Episode 134

Jan 2, 2018

Guest Crystal Williams joins us to talk about how she encourages her multi-practitioner team to be referral sources for each other so each therapist can have a long, happy career doing the work they most enjoy.

Guest Crystal Williams joins us to talk about how she encourages her multi-practitioner team to be referral sources for each other so each therapist can have a long, happy career doing the work they most enjoy.
Image for E134: Teaching Your Massage Staff to Be Master Networkers (with Crystal Williams)


Guest Crystal Williams joins us to talk about how she encourages her multi-practitioner team to be referral sources for each other so each therapist can have a long, happy career doing the work they most enjoy.

Crystal is a massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist. She graduated from Minnesota School of Business with a Diploma of Massage Therapy. Crystal helps people dealing with rehab after injury or surgery, helping them rebound faster, and with less pain.

This episode is sponsored by 

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Sponsor message This episode is sponsored by SOAP Vault. Managing your practice can be time consuming. SOAP Vault truly helps you complete your SOAP notes in seconds. Their predictive SOAP charting learns how you chart and can finish your sentences. Charting has never been easier. SOAP Vault also allows your patients to book online, send text reminders, sync with Google calendar, and much more. Starting at only $19 per month, SOAP Vault is excellent quality, while still affordable. Get a free trial plus an extra month free by visiting massagebusinessblueprint.com/soapvault; that’s S-O-A-P-V-A-U-L-T. Massagebusinessblueprint.com/soapvault.

Allissa Haines Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Massage Business Blueprint podcast, where we discuss the business side of massage therapy. I am Allissa Haines, and I am here today with our special guest, Crystal Williams. Hi, Crystal.

Crystal Williams Hi, Allissa. Thanks for having me.

AH Thank you so much for joining us. So, people, I’m going to tell you a tiny bit about Crystal, and then we’re going to go through learning about her massage career. Crystal is a massage therapist and a corrective exercise specialist. I might even have to ask what that is. She graduated from the Minnesota School of Business with a diploma of massage therapy. Crystal helps people dealing with rehab after injury or surgery, helping them rebound faster and with less pain. She works with a whole bunch of different kinds of athletes to avoid injury and break through training plateaus. Crystal, how did you — let’s start right at the beginning. How did you end up in massage?

CW Well, I ended up in massage kind of selfishly, I guess. I saw it as a second stream of income to what I was already doing. I was working as a personal trainer in corrective exercise, which is helping people break down their movement so they quit hurting themselves over and over again. So I thought, “Well, gosh. Massage therapy is something I could sell.” And being the Type A person that I am, I didn’t trust to refer my clients out to anybody; so I went to school and became a massage therapist [laughs]. So that’s how that started.

AH So this career’s all about you being a control freak?

CW Yes. Yes.

AH I can respect that.

CW I’ve learned a lot about myself. [laughs]

AH [laughs] That’s awesome. How long ago was school for you; how long have you been doing this?

CW I’ve been a massage therapist now for four years and have really just landed on massage therapy. I’m letting my fitness certifications drop off one by one, not renewing them. Like so many other people who you’ve talked with, I kind of happened up on it, and it just worked. Doors opened, and it was a fit, and the magical industry of massage therapy welcomed me with open arms; so here I am.

AH Aw! And only four years in. So tell me — did you — I know you work for yourself now, and you run a business, which we’ll totally get to. But what did you do right after massage school? You graduated and then what? Did you bounce right into your business?

CW Yeah. I did. Well, I already owned a business. I owned a gym; I owned a private personal training studio about an hour away from where I am now; so I was already — I already had clients. I was already doing my own thing; so it was — I just started right away in my own business. And then I also took on a position contracting at an established massage therapy office in town, because I was a new massage therapist, and I wanted to be around other therapists who had been doing it more than one day. So I did that as well, too — just get bodies on my table, I guess is probably a way to put it. So, yeah, I’ve just been working for myself with the exception of a couple of employment gigs as a therapist.

AH Tell me about where you ended up four years later. What is your business like now?

CW Yeah. About a year ago we moved. I closed my gym, my training studio; so that closed. We moved back to the Minneapolis metro area from where we were living, and I took a job at a chain massage place, which, being self-employed for so long, was like putting socks on a cat. So it just wasn’t a good fit [laughs], just for me, personally. But I did it to get my bearings: what am I going to do? I knew I needed to start another business, because I’m wired that way. And I found a gal who was a sole practitioner, and she and I met and talked and collaborated and launched what is now Range of Motion, which is a two-location office. So it went from one to two in June of this year; so this is our first year in “big-girl” business, is how I’ll put it.

AH How many people are working in the offices?

CW There are seven of us, including me and my partner.

AH And, other than you and your partner, are the people working there classified as employees? Are they contractors? How do you have your business set up, because this is a question that comes up.

CW They are employees. Yeah. They are employees. We talked about me being a control freak at the beginning of the interview; so we chose that way to be able to manage our brand — the Range of Motion brand — it gives us some leeway to do that. And also, it limits our exposure for any kind of weirdness as far as tax implications and so forth. That’s the reality. And the truth is, our people just work for us; they don’t massage anywhere else. So they are, in fact, employees.

AH How have you — now, you’ve got a really solid brand; so let’s take some time to talk about that. Tell me about your brand and your ideal client, and how you came into that niche.

CW Okay. Well, it was never about the spa setting for me as a fitnessy-movement-type person. And there’s a lot of beautiful, wonderful places to get a spa-type experience, and I didn’t want to compete in that market, frankly. But there’s not a lot of places in my state and my area where massage therapy is something that is branded and marketed as a viable resource for health, and quote/unquote “fixing” something. So we are really targeting people who are defecting from their massage experience. I’m really thankful for the big massage places. They mainstreamed massage therapy; so I really am thankful for that. But people are starting to graduate. They’re starting to realize that there’s probably more to this, and they’re looking around for something, and there’re just not a ton of places to find because, well, I think as therapists, we don’t do the best job marketing ourselves. So a big part of Range of Motion is getting out in the community and just making people aware that massage therapy’s a thing; it can help, and you don’t have to put flowers in your hair and lay amongst the bamboo to have an effective massage. So we attract the clients who don’t like massage therapy, in a way, or they have some aversion to the spa.

AH I love this — I love that you just used the bamboo and flower analogy, because in my head — I feel like it’s really rare to talk to somebody who is grateful for what the larger massage chains have done in some ways, which is to create a whole new batch of massage consumers. Because I feel like 10 or 15 years ago, this happened with sushi. You couldn’t get sushi [laughs] —

CW [laughs] And now it’s at Target.

AH — Right? You couldn’t get sushi anywhere. I was a 30-year-old woman who had never tried sushi, and then somebody was like, “Oh no. There’s this one place outside Providence. You really got to try it.” And I went and tried sushi, and was like, “This is amazing.” And then a few more sushi places opened up, and now there’s like — I could hit four with a rock right now from my house. And I went out for sushi last weekend, and I was like, “This is really good sushi, but it’s not as good as that other place; so let’s make a trip to go to that other place in a couple of weeks and get the really good sushi,” and that’s exactly what the [laughs] —

CW That’s exactly this. It’s no longer on the fringe, and people are starting to realize there is good sushi —

AH Right?

CW — and less good sushi.

AH And there — yeah. And sometimes, even the okay sushi is fine; you can get a standard California roll. Michael likes his supermarket sushi. But you go to the good place on occasion, or regularly, to get the really good — and the same — I think that happens with everything eventually, every service, and probably every food. Remember that sundried tomato craze of the mid-90s? But nonetheless, I might be hungry. But yeah, that happened with massage, and I love that you’ve really — I love that you’ve embraced that, and I love the term — it’s a thing I just wrote down: “defecting from their massage experience, defecting from their previous massage experience.” I think that’s a really mindful, a really good approach to making massage a normal consumable for people. Anyhoo, that was a tangent, and I’m so excited we talked about sushi.

CW Me too.

AH So we know a little bit about your business: there’s two locations; you’ve got employees; you’re really niching into being a viable resource for healthcare and wellness. What’s your — this is the annoying question we ask everyone: what is the fantasy job/location, if you win the lottery, for your career?

CW Yeah. This one’s tough because I’m a big nerd, and I would actually be doing what I’m doing now, but I would do it a whole lot better because I’d have more money, I think is how I look at it. A big thing that’s really been on my heart, and it’s really what launched what we’re going to talk about today, is I think I would travel around helping massage therapists challenge their idea of burnout.

AH Yes!

CW “Burnout” is this catchall term that we use for — it’s physical injury, mental exhaustion, emotionally depleted, whatever. As therapists, we take on the wrong clients, we work too many hours, we keep people long past we’re able to help them anymore, and we lie to ourselves and say it’s because we care so much. I would actually say, no, I think it’s because we’re afraid to whatever, confront them; we’re afraid of finances, whatever. I think my big, nerdy, millionaire job would be traveling around helping people root out what they’re doing out of fear. I’d start with massage therapists.

AH That’s going to be the topic we talk about the next time you’re on, because that’s awesome. So meanwhile — all right, I’m not going to get stuck in that rabbit hole; I’m going to pull my crap together here.

So we’re going to jump into the halftime sponsor, and then we’re going to get to Crystal’s topic, which is teaching your massage staff to be master networkers. Halftime sponsor and special thank you to SOAP Vault.

Sponsor message Managing your practice can be time consuming, and SOAP Vault truly helps your complete your SOAP notes in seconds. They’ve got predictive SOAP charting, which learns how you chart and can finish your sentences making charting never easier. SOAP Vault allows your patients to book online, to send text reminders, sync with Google calendar, and so much more. It starts at only $19 a month, and SOAP Vault is excellent quality, while staying affordable. You, my Massage Business Blueprint podcast listeners, can get a free trial plus an extra month free by going to massagebusinessblueprint.com/soapvault. That is massagebusinessblueprint.com/S-O-A-P-V-A-U-L-T, and you can get that link in the podcast notes, too. You don’t have to worry about me spelling it for you.

AH Thank you, SOAP Vault, you are helping us keep the lights on and just grab all the wisdom out of Crystal that we can today. So, Crystal, I’m handing this to you. You’ve got some notes for us. You have taught your staff how to be master internal networkers for each other. So tell me what that means and, hopefully, a little bit about how you did it.

CW Yeah. This is — well, this is actually born out of the burnout idea, and a big part of burnout for us as therapists is the emotionally draining client. I really started thinking about that, and it really is just that not every client is for you, and not every client is for me; we just don’t click with everybody. This is what kind of gave me the idea to help my therapists become referral partners and networkers for each other; so they can hopefully have a longer career and not be hanging on to these clients that just aren’t a good fit for them. And, frankly, it’s not good for the client either; they can tell you don’t like them. In my opinion, on some level it’s coming through, right?

So this is the breakdown — kind of the first steps of helping my team be referral partners and networkers for each other, and the very first thing was to eradicate the scarcity mindset, where we fall into this trap of “I need to hoard all of my clients”. The truth is there’s enough clients for everybody. There are; it’s math. There’s enough clients for everybody; there’s no need to be hoarding and hanging on to clients that just aren’t a good fit.

The second thing that we worked on — and we’re continuing to work on all this stuff, and I am, myself, as a practitioner, too, but really find and admit to yourself your specialty. And it doesn’t have to be a specific certification, it’s just who do I really like to work with. And this one’s really hard because it’s counter-intuitive. Everybody wants to say “I work with everybody; I’ll help anybody; massage is good for all people,” and that’s not good enough. You have to get specific, because really you don’t want to work with anyone. We all have certain types of clients — whatever it is, whether it’s pregnancy or athletic, depression, relaxation, whatever clients you want to work with. So admitting to yourself who that is and getting rid of the fear surrounding that. A big thing is that they’re going to cut their pie too small. So if I say I only work with X and Y clients, well, now I won’t get any A, B, C, D clients. They thought that they wouldn’t sound like experts if they say, really, I don’t work with shoulder injuries; I do relaxation massage. They thought then they would sound like they weren’t experts in the field, and that’s just not the case. It was a paradigm shift. And then helping everybody just trust this process you have to admit to yourself who is it that you want to work with, because then we can get you those people. I don’t want to give my therapists the wrong kind of client; it’s not a good fit.

The next thing is understanding that there is no single modality that is the solution for every client. So this is us, as therapists, just getting over ourselves, that there are a lot of effective and great techniques out there. Just because you hate, whatever, hot stone massage, doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial and doesn’t mean there aren’t clients who would really benefit from it. So helping everybody get over the hump of what they have is the one and only thing, or there is some kind of guru in the massage industry, because that’s just a recipe for disaster.

So we’ve got that groundwork laid: get rid of the scarcity mindset; figure out who is it you want to work with; admit to yourself that you have something special to offer certain people, but not all people; and then looking inward and getting to know yourself. What I did with our team was everybody took the DISC personality profile, and there’s a ton of different profiles. I like DISC’s because it has four categories, and you can do it for free. So those are the two reasons that we did DISC with the team. But this was so, so, so helpful in that — just kind of a quick overview: The D is the hard-driving, dominant-type personality; the I’s are the inspiring, let’s-all-be-friends-type; the S’s are the real supportive, caring; and, just generally speaking, the C’s are the process-procedure-type folks. And we’ve got all of them on our team. And it was really interesting because it illustrated how they interact with their clients. Once they saw their category, they realized that they’re treating their clients the way that they would want to be treated, but that’s not always what we need to do with our clients. We need to treat our clients the way that the client wants to be treated. So going along with knowing yourself is learning how to guess your client’s type. So we did a lot of workshop and exercises around this. So I’m a high D and I person. So I’m like “Let’s all get along, and I’m in charge.” That’s just how I break down.

AH [laughs] I suspect [inaudible] myself. Yeah. I got to do that. And I think Michael’s been like, “You should do the DISC profile,” because I know that he uses it for his marketing agency. I think I would probably find myself right around there.

CW Yeah. So I respond really well to other D’s and I’s, as far as clients go, because we speak the same language: Let’s make this decision now, whatever. But when I have somebody who needs to think about it or they just aren’t sure, I struggle with those clients, because I just don’t see the world that way. So the same was true with my therapists. My S’s, who were sensitive and supportive and the real kind, caring therapists, they see somebody with a high D, they have a client who’s a high D, they think they’re a jerk. Well, the person’s not a jerk, they just process things differently. So it was a huge opener to admit that, generally speaking, these clients aren’t bad people or jerks, you’re just not relating to them the way that they need to be related to. So we did that. Then once all of that was figured out, then they got to know each other as colleagues. So now they all know who works the best with different types of personalities of clients. So if my S’s and C’s don’t like dealing with the D-type clients, they know that we’ve got other therapists who do, and it has been a huge game changer being free to refer to each other. And the clients are liking it, too; they’re landing on the right therapists, because it doesn’t occur to clients that they can shop around for therapists. I think they think that they are stuck with whoever they get first. So the last step of this was making referrals within the office and outside the office, but making referrals normal in our practice. So when a client comes in, they’ve already had a welcome email saying It’s important to us that we help you find the best therapist for you, and we have — we’ve described our therapists; so from the get-go, we’ve built this culture of, you might have seen one person to have your shoulder worked on, but if you want to come in and relax and just space out for an hour, you totally need to see this person. And our team is so on board with it, because they love it, because the person who likes doing relaxation massage doesn’t want to try to fix people’s shoulder all day and vice versa. So it’s been really neat in watching them let go of the clients that aren’t the best fit for them and really just fill their books with the type of clients they love and they love working on.

AH This is a huge thing that’s been missing from a cross-referral point of view. I’m realizing that we cross refer based on issues or modalities. I’ve referred out because I don’t do hot stone massage; I’m terrible at it, and I hate it, but my officemate is amazing, and it’s a ritual for her; it’s lovely. I don’t know that I’ve ever thought about referring out based on personality. I probably have a few times. We have three acupuncturists at my office, and I think I have definitely referred clients to each based on specialty, but also personality. But it is not a thing I considered when referring out to other massage therapists, and that is huge. That is absolutely huge. We hear consumers talk about you got to find a good fit for a massage therapist, and it’s not just about their hands-on skills; it’s totally about their demeanor. I think I’ve inherently known that, but never considered it on that cross-referral basis. So thank you for that.

CW I feel like that is the root of this huge burnout factor for us as therapists. We’re just drained from jumping through hoops dealing with folks who just aren’t like us, in a way. It takes a lot of effort to communicate all day with someone who sees the world completely differently from you.

AH And it’s important for us to move outside of our comfort zone of clients on occasion —

CW Of course.

AH — important to grow as people and learn how to interact. But you don’t need to be learning a language for eight hours a day.

CW Yes. Yes. That’s the more accurate description. It’s —

AH It really is about learning a whole other language. There’s a super cheesy relationship book out there called The 5 Love Languages or something, which I made it about halfway through before I was like “Way too cheesy”. I think I got some pertinent lessons from it and that was everybody speaks a different language, and it’s important to know that, know where you’re at, know how to approach people, but it doesn’t mean you have to exhaust yourself filling your schedule with people who aren’t perfect for you.

CW And the really neat byproduct that I wasn’t expecting is the confidence level of my therapists has gone up exponentially, because they don’t spend so much time feeling like they’re beating their head against the wall not getting through to somebody, which translates into thinking you’re a bad therapist so often. I can’t help them; they’re not getting better; they’re not this; they’re not that. Well, as they’ve been learning to communicate the way the client needs to be spoken to and dealt with, they’re getting results, and they’re confident, and that translates into a better experience for every client that’s coming in. I like to think my people will take this stuff with them their whole life wherever their career takes them, whether it’s with me or with another practice. It’s been really, really fun to watch. And I’ve got a team of therapists, but this really — we should all be doing this, even as sole practitioners. It’s been so beneficial to really find the right kinds of clients; it makes all the difference in the world. You leave at the end of the day feeling refreshed and energized, not depleted and exhausted, and that’s what leads to career longevity, in my opinion.

AH That’s brilliant. Any other tips or final thoughts before we wrap it up, Crystal?

CW Yes. I guess just the one takeaway is don’t be afraid to decide who you work with, and go after those clients. Don’t be scared of that.

AH I love that, because we are going to spend a great deal of this month talking about our ideal clients and niching, because it’s such a huge obstacle for massage therapists; so you have helped us kick that off. Everyone, thank you for listening. Crystal, thank you for joining us. This was enlightening, and I can’t wait to get you on again and learn a whole bunch more from you. We’ve been super inspired with how much you’ve contributed to the premium member community, and I am so grateful. And I have family right outside Minneapolis/St. Paul; so I’ll probably be out there in the next year or two, maybe three, and I’m going to come visit you.

CW Aw. We can go to Target for sushi. I’m so excited.

AH [laughs] That’s awesome. All right, everyone.

CW Thank you.

AH If you have any more — if you have any questions you want us to answer here on the podcast, you can email us at podcast@massagebusinessblueprint.com. If you find our information today or any day to be useful, we would love for you to leave us a review on your favorite podcast app, whether it be Stitcher or Google Play or iTunes, and there’s some other place that we have podcasts that I can’t remember right now [indiscernible] hooks in with your Alexa. So wherever you listen to podcasts, feel free to leave us a review. I think that’s all that I had to say. Special thank you to SOAP Vault for sponsoring this. Thank you again to Crystal, and, everyone, have a wonderful day.

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