From the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Best Practices: Tiffany Richards,” in the May 2010 issue. Article summary: Tiffany Richards, 31, owns The Back Rub Company on-site massage business, which operates in all 50 states and contracts with more than 100 independent massage therapists to provide sports and medical massage, spa services and corporate seated massage to business, events and trade shows.

Q. What’s your best client-retention method?

A. Going above and beyond. Clients stay with us because they know that we are doing what we love. They sense it, see it, feel it and it makes them come back. Clients know that we are in it for them.

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

A. My work is my life, but in a good way. I live holistically, I’m into fitness, I get massages—my business and my personal life are interconnected.

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

Try it out with a few good clients who will give you feedback. Then, take it to the rest.

Q. What was the best business decision you made?

A. Many of our clients would ask if we provided other services than chair massage, like yoga classes or lunch-and-learn workshops. My answer would always be, “Yes!” then I would have a freak out moment, regain my composure and figure out how to make it happen. First and foremost, we listened to our clients and expanded our offerings based on their needs. We are also very active in the community and support local organizations and events, further increasing our exposure and growth.

Q. Describe the marketing techniques you used when you were first getting started.

A. When I started the business, I had no money and traded six massages for a logo and some business cards. I hired two massage therapists and asked friends and business associates for referrals. As the business made money, I’d put it into another piece of marketing collateral, such as brochures and my website.

Q. What was the worst business decision you made?

A. In the beginning, I figured I knew what was best for my clients. Wrong! It’s much better to listen to clients and allow them to give you as much information as possible.

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

A. Establish goals with timelines, but be flexible. Be passionate about what you do, and do it for the right reasons. Don’t believe those commercials that you’re going to graduate and make tons of money right away. You have to work at everything and be willing to put the time and energy into your career. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are great, free mentorship programs on running a business all over the country. Take advantage of them. Don’t wait for someone else to validate you. You are responsible for creating your success. No one else is going to do it for you. Buck up and get motivated. Enjoy the ride! It’s bumpy at times but so worth it.