featured image for blog about growing a small business with a business coach. Image of two people in a business setting

Hiring a small business coach can significantly benefit massage practices looking to grow, especially given many practitioners’ limited business backgrounds. A business coach can offer personalized guidance, help overcome obstacles, and provide new perspectives, making the investment worthwhile for those ready to advance their business but unsure how to proceed.

Key Takeaways

  • A small-business coach offers individualized guidance to help massage practice owners overcome specific challenges and achieve their business goals
  • Coaches can provide new perspectives, accountability, and teach essential business skills, making them valuable for business growth and development.
  • It’s crucial to choose a coach who understands the unique needs of massage therapists, respects financial realities, and offers tailored, rather than one-size-fits-all, solutions.

A Small-Business Coach Can Help You Grow Your Massage Practice

If you want your massage practice to grow, get stronger and move forward, you can work with a small-business coach

Sometimes, you need individualized attention.

If you want to improve your tennis game, you work with a tennis coach.

If you want to focus on your own fitness, you work with a personal trainer.

If you want to learn to play the piano, you work with a piano teacher.

If you want your business to get stronger and move forward, you can work with a business coach.

Business coaching “guides a businessperson in the pursuit of their work goals. A business coach might help their client build leadership skills, create business strategies, or improve their mindset,” said Robert Carroll, a certified executive and leadership coach. “It all depends on what the person hiring the coach wants out of the relationship. Most importantly, business coaching is about growth.”

Does it make sense for a very small business, such as many massage practices, to invest in a small-business coach? Small businesses that want to grow may actually be in an ideal place to work with a business coach.

While we were trained specifically in our tool—massage therapy—and continue to take massage courses throughout our careers, many of us have little-to-no background in business, and a thin education in business. We can read books and take courses in business, but every massage practice and every business owner is unique. Sometimes you need one-on-one support.

Let me get specific.

The Cost-Benefit Ratio of a Small-Business Coach

When is looking for a small-business coach worth the effort?

1. When you’re ready to step out on your own but don’t know how. Coaches can be a guide, walking you through the steps of setting up your practice and helping you work through the decisions you need to make.

2. When you’re stuck and not moving forward like you want.There’s a lot of reasons we may get stalled in our work. It can be difficult when you’re inside that business to see what’s going on. A coach can bring new perspective. They can also help you identify and work on any changes you need to make in your approach to your practice and your work.

3. When you want to make a big change but can’t seem to step out. Even when you really want to make a big change, you can easily find it overwhelming. Maybe what you need is a helping hand, a buddy to keep you stepping forward.

4. When things just aren’t working. To be clear, working with a business coach is not like hiring a magic wand. They can’t fix what’s broken but they can help you figure out what’s gone wrong and decide what you want to do about it.

5. When there are specific skills or experience you lack. Perhaps you need someone to help you understand how to do market research. Maybe you’re vague about how to assess the financial strengths and weaknesses of your practice. Maybe you have no idea how to identify and connect with your best-fit clients. Perhaps it’s even more fundamental: you can’t seem to nail down your mission or vision. There are coaches that excel at these specific kinds of objectives.

What Exactly Does a Small-Business Coach Do?

According to Forbes Magazine, business coaches can:

• Help you see your blind spots

• Act as a compass

• Teach you new skills

• Unlock self-imposed limits

• Give you unbiased outsider perspective

• Hold you accountable

• Open you to new habits and ideas

• Deal with challenges and set goals

• Keep you on track

Business coach Gael Wood, owner of Elevate with Gael, works with a business coach. “I find it helpful to have someone to talk things though with, to suggest different ways of doing things, and to be a few steps ahead of me,” she said. “When you’re in business, having someone to talk to is so important. My husband can only stand to hear about my journey so much.”

Wood said the most beneficial aspect of working with a small-business coach is to have someone to talk to, someone to make a plan with, which creates accountability.

Here’s How to Find a Small-Business Coach

In the last 10 years I’ve noticed a rise in people offering coaching services for massage business owners. The COVID-19 pandemic boosted coaching as a career, as it can be done remotely. So how do you find the right business coach, especially one that can work with a very small service-providing business owner?

First, get clear with yourself about what you want out of your coaching relationship. Clarity? Push? Encouragement? Education? Advice? What are your goals? Think about whether you need a coach or whether you need to hire someone to do a specific task. For example, f you need help getting a better handle on your financial goals, a coach can help. If you need someone to straighten out your financial records, hire a bookkeeper.

Second, look for someone who has experience working with massage therapists. They need to understand what we can and can’t do. They need to appreciate the values, standards, and ethics of our industry. They need to respect the personal passion that drives many practices. They need to appreciate that many of us aren’t natural business people.

Look at the small-business coach’s social media platforms and website to see how they talk about and do their work. Do you feel comfortable with them? Do you feel like you’re gaining value from what they offer? Their online presence can give you insight into them and help you decide if you want to talk to them.

Third, actively interview anyone you’re considering working with. They should ask you plenty of questions to ascertain if they’re a good fit for you. They should also listen carefully when you ask questions and explain your business. Pay attention to a feeling of fit. If it just doesn’t feel like a good fit, it’s OK to say no thanks. It’s also important that they are honest with you, including being willing to push you (respectfully) to look at things differently than you have been.

Finally, work within your own financial realities. No matter how many high-flying promises a coach might make about how you can Big Big Dollars! (if you’re willing to spend big big dollars), you shouldn’t go broke doing so. Weigh what you can get from coaching against what you’ll spend. Coaching might be priced by the hour, the month, the year or the length of a program.

There may also be free options available from a city or state’s small-business development centers, veteran’s business outreach centers, women’s business centers, organizations like SCORE, and the Small Business Administration.

The Best-Fit Small-Business Coach for You

If you ask massage therapists about their experiences working with business coaches, you’ll hear both success and horror stories. How do you avoid a bad fit? What are red flags you should look for?

• Do not work with anyone who doesn’t respect your financial reality. They should not immediately try to upsell you or pressure you into making a quick decision. Be extremely wary of anyone who suggests you “don’t believe in yourself” or “aren’t really committed to success” if you’re not willing to spend more money than you have.

• Be cautious of one-size-fits-all solutions. Every practice is unique. In that same vein, just because something worked for the coach doesn’t mean it will work for you. There’s much more to coaching than “do it exactly like I did and you’ll get the same results.” That rarely works out.

Wood explained, “If you’re hiring a business coach so you don’t have to make decisions, because they’re going to give you their formula or their plan, I think that’s a recipe for disaster.”

• While a good small-business coach will respectfully push you outside your comfort zone, a bad coach will bully you into doing things their way.

• If you get a lot of pushback about your real time constraints (kids? sleep?) suggesting that if you really cared about your business, it would be more important than anything, don’t walk away—run!

I’ve worked with a business coach for the last three years. She has taught me new ways to reach out to the people I want to connect with, has been invaluable in helping me shift my mindset about my work, something I desperately needed but didn’t know how to do for myself, and, sometimes suggested I need to step a little further out of my comfort zone. She was right—but I wouldn’t have done it without her support.

Business coaches aren’t the answer for everything, but they can be a valuable tool to move yourself forward when you need it.

Image of headshot of the author Kelly Bowers

About the Author

Kelly Bowers is the owner of the Healing Arts Business Academy. She is the author of four books: “The Affordable Massage Handbook,” “The Accidental Business Owner,” “Can I Deduct That,” and “Between Doormat and Diva.” She is a regular presenter at national conferences, an instructor in professional training programs, and an NCBTMB Approved CE Provider. She lives in Durham, North Carolina.

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