From laid off workers to dreamers daring to build a world-class luxurious spa
Pattanapong Ranuraksa & Taneth Jiraswakedelok
We usually see three kinds of reactions when people are laid off. Some will cry, some will get angry and want to sue the company, and then there are those who just don’t care because they are always ready for any situation. In this third category, you will find Divana Spa’s co-founders, Pattanapong “Patt” Ranuruksa and Taneth “Tony” Jiraswakedilok, who turned their bad luck into a hundred-million-baht business. According to them, “ Our employment crisis opened doors to many opportunities.”
“When one door closes, another door opens.”
Being part of the cabin crew at Swissair was once viewed by many as a stable job. Unfortunately, just two months after the shocking 9/11 incident Khun Patt and Khun Tony lost their jobs. That turned out to be just the beginning of their hard work to make their dreams come true. While working at Swissair Patt and Tony did more than just work as part of the cabin crew. They also continually explored opportunities and reaped as much experience as possible. Opportunities are just like the air, surrounding us. If we don’t see them written on the wind they just slip through our fingers.
Living in Switzerland, the world’s leader in healthcare and holistic wellness spas, allowed the duo to experience first-class healthcare business models and services. The two friends decided to open not just an ordinary spa, but a premium one taking advantage of their Thai heritage, Thai wisdom, and the Thai penchant for being service-oriented. “One day we will achieve our dream”, said Khun Tony. That was the beginning of the luxurious Divana spa, perfectly combining traditional medicinal science and oriental wisdom with world-class occidental services.
“A formula to tackle challenges -- Because success doesn’t rely on just luck.”
The road to success can be rocky. Their wellness spa business of nineteen years was no exception. Lots of research was required and they had to be well-prepared. Because they never stopped struggling, Divana has overcome obstacles and grown to be what it is today. Khun Tony and Khun Patt took us on a ride in a time machine and told us their story. When they first started, they did not have a lot of money. However, they wanted to create a luxurious spa with full facilities. Given the mismatch between their goal and their budget, they began with a modest four-room high-end spa with just four masseuses. After starting their business, they had just 90,000 baht left for day-to-day operations. The pair had to do everything, from acting as CEO, conducting marketing, doing maid service, taking photos, and even gardening. During the first three months, the number of customers was not enough to generate sufficient cash flow. But despite lacking money, having few customers, exhaustion, and stress, they never gave up on what they really wanted to do, which was taking care of their customers as best they could. They continued to operate the spa from eight o’clock in the morning until as late as one o’clock at night for months. Finally, their strong fighting spirit based on the right principles and standards yielded results. Their operating performance soared around the fourth or fifth month.
“Some may say that we are lucky. But the true reason making us what we are today is hard work. We always ensure that every checklist is fulfilled, and really roll up our sleeves to put our bodies, minds, and brains into what we do. When we felt discouraged, we still believed that we would survive and never gave up.” These beliefs reaffirmed that a “fighting spirit” is an important ingredient for weathering storms and enjoying success.
The power to turn the “Impossible” into the “Possible”
“Do whatever you do with passion and you will always be happy. Because our business is something we chose to do, we never felt exhausted or hopeless,” said Khun Tony, further explaining that when you have a passion, you must also set targets. You must think about the position of your business. Targets will drive away obstacles. Every obstacle will allow you to realize your weaknesses. If you can fix them, those weaknesses will be engines driving your business.
“On the spa opening day, one of their friends told them that their business wouldn’t last long. A normal person would be offended and disheartened. Their friend should have given words of blessing and encouragement on their happy day. However, the comment was well-intended, and made Khun Patt and Khun Tony more careful, and gave them the energy to achieve the target of delivering holistic wellness to everyone and helping make Thailand become a world wellness hub.
“Not only satisfaction, but impression”
Divina always has always adhered to the above principle throughout its nineteen years in business. It has been proven true, as attested by the spa receiving International World Luxury Spa Awards for several years in a row.
In addition, Khun Patt and Khun Tony are always open to any proven concept and experiment with different approaches to see whether they are effective, are able to solve problems, or can be developed further. They never put all their eggs in one basket, instead of trying many models. If anyone's approach is successful, it will provide a valuable lifelong lesson. To balance between expectations and performance, they also adopted King Rama 9’s philosophy for creating sustainable growth.
“Walking together, getting further”
“Let the power of experience and professionalism drive us even further.” After Khun Patt and Khun Tony became a part of SCB SME, their already lucrative business grew exponentially by 300% within 18 months. “We have been offered useful tips by business experts telling us how to progress, when to be careful, how many resources are needed, and when to strike.” Khun Tony told us about their record high growth when working with SCB. In the past, they may have relied on their instinct, but now they are more professional. SCB has helped them analyze their business, advising them about techniques to make it even better.
SCB also provides financial support for opening branches, boosting liquidity, adopting a digital platform to enhance cash management, and offering advice and assistance for contacting government agencies, such as the Food and Drug Administration when seeking licenses. Working with SCB allows them to experiment with new techniques and develop work systems which may have been overlooked, such as finance and accounting, making back-office operations more efficient. “SCB has delivered a platform to success as a short cut to stable growth.”
Apart from business growth, Divana’s co-founders have also enjoyed sharing their knowledge and experience with other business owners through the “SCB The Dots” project. “Being SCB mentors is an experience you cannot buy or get anywhere else. It is true happiness every day.” Khun Patt proudly explained that “Whoever gives, gets in return, whether resources, connections, and even stronger business.”
Khun Tony advises younger entrepreneurs to, “Make your imagination clear, and go to your extreme, stay with the present, think big, and experiment little-by-little before expanding to your fullest strength.”
Both Khun Patt and Khun Tony often advise younger business owners to clearly determine their targets, and how to achieve those targets. Those in business should ask themselves this same question every day. They must dare to dream big. When they get their answers, they can always reach out to SCB for resources and other connections, like Patt and Tony and other successful business owners who can offer experience and be their mentors. Everyone is ready to help drive your business or help startups become successful together.
In today’s world full of disruption, supporting one another and growing together is the way to survive, prosper, and become sustainable.
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