Monday, April 21, 2014

Relationships



"Sometimes, the reason some things get done is because there's a relationship there."


This is something a friend of mine recently said in a discussion we were having about some big changes coming to the company she works for. The company just announced they are moving hundreds of jobs from their current location to another city 80 miles away. She was speculating on how things will change in their day-to-day operations when those jobs are not only in a new city, but are filled with people her department has never met. Starting over with no background, new people, to try and pick up where they left off with coworkers with a history of working together, a team... because of that relationship.

Her comment made me realize that all businesses are really about relationships. While it might seem obvious to some that a massage business is about building relationships with our clients, it actually wasn't that obvious to me when I was first starting out. I can remember being so stuck in a scarcity mindset and struggling on how to get clients that day that I didn't think much past that appointment and creating a long-term relationship with that client. I remember feeling scared to ask clients to schedule their next appointment because I didn't want to seem "pushy".

Now when I look at my massage practice and that some of my clients have been with me since the beginning, it's amazing. 15 years working with these people's tissues. Marriages, divorces, births, deaths... relationships. We've gone through all of these things together in our working relationship of massage therapist and client.

Clearly, there's a big difference between a working relationship in a corporate setting and the relationship that goes on between massage therapists and their clients. "Things get done" might seem a bit off topic... but the important take away from that is "there's a relationship there". Reaching out to clients in between their appointments or if you haven't seen them in a while, asking after their session when they would like to schedule their next appointment, remembering important dates or life events by keeping organized records/notes of your sessions... these things can make a difference in building that trusted relationship with your clients.



Cindy Iwlew is cofounder of Bodywork Buddy Massage Software, a complete online management solution for independent massage therapists that includes online scheduling. She continues to operate her own private massage practice of 15 years, and has been an associate instructor for Ashiatsu DeepFeet Bar Therapy since 2007.  www.BodyworkBuddy.com  




Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Important Changes for Yahoo Users


Last week, Yahoo quietly made a change to their email services that has affected most emails being sent from a third party on behalf of a Yahoo address. (For example: email reminders to your clients from your online scheduler).

Bodywork Buddy immediately emailed our members who use a Yahoo address to notify them of this change. Since this affects all third party services sending emails on your behalf, we wanted to let others in the massage industry know in case this affects you and your massage business.


To quote Yahoo:
Yahoo made a simple change to its DMARC policy from “report” to “reject”. In other words, we requested that all other mail services reject emails claiming to come from a Yahoo user, but not signed by Yahoo.

So what does this mean? If you're using a Yahoo account for your massage business, any emails from a third party online scheduling system will likely bounce and not be delivered. This affects all third party systems sending emails on behalf of your massage business, not just Bodywork Buddy. 

What's the solution? For now, the only real solution is to use a non-Yahoo address. Although there is speculation that this may start to be incorporated by other free email services as well. Your best bet? Use an email address from a private domain.

Here at Bodywork Buddy, we are encouraging our members with Yahoo addresses to change their account to a non-Yahoo address for the time being for clients to receive their reminders still shown as coming "from" their massage therapist. We will keep you in the loop on any changes regarding this issue with Yahoo. 

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact our team. We're here to help!




Sincerely,
Cindy Iwlew


Monday, April 7, 2014

How to Raise Your Rates


Are your rates too low but you're afraid to raise them? Worried you'll lose clients? Fearful you won't be able to compete with the massage chain down the street?

Check out this video with Mareo Forleo and Ramit Sethi on how to raise your prices.  I love the challenge Ramit gives at the end: write out 3-4 sentences of how you add value to your client's life. (Not to be confused with explaining or justifying your price increase!)




I asked on our Facebook page what helpful tips our fellow massage therapists have for raising rates, and Tracy Illchuk suggested advertising an increase a few months beforehand and offering a package bundle (3 massages) at the old price. (Thanks for the tip, Tracy!) I definitely think it's a great idea to let your clients know the increase is coming.

What would be your write-up of the value you add to your client's life?




Cindy Iwlew is co-founder of Bodywork Buddy Massage Software, a complete online management solution for independent massage therapists that includes online scheduling

She continues to operate her own private massage practice of 15 years, and has been an associate instructor for Ashiatsu DeepFeet Bar Therapy since 2007.  www.BodyworkBuddy.com


Monday, March 31, 2014

Our Story & A Gift For You


https://www.facebook.com/NCBTMB

Over the weekend, the NCBTMB Facebook page posted a graphic about National Mom & Pop Business Owners day. It reminded me that while most massage therapist's businesses are "Mom & Pop shops", we are here at Bodywork Buddy, too! So I thought I'd tell you a little more about how Berin and I got started with Bodywork Buddy and why it's a labor of love for us.

I'm not a naturally organized person. I started my massage practice with my very unorganized ways... and it was fine, for a while. (Until I got busy.) And believe me, I really struggled in the beginning.

A lot of my blog posts here are drawn from what I have learned in my own massage business. I experienced for myself what works and what doesn't when trying to build a clientele. Once I did things like offer a unique service and online scheduling, I started to get really busy. I soon realized that it was going to quickly become a big mess if I didn't get organized and have set systems and processes in place. I was using about 4 different programs to run my business at that time. One for online scheduling, one for my website, one for client management, one for bookkeeping... half of those being desktop software that I could only access while at my office.

I know you're wondering...
It's pronounced "Eye-Loo".

Embarrassing confession: I would wait until the end of the year and then go through my whole appointment book and record the income into my bookkeeping system for taxes. (and by bookkeeping "system" I mostly mean paper.) What a mess! I wanted something that would make it easy for me to track my income, and make it effortless to stay on top of it and be organized. (This is why Bodywork Buddy will show you past due appointments that haven't been completed with payment information yet. Bodywork Buddy tells you that it still needs to be done! So you can't forget or wait until the end of the year to stay on top of it... not that you would do that, right? I just know that I would!!)

I wanted to make my life easier with more automated practices for my massage business. And to have all of these services in one easy program, accessible from anywhere with an internet connection.
on the left: my bookkeeper, Oscar.























So while all of this was going on with my massage business, my husband Berin was laid off from his development job. He'd been working remotely for a company in Los Angeles. They were acquired by another company, and brought in a couple of "Bob's" to make big cuts. (By big cuts, I mean pretty much everyone.) The only jobs available for his industry were in California or Texas at the time, and most were as independent contractors with not much security anyway. We didn't want to move since I had my massage practice here (and family, of course - Michigan is our home!). But we also didn't start Bodywork Buddy thinking "hey, if Berin can't find a job in his field then we'll just create one!".
It honestly started as him having the time on his hands, and my need for a solution. He was still doing some freelance work and looking for more permanent work while starting to build the system.
It was after he started building it that we thought "If I need this solution, maybe there are other massage therapists out there looking for the same thing!". And hence, Bodywork Buddy was born.

Bodywork Buddy has evolved since then from the features that I felt I needed and now includes many other features that our members have requested since our inception.


When massage therapists ask me what sets Bodywork Buddy apart from other online schedulers, I honestly think the biggest thing is that we're focused on the massage industry because we're in it. We're not some huge corporation or software company that has been started by serial entrepreneurs and investors. We didn't set out with the intent of being entrepreneurs. We're invested in this in a different way, with the love that we have for massage therapy (and Berin's love for coding). Also, unlike many software companies, self-taught cofounder Berin is also the software architect and has built the entire foundation of the system himself. It's hard to explain just how beneficial this is if you're not familiar with outsourcing software development. Let's just say: our developers aren't going to all of the sudden "not care" about updates or upgrades needed to the system. Our developers are the owners, we care with our blood, sweat, and tears... similar to the way that you care about your massage practice.

I love that not only has Bodywork Buddy helped me to organize my business, but I love even more that now we're helping other massage therapists get more organized and thereby become more successful in their massage business!

I can't express how awesome it is to hear things like this from our members:

"I am really enjoying Bodywork Buddy. It will be such a great resource for my massage practice. I am dyslexic and having everything in one place is such a gift. Everything from soap notes to being able to mark massages as trades. I have been bouncing around between booking sights for about a year. One of the biggest things that has not kept my business is that I just can't read them. This is NOT the case with Bodywork Buddy. I feel so grateful to have found this resource." [sic]       -Tisha R.  

It's been quite an adventure. And we're really glad you're part of it! As a thank you for being here, here's a free facebook timeline image. (many thanks to Ryan Hoyme of Hoyme Consulting for the massage images!) Just right click, and save image to download for your use.
















Thank you. I hope you didn't find this post too personal or boring. Or cheesy. It's very new for me to write from such a personal perspective. I just want you to know that I get how hard it is to build your massage practice from scratch. I've been there... and I'd love to help you build your business in any way I can.



Cindy Iwlew is co-founder of Bodywork Buddy Massage Software, a complete online management solution for independent massage therapists that includes online scheduling

She continues to operate her own private massage practice of 15 years, and has been an associate instructor for Ashiatsu DeepFeet Bar Therapy since 2007.  www.BodyworkBuddy.com



My other bookkeeper, Raven.


Monday, March 24, 2014

If Clients Could Speak. (oh wait, they can. and DO.)


One of my clients recently told me about an experience of going to another massage therapist, and why they chose to not return. Over the years, I've often had clients share feedback of why they didn't stick with previous MT's they had been to. I'm sure there are similar stories out there from clients who had been to me in the beginning of my massage career... before I realized some of the things I might be unconsciously doing that was hindering me building my business.

So I put together a quick list of the common reasons I hear from clients of why they moved on after previous massage experiences.

Room was too cold
Remember, while the temperature may feel fine for you (or even warm for you while you're working) your client is laying on the table with only a drape and is getting their bare skin exposed to the air. Add some refreshing massage creme and you have a perfect recipe for a cold massage! It's hard to relax when you're cold. While a blanket and heated table can help to keep them cozy while covered, each body part being exposed while being worked on can be very uncomfortable if the room isn't sufficiently warm.
The take away: set your temperature in your space with your client in mind, not yourself. Check in with the client on temperature. Ask "are you warm enough?" rather than "are you cold?".

MT talks too much.
I can't even begin to add up how many clients have told me over the years that what they love about our sessions is that I don't talk. (I do have clients with whom I do talk, the important part is that I leave it up to them).
The take away: let your client set the tone for how much talking will happen in their session. Don't speak unless your client speaks. If they ask you questions, keep your answers short to allow them to choose to go silent if they wish. Clients might not know that they have the permission to be quiet and just journey inward. (and they'll never know if you keep talking...)

Too much pressure / too little pressure.
Clients have told stories of getting practically beat up in a session, and the therapist didn't check in on pressure once.
The take away: check in on pressure at least once. (not constantly, we don't want to break the flow of the session). Also check for non-verbal cues of going too deep. Are they tensing up? Wincing? Give the client permission to give you feedback on the pressure. A large percentage of getting a good session is communication between therapist and client. We, as MT's, need to make sure our clients know that this is their session and we can and want to customize it to them. Sometimes it takes more than just a "let me know if you want more or less pressure" at the beginning of a session.

MT didn't feel present.

"It didn't feel like she wanted to be there".
The take away: your clients can feel when you're not loving what you do or where you work. Have a lot on your mind? Running through your grocery shopping list while effleuraging their quads? Getting angry as you think over that comment from your MIL while taking an elbow up their erectors? Yikes! Your clients can tell. As a client of mine recently said "you can't fake being present".  While I'm certainly guilty of not always being 100% present (life happens! It's understandable that sometimes your mind will wonder when you have a lot going on outside of the massage room). But for the most part, try to clear your head before you start your session so that you can really focus on your client. This is their hour. Be fully present for them and they will notice, and will likely become a regular.

Not given full time. 
If you advertise $1/minute and charge $60, you better give 60 minutes! it's ok to do shorter time if it's known that you only do 50 min hours, etc. Or "an hour is approximately 60 minutes on the table". However, if you advertise it as $1/minute, and only give 52 minutes while charging $60, clients WILL notice.
The take away: this is about managed expectations. Lots of spas offer 50 minute hours, and it's not typically a problem because they're upfront about it. Clients know what to expect.

Massage felt rushed. 
"The whole session felt rushed and they skipped over several areas".
The take away: this has nothing to do with amount of time on table. A friend and colleague of mine who works as a large spa that only allots 50 min hours has said that the time limit doesn't have to hinder the feeling of a slow and rhythmic massage to the client. Focus on slow, broad strokes and being present. It's still possible for clients to feel like they received an amazing massage in 50 minutes.

Cookie-cutter massage. 
It felt like MT was just doing a routine, rubbing lotion on my body with their hands, or MT didn't listen to what areas I asked for more or specific work on.
The take away: Check in with your client. Listen. Watch for non-verbal signs of what their body needs. Remember that while you do massage all day, your client only gets a massage maybe once a month (maybe less than that!). Make it a memorable one, not one that would just blend in to your full day of sessions - all of them looking exactly alike. It's likely that we all learned a lot of different tools in massage school, and only use a handful of them regularly. Change it up a bit. Add in some different things that you don't do every single session. Feel like you're in a rut and need some new tools? Check out some continuing education. I find this is the best way to beat boredom in massage and to rekindle that spark; reminding me why I love massage in the first place. My clients also frequently comment on the fact that I'm always evolving and learning new things.

What reasons have you heard from clients on why they haven't returned to previous MT's? Or what comments have they made of why they've chosen your business? Maybe this post and your comments can help a newer massage therapist just getting started, or even help a more seasoned massage therapist make their sessions even better.



Cindy Iwlew is co-founder of Bodywork Buddy Massage Software, a complete online management solution for independent massage therapists that includes online scheduling

She continues to operate her own private massage practice of 15 years, and has been an associate instructor for Ashiatsu DeepFeet Bar Therapy since 2007.  www.BodyworkBuddy.com

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Advice From Strangers




When I was about 2 years into being a massage therapist, I had a stranger going through massage school contact me for advice on being in the biz. They found me through a live journal massage group (which reminds me, I think I have to log into live journal before they delete my username). I was flattered and confused at the same time. It seemed weird to be asking someone so new in the business for advice. It was a class assignment for her and she had a list of specific questions that she emailed me and I could answer at my leisure. They didn’t look too hard, so I did it. I remember trying to answer thoughtfully and I really hoped they were helpful. She, of course, thanked me, but I never heard from her again, so I have no idea how it went. 


Several years later, a massage therapist that I had received a massage from emailed me for advice on how to make it through those first struggling years of being self employed. I thought about this email for a long time and how to answer it. She wanted me to tell her what to do, and I just couldn’t do that. I didn’t know her needs well enough, and frankly it wouldn’t have helped her succeed. When you are self employed, you are the one that makes the decisions, and when you let others decide for you… well, you aren’t happy. I answered her the best I could, but I never heard from her again. I learned later that she gave up on being a massage therapist, which made me sad since she had only been at it 5 months. 

This very evening I had a sales call from my Alma Mater asking for a donation. The gentleman asked what I did for a living as part of their questionnaire and when I told him I was a Massage Therapist he immediately started asking me about it. He too, was thinking of going to school for massage therapy after his undergrad. It got me thinking about how often I get asked for advice from strangers and about what information they are actually looking for. 

These days it’s easy to find advice online, even hire a business coach to help you with all the technical details. There are blogs galore on how you should be and what you should do and how you are probably doing it all wrong. When I think about the advice I wanted when I was starting out, and the advice these strangers asked of me, I wondered what was it they really wanted to hear. 

I think I wanted to hear "we all screw up sometimes, but we learn from our mistakes”, and "even though it feels impossible to imagine this as your full time career, it is something you can do, so keep at it." So, here are some things that I’ve learned in the last decade or so that have helped me be a better massage therapist and a better businesswoman. These PRO TIPS come from personal, if sometimes embarrassing, experience and changed the way I practiced. Some of the lessons are more subtle than others, but all of them make me laugh when I think about them (even though they didn’t when they were happening). 


PROTIP: ALWAYS CHECK YOUR STOOL FOR DROOL
This is something I did not learn in school, or even given the hint of it occurring. If you have a stool that you put under the face cradle… there is a good chance that your comatose client will mindlessly drool and it will land right where you put your hand to move your chair, or right where you sit when you’re ready to do some neck work. Gross doesn’t even begin to cover it. I now keep clean towels near by and plenty of hand sanitizer (which came in handy when I was later surprised by the lovely odor of CHEESE FEET). 


PROTIP: TO DRASTICALLY REDUCE LATE ARRIVALS OR NO-SHOWS, UNLOCK YOUR FRONT DOOR
I work in a building with a back entrance for staff. After a habitually late client no-showed one day, I called to see what was up. It turned out I was in the back chatting away with a staff member and she was up front knocking on the locked door. We are all human and fallible, but unlocking the door is a no-brainer. We had a laugh about it and it worked out for me, but it reminded me to be present for even mundane things when I’m at the office and to laugh at myself every now and again. 


PROTIP: NEIGHBORLY POP-INS TO SAY HELLO ARE A MASSAGE BUZZ KILL 
(AKA WHEN IN A SESSION, LOCK THE DOORS)
I live in the type of community that doesn’t require you to lock your doors during the day. For years, I never locked the front door of my office (see pro-tip #2) even though I was almost always there alone… until one day a city pipe leaked in the street and the city waterworks guy came in jovially calling hello over and over again… and then proceeded to open every office door including my treatment room until he found someone. It wasn’t a crisis, but he just wanted to make sure it was okay to look at our building pipes… my client wasn’t too perturbed (I was able to save her dignity in time) and I received a heartfelt apology from the workers supervisor. However, I now lock the doors and put up a sign saying I’m in session… even if I’m not expecting anybody.


PROTIP: ITS BETTER TO JUST ZIP YOUR LIP
Sometimes your clients are talkers. In trying to keep my boundaries AND be friendly, I would share what I thought was a TINY tidbit about myself thinking ’they don’t really care, they will forget it in couple of hours', but I have found the opposite to be true. I had a client that asked me if I liked sports. No, not really, but I want to be friendly, so I say “I played basketball in high school, but I don’t really follow sports these days”. A year and half later I saw this client again and all he talked about was basketball and his grandkids… which would be fine, except he then tried to set me up with one (he had a flattering, but inaccurate inference of my age). Other clients will bring up topics (about my dog or getting stuck in a snow bank) that I never remember talking to them about. I see so many people during the day, I can’t remember everything I say. Being vague and non-committal might be the better option here… but really I think it’s best to just let them talk and you just zip it. Obviously, you have to have some conversation, just remember they won’t forget what you said as fast as you will.


PROTIP: NOT EVERYONE REMEMBERS TO SPRING FORWARD
I once had a client show up on time for an appointment… according to her watch. Unfortunately, the night before she had just flown in from the east coast AND Daylight Savings started, so she was an hour late. She was extremely embarrassed, and I wasn’t able to squeeze her in for a few days. I started calling people who were ten minutes late to their appointments to “check in with them”. Sometimes they were able to make it to the appointment for a shorter session time and that translated to productive time for me and a super grateful client for still squeezing them in when they obviously made the mistake. Sometimes it pointed out my flaws: "I cancelled that appointment and rescheduled… remember?!” and helped me make changes in my front desk procedure to make sure my schedule was accurate — which dramatically cut down on the desire to demonize clients in my mind and rue the day they were born. That’s never good for morale.


PROTIP: DOWNTIME IS GOOD TIME
Okay, this is more of an philosophical tip, but I swear by it. There are so many ways to use it. My favorite ways are: get a massage for myself; read massage therapy blogs/groups/articles; search the internet for cool things to get for my office one day; do chores that I bitch about never having time for; going to lunch with my sister; or watching that last episode of New Girl. All these things sound like time wasters or unproductive time, but when I’m busy I never get to do those things and I feel exhausted and drained and detached from my life. These activities all address some aspect of my whole person, not just working person. If I’m feeling overwhelmed by my day, having lunch with my sister (it can be a bag lunch at a park) will rejuvenate me when I’m back in the office. Downtime is good time, don’t waste it by fretting about it so much.


PROTIP: SPICY BEEFSTICKS ARE NOT A GOOD BETWEEN MASSAGE SNACK
Beefy, garlicky, and peppery do not go away fast enough no matter how much mouthwash or essential oils you use.  The smell just becomes weirder when you add peppermint to that combo. Trust me. Even if your client brought you the venison jerky, just save it for later… much later. 


P. S. Here is a bonus for you: 
PROTIP: THEY DON'T HAVE TO HEAR YOU, BUT YOU ALWAYS HAVE TO SAY THANK YOU. 
It's just polite and it keeps you humble. This goes for clients as well as others that inspire or help you in life. I would be remiss if didn't thank Ginger Glomski for her more "colorful" PROTIPS which not only had me laughing, but inspired this post, and Cindy Iwlew for sharing her blog audience with me and giving me an opportunity to write for others. 

As you can imagine, everyone has a list of things they never thought would affect the way they do business and perhaps even set a path towards success. So, go ahead, make mistakes; learn from them. You can do this. What are your PRO TIPS?



Erin Howk, BS, BCTMB