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Partnering With Intelligence

Victoria L. Rayner December 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

The resurgence of partnering arrangements is an inevitable consequence caused by the continuous struggle of spa entrepreneurs to remain as independent as possible. Spa owners face special problems due to soaring business expenses. Radical changes in treatment measures are yet another factor involved—especially when combined with an influx of new products and must-have technological service devices. Franchises also are making the operation of spa businesses by single owners nearly impossible.

Practically everywhere you look, jointly owned and operated spa enterprises are appearing. Two owners can split the expenses, lighten individual responsibilities, generate twice as much profit and even gain a competitive edge with half the effort. However, it takes a lot more than going from a “me” to a “we” in business in order to make a long-term partnership thrive. Preparedness is crucial when taking advantage of the opportunities that this affiliation affords.

More than a legal nightmare

At one time or another, every professional has been privy to the cynical stories that have circulated throughout the industry describing the many potential and common pitfalls attributed to badly conceived partnerships. It’s no wonder that so many people in the beauty field have such a poor opinion regarding them after having been exposed to so many grim views of the demise of such relationships.

In today’s world, despite all of the negative tales told, collaborations are popular again. One thing that never will change is that all spa professionals who do desire to pair up must take the necessary steps in order to form synergetic business alliances from the very onset of their mutual business concern. Selecting the wrong partner can affect whether an enterprise runs smoothly, and can impede or prevent its success for years.

Because associates become so deeply intertwined with their businesses, it is worth the effort to determine what makes a good candidate for a partner. See The Nearly Perfect Partner Profile for personal qualities that are important to seek out.

The “we” selection strategy

A person could have excellent skills and business acumen, and still not have enough of “the right stuff” to make a great colleague. Professionals who are considering entering into this type of relationship must have similar ways of believing and being so that they can join forces. The secret to collaboration is this synergy that inspires a deep spirit of cooperation. It provides each of the associates with the opportunity to apply their personal and professional attributes while combining their capabilities in such a way that enables them to develop something far greater than the sum of their own single efforts.

In reality, what makes a synergetic partnership work is no different than what makes any relationship function well: It is a combination of compatibility and unwavering dedication to a central interest. In order for a work-based collaboration to be significant, each person involved must recognize that they are connected to the other through the business partnership. Once this truth has been acknowledged, the affiliation can serve as a platform and not just another backbreaking aspect of work life to which the two professionals are obligated. Even if you have taken the correct steps in choosing a partner, conflict is sure to arise. See Additional Challenges for more frequently encountered partnership issues.

Customizing partnership agreements

One of the first official acts in which associates engage is drawing up a detailed business contract between the two parties to provide a framework for the relationship’s infrastructure. Although this is a legal document, it is by no means as ironclad as it appears. Unforeseen life events always can cause the best of intentions to go astray, resulting in eventual disbandment of the original plan. Not protecting both parties’ interests in advance can invite a host of difficulties, as well as possible litigation. The conditions included should be thought out carefully and agreed upon by both individuals well in advance. This is not a task to rush into because it must address not only the fundamental concerns that are relevant to the smooth operation of the facility, but also the many issues of consequence to the partners. Not giving credence to these special concerns increases the likelihood that loose ends will resurface later and escalate into major misunderstandings.

Standardization

The most compelling reason for creating policies in a business collaboration is that standardization establishes a basis for the harmonious execution of work behaviors and activities. Pre-agreed-upon rules and regulations that are made into set policies are not difficult to draft because so many issues involved with the operation of a spa lend themselves naturally to standardization. Following are just a few things to consider seriously.

  • Apportion of decisions
  • Business guidelines—accounting and audits
  • Equipment purchases and details regarding acquisitions
  • Job structures
  • Service structures
  • Service charges and product markups
  • Who to hire, and how to recruit and interview
  • Treatment room guidelines—policy manuals
  • Management and termination rules
  • Insurance coverage issues
  • Disabilities or dissolution—withdrawal of a partner, buyout formulas
  • Induction of new partners
  • Covenant not to compete
  • Individual concerns of the two partners, such as allowable educational absences, as well as distribution of additional profits and reimbursement of funds

Partnership policies bind each party to principles that bring about their mutual compliance. Operational plans should be amended at least twice a year for a thriving facility and no less than once a year to ensure their relevance.

Communication tips

When two professionals decide to work together, they should spend some time refining their speaking, listening and correspondence skills beforehand. This advice may sound sensible, but, surprisingly, few think to take this precautionary measure. Both parties should be acutely aware of their own individual styles and how they go about expressing themselves. As members of a team, each partner needs to confer constantly with the other about a variety of situations. The key to good communication lies with each person’s willingness to convey their thoughts in a manner that is different from their normally preferred mode of expression. This may require acquiescing to the other’s communication style for relatability.

Persuasive points must be sold, not made. Partnerships are not dictatorships, and—although they hold potential—they do not guarantee the promise of fulfillment. For this obvious reason, negotiation skills are paramount to these types of arrangements. Grievances occasionally can be vented, but, for permanent resolutions, negotiations must occur, or resentments will linger. Individuals always must be prepared to present an argument that they believe is valid if they want the other person to consider their position seriously. In every relationship—business or otherwise—inequities exist, resulting in episodes of internal quarreling. The worst thing a partner could do in a joint business venture is to become too passive and be unwilling or unable to assume their bargaining position. Partnerships require a multitude of skills, but none is as important as the ability to be a good negotiator.

Be careful

Of course, these are only a few of the many recommendations that must be considered seriously before going into a partnering situation. The message here is a simple one: Be careful in selecting a potential partner; be prepared by learning all you can about these types of relationships in the spa industry; and plan for as many of the potential pitfalls as you can, because any one of them could lead to the demise of what otherwise might have been a successful joint business venture.

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The Nearly Perfect Partner Profile

The Nearly Perfect Partner Profile

  • Must enjoy the challenge of building a business structure with another person, and have enough patience and tenacity to work relentlessly toward the realization of success.
  • Must work well with others and enjoy taking on team projects.
  • Must possess good organizational and planning skills.
  • Must be flexible and adapt to change easily.
  • Must handle criticism well and not expect to be singled out for recognition after completing tasks.
  • Must be able to handle the extra pressures that are inherent in a business and partnering situation.
  • Must have enough financial security to assume the fiscal risk that threatens every start-up or growing business venture.
  • Must be comfortable sharing knowledge and, when necessary, training others on their best skills.
  • It also is helpful if the individual has a history of starting a business entity from scratch and turning it into a profitable endeavor.

Additional Challenges

Additional Challenges

No matter how good a partnership is, each person involved should expect to encounter any one of the situations listed below.

  • A clash of interests
  • Differences in priorities
  • Frustration about who is producing more
  • A need to dominate
  • Unfair scrutiny
  • Inconsistencies in responsiveness
  • Competitive periods
  • Unreasonable justification for actions
  • Improper allocation of the business funds

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