In the past decade, the spa market has grown exponentially due to burgeoning consumer demand, and concurrently the spa guest experience and business model has become highly sophisticated. Highly-qualified, professional spa consultants—such as members of the Institute of Management Consultants (IMC) Spa Chapter—provide expert guidance and advice on successfully managing spa operations, maximizing profits, and planning new spa development.
Some spa consultants may have general knowledge across a variety of disciplines, while others specialize in a specific programmatic area (e.g. menu design and authentic spa therapies, spa equipment, spa employee culture, spa retailing, financial management, staff training and development, operational efficiency, and new spa development). Often spa consultants concentrate their practice on a specific industry market segment such as day or club spas, hotel and resort spas, or medical spas.
The expense of engaging the services of a spa consultant can be justified many times over by the superior nature of the results obtained and costly mistakes that are avoided. Spa consultants often deliver bottom line value that is tenfold its cost.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I NEED A CONSULTANT?
Each company and/or project has its own set of needs, challenges, goals, and available resources. Common situations that warrant hiring a spa consultant include when current and previous efforts have not produced the desired results, if the company client lacks the time or staff resources to dedicate to the project, or an independent opinion is needed to confirm a decision or provide alternatives.
Spa owners and developers also fall into common pitfalls, such as assuming that the architect or designer is fully capable and qualified to develop an operationally workable and market-appropriate spa design and business model. They also might not perform adequate research and market feasibility to guide the development process and the financial commitment. For instance, they might perceive familiarity with a handful of spa facilities or concepts as a sufficient base of knowledge from which to develop a spa on their own, without actual operational or development experience.
Other pitfalls include ill-conceived and unrealistic expense and revenue projections; hiring a spa consultant after initial plans have been developed and submitted to planning authorities; hiring a spa consultant that does not disclose kickbacks from recommended equipment or products; and allowing a spa director who lacks the appropriate experience and skill set to develop the spa.
When a company decides to build a new spa, or to renovate or optimize operations in an existing one, it is important to utilize expert development resources to ensure the best result. It’s far easier and ultimately faster to engage a spa consultant with the necessary experience, tools, and ability than to follow a shoestring approach that ultimately may jeopardize the success of the entire project through serious errors made in critical planning areas.
Common spa consulting scopes of work include market and site analysis and financial feasibility; concept development and facility programming in conjunction with the design team; architecture and interior design review; vendor recommendations, selections, and negotiations; retail product development and merchandising; business operations planning and development; staff development and training; and much more.
THE CONSULTANT SELECTION PROCESS
The key to success is finding the right match for you and your project: selecting a consultant who meets the criteria of your project’s needs, can fulfill deliverables according to your timeline, has impeccable client references, and the “right fit” or chemistry with key management or stakeholders.
-Be prepared to do your research to find a consultant who has relevant knowledge and experience required for the specific needs of your project
-Have a list of pertinent, standardized interview questions to ask in your interviews with consultants
-Be able to clearly explain your business vision, needs, and goals to the prospective consultant
-Be aware that spa consultants have varying levels of experience, including some who have “hung out a shingle” without any experience in developing, operating, or managing a spa
-Be aware that spa consultants may specialize and excel in different aspects of the development, operations, or management process (finance, design and planning, operations development, customer service, menu development, training, etc.)
-Determine if you need a consultant who has general knowledge and expertise in a range of disciplines or one who has a specific, in-depth focus
-Request a list of client references and perform the necessary due diligence
Many professional spa consultants price their services on a “project basis” based on a detailed scope of work with clearly defined deliverables, rather than charging by the hour. Some consultants are also available by the hour for smaller or more specific engagements. The scope of work is often broken out into phases in the case of longer, more involved engagements. An advance retainer is typically required for the consultant to commence work, and payment becomes due for each phase as the work is completed. You should receive a written proposal or agreement detailing scope of work tasks and associated work deliverables for each phase of the project. meanwhile, travel, accommodations, and miscellaneous expenses such as copying, binding, and phone calls, are the main reimbursable expenses that are not typically included in consulting fees.