How to open a spa: Part 3 – Critical path planning


This week, we are offering additional tips that will help you to open your spa from start to finish. Once the concept, feasibility and spatial distribution (including client flow) have been completed, we can start to plan the project in more detail. The best way of doing this is by bringing into action the Critical Path Method (CPM). In the next lines, we will take a look at this valuable project management tool and the series of activities you need to include during the pre-opening countdown of your future spa.


Critical Path Method (CPM)

Although CPM was originally conceived back in the 1950s as a tool to manage plant maintenance projects, this method is widely used today as a critical component of project management in all kinds of fields, including the spa industry.

Critical path is the group of sequential, practical actions one needs to take in order to set up a project from beginning to end. Technically speaking, the CPM is an algorithm that uses a series of mathematical calculations aimed at scheduling the activities and tasks of the project. Implementation of the CPM provides the longest sequence of activities that a project needs in order to be completed. In other words, it helps establish the due date of a project.


CPM in spas

The rationale behind the CPM is based on a model that includes a list of all the activities one needs to implement in order to develop their project, the duration of each single activity and the dependencies between the different activities. By doing this, the CPM for a project will calculate the longest path of planned activities identifying the critical activities and those with a ‘total float,’ which means those activities that can be delayed without affecting the estimated time to complete the whole project.

If we extrapolate this technique to a project for a new spa, the list of all activities needed in order to open your spa can be divided into the following main groups:

  • Design & Construction
  • Financials
  • Sales and marketing
  • Treatment and service development
  • FF&E and OS&E lists
  • Linen & uniforms
  • Human resources
  • Pre-opening countdown and training
  • Operations

Under each group of activities, you can then list the critical activities under each group and their dependence on other activities. For example, you will need to have finalized your treatment and service menu before you can send any collateral to print. And any delay in your pricing strategy or selection of product house partners, will affect your treatment and service menu, which in turn will affect the sales and marketing of your spa.

By using the CPM in the opening of your spa, you will have a clearer idea of all activities that need to be done, their interdependence, a realistic timeframe for the completion of each activity and who is responsible for each activity. This allows for more transparency in the project and ensures that all parties involved are working on the same roadmap and have a clear understanding of the relevant milestones during each stage of the project.


Other things to consider…

Once you are only a couple of months away from opening, you will be moving towards the pre-opening countdown phase, which is essentially the moment when the operations team comes on board and starts preparing the spa for opening. This is one of the critical phases and requires full time coordination on site. Some things to consider during this phase include the following:

  • The expected start date of the spa manager. Depending on the size of the spa, the spa manager should be on board about at least 4 to 6 months before the spa opens
  • Coordination of the arrival of FF&E and small operating items
  • Recruitment of the rest of the team
  • Planning of the pre-opening training
  • Writing of SOPs (standard operating procedures)
  • Working on snag list items with the construction team before construction handover of the facility
  • Handover and deep cleaning of spa
  • Spa dress up
  • Client rehearsals and spa soft-opening
  • Organising of familiarization trips and sales visits
  • Launch date


Effective project management

A well-elaborated CPM will greatly help you to effectively project manage your spa opening. It will give you (and all those involved in the opening of your spa) both a visual representation of the different project activities and a clear understanding about the timing required by each task and the whole project itself. It will help you be smarter in the opening of your spa and avoid unnecessary expenses and delays in opening.

By Sonal

Sonal Uberoi creates and delivers smarter spas around the world. Spas and hotel groups hire Sonal to help them design, set up and manage their wellness businesses. Her finance background and worldwide operations experience in the spa, wellness and hospitality sectors make Sonal the go-to expert for business optimisation solutions. Connect with Sonal on LinkedIn