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  • Writer's pictureCheryl Patella

Being a Great Spa Director Requires Grit

Updated: Mar 30

Knowing how to do a facial or what you are looking for in an esthetician is important in setting up a skin care department.  But coping with a client who just received a waxing and the esthetician didn’t properly screen the client and used an inappropriate wax on extremely sensitive skin which left the client’s skin raw, discolored and bruised is a handful.  Your staff must be trained to contact you immediately in such a serious situation. You must stop what you are doing, be compassionate with the client, apologize, document the incident, write up the esthetician, coach the staff on the incident to prevent it in the future, and report it to your boss.  You must stay in contact with the client for the healing process and assure them it will not happen in the future and what measurements you have taken to prevent it from happening to someone else.  In order to be successful in such a process you must clear your head, remember the desired outcome and see it through with patience, compassion and, grit.

GSWS (Global Spa & Wellness Summit) offers great insights to the qualifications of this profession.  “A good Spa Director must have a head and heart for spa; exceptional people skills; the abilities of an entrepreneur; and must be flexible, adaptable and mobile.”

Many Spa Directors are mentored through upward mobility of the industry.  Some begin in the industry in fitness, skin care, massage, hospitality, golf or tennis. SRI International estimates a 27 percent increase in the number of spas worldwide in the last seven years: from 71,762 in 2007, to 105,591 today.  Our industry is growing due to consumer expectations and lifestyle changes expecting amenities in residences and resorts that include wellness, body treatments, skin care and relaxation.  Developers include these amenities to sell property and Hotels/Resorts to sell rooms.  Day Spas are in every neighborhood.  These facilities all require management in the form of a “Spa Director”. 

I am sure you have heard a little knowledge can be dangerous.  It is true.  To be on the front lines as a Spa Director having to deal with every type of personality in staff, management and clientele is challenging.  Newly hired Spa Directors are not equipped with the knowledge of how severe some confrontations can be.  No matter what knowledge you have acquired you must have grit to cope without becoming cynical because you must remain “soft and compassionate”.   It is the industry you are choosing and you must love it to be great at it.

Daily operational skills are a must but coping with the backlash of a poorly handled situation is really the essence of your job.  Creating a satisfied client can be just as challenging when staff does not share the “vision”.   Imagine an excited client entering your spa excited about their “spa day”.  The staff points them in the direction of the locker room, no one greets them or directs them in the locker room and the provider shows up late and is prepared to deliver the wrong service.

Don’t think this can’t happen.  It can and does especially when you assume your staff knows their job.  It is up to you to be the test subject allowing for role playing and coaching creating the spa ambiance you are looking for.  Coaching this process has to be upbeat and sincere to create the desired effect.

Once in a position as an Assistant Spa Director every time a confrontational situation with a client happened I was called in.  Not the Spa Director.  The Director was excellent with numbers, and other areas of operations but not in dealing with client confrontation.  You either learned and became successful at it or, had a meltdown.  Even then eventually you learn because you won’t be able to keep your job without winning the majority of the people over and creating satisfied and happy clients. 

That is your ultimate goal: creating a good team to deliver great satisfaction with clients.  And to do that you must become a great Spa Director and that requires “grit”.

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