The ’Perfect’ Spa Manager? what to look for…

At Raison d’Etre we have often been involved in the recruitment of spa managers for our clients around the world, so what makes the ‘perfect’ spa manager?, what do we look out for when we are recruiting?  …and do they actually exist!,

Many spa industry professionals all have their opinions on what makes a great spa manager and I have had some healthy debates on this topic!.  Some prefer that their managers come from a therapist background, some prefer a solid managerial background and some are just willing to ‘give someone a chance’.  Having worked with and interviewed/recruited many spa managers, I have seen the many pros and cons of each opinion and all have there merits, although for such an important position finding the right person is not only critical, but often difficult.

But what does it take to be a truly great spa manager, what characteristics are needed to be the ‘prefect’ spa manager?  Here are my thoughts on what the key attributes are in order to be a great spa manager:

People skills

Spa’s are unique when compared to any other hotel/resort department.  Spa’s are an emotional environment not only for guests but also for staff.   Spa’s have the innate ability to positively transform a guest after a one hour treatment, what other hotel department does that!  A spa manager needs to be able to intuitively listen to not only their guests but critically their staff.  Happy staff look after their guests, which creates happy guests – the ultimate goal.  To do this requires excellent people skills from the spa manager:

  • creating a rapport with both staff and guests
  • communicating with the spa team in a motivating and positive way
  • managing staff performance issues quickly and effectively


Like any successful business, leadership is critical, a spa is no different.  Great spa managers lead from the front, they are everywhere – checking on this, observing that, talking to staff and guests, motivating and supporting staff – all what we call ‘role model behaviour’.  Staff also need to be given the opportunity to grow and develop themselves.  Good leaders see the potential, encourage it and support the growth of the individual.

Meetings are also an important part of a spa managers leadership role.  Staff need to be informed of what is going on in the spa and also the opportunity for staff to give feedback.  Great spa managers use this open communication as a tool to motivate, inspire and develop staff.

Business Acumen

To be a great spa manager you must have a solid business background.  You are often dealing with million dollar budgets in a spa, therefore it should obviously be a focal point for a spa manager.   Knowledge of budgets is important but more importantly is the ability to analyse a budget and take necessary actions.  How is the spa going to achieve its revenue budget?, how are you going to manage your expenses?, can you justify an additional therapist when you are already over your staffing budget?  No spa will be successful if you do not have a plan in place!  A Spa Manager must have targets/goals for the spa and know exactly how they are going to achieve them.


Spa’s sadly are often managed on a day to day basis with no planning implemented. How can a spa be expected to be successful when you don’t have a plan in place to make it happen!  We highly encourage the use of the following key planning documents in order to maintain and develop a spa – a plan for success:

  • Business Plan – Vision, core values, business objectives, market analysis, key strategies, goals and a key action plan.
  • Human Capital Management Plan – your staff are your greatest asset so you must have a plan in place – development plans, succession planning, performance appraisals etc..
  • Training Plan – great spas train constantly.  Putting in place an annual plan to ensure all aspects of a spa operation are training – both to maintain standards and develop staff is critical.

There are very few spas in the world doing this and few spa managers, but this is such a critical component of making a spa successful.

Goal oriented

Spa Managers have to set goals for your spa.  Revenue targets, retail percentage, maintaining costs of sales, reducing expenses, daily, weekly and monthly targets – all designed to bring success and motivate your staff.  But it is simply not enough to just say you are going to ‘make budget’ this month, or you are going to ‘sell 30 treatments every day’, how are you going to achieve that?  When setting goals spa managers must:

  • Set the goal
  • Objective – what do you want to achieve
  • Action steps – What actions will you take to achieve the goal (including dates)
  • Measurement criteria – How will you know that you have achieved the goal?

Another key element is the spa manager must communicate the goals to the spa team.  How is a spa going to achieve their goals if the staff know nothing about them!  Update the team on the goals status; use this as a motivational tool.

Make it happen!

A wise old Hotel General Manager once told me there is nothing that you cannot do in any hotel department to make a guest happy.  Whenever I would go to him with a difficult request his advice would always be ‘make it happen’!.  I have seen and heard hundreds of stories of staff going above and beyond to make their guest happy – all within legal and moral boundaries of course!  Great Spa Managers need to think this way too – the ability to analyse the situation, problem solve, prioritise and being proactive are important qualities – all designed to create the best possible guest experience.



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