Take time now to focus on improving the details of your business so that you can reopen with ease when allowed to do so.
Business systems can completely transform a massage practice, from one in which you are the business to one in which you own the business.
Business systems are about creating a step-by-step process of exactly how things are to be done.
So many massage business owners find themselves working endless hours in their business, feeling like they can’t take a weekend off, much less go on a real vacation.
They may struggle to leave work at work and end up using their evenings to continue taking care of all the administrative tasks left at the end of the day.
At first, it may just seem like this is part of the game, but then the realization sets in after some time that they’re still working more hours than they ever did as an employee for someone else.
Their business isn’t delivering the dream life they thought it would. Frustration leads to resentment, resentment leads to burnout — and burnout often leads to yet another failed business.
And then there are those who seem to have all kinds of time and freedom. Those who manage to make it home in time to eat dinner with the family each night, take two days off every week, and never seem to have trouble finding time for a vacation.
They don’t stress about work constantly and things seem to be running smoothly pretty much all the time.
What’s the difference between these two types of business owners? The same thing that differentiates businesses in any other industry: systems.
You probably already have a few business systems in place; you may have been implementing some without really knowing it, just as a way to make things easy for yourself. You may take care of all your reminder calls first thing in the morning for the next day’s clients. You may put in your bookkeeping every Friday evening. Or you may allot a certain day each week for administrative tasks.
Those are small-scale systems. If you’re already doing things like this, great! But all those small systems have to feed into much bigger systems that weave into every aspect of your business. Let’s dig deeper and see the why and how of all this.
Why Your Business Needs Systems
This isn’t some arbitrary busy work or something to stroke your ego or make you feel a little more official. The purpose is to streamline your tasks, to allow you to work smarter at every step. Primarily, systems are going to help save time and money, prevent problems, and improve productivity and efficiency.
There are seven primary areas of any massage business that need to be systematized:
1. Marketing. The practices used to get new clients in the door and on the table.
2. Services. The treatments you provide and all aspects of delivering what a client is paying for.
3. Client Experience. All client interactions from the time they first reach out to your business, through an appointment and any follow-up after.
4. Rebooking. The practices used to get clients coming back again and again.
5. Administration. Office maintenance, client communications, analysis of numbers and metrics, etc.
6. Financial. Bookkeeping, payroll, money management, investments.
7. Staffing. Onboarding employees, policies, manuals, probationary periods, pay structure, etc.
As you can see, each of these segments can be broken down into multiple facets, and each of those facets needs a system. Creating these systems is a simple four-step process: evaluation; process creation; implementation; adjustment. For each of these subsegments, do the following:
First, take a look at what you currently do for that particular aspect of your business. Identify regular occurrences and what your current practices are for those. It’s important to understand every single aspect of your business, even the most mundane and seemingly simple tasks.
In order to gain any control over these things, you must first understand them in depth. Sometimes it’s those very small things that add up to eat away at your time and ruin your efficiency. There are likely numerous tasks that repeat day in and day out, questions you answer over and over again, or problems that just seem to keep happening again and again.
Create a Process
Once you fully understand those trends you can begin to create a process around them. For each one of those time-consuming tasks and regular occurrences, choose to do one of three things; delegate, automate or regulate.
Delegate: If it’s something someone else can do, why not hand it off? Keep your tasks to only those that really do require your own work. Cleaning, laundry and bookkeeping are the first three I usually recommend delegating. They don’t cost much to outsource and you should be able to easily find people to fill those roles.
Automate: The more you can automate your work, the better your time is spent. Set up auto-responder emails, program messenger bots on Facebook, and consider including a link to a FAQ page on your website in every message. If you find you’re regularly having to explain things to new employees, write manuals or record videos they can turn to, to answer those questions instead of taking up your time.
The more you can automate, the less time you’ll spend doing unnecessary work that doesn’t make you any money or benefit your business in a positive way.
Regulate: Checklists are a great way to regulate and systematize tasks that have a set way of needing to be done. This can work to create habits for you if you’re solo, but is especially helpful for those with staff members.
For example, a daily opening checklist can have every single task that needs to be done in order to be ready for the day that gets checked off as they’re completed; things like turning on table warmers, filling and starting hot stone warmers, prepping the hot towels, making reminder calls for the next day’s clients, filling up the oil or lotion bottles, etc.
This simple checklist can prevent minor and major issues from popping up and keep your daily operations running smoothly.
Implement: Now comes the part where you take all those ideas and plans and put them into practice. All the planning and designing of those processes is critical, but without follow-through, it’s just some words on paper.
Make the commitment that you’ll carry these systems out, even if you have to start small and slowly add them in as you can. You’re essentially creating new habits, and it’s important to remember that this takes time.
The key is to do what you can as you can. What are the most important systems you can implement first in your business?
Adjust: As you implement, that’s when the real world kicks in and shows you what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be surprised to find something you thought would be a great system just doesn’t work in everyday practice and needs to be changed, either slightly or completely.
This is especially true if your business is still new.
Your systems will more than likely need to be tweaked now and then. And as your business grows, those changes will continue to need to be made. Only now the basic foundation has already been laid; the groundwork is done and those changes come much easier.
Systems within a massage practice create structure, consistency and ease for both therapist and client.
But the idea of systematizing any part of a massage practice is often thought of as a bit cold and corporate, as if we’ll be like a factory of massage; little robots just following a script and sequence of movements, then off to the next client.
That’s not what a system in our industry is about.
You can create systems around almost anything within a business to save time, make more money, prevent problems, and improve productivity and efficiency. That doesn’t mean we negate the human factor and lose all the uniqueness of our interactions.
Let’s look at one facet of a massage business that needs a system but is also quite unique for each of us: the client experience.
From the time your client first reaches out, through an appointment, and beyond to any follow-up after, there should be certain protocols and systems in place.
In order to create this, you’ll need to break down the client experience into the steps that every client goes through and determine what needs to be done at each and every one of those steps.
For each segment, let’s look at what needs to be done, and then what you can delegate, automate or regulate. [Read “5 Essential Components of a Client Retention Strategy.”]
Save Time & Book More Sessions with These Massage Practice Systems
Massage Practice System: Client Communication
When a potential client first reaches out, how will you speak with them? Determine how you will handle emails, phone calls, and text or social media messages. Will you be responsible for that or can you delegate that out? What needs to be said when answering the phone? How do specific questions needs to be answered?
It may help to work up some scripted answers, especially if you have employees. For example, you can keep a piece of paper with some common questions and general answers to glance at if an employee gets nervous or can’t remember something.
Also consider setting up autoresponders to answer common questions sent via email, text, or social media. Your services, prices, times, address, directions and parking instructions are all commonly asked about, so prepare answers related to these things upfront.
Having these things automated or regulated in some fashion helps to ensure consistency and saves you a lot of time.
[Watch videos on massage practice success, including client retention, here.]
Massage Practice System: Appointment Booking. Determine exactly how you will answer booking questions before you’re ever faced with the first one.
When someone says, “What do you have available?” — what is your answer? Do you give them a few options for the week or reverse it to ask them what works best for their schedule? Do you direct all messages to your online booking first, to only have to handle the messages which need you directly?
Think of the ways you can automate or regulate this process.
Massage Practice System: Reminders. Will you do reminder calls the day before, send a text or an email ahead of time, or just hope your client shows up? Can you include things like directions to the facility, a digital intake form, or some answers to frequently asked questions?
And how will these reminders be sent out? Through an automated system? Or will you or an employee need to manually do this every day?
Massage Practice System: Greeting & Intake. When someone walks into your establishment for the first time, that impression is crucial. How will you greet them? Will you just give them the intake form at them and tell them to fill it out, or guide them through it?
If you have a receptionist, what will be their role versus the massage therapist’s?
Massage Practice System: Intake & Explanation. How much time do you give yourself to go over their intake form and discuss any pertinent information with them? How do you explain how to undress and get on the table? What sort of questions might you expect? This is a unique aspect so there may not be much to automate, delegate, or regulate here, but it’s still important to feel prepared.
Massage Practice System: Massage Practice. From the colors, lights and scents in the facility to the toiletries provided, consider what might help you clients at every moment they’re with you.
Plants in the lobby can add a feeling of life and freshness. Warm towels after a massage to freshen up can make them feel even better when they leave. Complementary hair ties, makeup remover wipes, single use combs, and feminine hygiene products in your bathroom can all make for a better experience.
It’s the small considerations that usually have a big impact.
Massage Practice System: The Massage. This is, of course, probably the most individualized portion of the entire client experience. You can’t really systematize this part because every massage should be tailored for that individual client.
Massage Practice System: Ending the Session. What do you say to bring the client back to reality and end the massage.
Do you want them to come out to the front desk after getting dressed or crack the door so you can come back in and discuss things with them? Will you leave some warm towels for them to freshen up with?
Determine ways you can make this part of the session as special as every other step.
Massage Practice System: Checkout & Rebooking. This is one of the most critical parts of retaining clients.
How do you take their payment?
How do you ask them to set up another appointment? If they do rebook, do you try to upsell an add-on or upgrade?
Do you ask them if they’d like a gift card while they’re there?
Consider all of these elements of checkout and rebooking and determine how you can improve these processes.
Massage Practice System: Follow-up. You should always follow up with every client, both short term and long term. There’s a few ways to go about followup up and different opinions on the time frame, but generally speaking an immediate follow up is crucial.
Some therapists like to send an automated text or email out within a few hours of their appointment to check in with how clients are feeling and ask for a review. This makes a great impression and shows you truly care, and it can also greatly increase your reviews – something that boosts a business’s reputation.
If a client does not rebook, consider sending out another text or email, or making a phone call to check in with them one week to one month after their session. Let them know you hope they’re still feeling good and to let you know if they want to book another appointment.
This kind of communication is simple, concise, not pushy at all, and effective in getting clients to rebook.
No matter how individual each client’s experience with your business is, there are still steps along the way that need a system to them.
You Really Do Need Systems
No matter how big or small your business is, it needs systems. There’s a reason massage franchises succeed, just like many franchises and large corporations outside our industry: There are systems in place at every turn.
I’m not saying you have to be just like a franchise or model any of their systems specifically, but the idea of having systems at all is one that separates those who remain worker bees in their own business from those who step toward truly being a business owner; those who are controlled by their business and those who control their business.
Which do you want to be?
About the Author
Savanna Bell, LMT, is the owner of My Massage World, a membership company focused on providing marketing content and business education to help massage therapists around the globe build successful businesses as quickly and efficiently as possible. Her articles for MASSAGE Magazine include “Make More Money in 2020” and “5 Essential Components of an Effective Client Retention Strategy.”