Episode 167

Jun 29, 2018

We asked our community of massage therapists to share with us the worst business advice advice they’ve ever received. And boy did they deliver!

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We asked our community of massage therapists to share with us the worst business advice advice they’ve ever received. And boy did they deliver!

Sponsored by: The Jojoba Company.


Michael Reynolds Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Massage Business Blueprint podcast, where we discuss the business side of massage therapy. I’m Michael Reynolds. 

Allissa Haines And I am Allissa Haines.

MR And we’re your hosts as always. As always, we’re glad you’re with us. Allissa, what is going on with you? How’s life?

AH Oh man, this is the worst week ever.

MR [laughs] You mentioned that before we started, so tell me more.

AH Did you think I was going to riff with something else? It’s just been a terrible, stressful week. It’s just — I had a crap-ton of clients scheduled and then had to cancel half of them for the second half of today because I woke up with an injured trapezius muscle. So I am not going to pretend, people. I am sitting here packed in ice and well medicated and very happy about that. And I’m also — part of the reason I’m mentioning it, not just to whine, but also to point out that I am so proud of myself for cancelling the second half of my day because I think in past lives, I would have tried to work through this and my morning was already pretty hard. But I couldn’t schedule my first client — I mean, I could have. I could have cancelled them. By the time I realized how bad I was feeling, she was already on her way. And then my second client was someone new that I didn’t really want to cancel. And I checked her intake and saw that it was not going to be a heavy duty physically taxing massage for me. So I saw my first two and then cancelled the rest of the day and —

MR Good for you.

AH Yeah. And I’m really glad I’m at the point in my business where I can do that without it being a situation that I cannot eat tomorrow and also that I have the wherewithal to make that happen.

MR Yeah. Good for you.

AH But, Michael, I’m not going to whine. How was your vacation?

MR It was good. I get to whine a little because I’m actually coming off a cold. So I got sick, actually, coming back from vacation. So I get to whine a little bit, but actually it’s no big deal because it’s just a cold, and I had a great vacation last week. We went to Florida, me and the family. Me, Ariana, and Eli went to the beach, we played on the beach, we played in the ocean, we swam in the pool. That’s basically all we did. We just spent four days in Florida just in the water in the sun. It was awesome.

AH That’s nice. Did you eat really good food?

MR Yeah, we had pizza, sushi, whatever was around, some good food. It was a good time.

AH Yay.

MR Our goal was to just do nothing, and mission accomplished.

AH I’m so glad. How was Eli on the plane?

MR He was great actually. His last plane trip was about a year ago when he was two, and he was really bad on the plane. He was squirmy and scream-y and we were that family with the screaming kid on the plane. This time he was a dream. It was awesome. I think a little bit older, he’s getting used to it, whatever. He watched movies here and there, played with some toys, did some coloring, went to the bathroom a couple times to stretch his legs. He was fine.

AH Oh, good.

MR Both ways. It was awesome. Yeah.

AH I’m glad to hear that. Good job.

MR Could have been a fluke. I’m sure next time he’ll be a little terror, but this time it was good. [laughs] We’ll take it. We’ll take it. It was a great time.

So, okay. Our listeners are going to love today’s topic, I’m sure, because it is a lot of fun. I’m going to love it because I’m already reading the notes here having so much fun even just reading it. Today our topic is worst business advice ever. And there is some good stuff in here.

AH Oh my gosh.

MR I cannot wait.

AH I asked everyone on all the social medias what their worst business advice was ever that they got. My apologies if yours didn’t make it in here if I rounded up all the notes before you made your comment, but I have a feeling this is going to be a recurring episode because I enjoyed collating this.

MR Yeah. It’s going to be a theme.

AH I have to note that it was so funny because the first two bits of advice came to me via email because it was people who wanted to be anonymous because it was stuff they got from their teacher at massage school, and they were worried because they think their teacher also listens to this podcast —

MR Oh boy. Awkward.

AH — so they didn’t want to be named. So there are a handful that are anonymous. The first one is actually an anonymous.

“The worst advice was from my business teacher in massage school. Pretty much, you won’t get on the first page of Google, so you shouldn’t bother with a website.”

MR Wow.

AH And this was only — I don’t want to disclose too much information and out this person, but this was 5-ish years ago. “So that’s when I went looking on the internet for business advice and found –” me — they found Allissa. Yeah.

MR Via your website.

AH Via my website. My initial iteration of this Blueprint thing. Yeah, if you’re not going to be on the first page of Google, you don’t need a website? That’s bonkers for a lot of reasons, but mostly because a website — even if you don’t have fantastic search engine optimization and don’t have an interest in that — it can also just be an excellent follow-up tool for when you meet people in person with old fashioned word of mouth and networking. Handing someone your card and saying, you know, I’ve got a blog post about that rotator cuff issue; check out my website. Or just emailing them and saying “It was nice to meet you. Here’s a link to my website and that blog post with all those rotator cuff stretches I showed you,” is is a wonderful communication and follow-up tool. So, yeah, you do need a website even if you’re not going to be on the first page of Google. Did I pretty much cover that, Michael?

MR Yeah, that’s a good one. [laughs] I’m baffled at even just hearing that.

AH Right? And it follows up with our friend Kat who heard in massage school — and she posted this publicly, so I know it’s okay to out her — “Websites mostly attract the wrong sorts of clients, so you’re better off focusing on word of mouth.”

MR Wow.

AH Yeah, no. And Kat did not go to massage school that long ago. 15 years ago I would have probably — no 13 years ago is when I got mine. But more than that, I understand why someone who hasn’t — and here’s the problem. Let’s just knock this right out. A lot of instructors in massage schools have not been practicing massage for a long time. Or even if they have, they’re great hands-on massage therapists, they may have even started their business before the internet was a thing, and they have not had to recruit fresh new clients in a decade or two. So sometimes the worst business advice you get is from your massage school teacher because they have not been in the business-y part of the business hard core ever or in a long time. So their feedback is not always entirely relevant on these kinds of issues. Some teachers are amazing. But there’s that.

And in that vein — I’m going to skip around a little bit, Michael, if you’re following the notes — another anonymous, because this was an instructor, “I know you all think your private practice is going to take off after school, but trust me, this resume class is going to come in handy. I had a student refuse to take the class because they were going to work for themselves. In six months post-graduation they came to me asking me to teach them how to make a resume because they needed a job.” And so our reader and listener astutely pointed out, listen, don’t use a student who can’t even design a basic resume as your example. Obviously, they’re lacking in skills and weren’t going to do very well. Really? If you, one, are unwilling to learn in your school — first of all, how do you refuse to take a class in school and still pass? Shame on that massage school. And obviously if they’re so closed minded they won’t even take a class to learn something new in school and they’re incapable of figuring that out on their own, they weren’t going to succeed anyway. None of this had anything to do with a resume, okay?

MR The sample size of one is not terribly relevant.

AH Yeah. We had a handful of hilarious things noted by our friend Kelly Bowers. One of the things she noted was “You should work free for the exposure. You can put out your business cards.” And many people second and thirded this “just work free and put out your business cards, and you’ll be fine.” This is a two and two “hang up flyers”, “all you need to do” — and this is my favorite, “all you need to do is put it out to the universe and the universe will take care of you.” Our friend Marcy noted that. Also, she was told “Don’t worry about marketing. If you’re good, the clients will find you.”

MR And I think you noted that the universe has yet to pay your grocery bill.

AH Yeah, yeah. We’re getting to that. So Ruth, our friend Ruth, in her world it was “If people aren’t beating down your door already without marketing, there’s something very, very wrong with you.” Okay, way to totally mess with new therapist’s confidence —

MR That’s like —

AH — to tell them that people don’t inherently know you exist even though you’ve done nothing to tell them you exist. If they don’t inherently discover you, you’re terrible?

MR That’s emotionally abusive.

AH It’s terrible. Our friend Tracy was told that she did not have to report cash income including tips. [laughs]

MR Ooh. Ooh, ooh, ooh.

AH And Marcy was told that if you get a check, you should cash it at the customer’s bank that the check is drawn on so that there’s no record of it. You don’t want to deposit it into your business account, you should just cash it for cash at the customer’s bank so there’s no record of it.

MR What? I have never heard that advice.

AH I have heard that.

MR That is terrible.

AH I actually stopped seeing a skincare professional that I was seeing because she only took cash or checks, which was fine. Whatever. But then I realized — I handed her a check once and she said Oh, okay, this is from that bank. Well, I’ll get there to cash it. I was like Why don’t you just deposit it into your account? She’s like Well, I don’t like there to be a record of it. And I stopped seeing her because she was obviously and openly bilking the govs, man. I was not cool with that.

MR Shady.

AH Yeah. Lea was told if she did free chair massage in her chiropractor’s office it would get her exposure to patients. Which it will, but not necessarily the best exposure. Lea also noted she was told that you cannot charge people full price if you just got out of massage school. Ugh. Whatevs, people. I can’t even.

Donna noted that anyone who has ever told her to pay for print ads was wasting their breath and her money and ditto that for advertising in the phone book. Obviously — we’re going to talk in a minute about context, but yeah. We don’t even do phone books anymore. That stopped being a thing years and years and years ago.

Carol noted that you can pay for booth rent at an event, at a chiropractor event, but you have to work for free all day or for tips only and you’ll get tons of exposure. Again with the exposure, people. You don’t, you don’t, no.

Jaimie was told “Don’t get stuck in a niche, you’ll limit yourself.”

MR [laughs] Awesome.

AH Aw. We just did a whole bunch of episodes on niching and Jaimie got very specific advice regarding how much pressure — pardon me, regarding how much she should or shouldn’t offer incentives within that niche. Yeah. Yeah, just —

MR Well, that’s a pretty common thing, and that’s why — just a sidebar very quickly on that. That’s why most people will not specialize: Because they’re terrified of limiting themselves too much. And they don’t realize the magic that comes with specializing, and it’s that you attract a lot more of the right type of people and your marketing actually becomes easier. But it’s so initially counter-intuitive that most people won’t do it. Which is why if you’re one of the ones who chooses to specialize, you are most likely going to stand out because other people will not do it.

AH Bingo. Thank you for expanding on that because I wanted to say something smart about that but then I got distracted by my [indiscernible]. So thanks for covering me.

Katy noted “Don’t do relaxation, everyone wants to relax.” Duh. What’s wrong with that? If you want to supply a service that every single person wants, that’s a win. You’re meeting a demand in the marketplace, yo. That’s awesome.

MR Yeah. Economics 101.

AH Yay. Kat noted she was told “If you’re serious about being successful in business, you’re going to need to start wearing makeup and straightening your hair and probably do something about those eyebrows too.”

MR Oh, boy.

AH If you want to be successful being a pharmaceutical representative, yeah, you’re going to want to start wearing makeup and straightening your hair. But, you know what, as a massage therapist, no, no. You really don’t. You just — you don’t. You’re not a supermodel; you don’t need to be.

Kelly Bowers noted that she was told that she really needed to push rebooking. And, of course, she mentions it. But she notes that you don’t need to create some kind of magical treatment plan if it’s not warranted. And that’s what’s important here: If it’s not warranted. Kelly also notes that she was told you should rely entirely on word of mouth. And yeah, most practices we know of are thriving by word of mouth, but maybe it’s because they got lucky early on by tapping into an amazing network or did a lot of very specific promotion in the beginning and were able to rely over time on word of mouth.

But here’s some context: Word of mouth is not always the best thing when you are starting. You have to have a few people to word-of-mouth you. You need to start in some way and you need to get those new people in, those first people to initiate some word-of-mouth domino effect in some way other than just putting a flyer up on a bulletin board.

MR Well, this is a symptom of an attitude that kind of bothers me and the attitude is kind of a zero-sum attitude of you should do only this or you should rely only on word of mouth. That’s shortsighted because why not rely on multiple techniques to diversify your marking efforts. Word of mouth is great and it should be one component of your marketing. But why make it the only thing. Why not supplement that with digital, with networking, with other things, with various other channels that can supplement your marking and give you diversification. I don’t like that myopic view of it’s either one or the other.

AH Right? There’s just no magic nugget here. Shirley noted that she was told she should offer a massage at a discount if the client pays cash because if they pay cash, you don’t have to worry about paying taxes on that.

MR Oh, oh, oh, not again.

AH And then this person with the advice also proceeded to tell her that he worked it out on what a fair price for her massage was. Oh, goodness, that’s terrible.

MR I’m disheartened at how often you don’t have to pay taxes on cash thing keeps coming up over and over. It’s disheartening.

AH I can’t even. Okay so now we are going to jump to our halftime sponsor before I give a bunch of other ridonkulous advice, and then what all of these bits of advice have in common because I am going to wrap this up. It’s not just a rant episode. Michael, give it to me straight.

MR Jojoba!

AH [laughs]

MR Thank you. You knew it was coming.

AH I did. I did. Special thanks to The Jojoba Company jojoba people because they are just a long time and just such a supportive sponsor. So make sure if your order from jojoba, you tell them you heard it from us.

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All right, I’m flipping back to my notes about terrible advice. Our friend Jason, the local chapter of the SCORE network — which can be a great small business mentoring, although you don’t always get a great mentor. So a local chapter volunteer for the SCORE network told Jason that he should not purchase his business because he would never recoup the cost. Jason has a thriving massage practice for 20 years now on Martha’s Vineyard and makes more in a week on Martha’s Vineyard in high season than I will probably make in a month. So yeah. He’s doing just fine. That particular mentor was not able to see the vision and the possibilities of his massage business and it was a terrible piece of advice. Sometimes “buy the business” might be a bad bit of advice, but not always.

Our friend Jen was told that she should not go into business for herself until she’s had at least seven years’ experience.

MR Wow. Why is seven the magic number?

AH Right? That’s bonkers. Our friend Annie just had a bunch of short bits of advice that she was given including ask the universe, listen to fairies, give free services, and discount deeply. [laughs]

MR [laughs]

AH I love you, Annie.

MR That’s like some motivational-speaking, life-plan kind of thing. Ask the universe, listen to fairies, give free service, discount deeply. [laughs]

AH We should make a graphic on that.

MR It just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?

AH When I’m laying in bed packed in ice tonight, I’m going to make a graphic that’s listen to fairies. And I love that she spelled fairies the British way, too.

MR Right, right.

AH Our friend Nicki said she was told — or he — I’m not sure, I don’t know — Nicki was told “If you enforce your cancellation policy you’ll lose clients.” Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. You’ll lose the clients who don’t want to pay your cancellation fee and are therefore terrible clients. Who knew. Yeah, that’s a good thing. That’s weeding out the suckers.

Our friend, Jeni, no secret, of Barefoot Massage, she was told “Don’t do that barefoot massage stuff. It’s just a gimmick. It’s not real massage, and no one can build a full massage business or go very far doing Ashiatsu.” Not for nothing, Jeni was on live TV in her San Antonio area demoing Ashi massage because her business is doing so well. And her response is Oh yeah, I’m Jeni F-ing spring. I dare you to google me and find a listing that isn’t connected to me that isn’t barefoot massage. So seriously, if someone tells you you can’t do something, it’s probably going to make you — what’d she say? “I’ll do it twice and take pictures.” So yeah, there’s that.

MR What’s funny is we have some premium members that are running thriving practices of Ashiatsu. [laughs]

AH Totally. Totally.

MR Whether it’s Ashiatsu or some other modality that’s a little bit unique, the point is be unique. You can build a practice around stuff like that so don’t let it —

AH Word. Our friend Paula was told to “Consult a psychic before making a big business change, that way you know if it’s a good move or not.” She literally had an old boss make that appointment for her and pay for it because she was worried the business move wasn’t the right move for her. And it turned out the psychic thought it was. So that’s some sweet justice right there I guess.

MR All right.

AH And our friend Annie was told “Do everything you can yourself to save money.” Which might be —

MR What does that mean?

AH Do all the things so that you’re not spending money, which is not necessarily —

MR Oh! Do everything yourself. Gotcha, okay.

AH Yes. Which can be helpful when you’re at the beginning of your business and you’re time rich and cash poor but is not the best long-term advice. She was also told to get a line of credit, which I know will make Michael wince because —

MR Oh, I’m squirming already.

AH Yep. And also that she should follow her passion; the money will follow. Annie’s passionate about waffles, and they still haven’t made her any money.

MR [laughs]

AH That was Annie’s comment.

MR Can I go back and rant a little bit on the line of credit?

AH Bring it.

MR Just for a couple — I’ll try to keep brief.

AH Do it.

MR I want to rant on this a little bit because it seems like the default advice that people get when starting a business is get a loan or get a line of credit. It seems to be that people think the default, normal, only way to start a business is you’ve got to get a business loan. And that is so destructive and dangerous because you’re starting out what is typically a very risky move. Starting a business is risky. It is a resource intensive, energy intensive — a very high risk, high investment type of thing you’re doing already. And what do you want to do on top of that, you want to add even more risk by going deeply into debt? No, no, no, no, no. The default should not be get a business loan. The default should be figure out how you can do it as much as possible without borrowing money. I just have to rant on that because I’m so tired of hearing this default advice of go get a business loan and you’ve got to put your business plan together so you can go to the bank and borrow money. No, no, no. No. Period.

AH and even if there is a situation where you need to borrow money, that shouldn’t necessarily mean thousands and thousands of dollars from a bank. It could mean that you borrow 500 bucks from your dad to get your first massage table and you pay it back in the first month. You know?

MR Yeah, that I can get behind.

AH Right? I say that — well, let’s just launch into here’s what all of this advice has in common, which is that it may not be bad advice, but it’s all about context. Any business advice given to you without context is utter crap. There are no one-size-fits-all bits of advice. Just like there’s not one-size-fits-all bit of ethics. Even if your massage business is very, very similar to someone else’s business, you may make very different decisions from them and also be very successful. You might make decisions that are very similar to theirs and be very unsuccessful because there is nothing that is relevant without context. Nothing. There’s simply — you know what? I’m trying to find a piece of bad advice that could also be considered very good. When Jason was told that he shouldn’t buy a business, there may have been a hundred reasons why he shouldn’t buy that business, but he went through the context of all of them and figured out that it should be bought. And yes, he had to take out a loan to do that. And that has worked out very well for him because he deeply examined the context of that advice.

And that’s what’s really important. I see this every day in — I manage to avoid conversations in other massage discussion groups online because anything other than our premium blueprint group tends to make me twitch. But I see it all the time where people are like what’s the best thing you did to get your business started. And I see a hundred people list what could be decent ideas but are clearly not decent ideas for this one person. Even my making fun of business cards and flyers is ridiculous because I know a therapist in a small town in Massachusetts who — it is a flyer town, man. It is a bunch of hippies and they do everything with flyers, and she hangs up regular flyers about her massage practice, and it gets her a ton of new clients and it totally works for her in a way that would not work for me. So even things that I say, if they don’t have proper context and are not tailored for you, and if you are not willing to do the deep thinking to identify what could be effective in your town, in your locality, in your practice, in your niche, for your clients, my advice is worthless. My advice would not work very well for someone who is trying to build a practice in a mostly Amish community doing birth massage. My online marketing ain’t gong to help you, people. So it’s really about thinking about context and deep thinking about what your business is and who you service and your community.

That’s my soapbox. What do you go, Michael?

MR All right. I like it. Good list.

AH Yay. And I think context matters. I say that a lot, but it does. And thank you all for making it this far. And if you have terrible business advice you want to share with us, I need a laugh, people. Send it to us at podcast@massagebusinessblueprint.com or post it somewhere on Facebook or whatever. If you want it to be anonymous that’s totally cool; let me know. Also if you have any other topics you’d like for us to cover, we can do that.

MR Yeah. We’ll do this again, it was fun. Thanks for the list, everybody. Thanks also for listening. We appreciate you being a subscriber. Reminder our website is massagebusinessblueprint.com. You can check us out online there. If you have any topics or questions for us you want to bring to our attention, email us at podcast@massagebusinessblueprint.com. We appreciate all the iTunes reviews. We got a couple new recent — we’ll read those next time because I forgot this time, but we appreciate all the reviews we’ve gotten lately. You’re support means a lot to us and we love all the suggestions and all the topics you’ve sent us as well. Thanks, everybody, have an awesome day, and we will see you next time.

AH Bye.

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