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Massage Today
August, 2011, Vol. 11, Issue 08

Putting Your Business First

By Jenn Sommermann, LCMT

Perhaps you've taken extensive business classes while you were at massage school. Perhaps not. Maybe you came from a previous career in business or maybe you are a novice in this wide world.

No matter what your background or how much you learned in school, the question is: How much time are you putting into your business activities now?

There are many factors that go into answering this question. Are you full time or part time? Is your business growing or are you happy where it is now? Do you plan to expand or relocate any time soon? Regardless of the answers, a certain amount of time needs to go into business activities and that amount of time varies from situation to situation. The bottom line is if you want to be successful, you must contribute a solid amount of time to business activities.

At this point, some of you currently working for other people are probably thinking, "This article isn't for me." I beg to differ and encourage you to read on. Whether you are in practice for yourself, working for someone else or a combination of both, you are "in business" and should be spending time and energy on its matters. The amount of time and energy depends largely on your situation, but EVERY massage therapist should be doing something towards the business-part of their livelihood. Surprisingly enough, often it is the veterans who settle into a routine and forget to focus on business matters.

Consider this situation. You are working at a spa under an umbrella of managers who supervise and support you in all aspects of your work. The laundry is done, the linens are provided, the schedule is set and you basically show up for work. Sounds like you are not in business for yourself. What about rescheduling your clients? Isn't it the responsibility of the therapist to retain clients? Do you have a secure dialogue for your exit interview? Are the clients rescheduling? What if you are at a cocktail party or your son's soccer game and someone asks you what you do for a living? Are you able to be an ambassador for the field of massage therapy while giving a strong biography of yourself? These are business activities and whether you know it or not, you are responsible for performing many of them daily. Some of these activities happen unconsciously. Others are more planned. They are necessary and can always be improved upon no matter how long you have been in business.

If you are a sole proprietor, you already know that you need to perform business activities on a regular basis. But how much time are you devoting? If you wish to be more successful, you could probably be doing more. More often than not, the activity you dread most and the one you least like, is probably the one you should be doing. For example, consider a shy person who is not well known in the community. At the core, she knows a networking group would be beneficial to her practice but her personality doesn't lend itself to it. My suggestion: find a friend and go to a networking breakfast together. The morning meetings tend to be shorter because people are anxious to get to their jobs. They tend to be lively and if she brings a friend, she has some extra security built in. Just like we dread activities were are not good at, we tend to repeat the ones that have benefits we can see. If the networking event proves fruitful, our shy therapist might be inclined to repeat it and maybe even, go it alone.

So how much time are you putting into business activities? In the 20 years that I have been in business, I have seen a fool proof formula work 99 percent of the time: Spend 20% of your anticipated client hours on business activities. In other words, for every 20 clients that you want to see per week, spend four hours per week doing the "other" work or business activities. If you are part time and want to see 10 clients per week, then spend two hours per week on growing your business. Alter the formula according to your dream schedule. The time can encompass networking, educating clients, taking classes in business, meeting new people, sending postcards, working on your webpage... all activities that pertain to business. If you are faithful with this formula, it will work. Do the leg work and watch the effect on your career. This time commitment must be set in stone; treat the time like a paying client and don't skimp here. Too often, I see therapists say they couldn't stick to the formula for one reason or another. And then complain their business isn't going well. Don't let that be you.

No matter what your working situation, a certain amount of time needs to be devoted for business and professional development. Schedule the time like you would a client. Plan to do it with a friend. Chose the optimal time of your day to perform the activities you dread most. Whatever business activities you need to do, do it! The list is never-ending and the rewards are many. Have fun with the process.

Stay focused.

Click here for previous articles by Jenn Sommermann, LCMT.


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