The phrase Employee of the Month and a small trophy on a brown wall. A hand and index finger point at the trophy. Illustrating massage jobs and employment success.

In an industry where solo work is the norm, learning how to be a successful employee is a skill set that is often overlooked in the massage school curriculum.

However, not everyone is cut out to run their own business.

For people who aren’t business-minded, there are other options, particularly working for a massage franchise.

That’s what licensed massage therapist Angela Horn discovered almost 15 years ago.

When she graduated from massage therapy school, Horn began working in another massage therapist’s office. She soon became frustrated because the regular clients who came in saw the other therapist. Being a newbie, she had no regular clients of her own. Without regular clients, she didn’t have a regular paycheck.

After a few months, Horn knew she had to do something. To get more consistency, she went to work for a massage franchise.

“It gave me more exposure,” Horn said. While she honed her craft working on a variety of bodies, she also got a crash course on being an employee, and found out, contrary to what she’d heard about working for a franchise, that she could have as fulfilling a massage career working for a franchise as if she was solo.

The key was knowing how to be successful in that environment. Here’s the low-down on how to do just that from experts – including Horn – who know.

1. Teamwork Rules

“The biggest thing to succeed as a massage therapy franchise employee is to always think of things in terms of being a team player,” said Brooke Riley, a licensed massage therapist who is an operations specialist for Massage Heights, a family-owned therapeutic massage and facial services franchise company based in San Antonio, Texas, with more than 140 locations in the U.S. and Canada.

In a franchise, “It’s not just the massage that we look at,” she said, “It’s the entire picture.”

Being a team player means actively engaging with the front desk staff.

“The people at the front desk are a huge asset to massage therapists,” Riley said, “Because they are the first people clients at a franchise interact with. They’re trained to get to know and build rapport with guests and find out what they want to get out of the massage, and then to pass on all that information to the massage therapist.”

Armed with the intel from front desk personnel, massage therapists are then able to better meet the needs of their guests.

“A lot of therapists think that it’s just about their room and their massage, but when you work for a franchise, you really need to understand that it’s all starts from the very beginning when that guest walks in the door… [to] when the guest comes out,” Riley said.

2. Communicate

“Also, key to being a team player is being able to communicate,” said Wayne Guillory, an operations specialist with Massage Heights. “You can’t get the intel on your guest through osmosis; you’ll need to talk with the front desk staff, he said.”

“You’ll also be talking to your client, of course. So being able to build a rapport with your client is an important skill to develop,” Guillory noted. “And integral to building rapport with guests is being able to listen.”

“We’re actively listening to what our guests are saying,” said Guillory. “Listening enables you to figure out what your guest needs that he or she isn’t telling you or may not be aware of.”

3. Be Open-Minded

Franchises have menus of service offerings so their guests know what to expect and what they can get no matter which location they go to. That means massage therapists will be expected to know and offer those services.

“For massage therapists to be successful, they need to keep an open mind to learning new techniques and modalities,” said Riley.

4. Utilize Resources

Leaders at franchises like Massage Heights believe strongly in providing their employees with continuing education, training and mentoring opportunities, said Giovanni Hoff, the Massage Heights’ director of operations and training.

“In order to be successful,” she said, “grab all the resources you possibly can and utilize them and execute them.”

5. Support the Brand

“When you’re working for a franchise, you’re not working for yourself,” said Angela Horn, who has been working for Massage Heights for nearly a decade and is the lead massage therapist for three of its Atlanta-area retreats. “When you’re working for somebody else, you have to conform to whatever they have in place,” she said.

That means, among other things, their policies, including appearance, maintaining a professional attitude with clients and coworkers, and offering guests add-on services or products if the therapist thinks those would be a benefit.

6. Practice Your Craft

“The franchise does all the marketing to get clients to come into a location, but that doesn’t mean massage therapists can just sit back and cool their heels,” says Horn.

 “If (therapists) don’t come in with the love, with the passion, that is needed for the session – to actually do the massage – then they’re not going to be successful,” she said.

Massage therapists working at a franchise have to sell themselves through their passion and knowledge so that guests become their regulars.

Gaining regular clients also means working evenings and weekends, because that’s when most people are available, Horn said.

And while it may be tempting to call out or show up late when your bookings for the day look sparse, don’t do it — because franchises thrive on last-minute appointments and walk-ins. You won’t be able to meet your next regular client if you let a skimpy calendar fool you into thinking you’ll be wasting your day.

7. Take care of Yourself

“Working for a franchise, you’ll be doing back-to-back massages, sometimes for three hours at a time,” said Horn. “So implement self-care measures throughout your shift: eat and drink, take your breaks, and stretch.”

About the author

Stephanie Bouchard is a freelance writer and editor based on the coast of Maine. She frequently reports news and features for MASSAGE Magazine.