Continuing Education for Spa Pros on a Budget

Lower your training bill and develop your staff’s skills with these money-saving strategies.

continuing-education-budget[Image: hatman12/ISTOCK]

Staying on top of the latest beauty and wellness trends and techniques is imperative to success. Without up-to-date products, services and skills to offer, a spa may lose guests and see its business growth stall. “The latest products and treatments are available at the stroke of a key to our current and prospective clients,” says Jeane Richmond, senior technical educator for Satin Smooth. “Keeping your business relevant ensures they’ll be intrigued and excited about the results you can deliver—rather than seeking them from someone else.”

Of course, quality education can be pricey, with fees and travel expenses quickly adding up—especially for spas that aren’t near large metropolitan areas—and time spent away from clients equals another oft-overlooked financial loss. While these tolls are easily justified when you consider that learning new skills will ultimately result in increased profits, a truly smart and effective education plan will be cost-conscious and keep staff close by. The following expert insights will help you accomplish just that.


Bring It In

If you employ multiple professionals, consider reaching out to educators and asking them to conduct classes at your spa. “Many instructors will offer a discount or incentive if they have a guaranteed number of students and/or don’t have to rent a classroom in a school or hotel,” says Felicia Brown, LMT, spa and wellness business consultant and owner of A to Zen Massage in Greensboro, North Carolina. Typically, an educator will travel to your place of business and deliver training for a fee, plus reimbursed travel expenses. The more participants, the better—so put the word out to independent professionals or other spas in your area, as well. While the total price tag may appear steep at first, fees are usually the same no matter where a class is held, and splitting one instructor’s airfare and hotel among several people or businesses will save a lot of money per person.

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If you’re adding a new product line to your offerings, negotiate training with the vendor. “Many companies send educators when a certain dollar amount in orders is met. The staff try the new product, love it and, in turn, sell it out,” says Elham Jazab, global educator for GiGi.


Split The Check

Asking staff to contribute to training costs can be a tough sell if they’re W-2 employees, but that doesn’t mean you must abandon this option entirely. Spa pros who are passionate about growing their careers will understand the value of learning new skills and may even seek out educational opportunities on their own—especially if they get to choose the classes. “In my first spa, we offered a $100 contribution or scholarship per year to full-time employees for any training they wanted to pursue,” says Brown. These days, A to Zen splits the bill in a novel way: Brown covers up to 12 hours of continuing education, and if an employee wishes to attend training outside of the offered curriculum, the spa helps cover the cost via a payroll advance which can be paid back over time in $50 or $100 increments.


Designate A Driver

Another money-saving approach to education is having one employee attend a course, and then share what she’s learned with the rest of the team upon her return. “Sending a top producer to a class so they can come back and educate others is an excellent way to develop leadership potential, reward a stellar employee, incentivize performance and revive the creative vibe among your staff,” says Jazab. This approach is also advantageous because it limits travel and tuition fees to a single person. Just make sure to avoid any jealousy or disputes by carefully formulating criteria for selecting who will attend the training, and communicating this clearly during the process. As a spa owner, you must also be confident that the person you send has the right experience to effectively learn, as well as instruct others.

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Take It Online

With high quality video and interactive platforms like WebEx and Skype, today’s online training is almost as good as being there. Live streaming courses enable students to watch and communicate with educators in real time, while self-paced options allow your staff to jump in and out of a class during scheduled breaks, completing their training without ever leaving your location. “For employees with constrained time outside of the spa, paying for online classes they can fit into their schedules will develop their knowledge and make them feel valued,” says Jazab. You might even consider purchasing a computer specifically for this purpose, and designating a quiet spot on site for training. Or, allow staff to check out the company laptop and take it home if they don’t have one of their own. Do your research, too: Many companies have developed full online education programs for beauty and wellness pros, and some offer certifications upon completion.


Fly Right

There will be times when traveling for training is unavoidable. In such cases, make airfare and hotel dollars work double duty. For example, take advantage of courses offered at shows and conferences you’ll be attending anyway—after all, brands are typically releasing their latest products and offer training by top educators, sometimes free of charge. “The trade show industry has made it so easy to pre-plan your experience, thanks to advanced viewing of the education being offered, online registration, and even phone apps that keep you focused on your training schedule while you’re immersed in the beauty scene,” says Richmond. Many companies will also teach multiple courses back-to-back, often discounted after the first one.

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Offer Incentives

A lot of spas provide training as an employment benefit, but certain savvy businesses make professional classes a bonus for staff who are doing particularly well, whether by bringing in customers or hitting other sorts of sales quotas. “Setting goals for your team helps keep everyone motivated in a positive direction. Incentivize this by rewarding high achievers with continuing education,” says Richmond. “Training earned as a performance incentive is a win-win every time.”

—Leslie Henry

This story first appeared in the September issue of DAYSPA Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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