What Does a Spa Consultant Do?

The job description of a Spa Consultant is to help businesses define problems and offer valuable solutions through utilizing expertise with spa industry specific issues.

For a fee, they provide professional guidance, advice, and assistance gained from experience in their field. They may work as an individual or as part of a firm with other Consultants and staff. They may have general knowledge of a variety of disciplines or specialize in specific areas.

Consultants can objectively identify needs, problems, and issues and propose and implement solutions.

A Consultant Adds Value

A Spa Consultant can provide great value to those who utilize their services. Companies hire Consultants for a limited time with a defined scope of work. As independent contractors, they are not employees and do not incur employee costs of payroll, taxes, and benefits. They target their time and tasks towards accomplishing the goals of the project as efficiently, effectively and accurately as possible.

Spa owners may decide to take the time to research and implement various aspects of the spa development or improvement process themselves. These tasks may include equipment and supplies sourcing, choosing skin and body care products, software, creating budgets and compensation plans, menu creation, staff hiring, and marketing. While some are successful, others make errors and miscalculations that a Consultant can easily prevent thus saving time and money.

Many don’t consider how important it is to have experience with spa architecture and design that is operational and profitable, mechanical/electrical/plumbing (MEP), lighting, safety, and signage and how it relates to guest satisfaction, staff efficiency, and profitability. Without experience, costly mistakes can happen.

The “Do It Yourself” process consumes an enormous amount of time especially if you’re unknowingly not going in the right direction from the start. Without experience, people don’t know what they don’t know. Be aware of this critical insight that many don’t consider. It can cost more to fix a problem than paying for help and having it done correctly in the first place.

Owners may not think about what their own time is worth while they are doing the research themselves “for free.” Instead, they should consider what the cost savings are to outsource some of the tasks so they can free up their valuable time to focus on other areas where their expertise is harder to replace.

There are mistakes that a Consultant can prevent that add up to significant cost savings. A Consultant’s knowledge of spa design, equipment choices, vendor selection and compensation strategies alone can quickly add up to substantial savings.

These savings can outweigh (many times over) the consulting fees that someone pays. Even a short term contract for hourly work and advice can save money, time and a lot of stress.

A Consultant Has Valuable Resources and Contacts

Depending on the work experience, background, and personality of a Consultant, they may provide the benefit of years of networking and relationship building. This valuable and truly priceless advantage helps clients navigate situations they may never be able to traverse on their own. It helps cut through the clutter and get things done efficiently and in a cost effective manner.

Consultants have a treasured list of contacts that they use on behalf of their clients ranging from vendors to associations and conferences to media. Research, opinions, and solutions are easy to obtain because their network values the relationship.

Well respected and connected Consultants frequently are contacted for speaking engagements, contributions to print and online articles, and to participate in industry planning and visionary roundtables and summits.

Required Qualifications and Licensing

Unlike licensed professions such as Manicurists, Massage Therapists, Cosmetologists, Barbers and other professionals affiliated with spa development and operations like Architects, Certified Public Accountants, Acupuncturists, and Personal Fitness Trainers, there are not similar legal requirements, licensing or certifications to become a Spa Consultant. It is currently an unregulated industry.

Anyone can proclaim to be a Spa Consultant. Even knowing all the benefits of working with a Consultant, this should make anyone think twice (or three times) before hiring someone.

The key to a good hire lies partly in the interview and reference check process. Some consultants have many years of relevant experience in spa operations, development and consulting with a top notch reputation to match. Others have experience as spa owners with enough success and failures to be incredibly valuable. Without a doubt, they are great assets.

Some Consultants have pertinent hotel management, fitness, massage or other therapy backgrounds. Others may have never worked in a spa or any management position, haven’t had financial responsibility for a business or their job experience isn’t relevant to your needs. However, they may have an amazing personality made for selling their services.

Belonging to most industry associations and organizations may require only paying a membership fee. No proven qualifications needed.

Who Do Spa Consultants Work With?

  • Architects
  • Conferences and Events (Usually as a speaker, rarely as an exhibitor unless selling educational products)
  • Design Firms
  • Fitness Centers
  • Golf Communities
  • Hotel Developers
  • Hotels, Resorts, Casinos
  • Interior Designers and Decorators
  • Management Companies
  • Physicians (Related to medical spas)
  • Private Clubs
  • Real Estate Developers
  • Real Estate Investment Companies
  • Residential Communities
  • Salons
  • Solopreneur business owners (Estheticians, Massage Therapists, etc.)
  • Spa Owners
  • Spa Vendors
  • Wellness Centers

Who Else Calls Themselves Spa Consultants?

When people think about Spa Consultants, who do they think qualifies for the job of advising spas that are in development or currently operating? Who has the skills to take a spa from an idea to grand opening, guide a business to higher profitability, and has the in-depth knowledge to make operations more efficient?

Most would likely consider Spa Consultants to be a single or co-owner of a consulting practice or part of a boutique consulting firm specializing in spas, wellness or hospitality. They have the experience in development, operations, financial analysis, and marketing necessary to successfully complete their tasks.

If you search the internet or business websites such as LinkedIn or job recruitment sites, the answer is not as clear as you would expect. Unfortunately, the title is starting to become misused in a similar way that we’ve seen with even the word spa itself. For this, look no further than Car Spa and Dog Spa even though one could argue that they do have water treatments.

You’ll find people with Spa Consultant titles that work at tanning salon reception desks, selling Dead Sea salt products at the mall, and sales representatives of skincare products.

While there is no confusing the resume of a highly qualified and reputable Spa Consultant, there are others without the title working in industry related companies that provide valuable consulting services.

Management companies offer consulting services to the businesses they are contracted to manage. They employ seasoned spa professionals with a wealth of knowledge in operations, management and consulting. Depending upon the management company, businesses that contract their services may be resort spas, fitness and recreation centers, residential spas, and higher end day spas. Some well known branded hotels and resorts do not manage their spas and instead contract them out to management companies.

Equipment and supply distributors have the ability to work with more spas than individual Consultants. The reason is that spa owners recognize the need to purchase equipment but may not purchase consulting services. Their knowledge of equipment and supplies is particularly useful when it comes to mechanical, electrical and plumbing needs. Cut (spec) sheets they supply provide that information.

Distributors should be able to help with a treatment room layout, provide a list of recommended equipment and supplies per treatment room, and suggested retail items to purchase. Keep in mind their job is to sell. While they provide valuable information and products we can’t operate a spa without, they are not a neutral party working on a spa’s behalf. Buying one piece of equipment that won’t ever provide a return on investment is a regretfully expensive mistake.

How Do Spa Consultants Charge For Services?

Fees are determined and services performed either as a defined set of deliverables within a project or on an hourly basis. A deliverable is “work to be delivered.” It is an item that must be created and delivered as part of an obligation (usually contractual) to a client. Deliverables are tasks such as menu development, operations planning, financial planning, staff recruitment & hiring, etc.

Fees are part of a proposal, agreed upon between Consultant and client, and then included in a contract. Most contracts are from a Consultant to a client. The exception is working with large corporations (such as hotel brands with a legal department) that give their contract to the Consultant. In this circumstance, they also require the Consultant to name their company as additionally insured on the Consultant’s business insurance policy.

A retainer fee (also included in the contract) is standard and usually required for a Consultant to commence work. A retainer may be 20%-25% of fees or up to 50% for international projects or work deemed a payment risk in some way. A Consultant may choose to waive a retainer for existing clients with a reliable payment history.

The scope of work, size and complexity of the project, and time required defines how a Consultant determines fees. Doing work in phases is well suited for larger projects. A proposal may be given for the entire project’s scope of work or by phase.

Having deliverables completed and paid for in phases rather than all at once will spread fees over the course of the project. Work is paid for when delivered by phase or as completed on a regular (i.e., monthly) basis.

For a client, this is a good option if development needs, the timeline, and resources have the potential to change over time, including the possibility that the project may be canceled or run out of money. It also helps preserve a client’s cash resources. It allows both client and Consultant to determine if they want to continue the working relationship into future phases.

For smaller scopes of work, working by the hour is an option. Hourly work should not be for an entire project or even several deliverables bundled together. Hourly work is best when predicting the amount of time needed to complete the task is difficult (i.e., Architecture Design Review).

Working with other professionals can either increase or decrease the amount of time the Consultant needs. The number of changes and revisions requested, either by the client or others on the team, and the competence of everyone involved, affects the time needed for task completion. It is hard to plan the amount of time required for a task when working within an unpredictable setting. Hourly work is suited for these situations.

Once a project finishes, a client may need to have follow up assistance and advice. Monthly or quarterly coaching and consulting can be performed on an hourly basis.

Choosing a Spa Consultant

It isn’t wise to make a hiring choice based upon price alone. As with many consumer goods and services, the highest price doesn’t always guarantee the best quality. A lower price doesn’t necessarily indicate poor quality. Those seeking consulting services have a responsibility of due diligence to find a Consultant with the experience, work style and personality that best fits their needs.

When comparing fees, it is imperative to compare “apples to apples” (things that are similar). Consulting proposals have no set format, and deliverables have no set cost. Consultants offer a range of services with varying amounts of detail in deliverables and the time they commit to complete tasks. One Consultant may base fees on performing work by using templates from prior projects (if they have sufficient work history) and another may be doing customized work throughout the project. So, before you only look at the cost per deliverable or the final total cost, evaluate whether what you’re receiving and paying for is the same among competing proposals.

For businesses without a consulting budget, before dismissing hiring a Consultant due to cost, remember that the largest determining factor of price is the scope of work. It is possible to reduce fees by reducing the scope of work. Assign tasks to others within your company with guidance from the Consultant. Even hiring a temporary administrative worker at a fair hourly wage will cost much less than paying for a Consultant’s time for time-consuming tasks such as creating employee handbooks, scheduling interviews, and entering data into scheduling software.

Minimizing the amount of time a Consultant needs to complete tasks will minimize fees. Most companies use Consultants for specific tasks to supplement existing resources.

Consulting Services

Few, if any, projects need all services a Spa Consultant offers. Many companies have limited or specific needs. Budgetary constraints may prevent them from hiring a Consultant for every deliverable they want. Companies may have existing staff to utilize that can work on tasks with the guidance of a Consultant thus limiting a Consultant’s time and expense.

Consultants typically specialize in certain areas based on their experience and expertise. They work with other professionals through the course of the project.

Some tasks require a licensed professional therefore a Consultant cannot legally perform
certain deliverables. A Consultant works as part of a team to provide input toward other’s work and overall project goals. Consultants cannot provide certain work unless they are licensed to do so. This includes work by Architects, General Contractors and at times Interior Designers.

Additionally, there are others with particular expertise that Consultants collaborate with instead of performing the work themselves. These are Website Developers, Marketing Companies, Public Relations Firms, and for financial analysis, Chief Financial Officers or Certified Public Accountants.

As a Consultant, it is ethical to be honest about work that you are qualified and more importantly, unqualified to perform. Only perform work that you are qualified for and capable of completing.

Consulting Services Include:

  • Business Plan
  • Planning Meetings
  • Project Feasibility
  • Financial Feasibility & Planning
  • Compensation Strategy
  • Concept Development
  • Equipment Specifications
  • Schematic Design Review
  • Design Development
  • Space Planning
  • Sustainability Planning
  • Critical Path
  • Menu Development & Pricing
  • Program Development
  • Vendor and Product Sourcing
  • Operations Planning
  • Retail Planning
  • Sales & Marketing Strategy
  • Branding Strategy
  • Public Relations
  • Human Resources Assistance
  • Training – Management and Staff
  • Management Services
  • Opening Assistance
  • General Consulting
  • Interim Onsite Management
  • Website Assessment
  • Menu Assessment
  • Spa Audits

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