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Regaining Control of a Wandering Business

David Suzuki November 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

Starting your own business can be one of the most exhilarating and satisfying experiences of your professional life. It is the ultimate challenge: You have to take ownership of every responsibility and every task so that, at the end of the day, what you accomplish or lack is completely up to you and has everything to do with your spa’s survival.

As a small-business owner, you literally are every department head combined into one: accounts payable, accounts receivable, purchasing, maintenance, reception, marketing and don’t forget lead esthetician. Changing hats without hesitation is a skill that you must acquire and refine quickly, or you may find yourself out of work. Many spa owners reflect back on the early days with a smile, amazed at what they have been able to accomplish single-handedly.

Beginning and operating your own spa can be both scary and gratifying. The excitement of this experience seems to produce an endless amount of obsessive energy, similar to an adrenalin rush that never seems to end. And then—out of nowhere—it does. When this happens, many small-business owners experience complete and utter confusion. You discover that there simply is not enough of you to go around, and not enough time in the day or night to make it happen any longer.

Things have changed

So what happened? And why does your business and personal life seem as though they are coming apart at the seams? Simply put, things have changed, and you have not.

As with life, a business is perpetual and is moving continuously. In the beginning, most owners have much more time than they do funding and, therefore, assume most of the duties required to operate the spa, regardless of whether or not the duty is within their skill set. As it grows, so does the burden of each department. And, as this increases, the owner commonly absorbs the additional work rather than hiring or delegating this responsibility. This often leads to financial disaster, burnout and turmoil in a person’s private life.

Management perception

As you busily adapt to different roles day in and day out, holding down the fort alone, it is difficult to find even a moment of extra time in which to plan, observe and implement new ideas. And, for that matter, you don’t have a team with whom you can complete these tasks.

Regardless of how occupied you believe that you are, you must carve out enough time within your hectic schedule to gain perspective and make management decisions. This must happen when the spa is closed or, better yet, off-site in order to avoid the temptation to check your e-mail or immerse yourself in the endless backlog of work on your desk.


How do you make management decisions? Upon what are you deciding? Where is your guidance? The answer is measurement.

When making changes, you first must realize your business’ current status, which means that you must establish parameters that define your spa and that can be associated with clear forms of measurement. Initially, this can be a daunting task; however, once you get the hang of it, everything that enters your mind soon will have a dimension associated with it.

A simple example of measurement is gross revenues and profit. This is something that all owners are required to report annually when processing taxes, so this information should be readily available. Understanding and acknowledging what you have accomplished historically can be a benchmark for future progress. You can set new sales goals and objectives, as well as identify the number of new team members you may need to add in order to meet your new goals. You also can assess why you were able to facilitate certain tasks yourself, as well as why you currently are completely overwhelmed.

Face the facts

Many small-business owners believe that they are “really good” at all facets of their spa and that they are the only ones who can do certain tasks. Although this often is less than accurate, at the end of the day, one person can perform only so many tasks effectively.

Determine what you like to do, what you don’t like to do, the things you do well and those areas in which you could improve. These four areas ironically are not always related—you may really enjoy taking on certain responsibilities at which you are absolutely terrible. After you believe that you have figured out the answers to these four questions, share your responses with your spouse, partner or a loved one on whom you can count to be brutally honest for a second opinion. You may be surprised at how different your self-perception is versus reality.


The task-delegation threshold usually occurs somewhere between feasibility and insanity. Unfortunately, in most cases, it often is the latter of the two that finally forces small-business owners to delegate or hang up their gloves altogether.

The delay in delegation usually is due to a combination of three factors: the fear of the loss of control, the fear of being unable to afford it financially and the inability to understand that delegation is a positive change rather than a personal failure.

The first two points usually can be justified via methods of measurement and standard operating procedures (SOPs); however, the third one is something that some owners never are able to accept and, as a result, they remain stagnant or go out of business.

There is no steadfast rule of thumb regarding the correct rate of delegation, as every business—and owner—is very unique. However, industry experts note that the best way to gradually integrate support into your small business is through part-time and/or contract team members. Certain aspects of your spa, such as accounting, inherently are very similar to that of most small businesses and easily can be contracted out, along with weekly or monthly cleaning duties. Other tasks that may take up to two or three hours of your day usually can be handed off to a part-time team member.

Contract and part-time work generally is less personal and permanent. Because of this, many businesses feel more comfortable utilizing this kind of assistance because it enables them to have more control and selection without the commitment of hiring a full-time team member.


As you continue doing whatever it takes to keep paying the bills, you become a master of improvisation. Each task and responsibility is an experience that includes a learning curve, as well as an evolution of trial and error that is contained in one central location: your mind. If you have resigned yourself to the idea that you no longer can run your business by yourself—which, in itself, is a major accomplishment—you now face the challenge of finding a team member who not only is hardworking, but also reads minds!

SOPs should be created for every task performed within your business, regardless of how complex or how simple it is. Well-written SOPs allow for expeditious training of new team members in a focused fashion, as well as provide your business with the agility needed for multiple team members with different skill sets to carry out all tasks at an acceptable level. SOPs also serve as the foundation or infrastructure on which a strong company is built and give a spa the strength to withstand team member turnover.

Baby steps

Realizing that perpetual change is a necessary attribute of every small business is only half the battle. Implementing it is equally as challenging, if not more so. How many times have you discussed adopting healthier eating habits, participating in a better exercise routine, or spending more time with your family and friends without actually putting those changes into place?

Many small-business owners believe that, in order to justify making an alteration, it must be a massive one. This idea is inhibiting and often halts the entire process before it even begins. It also signifies a train of thought that identifies a business as something that is still or stagnant and that can be “fixed” all at once, which is completely contradictory to successful business practices.

Running a successful spa is similar to living a healthy life. This accomplishment is not just due to one miraculous attribute; it is the synergy of the entire experience, and it happens consistently—a little bit at a time. Taking baby steps in a positive direction can be as simple as hiring a competent part-time bookkeeper, contracting a cleaning service or delegating the ownership of a task to an appropriate team member.

Those who succeed in business understand and embrace change. They have become aware of their opportunities, as well as those that are lost due to a failure to delegate. Although trying something new can be terrifying at times, one thing of which you can be certain is the outcome of your current methods. So do you take a leap of faith into the future and try something new? Or is the certainty of the outcome so important that you are willing to spiral downward with a system that you know already has run its course?

Just think of the impact that implementing a few small changes every month may have on your business, your bottom line, and, most importantly, your quality of life and peace of mind.

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