Michael and Allissa spent a few days giving business consultations to attendees at the World Massage Festival. Here are the most common questions and how we answered!
This episode is exclusively sponsored by ABMP.
Sponsor message This episode is sponsored by ABMP, Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. Supporting the largest community in massage and bodywork, ABMP goes above and beyond great liability insurance to make it easier for you to succeed at what you love. ABMP membership combines the insurance you need, the free CE you want, and the advocacy and personalized customer service you deserve. Join the ABMP family and learn why more massage therapists and bodyworkers choose ABMP membership than any other association. Expect more at abmp.com.
Michael Reynolds Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Massage Business Blueprint podcast, where we discuss the business side of massage therapy. I’m Michael Reynolds.
Allissa Haines And I am Allissa Haines.
MR And we are coming to you from the World massage Festival in Vegas. And I’ve got to say, this is my first time here and I love this conference. I like it. [laughs] It’s a lot of fun.
AH There’s a lot of hugging and an opening ceremony where everyone wears tie-dye.
MR The tie-dye is awesome.
AH And a whole bunch of vendors, and there’s someone walking by me with a baby wrapped to her and it’s the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. The place smells good, like good oils, and people are happy — and people are in classes right now, which is awesome — and we’ve gotten to hang out at the ABMP booth. I’m starting to slur my words because it’s the end of our three-day stretch here and I’ve been people-ing for three days.
MR Too much people-ing.
AH I have forgotten how words work. But we are hanging out at the ABMP booth. We’ve been taking business and marketing kinds of questions here for the past three days, did some one-to-one consults. I’m babbling because I’m really excited about it, and we’ve never recorded live on a site like this.
MR [laughs] Anything could happen. Darren just walked up. Hey, Darren from ABMP, good morning. You probably will hear lots of background noise. Anything could happen. It may be totally quiet and great sound quality or they could turn on loud music and start banging gongs —
AH There’s a gong.
MR — which all that has happened already, so —
AH There is a gong, people. A gong.
MR Yeah, it’s interesting.
AH So, Michael, what are we talking about today?
MR Today we have questions and comments and topics from attendees to cover today. We’ve been doing consultations — yesterday, actually, all day we did consultations for attendees. They signed up, came by to talk to both of us individually. They had some great topics and questions they wanted to cover. We’re going to take those topics, and we’re going to unpack them a little more here in this episode and discuss those challenges that the attendees told us about. That’s our plan.
AH And we straight-up forgot to ask people if it was okay to use their names when we talked about their stuff, so we’re not going to use their names. But if you recognize yourself in this, hey, thanks for coming to talk to us.
MR [laughs] We appreciate you. You want to get started?
AH Bring it.
MR All right. A couple of — we had a lot of similarities through a lot of these, but the first one I’m going to cover is the person I spoke with during my first consultation was curious about bringing on an additional team member. She’s got a successful practice, she’s a solo practitioner, and she is ready to expand and hire her first team member. We talked a lot about that and it was really interesting because I always love this conversation: hiring your first employee, hiring your first team member, or even getting a renter, whatever that looks like. We talked through the options, and like many people we talked to, what do you think she first wanted to do? How did she want to categorize her team member first?
AH I would suggest — my wild guess is that she was like, I’m going to bring someone in as an independent contractor.
MR Sure did. You win.
AH Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding. There’s the gong.
MR Yeah, there’s the gong. She did want to initially bring someone on as an IC. We talked through that a bit in previous episodes, we’ve talked about this. My advice to her was, first, figure out what you really want out of this team member. Are you looking for someone to help you grow your brand and your business and be part of your team? Or are you looking for someone to offset your expenses and you don’t want to deal with building a team, you just want some extra income coming in.
Obviously, we talked about renting vs employee. I know we have a lot of people who are looking at both models and we talked through it a bit. The advantages of renting, obviously, were you can just get a monthly check every month, you don’t have to worry about managing someone or building a team, you’re just letting them run their own business. The flip side is you have a fixed level of income coming in, it’s not really going to go up, necessarily, dramatically, you just have a fixed monthly fee coming in. Whereas if you hire a team member who’s a W2 employee, it’s part of your brand, part of your company, part of your business and you can — oh, thank you. Thank you, Mike. Mike just walked up to give me stickers.
AH Mike Hinkle, who runs this festival.
MR Want to say hello, Mike?
AH Say hello, Mike.
Mike Hinkle Hello, guys. How y’all doing?
MR Tell us about the festival.
MH Started in 2006, been at it 13 years. ABMP’s the main source to keep us going. We love them. If you ain’t an ABMP member, you’re missing it. Come see us next year in Cherokee.
MR Right on. Thanks, Mike. Appreciate it.
AH Thanks, Mike. I want to point out that Mike is walking around with a fantastic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle shirt on and I adore it.
MR It is beautiful. Again, back to our attendee who was talking through this. We arrived at hiring a W2 employee made the most sense because she really did want to keep someone under her brand, under her business, kind of wanted someone to scale up her revenue, someone who the more they work and the more clientele they build, the more money she makes as well. So we leaned that direction. I want to hear your thoughts as well. Do you think that makes sense?
AH You know, I love — we’ve ranted about this before. The thing that I love about choosing between a straight-up renter or a straight-up W2 employee is that the expectations are a lot clearer. The IC model is just so muddy. More often than not, people leave those situations or the employer gets frustrated by those situations and what the IC does and doesn’t want to do because the expectations are just varied and confusing. I like simplicity. I like clear expectations. I like people knowing what their role is in a situation, whether it be landlord and tenant or employer and employee, and I find that that level of clarity, as far as everyone’s roles, ends up being a much more successful relationship whichever way you go with that. I’m a fan of the employee model.
MR She was very receptive. She liked the idea. I think she’s going to go for it. So congratulations to our first consultation attendee who came up and talked with us on expanding her practice. We’re real excited for her.
AH Who else did you talk to, Michael?
MR I talked to a couple other people after that and they had very similar, almost identical, questions. Their questions were basically how do I start a new business. The reason they were asking this is they were both in a situation where they were employees at, I think they were both at a massage franchise or working for someone else in general, and they were thinking how do I wind down that relationship and wind down that part of my career and ramp up opening a new practice?
We talked through a number of things and I’m sure you’ll have better input — I got really granular and into the basics because they were looking for the basics. Some of them were saying how do I start a new — do I need an LLC, where do I start, bank accounts, all the basic stuff, EIN number. We talked through — and hey, I know that we sometimes disagree a little bit on the right entity. So I’m going to go ahead and say I suggested LLC because they were in states that the LLC filing fees were pretty low. So I suggested hey, first thing start your LLC, get your business name. Second, get your EIN number, which is your federal tax ID. Get your business bank account. We talked through things like online schedule systems, infrastructure for that, bookkeeping, all the basic foundational stuff. Some people, if they’ve never started a business before, they don’t really know the foundational stuff to do to get it started up. What would you suggest?
AH I am right along with that. I am a fan of right away, before you start spending money to buy stuff for your business, reading a good money business book so you understand what you need do with your money coming in, if you need a separate checking out — we’ve got a podcast on that, I think — I love that granular stuff. We do disagree a little bit on the LLC thing, but mostly because I’m jaded because I’m in a state where getting an LLC is $500 a year plus you’re looking at extra money for tax filings and stuff, so I’m a little bitter about that.
MR And I agree in that case. I think you’re right.
AH I think it’s — I feel like it’s not always the best decision for someone in the first six months or year, but I think it’s something you want to know about from the beginning so that you know what’s coming up the road for you as soon as you are getting settled into your business.
MR I also suggested she not — both of these people — don’t jump ship right away. Basically, keep things status quo-y or existing employer or employers while you start to maybe look for a very, very inexpensive space to work out of. Rent something really simple or inexpensive, start to build a clientele, a few clients a week, gradually build it up and make it a migration as opposed to just a cold turkey switch over, because obviously you want to make sure you keep your income steady and keep the income flowing while you’re ramping up your other business. Anything else you would add?
AH Nah, that’s it, man.
MR People are kind of filtering in. The exhibit hall is officially open so you may here a little more background noise. Things are livening up here, which is fun. I think we’re at halftime are we not?
AH We are. We are super excited for a million reasons to talk about our halftime and our full show sponsor today, ABMP. And they are the reason that we are hanging out here in Vegas at the World Massage Festival.
Sponsor message They are supporting the largest community in massage and bodywork. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals goes above and beyond great liability insurance to make it easier for you to succeed at what you love to do. And if you’re like me, you love to massage people. ABMP membership combines insurance, the free continuing education, advocacy, personalized customer service, all things you deserve. You can join our family, the ABMP family, and learn why more massage therapists and bodyworkers choose ABMP than any other association.
We are super excited to announce that we have a new partnership with ABMP. ABMP certified members — and I am an ABMP certified member — save $5 per month on our premium membership to Massage Business Blueprint, a member-based community designed to help you attract clients, make more money, and improve your quality of life. But you know that because you’re listening to this podcast already. You can get the information on how to get that ABMP certified member discount in their member portal on their benefits page. You just log in to your member account at the abmp.com website. You’ll see us listed among the plethora of benefits and partnerships that ABMP offers their certified members including free music downloads, discounts on all kinds of stuff, and now a discount on your premium membership to us. I think that this is the partnership I am most proud of. I love that we write a column in their award-winning magazine. I love that we are creating webinars for their CE section. I love working with ABMP. And it’s —
MR They’re the best.
AH — it’s given us some serious street cred to have ABMP people introducing us to all the people at this massage festival. It’s been so fun to show people how to listen to our podcast and stuff. If you’re a new listener from the festival, thank you for subscribing to our podcast.
AH So let’s jump back into our topic.
MR Awesome. So you had some fun questions, too, didn’t you?
AH I did. I love doing these one-to-one business consults. I spoke with three people. I changed their names. I got to talk to Jeff, who had been a practicing massage therapist for a while, owned a clinic, and then had to shut that down for personal reasons, and he took a little time off from massage and then went back working at a franchise. And he’s been very happy working at the franchise for a couple years. But he is ready to go back. He is ready to go back working for himself. He had some questions about how am I going to build that ideal client base. Really his best clients right now are people who — he works with a couple high-level surgeons, he works with a couple former military with some PTSD. Jeff himself was just lovely and soft-spoken, but clearly, clearly knows his craft, does some structural integration stuff, some movement stuff, some neuromuscular therapy, some real clinical stuff, but clearly with the softest and sweetest approach.
We talked a little bit about networking, and I could kind of see him flinch because you think networking and you think walking into a big chamber of commerce lunch and not knowing anybody and shaking hands with strangers and doing some superficial meeting with people and swapping of business cards. We had a really great talk about how that’s not all that networking is and that doesn’t have to be the form of networking that you do. You could — networking is — it can be building really deep and wonderful referral partnerships with people who share your ideal clientele, with mental health professionals who are seeing former military with PTSD or trauma survivors with PTSD. That can be a one-to-one coffee meeting or meeting in a therapist’s office to talk about how massage can help their clients and how you need a good psychiatric referral for those same people that you see. It can be meeting with admin in HR in a hospital setting to talk about how the work you do can help nurses and surgeons and doctors and physical therapists who are bending over their clients all day in high-stress life and death situations where they’re putting their physical health — you’ve got high-stress situations meeting with really awkward physical contortions of a body — if you think of a dentist, a thoracic surgeon, a brain surgeon who is in there for hours in a surgical setting in a super tense life and death situation and what that does to our physiology. Networking doesn’t have to be superficial; it can be really deep one-to-one relationships with people who also serve and help your ideal client. It was really, really, neat. Meeting Jeff was really cool; he’s got a great story and I loved really diving into the different aspects of what networking is. It’s not always what we think of at first and flinch about.
I also got to talk to Ernie, who has been a massage therapist working in a salon setting, working for somebody else, and he’s ready to strike off on his own and wants to create his own spa, a large facility. This dude has got all of his ducks in a row. By the end of the conversation I got out of him that he actually had a business degree in college, which is how he knew how to do all of this legwork. He is working on his business plan. He’s got a ton of support from real estate contacts and finance contacts. He’s working hard on his business plan. He’s got options for financing. He’s got friends who work at big banks who are helping him through his business plan and really finding the landmines of what he needs more of. He’s got leads on locations that he could put his spa in. He’s doing work to find what other kinds of spa-related businesses are in those same neighborhoods to choose a location that will work best for him. He’s got a network of colleagues who are ready to come work for him. He’s got the management and mentoring experiences that he’s had in his current spa where he’s been for several years, so he feels confident about being able to manage a staff.
He had it so together at first I thought there isn’t anything that I can add to this. He’s got his ducks in a row. But then I remembered to ask how is your personal savings as far as being able to support your household while you jump into this endeavor? What if the financing that you’re able to secure isn’t enough to pay you a salary in the first six to twelve months of start up? How’s that going to go? How is your household, knowing that he had two small children, going to handle you doing some of the part-time stuff that you still do — he works with some soccer teams and a few other things he will keep going for some side money as he starts this up — how is that household and those kids and that partner going to handle you working a hundred hours a week for a while as you start up? It was good because he hadn’t thought through all of that yet. I think — I’m hoping I encouraged him to buff up his personal savings a little bit and be sure that his household and had the support and resources he heeded in place for him to be gone a lot in that first six to twelve months.
And then we said — he’s a real successful therapist, his schedule is full, how is he going to get new clients for his employees and has he learned how to be an advocate and a resource for other massage therapists? How is he going to learn their strengths and weaknesses and funnel clientele to the right therapist and practitioner in his office, and how is he going to get those new people even interested in his business? So again, we talked a lot about networking. We talked a lot about community engagement. We’re talking bout a big spa facility. What does he want his business to be in that community? Does he want it to be thought of only as a luxury service provider, or does he also want to be thought of as a community leader, as philanthropic and charitable to the community in which he’s working. We talked a little bit about researching the various communities and block parties and community events and popular charitable interests in each of the communities that he is considering having a location.
It was really fun. I don’t get to get real deep into the big business stuff very often so it was really fun to hear him talk through all of his business plans and then poke a few holes in it, which I really couldn’t find very many holes to poke. It was neat to talk to somebody with that level of business background planning something so big and so elegantly.
MR Yeah, he really had his act together.
AH Oh my God, he was so cool.
MR I remember him. He was great.
AH I got to talk to Mary Jane, who is working for someone else and ready to start easing into her won practice and hers was all about how to get started, home edition. She wants to work out of her home. Has a great rental apartment, but it’s in a two-family unit. I think the landlord lives on site as well and is comfortable with her doing this, and she started to explore the zoning in her town. She knows that home businesses are allowed so she’s started to work through what it’s going to require as far as revamping her apartment space a little bit, getting all the zoning and permits, and thinking through her neighborhood, her location, finding where her ideal clients are. Again, I encouraged a lot of networking, probably some structured networking in a structured group as well as various bits of community engagement with local organizations and charities. Like we said with some of Michael’s people, getting into the groove right away as far as knowing your money stuff. Knowing how to set up a business checking, how much money you want to set aside every week, every month to cover your taxes.
It was a ton of start-up questions here. It was so refreshing to talk to people in different stages and see — we do this a lot online and we all write lots of emails back and forth to each other and we hear from readers all the time, but to see people flinch when you say the word networking, and to see people get really excited and gesticulate when they’re talking about starting their own small business is so exciting.
MR When it comes to flinching and networking, I wanted to go back to Jeff because I think you’re right. I think referral partners make sense for someone who is introverted like that, not into big crowds. But I would encourage everyone to try it anyway. If you’ve never tried traditional networking, at least give it a shot maybe. Go to a couple of meetings, maybe go to a BNI chapter, go to something. See if it’s something that you could maybe see yourself figuring out and getting used to or getting more into. And if not, that’s okay. I just like seeing people try it.
AH And being willing to be mentored by people who’ve been doing that kind of networking for a long time who are happy to mentor you and teach you how to be better at that. I think the second he walks into the room he’s going to be fine. The way he articulated what he did, the work he did with people who are physically stressed in life and death situations with a lot of pressure, was really quite beautiful. I don’t think he’s going to have any trouble getting clients once he gets into the right network. That was pretty cool.
I am just enchanted by the sense of community here. I am enchanted by the number of young people and the diversity at this festival. We are seeing some — we’ll talk more in our next episode about students — we saw a lot of students yesterday. I am so thrilled by the willingness of people as they came up to the table and we talked to them about ABMP and about Massage Business Blueprint and saying are you listening to podcasts and a lot of people already were and found us and subscribed right away. A lot of people didn’t even know what a podcast was but were so willing to bust out their smart phone and have us show them, here’s how you access — I feel like we opened up a lot of people to podcasts. I’m really excited about that. People were just so willing and I love — there is just — I don’t know that I’ve been to any kind of massage event where I have seen this range of ages, this range of diversity in culture and clientele here. I just am loving it. Loving it.
MR It’s a fun event. I think we’ll be back at some point.
AH I’m done gushing.
MR There was the music, the chimes. So the hall is filling up now a bit. Want to wrap up there and move on from there?
AH Let’s wrap it up, Michael.
MR All right so thanks for joining us today and thanks for joining us virtually at the World Massage Festival in Vegas. Next episode, as Allissa mentioned, we’re going to talk bout students a little bit and share some tips and tricks for students who are in massage school. That should be a lot of fun so we’ll be right here on the exhibit hall floor again next episode. Join us for that one. Again, you can visit us online at massagebusinessblueprint.com, and we’ll see you next time.