Episode 326

Nov 27, 2020

In today's episode, Allissa and Michael answer listener and community member questions.

Listen to "E326: Mail Bag" on Spreaker.
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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.

Allissa Haines I'm Allissa Haines.

MR And we're your hosts. Welcome to our episode today. Allissa, welcome to our episode today.

AH Thanks so much, Michael. And welcome to you as well.

MR Thank you.

AH What are you reading this week?

MR I am reading a book.

AH Uh-huh.

MR I know, finally. I haven't read for a while because I've just been distracted with other stuff. But I'm reading an honest-to-goodness book called The One Page Financial Plan by Carl Richards. I'm kind of on a Carl Richards kick, and that doesn't really mean anything to anyone else outside of my financial advisor circles because he's like one of those -- he's -- basically kind of runs like a Blueprint-style thing for financial advisors like we do for massage therapists. So I took one of his courses. I follow his podcast. And he has a book out called The One Page Financial Plan, which is kind of for everybody, not just financial advisors. But it's a really -- he has a really nice way of simplifying the complex gunk that has just polluted the financial advice industry for so long.

And the book is really a nice kind of splash of cold water in the face to kind of say, hey, this stuff does not have to be complicated. This stuff can be simple; managing your money can be simple. And so I really like it. It's a really good read for everybody but also for financial advisors. So I've been kind of going through that, really learning some stuff from it, and really helping to kind of reinforce a few things that I've been focused on. So that's what I've been reading. It's a good read for anybody who feels, maybe, overwhelmed by their money. So that's what I got.

AH I can't wait till you finish it and do a podcast episode about it. That'll be great.

MR Yeah. I'm halfway through it. How about you?

AH I'm not really reading anything. I have just --

MR That's fair.

AH Yeah. I did a bunch of writing last week, and I've been watching a lot of Gilmore Girls.

MR Nice.

AH And it's so funny because early on in the pandemic, I read how -- there's a lot -- plenty of new stuff on Netflix that I haven't watched, and I don't get a lot time to watch TV anyway. But I read that people tend to rewatch things they've watched many times before when they're especially anxious because it's predictable. I don't want some new and exciting TV show right now to get me all worked up. I can't -- my daily life is anxiety-ridden enough right now that I don't want anything new that could jolt me in any way or scare me or make me sad. So it is really interesting.

And then I -- because I felt bad that I had watched West Wing 37 times. And I hadn't watched Gilmore Girls in a very long time, but -- and I -- and I'm watching it now, and it did not age well, people. It really didn't age well. But it's still -- I can put it on in the background while I'm doing other things, and/or I -- I'm doing this embroidery cross-stitching now, so I can kind of have that on and do my thing, and I'm enjoying that. So consequently, I have done precious little reading. But I'm excited about your One Page Financial Plan book, and I think that that sounds really interesting, and I might even read it myself.

MR Thanks. West Wing is so good.

AH It is, and it's funny because it predicted a lot of stuff.

MR [Laughing]

AH And you watch it now, you're like, oh, yeah, Rob Lowe said it was going to be all about internet privacy ten years before it was about internet privacy and all kinds of interesting things like that.

MR Oh, yeah.

AH But that said, I think I'm done with it for a couple of years because I watched it a little too much. Nonetheless, who's our first sponsor, Michael?

MR Jojoba!

AH Yay.

Sponsor message Thanks, Original Jojoba Company, for being our sponsor for so long. It's been forever. I believe that massage therapists should only be using the highest quality products. We deserve it; our clients deserve it. It's just awesome. It is noncomedogenic. It doesn't clog pores, so if you have a client that's prone to acne breakouts, jojoba is a very good choice for them. It also does not go rancid, so if, hey, you were out of eight months and that bottle of jojoba sat on your shelf, it was still just as fresh and delightful when you returned to it or when you finally will return to it. And it won't stain your 100% cotton sheets, so your linens look better and last longer. You, my friends, can get 20% off the price of the product when you shop through our link, massagebusinessblueprint.com/jojoba.

MR Thanks, Jojoba.

AH Indeed.

MR Indeed.

AH Michael, tell me what today's episode is.

MR It's a mail bag episode.

AH Mail bag!

MR [Laughing]

AH So yeah. And it's kind of -- I guess, it -- that's a little bit not completely true because I actually -- these aren't things that were emailed to us or anything, but I asked for lots of questions to be able to do a miscellany kind of episode. However, we always do answer questions if you email them to us at podcast@massagebusinessblueprint.com. So I'm going to start at the top.

MR As long as we still get to call them mail bag, I'm happy.

AH We can call it whatever you want. Okay. So the first one: "I am changing the name of my business. How do I go about changing that with the IRS and my state? Or can I even do that? I have an Employee Identification Number as well. I don't know where to even start. Help. Thank you."

Okay. So the answer is a little bit different depending on the business type that one has. So if one is operating as a sole proprietorship and filing a Schedule C, and that's how they record their business costs, this actually is fairly easy. It's almost like you're starting a new business but not really. So you would decide on the new name of your business. You would get a new or maybe your first DBA certificate, a Doing Business As certificate -- some towns and cities call it a business certificate -- from your town or city. And that thing says, hey, Mary Smith is operating a business called Best Massage Ever, and that is official. If anyone wants to know anything about Best Massage Ever, the business, they can go to that town hall and see that it's run by a lady named Mary Smith.

So when you have that certificate in your hand, you would go to your bank and say, hey, bank, I changed the name of my business. How do we do this? And they may need to open an entirely new account for you, or they might just be able to change or add the business name to your old bank account. If you are a sole proprietor, your EIN, your Employee Identification Number, stays the same. So when you're a sole proprietor, you have an EIN assigned to your name, and that by default -- because you file your taxes, your business taxes, with a Schedule C, that applies to every business that you own, every sole proprietorship that you own because the business, technically -- when you're a sole proprietor and you file with a Schedule C, the business is not a separate entity from you; it is you. So that EIN is the same.

If you have sales tax certificates, you might need a new one with that new business name. And depending on how your state licenses massage facilities or establishments or businesses, you might need a new state license. It depends on how your state licenses things. They may or may not have a facility establishment business license required for massage therapists, but if they do have one, you probably need to get a new one with that new business name. And your tax preparer is going to adjust the name of your business on your next Schedule C. So where -- I kind of did this by default. My -- I ran my business just under my name, Allissa Haines Massage Therapist, for years. And then I officially rebranded to Haines Massage, and it didn't change anything except I had to get a DBA and update my bank account. And the business name at the top of my Schedule C just got changed to Haines Massage. Now, that's the simplest business structure.

If you have an LLC or you are incorporated, this is different. You would have to create a whole new LLC with that new business name and file that with your state. And you would have to -- when you have an LLC or a corporation, that actual business is assigned an ID number, a tax ID number, so that would be new and fresh. So you would have to do the same things moving from there with an updated or probably new bank account, new licenses and certificates or whatever you need from your state or your licensing bodies. And your tax preparer will use that new LLC name and EIN on your Schedule C. And if you are actually incorporated, same deal. You're going to have to start a new company with the new name and do all of those new things.

Michael, what did I get right or wrong about that?

MR So that is not my understanding of how the LLC and S Corp works. They actually have more options than that.

AH Oh, well, well --

MR Yeah, go ahead.

AH S Corp is different than incorporated. S Corp is a taxed filing.

MR No, it's actually an entity type as well. So let me back up. Let me back up. So the structures that I'm going to talk about are LLC and S Corp. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I'm guessing that none of our listeners are a C Corp, so I'm not going to even talk about that. But an LLC and an S Corp are pretty common -- mostly LLC for our business listeners, our massage therapists.

So with an LLC, you have a couple options. Actually, they're fairly similar. With an LLC or an S Corp, you can still do a DBA. So you can basically keep your existing structure in place, and you can do the exact same process that Allissa just talked about a few minutes ago where you can go get a DBA. It's probably going to be called an Assumed Name depending on your state. So in Indiana, it's called an Assumed Name. You basically just go to the secretary of state and say, hey, I'd like to add an Assumed Name to my business. And it's free, and you file a form. And then you can operate your business as that Assumed Name while keeping your existing LLC or S Corp identical. So that gives you an option to, basically, easily change the name of your business without really changing anything. You just sort of add the extra name, and then you just start going by the extra name. So doing that is probably the quickest, easiest path.

But then you also have the option of literally changing the name. So you can change the name of your LLC or S Corp without a new EIN. There are some cases where you do need the new EIN like if you restructure the ownership or whatever. But in general, for most simple cases, if you're just changing the name, with an LLC, you file a form with your state and file a form with the IRS. And then with an S Corp, you just simply check a box when you do your tax returns, and it signifies a new name. So there's more than one option for doing this with an LLC or an S Corp.

AH And if you end up adding in a -- like in a new -- what is -- Assumed Name, you said?

MR Yeah.

AH And if you end up adding that to an LLC, you still need to consider all of your state massage licensure stuff. I can't run a business that doesn't match the name of the business on my Massachusetts establishment licensure, so I wouldn't be able to just do that in Massachusetts. I would still need to go through a whole new filing and inspection and establishment license because I cannot operate under the name that doesn't appear on my massage establishment license. So keep in mind that that could change -- all the other stuff is fine; the IRS don't care. The state necessarily doesn't care. But when it comes to actual massage, if your state or locality licenses massage establishments, that could be an issue with them. Okay.

MR Cool.

AH All right. So I was a little bit wrong, but there we go. I like to have a good fight on the first question. Okay.

So second question, this is actually really easy to answer. I love this one: "I could use some advice on how to lead by example and spread evidence-informed information during a pandemic without being a preachy, smug asshat about it." -- sorry, I meant to it at the top of the episode, we were going to say that word -- "and without talking down to people. Also, when people are preachy, smug asshats, give me some tips on better ways to handle it. Right now, I don't respond; I just move on. So that's good. But in my head, I'm envisioning punching them in the face first, and that's not so good."

So I actually think that our friend here is handling this just perfectly. Don't respond and move on is the best approach. When people are jerks online or they're condescending or whatever, just -- you might still like the link to the article, but you don't have to like their attitude about it. So you move on. And frankly, I don't think there's anything wrong with, in your head, having a moment of "I'd like to punch that person in the face." As long as you don't actually punch that person in the face, it's fine. You're allowed to have a human feeling. So maybe forgive yourself a little bit for that.

And as for how to share things without being preachy and smug, I probably don't have the best answer for this because I'm really preachy and smug. So I would say share the fact-based information, the evidence-informed information, and don't do it with a condescending headline. You can share something about, let's say, school's not being super spreader sites. And you don't have to do it with a headline that's like, see, all you boneheads are, like, afraid to send your kids to school, and it's just fine. You can instead say something like, some new and interesting information that may change our approach to schooling -- to in-person schooling for children. Or you can not give it a headline at all. You can just share it.

And also, an example of a lot of people sharing stuff about not wanting people to gather for Thanksgiving because we're all afraid the pandemic is going to spread even more, and you can share something that's like, hey, you really shouldn't get together. And you can do it with a headline that acknowledges how hard it is for some people to be without their families on holidays. I personally don't know what that is like. But I -- you can just be empathetic in sharing information. You can still be empathetic to people who will be saddened or maybe even angered by that information.

What do you think, Michael?

MR Yeah. I'm getting -- I'm really proud of myself because I'm getting much, much better at both the "don't respond" -- the "move on" approach and the "share without commentary" approach. It's made my life a lot easier and lower stress because I just -- it's just not worth it. I think removing commentary and -- yeah. I'm with you. [Laughing] I agree completely.

AH Okay. All right. So I say don't beat yourself up about having feelings about people being preachy and smug. Just acknowledge it and move along.

Okay, next question: "Emotional overload has created some stagnation and caused me to step away from some important work I'd started because the topics and the focus just became too much emotionally. I started slowly to work on them for briefer periods of time a couple of times a week until I'm mentally able to handle the weight of it. But I need better focus. I'm thinking I can use some of the skills I use with clients myself, like if I think of the subject material as a client, that might allow me to focus on the subject without getting my emotions in the way. Good idea? Bad idea? Tips, tricks, etcetera, all are welcome."

So yeah. I mean, you could think of the work as a client and schedule that time to work on it just as if it was a client on the table and try to focus on it for that short period of time. I say -- I'm a big fan of the Pomodoro Technique. And I've been struggling with focus for a very long time, and it's definitely gotten worse in the past eight to ten months of extreme stress, and I've never felt so flighty in my entire life. And I have returned often to the Pomodoro Technique, which is when you set a very -- a timer and a very specific amount of time to focus and work on one thing and only one thing. And that could be 20 minutes. It's not long. And then the timer goes off and you take a break of three to five minutes. And you do -- and that's called one pomodoro, one cycle. And you do maybe three of them, maybe four, depends on your routine. And then you take a much longer break. But it's great because it gives you a short burst of time where you only focus on that one thing, and that has helped me dramatically with focus and anxiety.

And also, my final thought here is to be really forgiving with yourself here. Most of us are struggling with focus and anxiety right now. This is normal. We're not sleeping well as a whole, and we are in a long crisis. This is a ultra-marathon of stress, which is going to continue for probably another six to ten months. And we need to forgive ourselves for not being the high performers we were before and dramatically lower our expectations of output. And that's what I have to say about that.

What do you think, Michael?

MR Yeah. I have nothing intelligent or dumb to add. Right on. [Laughing]

AH Okay. All right. The next one is going to be for Michael: "I've got spending paralysis. Even though I'm not currently working, I need and should buy PPE and COVID supplies before the end of the year. But I keep putting it off because I'm afraid my masks are going to be counterfeit. I'm afraid I'm going to be overpaying or I'm going to hate the supplies I buy because they aren't available right now, but I know they work. I'm afraid to spend money because of little -- there's so little money coming in even though I created a buffer for times like this. What are some tips to get over the spending paralysis or at least a good 'buck up, buttercup, and make it happen' speech to light a fire?"

MR Nice.

AH What do you got, Michael?

MR I like it. This is a great question. So I would immediately go to having a process to kind of overcome this. I think a process will really help. So what I'm hearing here is, I -- I'm afraid of making a bad decision. That's kind of what I'm hearing out of this, and it's related to money; it's related to PPE; it may be related to other spending things as well. But in the context of the question, what I'm hearing is, I'm afraid to make a bad decision. And when that happens, what really helps me is to go back to having a process. So in this specific case, you're worried about, let's see, overpaying or getting bad equipment or counterfeit or whatever. It can be very stressful to worry about making the wrong decision. But if you have a process for making the decision, then that's all you can do. And I think that will help you kind of exhaust all of the options in your mind so you can say, well, I did what I could, I'm making the best decision based on what I know.

So for example, if you -- if you're worried about getting bad equipment, okay, have a process. Say, okay, you know what, I'm going to make a spreadsheet, and I'm going to pick five options. I'm going to go through, I'm going to look at all these different venders for PPE equipment, I'm going to look at reviews, I'm going to do research, I'm going to make a grid. And have a process to go through to make that decision. And you might get more information. You might not. But at least you satisfied your brain's need to feel like you have done your due diligence with a process. And then pick the one that seems like the best option and check the box in your brain that says, I've followed a process to get there. And that can help you kind of put that anxiety to bed.

If it's spending on something else, what is your process for identifying your financial situation? Have some sort of calculation saying, hey, I have this much in savings, this is my cash flow, I have this much runway; is it reasonable for me to spend money on this thing that I really need for my business or for my life, and is the tradeoff of spending a little money worth it when I compare it to how much I have in savings and cash flow? And go through a process to get there and do some math and say, you know what? I've gone through due diligence, I've gone through a process, I'm making this decision based on the information I have, and that's the best I can do. To me, that really helps me to have a process to get there, and I think that will help in this situation.

AH Word. And I say --

MR What do you think?

AH My only little bit is to have an accountability partner with it. Kind of structure what you need to do, chat with a friend or a colleague or someone and say, I'm going to do this, I'm going to take this first step on this day, and then report back to them. That might be helpful.

MR Also an excellent idea.

AH Okay. So next one: "Looking back over this tumultuous year, what would you have done differently, or what are you changing moving forward?"

Now, I always feel like a bit of a jerk when I hear this question in this particular time because for me, personally, this -- I feel like I had done and have done mostly things pretty right for me. And in fact, this year and this crisis has made me feel like I have really utilized all the knowledge and all the experience that I accrued in the 15 years in business prior. And I feel like a jerk because when I get asked this question, I say things like, I don't think I would do all that much differently. I cut bait on the big office I was running where I was subletting to a lot of people. And I think, had I not previously, a couple years before, had the big yoga and workshop space totally fail, I wouldn't have been able to do that. I had learned how to detach from business stuff. So while I was sad that I closed my space and six practitioners lost their place to work, I didn't -- it wasn't an emotional thing. I didn't feel guilty. I didn't feel like I was putting six people out of work because I recognized the separation of business and to make good business decisions.

And to keep that place running would've meant me disproportionately bearing the financial load of that, and I don't want to do that. And I felt really good about that. My experience gave me the emotional knowledge and the business knowledge to do that without it breaking me. It was sad, but it didn't break me. I had already learned the lessons of savings, so I had a separate savings account for my business, and I had enough money to ethically close my business and give away or sell very cheap the extra stuff, furnishings and equipment, and to pay for storage space to hold my stuff and then to open a new smaller, safe office. I had learned that lesson of saving, saving, saving, and I had the money that I needed both in business savings accounts and personal savings accounts.

And over the last 15 years, I also had discovered what I did and didn't like about my business. So when I reopened in the new space, having that clean break allowed me a very easy opportunity to make all of the changes I'd been wanting to make: my scheduling changes and pricing changes and getting rid of 30-minute treatments. And I was able to do that with no apologies, without feeling bad if it meant a particular client wasn't going to come anymore because I didn't offer 30 minutes or whatever, or if a client wasn't going to come because I no longer have a 6 p.m. appointment time. You get 5 or you get 7, period.

And it also took -- the only thing I could say that I wish I had done a little bit differently -- it took me a little while, especially very early on in the pandemic, to feel like I could cut my work hours and to go from working a full-time massage practice plus Blueprint. That was a lot of hours a week I was working, and it was weird to me when we stopped -- when I stopped massaging, I felt like I had to put way more time into Blueprint. And I do put more time into Blueprint now, but I wish I had realized sooner that I don't have to get back up to 50 hours of work a week. That's dumb. I don't have to do that. I also wish I had gotten on my antidepressant sooner. It took me until like June to get all set up with that, and that was dumb. I should've done that sooner. All right. So yeah, that's what I would've sort of done differently, but not a lot because I am incredibly fortunate, and that this pandemic hit me when I was at a point pretty good business and emotional intelligence.

What about you, Michael? Anything you would've done differently?

MR I want to plus-one most things you said. I think your experience is strikingly similar to mine, which I'm kind of -- I like because I like the way we, you and I, support each other through our business journey, and kind of -- we're in sync in a lot of things when it comes to our business growth, I think. So I really appreciate that, so kind of a side note there. And I want to -- like I said, plus-one the "detachment from business emotionally" thing. That's a journey I've been going on for a few years now recently with the sale of one of my other businesses and kind of restarting new businesses and thinking about them differently. So I really want to also emphasize that detaching emotionally -- not like in a bad way, but detaching emotionally from your business enough to recognize that it's an asset to manage and to kind of run in a smart way and not get sucked up in thinking your business is your entire identity. That's really important, and that was a huge shift for me. And I think that that's something I would do differently as well, is to get to that point sooner. But I don't think I could get to that point sooner. It just happened when it happened. But that's a really big factor as well, for me, is to be able to create that healthy detachment.

AH Yeah. My guess that the general response to this, based on the conversations I see in our community, is that most people wish they'd had a bigger savings account. So take that forward.

MR Yeah. Yeah.

AH And I certainly wish mine had been a little bit bigger. But take that forward with you, everybody.

MR Yeah.

AH All right. Next question: "My community is in the throes of 'buy local, show small business your support' season, but I don't want to sell any more gift certificates. How do I express gratitude but also say, you can get -- you can best support my business by staying home this holiday season so we can get this virus under control and I can safely reopen in the spring?"

So my thinking is say exactly that. Share stuff about how much safer it will be if everyone stays home for the holiday and doesn't socialize with people outside of their immediate household. Share information about how people can safely gather if you are in a region where weather allows that, for people to be outside. And promote that they should still be masked, and maybe six feet isn't enough; go for ten feet. You can share that kind of information. You can say, I want my clients to be safe, and I want them to be able -- be alive to return to me and as soon as possible, and that can be accomplished by following these protocols. I think you can say exactly that and promote those kinds of posts and articles and such.

I also think that you can promote the heck out of other local businesses that are selling things. I'm not selling gift certificates either, but I wrote a blog post about other, mostly local, businesses that sell retail items. And they are all businesses that offer curb-side pickup or mail delivery. And they're all businesses where people don't have to go in and shop for stuff, so it means they can do it more safely. I would emphasize that. I would promote other local businesses that you like that are offering that kind of contactless shopping experience. Emphasize those businesses, share the heck out of them, and emphasize the fact that they're contactless. That's what I think.

What do you think, Michael?

MR Yeah. Agreed.

AH All right. Next question: "How do I choose quality virtual and online continuing education?"

Kind of how you choose every other education. I say you ask around, you try to find people who've taken a course or that course or just a course with that company or that teacher and ask them their experience. If that particular CE provider has any online communities that are open to everyone, not just people who have taken their classes, join those open communities and hear what people have to say. If that instructor or company offers a short class or a cheap class first, maybe take that first and before you take a longer, larger, bigger commitment course with them. If that provider or company has videos on YouTube or on their website or they have a podcast or they've guested on a podcast, listen. Watch those videos.

And keep in mind, too, that the massage community's pretty small and mellow and personal. So if you're interested in taking a class but you need to know more about it or you want to get the instructor's vibe or you want to ask more about how it's done online, email them. Email the company. Email the instructor. Use the contact form on their website. And if you don't feel like you can get your questions answered via email, ask for a phone call. Most massage instructors or companies running continuing education would be delighted to have a quick chat with you to tell you how their online platform works or how they issue CE credits or whatever. So ask for the information. And you can get a vibe talking to an instructor or by whether or not they email you back if you want to spend money on their course.

That's what I think. What do you got, Michael?

MR Well, I just want to add that we happen to have two online courses in our Community as well, so I'll put a little plug in for us. We have a six-hour ethics course by our friend, Andrea Lipomi, which is awesome. And we have a 1.5-hour networking course by our friend, me, in the Community as well. So if you want to -- we think they're pretty high quality, so those are included in your membership. So you can always check those out as well.

AH Word. And speaking of us, we come up in the next question.

MR Oh, boy.

AH "How do I connect with -- how do I continue connecting with colleagues and other health professionals during the pandemic?"

Well, if you want to connect with colleagues, you can join the Massage Business Blueprint premium community, which is a dumb answer because this question actually came from someone in the premium community, so they know. But I --

MR Well, I want to add something. Can I add something?

AH Yeah.

MR So in addition to just joining, you can also be active in the Community. So I know that there are many people that have joined, and then they just kind of -- they don't necessarily get around to logging in or don't have the alerts set up or whatever, and they kind of forget. So if you are a member already, set up alerts so you get emails when people post something in the forum, or put the app on your phone or bookmark it. And just kind of get in the habit of getting involved because that makes it so much more vibrant and valuable for you, is to actually contribute and be involved and participate. So I wanted to mention that.

AH You know what I do? I remember -- I bookmarked our -- well, I mean, it's dumb because I work for the company and the Community, but whatever. But still, I would forget to check in because it's not like a Facebook group, right? We have our own platform now, and it's separate. So I put the bookmark in my browser window thing, and it's the first bookmark there. And whenever I start to type in "Facebook" like I'm going to connect to Facebook, I realize my Massage Business Blueprint Community bookmark is there, and I click on that instead. So I have the -- I get more involvement with a really nice community, and I avoid Facebook, which is really helpful. So pro tip.

MR Win-win.

AH Okay. So that was about connecting with colleague (sic), but how do you connect with other health professionals? This is, of course, a little bit trickier, and you might not be able to do much of it right now. That said, places are open. Physical therapists are open right now. And nutritionists and mental health providers and stuff, they're open and working virtually. So if there's someone you've been wanting to reach out to, drop them an email. Set up a phone call or Zoom -- I hate Zooms but whatever -- to do a "meet you" appointment because there's a chance they might be as lonely as you are and might want a little bit of connection, so you got to be willing to reach out. But I mean, people are working. If they can work virtually, they are. And places like physical therapy and occupational therapy and stuff are working, so reach out the same way you would before, except that the end result might not be a cup of coffee or visiting their office. It might just be a phone call.

Okay. Next question -- or I'm sorry. Do you have anything to say about that, Michael?

MR Nope. I'm good.

AH Okay. Next question: "How do you decide how much to share with clients about COVID-19 protocols? How much are they actually reading? Highlight -- should you highlight the most important stuff at the top and assume they won't read the rest? Use bullet points? Question marks everywhere."

Yeah. So yes, important stuff first. Put the most important information first. Use as short sentences as possible. Use bullet points. Bold the most important part as well. And then put that information in as many places as possible. So it should be on the screen when they reach your booking page, or it should be -- and/or it should be in the confirmation email they get when you first make the appointment, and it should be in the reminder email. And again, I think, if you have a lot more detailed info, that's great for an article or blog post on your website and maybe in an email to your full client list, and then bullet-point the necessary stuff in all of those places. The first one is, you must be wearing a well-fitted mask the entirety of the -- your visit to the office. And the second one is, if you have had known exposure or you have a fever or you have a new cough or anything like that, cancel your appointment. Those are the top two things, right? And then anything else can go after that, the part where if you are needing people to wait in their car or text you when they get there or whatever. But decide what the most important things are and put them first. And I would say limit it to like four -- three to four bullet points max. If you have more information that you -- for people who just might want to know about your cleaning protocols and stuff, put that in an article or a blog post.

Anything you have to say there, Michael?

MR Nope. You got it.

AH All right. And the last one: "So talk about how people might be handling holiday cards and client appreciation gifts, like the 2020 version."

My answer is to don't. Clients don't need gifting right now. Everybody knows that times have been very tough for most small businesses. You might not be back to work at all. Or if you are back, it's likely that, one, your expenses are up because of all the new cleaners and PPE and more time between appointments and all of that stuff, and your schedule is down. So it's okay to not do gifting. Times are tough. People understand that.

Or you could just do very cheap Christmas cards. Go buy a bulk box of 100 Christmas cards. And you got to buy stamps. But it's okay to go super cheap with just a Christmas card greeting, which frankly, I like getting Christmas cards. I think it's great. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy. I know every year I'm going to get one from my friend, Karleen, and I adore her. And I just -- it's great if you just downgrade to Christmas cards. And it's also great if you just don't, if you just do an email, if you just do a social media post. We have to dramatically lower our expectations for ourselves right now, and that could be a way to do it. So if you decide to cut out gifting or Christmas cards, do it without any guilt. And if you do decide you want to do something, I say do the best you can to -- if you're going to give everybody a lip balm, do it -- buy the lip balm from a local provider. You don't have to do a big gift bag if you used to do a big, $10-worth gift bag. You can do a $5-worth gift bag or nothing, and that's okay.

That's what I have to say, and that was our last question. Michael, you got anything to add?

MR I have two things.

AH Okay.

MR One, you like getting Christmas cards?

AH I do.

MR Every time I send you a Christmas card, I can feel you rolling your eyes when you receive it, but I send it anyway.

AH I hang it up. I have a wall where I tape every Christmas card I get.

MR Really?

AH And they stay up there until New Year's when I take them down. And sometimes, I even pack it in with my Christmas stuff so that when I open up the Christmas stuff next year, I see some of my old cards. And some of them, if they're especially pretty, I will cut out the front cover and attach a string to it and turn it into a Christmas ornament.

MR Wow.

AH Fun fact about Allissa: I love Christmas cards.

MR Well, that is delightful.

AH Holiday cards in general. Yup.

MR Well, that will give me even more joy now as I send them your way.

AH Um-hum. I actually also have -- just so you know, I have a paper and stationery fetish. I love beautiful paper, and I actually have really nice stationery that I write letters to people on. Okay.

MR I love learning even more things about you during our podcast episodes.

AH Okay. I'm done. What else did you have to say?

MR The other thing is I have given myself permission to just not worry about the gifting thing altogether in my -- specifically in my financial advisory practice. I don't do the whole gift -- I think we have -- I mean, we don't need more stuff. We don't need more just random things. So I just -- I do a donation every year to an organization that I think is great. It's probably different every year. And I do it on behalf of my clients. I put it in the notes when I do the donations like, this is on behalf of my clients. I send an email out saying I did this and thank you. and I think that is -- that's what I personally like to do. And it doesn't have to be a lot. You don’t have to tell them how much you gave. If all you can afford is 20 bucks, give 20 bucks to whatever organization you love and support. If you can afford 50 or 100 bucks, whatever. If you can do more, great. But what are -- you don't have to say an amount. Just say, you know what, I took the time to make this donation, this organization means a lot to me, it's on behalf of my clients. Maybe do something that you think your clients will appreciate. And I love that. It gives -- it kind of relieves me of the guilt of do I send gifts or not. It's simple. It doesn't clutter people's lives up with more stuff. So that's personally what I do.

AH And I actually do something similar. I do a lot of ongoing donations to local food banks. So when I moved my office to a new town, I sought out the local food pantry. And I do some actual -- I have a collection basket at my office to actually collect food. But with food pantries and food banks, they are actually most benefited by your cash donation because then they can buy food in a wholesale market usually that specializes in food bank stuff. And you get more bang for your buck that way. So I do that as well.

MR I really like that.

AH I just want to extend this, and this might be heresy for some people: I actually give very few Christmas gifts to people, not just like clients but like people in my personal life. I dramatically decreased gifting back, I mean, probably 10 or 11 years ago. And it might have even been when I was first divorced and I had zero bucks. And I was -- had this fledgling massage business and was all of sudden single. And I, for a -- I do a little bit more -- I used to do it a little bit more for my nieces and nephews on their birthdays. And then for Christmas, literally everybody got a Christmas card with 5 bucks in it. And when they got a little older, everybody got a Christmas card with 10 bucks in it. So my Christmas budget for all of my extended family was like 100 bucks because my nieces and nephews would all get 10 bucks in a card. And I used to also register their domain names, like their names as domain names, so everybody would have their website name. And actually, when I did that, I stopped doing the 10 bucks because it cost me about 10 bucks a year. But anyhow, it would be like 10 bucks in a card.

And for my brother and my parents, I was like, hey, can we not do gifts? My brother and I stopped doing gifts years ago. And my parents still do a little bit for me, but I've made it very clear that I don't have the funds to do something for them. But I do little things at different times through the year. I don't like that huge financial hit of Christmas. But my friends and I don't do gifting. And if we do, it's trading bottles of wine that other people gave us that -- if I get a red, I give it to my friend, and she gives me a white because I like that better. And I just dramatically lowered the expectations of giving and receiving gifts, and man, I love it.

And this year, I told Walt, I'm like, hey, I'm not getting the kids Christmas presents. You have a budget for them for Christmas presents. Can you slap my name on a gift? And I got Walt exactly one gift. And typically, I would do like two or three and maybe spend like 150 bucks. Nope. I got him one thing, it's $65, it's already under my bed, and that's it. And I told him that. I got you one thing, it's less than 100 bucks, and that's all I'm getting you because I've been kind of unemployed this year. And to -- it is so nice, and it might feel like a weird thing to be able to -- how do you approach that conversation, but now might be the best year to do that because people understand that you've been dramatically unemployed or under-employed for the bulk of this year. And people are stretched all over. So maybe you decide, hey, let's not do gifting, or let's keep it to 10 bucks and just fun. And that's what I have to say about that.

MR Nice. I like it.

AH So don't send me any Christmas presents, Michael. I don't think we do that anymore anyway.

MR We do more random things.

AH Yeah.

MR It's not so much tied to a holiday; it's more like -- the last thing that -- that RB -- not the REI -- Elizabeth Warren t-shirt I got you was more like, hey, I've got to get that for Allissa. And it happened to be near your birthday, so it worked out.

AH It's awesome. I don't think I got you jack for your birthday this year. Whatever.

MR I don't expect jack. [Laughing] Your presence in my life is enough of a gift.

AH What -- let's be done. Who's our next sponsor.

MR [Laughing]

AH This went on way too long.

MR Oh, but this was a fun episode. So let's show some love to our friends over at Acuity!

AH Yes, indeed.

Sponsor message Acuity scheduling is your online assistant working 24/7 to fill your schedule. You don't have to do phone tag. You can -- clients can quickly view your real-time availability and book their own appointments. They can even pay online and reschedule with a click. You can handle all your forms before the appointment, so they can walk in the door and you can do your massage. You can look and act professional by offering convenient scheduling that matches your brand and your voice. You can have your logo all over there, and you can customize all the emails. It's pretty great. Customer support is a delight. And Acuity's style will help you just chill out and run your business. You can get a special 45-day free offer when you sign up today at massagebusinessblueprint.com/acuity.

AH I have no quick tips just like I didn't have any reading stuff. But what do you got, Michael? It looks like you have two.

MR I have two. I do have two. One is an app I've been using for a while, but I wanted to share it with our listeners in case I haven't recently. It's called Pocket, and it is extremely useful. It is free, and it is a tool that lets you save things for later. I realize there's lots of things that do that. You can save things on Facebook for later, and there's probably other stuff. But this one, I think, is just really elegant. It works really well. It works everywhere, on my phone, on my computer, and you install this little extension on your browser. And you can also put it on your phone where anything you -- any article you look at, you can basically say, hey, let me save this to Pocket and read it later. And you can apply tags to it, so you can group things by like recipes or money stuff or whatever, and you can kind of organize stuff. And then whenever you have downtime and want to read something, you can open up Pocket on your phone or wherever you want and look at all the articles you saved.

And it saves them offline, so if you're not connected to the internet or you just don't want to go online or whatever, you then you can just open up the article. Pocket makes a little nicely packaged, readable version, and you can just read it right there in the app. And it's a nice way to also -- when you archive stuff, you can go back and just keep all the stuff in Pocket. So if you're like, oh, I've read this article a year ago about this thing and I can't remember, you can search in Pocket, and you can find the article too. So it's a nice way to kind of archive stuff that you're interested in. So I really like Pocket. I've been using it for a while, and I wanted to share it because it is a very handy little app.

And the second thing I have is that I recently discovered as of yesterday, which at the time of this recording is Monday, that Skype is offering -- they offer free video meetings for up to 50 people for meetings up to 24 hours in length, so basically unlimited because that's unlimited. And you can invite people, and they don't need to download anything like Zoom. They don't have to download anything at all. They can just use their browser or their phone. And I realize that when this podcast airs, it will be a day after Thanksgiving, so it's too late for Thanksgiving. But for other upcoming holidays, Christmas, stuff like that, keeping in touch, it can be a great free option in lieu of Zoom because Zoom does cost money if you want to go over 40 minutes. Although I think they might be extending it here and there. But anyway, if you're just tired of Zoom and want something easier and definitely free, Skype has this free group video meeting option. So I thought that was a good one for people that want to stay in touch and stuff.

AH I want to be less in touch, so none of these things interest me.

MR Okay. Well, there you go. [Laughing]

AH Terrible. All right. If you -- I'm just going to do the end. If you have questions, you can send them to podcast@massagebusinessblueprint.com. If you like this podcast, hey, leave us a review on either Apple Podcasts or Stitcher or, I don't know, any of the places that you listen to this podcast, we'd love to hear if you love us. And if you don't like us and you think we need to make radical changes, you can send that commentary to Michael at massagebusinessblueprint.com.

Michael, what have I forgotten? Take us home.

MR Well, since I've been fired, I think I got -- actually, I do want to add one thing. I know you're trying to shorten this, but I'm going to extend it a little bit longer. Just one more time, I know we mentioned this last week. I know we had a price shift. We had some stuff happen in our Community. For those out there, we've gotten people to email us, and we've gotten them back in successfully. We're good to go. But if you're out there, and you feel like you got kicked out of our Community and you're confused and you want back in, just go to our website massagebusinessblueprint.com, fill out the contact form, and just say, help, I used to be in the Community, and now I'm not. Help, get me back in. We will get you back in. I promise. We will -- we don't want to leave anyone behind who got kind of stuck in the crossfire of our shift in platform stuff there. So just email us, let us know. We will get you back in.

AH Sweet.

MR I'm done.

AH All right. That's all we got, everybody. Have a wonderful day, and have a lovely beginning of the holiday season, and stay safe, and keep your money in the bank.

MR Thanks, everyone. Bye.

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