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Massage Today
August, 2009, Vol. 9, Issue 08

Are You a Chicken or a Duck in Business?

By Jenn Sommermann, LCMT

Think back to massage school for a second. I know for some of you, that might be a distant memory but humor me. Do you remember learning about the difference between a chicken and a duck? It was about the difference between slow twitch and fast twitch muscles.

Well, if this particular memory is escaping you, let me help to refresh it. Chickens have mostly fast twitch muscles, making them speedy and good for short bursts of energy. Conversely, ducks have mostly slow twitch muscles, making them better for endurance events, like flying. The same is true for human musculature, and you may have already thought about or have previous experience with the category you fall in. I am a chicken. Everything I do is for speed and in short bursts of energy. I am a sprinter by nature and as an athlete, I compete in short-speed events. There is no doubt about it. I have more fast twitch muscles, except when it comes to business. In business matters, I am a duck.

Business Matters

If you have read any of my previous articles, you know that practice management and success is about sales. In my article, "The Difference Between Sales and Marketing" (Massage Today, June 2007), this issue is specifically addressed. I don't want to rehash it. (It's a good article and I encourage you to read it). However, in order to be good at sales, selling yourself and your profession, you must be a duck. To be a duck in sales means you are willing to go the distance, treating the effort like an endurance event.

In marketing, there is no quick fix. Many of my consulting clients have been contacting me lately for quick-fix marketing solutions. The current economy has massage therapists scrambling for clients and income and instant solutions. I am sorry to disappoint you, but marketing is a marathon and cannot be treated like a sprint race. It takes time to plant seeds and requires watering, weeding and attention. Only then can the seeds you sow, grow and turn into paying clients.

I realize I am using lots of analogies but I think they apply. However, not everyone is an athlete or a gardener, so consider something else you had to put time and effort into in order to be successful. How about massage school? Did you choose the quick-fix school or were you willing to invest an appropriate amount of time and energy into becoming successful at your massage skills? Unfortunately, some graduates think that their amazing aura and social skills will build a business. Most of them have found that not to be true, only to contact me and say, "I didn't realize it would be so hard." It takes time. Period.

Slow and Steady Wins Every Time

Currently, I tell my students it takes at least two years to build a self-supporting practice. It was true 17 years ago when I started in this field and it is still true today. Of course, some folks can do it sooner, and for others it may take a bit longer but that is an average amount of time. Two years is not a sprint. In the big picture of your lifetime, it might seem like it but when you consider the average massage career is seven years, two years is a marathon.

Your marketing efforts must always be a combination of six to 10 ways to attract business. No one marketing tool is going to work 100 percent of the time. It must also be planned to work over time, building client retention and gaining referrals. If you approach marketing like it will be an instant fix, you will be disappointed. Chances are you might see a client one time but that alone will not build a supporting practice, based on client loyalty. There is no trick except time, perseverance and endurance. Remember the story about the tortoise and the hare? Remember who won? Slow and steady wins every time.

In almost all matters of my life, I am a chicken. However, when it comes to practice management, business building and developing a clientele, I am a duck. It takes a little extra effort to build slow twitch muscles. It is often out of my fast twitch comfort zone and sometimes my muscles get sore. But like an endurance athlete, I train, I stretch, I recover and then I do it all over again... and again. The key is not to give up until you cross the finish line.

Stay focused.

Click here for previous articles by Jenn Sommermann, LCMT.


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