by Norm Green
Franchising is a common business concept in most service industries. With massage now mainstream, it should be no surprise that franchising is a growing trend in the massage industry.
People who purchase franchise locations—called franchisees—do so in order to capitalize on the franchisors’ expertise and experience. Franchisees receive the support of the franchisor and the ability to use a proven business system.
As I write this, the largest massage franchisor has more than tripled its number of locations since 2007. New massage-franchise systems and corporate chains are following right behind. With more franchise locations opening every day, the face of the massage industry is changing from being dominated by independently owned solo practices to franchisee-owned locations that employ many new massage-school graduates.
Some very emotional debate is taking place, in articles, blogs and chat forums, on how massage franchises impact the massage industry.
Many people have compared the evolution of the massage industry to the restaurant industry, in that there is plenty of room for both franchise locations and independently owned and operated locations, since the market is large and has a wide range of needs. Some people believe massage franchises have raised the level of awareness of massage for a vast number of consumers and, therefore, everyone in the industry benefits from an expanded market. There are other people who believe massage franchises have dumbed-down the definition of massage, along with the average session price, and the massage industry is at risk of commodification due to franchisors’ cookie-cutter approach. And there are still other people who don’t see what the big deal is. They are doing just fine, and charging a lot more than what the franchise location just down the road charges.
No matter what your position is, franchisors have calculated that the massage industry has huge growth potential, with the majority of the general population having not yet experienced massage.
They have recognized a business opportunity and are going about building their brands, presence and ability to maximize their market share by opening as many locations as they can. Whether you like it or not, they are here to stay.
We live in a free-market society where anyone can willingly participate in their chosen business endeavor. In a free market, no business can decide who can and cannot compete in their market area. When a franchise location opens around the corner from you, the level of your competition will change due to its structured business development plan and coordinated marketing initiatives.
Competition has existed from day one. It stands to reason that as the industry matures, competition will become more sophisticated.
Money, leases, time, resources and training are all aspects of what you have invested into your practice. It can all be for naught if you are not prepared to compete in today’s massage market.
Franchisors have a well-developed business plan and strategy for growth. Their franchisees pay a franchise fee and ongoing royalties for their proven plan and support. Franchisees also pay an additional percentage or two that goes into an advertising fund. The franchisee advertising fund guarantees the franchisor will promote the brand at a national level and also provide the franchisees prepared marketing tools they can use locally.
And that may be the difference.
Do you have a business plan?
I encourage—no— I challenge each and every independent massage therapist to either dust off your business plan or write one if you do not have one. Do it today—not tomorrow, not next week. If you are revisiting your plan, take an assessment of the current state of your business from all aspects, especially an evaluation of your competition. If you do not have one and you do not have the ability to write one, get someone to help you. Invest in your future by taking the time now to know where you want to go and how you plan to get there.
When you revisit or write your plan, think of this: Typically, franchises offer the consumer consistency. With consistency comes the assurance and comfort that when someone decides to make a purchase, she can expect the same experience each and every time she eats at a restaurant, stays at a hotel, gets her carpet cleaned or receives a massage. Her positive memory of previous experiences and the consistency they were delivered with is what makes her choose to eat at a chain restaurant over choosing a local eatery. With thousands of decisions to make every day in our busy lives, consistency makes buying decisions easier. Less adventurous, but easier.
As a long-time client of massage, what I value during my appointment with my independent massage therapist is her ability to consistently deliver the results my aging and aching body requires. The ongoing relationship I have with my therapist allows her to build on a continuum of care. Therefore, I am assured and comforted by her ability to deliver a consistent experience during my monthly 90-minute appointment.
If you are an independent practitioner, list consistency as the number-one strength in your business plan. Then build your plan around your ability to deliver a consistent, high-quality experience.
The franchise locations are here to stay. They have a business plan—and so should you.
Norm Green has been a massage client for 28 years. He is the director of business development for My Receptionist (www.myreceptionist.com). He has a background in franchise development and consults massage therapists on how to increase their revenue, cash flow and free time by utilizing the services offered by My Receptionist. He can be reached at (800) 686-0162.