The 21st century so far has been good for the spa and wellness industry. By increasing the pace of life beyond the imaginations of the Millennium, the first twenty years of this century have convinced more and more people to take a break, take a breath, have some pampering treatments and rejuvenate before going back to their lives.
A medical spa though is something slightly different. It’s the place where pampering spas and medical clinics come together. Where relaxation and healing become a coherent experience for guests.
That’s a combination that can reward those who put in the preparation richly – but can also punish those who are slapdash or half-hearted.
When you decide you want to open a medical spa, the most fundamental thing is to get the basics right.
And yes, there’s a degree of medical knowledge you should have if you’re going to run a medical spa, but equally important is to know how spa management works.
There are many spa management courses at universities and colleges you can attend, or you can also study at home and online. They will open your eyes to everything that goes into managing a spa safely, effectively, and profitably.
A Medical Spa – What Are The Differences?
The difference between a standard health and wellness spa and a medical spa is… well… the medical angle.
In a medical spa (also known as a med spa), you’re not just trying to make people feel good before they go back to their busy, hectic lives.
You’re trying to offer treatments that actually help them with their medical issues, too, in a safe but chilled-out environment.
That means that staff at more or less every level in a med spa have to have more specific medical knowledge than those in a wellness spa.
Indeed, the concept of the med spa is still evolving, with some offering bespoke treatments and others still finding their feet and their offering.
But plenty of would-be med-spa therapists are coming through with an interest in this particular niche, and that is growing the field and expanding the industry from within, as therapists who can do X or Y become more and more a staple of the offering of the evolving med-spa.
So, what do medical spas offer that wellness spas don’t?
If you’re setting up a medical spa, there’s one major difference from setting up any other kind of spa, and it’s an obvious one.
You’ll be managing and supervising medical professionals. In a sense, that cuts med-spas off from the usual skills base of wellness spas, because they have to look for medically qualified therapists to deliver their treatments, which could involve invasive procedures.
Whereas wellness spas, can be adequately staffed by massage therapists and cosmetologists, in a medical spa, you need more intensively medically trained people to administer the therapies.
Again, we all love a good massage and a facial, but at a medical spa, you’re looking to treat actual conditions, like administering botox injections, chemical peels, and laser hair removal, rather than simply to pamper the guests with a deep tissue massage and some cleansing incense.
Opening A Medical Spa – The must-haves
So let’s get the preliminary details out of the way. Are you qualified to open a medical spa?
In most countries, something called the corporate practice of medicine doctrine applies.
What that means is that, in a bid to stop any random wackadoodle setting up the med-spa version of a lemonade stall on the street corner and star jabbing nonmedical Botox into people’s eyeballs, only physicians, or physician-owned companies, can legitimately receive payment for medical services.
So, number #1, if that’s not you, in most countries, you’re out.
It’s also worth finding out how much money it takes to open a med spa. Do you have either the independent means or the capital resources to set up the kind of facility where people will pay you to peel their skin, plump it up, or fire tiny beams of lasers at it to make it smooth?
Assuming you passed both these requirements for opening up a med-spa, let’s consider some of the other essentials you need before you even open your doors.
- A concept or vision. If you’re opening a med-spa just to make money, you’re going to run out of impetus pretty darn fast. Be able to answer the question of why the world needs another med-spa, and more importantly, why it needs one run by you. What do you bring to the industry that’s special? That’s not just a philosophical question, it will be a fundamental plank of why people come through your doors.
- Budget. As we said, to set up a med spa, you’re going to need some budget before you begin. Not only to establish the location of your spa but to fill it with everything a med spa requires – treatment rooms, guest rooms, and relaxation areas. And of course, you need to be able to pay the wages of all the medically-trained people who will come to work, day in, day out, whether you manage to fill your guestbook or not. This is not a venture for either the faint-hearted or the financially frivolous.
- Licenses. Before you set up as a med-spa, there are licenses and certifications you need to obtain. These can change from country to country and state to state. In California, for instance, you require an establishment license for the premises as well as each of your practitioners having their own licenses to deliver the services for which you’ve hired them. In Texas, aestheticians can only practice in licensed facilities. Usually, you can only get these licenses if you comply with square footage, restroom, and sanitation requirements.
- Ideal location. The need for appropriate square footage brings us to the need for a great location. You technically can open a med spa anywhere you like, even in the center of the city, but part of the spa ethos is to establish calm and retreat from all the hustle and bustle of the world. That’s going to mean an out-of-town location, ideally where guests can connect with nature.
- Partnerships & sponsorship. This is about more than money, though that’s an important part of the game plan. Partnerships and sponsorship allow you to plug into greater networks that can help you run your med-spa at a much higher cost efficiency and can help you get the word out about your services much more effectively.
- Marketing and sales plan. Speaking of getting the word out – what’s your plan? Glossy magazine ads? Podcasting? A fancy website with booking facilities? Outsource to a marketing agency? Know what you want to do, and how much you want to spend, on generating business regularly.
- Protocol handbook. Nothing should go wrong if you hire medical professionals. But just to ensure that everyone understands the same procedures and protocols, you’re going to need to establish a protocol handbook, and not only distribute it to all staff but ensure they’ve read it. That allows you to not only be sure people are doing their jobs correctly, as you want them to, but also to indemnify the business against rogue individual practitioners.
A Business Plan – What Do You Do and Where Do You See It Going?
Starting up any type of medical spa is a lot of hard work. As you’ve seen, the planning, the certification, the hiring, the budgeting, and the acquisition work are enormous before you even open the doors.
You’re going to need a plan for how to turn this from a lot of expenditure into a thriving med spa.
How Do You Build Your Business Plan?
First – know your market. Get to know what’s being offered by other med spas in your area, because they will be your competition. Get to understand the people who use your competitors. Learn what they like, learn what they don’t like, and tailor your offering to maximize their enjoyment of the med-spa experience.
Once you know what everyone else does, who likes it, and who doesn’t, identify your USP or Unique Selling Point. What can you offer that no one else can perform, or offer that local med-spa user want? Knowing that will help you with your sales and marketing strategy.
Getting that strategy in place lets you choose the marketing media where your potential guests get their infotainment content, so you can be in front of their eyes as somewhere new to try. Read more on the subject of creating a business plan here.
Hiring the right staff
You can do all this, and still fail in the med-spa business if you do not hire the right staff.
The staff you hire not only have to be able to do the job – which in terms of med-spas means having both appropriate medical qualifications and a personable way with your guests. They also need to be ambassadors for your vision, your brand, and the work they do. They need to believe in the value of what they do, and of what they bring to the business.
This means you have to both inspire them with your vision and reward them for being part of the team that holds your vision in their hands daily.
Hiring the people who can make a success of your med-spa vision is not going to be cheap. You shouldn’t want it to be cheap if you’re aiming to deliver professional treatments. But you should be able to demand high-quality work, calmness in the event of unforeseen circumstances, and a warm and friendly demeanor so that guests feel confident, cared for, and that they’re in the best of hands. Once you have qualified staff in place, it should free you up to run your med-spa business.
Treatments to offer
The treatments you offer at a med-spa will determine both why people come to you, and how often they come back. There are significant differences in a med spa’s treatment list to those offered at a conventional wellness spa.
The list of treatments at a med spa should be a perfect blend of medical treatments and traditional spa treatments. You may want to cover the basics of traditional spa treatments, like manicures, pedicures, facials, massages, and probably nail work. But to set yourself apart as a medical spa, you should look to offer at least most of the following:
- Wrinkle correction
- Medical peels
- Hair removal
- Body sculpting
- Natural dermal fillers
- Cosmetic tattooing
The equipment you’ll need
Without the tools to do the job, your medically qualified staff are mostly going to be sitting around doing nothing. For the most part, every different treatment at a med-spa needs a different set of equipment to work.
On the market, there are numerous vendors that provide precisely the equipment needed to equip your medical spa. Finding the right supplier with fair pricing is essential to achieving success in your business; consequently, it is beneficial to form connections and partnerships with trustworthy sponsors who can assist you.
Among the equipment you’ll need is:
- Spa massage & facial tables
- Facial steamers and combos
- Carts and Trolleys
- Multifunctional units
- Ultraviolet sterile cab
- Microdermabrasion machines
- Magnifying lamps
- Digital imaging
- Beauty technician stools
- Intense pulse light and laser
You’re unlikely to find all this with a single supplier, and getting the best deals as a new start-up may take some intense negotiation.
Legal requirements you have to meet
It shouldn’t need to be stated specifically, but you need to obey the laws governing the operation of a med spa. It’s on you, as the business owner, to know which laws those are and to establish that both you and your staff, are following all the necessary rules.
If you’re unsure about the legal requirements incumbent on a med spa, you need to get sure before you start building the business. It’s also probably a good idea to at least have contact with a law firm whose expertise you can rely on to make sure you operate within the set guidelines, but also within the codes and license requirements you need to meet to keep your business running legally. A quick run-down of the legal necessities to name a few include:
- Qualified medical professionals
- Licenses for all your employees
- Expert supervisors
- Space requirements
- Emergency medical equipment
If you can do all this, hire the best staff, keep them happy, manage your marketing, and keep people coming through the doors as repeat guests, and you can do it all without going stark raving mad, then you too can own and run a successful med-spa, offering both medical and pampering treatments to anyone who wants them and can afford your expertise.