spa business

Are You Using Your Spa's Staff Handbook Correctly?

Are You Using Your Spa's Staff Handbook Correctly?

Are you using your Spa’s Staff Handbook correctly? Read to learn 3 simple tips to ensure your spa team is following the expectations and policies set in your spa staff handbook.

Expanding Your Spa Business + Managing Growth Expectations

Expanding Your Spa Business + Managing Growth Expectations

Expanding your spa business can be an exciting time, but it is also important to manage your growth expectations. Read to find out what systems should be put into place when you decide to expand your spa team.

How Rapid Salon Growth Took Me By Surprise

How Rapid Salon Growth Took Me By Surprise

Two years after I sold my 3 room, 7 staffed spa, I moved to tiny little sea-side town on Vancouver Island and opened my third esthetic business as a single owner/operator model. By the time I completed my first year in business in 2007, I had a full, happy clientele and a booming bank account. However, I quickly became a victim of my success three months later.

I was so good at generating new clients that nobody could get in for an appointment for three months.

Now…you may be thinking, “I wish I had that problem!” but I want to explain why having such rapid growth came at a price and how you can avoid my growing pains.

 1.  I was overworked with admin and non-billable duties.

You need time to develop business systems that will ease your workload. The systems you use right now may not be scalable when you are fully booked.  For future ease, plan for bringing on digital systems that can handle the mundane administrative work you shouldn’t be wasting your time on. Or start researching companies that you can contract the work to.

I finally hired a laundry service to relieve my workload, signed up for a new booking/POS system that was more efficient and did a trade for my bookkeeping needs. This allowed me true down time outside of salon hours.

 2.   I hit a ceiling with my earning potential.

As you are slowly growing, that is the best time to think about how you will increase your earning potential....and then Make. A. Plan.

Will you build a larger location? Are you budgeting for that? Will you hire staff?  Don’t be that salon owners who throws new hires on the floor with very little training and wonder why you have high client and staff turnover. Unsexy but essential business strategies and systems will need drafting: business plans, policy and procedure manuals, training protocols, and salon systems. All of that development takes a huge amount of time to prepare for successful growth.  Why not start those now?

If you don’t want to hire staff and choose to keep it small, how are you going to leverage your time? Will you raise your rates? Become specialized? Working longer hours won’t be an option at that point, or you’ll quickly burn out.

I chose to drop the services that were not popular, hard on my body, took too much time to set up & clean up or were just not enjoyable to me anymore. By removing them, I opened up my schedule for the treatments truly I loved doing (waxing) and were much more lucrative per hour.

My advice? Consciously decide how you are going to work smarter, not harder.

3.   I was completely exhausted.

At the beginning stages of building my clientele I could be much more flexible with my schedule. But as I got busier I had to learn how to say ‘no.’ By then I was also a single mom, and it was important for me to be physically, mentally & emotionally present for my son and I was not willing to comprise that part of my life.  Saying 'no' to the extra booking requests was really hard, but I needed to stick to my hours so I could have longevity in my career.

When I realized clients couldn’t get on the books for three months, I stopped taking any new clients and waited for attrition to happen in my business.   It took approximately one year for my schedule to get to a place in which I felt more balanced. And when the recession hit here in 2009/2010, I simply stepped up my client attraction tactics to begin the building process again.

The bottom line is; use the extra time you have while your business is growing to design it in a conscious way. And if your business does happen to explode with 10x the clients, you are prepared to handle the scale with grace and professionalism.

No one can predict the future, but if you can embrace your slower growth periods to make plans for a scalable business, you will be able to protect your energy, keep your passion and still allow for higher earning potential for when rapid growth hits!

10 Tips for Using Instagram at a Conference

I’m usually a pretty extroverted person when it comes to meeting new people, but when I’m at a conference where I don’t know anyone, I feel awkward when I try to make new connections. I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to create and nurture new professional relationships in person if I was truly introverted. Just this last weekend I attended Serious Business in New Orleans and had this exact experience. I was able to introduce myself and network with less than a handful of people (most of whom I was sitting beside in different classes).  I really felt like I was missing out on a whole lot of interacting because most attendees were there with their salon team and it felt difficult to respectfully break into a conversation.

So instead of missing out on all the networking I could be having, I used social media, particularly Instagram, to connect and engage with presenters and other participants.

I’ve made you a short list of how to use Instagram to break into a new professional social circle without feeling awkward, plus use it to create awareness for your business.

Before The Event:

1)  Take a look at your favourite companies attending the conference & follow as many of the speakers & vendors as you can. This saves you time trying to find their Instagram accounts while your at the show.

2)  If you know you will be using certain hashtags throughout the event, use the NOTES app on your phone, enter those hashtags and save. When you are ready to post, simply copy & past from your notes into your caption and you’re ready to post on the fly with lots of relevant hashtags!

3)  If you are an employee, ask your salon or spa owner if they have a hashtag they would like you to use to help bring awareness to the business. You can also create your own hashtag to brand yourself as a service provider.

4)  If you are a salon owner, and you don’t have a brand hashtag…start figuring that out now. Be sure to research before making a final decicion…some hashtags could be darn-right embarrassing!

5)  A few weeks before the show, begin telling your clientele that you will be live-posting from the conference and ask them for a follow. You should already have your social media information posted around the salon at stations, change rooms/bathrooms, reception and in your newsletters.

At The Event:

6)  Post images that is consistent with your brand, your personal interests and images that inspire you. Use a photo app like WordSwag to create your own quotes when you are in between classes.

7)  Leverage your Instagram reach by connecting your account to your Facebook and Twitter account and share your post with both.

8)  Search Instagram using the conference hashtag to find other participants using Instagram (and other social media). By following their account, liking or commenting on their posts, it is probable to get a ‘follow back’. This is a great way to network if you are shy!

9)  Use Instagram video to capture the real feel of the show.

10)  "Thank you’s" are always appreciated! When you are taking a class,  post a pic of some of your notes, a shot of the room or an image of a slide that really resonates with you and include a “Thanks @______!”.  The presenter will probably be checking their social media afterwards and you may be able to make a personal connection to a thought leader in your industry by tagging their handle!

Bonus Tip: Another great social media platform to use during a conference is LinkedIn. If you don’t have your LinkedIn address on a business card, be sure to post it in your social media profiles for attendees and new colleagues to find you on a business-to-business platform.

I had a fantastic time while at Serious Business and I didn’t let my shyness and lack of previous connections keep me from meeting new contemporaries. Now, I have a whole year to nurture these new relationships online and will have a much easier time networking in person at next years event.

The boring definition of networking means “interacting with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one's career”. I prefer to think of it as creating and nurturing my professional relationships…and as a beauty service provider, we are great at that!

Will I see you in Vancouver, BC Canada for the ESI Spa Show on February 15th & 16th?  Let's connect before the conference!

Instagram: @kirsten_foss Facebook: www.facebook.com/refreshedbiz Twitter: @refreshedbiz LinkedIn: ca.linkedin.com/in/kirstenfoss/

Are You Following The Blind?

Are You Following The Blind

I find it incredibly uplifting to see salon & spa professionals congregating online and supporting each other in their entrepreneurial journey. I’m specifically referring to the closed Facebook groups created for the sheer desire to connect, build relationships and help with each others businesses. What do I love about these groups?

In the past few years, these closed Facebook groups have become a safe-haven to share our most vulnerable worries, our rants about demanding clients and our wish for an easier way to run a business. It often feels like a refuge from the heavy toll of entrepreneurship and reinforces our desire to collaborate with like-minded individuals.

However, there is one thing about them that has me worried...bad advice is often inadvertently served up. ☜ Click to Tweet

It pains me to see that some of the instruction that is being shared is definitely NOT in your best interest. AND, you may not be able to recognize that it’s poor judgment because “you don’t know what you don’t know”.

Recently I saw a post by a single owner/operator who had pulled her non-returning customer report for the year and was dismayed to see over 20 people came for one treatment and did not return again. She was feeling ashamed and didn’t know what to do about it.

The advice that was given by other members of the group was a mixed bag. Some people gave great ideas about how to bring these guests back into her fold (yes!). But most of the comments landed along the lines of “Don’t look at those reports, they will just make you feel bad. I never look at mine.”

WHAT??!! *Palm to forehead* If that report were not important, it wouldn’t be there!

This is the exact kind of situation where you need to be cautious with any professional support groups that are not being moderated by an expert.

In all fairness, those giving the unhelpful advice don’t mean to be derailing your success…they are simply being triggered by their insecurities and lack of business strategies.

So in the spirit of using ‘what works’ and ditching ‘what doesn’t’, I urge you to become a strong critical thinker within your business. Sure, ask a question in your group to find out how other salon professionals are handling the same situation. But THINK deeply about the ramifications for you and your business with each answer.

Then and ask yourself: Will burying my head in the sand help me find an answer to what is going wrong here? Or could digging deeper into an embarrassing situation lead me to an opportunity to that will build big trust between those guests and I and, as a result, create 20 more enduring and loyal customers?

Dig. Dig. Dig. Weed out the comments that may, initially, seem to make life easier for you (or stroke your ego), but which are actually hidden minefields.

The effort to critically analyze your options is worth it in the long run. ☜ Click to Tweet

If you can’t seem to sort out your dilemma, go straight to an expert and book a time to chat. Otherwise, you may fall into the antiquated paradigm of business practices that has plagued our industry for decades: the blind leading the blind.

How To Know If You're Ready To Expand Your Salon

How to Know If You're Ready To Expand Your Salon

Many salon and spa practitioners go into this industry with dreams of owning their own salon. And the beauty of the business models we have available to us (home-based, mobile, office space, room rental, storefront) is that you have the option of starting small with flexibility to grow, so as to minimize your financial risks.

But how do you start small then grow BIG?

Once you’ve got a steady clientele, a schedule that is consistently booked and perhaps even a wait list…. at what point should you expand your business?

There are 2 questions to ask yourself before you make a financial commitment to expand your salon business.

1) Is my schedule at least 80% booked?

The time to start seriously looking into expanding is when your productivity has reached 80%. If you’re at 90% or higher, you’re risking burnout and need to create a strategy so you don’t end up physically crippled or emotionally drained.

If you are currently 80% productive and you think you might want to expand your business, ask yourself…

2) Do I really have the drive to grow bigger?

This may seem ridiculously obvious, but you’d be surprised how many micro-salon owners I’ve come across who say they want a bigger business, but when I explain what’s entailed with the cost and leadership requirements of a larger space and more staff, they start reconsidering.

I don’t want to freak you out, but you need to know, specifically, what you’re planning on getting yourself into. Yes, fountains, beautiful lighting and décor is the vision you had for your dream salon, but did you look into the cost of that?

And what about your role as a leader? Are you willing to make those tough decisions that “no-compromise” leaders make? And are you prepared to coach your staff to help them reach the salon goals.  Will you still have time to do your hands-on work?  Probably not as much as you think.

Consider if you truly have the drive to plan, strategize and follow through with what’s needed to build this expanded salon and keep growing. Owning a business takes hustle; operating a bigger salon needs bucket loads of hustle.

Do you have the energy it will take to expand and sustain your business? Click to Tweet

It does not matter whether you have the drive or not. What matters is that you know... so you can plan accordingly.

It’s exhilarating to see your business finally maturing, but I urge you to see both the light and dark sides of your endeavor. Being prepared and creating strategies for what’s coming down the line is the difference between making record sales or laying off staff and closing your doors.

So whatever you choose…choose wisely, make your plan and follow through.

Want to know what I’d suggest to increase your sales without expanding? Sign up below for fresh news and you’ll receive next weeks article called Supercharge Your Salon Sales.

It's Not Enough

It's Not Enough

This week I had a meeting to pitch my passion to a local beauty supply company.  I was invited to discuss what my coaching business was about and what if I could create a series of business courses for their clients.  As I was introducing myself and what my experience has been...I shared with this lovely group that I am as passionate about the salon & spa industry as I was when I was a new esthetics graduate from Blanche MacDonald Institute 2 decades ago. But the truth is, after 20 years of living, breathing and developing in the beauty & wellness industry, I'm actually even more passionate about our profession than ever before. In fact, way more. This industry has so much more to offer than just beauty & business.  It's healing, personal care, creativity and human connection.  It's an intimate connection we know heals the world one appointment at a time.  That is incredibly fulfilling.

But I have some sobering news for you.  Many of the owners of the salon, spa & wellness business are in big trouble.  At best, they're worried about their future because of lack-luster revenues and long hours, but most times they feel flat out hopeless as to how at to turn their business around because it's such a mess. Here's a few comments I hear ALL the time from seasoned entrepreneurs:

"I love what I do, I work extremely hard, and the schedule is fairly busy...but there's not money left at the end of the month.  I'm exhausted.  I'm frustrated.  I don't know how to change it and I feel stuck."

"I've tried so many different ways to market my business.  But nothing seems to work consistently.  I'm tired of putting energy into something that I can't make work but I need more clients.  I'm frustrated & I don't know what information to trust."

This is painful stuff!  For those of you dreaming of opening your own business this should be the knock on the head you need to get real about being an entrepreneur.  If you are already a business owner, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

The point I want to make here is that all of the entrepreneurs who are in that situation are missing a huge piece of their puzzle: opening your business with only your skill-set IS NOT ENOUGH.  And if you want to have any financial success with sharing your hands-on gift...it will NEVER be enough unless you do what's required.

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quote-it-s-not-enough-that-we-do-our-best-sometimes-we-have-to-do-what-s-required-winston-churchill-219101

In December 2013, skininc.com posted the Top 10 Professional Skin Care Industry Trends for 2014.  And although this article was written for spa professionals, it absolutely applies to salon & wellness owners as well.  So what, to my delight, is their #2 trend for 2014?

Business is back.

With the improvement of the economy in general and the spa industry specifically, those skin care professionals who have survived the Great Recession learned a few lessons along the way ... namely, you can’t run a business without knowing about business. These days, crossing your fingers and hoping everything will work out just doesn’t cut it.  - Cathy Christensen, Skin Inc., Dec 2013

Now, I'm acutely aware that if you were remotely interested in business you would have spent your $15,000-$25,000 tuition towards B-School rather than your chosen trade institute.  But the reality is that if you don't educate yourself in The Business of your industry you will never be successful.  You will work too hard, for too little money and feel frustrated and hopeless by the end of it.

I come to this table with painful & relatable experience.  In 2002, I had been a spa owner for 5 years was recently married and with a newborn.  It was after I had my son that I realized I was in real trouble with my business: the numbers were in the red, I wan't able to pay myself, I was scrapping together payroll every 2 weeks and my staff were driving me nuts with their own agendas.  I had bootstrapped the opening of my spa and was seriously strapped for cash and time...and with the birth of my son it became glaringly obvious I didn't have the time or knowledge to take my business any farther.  But quite frankly what I came to terms with was that I wanted to sell my business so that I could focus on being a mom...but the business I had so painstakingly & passionately built was worthless.

My son Mathew at 5 days old.
My son Mathew at 5 days old.

It was being faced with this very stressful dilemma that finally forced me into action.  I found a company in the States, which at the time may have been one of the only companies in North America that was teaching the business skills specific to the salon/spa industry, and signed up for their next business class.  Thousands of dollars for the seminar + flights and accommodation to Arizona later,  I was neck deep in learning The Business of my business.

As I plugged in my own numbers during the course I was equally shocked and excited at what I was learning: cash flow forecasting, where my client retention, retail percentages and productivity were at (btw...my numbers were dismal) and how to control my company culture with very little stress.  After 4 days of intense business training, I walked out of that course with was a strong understanding and a complete list of strategies & systems to turn my spa around.

Fast-forward one year.  I sold my spa for a profit and was able to focus my attention to my son and work part-time at a beautiful facility until I moved to Vancouver Island a year later.  I felt an incredible sense of freedom.  I'm not going to tell you that turning my business around was easy, because it wasn't.  I worked extremely hard on applying systems to increase the spa productivity, retail sales, service revenues plus decrease my payroll expenses and staffing issues. But when I committed to putting in the time into create these strategic business systems, it opened up a whole reservoir of energy & passion for the salon/spa industry I thought I had lost.  In fact, after I moved to Vancouver Island, I opened up another esthetics business and have been operating as re:fresh skin and body for 7 years now.

But more than anything...learning about The Business of the salon/spa industry gave me the confidence and ease to move through the growth process much quicker than if I had continued on my original 'blind' path.

So my advice to you?  Save your self now.  Regardless of your position (a new start-up or existing business owner), it is THE time to take control of your dream. Your hands-on skills will never be enough to run a successful shop.  Business is simply another skill-set you must learn.

The beauty of your situation is that you don't have to enroll in B-School to get what you need (hey...I have no idea how I passed Math 11 or 12 in high school), but you do need to actively seek sound business training that is specific to your industry.

The truth is, I don't want you to simply make more money....I want you to make it efficiently, strategically and with joy.

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If you are an aspiring Start-Up Entrepreneur you'll want to check out this online video tutorial course I created that will give you all the golden business nuggets I've learned along the way in order to fast-track your business.

If you are an existing business owner and you're wondering where all your money is going, how to increase your revenues, what to do with wayward staff and find the passion for your industry again, you'll want to go here to find the best option for you.

You don't have to re-invent the wheel here folks.  Just ask me how I did it...I'll gladly share what I know and how it works.

The REAL Power Behind Your Business

The REAL Power Behind Your Business

It’s all too easy to let our emotions take over the development and operations of our business. I mean, you love what you do, right?  

You’re passionate about the hands on work and your clients love being cared for, nurtured and supported. The fundamental principle of your business is making people feel better, correct?

And when you blend the synergy of your client basking in the service experience and the emotional fulfillment you receive in return...it’s a feel-good love-fest!

Well... reality check: using your emotions to run your business is, well...just bad business.

From what I’ve witnessed (and experienced myself) most entrepreneurs in the salon, spa & wellness industry are great at giving services & but completely drop the ball on the structured operations & systems of their business.

Structured operations & systems...very dis-passionate & un-feely, yes?

Business for our industry is composed of two parts: the service we provide + the structured operations and methods we use to give those services. Knit the two, well developed systems together and you have some seriously functional synergy. New clients come in effortlessly, existing clients return consistently and your business is organized and running smooth (read: you HAVE profits AND a personal life).

Leave those dis-passionate & un-feely operations & systems out and you will eventually have a disaster: your client retention sucks, you have a severe lack of cash flow and you’re exhausted from working crazy hard without seeing any real profits.

Running a successful business takes time to develop & maintain. LOTS of time. And when you slow down and channel part of your energy into cultivating your business in a well thought out & organized manner, you’ll be setting yourself up for some serious success.

The saying that knowledge is power is not quite true. Used knowledge is power, and more than power. It is money, and service, and better living for our fellowmen, and a hundred other good things. But mere knowledge, left unused, has not power in it.

-- Dr. Edward E. Free

For example, one of the biggest missing links in our business is to understand how our numbers work (again...not very interesting..but bear with me).

The reason why really understanding how your financials work is this: YOUR NUMBERS WILL NEVER LIE TO YOU. Never.

Your numbers will tell you the absolute truth about your company. Think of them like your old great-auntie that doesn’t have a filter on her mouth: “Looks like you put on a few pounds!” *Sigh* The truth hurts sometimes.

For those of us who already have a business, when we are able to read our financials correctly (without our eyes glazing over) it’s actually quite facinating! And although it may tell us a very sad and desperate story at first, at least we know what’s not working and can apply some really workable strategies to fix it.

Why must you pay attention to your numbers? Knowing your fiscal stats will allow you to MEASURE your business.

TRUTH: if you don’t know your numbers, you don’t know what to measure. If you don’t know what to measure, you don’t know what’s broken. If you don’t know what’s broken, it stays broken. A very sad, but real, story.

For me, the most pivotal moment in my business is when I was taught to how to use a cash-flow worksheet. I’m sure my instructor literally saw the light bulb beaming above my head as I started plugging in numbers. Now, one thing you need to know about me: I hate math. HATE IT. But this was different. As I started working out my cash-flow worksheet (my best guess as to what my revenues & expenses will be month-to-month for a full year), I felt more in control of my business than I had ever felt before.

I’d like to point out that point I had already been, what I thought to be, a fairly successful entrepreneur for 5 years. But I was stunned to discover how much I didn’t know about my business and how much valuable information this cash-flow worksheet was giving me.

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When I finished my worksheet I had one year of financial projections and I was shocked. Shocked that I was able to draw a much bigger paycheck than I had been, thrilled that I now knew how to plan my marketing in relation to my slow times (rather than waiting until I was slow then scrambling to get clients) and ecstatic that I had some really workable goals & strategies to get there. Totally do-able stuff here folks!

I was a changed business woman from that point forward!  My only regret was that I didn’t know about it sooner. Now when I coach up & coming entrepreneurs, one of the first things I teach them is how to create a cash-flow worksheet. Sometimes I have to reign them in from planning websites & marketing because first, they need to know where they want to be: how much money do you want to make and how much money do you need to bring in to pull that pay check?  Only then can they create effective marketing and financial strategies for attracting clients and profits. It always goes back to building a firm foundation.

All it really takes is time & a commitment to learning. Unfortunately, nearly our whole industry relies heavily on hope that our company will generate enough income to live on. The truth is, you must understand the complete story of your business...the hands on service plus the structured numerical measurements.

So what should you be measuring? Cash flow, sales, client retention, average ticket, marketing campaigns, Facebook reach, are a few to look at. If measuring is completely new to you...you’ll probably need some help to decipher the information and what to do with it. For now, I simply want you to be aware that measuring your business is your true power as an entrepreneur.

Do you feel like you’re ready to start measuring in your business? Don't be scared.  Well…you can be scared and uncomfortable…but push through it. As I mentioned before, creating my very own cash flow worksheet was a game changer and I’d recommend you start with that.

This is an opportunity  for you to begin really understanding where your money goes and how to stop the financial hemorrhaging that may be occurring without your knowledge.

Knowing how to measure your business is simply another skill-set you need to learn.  No different than learning your hands on skills.  Only NOW you have one more ingredient to use in your business success recipe.  Take what you know and re:power your business.  It works.

Want to continue this conversation? Contact me…I love talking about this stuff!

Much love & success,

Kirsten