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Do I Need What I Want?

You’ve just returned home from an aesthetic trade show and you cannot get that Turbo-Firmo-Sculptolator 500™ machine off your mind. The demonstration proved the skin lifting and tightening results promised by the device’s makers, at a mere $8,000 with easy lease-to-own payments… how could you go wrong with this purchase? Imagine your clients’ delight when they see your dazzling new equipment and quickly they’ll sign up for treatments just as soon as… hold it! Shake of the fog of self-delusion and take a cold, hard look at this pricey decision.

Are you really at the cusp of a whole new skin care demand or are you simply adding another choice to an already extensive list of treatment choices some of your clients may not even know about yet? Do you really need this device to achieve significant skin tightening or have you become a little bored with the routine of your service techniques? 
This is an important question when considering taking on long-term debt in the hope of enriching your career future. I’ve seen many a skin treatment machine — some very expensive ones at that — sitting sadly idle or neglected after the enthusiasm of its owner or users wanes over time, never to reignite. What happened here and what are the consequences for a business when an equipment investment fails to recoup its cost? Let’s take a look at it.

To buy or not to buy: justifying a large new expense
Before moving forward with a big equipment purchase, ask yourself the following questions (and answer them honestly!):

  • Do I really need this machine to improve my practice or do I simply want something new to work with?
  • Is there some other effective but less expensive way to achieve a similar result, possibly something already in my possession or economically obtainable?
  • How many of my clients are truly likely to pay for the service and how long will they keep up with the treatments once started?
  • Am I confident enough to successfully sell a substantial amount of this service to my clients or will I hope they’ll want it if I just describe what it can do for them?
  • How many services do I have to sell just to recover my initial investment?

The above questions will require you to face and think about the probable facts involved with both the desire and post-purchase realities of the equipment purchase you have in mind — information you’ll do well to examine carefully.

Thinking it Through
Let’s consider the idea of need. What would happen to your skin care practice if you had never seen this machine at all or if it never existed? Would it dry up and fail? Would you fall hopelessly behind your competitors and lose favor with your customers? Will you lose money? If you can’t justify shelling out $8,000 to save your business, then it may well be that you don’t need this big expense. In fact, the extra monthly payments may do you more harm than good.
Tightening results are certainly something any aesthetician would like to produce for age-wary clients, but how much has your practice been affected by an array of treatment methods already at your disposal? Have your customers been complaining by your limited abilities and ineffective procedures, and has your clientele begun to shrink as a result? Are you overwhelmed by customer demand for the new treatment technique of that new machine? Is there no other effective, affordable, and client-pleasing means of achieving tighter looking and feeling skin? Not every aesthetician will be able to afford or will want to own the Turbo-Firmo-Sculptolator 500™ — what do you think they’ll do?
Will your clients flock to the new treatment or will they sniff at it while only a few will pony up the funds to buy them? What percentage of them are genuine candidates for lifting treatments and what percentage of those will elect to have them? Will the presence of that machine in your business and practice automatically attract the target customers you’ll need to sell it? If advertising will be required, what will that cost, and how long will it draw?
What if the selling of this service is almost entirely dependent upon your personal sales ability, as it almost certainly is — do you have the confidence and persistence to pull in all of those needed sales? And how long will your or their enthusiasm hold up once the service is no longer at the center of your attention, or theirs? You could be setting yourself up for long-term debt with no help from your machine to relieve it. It happens all of the time.

The machine manufacturers explained how quickly you’ll get your money back once you begin offering its treatments to your clients — only 80 treatments at $100 each and you’re home free and in the black! But is this formula true? Let’s look at it. Say you sold $8,000 of these treatments — did you really get your money back? Out of each $100 service there is material costs, overhead expenses, employee wages, and a huge string of other business related costs that must first be deducted from that service income before applying any of it to the payoff of your new machine. The machine must help you make more money than you did before buying it if it is to pay for itself, not by simply trading one service sale for another. Are you more profitable than before or does it seem that in spite of your new cash cow you’re still just as cash poor as you ever were?
The point of this article is not to steer you away from adding specialty equipment to your practice but to help you evaluate what makes such a purchase prudent or just plain folly. No one can afford to make sizeable investments in business hardware and not make it pay off — especially the very small business person. With that in mind, here’s how I would suggest that you determine whether or not your desired device will help or hinder your financial well-being:

  • Survey your clients by telling them about the treatment idea in advance of making a decision to actually buy it. Are some all set to try it? Will they pre-pay for the treatments or are they speaking in the affirmative since no commitment to purchase treatments is being required of them? It’s easy to say “I want it!” when no real cost is involved in doing so. You may discover a serious change of heart once the payment must back up the statement.
  • Ask the vendor for the names of other skin care professionals well beyond your market area that have bought the machine so you can ask them about the success they’ve been having with the service. This would preferably be someone that’s had the device for more than six months or even a year just to make sure that the demand for services has held up over time. No names, no sale. Don’t take anyone’s word about someone else’s experience.
  • Talk to a financial expert about the real facts regarding the recovery of your investment dollars, and just how many treatment sales will be required to achieve it. The answer may truly surprise you!
  • Explore all other treatment options first before deciding to buy your new machine. There may be plenty of wonderful ways to get a great result at a fraction of the cost.
  • Wait a month at least following the trade show euphoria before doing any of the above! Put that machine and the warm fuzzy feeling you got from it firmly out of mind and then see if it holds up when you return to the idea later. If the fire has faded at all then be glad that it didn’t happen with you as a heavy lease holder! Take yourself out to dinner and revel in your freedom from unnecessary debt.
  • All investment involves risk, and risk is always involved in the attempt to grow business. The point here is to act with the best possible knowledge available to you, not out of sheer emotion. Once you’re certain about what you want to do, then engage it wholeheartedly and with the determination to succeed. It will certainly increase your chances at it.

    Douglas Preston is the president of Preston Incorporated, Preston Spa Consulting, and Preston Private Label Products. He is a business consultant and frequent lecturer in the day and medical spa industry that’s been featured on CNN and Fine Living channels as well as America Online’s The Startup 2 small business reality series. Preston’s business articles regularly appear in DERMASCOPE, Spa Management Journal, and numerous other magazines. He also contributes as an editorial advisor to several respected spa trade publications. Preston is past-president of Aesthetics International Association (AIA), has served as a committee chairman for The Day Spa Association (DSA), and trains internationally for spa and salon businesses. He is a highly regarded authority in professional skin care and spa career development – licensed as a professional aesthetician in California since 1982. Douglas Preston can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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