All Hands on Deck

Although Scottsdale is known as a  mecca of desert-inspired resort spas, Spa Lamar (AZ) offers guests “an island escape without the jet lag.” The tropical-themed spa features 20  treatment rooms, full-service hair and nail salons, a yoga studio with daily classes, and a banquet room that seats up to 100 guests. Opened more than 30 years ago, the spa now employs 38 staff members. After purchasing the spa in 2004, owner Heidi Lamar tripled revenue from $500,000 to $1.5 million in the first three years. “One of the first things I did after introducing myself to the staff was explain to them the three principles upon which we would build our business,” says Lamar. “They are happy guests, happy employees, and a profitable spa.” Here, Lamar shares how she and her team pulled together to get through some difficult days.

How has Spa Lamar continued to  succeed in these trying times?

A. We relied on the support of our amazing team. I explained to them that if we were going to survive the next few years, we were going to have to find ways to do what we do better while spending less. Everyone pitched in, took pay cuts, renegotiated with our vendors, found ways to use less energy, and generally treated the business like it was their own.

Why do you think the business has been able to succeed where others have failed?

A. We had already established a reputation for being a great value, so when times got tough, many people who were used to paying 40 percent more for spa services at nearby resorts found us. Our motto, “spend a day, not a fortune,” turned out to be perfect for the current economic market.

How have you been able to renovate the spa to stay current at an affordable cost?

A. It’s amazing what you can do with a bucket of paint. We were able to source amazing three-dimensional architectural panels that are made from recycled plant fibers and give our walls a very high-end feel. By using these on select accent walls, we have been able to make a big impression for less than $1,000. When you have 14,000 square feet to refresh, little things like this go a long way.

How do you attract new and repeat clients and encourage them to visit?

A. We use Demandforce to help with this task.  After each visit, every guest gets an email asking for feedback, so we are able to easily generate reviews that get posted on Google. These surveys help us improve our business, and Demandforce sends out emails automatically to guests we haven’t seen in a while. They interface with our Millennium booking software, which sends us reports showing all the correspondence and the correlating appointments generated to give us quantifiable results. For example, I can see that the January newsletter resulted in $6,626 in revenue. We’ve generated nearly $180,000 since we started using the system.

How do you use digital marketing and social media to boost business?

A. We post regularly on Facebook and Twitter, which are great for generating last-minute bookings. I think our most valuable use of social media comes from review sites. We respond to every review within the week, so anyone who is researching can see that we care what our guests think.

What steps and cost-cutting measures did you employ to offset the recession?

A. There was not an area of our business we didn’t trim down. Now that things are improving again, we are a much leaner, more fit business. We reached out to the staff early on and said, “We don’t want to lay anyone off, so if we are all willing to take cuts, we can all keep our jobs.” One person who didn’t really need to work quit, but the rest said, “We believe in this business, and we want to be here when this is over. We are willing to do whatever it takes to get there.”

Did you change your menu of offerings?

A. We did adjust our packages a bit and eliminated a few treatments that weren’t profitable. But the good news is, we actually raised our prices about 10 percent this year with very little pushback. Our guests understood and some even said, “What took you so long?”

What have you learned from surviving the recent recession?

A. I feel like I have gotten an advanced business education over the past few years. Anyone can run a business in a great economy. I have become a smarter, better prepared, more savvy business- person as a result of the economic challenges. Taking these lessons into the more friendly financial future is going to be fun.