How To Become a Spa Consultant

Spa consulting companies regularly receive inquiries from people who are interested in becoming a Spa Consultant. Changes in the economic climate have made an increasing number of spa industry professionals consider a career change to consulting.

Spa consulting is a business, plain and simple. There are professionals who are ready to begin a consulting career and have knowledge and skills that will provide great value and benefits. However, most people have not thought it through as a business and should spend more time analyzing the opportunity before making such a big decision. Be optimistic but realistic especially when it comes to your income, financial security, career goals and enjoying the work you do.

The best Spa Consultants have strong business skills, an in-depth knowledge of operations and the development process as well as previous financial responsibility for a spa or related business. They have information and skills that translate into valuable benefits for a client.

Being a Spa Consultant can be rewarding work. But it’s not easy, relaxing or glamorous. Carefully consider if you have what it takes to begin working in this profession and if the timing is right before making this or any career change.

Here’s an Insider’s View on what you should ask yourself if you’re considering becoming a Spa Consultant:
Are you prepared and cut out to be an Entrepreneur?

Do you have the right stuff to be in business? Many Spa Consultants are business owners and/or Independent Contractors for Consulting Companies. If your goal is to work for an established firm, your resume should be top notch and those firms need to be growing rapidly enough to warrant additional assistance.

Ask yourself:
Are you willing and able to work 12-14 hour days and weekends to meet deadlines?
Can you risk your personal finances to start the business and keep it running?
Can you “close the sale” when presenting your services to prospective clients?
Does your schedule allow for travel that may last a day, several days or weeks at a time?
Can you effectively turn your plans into goals and actions?
Do you have the technical skills to accurately complete the work?
Does the business have profit potential both short term and long term?
Do you have a plan if the business is not successful?
Can you be flexible in your plans, services and fees when the market changes?

Is this the right time to make a career change – emotionally and financially?

No matter how good change may be and how excited you are about it, change can be stressful. Though the job market and economy may leave you feeling insecure or overwhelmed with your current job, determine if you can emotionally and financially handle a career change right now.

Ask yourself:
Am I better off looking for a similar job with a different company?
Will it be better to create a business that is similar to my current job?
Can I emotionally and financially handle the ups and downs of consulting?
Can I emotionally and financially handle starting a business?
Do I have enough money saved (or alternate source of income) to live for at least six to nine months while the business is started and grows?
Are family and friends supportive of my plans? While not absolutely necessary, it sure will make your life a lot easier. Find at least one person who you can turn to for support.

Can you withstand unpredictable monthly income?

For all the positive attributes associated with owning a consulting business, by far one of the hardest things to deal with (especially for a new business) is unpredictable monthly income. When you work for a traditional company there is income stability with a regular paycheck. You know how much money you will make and can plan accordingly. This is very appealing and necessary for many people.

With consulting, there is a time lag between getting the work, doing the work and getting paid. Can you handle that? At this point we won’t even discuss clients not fulfilling contracts and delayed or terminated development plans.

For example, you get a contract with Aunty Aloha’s Day Spa on May 1st. That’s May Day in Hawaii and everyone is busy with flower lei contests so you can’t get in touch with the client. A week later you finally connect and they snail mail you a deposit. On May 20th you begin working on their Menu of Services which includes researching and choosing product vendors along with creating signature services and writing all the text. The client wants product samples. Vendors prove to be harder to connect with than expected. The process takes 3 weeks and still needs client approval.

The client wants changes and the product line must be organically made in Hawaii which was never mentioned before. Research takes more time and you need to review samples but amazingly you’re done in two weeks. The final menu is submitted on June 24th and approved a few days later. You send an electronic invoice at the end of the month. They take 30 days to pay and mail the check. You receive payment on August 1st, a full 3 months after the contract is agreed to. This is not unusual. In fact, it’s actually a bit quick. Meanwhile, you’ve been hard at work five to six days a week building the business but don’t see the financial effects for several months.

The moral of the story is…Just because you may be good at what you do doesn’t make for immediate financial success. It takes time to build the business and time for clients to pay.

Do you really want to be a Consultant or do you just want to do something different than what you’re doing now?

Some people really are cut out for consulting, love the work and excel with a variety of projects and clients. Meeting with prospects and selling their services is thrilling, not scary. They understand the pros and cons and continue to be excited and passionate about the spa industry.

If knowledge truly is power, do you have enough knowledge about consulting to understand why you want to do it and how you will get started?

Ask yourself:
Have I spoken with any Spa Consultants about their experiences?
Have I researched the field of consulting in general?
Do I know the pros and cons of Spa consulting?
Do I know what to expect in terms of working with clients?
Do I think of consulting as a serious business venture or as just another way to be or stay in the spa industry?
Is consulting more or less attractive than other possible opportunities and why?
Do I really want to be a Spa Consultant or do I just need a job change from what I’m doing now?

Have you done a business plan and know the cost to start-up and operate?

You may be thinking, “Are you kidding? Write a business plan? I just want to be a Consultant. Why should I go through all that time and effort?” (Hint: you’re going to recommend that clients do this)

A business plan is a road map that is part of the process of preparing for a business. Even if you don’t need it for funding, it will provide you with a valuable and thought provoking learning experience. Be honest with yourself during the process as you navigate thinking through your business opportunity, concept, competition, financial risk & plan, marketing plan, and who will be involved.

There are many low or no cost resources to assist you with creating a business plan including books, software, websites and agencies such as the SBA and SCORE. Don’t overlook the library as a free resource.

Even if the thought of creating a business plan seems overwhelming, a good place to start assessing the feasibility of your business is looking at the cost to start and run the business.

Begin by researching the costs for the following:
Start-Up Costs – business license, legal fees, business filing fees, etc.
Fixed Expenses – administrative, office rent, utilities, insurance, permits, salaries
Variable Expenses – advertising, marketing, website development, travel, etc.
Owner Equity – how much money do you need to draw from the business monthly to live on?

Great news! Through your research, you may discover new and better ways to provide services or ideas for other businesses!

What skills, information and resources do you offer that is of value?

This is very important. Pay close attention. Many people considering becoming a Spa Consultant believe that they have what it takes because they have worked in the industry as a Spa Director or Manager, Supervisor, Vendor Sales Rep, Massage Therapist, Esthetician or Make-up Artist. These skills are indeed useful. However, developing a spa or fixing a troubled business is a much different ballgame and other essential skill sets are necessary.

Some of the experience from those jobs will translate into needed skills. Being a Spa Director or Owner for multiple openings of different sizes, in different locations, with operations experience and financial responsibility will give you a better starting point than other jobs.

However, there are many tasks associated with spa consulting that there is very limited exposure to while working in a spa regardless of your job description.

This includes:
Architectural and Design Review
Space (square footage) Allocation
Feasibility Study
Market Study
Competitive Set Analysis
Concept Development
Critical Path Development
Sales & Marketing Plans
Retail Planning & Merchandising

Do you know what services to offer and what fees to charge?

To better understand the services that Spa Consultants offer, go to the websites of several different companies. Evaluate their services then determine how your services will compare.

Ask yourself (and be honest):
What is the definition of each service that is offered?
How will I describe each service offered to a prospective client?
Which services do other companies offer that I can offer?
Which services do other companies offer that I am not qualified to offer?
What type of research and work goes into each service offered?
How long will it take me to complete the work that is offered?
What is the final document or deliverable given to the client based on each service?
How can I learn how to efficiently and accurately provide these services to clients?
If you were the client, why would you choose to hire a Spa Consultant to do the work?

It’s easy to find what services are offered because they’re listed on websites. Most companies don’t give full descriptions of services online but you still get an idea of what is offered.

What is harder to determine is pricing for the various services. If you can’t find out what other companies are charging, how will you base your own fees?

Here’s the answer – it varies from company to company but there is a general range. There is no standard and each company sets its own fees. There are hourly rates and a range of rates per deliverable. Pricing isn’t necessarily based upon quality of work but rather what the consulting company feels their work is worth and what the market will bear.

How will you differentiate yourself from other Consultants?

The Spa Consulting field is likely much larger than you think. The International Spa Association (ISPA) website lists 82 companies as Full Service Consultants. Frankly, some of those companies listed are vendors and not consulting companies. Just for kicks, Google “Spa Consultant” and watch the 82 companies soar over 100. However, safely there are 25 consulting companies who are will be your top competitors.

How will you differentiate yourself especially from those with more industry experience, more consulting experience, an established presence, and more money in the bank?

Ask yourself:
What strategies will I use that will provide an edge over competitors?
Is there a service that competitors are currently not fulfilling?
What adjustments have competitors made to be successful in a changing economy?
Who are my competitors?
How do my competitors differentiate themselves from their competition?

Where and how will you find clients?

This may sound very basic, but since consulting is based upon working with clients, do you know where and how you will find clients? The best way to grow the business is through further work with current clients and their recommendations and referrals. But that’s a Catch-22. How can you build it this way without an existing client base?

Part of the answer is with your Marketing Plan. Some clients find Spa Consultants on the internet. Consider what you need to do and how much you will have to spend to attract them in this manner. Put yourself in a client’s shoes, how would you find a Spa Consultant?

Ask yourself:
Which companies and associations can you affiliate with that will provide referrals?
Do you have the ability to speak at conferences and write articles for publications?
How strong is your network within the spa industry?
How will you build a list of prospective clients?
What is the most effective way to contact them?
Do you have collateral and a website to back you up?
Which conferences will you attend to meet prospects?
How much will it cost to help clients find you?
Are you willing and able to work in other countries?

Your Options

There are two basic options for consulting – work for yourself or work for a company. Both have pros and cons. If your consulting experience is limited, you have a need to work with others to stay motivated or aren’t confident in your sales skills then working for a company is beneficial. If you have experience, prefer control over decisions, are self motivated and have the skills to run your own business then working for yourself is a good option.

If you’re convinced that working for an existing company is the best option, contact consulting companies and find out if they are hiring. If they are, ask what qualifications they require for their Consultants.

Business Planning

Congratulations if you’ve made it this far! The information provided was meant to be thought provoking and supportive of those considering a career change into consulting. I believe that competition is healthy and regularly support and recommend the work of other Spa Consultants who do a great job.

That said, it’s hard to watch other Consultants struggle because they didn’t properly plan for their business, were unprepared and quickly got in over their heads. They not only hurt themselves financially and in their careers but also hurt the reputation of the spa consulting profession.

Even for successful Consultants, having the ability to adapt to changing economic conditions, development, services offered and client needs is imperative.

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