Richard Branson is undeniably one of the world’s most successful business owners, a stylish entrepreneur with creative flair and an immense and unwavering passion for his business, his family and his employees. When asked to provide successful business tips, his responses can be varied and many. But one that has always stuck with me is his take on employees. Writes Vanessa Main.

According to Branson, the philosophy at Virgin is pretty simple: “Train people well enough that they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

It is a champion approach for a champion company. If only all businesses adopted this philosophy the working world would be a happier place, but alas this is not the case. The global wellness industry is now estimated to be worth a staggering US$3.4 trillion dollars which, put into perspective, makes the wellness industry almost three times larger than the global pharmaceutical industry.

Quite mind-blowing really. More specifically, the global spa industry cluster comprises $94 billion of this, which includes everything from spa and salon revenues to capital investment, media, associations, consulting and education. As an industry sector, globally we have been severely short-changed when it comes to advanced training. This is especially in relation to career development and management opportunities, sales and marketing, people management and commercial business solutions.

Never has this been as evident as now with the most recent research indicating that spa education contributed just $0.8 billion of the total industry sector’s $94 billion dollars.

Looked at in another way, education represents less than one percent of the global spa sector in terms of revenue that can only indicate two things:

  • The education solutions do not currently exist in the market; or
  • They exist but businesses are choosing not to invest in ongoing staff development. My personal opinion is that it is a combination of both.

The real training gaps exist at multiple levels of industry and in many ways I believe that this distinct lack of training and development has directly stunted the commercial growth and business potential for a significant amount of operators across the Pacific.

Historically, the responsibility for advanced training has either fallen back to the product supply companies or the business owner – often a combination of the two. If I take my own situation and use this as an example, I started in this industry 20 years ago when I was 18. I was eager to learn, committed to the process and excited about my future and what lay ahead for me. I was studying for a science degree at university during the day and at night studied to be a massage therapist. My first real spa job was at the amazing Hayman Island where I had no choice but to learn, and learn fast. I was in my first management role by the time I was 22 and it really was down to that old adage of “sink or swim”.

In the past 20 years I have learned so much and continue to learn every single day but in that entire time there has only been two opportunities to participate in industry- specific training that was relevant and not delivered by a product company.

Part of the reason that I am so passionate about training and education is that I want to provide the future players in this industry the opportunities that were not there for me; the opportunities I would have embraced and appreciated beyond measure. We are a unique industry and it can be more than challenging trying to navigate those waters on your own.

As a result, I like to speak with many and varied people within the industry to better understand from their perspective where the current challenges exist and to identify opportunities to close these out. I have written a series of articles for SPA+CLINIC on the various, glaring training and opportunity gaps – for new graduates, making the leap from therapist to manager, and upskilling for business owners, operators and managers.

My observations and comments are the culmination of a series of industry focus groups that I carried out and also from participants in my business, The Loft Studio’s training courses in 2014. I hope you find them informative and useful to your business or employment opportunities. The Loft Studio also runs MasterClasses that offer a variety of educational courses to deliver relevant and tangible content to various levels of industry.

Vanessa MainIndustry veteran Vanessa Main returned home in 2013 after many successful years managing and consulting to leading spas around the world, notably in Asia Pacific, Australia and the Middle East. She returned with a mission to close the multiple training and development gaps at all levels of the industry here and across the Pacific. Key to her focus has been to ensure that spas deliver a solid ROI for investors and operators, which she is doing with the business she started in 2014, The Loft Studio, a boutique consultancy service specialising in spa, beauty and wellness brand development, education and commercial solutions.

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