Dual relationships are complicated in the best of circumstances. We talk through the angles of clients becoming business connections and how to handle running into your clients at the gym. And more.
Sponsor message This episode is sponsored by Yomassage. Yomassage’s mission is to make therapeutic touch accessible. To make this happen, they created a modality in which clients can receive touch in a small group setting. Yomassage practitioners combine restorative stretch, mindfulness, and therapeutic touch. In addition to offering massage at an accessible rate, Yomassage classes appeal to more people because they are fully clothed and offered in a safe environment. Yomassage practitioner trainings are taking place all over the United States. You can learn more and find a training near you at massagebusinessblueprint.com/yomassage. And for our Blueprint listeners, you can get $50 off any trainings in July and August 2019 using the code BLUEPRINT. And again, you can go to massagebusinessblueprint.com/yomassage to learn more.
Michael Reynolds Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Massage Business Blueprint podcast, where we discuss the business side of massage therapy. I am Michael Reynolds.
Allissa Haines And I’m Allissa Haines.
MR And we’re your hosts. Welcome, welcome. We’re glad you’ve joined us today. I heard, Allissa, you have a new bird outside your window. Tell me more.
AH Yeah, well, I don’t know more. I just heard a new type of bird call, and —
MR A mystery bird.
AH Yeah. So here’s a neat thing. There’s a bird call app. Unfortunately, they don’t have it for iPhones. It’s only for non-iPhones. So Walt has it on his phone. And it’s cool because you can record the birdcall and isolate on the audio track where you hear it, and then it will compare it against its database and tell you what the bird is.
MR That is awesome.
AH It’s really, really cool because we live on the edge of an Audubon site, so we hear a lot of birds. And heard this really distinctive, like, trilly kind of thing. And it is a black-billed cuckoo, which it’s —
AH Yeah, it’s really cool. It tells you which birds it likely is, because some calls are a little less distinct than others, and then it gives you a picture of it, and it tells you the normal area that such bird lives in. And yeah, there’s a black-billed cuckoo. And yeah it lives near us, so that’s pretty exciting.
MR Well, congratulations.
AH Thank you, thank you. It’s a type of woodpecker, I think. I could be wrong.
AH So year, that exciting. But I just heard a new call just as we were starting to record, and it sounds interesting. I’m going to have to get Walt out here to listen to it. And that’s the nature report from my world. How are you, Michael?
MR I am doing great. I am sitting in a stuffy office building with no windows right now. I’m in my little studio room with soundproofing on the walls and no windows. So we’re in vastly different environments right now. I envy you.
AH We are.
MR And you —
AH I can’t believe you still go into the old office even though you don’t have to.
MR I know. I like getting out of the house to do work. So it’s just kind of weird, I guess. I mean, I work at home some of the time, but I — I’d say about 30% of the time I work in my home office. But I just like getting out into another location, and plus, I have friends that work here in the same office I used to work at. So we hang out and have lunch and —
AH I was going to say —
MR — I don’t know. It’s just kind of a social thing too.
AH You have much better proximity to good lunch options —
AH [Laughing] — I guess, when you’re at the office, because you have everything right there. It’s such a good location.
MR That is true.
AH I am just 50 feet out in my little backyard office with my babysitter at home to watch the kids for a couple hours today because it’s the first day of summer break.
MR Oh, boy.
AH Which is wonderful. And of course, it’s the first day that nobody had to get up early — because the middle-schooler has to get up at 6 a.m., which is just horrifying what we do to our children.
AH I know. And so everyone was excited last night because we’re all like, we don’t have to get up at 6 a.m., and I’m like I have to get up at 7 for my networking meeting. So I was the one who had to get out of her pajamas this morning. [Laughing] It stunk. It just stunk. I’m a little whiny about it, but then the ten-minute spotlight presentation in the networking meeting was a coffee roaster guy, so he shows us this special way to do a French press coffee, and it was amazing.
MR Oh, so you learned something. That’s good.
AH Anyhow, you’re out of the office — you’re out of your house, and I’m deeply in my house back in my pajamas at 10 a.m.
MR Like I said, I envy you. The mental picture I have of your working environment right now is awesome.
AH I’m going to send you a picture because it’s — [Laughing]
MR Living your best life.
AH — super chill right now. But what are we — that’s enough banter. I’m sorry I went off on a tangent. What — as usual.
MR That’s okay. Let’s talk about things and stuff.
AH Let’s talk about things and stuff.
MR Stuff and things. So managing dual relationships in a small community. Ooh.
MR I like where this is going.
AH This is super cool. I’m excited about this topic and also want to open with the caveat that this isn’t an all-inclusive conversation. This is boundaries, man, and there are a lot of factors. So we’re going to touch on a few. This is not the all-inclusive conversation of boundaries and dual relationships in a small community or really in any size community.
This question comes to us from a premium member who has recently moved, like in the last six months or so, to a new area of the country for her. She has — she’s living in kind of a small community — or a very specific community. It’s in a suburb of Washington, D.C., I think. I could be a little bit wrong on that. And she is starting to build a practice there. And as she does so, she is connecting with lots of other business owners, and she’s doing really well really fast. But it becomes an issue as she starts to network, how does she handle when clients could become referral partners or business partners — business connections in one way or another?
Now, there’s — when we talk about dual relationships, we tend to focus on when we have friends and family and we also massage them; people who knew us as friends and family, maybe, before they knew us as a massage therapist. And today we’re talking about the flip side, although we will have some tips for both. So this is a little bit of a different angle. When someone’s your client and let’s say — I’m trying to think of a situation that I’ve actually experienced — when someone’s a client and they’re also — ooh, an HVAC guy, and you need some HVAC work done in your house. How — you know, you want to use tradespeople and referrals that you trust, and if you’ve known this client for a couple of years and you know they’re a good HVAC guy and they have a good reputation in the community and they’ve always been great to you and you want to support another small business owner, what do you need to think about? Or if you’ve got a client who also happens to be a member of, let’s say, a BNI group, and they say, would you be interested in coming to my BNI group, how do you handle that dual relationship, and what do you need to think about ahead of time? And unfortunately, most of the times we don’t find the landmines until there’s been an issue. But what can we think about ahead of time, and also how can we revaluate situations and renegotiate our boundaries, essentially, when it’s needed?
So we’re mostly talking about when clients become business relationships or even become friends, because you might see them in community situations that would encourage a friendship, or just co-community members.
So the first thing is when you know someone is a client first, you want to be really proactive about educating clients as to how you handle things, how you handle relationships, confidentiality, conversations. When they — and you want to so this proactively even before someone becomes a business relationship or a friend, having started from being a client. And you do this by just kind of assuming that every relationship will be a dual relationship and giving your clients a heads-up about your confidentiality practices before it’s an issue, and just like you would inform someone of your cancellation policy before it’s an issue.
I am a really big fan of — via a blog post or a blurb on your intake form and a conversation at intake and before you enter a networking situation where you know there will be a client there — being really good about saying, here’s how I practice confidentiality. You know, and this is a great blog post or video or whatever kind of post on your website or in your social media. And it should be part of your frequently asked questions. Here’s what I do if I bump into a client at a grocery store. Or here’s how I work hard to protect your confidentiality. And you might list all of the actual security practices — like everything is password protected, client forms are always behind a lock and key, nobody else has access to this stuff — also I’m never going to speak to your other healthcare providers without your written permission, also I’m not going to discuss health issues via email. All we’ll ever do is discuss scheduling via email. Also if I bump into you at our kid’s softball games, I’m not going to say oh, that’s my client and I’m not going to introduce you to my spouse as my client. I will also just refer to you as my friend or as nothing, as oh, this is so-and-so from so-and-so. As in like this is so-and-so who owns the bakery. Or this is so-and-so who I know from around town. There’s a lot of really vague things you can so. Or you can just say, oh, this is so-and-so and then you introduce them to your spouse or your kid or whatever’s appropriate.
So be really proactive in the form of a blog post; a video; a blurb on your intake form; when appropriate, conversations at intake; and in networking situations, and I’ll give an example of that in a minute. And you want to say, I won’t acknowledge that you’re a client. You may disclose that, but I want you to know that’s never going to come from me. At a community event, I’m not going to acknowledge that. I — and you want to just be really clear. So I think that’s pretty clear.
And a little note here, too, is that if you send thank you notes for referrals — so if I’ve got my regular client John and he sends in Betty, on Betty’s intake form, it says, how did you hear about me, and it might say, referred by John. And I say, may I thank them for the referral? I’m getting permission to acknowledge that Betty came in on John’s suggestion. But I would never do that without written permission. And they might say no. And sometimes people do say no, and I love that. And I acknowledge that when I’m doing my verbal intake with them. I’ll say, I notice that you did not want me to thank so-and-so, and that’s a wonderful opening. Thanks for that, and I want to assure you that I’m never going to disclose you’re a client in any kind of situation outside of this massage room. And even when they say, yeah, sure, you can thank John for the referral, that’s — again– an opener. Excellent. Thank you for giving me permission to thank them, and I do want to assure you that I’m never going to acknowledge or disclose that you’re a client outside of this massage room or your permission to talk to a healthcare provider. And it’s a great — it’s a really good way to just proactively give people a head’s up that you’re not messing around here.
Okay. Let’s do a little halftime right now, Michael. I think now’s a good time because I’ve got more of tangent to go into. Who, pray tell, is our halftime sponsor?
MR Oh, it’s a great time for a halftime sponsor because it is jojoba with a special officer.
AH Yay. Woo-hoo. That’s right there’s a special offer through June, so we’re coming to the end of it, people.
Sponsor message June 2019, you can get 20% off discount on orders of $35 or more when you shop through our link massagebusinessblueprint.com/jojoba. And if you’ve missed it and it’s past June 2019, don’t stress out because you’ll just get your regular 10% off using our link.
What do I love about jojoba? The Jojoba Company is the only company in the world that carries 100% pure, first-pressed quality jojoba. And what that means is that they do one light pressing on the seed. They don’t get as much in quantity as companies who jam that seed down and milk every little bit of liquid out of it. But it’s a better-quality jojoba. It won’t go rancid, it’s non comedogenic. And it won’t go rancid; it can get hot and cold and hot and cold again and that’s totally okay. So you can stock up while we’ve got this 20% offer. I myself put my offer in. I got a gallon. I got a couple of pump bottles to go with it, and I actually got a box of 24 little sample sizes because I think I’m going to start retailing the jojoba, and I thought sending some sample sizes home with clients would be a good way to woo them into buying an 8-oz. bottle, and I’m excited about making some retail cash on that. So anyhoo. I am delighted by this jojoba special, and you should be too. And you should go to massagebusinessblueprint.com/jojoba, J-O-J-O-B-A.
AH Michael, what do you love about jojoba, she said, stalling for a moment so she can flip back to her notes and take a sip of coffee.
MR [Laughing] This is real transparency here, folks. You’re seeing the inside here.
MR I just love how it feels. It’s just great for my skin. I have eczema, so especially in the winter my skin cracks a lot and gets super, super dry. And a little bit of jojoba just makes it feel soft and awesome again. It’s great for skin. I just love it for that reason.
AH Excellent. Thank you for that.
AH Okay, so we’ve talked about how to be really proactive in making sure your clients always know that you’re going to protect your confidentiality even in wacky situations when you meet them out in the wild.
So let’s say you do have a client who is in your chamber of commerce or whatever and suggests you come to an event. Awesome, and you want to think through this dual relationship with this client. So you have to think about, one, do I want go to this event, and two, am I going to be comfortable going there and seeing this person who is a client, and think about the kind of client they have been. Is this — and this applies if you are going to become like a business whatever with someone or if there’s some kind of social — or say this person’s like oh, well, you play tennis? I play tennis. Let’s — why don’t you come play tennis with me at my club? Great. Think through what you know about this person. Is this a person who is typically respectful of your time? Have they tended to push boundaries in the past? Are you sure that you want to do business with them or start a friendship with them? Are they the kind of person you would want to hang out with or do business stuff with if they weren’t a client? Would that be someone you are interested in? And if the answers here guide you to think, oh, I really don’t want to have anything to do with this person outside of my office, can you exit gracefully now before the dual relationship begins? So can you say — how can you get out of that?
And again, this is one of the things we talk a lot about how to say no. And the first thing is to stop saying yes right off the bat. So learning some stall techniques. Like when someone says, hey, do you want to come to our chamber of commerce mixer? or do you want to come play racquetball with me? you can say, ah, that’s neat. Let think about that and check my schedule and get back to you because it gives you time to regroup and think through these things and find a graceful exit. So maybe your exit is, you know, I don’t know that the chamber of commerce is right for me. Or maybe your exit is you know what, I’m super hypercompetitive and you would not like me when we play racquetball. Or you could just find some kind of a scheduling glitch that might be an easy way out. You want to be honest. You don’t want to be like, I can’t do Tuesday mornings and then have them bump into you while you’re frolicking on a Tuesday morning in a park. But you want to be honest. But you can usually find an honest and graceful and mindful way out that is not directly insulting to them if you have determined that they are in fact someone who in fact you do not want to have a dual relationship with because they push boundaries or they’re not respectful or you’ve just heard that they get a little too handsy at the chamber of commerce mixers, whatever, whatever.
And if you do decide that you want to enter a dual relationship, you want to be really clear about all of the boundaries proactively. And this seems weird, right, because it involves initiating a conversation which can feel weird and uncomfortable because we don’t have them a lot. But before you enter this dual relationship with a client, stay clear — be really clear. Say something to the effect of I do try to be mindful of dual relationships. I’m comfortable that we can do business together or I’m comfortable that I can play racquetball with you and I can still be effective as your massage therapist. Do you feel okay about that? And literally starting that conversation is going to make someone think.
And I had this happen with me where I was running the yoga studio out of the other side of my office and I had a client who was like — kind of a real anxious kind of woman, and I knew she would really benefit from yoga, and she got herself psyched up to go. And I mentioned something about — I said, I’ve been thinking of going to that class myself, and her eyes popped open, and I looked at her and I went, would that freak you out to have your massage therapist in your yoga class? And she’s like, yes, I feel like you would be looking at my body mechanics the whole time. And I was like oh, yeah, I won’t come to yoga. Don’t worry about it. This is a class I want you to take. And it was really good for me, and I’m so glad she was honest about that because then in the future for some different classes when I would tell different yoga — tell different clients about different yoga classes, I would say, would that — I’m thinking I’m going to be in that class; is that comfortable for you? Would that be okay or would that be weird for you to have your massage therapist in your yoga class? And every — most everybody was cool with it, or they pretended they were cool with it and then just didn’t go to the class. But it was weird, but it was so good to be proactive about it. So know that this could feel like an uncomfortable conversation.
So if a client invites you to their 50th birthday party because a whole bunch of their friends that they have referred to you and you’ve seen in the past are going to be there, and you decide you do want to go and it could be a good personal and professional situation for you, and you’re a kind of person who can go into a social situation like that and behave, at least professionally enough to not smear your reputation, it’s okay to say out loud, I would love to come to your 50th birthday party. I want you to know when I’m there, I’m going to have my massage therapist hat on because I know that you and a handful of your friends are also my clients. So I’m going to be super hyper-professional, but I would really love to come celebrate this with you. Thank you for inviting me. And be really clear. If you’re going to hire the HVAC guy and he says, oh, my gosh, absolutely I can do that for you, say I want to make sure that we can do this together, and are we good about that? I would love to hire you to do HVAC, but I don’t want that to change how we interact as a massage therapist and client. Do you feel okay about that?
And be really, really clear about money. And this is why a lot of us don’t do trade or bartering because we don’t like the lines getting blurry. If you are going to have a dual business relationship or hire a client to do something, be super, super clear about money. And say that right out: I want to make sure that you’re billing me at the same rate you bill all your clients. And if they have suggested bartering and that’s something you feel comfortable with, say, I would love to do that. Let’s write it down and talk about how we are going to do that so that it’s really clear and everyone feels like we are all getting what we need out of this arrangement. And write it down. Any conversation you have, follow it up with an email that starts off “just so that we both remember the conversation correctly.” Or blame it on yourself. Say just so I have a written record of how we’re going to do this, we’re going to value my time at, whatever, $100 an hour and your time at this much, and make sure that the barter evens out for both of us. And be really clear about it. Even if it feels uncomfortable to write that email, more likely than not, they are going to appreciate the clarity. And they’re probably going to be really impressed because they haven’t bartered with anyone else who has been so clear and thoughtful about the boundaries. So just be really clear even if it feels uncomfortable.
So I have a couple of tips from two people. One from Annie LaCroix who runs a Brainy Boss podcast. You can see her at brainyboss.com. And she talked a lot — when this conversation — we had some dual relationship conversations happen in our premium group, and she popped in a while back with some thoughts about — especially when you’re friends with someone first, or you know people from the community first and then they come in to be clients, have that conversation about preexisting relationships before the professional relationship starts. So in your intake say, hey — and you know, since I know you outside of this office, I want to make sure you know I’m never going to mention your massage to any of our common acquaintances. But also — and this is great — I want this massage session to be all about you, so let’s not talk or gossip about anything other than massage and your treatment during your session, or let’s just not talk at all during the treatment — which is also valid and a great reason why people don’t talk during their treatment because you can’t accidentally say the wrong thing.
Annie had some really interesting suggestions where she said don’t double book with clients. Like don’t have a massage — don’t give a massage and then have lunch or coffee for other purposes in the same — before or after the massage. Don’t double book your relationships there. Separate the events. It will prevent you — it will create a clearer boundary and prevent some weird overlap.
And if massage talk should come up in social situations, shut it down. Say, you know what? I don’t want to talk about massage stuff outside of a treatment. And you want to go into these situations with eyes wide open and mouth firmly closed. So you don’t discuss massage or treatment stuff in a social situation or a networking situation, and you can deflect with something like, I work really hard to maintain confidentiality with my clients, so it’s best to not talk about treatment stuff right now. And that’s it. And people are going to respect that. They’re going to be like, wow, she treats her business kind of seriously.
And also — I’m sorry, there are so many — I’ve got so many notes. This is such a topic.
MR I’m on the edge of my seat.
AH I know. So I also got some really great thoughts from Kelly Bowers, who wrote The Accidental Business Owner, A Friendly Guide to Success for Health and Wellness Practitioners by Handspring publishing. And I’ll put a link to where you can buy the book. Spoiler alert: I write one of the forewords in this book. And Kelly reminds us that it’s our job to remember that we are both their friend and their massage therapist. They might forget it, but we can’t. So when we’ve got them in the room and on the table, you’ve got to remember to treat them like you treat the rest of your clients. And when you’re in a social situation with them, you need to remember that they’re your friend, and you can’t be piffy at them friendship-wise because they may have blown off their appointment. And if they blow off their appointment, you got to charge them your cancellation fee as you would any of your clients.
So always remind yourself, what would I say/what would I do in this situation with a regular client who is not a friend, and what would I do in this situation with a regular friend who is not a client? And your — remember that you’re responsible for setting and maintaining that tone when you’re in massage mode and then when you’re in friend mode. It’s your job. And that’s the real challenge of dual relationships.
It helps to think ahead, but we can never think ahead on these things. You just can’t. They come up. How are you going to deal with it when your friend bounces a check or violates your no-show policy or asks for a discount, or how comfortable are you asking your friends and family to pay you? And I think we’ve done a whole other episode on this. But it’s okay to back away from those situations. And really — I’m throwing some of my notes again here — check in with yourself. As a therapist, are you giving this client special treatment because they’re also your friend or your referral partner? And as a friend, are you giving them more leeway because they’re also a client? Or are you giving them less leeway because they’re a terrible client?
So that’s kind of it. There’ s a lot here, but hopefully we’ve laid out a few questions to ask yourself — would I want to be in a friendship or a business relationship with this person if they weren’t a client, if I had just met them somewhere else? If not, can I exit gracefully? Can you be proactive in laying out the boundaries for everyone? And this is kind of the big own for me is are you willing to wash your hands of all of it if it doesn’t work out? If something goes wrong in one relationship or the other, are you okay ending both relationships, or would it wreck you, or would it wreck your business? And that, I think, is an important thing to think about when you are beginning dual relationships with people who are already clients. Would it wreck you; would it wreck your business if it all fell apart?
And now for realzies, I am done.
MR Nice. Very thorough. Really interesting insight. Some stuff I hadn’t thought of.
AH Fine line between thorough and utterly overwhelming, so sorry.
AH Sorry, everybody.
MR I think it’s just the right amount of overwhelming.
MR So yeah, thank you.
AH I’m done. I need a drink.
MR Thank you very much. All right, well go have a drink. You’ve earned it. All right, well, we will wrap there, then.
So thank you, everyone, for joining us today. We really appreciate it. If you like this podcast, share it with a friend. And we would love it if you would consider giving us an iTunes review. We love all the iTunes reviews; we read all of them. Even the bad ones. We even share the bad ones sometimes. We prefer the good ones, though, so thank you very much. So thank you for that.
And if you want to find us online, we are at massagebusinessblueprint.com. There is a lovely, brilliant, thriving premium community that you can consider joining there. It’s $17 a month, and our members tell us it’s worth every penny and then some. And you can learn more about that on our website as well. There’s a private Facebook group which is full of the smartest massage therapists in the world talking about business and marketing. There are lots of other benefits including a rich stock photo library full of beautiful, diverse stock photo images, a monthly article you can share and use on your own website without having to deal with a lot more than just some random editing here and there. You can literally spend five minutes on it a month and have a well-written professional blog post for your website every month. And some other stuff I haven’t had time to talk about, so just check it out if you want to.
AH And I’m just going to pop in and note that if you’re an ABMP member, check out our premium membership through your ABMP benefits portal. If you’re a certified member, then you will get a discount, and it’ll be $12 a month.
MR Right. Beautiful. All right. If you have topics or questions for us or feedback, email that to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’d love to hear from you. So have a great day. We appreciate you being with us, and we’ll see you next time.