Spa Director Career Guide, Part 2


In Part 1 of this 3-part series, we discussed what a Spa Director may need to consider when contemplating their career path and the importance of demonstrating both 'Proof' and 'Potential'.

Understanding the credentials you will have to achieve in order to prove yourself as a candidate for management, as well as the upward potential you will continually need to demonstrate during your climb, will absolutely determine your future success.

A multi-faceted approach must be taken

In this Part 2 of our 3-part series on Spa Directors, we will talk about the multi-faceted forms of education and expertise that will be required to shape your future in Spa Management.

We will refer frequently to the newly released Global Spa & Wellness Summit's Research Report on Spa Management Workforce & Education: Addressing Market Gaps, provided by SRI International. This Report highlights a number of industry observations and provides recommendations on how spa business leaders may be able to work (together) towards closing some of the existing Spa Management training and educational gaps, in an effort to strengthen and standardize the quality of management in the spa industry.

This report is not only of value to industry leaders however.

Present and future Spa Directors/Managers can use this Report to help guide you in developing a career path that will maximize your career potential and future success

Looking inside the business

Depending on the spa, a Director/Manager may receive anything from in-person/in-house training department support; to online distance learning courses provided by an external source; to very little or nothing at all! Just over half of the spa directors/managers who were surveyed for the purposes of this report are satisfied with the amount of on the job training they receive from their employers.

Inasmuch as formal training and education, including self-study are important, industry leaders agree that on the job experience, mentoring and training are at the top of the list.

Pertinent to this article, it's important to mention that Spa Directors/Managers interviewed stated that the skills they were most interested in learning for the future, were almost identical to the areas that Spa Business Leaders felt the industry was most lacking in.

We'll call these "The 6 Pinnacles"

1.    Strategic planning skills

2.   IT skills

3.   Public relations/promotioal skills

4.   Revenue management skills

5.    Legal/regulatory compliance

6.   Financial management/accounting skills

These "6 Pinnacles" hold great importance for Spa Directors/Managers in their quest for a future in spa. Searching out educational opportunities that address these core competencies, should be carefully considered

These "6 pinnacles" are considered technical, or hard skills (the #1 deficiency among Directors/Managers); as opposed to soft skills which are specifically spa and people skills. But a Spa Director needs to have a combination of hard and soft skills in order to succeed. Those moving up the ranks within the spa probably already possess an abundance of soft skills, but those coming from outside the industry into Spa Management, may not.


A healthy balance of hard and soft skills is a basic criteria in any business management position

For example: In the above 6 pinnacles, Revenue and Financial Management are both rated "very important" hard skills, but without the soft skills needed to implement and execute the financial plan, reaching goals will be difficult. So say that you have mastered the Spas2b Financial module. This technical information will take you far, but now your people, team and leadership skills have to kick in to motivate and inspire employees to perform.

Ideally, these required soft skills would be intuitive, but you may need time and training to master your techniques.

Other important skills and considerations

There are a multitude of other areas that are identified as important skill sets within the Global Spa & Wellness Report on Education, including: Human Resources; Time Management; Spa Modality training; Safety & Hygiene; Customer Service and Guest Relations; Sales & Marketing, Retailing; and Operations Management, to name just a few.

Note:Personal 'authentic' characteristics and qualities that are looked for in a Spa Director include: A spa philosophy; healthy lifestyle; a wellness belief-system; ability to communicate, lead and problem solve.

And different types of spas may consider other characteristics an asset. For example, if you are working in a Day Spa, you will likely receive very little inside or outside support and 'across the board skill sets' will be more in demand. A Day Spa Director is almost like an entrepreneur; where the success of every component of the spa, is primarily their responsibility. Alternatively, a Resort Spa Director needs to be able to survive in a corporate environment, requiring corporate skills and familiarity with corporate procedures. There is usually more support in the hotel/resort spa, so the required skill sets may not be as all-encompassing as in the Day Spa setting.

If you are currently a spa therapist, administrator, or in an assistant manager position and you are interested in moving up, it would be prudent for you to clearly specify to your superiors that you are interested in succession planning, that will prepare and position you for an eventual promotion into this position.

Your flexibility, adaptability and dedication are also key for the 'upwardly mobile' Spa Director. If your goal is to eventually head up spa operations for a global brand, destination travel and cross-cultures would be careful considerations. Will these kinds of physical and mental demands suit your lifestyle?

So it is very safe to say that your path towards spa management will be wide and varied.


Let's Summarize

Although this article is only a fraction of the findings that are revealed in the Global Spa & Wellness Report on Education (and I do recommend that you read all 160+ pages of it) a motivated professional will pay very close attention to these findings. Considering what we now know, let's look at how you might use this knowledge.

1. On the job experience is the #1 sought after criteria by industry leaders

So it's very important for you to get your foot in the door to get that experience. Just as you need to manage your educational pathway intelligently and methodically, you also need to carefully execute how you will gather the much needed spa experience in order to further your career in management. The first step is to know where you want to work. Research your target spas to uncover their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Next, prepare a customized resume that not only outlines the steps you are taking to deliberately develop your career, but that speaks to the needs and challenges of each target spa, that your research has uncovered about them. When you land the interview, impress them with your plan for growing your achievements. Show solid potential and interest in them specifically, by catering the entire interview around you being the solution to the challenges your research has told you they face. Read more details on our new blog coming soon, "3 Quick Pointers to Spa Director".

2. The 6 Pinnacle hard skills that are wanted, needed and hard to find

Refer back to these 6 points above. If the Spa Directors and Industry Leaders alike consider them important, you probably need to as well! Being that they are harder to find, you may need to search out opportunities outside of the spa industry, that will at least teach you the fundamentals of each subject matter. You will also need to gain 'spa-specific' expertise in these areas, but initially, acquiring a basic understanding of each of these concepts will speak volumes about you and your determination to equip yourself for your future management position.

3. Develop your soft skills, including people, leadership and spa

A Spa Director needs to have strong people and leadership skills. If these are not skills that you currently possess or feel you can master, you may need to re-think your career. But if you believe you have the potential to grow your existing people skills, look for ways to develop them both personally and professionally, through education and practice (yes practice!) so that you can position yourself as a leader with presence and passion. See our questionnaire on Superior People Practices.

4. Begin mastering other important skills and considerations

As mentioned above, we also know that everything from Human Resources to Operations Management also need to be added to your list. Start now with online distance education and research, as well as any live training that you can acquire in each of these categories. Remember that skill sets vary from day spas to stay spas. Reveal your ongoing achievements in each category to your target spas, as well as the areas where you see you could use additional on the job training to perfect your skills.

5. Your 'authentic' personal characteristics must be a match

For a Spa Director/Manager to be a good fit, their personal characteristics must match the spa's philosophy. Having done your research on each of your target spas, you will know each of their philosophies. Whether the focus is a healthy lifestyle and a wellness belief-system; or a 'botox is beautiful' mentality (or both!), your authentic self must support their market position locally and globally.

6. If you are interested in moving up the ranks, consider succession planning

Hiring from within is always a strong interest in business, but you've got to know your strengths and weaknesses. This is where succession planning comes in. Let your superior know that you are interested in moving up in the spa. If it is felt that you possess or can acquire the necessary skills to manage the job, together you can lay out a career pathway that will ultimately result in a Spa Director/Manager position.

Remember that this is a work in progress, and when the rewards are this great, there is no substitute for your hard work.

Watch for Part 3 of this blog, where we discuss Spa Director Attributes, Hot Button Topics and FAQs.

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