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Harnessing the Power of Change—SpaFinder’s Red Mountain Event Recap


By Milana Knowles


This past October, SpaFinder held its ninth annual educational event at Red Mountain Spa, with the theme of harnessing the power of change.


The event brought together spa industry leaders, business owners, and spa-goers from all over the United States and Canada. When I first thought about the theme for this year’s conference, I couldn’t help but think of the effects this past year had on all of us. CHANGE seemed to be the common thread in all of our lives—in business and in attitude.


It seemed that those who most successfully overcame the challenges of change were the ones who most readily embraced it and found ways to use it—to reinvent, renew, and realign both their lives and careers. I set out to gather a group of people who would speak about change from different perspectives and share their views on how to capture and use change to power their business and reinvent their personal lives.


The event’s keynote speaker this year was famed broadcast journalist Joan Lunden. Joan delivered a powerful and inspiring message on change and transition. Although Joan left ABC’s Good Morning America more than 13 years ago, her star power has not diminished.


She started her speech with a quote that resonated with all the listeners: “A bend in the road is not the end of the road, as long as you remember to turn.” How true. Who better to speak on change and the opportunity it brings than Joan? She spoke about the challenges she faced at Good Morning America and her life after the show with her husband and seven children. (That’s right—seven children, including two sets of twins under the age of 7!)


Joan’s no-nonsense life and success strategies resonated with the audience, as she shared some of the rules she has applied to her career and life in general. Here are just a few that stuck with me:


  • Embrace change. Don’t be paralyzed by fear of the unknown 
  • Always say YES, and then figure out later how you are going to do it
  • Remove failure as an option
  • The power of a positive attitude and wearing a smile—a simple secret to success
  • The most important opinion is the one you have of yourself
  • Discover your joy and passion and pursue it
  • Opportunities are all around us and are seldom labeled as such
  • Count your blessings
  • It is never trespassing when you cross your own boundaries


Life coach, motivational speaker, and recovering attorney Cindy Clemons shared with the SpaFinder group some of the strategies from her book, Life is a Do-over, that may help us lead a more productive life:


  • De-clutter. While this is not a new concept, Cindy offered an interesting approach and suggested that one needs not do it all at once, but dedicate some time daily (10 minutes) to organizing and de-cluttering


  • Take a few minutes a day to take three deep breaths (scientifically proved to release stress) and quieting your mind on a daily basis 


  • Get rid of energy vampires, people in your life who are not interested in you but take a lot of your time and energy


Sharing her knowledge of social as well as old-fashioned networking was Spa Buzz president Kristi Konieczny. Kristi talked about the benefits and pitfalls of social networking and pointed out how important it is today to connect with new people, share information, and add to professional development by keeping in touch with peers and consumers. Kristy also touched upon potential pitfalls of networking such as:


  • Sticking only with people you already know
  • Talking too much
  • Trying to “sell”
  • Breaking into personal conversation, not related to business
  • Not following up fast enough


Dan Chandre, VP of Operations at SpaBooker, shared with attendees an impressive presentation on the benefits and challenges of membership programs in spas. There was not a spa operator in the room who was not intrigued with the possibility of creating their own membership program and opening a path for a new revenue-generating alternative.


Providing an intriguing presentation was Rhana Pytell, president of the Green Spa Network and owner of Gaia Spa in San Diego. Rhana’s presentation focused on reconnecting with your passion and engaging with one’s to-do list in a spiritual way. Her latest project includes the creation of the inner bagua and finding “being” in all of our “doing.” We all engaged in the exercise of finding out what is on our to-do list and how we can expand or contract Chi (good and bad energy) in the key areas, or “harvests,” of our life.


Rhana emphasized the importance of being grateful and giving back to our community and taking care of the planet. Her involvement in and profound knowledge of green practices are inspiring, and we were made to understand the connection with the planet we live in and the importance of implementing practices to protect it.


To learn about yield management and the subject of revenue, we turned to Kimberly Matheson Shedrick, president of Natural Resources Spa Consulting. We are all aware of the seismic shifts and changes in the marketplace, and Kimberly offered some advice on how to adjust and adapt to the changes. She spoke about the importance of retail sales, group sales, and targeting new markets—including the bridal market—and emphasized the value of the local community and reaching out to the local consumers.


Kim also discussed expanding the customer base by developing special offers for men, minorities, and teenagers, and even children’s programs for some spas. She encouraged the spa owners to create value, to customize and personalize service. It is crucial to be creative with pricing and promote added value over straight discounting.  


For some PR advice, we brought in Christine King, president of TMG International. With a roster of recognizable and distinguished clients, Christine was an ideal person to speak about public relations: why we need PR, what is good PR, and how to find a perfect PR company for our business. 


Christine not only is a wealth of useful tips and advice, she also embodies the qualities we all look for in a PR person. She is confident, tenacious, and knowledgeable about the industry. Christine strongly encouraged spa owners to maximize the results from events by publicizing them and leveraging the spa’s brand, the only way to invest resources wisely.


When it comes to getting the most out of a PR company, she advised owners to find that unique quality of their product that sets them apart and engage the PR company to help them define it and therefore set the brand apart from the competition.


For more information and video recordings of some of these presentations, check out our partner pages starting in January.


Share with us your stories about change, the challenges it brought, and your stories of success in harnessing its power. Email them to


My best wishes for your journey through change,


Milana Knowles

VP, Spa Sales and Marketing

SpaFinder, inc.


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The Marketing Power of Gratitude


It’s no secret that the current economic climate is affecting people’s wallets and attitudes.  Especially in competitive and stressful times like these, it’s important to differentiate your company from others in the spa world. Who knew that the key to success is as simple as saying two words? Gratitude has become a new component in marketing, an easy (and free) way to reward those who deserve it and turn those negative attitudes into smiles. So say, “Thank you!” and reap the benefits.


It’s always important to begin by thanking your staff members, those who work hard to make your spa as successful as it is. It may not be feasible to give workers a raise, so start by creating a positive work environment. Provide a dessert platter every Friday, add an extra vacation day every year, or create a “worker-of-the-month” program with rewards for those who are putting in 105 percent. By simply thanking everyone, including the cleaning crew, the receptionists, the massage therapists, and the managers, you will have happy workers. Happy workers = happy spa = happy clients!


Saying, “Thank you,” to your customers is just as, if not more, important. A simple “thank you for returning my call,” “thank you for holding,” or “thank you for choosing us” can be a real drive for your clients to choose you over your competitors! Although times are tough, it’s important to downplay the doom and consistently display a positive attitude.


Your appreciation for a client’s business can sometimes be expressed more loudly through actions. Rewarding loyalty shows that each client is more than just a number or a $100 dollar bill. Create a frequent spa patron program (e.g., when you spend $100, you get a free manicure), or have the manager go up to a client when leaving and ask about their experience. (This is also a good way to get feedback on your services.) Little gestures like these are easy and inexpensive to implement but will leave a lasting and enormous impression.


In May, Willow Stream and Fairmont Spas launched their “Spa It Forward” Gratitude Envelopes initiative. At the end of every treatment, spa guests are presented with a sealed Gratitude Envelope, which the guest gives to someone they are grateful to have in their life. The next time the recipient goes to a Willow Stream or Fairmont Spa, they open the envelope and reap the benefits of the deal inside. This is just one example of how gratitude marketing can be successful and how so few words can lead to so many smiles and returning, happy customers.

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