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Integration of crucial elements necessary for medspa success; doctors must take care

Article-Integration of crucial elements necessary for medspa success; doctors must take care

Alexis Ufland
New York — Expanding your medical practice with a spa seems like a natural extension of the healing and aesthetic arts, not to mention a potentially lucrative idea.

The U.S. spa industry raked in $11.2 billion in 2003, according to the International Spa Association. But just because you have a thriving medical practice doesn't mean your spa will automatically thrive.

"A spa is a business, and doctors need to run it that way," says Alexis Ufland, owner and president of Lexi Design, a spa consulting firm in New York City.

Ms. Ufland helps would-be spa owners build their spas from concept to opening, and she is familiar with the common misperceptions they have about expanding their practices. The mantra "if you build it, they will come" rarely holds true without careful planning of all aspects of the business, she says.

Hefty price tag The national average cost for developing a spa ranges from $800,000 to $1 million, which includes acquiring the real estate, building the facility, leasing equipment and having enough working capital (cash for day-to-day activities), says Ms. Ufland. Thus, expanding a medical practice into a medical spa is not a decision to be made lightly.

Create blueprint for success A business plan is crucial in determining how a business will become successful. It's an especially helpful tool for those who need financing, but even if the business doesn't require financing, it still requires a financial plan. Beyond that, a business plan can lay out the spa's vision by clearly outlining what services, procedures and products the spa will offer — not to mention where it will offer them, and how.

"You need to consider ambiance, location and services," Ms. Ufland explains. "A spa is also about the experience, not just the cosmetic results."

And simply hanging up a shelf of spa products in the office does not a spa make, she says.

A medical spa, by definition of the International Medical Spa Association, is a facility that offers traditional, complementary and alternative health practices in a spa-like setting under the full-time, on-site supervision of a licensed healthcare professional.

And a good medical spa, says Ms. Ufland, is one that integrates those elements into a seamless entity.

"When there's no interaction between the medical and spa elements, there's no synergy," she explains. "It's a big mistake for the doctor to bring in an aesthetician and let her do her own thing without having any interaction."

Consider all elements The business plan stage is where a doctor can carefully consider all elements, including the products and services being offered and the ambiance, and create a brand so that the spa and its doctor are synonymous and more identifiable for customers. Creating a brand, product-wise, can add integrity for both the doctor and the spa. Not creating a brand, Ms. Ufland says, is an omission that downgrades a spa's potential for success.

Work the capital Whatever services and overall spa experience you decide to offer patients will drive the finances. You need to decide which options work best for your business, in the realms of leasing (equipment and property), working capital and finance loans. One of the main reasons businesses fail is under-capitalization, according to MedSpa Financing.

Location, location, location If you've done your homework in the business plan, you know who your target customer is, and you know where to place yourself so you're highly visible to them. A high-traffic location means that more people see you, which means a greater possibility of getting customers in the door.

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