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Bodywork Buddy: business management software for the solo therapist that keeps you organized and makes tax time a breeze.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Veteran MT Advice: The Art of Stubbornness

Recently in my massage therapy business, I had to make the very difficult decision to stop accepting new clients. This was difficult because for the last 14 years I’ve been doing everything I could to attract these new clients!

When Cindy asked me to talk about how I got to this point in my career as a business owner and MT, I had to think about what exactly I did to reach this stage in my business. At first I couldn’t think of what I did to suddenly be so booked I couldn’t fit anyone in for 4 months. Then it occurred to me... it wasn’t sudden, it was all the hard work of running a business starting to pay it’s returns.

When you go to massage school, they teach you how to be a Massage Therapist, not how to run a business. These are two separate things that need separate training. When I graduated from massage school, I decided to work for someone else because I thought it would be easier. Their business model was for me to give free chair massages until someone decided to pay for a full massage, of which I received a commission of 50%. I gave a lot of free massages and starved. I had to move back home to my parent’s house. 

This is where the big lessons began for me. I’m sure many of you have similar stories or are at the beginning of your career convinced you are about to fail. Being of the Stubborn Persuasion, I wasn’t about to let this living with my parents situation define my career. However, humility was also on my Life Lessons Syllabus, so I had to have “The Talk” with myself on how I was going to make this career work. If I wanted it to work, I had to do the work. No Excuses.

I took a part time job at a chiropractor’s office and I learned from her how she ran her business. She became a great mentor and I learned that there are lessons in mistakes; that picking up and working with what is in front of you will go a long way. I also used the security of that job to help me build my own business. I could take a few more risks, in case I did make a mistake. 

Since I had moved back to my parent’s home two states away from where I was living, to a town I didn’t grow up in, I was in desperate need of colleagues... So I went to my AMTA state chapter conferences and hands on CEU classes so that I could talk to people. I joined Live Journal groups (I’m old) and read Massage Therapy Journal and Massage Magazine (the print versions!) to give me insights into the industry. I was stubborn, but I knew that I didn’t know squat!

I was told that the first 5 years were the hardest, so I just kept reminding myself of that when it got hard, and you know what... it turned out to be true (so hang in there!). I was told that MTs careers average 3- 5 years; I made a goal to be in practice for 10. My stubbornness wouldn’t let me quit and then when it started to get a little easier I didn’t want to quit.  

I tried new things: Online scheduling in 2010 was scary for my clients. Some even asked me to go back to paper. It was months and months before the first person actually booked online without me talking them into it. It was a couple years before a new client I had never heard of scheduled. I stubbornly stuck it out because I wanted online scheduling to work. Now I don’t have to answer the phone anymore. I maybe lost a potential client who didn’t want to schedule online, but I gained ones who did. 

Some things did not work: Buy 4 get 1 Free cost me a lot of money I desperately needed. I changed my package policy to be a significantly smaller discount; I could still pay the bills, but my clients still got a deal. I was able to buy groceries AND pay rent! When clients pine for the good old discount days (aka whine) I stubbornly refuse to give in, “$5 off is more than $0 off,” I remind myself. They are welcome to pay full price. 

The take-a-way here folks is this: There are a million little lessons that you are learning everyday. The beginning of your career is hard because you are bombarded by them. Some of those lessons hurt and some are exhausting. It seems impossible because everything is new and fresh and you just want to be amazing everyday. As you make it through the days, weeks, and years those lessons will feel familiar, and doable, and sometimes even an exciting challenge. Be patient, and maybe a little bit stubborn. 

Erin Howk Bennett, BCTMB
Therapeutic & Stress Reduction Massage

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