Thoughts on Taking Over a Business – Part 2

This is a continuation of last week’s article. As I said last week, this is an old Natural Touch Marketing two-part article from over 10 years ago, but the suggestions in it are very relevant for today’s opportunity-seekers. Let me know what you think… ~ Deanna

Now let’s talk about ways to “speak” to the spa’s existing and potential clientele. When you go in and take over the supervision of an existing business, the first thing you must do is find out where the business was when it began (why did the business start-up?), what happened along the way, and where it is now. You need to learn about the “culture.” That culture needs to be respected even if that culture is going to be changed. You also need to know how you are going to talk to the clients who have “visited” that culture. There are three basic examples:

Business is fabulous.

Clients are happy and return regularly. Therapists are happy, consistent, and work together well. Gosh, it would be so great to walk into this more often. The first thing you want to do is let the clients know that the quality of care and service will not alter. Tell them about your experience. Maybe tell them why you were hired/bought the business. Then talk about what changes you may make and invite comments.

But there is always something, even in a happy business. Be proactive and ask for suggestions. Don’t waste time mailing out surveys for this. Have the receptionist or therapist (if they have time) hand out a 1/2 page, 3-5 question survey when a client comes through. Leave a box out for the clients to drop their answers into. Maybe make it very simple and ask, “What is ONE thing you would like to see added or changed at [Spa by the Sea]?” If 47 out of 100 clients really hate the color of the treatment rooms, or if 36 people ask for unscented lotion in the bathroom, your next step is very clear. Aren’t you glad you asked? Then you need to thank clients for helping improve the business either in a sign at the door or in a postcard. What you’re saying and showing is that you respond to clients’ needs and they are helping you do it right.

Business is plodding along.

There are regular clients, but not as many as you’d like. Some are devoted and some just haven’t gotten around to trying someplace else. Therapists are okay with being here; it’s not bad, but greener pastures could call any day now. This is totally deal-able. Clients and therapists just need a little boost and then some consistent, regular contacts.

For the therapists, you need to be sure that all of you are on the same page in terms of customer service and basics like dress, speech, and personal care. Make up a list, get together, and discuss it. You need to present a united, harmonious front.

Take a week and talk to different types of clients, the regulars, and the occasionals. I recommend talking to them when they come in (keep it short). Tell the clients who you are and why you are there. Ask them what can be done to improve their experience (give them concrete examples: shorter wait for appointments, added services, weekend hours). Then you send the letter out to everyone who has gotten work done in the past three years. Tell them 2-3 things you will be adding or changing. Re-introduce a therapist or two, focusing on their specialty and how their work will help the client specifically.

Finally, introduce yourself and invite input. Consider having a house “re-warming” celebration and be sure to budget for at least quarterly contact for the next six quarters. Also, if there are any news-worthy changes (Anybody have special/unique training? Relocated studio? Fundraising for charity?), be sure to get the press involved.

Business has one foot in the grave and one foot on a banana peel.

No one is happy. Clients come once or twice and never return. Therapists are demoralized and bleak. If session prices were cut any more, you would be paying the clients. The place smells funny. It’s time for a do-over. Obviously, you’ll start with the therapists and staff. Once those who are sticking around for the ride have had their say, start contacting clients.

Contact the people who have come back at least twice. They have it in their hearts to be willing to give things another try. Acknowledge the problems of the past. What have you done to rectify them? Re-introduce a therapist or two and give concrete examples of what their work will do to improve the client’s lifestyle. Introduce yourself and make a big deal about “If there are any concerns, here are my office hours, and here is my direct line (for example).”

Then start focusing on what kind of clients you want. Take a good, hard look at your practice’s neighborhood. Start there. Is it a residential area? Who lives there? Talk to them. Are you in a business area? Who works there? Talk to them. Is there a box store on one side of you and a state office on the other side? You can’t send both groups the same kind of message. What is the strongest training your therapists have? Do they all excel in sports massage? Do most of them have a desire to work with elders? Capitalize on that.

However, you choose to contact your clients is up to you. Postcards, letters, flyers, newsletters, skywriting, whatever. Whatever your choice, you must make it based on what will get the client’s attention and make your budget fit your campaign. If letters are the best way to go, do it, even if postcards are cheaper and faster.