Business focus: The management jump

One of the most important aspects of any successful business is its people. In our people centric industry, nothing could be more true, yet whenever I go to spas and salons I find more and more disengaged, unhappy therapists and stressed out managers.

My clients have shared with me their inside knowledge about how much therapists hate their jobs or their managers. It’s awful to hear! We have some leadership gaps to fill in our industry and it must starts in every business.

Exceptional leadership requires outstanding training and mentoring. A common challenge I often hear is that there is no budget for training. Investing in your team is one of the most powerful strategies to help grow your business. Knowledge gives empowerment, which leads to motivation and positive action. Therapists want to advance and develop, but often they are just not given enough opportunity.

Meeting

Business owners have told me they are hesitant to train their team because once they pay to up-skill a therapist, she leaves and they lose out. This should not be a reason to not train a team member. There are clauses that can be written into employment contracts that deter therapists jumping ship, but more importantly creating an environment where they can thrive and flourish is of vital importance.

Another problem – which happens more regularly than it should – is when a business owner looks to introduce a manager under them. They most commonly promote the person who has either been there the longest, the top selling therapist or the most dependable therapist. None of these aspects should be a deciding factor on whether someone moves into a management role or not.

Once the therapist has been moved into this position, they are expected to know how to manage the business effectively, and a training session might consist of a few meetings here and there to “information dump”. Often, the new manager will crack under the pressure, as she can no longer go to her colleagues for assistance. Her team won’t respect her, her own sales figures go down and she ends up working longer hours and then she leaves. I have seen it all too often.

Promoting someone based on one aspect of their work without assessing if they are good in other areas in not a sustainable way to run your business. Just because someone can sell, doesn’t mean they can manage a team, or do the admin involved with being in management. There are qualities of leadership that you should look for instead, particularly the relationships they develop with the team and their ability to handle difficult situations, to name just two.

Structure for success

Firstly, you should create different levels of therapist in your organisation, and then draw up a training schedule for all members of staff, with time frames that will eventually lead them to management. You should also create a succession plan for your team so that you never find yourself left with gaps particularly in management.

One of the most vital training courses that any therapist who wants to get into management needs to do is a communication skills workshop. This is often the most overlooked area of management in every industry but it is one of the most fundamental.

This should include: basic and intermediary excel skills, as they are essential for managers; HR skills such as basic labour law, interview techniques, leadership skills and conflict resolution; financing skills such as forecasting, understanding price models, cost saving techniques and stock management; and elements such as how to hold a meeting and give presentations, or understanding key performance indicators.

Interview

When you are hiring new team members there are qualities that you can look for in a therapist who would potentially be suitable to a management role. You should look for someone who takes initiative, which you’ll see on a candidate’s CV from the activities and interests outside of work. Do they volunteer, play a sport or have they won awards for something they’re passionate about?

These activities show excellent potential because it demonstrate discipline and intrinsic motivation, which is essential for any leadership role. Look out for therapists who often refer to “we” when they are discussing their experience. The best managers are those who understand that to be successful it takes a team and not just one person and they often refer to the team successes.  

Smooth transition

There are a number of ways that you can set your new manager up to succeed, and make this transition smooth for everyone in the business. Having a succession and development plan sets expectations and boundaries, so it is a fair and equal process.

Secondly, a team meeting should be held to make the announcement, therapists should be invited to ask questions and share their thoughts. The new manager should assert her leadership skills by sharing her vision for the team and invite the team to collaborate with her. She should then make time to spend with each team member to get to know them. She is not trying to win their friendship, but rather their trust; this is one of the most important things a new manager can do.

She should shadow the business owner for performance reviews initially and then take over. It is important that she does not make promises she can’t deliver to the team, and to understand that finding a shared purpose is a more effective strategy.

The business owner should be sure to step back and not publically override any decisions the manager has made – they need to be a team. A new manager needs more support in her first four to six months than ever as she finds her feet. Change needs to be managed effectively so as to impact the business positively.

Laura Carrick

In every decision you make regarding team progression and succession, you are aiming to create a high trust environment in your business. This is the type of environment where everyone thrives and therefore so does the business. Ask yourself “How much do my team trust each other, my manager and me?” and “How much time do I spend formally mentoring my team?” Start here and the journey will be smoother.

Laura Carrick is the director of business and leadership training company In Flow International. She has more than 14 years’ experience in the beauty and spa industry and also runs a not-for-profit mentoring scheme for female professionals.