Choosing the right Management Software

As I write this article I am working on the assumption that I do not have to convince you that using a software management system is more beneficial than using a manual system. Anyone intent on driving their business forward successfully into the future will realise the need for information systems in order to achieve this.

Make sure that your system is industry specific

When choosing a software management system for your business you need to realise that your industry is very different from other industries.

Other industries will have their own specific requirements from the software management systems. For example, a restaurant system needs to be centred on managing tables and be a robust and fast enough to endure multiple waitrons under high pressure abusing it day and night.

A supermarket on the other hand will rely on speed and simplicity as being the main requirement (as well as stability) so that customers can pay for high quantities (trolley loads) of items as quickly as possible. Therefore, a high tech barcode scanner and built in credit card processing are some of the requirements needed by supermarkets.

When it comes to the wellness industry which includes beauty salons, nail salons, day spas, hotel spas (amongst other types of spas) and even will cross over in to the hair industry and medical aesthetics there are businesses requirements and processes that are common to all. These include things like detailed Client Record keeping, Appointment Scheduling, the Sale of Retail and Services, Gift Vouchers, Loyalty Schemes, Commission Calculations, Stock Control for both Retail and Professional Stock and Communication with clients via Email and SMS.

If you take the flow of information in a salon or spa environment it will go something like this. A client calls in to make an appointment. If not already on the system a new client record will be created. Thereafter the appointment will be created for the relevant service and staff member. Once the client comes in and has completed their service they will proceed to “checkout” and possibly add a Retail item to the sale. Once the sale is completed the information will appear on a day-end cash up so that you can account for all transactions that took place and ensure that all corresponding money is in the til. Stock levels will have been adjusted throughout the day as stock was sold. At the end of the period you will use all of the daily transactions to calculate staff service and retail commission as well as generate reports to see how well you have performed. You will also send out communication to your clients to remind them of appointments, inform them of news as well as promotions.

When the client returns for their next visit the cycle begins all over again but now you have a history of the client and are able to provide them with a more personalised level of service as a result of tracking all their previous visit’s information.

There are many other processes that could be mentioned but this process makes up the core of what is common amongst salons and spa’s. With all of this in mind it is very obvious why accounting systems, retail systems and restaurant systems are not applicable when running a salon or spa.

Apart from the different types of salons and spas already mentioned it’s also worth highlighting that a beauty salon could be run from home salon or an exclusive shopping centre. It could even be on a ship, in an airport or be mobile. It could be a standalone branch or belong to a group (or franchise).  The common elements amongst all of these include the fact that there are still clients booking treatments with therapists as well as purchasing retail items and gift vouchers.

Differences within the salon and spa environments

Now that we have defined what is common amongst salons and spas let’s take a look at what are some of the differences.

Hotel Spas vs Day Spas

If you consider Hotel Spa’s versus Day Spa’s a big difference is the nature of the clients. In a hotel spa you may find yourself primarily servicing guests of the hotel who in many instances will never return or if they do it will only be once or twice a year. At a day spa your clients will be primarily be made up of local residents who will visit regularly throughout the year.

A system requirement for the hotel spa industry is an interface between the spa software and the hotel software. The purpose of this is so that the hotel can offer their guests a seamless experience as if the hotel and spa are one and so that the guest can charge their spa treatment to their room.

If there is no interface between the spa and hotel software then either after each sale or at various times throughout the day the spa receptionist will need to take all the signed room charge invoices to the hotel reception so that they can add them to the guests hotel bill.

If the guest has already checked out by the time the spa receptionist arrives at the hotel reception with the guest’s bill then it is much more difficult to obtain payment for the spa treatment, as the guest is already gone. A real-time posting to the hotel system will mean that this will never happen.

On top of all of this the spa will need to be able to reconcile accounts with the hotel for all the guest room charges from the spa so that they can get their money from the hotel.

Beauty Salons vs Spas

A difference worth highlighting between beauty salons and day/hotel spas is the need to monitor which rooms are being booked off. You may find some of the bigger beauty salons booking off treatment rooms as well as staff but generally it is spas that do it due to the size difference.

This means that when you book an appointment you not only need to determine which qualified staff member is going to do the treatment but also if there is a room available to do the treatment in. As the size of the salon or spa gets bigger so the need for this functionality increases.

Beauty Salons and Spas vs Hair Salons

Functionality common to beauty salons and spa’s which is not as common in a hair salon includes packages, courses and stock recipes.


Packages are made up of multiple treatments and/or products, which are bundled together at a discounted rate. Some of the difficulties that arise in managing a package include how to set up one package with one price but made up of multiple different types of items, which each need to be tracked individually and for which different staff will earn commission on each of the items.


Courses, unlike Packages, are made up of the same item but multiple instances of it, which are redeemed over a period of time. For example a client may purchase a course of 10 massages, slimming or sunbed sessions. When the client pays for these the sessions that make up the course need to be linked to the clients record and counted down each time they redeem one of the sessions. In a similar way to Packages each of the treatments within the course need to be tracked individually in order for stock levels (recipes) to be adjusted. In additiona staff members need to earn commission on redemption of each of the individual sessions.

Stock Recipes

Stock Recipes are the professional stock items that are deducted every time a treatment is done. For example, a Facial will require the use of various quantities of Cleanser, Toner, Moisturiser and other consumables. The stock levels for each of the recipe items must be reduced (in millilitres) every time the respective treatment is performed. In turn the cost per millilitre must be worked out for the recipe so that you can determine the Gross Profit of a particular treatment.

In a hair salon the use of professional stock is different. For example, if a client comes in to get their hair coloured the stylist will use a tailor-made recipe for the client, which may differ the next time the client returns if they desire something different. Therefore stock control per millilitre in a hair salon is best controlled as it is dispensed to stylists. Some salons have staff employed for the sole purpose of dispensing and managing stock as stylists require it throughout the day.

Product Manufacturers

I would like to make special mention of Product manufacturers as they have a particularly unique requirement of converting one type of product (raw materials) into another product.

Manufacturers will have a “Bill of Materials” focus that is similar to the stock recipes that that get used when a treatment like a facial is performed in a salon or spa. However, the difference will be that the bill of materials usage will take place at the time of producing another product so that it can either be used as part of another manufacturing process or can be sold on to a wholesaler, retailer or consumer.

The systems requirement for the manufacturer will be that they can purchase raw materials in bulk, use portions of these raw materials to manufacture an entirely new product and in the process have the stock levels adjusted appropriately. This will also determine the cost of the new product based on what is used.

The system used to achieve this should allow you to configure the product that you wish to output and define exactly which raw materials will go into this end product and the quantities of each that will be used. The process should be simple enough to automate simply by stating how many units you are manufacturing. The pre-defined quantities of raw materials should be deducted accordingly and the quantity on hand of the new end product should be increased accordingly.

If stock is then moved to another location for a different purpose, i.e. further processing or resale to third parties then a multi-location or warehousing feature should be present to transfer the stock being one location and another so that effective stock control is maintained throughout  the process. The process of selling the stock on to a third party is relatively simple in that is will just be a matter of invoicing out the items that you sell and the stock levels will adjust accordingly.

When obtaining stock valuations the more detail you system can give you the better, i.e. raw materials vs completed items etc.

Re-inventing the wheel

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to design a system that does exactly what you want it do? The question is: “Do you really know what you want?” Or put another way “Do you really know what you need?”

Imagine you had some spare cash floating around and you decide to get a motor car custom built for yourself. It will be a very exciting prospect because you can ask for exactly what you want. But what do you really know about building a car?

You won’t be able to afford to pay one of the big car manufactures to build it for you so you find someone to perhaps do it in their spare time or as a bit of a favour. Because they are not mass producing it the cost will be higher because they cannot make their money back from volume sales.

Once you have the car you start using it and realize that you didn’t think of a particular feature that you want and go back to the builder and ask for him to add it. This happens more than once and each time it is costing you and becomes a bit of an aggravation to the builder, especially as you start to complain about not getting what you want when you want it and also having to pay each time.

Over time you have less and less contact with the builder until you have no contact anymore. Your car develops more and more problems until you give in and decide to go back to a tried and tested manufacturer who offers after sales service and can be held accountable. You have wasted a lot of your money and your time and did not end up getting exactly what you wanted (which seemed to change over time).

Now I know that my example is not a perfect one and is a little exaggerated but I have seen this scenario with software over and over. The world of software is an ever changing environment and what is new today is old tomorrow. One man’s bug is another man’s feature. Software needs to be designed properly, maintained over time and must generate sustainable revenue for its originators else they will disappear and you will be left with a product that you will eventually discard.

Thus getting a friend or family member to build you a software product (no matter how talented they are or who they work for) will not work unless they can earn a living from it.

Beyond the features

Therefore since we have laid the foundation that a software management system is essential and that a custom built piece of software is not the way to go how do you go about choosing from the available industry specific systems that exist.

Make sure the software is easy to use

Complicated software is frustrating for salon and spa staff, increases training costs and reduces the quality of information produced. Easy systems ensure correct usage and thus a higher quality output.

Make sure the system is flexible and comprehensive

Systems that are not flexible or comprehensive will require that you supplement your processes either with other pieces of software or manual systems, which defeat the objective entirely. A good system will allow you to work in more ways than one as many salons have different management styles and will require very little importing and exporting between other systems and the duplicating of processes.

Make sure it is scalable

Choose a system that can grow as your business grows. For example, if you start off as a one-person salon and end up growing your business you do not want to have to start over with a new system but rather just add to your existing system as you and your needs change. A system that caters from small and large salons and spas as well as groups is ideal as you know that you can continue investing in it without fear of outgrowing it.

Also choose a system that meets your budget, where the benefits outweigh the cost. A modular system allows for this as it means you only purchase the functionality you require.

Beyond the software

Software implementation is a journey and is one that should not be taken alone and therefore requires a close business partnership between you and your software provider. Your software provider should be more than just the guys who fix your computers when you have a problem, rather they should be the people who help you implement your business strategies and therefore should be familiar with particular business processes.