You might recognize the name John Harms as the brains behind Millennium Systems International, formerly known as Harms Software Inc., but did you know he actually began coding long before Millennium was even a thought? In a recent Spa Talk with American Spa, Harms opens up about how he got his start in the business, how he spends his time outside of work, what's new with Millennium, and even shares the scoop on his new baby son. Find out all of this and more in the Spa Talk with John Harms below.
American Spa: How many years have you been involved in the spa and hospitality industry?
John Harms: Harms Software Inc., as it was originally called, began in 1987; over 30 years ago.
AS: What was the path that led you into the spa industry?
JH: I was designing software for a product development and marketing company across the street from a salon called The Village Salon located in Tannersville, PA. The owner of the product development company went to that salon and told the owner about “a young guy designing her office automation software.” Linda Starner, the salon/spa owner, said she’d love to meet me because the beauty industry didn’t have any good software. I thought it sounded easy and estimated 6 months to a year to create the software. While I did deliver something within 12 months, I can tell you I greatly underestimated this industry and 30 years later we continue to add features every quarter!
AS: What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of being in the spa industry?
JH: The spa industry is challenging in that the services can be much more complex than a salon when it comes to booking, pricing, and even upgrades and add-ons. Also, spas typically have more service providers (i.e. massage therapists) than resources or rooms. As a result, the software needs to manage the appointment book from multiple dimensions. Add to that hot stones or microdermabrasion/shared machines (which we call equipment) and you start to see the layers and layers of complexity. Our job is to make every process seamless, so that even a new front desk person can book a couples massage or a facial and have the appropriate people and resources automatically populate. For example, in Meevo 2, we even have created a feature so spas have the option to “split” its resources, so a couple’s room could be used for 2 separate massages (with drawn curtain or wall) or for couples. We handle it all!
Another complexity in the register is the packages and series that many spas offer along with gift cards. Because of this, we created effortless ways to sell a ‘Day of Beauty’ or other packages. When a client books and then checks out, our software knows that the client already has those services available in prepaid packages and lets them simply deduct from their package. We’ve perfected an easy way for those indications to show in the register and with Meevo 2 we even solved the problem of allowing people to use “similar” services that weren’t in a package by substituting a similarly priced service without any added complexity. We call those swaps and splits. I may want to swap a Swedish massage inside their package to a deep tissue and Meevo 2 will know to auto-upcharge the client. Sometimes I may want to split a 120-minute massage and use 60 minutes today and 60 minutes in two weeks – we call that a split. Nothing is more frustrating to a spa than when their software dictates how they should run their business and it’s our goal to make the software flexible so it can handle the real-world scenarios at a spa.
The most rewarding part of serving the spa industry is seeing spas that use our software grow and move past the day-to-day mundane challenges they had without our software. Knowing their average ticket, rebook percentage, client retention numbers, and other key performance indicators help spas understand the key components to growth. Their success is the ultimate reward for us so having good reports and numbers our clients can trust are paramount to who we are in the industry.
AS: What has surprised you most about working in the spa industry?
JH: What surprised me most about the industry was the complexity of the services and resources and equipment along with the level of flexibility the software needs to have. I was also surprised at how much it costs to open and run a successful spa so it was very important to me that we gave the owners and managers the tools that would give them a competitive edge and help them service their clients better than anything else.
AS: Where do you think the industry is heading?
JH: The industry, from a technology standpoint, is going all cloud and more focused on the experience that is best for their clients. Specifically, improving the re-booking and checkout experience for the client and bringing the ‘front desk’ to them rather than standing in a line at a big front desk. Using mobility, we can give product recommendations and allow a checkout experience similar to an Apple Store. Also, we are inventing better ways to match employees to clients as we believe a big part of the experience is around the relationships built with clients. Improving new client retention will help solve the age-old problem of why new client retention isn’t what it should be.
AS: What’s your favorite spa industry product or ingredient?
JH: I don’t know how to answer this but I’ll say my favorite spa service is a nice deep tissue 80-minute with focus on my lower back!
AS: If you could work in any other profession in the world, what would you be?
JH: I would have considered being a scientist. I think the world of DNA and solving problems like cancer and other illnesses must be an amazing feeling of accomplishment.
AS: What is the strangest client request you’ve fielded?
JH: We were asked to add some features for a nudist colony that loved Millennium. They used the class booking, but beyond that I’m not sure because I sent my brother, Micah, to the onsite. I wasn’t going!
AS: What new spa treatment would you like to try?
JH: I’m out of the loop on the latest trends on spa services. I’ve been too busy building Meevo 2!
AS: What’s your go-to spa treatment?
JH: Deep tissue massage.
AS: What’s the best advice you’ve received?
JH: My dad, who worked two blue collar jobs he hated always told me, “if you can find something you love and make a living doing it – that’s the best job you could ever have.” I did that and love what I do, even 30 years later. I get to create software with a team of amazing people at Millennium and we make a difference in hundreds of thousands of lives every day in 48 countries. That’s pretty cool for a guy from the midwest that started writing some code in his basement.
AS: How would you sum up your personal philosophy?
JH: My personal philosophy is to work hard and play hard. I love being in the trenches with my team. You very seldom will ever find me in the executive suite on the third floor of our building. Look for me on the second floor which is where the action is – software development, product development, project management, quality assurance, information technology, database administration, business analytics, and user interface design. That’s where my home is. All that action is on the second floor at Millennium Systems International. I remain focused on improving end user support and implementation. Once in a while, I check out what’s going on in sales and marketing…but everyone at Millennium knows I barely ask about the financials or how many units we sold that week… I know that if we build a quality product the business and sales will come!
AS: How do you like to spend your time away from work?
JH: I’m excited to say that I’m in a new phase of my life and have a new son named Knox Creed Harms! He’s three-and-a-half months old and occupies a large part of my time away from work. I have always been happiest when I had kids around which certainly gives me purpose. I also invest in a couple of successful restaurants (although I only eat and drink there – I have no time to operate them!). Other than that, I love riding my Harleys or playing my drums to take my mind off work.
AS: What are your three greatest priorities in life?
JH: 1.Happiness is my #1 priority. Money, success…none of that matters if I’m not laughing and smiling and enjoying this journey.
2. My family and extended family and friends
3. Millennium and the Millennium family of clients around the globe
AS: What are two things we don’t know about you?
JH: I helped write AT&T’s Skynet Satellite Tracking system when I was 21 years old. It booked time on satellite transponders for the Super Bowl and other large events. Also, I have played the drums since I was 10 years old and currently have three drum sets including one from the hall of fame band, Rush.