Anytime I reach a milestone, whether it’s one of those birthdays that ends in zero or some other momentous occasion, it causes me to stop and reflect on the things I’ve done. I see what worked and what didn’t….what I coulda, shoulda, woulda done given another chance. And I pat myself on the back for those things that turned out well.
Next Monday is the 8th anniversary of my clinic. In 2003, I had been working for five years in the massage school I attended. I loved my job. I loved the students. The only thing I didn’t love was the pay. I wanted and needed to make more money. An opportunity presented itself when a couple of friends who were MTs asked my husband and I to go into business with them. We moved into a brand-new professional building and set up shop. Two months later, they decided being in business wasn’t for them…their parting words were that they could see our office was never going to support four people making a living. For the past five years or so, it has actually supported at least a dozen.
I’ve had a lot of therapists ask me how I built my business, so here’s my philosophy in a nutshell: The road to success is usually long and winding. There are curves and potholes, and sometimes roadblocks. But as is the case with a real road, whenever you hit a roadblock, you find a suitable detour that still leads to where you want to go. You don’t just quit.
I got another massage therapist to join us. When she got saturated, I got another one, and so on. Today we have six full-time and a part-time Rolfer.
A couple of years into the business, I got an email out of the blue from an acupuncture student in Colorado who had seen my website, was intending to move to this area, and expressed an interest in working with us. She’s been on our staff now since 2005. Around that same time, a friend of mine who is an RN and was nearing retirement expressed to me that she just couldn’t sit around retired and that she’d like a part-time job. She had taken many classes in naturopathy over the years…as her retirement loomed, she upped her class schedule, became trained first in aesthetics and later went to Upledger’s training in manual lymph drainage, and she joined us too.
The second year we were open for business, we hit another milestone when I took over an adjoining suite of offices and turned it into my classroom facility. I had been renting hotel space to hold classes in and really wanted my own space, so I got it. I also gained another treatment room and a nice kitchen and break space for the staff. I spent a lot of money purchasing tables and chairs, anatomical charts and models, a projector and screen, and all the other things I wanted, which pretty much wiped me out of drawing a good salary that year, but I felt good about it and still do. It’s a nice facility and I’m proud of it.
A few years ago, another milestone occurred when a friend of mine who is a chiropractor and fellow musician dropped into see me. He has a practice in another town about 30 miles away and was passing through and just stopped in to say hello. That discussion ended in him joining us part-time and being able to offer that service, as well. Initially, he worked in the classroom behind hospital screens. But the following year, the universe smiled on me again when the adjoining suite of offices was vacated. The recession was in full force by this time, and the company who moved out had three adjoining suites. I called up the landlord and offered him less rent than he was asking for the suite adjoining mine. He gave it ten minutes consideration and told me I could have it. So the chiropractor got a nice new office, we gained two more treatment rooms plus a big room for couple’s massage, a storage area, and two adjoining rooms for the acupuncturist, who often treats two people at once.
I’m very blessed with the staff I have. They all support each other. They all have different talents and specialties. They don’t act jealous or proprietary with their clients…they refer to each other all the time. They also practice what they preach and hardly any of them go longer than a week or two without getting massage. They trade with each other. The chiropractor trades them all adjustments for massage for himself, his wife, and the secretary in his other office, in addition to referring his clients for massage. The acupuncturist gives them discounted fees and does mutual referrals as well.
As the anniversary comes up, I know that resting on our laurels isn’t the thing to do. I just redid our brochures and raised prices. I am having our website redone. I’ve made some changes in advertising venues. I’ve ordered new shirts for the staff. I am constantly tracking what works and what doesn’t. My main concern is always keeping my staff happy and the doors of communication wide open, because that insures the high level of service that I expect and that keeps our customers coming in the door and referring people to us. I pay more than the average employer around here and that has lead to having zero turnover. It’s worth it to me to give up a little more money out of my pocket in exchange for not having to deal with people coming and going. My staff members are appreciated and they know it, not just monetarily, but in my attitude and management style with them. I couldn’t have built my business without them, and I make sure they know that.
Lest you think I haven’t encountered any of those roadblocks I was talking about earlier, let me assure you that isn’t the case. The partners leaving so suddenly was a shock, but it was the best thing for the growth of the business. I don’t think we would have experienced the same growth if they had stayed; ultimately we didn’t have the same vision. When we first opened the business, my husband was employed by another general contractor and I had been urging him to go out on his own. He did that at about the same time we started THERA-SSAGE, so we went from having two guaranteed incomes to having no guaranteed income, but we were both determined not to fail. We tightened our belts and ate more beans and cornbread instead of going out to dinner and gave up a few new cars and vacations.
His construction business thrived until the recession hit. In one year, he lost about $20,000 worth of income. The past two years, he lost more than $40,000 worth of income. Yes, it affected our finances, not to mention my attitude. He’s busy again now, I’m happy to say. But the point is, the word “failure” isn’t in our vocabulary. We both have a positive attitude and when we make up our mind to keep plugging away, we do it. When we hit a roadblock, we look for a detour. We don’t believe in dead ends.
We’ll soon be hitting another milestone. My husband is scheduled to take his massage licensing exam a couple of months from now and instead of just keeping up the maintenance at the office and covering the desk when I’m gone, he’ll be able to do massage as well, and he gives a great one. It will serve us as a family unit for him to have a second income when the construction business takes a dive.
Throughout the recession, our clinic has kept on rocking and continued to grow every year. I think when people are stressed out over the economy, they still need and value their massage.
We’re having an open house next Monday to celebrate the anniversary. I’m already looking ahead to the next milestone…I’m not sure yet what that’s going to be, but I already know it will be good. I believe if you expect good things to happen, and you work towards that, it will be so. And if I hit another roadblock, I’ll look for a detour. I don’t give up. I’m not the smartest person, or the smartest business person in the world, but to borrow a quote from George Allen, “People of mediocre ability often succeed because they don’t know when to quit.”