Tag Archives: Sandy Fritz

Getting Rich or Getting By?

I conducted one of my scientific FB polls this week. For the benefit of those of you who may not be on my FB page, it was about how much money massage therapists are making. I obtained 53 usable responses. Here they are. Of those 53:

7 work in a spa
2 work in a “luxury” spa
14 work in a chiro office
18 work in a massage office
3 work at Massage Envy
4 work in an MD’s office
2 work in a hospital
1 works in a nursing home
1 works in a salon

14 are classified as ICs, but 4 of those said they know they are misclassified and should be employees

39 are classified as employees, but only 11 of those people get paid anything when they are not performing massage.

5 of the ICS say they get paid when they are not doing massage, ranging from minimum wage to $9 an hour.

5 of those 39 people say they have benefits, ranging from CEs to full benefits such as insurance and vacation time

18 reported that they are paid on commission, which ranged from 30% to 80%, and an average of 53%

2 people who said they were ICs said they pay a flat rent for the use of a massage room; 1 of those pays $10 per massage, the other pays $25 per massage

28 people reported being paid by the hour, with hourly pay ranging from $7.40-85.00 an hour. The average was 23.41 per hour.

Of those 28 who are paid hourly:

3 report that they make $10 an hour or less
5 report that they make $11-15 an hour
8 report that they make $16-20 an hour
6 report that they make $21-25 an hour
3 report that they make $26-30 an hour
Then the data jumped to $50, with 3 people reporting that they make $50 or more per hour

30 people said they receive tips
23 people said they do not receive tips

21 of the 53 people work more than one job to make ends meet

$$-wise, it appears that the MD’s office and the hospital are the best places to work, with higher pay and more benefits.

I tossed the answers of sole proprietors and contractors who only told what they charge and didn’t account for their net earnings. Sandy Fritz addressed that issue in her blog this week.

When I published the results on my FB page, there was lots of chiming in about the low pay rates, and a few comments about people spending $40,000 to go to massage school and ending up working for a pittance. So I started investigating the cost of schools. In my state of NC, you can get a good education for less than $10,000. In fact, at some long-established schools, including one that’s COMTA accredited (which is not cheap to obtain), you can attend for less than $6000. Of course, that varies all over the country, but it seems like the majority of smaller schools are trying to keep their programs as affordable as possible. School owners from across the country chimed in, as did MTs telling what they had paid to go to school, and I don’t recall anyone going as high as $40,000. Massage school looks like a bargain education, for the most part.

Many of the comments on the results of the payment poll were negative, with the usual accusations toward the franchises for lowering the bar, and criticisms of other employers paying too little and expecting too much. One thing that I have noticed is that very little of that criticism comes from people who are actually employers. The majority of it is from people who have never been on the employer side of the equation.

When I opened my business ten years ago, I prided myself on paying above average. I wanted to do that in order to attract quality therapists and not have staffing problems. That worked pretty well for a long time, and I certainly wasn’t getting rich; I was getting by. I live in a very small town that is very economically depressed. The place where I live has not recovered from the recession, and in fact, in many ways it’s actually gotten worse. They claim the unemployment rate in our town is 12%, but that’s not realistic because it doesn’t include the many people have maxed out their unemployment benefits and all the self-employed people who have lost their businesses and can’t get in that line. Our homeless shelter is full every night. Soup kitchens and food giveaways are keeping a lot of people from going hungry.

A little bit of industry has started to trickle back in, but instead of the big cotton mills that employed several thousand people each, the businesses that are coming in are small companies that employ maybe 25  people. It’s not really making a big dent in the cycle of poverty and foreclosure that is going on here. People I know who have worked hard all their lives have lost their homes and their businesses. It isn’t a pretty picture, and I’m not exaggerating, or dressing it up. It’s the cold, hard facts. If you go on a tour here, you’ll see all the empty factories sitting here and all the empty small-business storefronts in our towns. You can’t begin to document the fallout on small business. The three really nice restaurants in our county–the kind of expensive place you’d go to on your anniversary or another special occasion–have all closed. Anything that is considered a luxury is not doing so well. People have cut down on massage. They’ve cut down on going to the nail salon, the hairdresser, the movies, and other forms of entertainment and eating out.

Over the years that I’ve been in business, expenses have gone up. I haven’t raised the price of massage in a couple of years because of the financial condition most of our county is in, and I feel it would be a nail in the coffin of my business if I raised it right now. The level of pay I used to offer people has gone down, which was a hard decision for me and one that I hated to make, but it is still superior to what anyone else in this area pays. As the owner, I also have to make a living. It isn’t going to serve me, or my staff members, if I can’t pay the bills and have to go out of business.

The accusations that employers are getting rich while the massage therapists are getting substandard pay is getting old. If that’s happening, it must be the minority, because I am not getting rich, and of the several hundred massage therapy business owners who are also employers that I am personally acquainted with, I can’t name any who are. They are either struggling, or they are making a decent living, but they aren’t millionaires and in all likelihood are never going to be one. The business owner is the one taking the risks. The business owner is the one paying the rent or mortgage, the utilities, the phone and Internet, the advertising, the laundry, the cleaning, the office supplies and janitorial supplies, the bank service charges, the credit card fees, the accounting services, the sales and use tax fees, and if they are utilizing employees instead of contractors or renters, they’re matching Social Security and Medicare contributions and depending on the size of the operation, paying other benefits as well. Franchise owners are criticized all the time, but they also invest a lot of money up front and it takes them years to get it back.

There used to be a middle ground between getting rich and getting by, and that was called the middle class (which is reportedly shrinking on a national level). I think that’s what we have in massage. We have a few people who are making minimum wage. We have a few people who are making big bucks, and the rest are somewhere in the middle.

As for those who are criticizing business owners and claiming that we’re the rich while you’re the poor, I encourage you to put yourself in our places. Go ahead, take a leap, open a business, get a bunch of people you are responsible for, and take responsibility for all the overhead. When the economy is booming, you may be booming along with it. And when the economy sucks, you may be in the same position all owners have been in when that’s the case–trying to cut down expenses without making service suffer and trying to make sure everyone keep their jobs, while still managing to make enough money to keep the doors open and meet your own personal obligations.

Obviously, the economy is booming in some places, and some people are doing very well. To them I say congratulations.

To the estimated 70% of MTs who are leaving the profession after less than two years on the job, I say I hate that you were set up with unrealistic expectations.

To my fellow business owners, I say that sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug. I’ve enjoyed my role in keeping people gainfully employed and providing a pleasant place to work, and I have always tried to show my appreciation for that in pay and in other ways.

To all those who have criticized employers that have never actually been one, I say you don’t have the slightest idea what you are talking about. If you ever become one, and you can manage to give your therapists top pay, while surviving severe economic downturns without laying people off or letting them go, having disgruntled staff members, personally paying all the bills and bearing all the other responsibilities, then you can criticize to your hearts content.

 

ELAP: Stop Insulting Our Intelligence!

I spent a big part of last week responding to the first draft of the Entry Level Analysis Project (ELAP). I shared it on my social media several times and encouraged everyone in the massage profession to respond. While I do still encourage everyone to respond, I must say that I have some distress at the way this is being presented.

The powers that be seem to be worried that the massage community is lacking enough intelligence and ability to comprehend information. 

The framework being used to disseminate the first draft of the ELAP prevents anyone outside of the closed-door system that launched and produced this document from being able to read, comprehend and comment on it as a whole. Being restricted to viewing one learning objective at a time does not allow the reader to place individual elements in a larger context, which is vital for being able to properly evaluate this kind of work. We are finally being shown the Curriculum Map that the ELAP Workgroup developed, but only in small bits through a keyhole. This strategy is sure to reduce the number of people who would otherwise want to take the time to read and comment on something that is of potential importance to the field.

Over the past three years, people in our field have successfully reviewed and commented on two drafts each of the Massage Therapy Body of Knowledge and the Alliance’s Core Competencies for Massage Therapy Teachers — both lengthy and complex standards documents.

In addition, there are some other flaws in the document and the entire process. Instead of my repeating every word Sandy Fritz has said, I suggest you click on this link and read her blog. Fritz makes it very clear she wants this project to succeed, but brings to light a lot of issues that need to be corrected.

If you’re a regular reader, you know I haven’t been thrilled about this from the beginning–and I do mean the very beginning — starting with the way it was initially presented at a Leadership Summit when it was not on the approved agenda for discussion. If anyone other than Bob Benson, Chairman of ABMP, had done that, they would probably have been told to sit down and request that it be a possible agenda item for the next meeting.

In the meantime, I have warmed up to the idea — in theory — but I have some issues with the way it is presented. Like Sandy, I object to the document telling us how to teach. This is supposed to be about entry-level information and what that is–not how to get it across. There are also some faulty assumptions–like the one that all massage teachers are familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy. Sorry to disappoint you, but some teachers couldn’t tell you what a taxonomy is if their life depended on it — particularly at those schools where last year’s students are this year’s teachers.

This is a research project. It’s not going to be the law — at least not in my lifetime. It’s intended to be the road map for what should be presented in entry-level massage programs. A lot of work has gone into it, and I do have appreciation that it has been a collaboration among our professional organizations. However, these organizations need to realize that there are intelligent people out here who want to look at the big picture instead of having it spoon-fed to us in kibbles and bits. I believe the Workgroup will get more and better feedback if the Curriculum Map as a whole was available for comment.

If you think this is a good idea, then contact the leaders of ABMP and AMTA. In the meantime, this is what we have, and I urge you to take the time to read it, take the surveys, and comment.

Confusion Reigns

I’d like to just steal Sandy Fritz’s blog this week, but instead I’ll post the link to it. She expressed many of the same things I have been feeling in “Beyond Frustration.” Confusion reigns. I get at least a half-dozen questions a day from massage therapists and providers asking me if I understand the latest move from the NCBTMB, or do I know what’s going on with this or that new requirement, or which exam should I take to get licensed, etc. Frankly, I’m confused and frustrated myself, in spite of being relatively well informed about what’s going on.

I see confused massage therapists every day on my social networks referring to their certification from the NCBTMB as a “national license.” There is no such thing as a national license. It would be a lot easier for us all if such a thing existed, but it doesn’t. A few years ago, I noticed that a teacher I had hired to come to my facility to teach a CE class had been ordered by our state board to cease and desist practicing massage without a license. When I called her to see what was going on, she said “But I have a national license!” No, you don’t. None of us do.

My own confusion was compounded again this weekend when I received my certificate proclaiming that I am now Board Certified–the new credential from the NCBTMB. Personally, I think calling it that is a huge blunder on their part. It really doesn’t make any differentiation from the old paradigm of “National Certification” and people are confused about it. The certificate is bigger and a little nicer-looking, but my new certificate says that I have been certified since 2000. Well, yes I have, but this is supposedly a new and different credential, and I didn’t get it until 2013. There is something that doesn’t seem right about that.

I could go on, but I won’t. The tragedy that occurred at the Boston Marathon yesterday has me feeling sad and angry and confused and just out of sorts. It seems ridiculous to focus on whatever complaints I have about the way things are going in the massage world when people are dead and wounded and grieving for their loved ones so I’m going to save the rest of my rants for another day.

In the meantime, Allissa Haines has posted a good blog that describes how many of us feel. I’ll get back on my soapbox in a week or two.