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Massage Today
December, 2011, Vol. 11, Issue 12

Where to Begin

By Jenn Sommermann, LCMT

"I am ready to start my own business and don't know what to do. Where should I begin?" This is a huge, open-ended question but one I get asked quite a bit. Knowing what I know about massage education in the United States and practice management in particular, I am amazed when this question pops up.

Even in a 500 hour school, certain instruction is given regarding starting a business. Basic steps for startup are taught at most, if not all, institutions. Is it that the students don't listen or they don't think they'll need to retain this information? I'd like to think this is not the case. Often, it is that self employment is delayed several years after graduation and the information offered in school is long since forgotten. Employment is the often first stop out of school, offering security while skills and confidence are lacking. As self-assurance grows, dreams of being the boss are rekindled. But then what?

There is so much help out there that it is yours for the asking. No one should stumble at starting a business. The real challenge is making it thrive, but that's a topic for another article. Let me offer several suggestions for resources into this topic:

  • Go find your class notes and see if you can jog your memory. Chances are your instructor had a pulse on the local environment and some good insight into starting your business. I bet you might even find a checklist of things to do to start a business.
  • Find a mentor. Befriend a local, successful therapist that is willing and able to share some insight into your new venture. Maybe even ask your massage therapist what he or she did to get started.
  • Join a local business group and ask some generic business questions about starting a business. The local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club or chapter of the Small Business Administration are good resources for this.
  • Join a massage specific organization and utilize their business services. The American Massage Therapy Association and the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals are the two most popular and have the tools needed for new entrepreneurs.
  • Contact a consultant in the field. this is going to cost money. While there are so many cost effective, even free resources at your disposal, I would suggest exhausting them first.
  • Visit the Internal Revenue Service website. No, really! Our country and the future of its financial security are based on small businesses and, believe it or not, the IRS is here to help and wants you to succeed. Their user-friendly (no, really!) site will offer many tips on how to get started.

Around the same time as massage therapists ask how to start a business, I get asked when is the right time to make the jump to private practice. That is such a personal question and decision and something I help with in my consulting practice. It differs from person to person, and is dependent on many factors. That being said, one of the (strong) recommendations I make for starting a business is having three months of financial reserves built up for both the business and personal expenses. The old rule of thumb used to be six months but I advocate for at least three. You have to expect the worst case scenario and that is no income for a while. If you can't sustain your life and your business during this draught, you have no business starting a business. Hard core, I know, but it's the reality.

Lastly, I want to make a suggestion for any therapist whose really big dream is self employment. Whether you are a student, a new graduate or a veteran in the field who aspires to owning your own business, start to build your business/private practice right away. After all, a private practice can mean one client. While you are employed someplace else, start your little baby private practice with that one client. One will turn into two and into four and on and on. This way when you decide to make the business leap, you are not starting from square one.

Starting a business begins with you and some simple steps. Use the resources that are available to you and make the leap. Self-employment isn't for everyone, but if you dream of being your own boss and you think you have the qualities to succeed, use the tools that are at your disposal and ask for help. Being smart isn't having all the answers; it is knowing where to find them.

Stay focused.


Click here for more information about Jenn Sommermann, LCMT.

 

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