Congratulations! Your skin care practice is a success and you’re too busy to take on more clients. Great work! And, because you’re an ambitious businessperson, you’re stressed over all those potential clients you can’t possibly take on working solo. The obvious solution? Expand, right? Add on one or more treatment rooms, hire skin care professionals to perform the appointment work, and make lots more money. No brainer. Or is it?
There is much to contemplate prior to committing to the physical growth of your skin care business. Because many do not understand or examine all of the facts involved with expansion, serious problems, or disappointments, can accompany the decision. When that occurs, the formerly happy professional may find herself or himself unexpectedly dealing with issues that can dramatically change how they feel about work life. It can also produce the reverse financial effect than what was desired. Let’s explore this.
The first question we must ask is, why do I want to expand my business? Is it to capture new business? To accommodate all the client demand I’m too small to handle now? To make more money? Since business expansion always means higher operating costs, how do we know if an expansion will produce more business profit? How long will it take to reach that expected profit? And, how much profit are we expecting? Is it realistic?
During my many years as a spa and aesthetics business coach, expansion plans are often spoken by clients as a natural future direction. While I don’t dismiss physical business growth as a logical means to increase sales and profits (though success isn’t a given), I do ask those with such visions to fully examine all that goes with that move. With this in mind, here are some key realities involved with business expansion that all who desire it will do well to address ahead of time.
BUSINESS EXPANSION IS A TIME-CONSUMING ACTIVITY
If you think you’re working hard now, just wait until you heap on the responsibilities of a larger version of your present operation. Personnel management, training, facilities maintenance, marketing programs, customer service issues, and a long list of other time-eaters will fill your days and thoughts at night. The added load is large and ominous. Entrepreneurs often believe that, in short order, they will assign many of these added duties to employees – releasing themselves from that burden. But, finding and keeping those trained individuals almost always proves harder than expected. If you’re not prepared to invest many more hours in business work than you do now, expansion may not be an ideal plan.
SPEAKING OF EMPLOYEE MANAGEMENT – HOLD TIGHT TO THE HANDRAILS
The most common refrain I hear from those who expanded their business is, “Where do you find decent employees?” Behind that question is this: employees are typically difficult to satisfy, hard to retain, often disappoint the quality-driven business owner, and regularly hope to learn business skills from the employer for use in their own spa somewhere down the road. When service employees depart, they may slice off a significant piece of your paying clients who follow them to another location. Preventing this upsetting surprise is not as simple as non-compete agreements or locking employees out of a client database. As a former spa employer myself of many years, I learned of numerous creative (and devious) ways employees could make secret connections with clients to be contacted when the employee went solo. I know of no spa employer who was immune to this problem.
IS LEADING, MOTIVATING, AND CORRECTING A TEAM YOUR BEST SKILL?
Employees can be needy, insecure, competitive amongst themselves, unreliable, and prone to job-hopping. Are you up to the task of recruiting and hiring, training, monitoring performance, correcting under-achievement, and disciplining bad behavior as needed? Employee management is not for the shy, easily intimidated, permissive, or overbearing individual. Success in this role requires patience, excellent listening skills, impartiality, consistency, and a strong resolve to address problems before they do real damage to your business. If you were drawn to a spa and aesthetics career because of the love and giving involved, you’ll have trouble when confronting this aspect of business.
Are you comfortable with numbers? You’ll need to be when handling the realities of revenue versus expenses in a business operation. It’s basically the same thing required in a solo practice but monstrously enlarged. Budgeting and sticking to that budget is a daily mantra. Making sure that employees are not overlooking sales opportunities or wasting (even stealing) professional supplies should never be neglected. This presents a deep pool of worry for all businesspeople who cannot control the whims of the economy, clients, or those we employ to service those clients. If you’re up to the job, then, good, because you will need to be.
FINANCIAL REWARDS OR LACK THEREOF
When you expand a business, there are two things you can count on in the beginning: increased operating expenses and the same if not even lower revenue than before the expansion. Just because you made your business larger doesn’t mean a plethora of new clients will suddenly show up to fill the new treatment rooms. That will take time. Meanwhile, you may see increases in rent, payroll, business loans, utilities, and several other costs to cover. Also, if you relocated to a new address, you can expect that not all clients will follow you there. And, strangely enough, sometimes the upset of a business remodel or relocation can shake certain unsteady staff members off the tree. If those former employees take clients along with them, it will represent yet another cost or revenue loss.
You will need plenty of safety cash at the ready to make up for any income shortfall caused by the expansion.
Why so much bad news? This is the simple reality of owning and growing a business. Everyone who has done or will do it experiences most, if not all, of these things. If you believe you have what it takes to handle the conditions you’ve read about here, then, please, do launch your dream. It’s like learning to drive a car. That first day out demands that you call upon many previously mastered abilities, like hand-eye coordination, multitasking, spatial perception, good hearing, quick reflexes, and so forth. You must also tap into the courage to get on the road for the first time – all that scary stimuli swirling about you as you attempt to safely begin and conclude a trip. Most of us seem to manage it, so long as we look both ways, including forward and behind.
Are you ready?
Douglas Preston, president of Preston Beauty Professional, has a career that spans 33 years in professional aesthetics, education, and skin care career mentoring. His business articles appear in DERMASCOPE Magazine, Spa Management Journal, and others. He is a past president of Aesthetics International Association and a former committee chairman for The Day Spa Association. Preston has started and operated award-winning day spas, trains spa and skin care professionals internationally, and is a featured speaker at numerous spa and skin care trade events.