KRISTINE HUFFMAN for Pulse: You became an esthetician later in life. How did you get there?
LISA HART: When I was in college, I had the opportunity to be a White House intern and was fortunate enough to serve both President Ronald Reagan and Vice President George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara. Then, when “H.W.” became President, I coordinated their travel and accompanied them all around the world. I’ve been to almost all 50 states—just missing Alaska, which I hope to visit someday! Then, I had a family and when my children started high school, I thought, Okay, now I can get a job—but, I couldn’t find one. I felt as if I were subject to age discrimination in my early 50s. So when I was trying to figure out what to do next, my sister suggested I look into skincare, because it’s something there’s a need for and she felt I’d be really good at it. And funny enough, I found that my age benefits me in this career: Some women prefer someone older to explain to them their aging skin issues because they can more easily relate.
KRISTINE HUFFMAN for Pulse: How did you find yourself in the resort world?
DAVID CHESWORTH: My interest in fitness started in my junior year of high school. I asked for a weight set for Christmas and I ended up getting hooked on working out. At that same time, my dad had a rotator cuff injury and after surgery went through physical therapy. I discovered a passion for working out, and I saw a real-world application to help people.
Then, with my degree in exercise science, we had to do two internships. First, I got to experience work in a strength and conditioning gym at Bowling Green. For my second internship I discovered Hilton Head Health and I fell in love with wellness tourism.
I’ve been here now for 10 years. I started out leading a variety of classes: fitness classes, personalized stretching, recovery sessions, personal training. I got a look at how the marketing department did things, guest services. I’m now in a place where I am bringing in specialists who are truly better than me at certain things to create the programs. But I can always go back and do the things I’ve done before as a fill-in.
Staff recruitment and retention are perennial headaches for spa owners and directors. Spas have the typical hurdle of most service industries—work hours that fall outside of 9 to 5, Monday through Friday—as well as sometimes intense physical demands on practitioners. Anyone observing the industry for more than a few years knows an additional obstacle is tied to spa culture: the itinerant nature of spa specialists, who tend to move frequently not only locally between spas, but even across the country or around the world. Adding to the staffing challenge for employers are the unique requirements of the spa world’s many specialist positions. Each role has its own training and certifications and position responsibilities. And career trajectories vary widely, meaning it could be a big benefit to understand how staffers in different positions may evolve professionally. Recently, former ISPA Board member Kristine Huffman spoke with Karen Rutschmann, who shared wisdom about massage therapists gained from a lifetime in the field.
Kristine Huffman for Pulse: The industry seems to be really struggling with therapist recruitment. Do you experience that too?
CG Funk: We have about a thousand massage programs in the United States today, so we have enough schools. What we don’t have is enough students. I think that’s mainly because we have not marketed and promoted it as a 21st-century career. When people think about massage as a job, folks still think about it as kind of a hippie thing. We’ve done an amazing job in the spa industry of promoting the benefits of our services to consumers. We have more consumers than ever before. And after Covid, it’s grown exponentially. But what we haven’t done is change the mindset what a massage career is. I also believe, as an industry, we are falling short on helping massage therapists create sustainable, long-term careers.
We haven’t approached this thing as a marketing and PR issue. The school I worked with had this ace marketing officer and he created an all-inclusive marketing campaign. We had ads running on radio, latenight television, print and social. We started the first online admissions department. The marketing was so strong that it pushed thousands of students to our campuses on an annual basis. I haven’t seen a strong campaign since then.
KRISTINE HUFFMAN for Pulse: You started out in the industry as a nail technician. How did you decide to take that as a pathway?
KERRI MIGNEAULT: When I graduated from high school, I wasn’t 100 percent sure what I wanted to do for college. I had a friend who was in cosmetology school, and I was her model for her state boards. That introduced me to that world. I didn’t want to go to school for hair, finger waves and perms. So, I opted to go to school for nails.
Pulse: How did your career evolve from there?
KM: When I was in school, my instructor was adamant about having goals. He always said if you don’t have goals, you’re never going to move forward. I got the amazing opportunity to work at the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa & Salon. There, I decided that I was going to take every opportunity that came my way. My answer was always Yes! Next, I was offered an opportunity to work in Miami at The Noble House as part of the opening team.
Looking for new ways to learn more about job candidates during the interview process? ISPA members shared their favorite interview questions in a previous ISPA Snapshot Survey. You are sure to find some thought-provoking conversation starters for your next interview here.
With 250 employees and a fair amount of turnover, Colin MacCrimmon has a lot of jobs to fill and several ways to gather enough information to judge the suitability of a job candidate. When hiring new employees, the human resources manager for Oak Bay Beach Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia, relies primarily on reference checks from previous employers and managers, as well as personal references.
Using a set of standard questions, MacCrimmon probes job candidates and their references for red flags. “It’s important not to be suggestive,” he said. “Follow a template and give people time to talk.” He has found vague answers to specific questions— like why they left a specific job—from either the job candidate or a reference can reveal potential issues in the candidate’s job history that warrant more probing questions.
SPA INDUSTRY LEADERS are often quick to point out all the ways in which their colleagues have supported their growth and played key roles in the success of their careers. Many can even cite a particular individual whose impact is greater than the rest. In some cases, these formative relationships happen by chance, but spa leaders seeking to foster growth in their teams, retain top employees and achieve their spas’ performance goals cannot simply place their trust in serendipity. Formal mentoring programs, though, can take luck out of the equation and help spas reach new heights.
As the world returns to normal after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the spa industry will rebound. Pent-up demand for travel and soothing human touch will bring business back to spas and resource partners, even if consumers are demanding different treatments, clearer hygiene standards and greater transparency than before.
Many people who enter the spa industry see themselves as healers by nature, whether they are working as a practitioner or creating products that are sold in a spa. That strong desire to help and take care of people is often the common thread between spa managers and vendors. When it comes to employees’ mental well-being, however, spa leaders must balance that impulse with a clear understanding of the limits of their role and the ability to recognize when employees may be best served by outside resources.