From the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Best Practices: Rich Haslam,” in the June 2010 issue. Article summary: Rich Haslam, 55, owns a seated massage practice that provides massage therapy to six Whole Foods Markets locations—in Aventura, Coral Gables, Pinecrest, Plantation, Wellington and Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. He employs 30 massage therapists part time, and has been practicing massage for more than 15 years.

Best Practices: Rich Haslam, MASSAGE MagazineQ. How do you define business success?

A. Doing what you enjoy and making a living at it, too.

Q. What advice do you have for massage therapists who might want to offer massage in their local health-food stores?

A. Customers are professionals who work in the community. If you want to get their business, you better be dressed like a professional and act like one.

Q. What is your best client-retention method?

A. We’re not in the massage business; we are in the relationship business. Massage is what we do. We develop a personal, but professional, relationship with customers.

Q. How do you balance your work life and family life?

A. That’s a tough one. I’m single, so most of my time is spent on this business, the Hands and Hearts for Haiti fundraiser and a new nonmassage online business I just started.

Q. What is the best way to market a new technique to clients?

A. First, before you even decide if you are going to take a class, do some market research. Find out what problems people have and provide solutions. Then, go where your prospective clients are. That could be in anyplace—from a nursing home to a hospital or online support group.

Q. If you knew then what you know now, what would you have done differently starting out?

A. Marketing, and more of it.

Q. What was the best business decision you made?

A. Allowing my therapists to take my customers. No one does this, not even the guy with the chair business at the mall. He keeps all the customers to himself. He also has a high turnover rate. My therapists are allowed to solicit customers for their own businesses; therefore, they have a vested interest in the health of my business.

Q. Describe a time when things weren’t going well in your business and what you did to turn it around.

A. Last year (2009), was probably the worst year I have had. Business dropped 60 percent. I cut my own salary to the absolute minimum I could—and then I expanded, from three to six locations. This is now paying off, as these new locations are slowly increasing in sales.

Q. What advice would you give someone wanting to pursue a career in massage therapy that you wish someone had given you?

A. Choose your school very carefully. Get personal referrals. Don’t get stuck in a curriculum with too many modalities. One, maybe two, is all you need for entry level. It’s better to be a master of one than a jack-of-all-trades. If you want to own your own business, get some marketing training. I feel you can get a better education by studying some of the direct marketing books you find at bookstores.

Q. In five years, where do you see yourself and your business?

A. I see myself retired and living in Panama. My business is in the hands of an exemplary manager (yet to be found), and doing $1,000,000 in sales. Anyone looking for a job?