Episode 279

Feb 4, 2020

Have you ever thought about starting a corporate wellness program in your massage program? Don’t know where to start? Join us as we dig deep into the brain of Anastasia Yecke Gude, Founder & Managing Director of Healing Hands. Anastasia shares her journey, how she started a corporate wellness program, what mistakes she learned from along the way, and how you can get started and add this service to your massage practice.

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Have you ever thought about starting a corporate wellness program in your massage program? Don’t know where to start? Join us as we dig deep into the brain of Anastasia Yecke Gude, Founder & Managing Director of Healing Hands. Anastasia shares her journey, how she started a corporate wellness program, what mistakes she learned from along the way, and how you can get started and add this service to your massage practice.

Sponsored by: Acuity Scheduling.


Sponsor message This episode is sponsored by Acuity, our 2018 software of choice. Acuity Scheduling is your online assistant working 24/7 to fill your schedule. No more phone tag. Clients can quickly view your real-time availability and self-book their own appointments and even pay online and reschedule with a click. Handle all of your forms before the appointment so you can get right to doing the massage you do best. Look and act professional by offering convenient scheduling to your clients that matches your brand and your voice. Customer support is a delight, and Acuity’s style will help you relax and have fun running your business again. Check out the special 45-day free offer at massagebusinessblueprint.com/acuity.

Michael Reynolds Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Massage Business Blueprint Podcast where we help you attract more clients, make more money, and improve your quality of life. I’m Michael Reynolds, your host today. And welcome to another expert interview episode of the Massage Business Blueprint Podcast. I am pumped today because we have a great show today. I am welcoming a special guest today, Anastasia Yecke Gude, who is the founder and managing director of Healing Hands. Welcome, Anastasia.

Anastasia Yecke Gude Hi. Thanks, Michael. Great to be here.

MR Thanks for being here. So I’m really pumped today because this is a really cool discussion we’re going to have today on corporate wellness programs. You kind of reached out and said, hey look, I’ve got a lot of experience in launching and running and maintaining a really successful corporate wellness program. And you mentioned you would love to share it with our audience. I think a lot of people out there would be really interested in this discussion because it’s really kind of a unique service to offer, something really interesting they can add to their practice. You’ve obviously done a great job branding it and delivering it, and I think it’s going to be a really great discussion. So I’m really excited, and I’m so glad you’re here. So thank you, thank you. [Laughing]

AYG My pleasure.

MR So let’s kind of jump in and start with your background. As we tend to do in these episodes, we want to start with your background, your story, set the stage for who you are and what you’ve done. Then after our sponsor spot, we’ll talk about the nitty-gritty of advice you have for our listeners on how they can start a similar program or learn from your experience.

So let’s start with your background. I generally like to stay out of the way as much as possible because our guests tend to do a better job at telling their own story, but I was looking over your bio and you’ve got some really interesting stuff. You’re a classically training pianist. You’ve got a lot of experience in different areas and kind of a cool story. So let’s hear the background story on how you got to where you are today.

AYG Sure. Yeah, so well, before I get into that, I wanted to just say that people don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care. And so before I get into just briefly a little bit about me, I really am excited and passionate about sharing what I’ve learned, what to do, and certainly a lot of what not to do with starting corporate wellness programs.

I graduated from college very young, wanted to see the world. But I wasn’t a trust fund baby, so I joined United Airlines as a flight attendant and completely, unashamedly milked it for the travel benefit. I went to 52 countries in three and a half years, a lot of travel in my job but also in my spare time, which was great. I was based out of San Francisco. After being a flight attendant, I worked for a dot-com. Then the crash of 2001 happened, and I ended up moving back over to the East Coast where I’m originally from, ended up going down to Miami with basically my last $700 and lived real lean and mean for a little while. But I found a great job with an Argentinian advertising company, and I worked for them for almost a decade, ended up becoming the head of national sales.

Everything was great. Life was good. And then the recession of 2008/2009 happened, and I found myself without a job. So I took about six months off and did some traveling and what not. But as I was entering this new phase in my life, I was like, okay, I’ve done a lot of traveling. I’ve done the executive part. I realized I love working with my hands. I really do. As you mentioned, I play piano. I dabble in ceramics. I type like 86 words a minute. I’m very dexterous, and I really like that. When I looked back at the advertising campaigns that I’d done, I realized that the ones that meant the most to me weren’t the ones that made the most money, but they were the ones that I was really helping people. We did something for children.org, which is a wonderful children sponsorship organization. We had signs all over Miami in our slow season about sponsoring kids. And we basically did that campaign for free, but we got a lot of kids sponsored and that really just touched my heart. And so I was like, all right, I don’t want to go back to an office. I want to work with my hands. I want to help people. Huh, massage therapy. [Laughing]

So I went to Educating Hands, which is a wonderful school in Miami where I’ve lived since 2002. And when I graduated and got licensed, I wanted to eventually have my own practice. I’m an optimist, but I’m a realist. And so I figured, okay, I need to kind of — I don’t know — cut my teeth, I guess, and really learn because I’m not very good yet. And so I went to Massage Envy, and we’ll just say I was there six months to the day. We’ll just say it was the learning experience, and I got the experience I needed and then I left. [Laughing] And then I went to work for a five-star spa, which was kind of the opposite extreme. But throughout this whole time, I was looking — I wanted to get into the corporate world but via massage. So I wanted — I joined BNI, which is Business Networking International. I joined a couple of chambers of commerce. I was going to networking events, sometimes as many as three or four a week. It was exhausting. I wasn’t going and shaking hands and getting business cards and coming home and putting them in a drawer. I was manually entering everything into my database. I was reaching out to people. I mean, I was hustling big time because I figured, okay, now I have the skills. I have the business knowledge, so now I want to get in there.

So my first big account — and I can’t really give names here, but it’s a major liquor distributor throughout the Southeast. And what it was was I working at a five-star spa. I was massaging a very, very nice gentleman, and he was making small talk. And so I asked him where he worked, and he told me where. I’ve always tried to grow my business ethically, and so I don’t ever recommend poaching clients. But this five-star hotel was not going to go and do a chair massage event. That’s just not what they did. So I gave him my card, and I said, hey, that’s something my company does. My company at the time was basically me. That’s something we do, and so I’d love to be able to have the opportunity to meet with you guys and see how we could build that program. And so that’s how the first thing happened. Then from there, for a couple years we were doing a lot of chair massage events. Then about two or three years later, I got a request from a company that we’d been working with. And when I say “we”, by this point basically I mean it was myself and kind of a core group of people from — a lot of people I met through massage school, and then they would recommend me their friends who were also good therapists. So I was starting to build the network.

And so we got a request to do yoga at a company, corporate yoga. [Laughing] And my first — I was like, no, we don’t do that, because I was a massage therapist. That’s what I knew, and I’m not a jack of all trades, master of none. So I was like, oh, my gosh, no, we can’t do that. And I’m driving home after this meeting and I’m like, you know, that was really dumb. Do you think Steve Jobs knows how to make an iPhone himself? No, he just hires really good people, and they knew it. So I’m like, no, I’m limiting myself by only chair massage. So from there, it grew into yoga and mindfulness. And today, my company offers — we’re in businesses throughout South Florida and the Atlanta Metro area. We offer chair massage, yoga, mindfulness — let’s see if I get them all — Zumba, Pilates, group acupuncture, bootcamp, Tai chi, stretch therapy, and chiropractic adjustments. Yes, that’s all. So again, I don’t know most of those things. I know massage really well, but I have created a great team that goes out and provides these things.

So that’s kind of where, in a nutshell, the Reader’s Digest condensed version of where I got to how my company is today. And our mission at Healing Hands is to help people work happier and healthier by participating in our customized wellness programs.

MR That’s really exciting.

AYG Thanks.

MR Yeah, I’m looking over your site and looking at all the things you offer, and I had no idea that you offered all of these things to corporate clients including chiropractic, the meditation’s really interesting, acupuncture. I mean, it’s a whole wellness package with so many different services. This is fantastic.

AYG Yeah, and I mean, I would say that the core of our wellness offerings is still, by and large, chair massage. But in the last two years we’ve been getting a lot more requests for — it’s really, I would say, yoga, mindfulness, Zumba, and group acupuncture. Those are really — we’ve done all of them on the list, but a couple we do very sporadically, but — particularly the mindfulness, which is really interesting because I think there’s a whole paradigm shift, kind of a sea change happening in the wellness industry. Companies are realizing that, oh, okay, it’s — people are going to be — if they’re happier, they’re going to be better focused. If they’re better focused, they’re going to be more productive. If they’re going to be more productive, they’re going to do more with less, and our healthcare costs are going to go down. So it’s a change from being reactive to being proactive in the workplace. And you know, it’s a sad fact of American life that we spend more waking hours with our coworkers than with our family. So employers are kind of wising up, finally, to the fact that, wow, if people can be happier while they’re here, it’s going to be better for our bottom line as a company. Our costs are going to go down. So it’s a really good time to be in the wellness industry. And that’s why I wanted to share a little bit about, for other massage therapists out there, for starting a corporate wellness program.

MR Yeah, so side note, a lot of our community members are getting training through Yomassage. Have you considered working with them as well, or do you do any Yomassage?

AYG No, I’m actually not familiar with them here in Miami. I’m not sure if they have a presence maybe more in other parts of the country. But we have some great yoga people, including the yoga teacher that I go to her class every Saturday. So I think, yeah, we’re probably set with that, but I’m actually writing this down so I can check them out after.

MR Yeah, yeah, they’re great people. They’re a sponsor as well.

AYG Oh, awesome.

MR And they do training all over, so I didn’t know if you had looked into them. Very cool. Well, these services look fantastic. If I were working in a corporate job, I would want all this stuff. This is great. [Laughter] So tell me a little bit about your practice. How many people are in your business?

AYG So as far as full-time employees, there is myself and our wonderful, wonderful wellness coordinator Karina. And then we have, total — because I have this massive spreadsheet with everyone’s info — I think we have 82 practitioners, but of that —

MR Wow.

AYG Yeah, but our core group is really maybe about 25, kind of our go-to people. And when we’re scheduling events, we try to keep in mind travel time because I don’t know how things are in your neck of the woods but here, the traffic is just hellacious. So we really try to keep our events at a minimum of two hours. And if it’s less than that, then we charge more and we pay the practitioner more because I don’t want my people spending as long or more getting to a gig as they do actually working it.

MR Right. Yeah, that’s a drag. [Laughing] Very cool. So do you have — dumb question here, but it looks like you have a physical location as well. You don’t just do on-site. People can come to your facility as well and get sort of more traditional massage. Is that correct, or is that —

AYG Yes. Our official name — it’s funny because I need to — it’s kind of on my backburner list of projects to do. Our “official official” name is Healing Hands Therapeutic Massage, LLC, as registered in the state of Florida. But massage, really, for the past four years, has started comprising less and less and less of our company’s total revenue. Currently, it’s at about maybe 25%, and the corporate wellness is the other 75%. But massage is my first love. I don’t know, I have this weird empathy, like when I’m giving massage, it’s almost like I can feel it on myself. For me, it’s like a moving meditation, and so I didn’t want to give that up. And honestly, we created a great — since 2012, I think, we got on Yelp. And I know people either love Yelp or hate Yelp, but we love it because if you type in “best massage Miami” we come up number one. After the paid ads, we’re the first organic result, and so we have a lot of clients.

And so what I do — and I work with a business coach, and he was wanting me to actually give up my — I was at four days, then three days, then two days, then like a half day. And he was like, no, you really need to give up that half day. I’m like, no, I don’t. I love it. So I actually work a half day on Mondays, and that is my massage time. And then the rest of the time, I’m really focused on growing the corporate wellness program. But we have a couple wonderful practitioners that work at our studio the rest of the week. And then the benefit, also — so our studio is, it’s part of a shared workspace in Miami’s financial district in downtown. And so obviously, it’s an office. It’s enclosed. Nobody can see in. But inside, it looks like a spa. We’ve made it very nice. But the cool thing to having that space is that downstairs, we have the conference room. So whenever I need to meet with clients, usually I got to their offices, but if they ever want to meet with us, we can just book that conference room and have it. That’s been a really good mix for us.

MR So one more quick question before the break. It looks like you are also a certified corporate wellness specialist. Tell me more about that.

AYG Oh yeah, sure. So that is — there’s a couple certifications out there, and that’s the one that — I had kind of asked around, and I think that’s the one that is the most respected, not that the other ones aren’t great as well. But basically, I had to take an all-weekend course talking about — there’s so many different aspects to wellness. A lot of people — and I think in our industry we tend to think of the physical aspect as massage therapists, you know? But there’s also the mental aspect. And there’s also kind of the whole HR/legal aspect. If you offer this program to this population, then, well, is it discriminatory toward the other population? And with that I really mean, for example, like smoking cessation and giving incentives to quit. It gets very technical, so not all of it was relevant to me. But a lot of HR professionals take it and get the certification. You have to take an exam. And I felt that it was important. As I meet with these companies, it just kind of gives me an additional credibility and shows that I have knowledge beyond just coming in and doing a service and leaving. It’s kind of, I’m familiar with the legal aspects behind it.

MR Well, that’s really smart because obviously with consumers, they don’t really care that much. It’s just like, hey, I want a massage. I’m good.

AYG Right.

MR But with a corporate client, you may be working with an HR person who has to justify it to a boss. And if you have a certification in your company, it’s like, oh, these people are certified. They know what they’re doing, and that little box is checked. It just lowers the barrier and lowers the objections. So that’s probably really smart that you got that. I’m sure it opens a lot of doors for you.

AYG Yeah.

MR Well, let’s take a quick break and hear from our sponsor, and then I want to jump into the how-to for our audience.

Sponsor message So our sponsor today is Acuity, our online scheduling software of choice here at Massage Business Blueprint. We really love Acuity, great people. We have regular communication with them as well and kind of stay in touch with what’s going on over there, and we just love working with them. So Acuity is awesome. It’s very affordable. It works really well. It’s simple. It makes it really, really easy for your clients to book appointments online, pay, manage the calendars, all the stuff you need to do online scheduling.

MR Also, a little bird told me Anastasia, that you are also using Acuity in your business. Is that true?

AYG Yeah. Actually, it’s funny. I saw that they were a sponsor. And I was like, that’s really cool because not only are we using it, but we are using it after an exhaustive search by my husband, who is an IT professional, a very super smart guy. We were using a different software that wasn’t working so well for us. And he was like, honey, software’s like what I do. So can I help you? [Laughing] Sure.

MR [Laughing] Well, there you have it. It’s been approved by your husband the software specialist, so that’s even a better endorsement.

AYG Yeah. [Laughing]

MR Well, that’s great. I know you’ll have great success with it.

Sponsor message I think it’s a great tool for online scheduling. And our listeners get a special deal. If you want to try out Acuity, you get 45 days of a trial, which is longer than anyone else gets. So if you want to try out Acuity and get that 45-day trial, plenty of time to check it out, go to massagebusinessblueprint.com/acuity. Again, that’s massagebusinessblueprint.com/acuity. Again, you can try it for 45 days. And they make it really easy to switch from other apps as well. If you’re thinking of switching from another tool to Acuity, they also help you with the migration. So don’t be scared if you’re thinking of switching. It can be done. Thanks, Acuity. We appreciate you being a sponsor.

MR All right, so Anastasia, let’s get into the how. I’m sure by now there are a lot of listeners out there who are thinking, wow, this sounds awesome. I would love to supplement or add corporate wellness to my massage practice. Where do I start? How do I do it? What does it even look like? What is a corporate wellness program? So where would you start?

AYG So I think the most important thing that any massage therapist can do who’s thinking about branching out in this way would be to join some professional networking organizations. I had mentioned earlier, BNI. Here in Miami and also up in Boston, they have something called TCI, which is The Commonwealth Institute, which is a professional networking organization for women. They also — there’s many, many organizations out there. I’m also very active in my Rotary Club, but that’s really more about service, I guess. You certainly meet businesspeople, but it’s more about giving back.

But anyway, but basically, I think a big problem that we tend to have in our industry as massage therapists — and I’m making a generalization here, and I certainly hope it doesn’t apply to everyone, but I know it applied to me — is sort of that feeling of, oh, my gosh, I’m in a room with all these business owners, but it’s just me and my massage chair, and oh, my god.

So I would say this, you have a seat at the table just like any other person in that event. You have value that nobody else has in your field. And yeah, okay, maybe you’re not running a multimillion-dollar company yet, or maybe that’s not even your goal, but you have value, and you have worth, and you also have a lot to learn. So stay humble and just listen and meet as many people as you can. I can’t tell you how much mentors have helped me as I’m growing. I had mentioned earlier in the podcast that I was working for a dot-com in San Francisco in 2000. The head engineer of our company — I was just a lowly customer service rep, basically. [Laughing] And he took an interest in me and was like, you know, I see something there that you have. He mentored me, and we’re in touch to this day. And now that I’ve grown my company, I bounce ideas off of him a couple times a year, and it’s been really good. So I would say stay humble, but realize your worth and definitely join — network, network, network.

And I would also add to that, that when you go to networking events, you meet people, you get their business card. When you follow up, which is hopefully the next day, when you follow up, when you save their information and everything, you’re building your database to send out your newsletter and things like that, it’s really — make it all about them, not all about you because how many times have we gotten in our inbox something about, oh, this is what I do, this is how awesome I am, and this is what my company — and what do you do? You hit delete because you don’t care. So what we do — and I say “we” now because now it’s me and Karina, but when we follow up with people, we mention a little bit about our services. But then we have some really cool handouts — I say handouts, but obviously these are digital because it’s email — about workplace ergonomics and stretches you can do throughout the day. And so we’re like, hey, I know that you probably carry a lot of stress in your job as an attorney or as a doctor, as a business owner, so we’ve attached some stretches for you. Hope you find them useful.

And once we kind of shifted and started doing that, the response rate’s a lot better, which leads me to another thing. Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t get a response. Most of the people that you meet, it’s just a fact, you’re probably not going to hear from them again. You might get a LinkedIn contact request. I recommend sending those out, by the way. LinkedIn is great. But you probably won’t hear from the majority of them again, or you might get a quick thanks and that’s it. But that’s okay because years later down the road, they might think of you. I mean, I had it happen several times where someone I met at an event and reached out to, didn’t hear back, when they’re ready, they’ll remember you. And they’ll remember you especially if you send them something that’s useful to them like stretches.

MR I’m really glad you mentioned the seat at the table part of it because I hear so many massage therapists say things like, oh, I went to this networking event. It was basically a bunch of guys in suits, and I felt really out of place. So they went to some other corporate event, and same thing. It’s like, I’m the massage therapist with my causal clothes and my non-business-y kind of persona, and everyone else was in a suit and being all stuffy. And they just felt really out of place. And that sometimes means that maybe that’s not the right environment for you. But others it means, hey, if you really are trying to break into a corporate space and maybe start a corporate wellness program, you do deserve to be there. And it’s okay to be different. But also, it’s okay to understand how to interact in that environment. So I’m really glad you mentioned that and really reinforced having the confidence to have the seat at the table because you do have value to offer. That’s great.

AYG Thanks. And I would also say for a massage therapist who’s thinking about starting a corporate wellness program, a lot of what I learned, I learned by kind of doing it the wrong way, or not even the wrong way, but it’s been a ten-year process. It’s baby steps throughout a decade. But I would almost think if you have a current website and that current website is very heavily massage focused, meaning massage like in-home or a table massage, I would think about probably creating an alternate site that is corporate wellness focused and putting that on your cards and almost having one for one audience and one for the other because that was something that we heard from when we — even as recently as a year ago. There’s a current incarnation of our website is, well, not quite a year old, but it was very focused on massage. And then you had to go to another screen to find out about the corporate wellness. As our focus shifted, I realized we probably should’ve changed our site a little bit sooner.

MR Yeah, okay. So tell me about logistics. Talk about — let’s say you’ve got someone saying, okay, I want to start a corporate wellness program. Sounds great. Sounds like a great way to add to my practice. Where do I start? Do I just go get gigs and then hire people? Or do I do it all myself and then add people as I go? What’s the process to starting it up from a logistical standpoint?

AYG Well, I’ll tell you what I did, and I think it was a good way. There’s a lot of things I would go back and do differently, but I don’t think I would do this differently. I would — first, don’t think of something you can necessarily do right out of massage school. Get good. Get some experience in the industry overall. And then the first couple events, I would probably go myself with a couple other therapists because there’s nothing like actually being there and being, I guess, sort of in the trenches, if you will. But also, you want to make sure that these people that are on your team that you’ve hired to represent not themselves, but you and your company, that they’re professional, that they arrive on time, that they do good work. And so that’s kind of what I did. And once I got kind of my core people, then I stopped going as much.

But just logistically, what I usually do at the — we have a document. It has our logo at the top. And also, it has our waiver with all the legal mumbo jumbo that you need here because everyone in the US is sue happy. And then below it, it has signup slots. So you’re signing up — and it depends on the event. If it’s an event where, say, it’s more of a trade show and people are just going to be walking by, I don’t usually include the time slot, but always the name, always a signature, and always the email address. Now, why the email address? Well, because then you can start building your network and your email database. And if someone doesn’t want to put their email address, which happens a lot, that’s fine. But you have it there and you have the option. And then afterwards, you take that information — and again, it’s event specific. You know, if you’re — we live in — we’re headquartered in Miami. It’s where I live. And then we do events up in West Palm Beach which is like an hour and a half north. So obviously if someone signs their email address, we’re not going to put them on our mailing list for massages at our studio. No one’s going to drive 90 minutes down to get a massage. You kind of have to be smart about it because you don’t want to have people think that you’re spammy.

But you get that email address, and it’s a good way to start growing. And then what we do, especially since I’m really never on site anymore unless I’m there taking pictures for our social media, what we do is we have the practitioners take a clear picture with their phones. I mean, a scan is best, but then you have to go home and not everyone has a scanner. Everyone has a smartphone. So just take a clear picture of the sign-up sheet at the end. They send it to — we have a reports email address. You can send it to an email address. And then upon receipt of that, we send payment the same day. That’s something that I think a lot of our team appreciates because we all know what it’s like. And I say “we” because I worked for a couple chair massage companies before starting my own, and it’s a pain. You’re hustling. You’re going. You’re working the event. And then what? You’ve got to wait two, three weeks for the check to come? Although this was — to be fair, this was nine years ago and there weren’t all those instant pay apps now. Now we have Zelle. We have Cash. We have PayPal.

But even — back then — actually, this leads me into something that people should probably be aware of if you’re lucky enough to land a larger account. So this was 2012. We already had the large liquor distribution account, which was great. Through a friend of mine who works at a major cruise line here in Miami, which is headquartered here, we had the opportunity to do an entire week of chair massage for all their call center in Doral, Florida. So that was great. I was super pumped. And so sure enough, you know, we do the whole week, and I mail off checks because this was 2012. I mail off checks on Friday. It was a Monday through Friday event. On Friday, I mailed off checks to everyone. I was very proud of myself. I gave myself a pat on the back. I’m like, okay, so I have basically no money left in my business account now because I paid everyone. But that’s okay because previous other accounts that we had done by that time would give us a check as were leaving. Those clients are unicorns, okay? [Laughing] That doesn’t usually happen.

So this company — and it was not their fault. And I never, ever thought, oh, my God, they’re not going to pay me. That was never a thought, but it’s a very large company. They had to input us. We were a new vendor. They had to input us into their system. They had to do God knows what on their end. It took 90 days to get that check, and I was broke. [Laughing] So I had to give myself a loan from my personal — it was not fun. But of course they pay it in the end, but just be aware. If you are lucky enough to land a large account, there could be a delay in getting paid. And so you need to be conscious of that.

MR Yeah, that’s great advice. The bigger the company, the slower they pay. [Laughing]

AYG Yeah.

MR Quick question here. I promise I’m not trying to open up a can of worms here on this topic, but I’m curious. Are your people 1099 contractors or W-2 employees?

AYG Yeah, they are 1099 contractors because we have — by and large, we have events that kind of pop up here and there. We really try to get companies to invest in a program, meaning like a regular, monthly, weekly, whatever thing. And unfortunately, it’s a hard sell. Companies are starting to come around, and we’ve been lucky to — we have two that do things on a regular basis with us. And this year, that is probably going to expand to about five. But right now, just the way that things are with people, might have an event next week; it might be two months from now. So it ends up that we pay them as 1099s.

And something else I want to point out here is that as I’ve tried to build my company and tried to build it with a good culture, something that is, I guess, I don’t want to say troubling, but yeah, sort of troubling to me is that — so we have these 80-some-odd contractors, but they don’t — even my core group of like 25, they may not all ever be working together. They don’t really know one another. It’s like you get to an event, and there’s this complete stranger that you’ve never seen before. And some of them are really good friends and have become friends.

So basically, what I do is a couple times a year I try to have different events where I can bring the team together. So we always, always, always have a holiday party. We usually have an event in July which is just like a brunch — like a champagne brunch kind of thing, and we have it over in the conference room at the space that we rent in downtown. So I try to create an environment where people, even though they’re contractors and even though they may work for us three times a year and maybe I don’t even see them those three times anymore, I really genuinely want them to feel valued and a part of something. So that’s just something that we do, and I’ve been told that people appreciate that.

MR Okay, very cool. So now for this question, you may want to get specific. You may want to be a little more vague depending on your comfort level in answering, but I’m curious about the financial part of it. So obviously, you get a payment from the company that you’re doing the work for. And then you turn around and you pay the contractors, obviously. So what are —

AYG No, actually it’s the other way. We pay them first and then we —

MR Yeah, sorry. That was out of order. So you first pay the contractors, and then of course you — when the company pays, that’s when that revenue comes in. So are you comfortable talking about pricing, for example, what you pay the contractors, what you charge the company, any of that?

AYG I mean, I can talk in broad terms.

MR Yeah, maybe just generalizations, yeah.

AYG It’s going to be different for each market because I know this is listened to throughout the US. So I mean, in Miami, I would say our profit margin is about — let me think — probably about 60%. But, you know, and then I can hear people listening to this going, 60%? [Laughing] But you have to understand how much marketing, how many costs there are in getting these clients.

MR Oh, yeah, there’s a lot of work to be done to make all this happen. So I think that’s perfectly fair, in my opinion. But I’m also more interested in kind of what you charge the client. What’s your pricing structure like for your corporate clients? Like if someone’s starting out, what would they charge clients? How do they know what kind of scale to use?

AYG Definitely always look at what is the going rate in your market. For us, I can talk about massage. And the other ones more or less fall in line with this. Well, no, group acupuncture obviously is a lot more. But for massage, generally, if they are going to do at least two hours, because we don’t do anything less than that, we’re looking at anywhere between $95 and $100 per therapist per hour. And that is — sometimes we do for a very large hospital in Miami. For the last six years, every year we do Nurses Week in the beginning of May. And we have, I think it’s eight or nine therapists. And it’s a five- or six-hour event. So it’s a lot of billable hours. In that case, we’ll give them a bit of a break on the deal. But yeah, by and large, a rule of thumb here in the Miami markets, yeah, right around $95. Now, if they did want a group acupuncture, so that’s billed a little differently. And that’s going to be higher. The chiropractic is a little different and is also higher.

But — oh, and group acupuncture, I wanted to mention about that. So something — and it’s becoming more and more popular, at least here in the Miami market. So I wanted to throw this out to other practitioners to keep in mind. Group acupuncture is very easy to set up because you can seat people at a conference table in a conference room. Usually, the lights are low. You might have some meditative music or incense or something. But basically, the acupuncturist will put needles in the auricular points. So the auricular points are the points in the ear. And she does a brief Q&A with everyone. Everyone has already filled out the consent form. So she does just a brief verbal Q&A about where they carry pain, puts the needles. People sit quietly. The acupuncturist we prefer to use for that actually will sort of give them a guided meditation during that time. And then at the end, obviously she removes the needles. And she replaces them with ear seeds. And then ear seeds, she teaches them that you can pulse the points and give yourself sort of a self-treatment for the next few days.

And we’ve seen an increase in bookings in that, which is pretty cool. Again, check in your state and see how it is. But I know here in Florida, we obviously make sure all of our practitioners have liability insurance. And something as you scale, I would recommend using some sort of software. We use a software called Remindax that reminds people when their liability insurance is expiring so they can renew it. We always make sure everyone is covered and obviously properly licensed and everything. But we’ve been able to do that at companies throughout South Florida and — to much success.

MR Great. So it sounds like for the most part you’re charging per hour, per service.

AYG Most of the time. Group acupuncture and chiro’s a little different. But everything else, yeah.

MR Okay. So let’s talk about people. Here’s the number one complaint I hear about when massage therapists are trying to build a team. The number one complaint I hear is they struggle to find good, reliable people to work on their team. It sounds like you’ve been really successful at doing that. So whether they’re trying to hire W-2 employees or 1099 contractors, either way, they struggle to find reliable people. So how have you been so successful in finding great, reliable people to be on your team?

AYG Well, I’ve been lucky in that as a massage therapist myself, when you’re in that environment and you’re going through school and you’re meeting people, you can kind of tell who is really professional and taking the job seriously and who’s just kind of showing up. So obviously, I reached out to the people that I think are of the caliber that I’m looking for. But then more importantly, once I’ve established a good relationship with them and they see that as a company we pay our people the same day — nobody does that. We pay them the same day. They are happy to recommend other people of a similar caliber that they know. Honestly, referral has been the best way, but referral with the right people. I wouldn’t just ask someone that I’ve worked with once or twice, hey, you got any friends? What’s been really cool as we’ve grown is that I’ve had therapists reach out to me saying, hey, I’m a friend of blah, blah, blah — someone in my core team — and they were telling me about your company, and I wanted to introduce myself. I take that as kind of a validation of what I’ve tried to build in terms of making people truly feel valued and important.

And then the flipside is when we do have therapists that for whatever reason don’t meet our standards — meaning, they don’t arrive 10 to 15 minutes early to set up, they rush in right at the start time, and they take long breaks and just things like that — the best thing — and it’s never an easy conversation to have. I actually had to have it last month with someone. But I just tell them, I’m sorry, but you’re not measuring up, and I wish you all the best. I think the key is just always treating people with respect even when you have to have those hard conversations and just telling them why it’s not working out. And if they’re honest with themselves, I think they’ll realize, yeah, I guess she has a point, not that it makes it any easier or less awkward. And that is probably the worst thing, I think, about being a manager, is having to have hard conversations. I don’t ever try to do it through email. I try to do it in person or, at the very least, via phone. If a tree’s growing, sometimes you’ve got to prune some of the lesser-producing branches. [Laughing] I don’t know.

That’s a cheesy metaphor, but I think that’s also how we’ve been able to get a good team, is by treating those who do a great job really good and letting those who aren’t doing a good job know it and telling them why we’re no longer working with them. And one other thing, something that we do with the core team, like the group of about 25, is that every year for their birthday we will send — I will send a handwritten card, and I find out what their favorite charity is, and I make a donation to that charity in their name. And it’s just part of making them feel like I value them.

MR Nice. So you mentioned you pay people the same day electronically. How do you actually — what tool do you use to pay them?

AYG We used to only use two. And now we have so many people that want Zelle, so we’re like, okay. So we do PayPal or Cash App or Zelle. That’s it, one of those three. But that is contingent upon receiving a clear photo of the sign-up sheet. And sometimes people forget and then Karina has to — my assistant has to follow up with them and be like, hey guys, you know. But once they send it, generally within about two hours, payment is sent to their account.

MR So you don’t require them to invoice you?

AYG No, I actually have talked with several of them about that. As independent contractors, they should be invoicing me, and nobody does. Nobody does. I literally had one person that did it like twice. And then she’s like, ah, you know what? It’s easier if you just send me the payment. [Laughing] I’m like, okay.

MR Yeah, I just always wonder about the paperwork of making sure that’s in place if you ever get audited. So I was just kind of curious how strict you were about that.

AYG No, I wish. I would welcome it. And anyone out there who is working as a massage therapist — I don’t know why. I don’t know if it’s just a Miami thing, but literally nobody will ever send me an invoice. But I will say this, though, that could be because most of them don’t really have their own LLC or business name. Several of them do. I would say maybe 15% do, but even those never send me an invoice.

MR So you alluded to all the mistakes you’ve made along the way that you’ve learned from. So how long is that list of mistakes, and can you share some with us? [Laughing] I always love to hear about the mistakes because to me those are the best learning experience. The best teacher is failure. Obviously, you’ve been very successful, but I’m sure under the — behind the scenes there’s a lot that people haven’t seen that you’ve learned from. So what are some of those mistakes that you would caution other people to watch out for?

AYG Yeah, so I would say if you’re having a large event — and for us, the largest event every year is the chair massage we do for Nurses Week that I had spoken about earlier. I would say if you’re having an event that big, and even if you know you have a good team and everything, you should probably either be there yourself as a massage therapist or hire one extra and make very clear to them that they’re an alternate. They will go, and if someone is running late or can’t show up or is in an accident or whatever, that they’ll fill in. And if everyone shows up, you still get money for your travel time and then you get to go home, because that has happened. The more massage therapists or practitioners, period, that you have for an event, the bigger the chance that someone could be running late or not be able to make it, many times through no fault of their own.

MR That’s a really good idea.

AYG Yeah. And honestly, if you’re doing an event with that many billable hours, I’m sorry, you can afford to have someone show up as an alternate and obviously pay them if they don’t work. So that’s a big one.

Also, well, I already talked about the fact that it sometimes takes a while to get paid. So definitely kind of keep that in mind. Talked about the — making sure you have a site that’s more focused on corporate wellness.

Oh, I would say if you have to let someone go — so I was in a very awkward position about two years ago. We have a large software company that it’s our largest corporate client, and we do massage, yoga, Pilates, acupuncture, mindfulness, stretch. We do a lot of things for them. And so one of the massage therapists was — it was funny because she had her regulars, which was like three people that just absolutely loved her and thought she walked on water. And then for whatever reason, and I don’t know why, but people just weren’t jiving with her overall. And what it dwindled down to was that nobody was really booking with her except for these three people.

I tried to find out about it and tried to find out what was going on. And so finally — she lived nowhere close to me — I was able to meet up with her because I told her, I really want to meet with you and talk with you. She was in Miami for something, so we were able to meet up and I had a conversation with her. I was like, look, I don’t know why, but this isn’t working. And so I feel that I’m going to need to find someone else. But I’d like to be able to give you a month to take your time and find something. She was only working, I think it was once a week or something, but I didn’t know her financial situation and I wanted to — it wasn’t like she was coming in late or anything like that. So anyway, she was kind of shocked. She got really quiet. Then the next morning, I woke up at about 7 and there was a text on my phone at 5:30 a.m. that says, I quit. [Laughing] That put me kind of in an awkward position.

But I think since then I’ve learned hire slowly, fire quickly. And I realize by saying “fire”, she’s an independent contractor, so it was just doing more of a schedule shift. But I did have to make that schedule shift and schedule someone else in there. And I think that when you realize it’s not the right person, there’s sometimes — I think there was some misplaced compassion on my end, and I think it offended her. I feel really bad about that. I feel like I wish I could’ve handled that differently. But I think we’re all learning as we go. And if you fail, at least fail up. [Laughing] So learn from it and move on.

MR Yeah, I’ve been there so many times. [Laughing] I hear you. Well, I know we’re running short on time, but let’s wrap up with — I’m kind of curious, what’s the stuff that you wish people would’ve told you or warned you about or helped you with along the way that you had to figure out yourself? So if someone’s out there saying, hey, I want to start a corporate wellness program, this sound awesome, what’s the stuff no one tells you about that you would want to help others kind of figure out with your advice?

AYG Well, a couple things. I am a firm, firm believer in co-opetition. There is — I feel like that scarcity mentality, like, oh, I’ve got to get mine because otherwise I’m not going to have — it’s not conducive to growth. So if you — there’s a wonderful person here in — actually, she’s since moved, but she was here in Miami who had a business similar to mine, and we would refer practitioners to one another all the time. Keep in mind, both of us had very similar kinds of companies. But with that was a very sporadic — like we might have an event here, might have an event there, so no one’s working full time for anyone else because then they wouldn’t be a contractor. So we would refer people. She’d reach out to me, hey, I have an event coming up. Do you have any good therapists? I found a Zumba instructor that we use for a lot of events. She’s fantastic, and I found that thanks to her. So I would just say don’t be afraid to share what you’ve learned and refer the people that work really well with you to somebody else because they’re going to appreciate it, and so will that person. And it’ll come back around.

The other thing that I’ll mention is that as you grow, something that you can do — and it does take, definitely, a little while to get paid, but some insurance companies have wellness dollars. And so several of our corporate accounts, events that we do for them, we don’t actually bill the company. We bill the insurance carrier. So we might bill Cigna or Aetna or Blue Cross Blue Shield. And it’s really cool because — I’m careful to say it’s not free because they have already paid for it one way or another. [Laughing] But it’s something that it’s like part of their plan. They’ve already paid for it. It’s sort of use it or lose it by December 31st. So that’s another good way to be able to pitch if you’re able to meet with some of these companies. But at the same time, you have to recognize it’s probably going to take two months, maybe 90 days to get paid.

MR Got you. What software are you using to invoice?

AYG To invoice, oh, yeah, so that’s a great question. I’m glad you touched on that before we wrap up. QuickBooks Online.

MR Love QuickBooks Online. Allissa and fight about this all the time. [Laughing] She’s not a fan. I am.

AYG No, I’m really happy. I’m really happy, but I would say this as a really important caveat. If you switch to QuickBooks — because I was using QuickBooks Desktop, and I was kind of dragged kicking and screaming to QuickBooks Online. But it’s so awesome. It connects instantly with your bank account. You can just go through and just tag the expenses as they come in. But get a professional who either knows your business or you could sit with and he or she can ask you questions as they go. Get a professional to do the original setup for you. It will save you time.

MR Yeah, and that’s — before Allissa yells me, I want to make sure I’m fair to her because the reason she — she says exactly that. Her point is it’s not really well-suited for the tiny, one-person massage practice because it’s got a learning curve. Now, on your case it’s different because you’re a corporate wellness provider. So QuickBooks Online makes a lot of sense because you’re interfacing with corporate clients. It’s just a different environment. So I want to be fair to Allissa before she yells at me, that there’s reasons we fight about this. [Laughing] And she’s right in a lot of ways about it not being ideal in a lot of cases. But you’re right about making sure it is set up correctly with a professional or learning how to do it correctly, and that makes a big difference.

AYG Yep. And I wouldn’t suggest this necessarily for YouTube tutorials — or I’m sorry, for QuickBook tutorials, but YouTube is your friend, man. You can find so many (indiscernible).

MR Oh, yeah.

AYG It’s amazing. But for QuickBooks, yeah, don’t cheapen out. If you’re really thinking about doing this and scaling it, get a pro. Shell out the bucks. Get a pro to set it up for you. I promise it’ll save you a headache.

MR And there are some alternatives too. Wave Accounting is a good alternative. FreshBooks is a good alternative. There is a few, kind of, core mainstream invoicing apps that work really well, and QuickBooks is one of them.

AYG Yeah, I think there’s one called Xero as well that works.

MR Xero’s one. Yeah, quite a few. I think the point here is to invoice officially, like don’t just send a Word document.

AYG Yes.

MR Have a real system —

AYG Yes.

MR — where you track your accounts receivable. It’s a real invoice. People can pay online. Make it really clean and professional.

AYG Absolutely.

MR Awesome. This is exciting. This is really cool stuff and really a great story you’ve told, a great process you’ve shared for starting a corporate wellness program. Are you glad you’ve done this? Are you happy?

AYG I’m really happy. I love sharing what I’ve learned. And I wish — well, as I mentioned, I had mentors that helped me. And so if anyone has any questions after hearing this, and if you heard this whole thing all the way through, kudos to you. But hit us up on our website on the contact page, and I can follow up. I’m happy to hop on a quick call or something. But there is more than enough stressed people in the world to go around, and if we can make their workday a little bit happier, where they spend the majority of their waking hours, then more power to us all.

MR So if anyone wants to reach out to you with questions, do you entertain questions? Do you do any consulting? What’s your level of availability to talk to people about this if they want to follow up with you?

AYG So I mean, I am extremely busy. But I’d be happy, if someone is genuinely interested in this and wanted to hop on a 15-, 20-minute call, I would absolutely do it. If it’s any more than that, there’d probably have to be some sort of cost involved for my time. But I don’t really know, is kind of how I would put that. So we would have to see, but if anyone has any initial questions or you want to just email them, that’s completely fine. I have no problem getting back to you and sharing what I’ve learned.

MR Wonderful. Thank you for being available. And your website, for everyone listening, is healing-hands.us, healing-hands.us. So that’s a good way to find you, I assume?

AYG Yes, that’s correct. And just a quick aside, next month we are launching a website that is only corporate because this one has a focus on corporate but has a little bit of massage. So it’s going to be healinghandscorporatewellness.com, but they’re mirror sites. They’re going to look like one another. We’re just having one that is only corporate wellness. And it’s going to show up better in SEO, which I didn’t even get to here, but that’s okay. That’s probably another topic for another —

MR Well, that’s a three-hour discussion in itself. [Laughing] So we’ll save that for a different time. Maybe you can come back and talk about SEO.

Well, thank you. Anastasia, you are awesome. This has been phenomenal, really great information. And I think a lot of people are probably getting gears turning already about starting a program like this. So thank you so much for your time.

AYG Absolutely, my pleasure.

MR Anything else you’d like to add before we go?

AYG Pardon?

MR Anything else you’d like to add before we wrap up?

AYG No, just know your worth. And if you set your mind to this, you can definitely do it, and market is certainly there, so best of luck.

MR Wonderful. All right everyone, Anastasia Yecke Gude, founder and managing partner of Healings Hands. Thank you so much for being here, Anastasia. We really appreciate it.

So thanks everyone, for joining us today. We appreciate you being with us. You can find us online at massagebusinessblueprint.com. Send us a note if we can help you with anything, and thanks for joining us today. Have an awesome day. We’ll see you next time.

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