New York — As is true of any business, certain do's and don'ts apply to setting up a medical spa operation.
At the recent American Spa Expo in New York City, Cheryl Whitman, president of Beautiful Forever Medical Spa Consulting in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., explained how to establish a medical spa while avoiding steep learning curves and bad decisions.
"It is important to create a unique concept and brand," Ms. Whitman tells Cosmetic Surgery Times.She urged "spatrepreneurs" to find their niche and specialize in a specific aspect of the business, for example acne management for teenagers or age management for baby boomers. Ms. Whitman mentions that an analysis of local demographics is an effective tool for evaluating potential niche markets.
Decide on image
Medical spa owners must also decide what image they want their business to project, Ms. Whitman says.
She cautions that, "Opening a retail or wellness medicine operation differs significantly from opening a traditional medical office."
Ms. Whitman recommends that those opening a medical spa write a "wish list". She says that her company has developed a physician wish list form that is especially helpful to those who are unfamiliar with the process of opening a retail establishment.
"When evaluating prospective locations," Ms. Whitman advises, "remember that parking, visibility and signage are important factors to consider."
She also cautions would-be medical spa owners to be selective about their product and equipment choices.
She encourages programs and protocols developed around the equipment purchased. A cellulite program, for example, could consist of a series of treatments with an endermologie unit.
"Such programs are an effective way to keep clients coming back," Ms. Whitman explains.
To establish a pricing structure for their products and services, spa owners must take a good look at how much the competition is charging. She advises adding just one new service or treatment per quarter, to allow for the staff to be fully trained and the new service to be marketed properly.
Ms. Whitman points out the advantages and disadvantages to both name brand and private label product lines.
For example, private label products have a higher profit margin. In addition, because the name of the business is on the label, clients are reminded of the spa every time they use the product.
Ms. Whitman says that employees should be hired and trained at least three months before the opening. She stresses that it is important to establish operating policies and procedures that everyone must follow, so that all employees work in basically the same way, even if each person has a slightly different touch.
"A medical spa is a retail business, and, as such, it is important to keep abreast of industry trends and to set aside sufficient funds to effectively market and promote the business," Ms. Whitman says.
For the first year or two, approximately 10 percent of projected sales should be earmarked for this purpose, and subsequently, 5 percent of sales should be put toward marketing and advertising.
Make Web presence pack punch
Ms. Whitman says that a medical spa's Web site and other materials reflect its image. She emphasizes the importance of creating an interactive Web site for such a high-end aesthetic business, and suggests spending at least $3,000 to $10,000 for a Web site design with a shopping cart.
"A medical spa must run efficiently, with an eye toward profitability," Ms. Whitman says.
She says that this entails being efficient with staff, space and time and building an adequate profit margin into the price of products and services.
A business plan is the foundation for creating a new medical spa or wellness business concept. Ms. Whitman points out that drafting a business plan is an interactive process that can take four to eight weeks. The document is then bank-ready if funding is needed, or can be used internally as a source to benchmark numbers.
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