Sweethearts

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While February means celebrating Valentine’s Day, and hopefully cashing in on increased spa gift certificate sales, some of you may instead be focused on making a drastic change in your personal or professional relationships. And I’m not just talking about romances. Let me explain…

Several years ago when I was contemplating selling my first spa, I decided to find a creative way to cut the ties that bound me to it. I felt this would enable me to feel good about my decision to sell, attract prospective buyers, and begin to heal from the inevitable grief that would come when our “break-up” was final.

And while I was really ready to sell “my baby”, move on with my life and do something new, let’s face it, deciding to end any kind of long-term relationship, even one with a company, can be awful. With the decision comes with a lot of work and conflicting emotions, as well as unexpected (and sometimes unpleasant) consequences. So I had to move through the process one step at a time.

Whether your “break-up” is with your business or business partner, an employee, boss or perhaps just some facet of what you currently do professionally, you can take steps to do so as positively as possible. One thing I suggest is writing a loving, healing “separation” agreement for the break-up, much like you might have in a real divorce. Though this isn’t a legal document, it is a healing tool that you can use to end your relationship on a higher level than you might have, allowing you to have closure on a number of levels. Here are a few ideas…

  • Make a list of all the ways each “partner” or party grew or benefited from the business, partnership or relationship. “I learned to enjoy managing others, appreciate my past bosses and use Microsoft Word. My staff member learned to do payroll, create a spreadsheet and use Power Point.” Leave no skill unturned and try to think of as many positive things here as possible that would not have happened if you had not been in the relationship. When I did this with my spa as the other party, I focused on how it had grown under my leadership, gained a valuable reputation, or increased in sales during my ownership. I also included ways that the community, clients and staff had benefitted from the business since I opened it.
  • Make a list of new opportunities big and small that will come to you (or both of you) as a result of the break-up. “When I am on my own, I will have the opportunity to sleep in on Saturday mornings, join a volleyball league, and do community service again.” If your break-up is with a staff member, you might write things like “When our professional relationship is over, I will be able to relax when the phone rings, unify the nail care team, or have more space in my office. Look for all the possible positives that will come from the change, again both for you and the other one who will be leaving the relationship.
  • Express gratitude for the relationship – Being thankful at a time like this may seem difficult at best. But as I have learned through the ending of many romantic and professional relationships, as well as the sale of my business, there is always a gift of some kind in the time you spent in them. It may just be temporarily hidden by the pain you are feeling of the break-up or the circumstances leading up to it. Here are a few things you might say, “I thank ____________ for the wonderful successes we have shared, for the support _______ gave me in building my business/career, for providing me with a steady income and paycheck.” Though the relationship may be at its end, there are likely many things from it that will have a lasting impact and place in your heart and life.
  • End with a positive affirmation or statement about how you would like to move on from the relationship. “We walk away from our business relationship not as enemies but as friends” or “We continue to work together as colleagues in the spa profession” or “We both let go of the anger, pain and resentment we feel to think only of the good times we shared while owning our business together.”

To be sure, ending any kind of close or long-term relationship – personal or professional – is tough no matter whose decision it is or what the circumstances are. But by creating your own customized break up “agreement,” it will be easier to see the time spent in the relationship as collection of gifts and lessons instead of a mistake…and as an open door rather than just a big void in your life. By taking steps like this, you’ll also become a happier, healthier and stronger person who is ready to take on what new opportunities and adventures come your way.

Felicia Brown, LMBT

felicia@spalutions.com

Great First Impressions

Day Spa Marketing: You’ve Got One Chance to Make a Great First Impression


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In life you only have one chance to make a great first impression. The same holds true for marketing where your first impression sets the stage for you taking a prospect and turning them into a client.

You know if the first impression your marketing makes on your “tarket” (target market) isn’t a “good one” it’s very likely they won’t be enticed to become a client.

Why? Because if your marketing message, which is the thing that actually communicates the true value of what you/your day spa offers, doesn’t resonate with or spark the interest of your “tarket” they’ll move on – convinced that you don’t know or understand them.

A previous blog called “are you talking so people listen” detailed the importance of using the language of marketing – a language Marketing Syntax. Why is it important to use? Because you want to make sure, your “tarket” gets your message.

Marketing Syntax is the building block that enables you to create marketing messages that actually communicate the true value you offer.

Unfortunately, when most day spa owners create their marketing messages they don’t use Marketing Syntax. What happens is they typically run into problems that include the following:

1. Their message isn’t directed to a target market.

2. Their message fails to hit a nerve.

3. Their message talks about services, not solutions.

4. Their message tries to say too much and gets unwieldy.

5. Their message doesn’t say enough and becomes cryptic.

But here’s some good news – once you have the tool of Marketing Syntax in your tool kit, all of these problems are relatively easy to solve.

You’ll want to read on for the answer to how you specifically solve each of these problems.

1. Not directed to a target market:

Every marketing message should start with something like: “We work with this kind of client…” or “We help this kind of client… (Insert the appropriate demographics or psychographics).”

2. Fails to hit a nerve

Talk about a problem, challenge, issue, pain, or predicament that is symptomatic and clearly observable. Say: “We work with professional women who have developed prematurely wrinkled skin” This they can understand, and it hits a nerve. Don’t say, “We work with women who want a great facial and top level service.” Huh? Don’t laugh, I’ve heard worse.

3. Talks about services, not solutions

When you talk about services, the “tarket” needs to translate what it means to her. If you get right into solutions, results and outcomes, she sees the immediate benefit. “We offer a retention maximization program,” isn’t as good as, “We have a service that will increase retention of your best employees.” Now that has value.

4. Says too much

To get someone’s attention, you need to communicate in meaningful sound bites. Run-on sentences or worse, messages with multiple targets, problems, and solutions, will only confuse people: “We work with large and small day spas in the broadband and professional beauty industry that have management, marketing and financial issues and want to build their business at the lowest possible wage level while retaining high-performing and self-generating managers/leaders.” Expect confused looks.

5. Says too little

You might understand the message you’ve come up with, but your audience many need some translation. “What do you do?” “I’m a day spa owner.” Wait, what’s wrong with that? Nothing except that it’s meaningless except to other day spa owners and professional product manufacturers. There’s no target, problem or solution. And so the “twenty questions” game begins – and that’s a game you don’t want to play.

So make sure your marketing message makes a good first impression. When it does your prospect will take your invitation to learn more about your services and products – and that’s where you’ll want to expand your marketing message into written marketing materials that communicate about your services in more depth.

Andrew Finkelstein

The Beauty Resource