The reception area of Pax Massage, a multi-therapist practice in Ipswich, Massachusetts.

If you are thinking about opening your own multi-therapist massage practice, there will be many hoops to jump through.

From finding the perfect location, to making sure you are in compliance with all federal, state, and municipal licensing laws; to opening a bank account, getting insurance, and purchasing the right equipment and supplies.         

In the big picture, these are not the challenges that will determine the success or failure of your business. All it will take is patience and persistence — and sometimes money — to make it through these hoops.

Owners of successful multi-therapist massage businesses say there are three key areas to understand before launching this type of practice.

Secret #1: People Are Your Biggest Challenge

Owners of successful multi-therapist massage practices agree that most of your most important challenges will be people-related.

As business owners, we need to build relationships with people — business partners, associates and suppliers, employees and customers. In the case of a multi-therapist practice, there are that many more personalities and potential problems to deal with.

“My greatest piece of advice for owners of multi-therapist practices is to regard their relationships as partnerships,” said Catheryn Schoenfarber, owner of a multi-therapist practice as well as Spirit Wellness Institute massage school in Salem, Massachusetts. “Our employees and clients are the heartbeat of our business, and their well being is essential to its success.”

As such, Schoenfarber said, “Treat them all with respect and be accountable to them in all of your decision making and you will thrive together.”

Assembling a quality team might be your biggest challenge. Helena Hughes of Pax Massage in Ipswich, Massachusetts, told me, “When you have many therapists working for you, it’s a crock pot of personalities, with different levels of experiences, different ages, and different expectations.”

Add the reception staff into the mix, and “oftentimes, they get frustrated with each other,” Hughes said.

And it’s not just the employees. “Over the years, I have come to realize that the client is not always right” adds Hughes.

Of course, we always want our customers to feel like they are right. We do everything we can to give them what they need, but that doesn’t mean they are right.

But, Hughes said, “I have found when someone is legitimately upset over something, whether or not I agree with it, if they complain the right way, I always want to help.”

The bottom line is, as the business owner, you are responsible for your team, your customers, and how the business grows.

“Choosing the right team of practitioners will either make or break your business,” said Victoria Varney, owner of Insideout Health & Wellness, in Wenham, Massachusetts. “All practitioners must have a monetary stake in the business, be trustworthy and team oriented, not to mention personally accountable of being under my umbrella.

This means having a clear vision — from when you write your massage therapist job description to when you place your ad, conduct interviews and engage in massage demos with candidates — of the type or employee or contractor you want to bring into your business.

“Everyone knows the famous saying, ‘You are only as strong as your weakest link,’” Varney continued. “Believe it. In a small business, unity of your team, ambition and passion for your craft will drive success. Everyone must be on the same page.”

Secret #2: Staff Training Attracts Better Candidates

So what is the secret? Do you hope the right people walk through your doors or do you hire whoever shows up and train them to be the right people?

Somewhere in the middle is closer to reality. Of course, you want to give your whole staff the best possible training. Once word gets out that your establishment is a great place to work, you will find that a better quality of potential candidates will start applying for a job with you.

It has always been my belief that a multi-therapist practice was the perfect training ground. Everyone benefits. New massage therapists learn from the more experienced therapists, and experienced therapists learn even more by sharing their knowledge with the new team members.

They say that every organization is a shadow of the person who leads it. As the owner of a multi-therapist practice, you must set the standard that you expect your team to follow.

Secret #3: Your Business is a Business

As a business coach, one phrase I find myself repeating over and over to entrepreneurs is, “Treat your business like a business.”

As massage therapists, we tend to get lost in the massage work. The fact of the matter is, this is a great quality in a massage therapist. I encourage you to be hyper- focused on your client, and the massage work you are doing while you are in session.

However, when you are not in session, I strongly suggest that you stop thinking in such a narrow scope. Massage therapists, like many other service industry professionals, often forget that you aren’t just a massage therapist. You are a businessperson. You are a businessperson who happens to be in the business of massage.

Varney said, “Every day I learn something new, and I forge ahead with the daily mindset of, ‘How can I do better?’ I do this by reading business blogs, researching online, visiting other like-minded businesses, asking a ton of questions and carefully listening to the needs of my practitioners and clients.

“It is extremely important to secure go-to business sources and mentors,” she added. “Otherwise, I risk wasting valuable time and energy trying something new that won’t prove viable.”

She makes a valid point: We seek out mentors to help us with our massage technique, so why don’t we think to find a mentor to help us with our business needs? We must always keep learning. Having a mentor can prevent us from repeating the same mistakes others have made.

I am also a fan of tracking everything. Tracking can prevent us from repeating our own mistakes over and over again. Do you know which advertising is working for you or are you just randomly spending money, hoping that people will come in?

For example, if you ask every new client how they heard about you, this will help you allocate your marketing dollars more effectively.

You may even try taking it a step further and track which first-time clients become repeat clients. Do people who come in as a referral return more or less often than someone who came in with a gift card, or on a Groupon-type promotion?

Does it make a difference if someone paid money for the gift card you donated to charity at a silent auction, or if they won your gift card for free in a raffle at some wellness event where you were set up to do chair massage?

You will be surprised by the information you find if you are tracking efficiently.

Secret #4: It’s All About Your Brand

The business of massage has evolved in recent years. Technology and social media have changed the way we market ourselves. And like other service-oriented businesses, we have become more specialized. We used to try to be all things to all people, but now it’s all about your brand.

While it may be difficult to grow your massage business, it is much easier to grow your pain relief massage practice or your Zen relaxation massage practice. By promoting your brand, you will find the perfect target market you are searching for — and more importantly, it will help the market that is searching for what you offer, find you.

Once you have determined your brand, it is easy to figure out who your target market is. And when you know who your target market is, it will be more obvious how and where to market yourself to them.

Photo courtesy of Helena Hughes 

About the Author:

After a long career training athletes and dancers, Nick Repoli transitioned to massage, graduating from Palmer Institute of Massage & Bodywork in 1999. He currently teaches massage at Spirit Wellness Institute, and is the author of How To Grow Your Massage Practice With Repeat Business And Referrals.