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5 Things You Should Know Before Opening Your Spa or Salon

Any new business has its challenges, but spas and salons bring a whole new level of complexity to the undertaking. Success is easier if your expectations are realistic.

You might have noticed it's a particularly great time to start a wellness business. If you are considering starting a salon or opening a spa, you’re reading this at the right time! If you have recently opened your business, you’re probably getting pretty good at juggling various tasks at once. After all of the planning for the business (you may have already dedicated a fair bit of time into thinking through your spa business plan or salon business plan), from creating financial projections to ordering equipment and inventory, to finding the salon software or spa software that can best support you, to writing the salon or spa menu and hiring the staff at your spa or salon, you might have thought that operating the business would be the easy part. However, that’s just setting the stage for the real show, the show that you put on every day when you open your doors.

In my 15 years of consulting on start-up spa and salon businesses, here are the top five things that surprise most new salon or spa owners.

1. Financial matters 

When I am asked for the single biggest reason for the failure of the majority of new salon or spa businesses, it has to do with money, or lack thereof. Salons and spas are all over the news today, and clients have expectations, that are higher than ever, about the facilities. In order to create a lasting business, you’ll need the funding for a quality build-out and salon or spa design.

In addition, there are numerous workflow and ergonomic issues that need to be taken into account to create a facility that supports the level of business you hope to create. Work with qualified architects and designers, and expect to spend a minimum of $200 per square foot to build and equip your spa or salon business. It doesn’t matter if you are inheriting a space that used to be a similar business, or your cousin Joe is a plumber; it’s rarely done for less than this. This is a significant expense, but it's an important one. Understanding the potential costs from the start is critical. 

Check out this post for impactful design considerations for your salon or spa. 

The second financial matter is having enough cash left over to fund your operations for the first six to nine months until the cash flow of the business is at a level to support itself. So when you’re planning your funding, don’t forget to include this crucial element. Understand what your expenses will be (what will your operating costs be, etc.?).

2. The realities of leadership 

Technicians and beauty service providers are a unique set of engaging people. They love their work, want to do the best for the clients, and pour themselves into each and every treatment in an eight or nine-hour day.

At the end of the day, their vessel is empty, and they rely on their leader to fill them back up. These employees require more nurturing and praise than the average office worker. If you’re not the nurturing type, be sure to hire a manager who is (and make sure you're compensating your spa manager appropriately).

3. Physical wear and tear 

Beauty businesses play host to customers for much longer than they would spend in the average retail store. Guests can be in your facility, depending on your service mix, for three to four hours.

In a busy facility, the constant opening and closing of doors, wearing paths in carpets, day-to-day equipment usage, flushing of toilets, etc. means that objects break down, and break, at a faster rate than you might have thought possible. Be sure to have a handyman handy so you can keep your salon or spa in tip-top shape for customers and employees alike. And prepare for the cost of this.

4. Keys to client retention 

Plenty of clients will respond to your marketing and come to see the new spa or salon in town, but getting them to return a second time is an important key to long-term success. It's going to be hard to grow your revenue without good client retention

Just having a nice facility doesn’t do it; a well-trained staff capable of anticipating customer needs, effective treatments, wonderful ambiance, and true participation in the community you serve are the ways to earn their loyalty. And, sometimes, you need to remind your customers of the good feelings they get after spending time at your salon or spa with some well-timed emails (it's easy with Mindbody's Marketing Suite).

5. Bring your passion

Months of negotiating with builders and licensing authorities, hiring and training the staff, and setting up your marketing plan can wear anybody out. However, at the end of the day, your original passion and vision of what you set out to create have to be what keeps you going.

Make sure you’re clear on what that vision is; share it with your employees, re-visit it at staff meetings, and communicate it to your clients. You will find your own passion being fed by those around you. The will to succeed is a group effort.

While starting your own wellness or beauty business is not easy, it can also be incredibly rewarding. Getting a firm understanding of necessary costs, knowing who you need to hire and how to motivate them, realizing the realities of much-needed repairs to come, knowing client retention's impact on revenue, and bringing your love of the salon or spa industry provide a strong foundation. 

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About the author:

Lisa Starr Headshot

Lisa Starr


Wynne Business Consulting

Lisa is a frequent collaborator with Mindbody and the Principal of Wynne Business Consulting & Education, which specializes in spa, wellness, and salon businesses and brands. She has over 35 years of experience in the beauty and wellness industry, spending the last 22 years as a consultant and educator helping wellness businesses optimize their operations while providing exceptional experiences for their guests. Lisa is the Task Force Chair for the Global Wellness Institute’s Consulting Initiative, a Contributing Editor at Spa Business Magazine, a regular contributor to global trade publications, and a highly rated speaker at industry conferences. She also offers live spa management courses both online and around the globe. 

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