Q. I am currently considering investing in a new spa. I have heard that medical spas deliver the highest profits, so I am seriously thinking of developing and opening one of them. Where should I start?—Anxious to Begin
Medical spa services are most often separated by invasive and noninvasive treatments.
A. Dear Anxious to Begin: There are many questions and considerations relative to owning and operating a medical spa. Your question about where to begin is excellent. The answer, however, is complex and has many components.
- Know Your Skill Set In beginning the process of launching a spa, I suggest that you first take stock of your personal and commercial strengths and weaknesses. The spa industry is a low-tech, high-touch business with many moving parts, such as retail, service, inventory, training, facility maintenance, and more. Knowing what you are good at and where you need assistance is a great start in evaluating how best to deploy your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. None of us is good at everything, and objectively assessing your skills allows you to maximize your assets. The appraisal process also gives you insight into which strategically purchased professional services will help you create a seamless, efficient development team.
Developing the scope and depth of your team can facilitate bank financing as well. Lenders consider an experienced, well-rounded team an asset regarding your development process when evaluating your new spa business. Remember though, you are not just doing this to make the bankers happy. The planning will help you sleep better, too.
Medical spas require partnerships with physicians knowledgeable about the services offered, such as botox, cellulite reduction, and laser treatments.
- Know Your Competition, Clients, and Community Well-run first-class spas are a treat to visit, but such a facility may not be right for the market or location you have in mind. Do not let your personal preferences influence your spa development. Many components go into establishing a spa—site selection, concept design, staffing, capital resources, and more—make sure your business plan will be profitable and supported by the market.
There may be significant overlap between what you like and what your client base will patronize, but do not leave that to chance. Always have a market analysis and feasibility study done by a skilled and objective party to empirically evaluate the depth of demand for your spa concept. While this might seem like a significant up-front cost, consider the misspent capital a spa that is not supported by the market can consume, not to mention the lost revenue never realized. From that perspective, the expense of the study is minimal. It is easier to modify your concept before you build the facility and order the equipment.
- Know That Medical Spas Require Specialists In many states a non-medically trained person cannot hire a physician to perform medical procedures. This largely stems from how liability issues are addressed. In the broadest sense, medical services are most often separated by invasive and noninvasive treatments: As soon as the skin is punctured, a "medical" procedure is underway, and client-care issues (i.e., medical liability) become relevant. With liability come new and potentially onerous financial responsibilities.
To open a medical spa, you need a partnership with a physician skilled in the areas of medical spa services that you want to offer on your menu, such as botox, cellulite reduction, and laser and IPL treatments. Like developing a good team, the partnership brings the skill set to your spa that is necessary to deliver excellent service to your clients.
The spa industry is currently shifting to offer wellness, including medical spa services, with beauty. If you are thinking of opening a medical spa just for the money, however, you might want to rethink your business plan. Many types of well-run spas deliver significant returns on their investments. Virtually all spas are time and capital intensive, so choose a spa because you love the concept, it speaks to your own sensibilities, and it is market supportable. The homework you do up front will get you through a lot of the tough times as you struggle toward operational stability. —Peter C. Anderson and Michele A. Chandler
Peter C. Anderson is a principal at Anderson and Associates, a spa consulting firm based in Santa Monica, CA. He is also on the board of advisors for the Medical Spa Program at the University of California-Irvine and on the faculty at the Collins School of Hotel Management at Cal Poly Pomona. Michele A. Chandler heads up the Toronto office of Anderson and Associates. She brings 20 years of financial, operational, and water-treatment managerial experience to the firm. You can e-mail Anderson at [email protected] and Chandler at [email protected].