Author's note: The Spa Letters column features news, personality
profiles, trends, and plenty of professional possibilities for LMTs
in the spa industry. The style is epistolary, meaning the articles
are letters to a fictional massage therapist friend of the author.
This is a letter I am both happy and sad to write. I'm happy because you are so successful and your new day spa, The Spa House, is drawing in customers from near and far. They leave enchanted with the homey space you've created and thrilled with the exotic treatment menu you've developed. They are giving you rave reviews, and you're well on your way to surpassing your monetary goals for your first year in business. This is not always the case with spa businesses, as you know. You should be counting yourself quite fortunate at this stage, though your success is due in no small part to your own hard work, insight and persistence.
This is no time to bask too long in your glory, however. After all, The Spa House has only been open for a few months, and fortunes can turn very quickly in this business, as they can in most. I'm glad to see that you are staying on top of your business and working hard to keep it going on the right course. You'll need to do this continually to assure a prosperous future.
While I'm happy for you and all your success, I'm sad because, after these four years of correspondence, the time has come to say good-bye. Mahatma Gandhi once said, "Life is a continual series of separations." Well, this is our separation, Lou. I am formally cutting you loose from the mentor/student relationship that we've enjoyed for these few years. We'll still be friends, of course, but there is no need for me to offer advice any more, so this will be my last letter to you. I would like to look back over the four years we've been communicating in order to give you a perspective on how much you've accomplished. It's all too easy to forget where we are in life until we take the time to more closely examine where we've been.
In the Beginning
When we first started talking, you were a dedicated massage therapist who wanted to help people achieve wellness and find ways they could live more fully in their bodies. You were good at this, Lou. You were passionate and you found your way to the spa world because you knew you would be able to touch many people's lives through this medium.
It's important to note this enthusiasm of yours. Without it, people sometimes get into the spa industry for the wrong reasons, thinking it will mean easy money, prestige or glamour. This superficial initial inspiration does not carry with it the depth of commitment needed to create a truly inspiring spa.
You had what it takes to make a true home for yourself in the spa industry, starting from the ground floor up. You paid your dues as a therapist, working many hard hours a day for years. When the opportunity arose for you to move up the ranks in the resort spa where you worked, you took it and learned about supervision, training, schedules, hiring, firing, politics and more. This knowledge became the foundation you used later to make a move of your own. It's the way many professionals get their start in this industry: Inspiration = perspiration = reward.
Striking Out On Your Own
As so many enthusiastic, dedicated spa professionals do, you realized that opportunity was abounding all around you, and you wanted to try your hand at some new challenges. So, you headed for a new city to work at a startup medical spa. This, as it turned out, was not the dream job you'd envisioned but it was an important stepping-stone in your journey. You learned a lot about what works and what doesn't in a spa business; along the way you were even sued for malpractice! It turned out to be an insubstantial allegation, but it toughened you to the realities of business, which is a good thing (as long as nobody was hurt).
You also became involved with professional associations like the International Spa Association (ISPA), and you learned from folks at the Day Spa Association. You took classes, attended conferences, networked, got to know people and became known. Perhaps most important at this time, though you didn't know it yourself, was your new friendship with your coworker at the medical spa, Barbara. She would later turn out to be your partner in business and in life. And now you're going to get married! So, you can say in a very real way that your spa adventure has turned into your life adventure: the two are inseparable.
Finally, you could no longer take a backseat in this spa adventure and you decided, like many have before you, to open up a spa of your own. You were in a new city with few friends, and you had no real business experience, but you knew what you had to do. You hired people, created a business plan, learned about layout, design, contracts, consultants, retail sales, mission statements, team-building and more.
Most of all, you learned about risk. Risk is inherent in business, and that is why so many massage therapists stay away from business and prefer to remain cocooned within the sense of security created by a job. As I've said before, no matter who you're working for, you are working for yourself. This is especially true in the spa industry where people change jobs frequently, locations open and close, whimsical bosses hire and fire, and the entire landscape changes every couple years.
You took the step of opening your own spa, and even though I wish you the very best for your continued success, I can say in all honesty that even a failure at this attempt will be better than if you had never tried. When you become aware of your potential, feel what it's like to receive income not based solely on your own physical work, and felt the feelings of ownership and entrepreneurship, these impressions become imbedded in your subconscious, allowing you to recreate them again and again, if necessary. This is why millionaires who lose everything so often wind up millionaires once again - they know what it feels like to be rich.
Now You're the Mentor
You now know what it feels like to be a successful spa therapist, supervisor, manager, director and owner. These precious gifts are yours to use as you wish, Lou. You can spend your time worried about the competition and trying to keep the things you've learned a big secret (which you won't be very successful at anyway), or you can go the other direction and share your knowledge with others. And, if you wouldn't mind one last bit of advice from someone who has been your mentor for these past four years, listen to this: Become a mentor yourself, Lou. Find someone you can help, or simply remain open and let that someone come to you. Use your success to give back to others. I can tell you from experience that this is an excellent way to enjoy what you have attained and to move enthusiastically into your future in the spa industry, wherever that may lead you.
As always, I wish you the very best of luck.
Steve Capellini, LMT