In 1975, when I began my career as a licensed massage therapist in Gainesville, Florida, my awareness of success existed but had not yet arrived in my life at the level of fact, conditions and circumstances. I was a young, 24-year-old, African American man proposing to create a highly successful business providing massage therapy services for mostly white Americans.
I began my career by restricting my business of massage therapy services to only males, all of whom were white. I had grown up in the Deep South, in Georgia, and lived under Jim Crow laws. I rode at the back of the bus, I drank out of the Colored water fountains, and I dared not ride my bicycle through a white neighborhood in Columbus, Georgia, in the 1950s and 60s lest I had dogs turned out on me! This was a reality for Black Americans living in the United States of America.
I began my massage therapy career working at the Gainesville Executive Health Club, which was located above a prominent Gainesville bank. It was a classy building, and the classy club was owned and operated by my massage teacher and mentor, Mr. Bruce Simer. Mr. Simer was a genius at marketing and selling the benefits of massage therapy and exercise as an essential element of health and wellness.
It was he who introduced me to my first best habit of creating a successful massage therapy business. He mentored me, he taught me and most of all he believed in me and provided a structure of support as a coach to bring me to the level of success I enjoy today. It begins with having someone who believes in you. It begins with having someone who is highly successful in business coaching you. It begins with having someone who knows the profession of massage therapy very well.
In my first job as a massage therapist, upon graduating from massage school, I gave, on average, 12 to 14 30-minute massages, three days a week. I worked on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday only, as those were “men’s days” at the club. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays were reserved exclusively for women. I did not work on those days, as I only gave massages to men, by choice.
“Don’t Look at White Women”
The “tears” of white women have lynched Black men, young and old in America, especially in the Deep South. The story of Emmett Till in Mississippi and the Tulsa Race Massacre in Oklahoma both occurred because a white woman made allegations that a Black man had offended her.
Growing up in the Deep South, I was taught at a very young age to never look in the direction of a white woman and certainly never to speak to one—and we all knew to even think of touching a white woman would mean certain death by a white male lynch mob. American history, up until now, left out these facts of the American experience for Black Americans.
What does any of this have to do with massage therapy business success, you might ask? It has everything to do with my highly successful massage therapy career because I am an African American man who began his career in the Deep South of the 1970s in the profession of massage, touching people. The challenge I faced early on in my massage therapy career with my client base is that they were all white Americans and my desire for success was amplified by the history of the country of which I am a citizen.
I transformed my experiences of discrimination and race-based attitudes into inspiration to study and learn the best habits of success and to exercise them daily in my massage therapy business. What I know and embrace now is: Massage therapy is an honorable profession of respectful touch driven by one’s commitment to help all people suffering from stress, pain and discomfort.
My teacher, coach and mentor, Mr. Simer, started my path to success by suggesting I read a Dale Carnegie book titled, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” He then suggested I enroll in a Dale Carnegie sales course. Up until then, I did not think of my massage therapy business as “selling.” But now I know that we, as massage therapists, are indeed selling. We are selling our attention, hope, care, compassion, listening, support and physical results. Once I accepted that mindset, the genie of success was out of the bottle!
In 1976, a friend and colleague who was just beginning his career in the Fitness Center business, Mr. Joe Cirulli, gave me a copy of the book, “Think and Grow Rich,” By Napoleon Hill. I was introduced to the results of the authors’ study of some 500 successful businesspeople, this book is where I had my breakthrough.
It was at that moment, thanks to Joe Cirulli for giving me the book, that I saw that my thoughts had everything to do with my success in massage therapy.
I began to believe that I could help every client that I massaged. I began to believe and think that I was very good at massage because I committed myself to the study of massage and its results!
To this very day, I still study massage techniques by reading, watching videos, by attending workshops and listening to my colleagues in the massage therapy profession at conferences.
Once while attending a national massage conference, I was sitting at the back of a hotel ballroom listening to the massage therapists presenting and taking notes.
Another massage therapist sat down next to me and when they turned and realized who I was they asked me, “What are you doing in here attending this lecture?” My reply to that massage therapist is still the same today, 46 years later—I am still curious about ways I can help my clients. My curiosity is fueled by my burning desire to help people through the respectful and knowledgeable touch of massage therapy.
And that is why I still do what I do every week at my beautiful facility and office in Fort Worth, Texas. I have surrounded myself with incredible massage therapists and wellness professionals. Our united energy inside the copper-clad building fuels an expansive therapeutic experience for all our clients No one sits in a “waiting room” waiting for hours for their appointment with us. That success habit alone is one of the best practices of success for your massage therapy business.
These 5 Keys Will Unlock Any Person’s Business Success
1. Use who you are. Highlight what you think you are discriminated against for, such as color or skin, gender, religious traditions, education or body type, and make that one of your areas of expertise. An example of this success was modeled by a massage therapist who had won the challenges of body weight acceptance. This massage therapist created a successful business that focused on providing massage therapy services for people who considered they had a weight problem or that they were “fat.” She welcomed those clients with open hands to receive respectful touch.
2. Give through touch. Giving will activate the vibration of receiving. Offer donations of massage therapy services to those who suffer from temporary inability to invest in themselves. Giving through touch creates a powerful energy of care, compassion and hope. This giving method of touch is utilized in many religious traditions to evoke change and healing.
3. Love massage. You must be in love with giving massage therapy to others. Love is the most powerful emotion in the human experience. If you are not in love with doing massage therapy, your business will not grow, and it will not last for very long. This is the primary habit I have practiced and how I continue to provide weekly massage therapy sessions after 46 years of continuous service. I love massage therapy and I love being a massage therapist. If you are not in love with it, you will give up on it.
4. Believe. When you work with your clients giving massage therapy, it is most important for your success to believe that you will help the client in that massage session. If you can see in your mind how you will help that client, and your vision is fueled by your emotion of desire and perseverance, then your massage therapy session becomes a therapeutic experience that will support that client’s human experience of care, compassion, hope and support.
5. Be grateful. The one habit I have practiced for decades that continues to have direct influence on my massage business success is that I am grateful—I speak aloud daily, all year ‘round, year after year, what I am grateful for and who I am grateful for! Gratitude will keep you listening to your intuition and expand your opportunities for personal progression and growth in helping others.
Always Be Ready
Always be ready at the reserved appointment time for your client. Always end the appointment on time, no matter what time you began. Sell the therapeutic experience and the results that come with it rather than selling the client “time.” Thus, I do not advertise my massage therapy services in the language of time. I am selling results, not minutes.
For every moment of challenge I encountered, I found a seed of business growth and opportunity for my massage business success. I encourage you, as a massage therapist, to operate from the glass-is-half-full mindset rather than the glass-is-half-empty mindset.
In the end, the one habit that I have practiced for decades that continues to have direct influence on my massage business success is that I am Grateful—I speak aloud daily, all year round, year after year, what I am grateful for and who I am grateful for. Gratitude will keep you listening to your intuition and expand your opportunities for personal progression and growth in helping others. Massage therapy is a system of respectful and knowledgeable touch that supports the human experience and enhances wellness.
When a young African American man, working in the Deep South, can create one of the most successful massage therapy careers in the United States of America—then so will you. Believe, dream and listen! Nourish your potential.
About the Author
Benny Vaughn has been a working massage therapist for 46 years. He created a highly successful massage therapy business. Benny lives in Fort Worth, Texas. At age 70 he has transformed into life coaching services for massage therapists. Visit bennyvaughnlifecoach.com to learn more about his solutions related to learning, leading, motivating and inspiring others, finding emotional peace, and to schedule a free consultation.