Santa Barbara Dream Team
by Nelson Lane

For many spa directors in cities where resorts are king, a purveying feeling among them is one of seclusion. While there are still many who are part of a larger network
of sister properties, those who aren’t lack a soundboard of fellow spa directors who can identify with the ups and downs of their job.

Earlier this year in the January/February issue of Pulse, the featured article focused on strategic partnerships. Author Jan Winter wrote, “When businesses share common interests, combining energies can yield greater results than either entity could achieve alone. Each can discover new markets, new uses for products and greater customer insight, as well as improved marketing results.”

A few thoughtful spa directors in Santa Barbara, california, have taken these words to heart and formed a regional spa group—aptly dubbed “The Santa Barbara Dream Team”— that has developed an incredible bond from over a year of quarterly meetings. The group gathers at one of the members’ properties to eat, drink, laugh and sometimes engage in one of the property’s treatments. most important, however, is their honest and constructive discussion of business trends, challenges and ideas.

Kate morrison, Spa director of Ojai Valley inn & Spa, is the most vocal member of the Santa Barbara Dream team. “The greatest benefit for me personally,” says Kate, “has been to have the chance to speak with knowledgeable, like-minded wellness professionals who can truly relate to the challenges, demands and rewards of being a spa director. At my property, I often feel somewhat isolated within the resort—like I’m running an independent business within a larger business. Since the Ojai Valley Inn does not have any sister spa locations, it’s been important for me to develop relationships with other spa directors who I can look to for advice, connection or to simply share ideas. The resource of our Santa Barbara spa group has been a great support over the past year.”

The Ritz-Carlton Bacara’s Damien Craft has found a much-needed reservoir of substantial professional relationships in his involvement with the Santa Barbara spa group. For him as a spa director at a major resort, the opportunity to speak to spa ears and receive specific feedback is invaluable.

“The old saying that iron sharpens iron applies to this group,” says Damien. “It is important to have good relationships within your spa community. When you don’t have
relationships with others it can be difficult to gather information that may help your business in times of need. At the end of the day, we are all in the business of helping others. Our
meetings are very informal—no specific numbers are discussed—but we do share challenges and exchange ideas on how to improve all of our operations. I find them to be very helpful in connecting with like-minded professionals and always take away a few great ideas that may not have come to mind if I operated alone.”

In addition to the benefits of such a networking group, a common question received by members of the group is related to competition. To Kate, the question of competition being an issue comes down to a matter of choice.

“I suppose we could look at each other as competitors,” admits Kate, “but rather, we choose to perceive each other as comrades. i have a tremendous respect for the creativity and business savvy that each of the members brings to our community, and I think their collective talent has given me a healthy boost of inspiration to make sure I am staying relevant and innovative in my own business.”

A similar viewpoint is held by group member Jaana Roth, spa director at Four Seasons Santa Barbara. Not only does the Dream Team not identify one another as competitors, but they rely upon one another for support when they need a helping hand.

“It is nice to have a group of spa professionals to reach out to who speak the same lingo,” says Jaana. “Our meetings have given me a feeling of belonging to the Santa Barbara spa family and I know I can contact the other spa directors with any questions I might have. Once when we were sold out here at Four Seasons, I sent the overflow treatments to another spa since we could not accommodate the group.”

For these three Santa Barbara spa directors, the Dream Team has been a unique blessing that pinpoints different needs in each of their professional lives. Strategic partnerships are not only possible, but they are attainable and incredibly beneficial for those who choose to allow fellow professionals to be the wind beneath their wings.

If you feel isolated within your profession, you’re not alone. Make the choice to look around and see what other professionals are just down the road, who likely feel the same way you do. Reach out to them today and start your own Dream Team.