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Massage Today
March, 2016, Vol. 16, Issue 03

Do Well to Do Good: How to Plan for and Measure Success

By Marshall Dahneke and Lynda Solien-Wolfe, LMT

Most wellness professionals find their motivation through the clients they help, the aches they ease, the lives they improve. This aspiration to make a difference can fuel a promising and fulfilling career. After all, as early motivational author Napoleon Hill wrote: "The starting point of all achievement is desire."

The massage therapists who thrive over time, however, possess more than good intentions and a healing touch. They also have a handle on the financial side of their business or practice. Even if passion — not profit — drives them, they know they need to understand basics like revenue, marketing, and client activation and retention to remain in this profession.

In a twist on the way the saying usually goes — "it's not just personal, it's business." Success can mean doing work you love, having clients who appreciate you, and giving back to the community. But knowing you can pay your bills, keep the lights on, and invest in a clean, peaceful space frees you to focus on the fulfilling aspects of your role. In other words, you must "do well to do good" over the long haul.

For the purposes of this column, we're defining success in financial terms. We're not advising you on how to squeeze the most out of every penny. Rather, our goal is to emphasize basics essential to building and maintaining a sustainable practice.

Start on Solid Ground

Do Well to Do Good: How to Plan for and Measure Success - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Successful businesses, including one-person massage therapy practices, begin with a plan. Before you open your doors, sit down and sketch out the funds you'll need to operate. Consider expenses such as rent, equipment and supplies, utilities, gas and mileage if you're mobile, and laundry.

Once you know the costs of operating a practice, think about how you will recoup them. The money you bring in is revenue, but it doesn't transform into income until it surpasses your costs. How many clients do you need, and how much do you need to charge them? Don't set your rates based only on what everyone else is charging. Consider your financial goals before you place a value on your time.

Take into account, too, your pro-bono and lower-cost work. Providing these types of services — for instance, free massages for local educators during National Teacher Appreciation Month or sliding-scale rates for community members in need — allows you to give back while building your business. However, you'll have to factor these into your calculations. Without doing well enough to keep your practice going, your service efforts will not be sustainable.

Love Your Clients

Priority one is to build your client base — the key to long-term success. Your business plan should include a marketing component spelling out how you plan to attract clients. Word of mouth remains powerful in this profession; your marketing efforts could include outreach to friends, family, and even clients you had in school. Also consider joining the Chamber of Commerce, connecting with physicians and other health care professionals to secure referrals, and even reaching out to local media.

Once people find you, do everything within reason to keep them. According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, attracting a new customer costs six to seven times more than keeping an existing client. Businesspeople refer to this as client retention, and staying on top of retention requires a bit of organization. Use a program, system, or database to store client information, including names and addresses, their areas of pain and tightness, and insurance information, if you use it.

Of course, tracking clients alone won't bring them back. Ensure each person has a positive experience; beyond a high-quality treatment, provide convenient parking, an efficient check-in process, a clean and relaxing atmosphere, and simple billing. We've moved beyond the service economy into the experience economy — people value memorable experiences. Nailing the details and adding personal touches, such as remembering clients' preferences and stories, will keep them coming back for more, and referring their friends.

Build on Your Foundation

Your schedule's booked. Your clients leave rave reviews. You track your expenses and revenue each month, and you're coming out ahead. Perhaps you're even doing well enough to hire help, take a few days off, or weather a dry spell without worrying about paying rent. Congratulate yourself on your success, but don't stop planning, tracking, and reviewing. Successful practice owners not only know where they stand on a given day or month, they take some time each year to reflect back on the ups and downs of the past 12 months and look ahead to what they can do differently or better.

During these reviews, consider your bigger aspirations and how to reach them. If a sustainable solo practice makes you happy, you don't have to grow. Deciding to specialize in a particular technique or a given population, such as sports massage or pregnant women, could increase your practice. Or, you might aim to make the same amount of money while working fewer hours, leaving more time for service, travel, or other pursuits.

Perhaps you dream of expanding, hiring a staff, even opening a wellness center. If so, research what it will take to get there. Break this dream down into smaller, shorter-term goals, such as adding a staffer one year and renting a larger space the next. Check in annually on these objectives — you might find you're speeding toward them or need to revise your plans.

Of course, while it's important to nurture your practice, never lose sight of your passion for healing and helping. As Albert Einstein advised, "Try not to become a man [or woman] of success, but rather try to become a person of value." Recognize that financial success is an enabler that creates options to add value to the world, and you'll set yourself up for a truly rewarding career in every sense of the word.

Marshall Dahneke, CEO, is responsible for global management of Performance Health's business, including people, talent and strategy development and execution to better serve customers and promote growth. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and a Master of Business Administration, both from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

Lynda Solien-Wolfe is Vice President, Massage and Spa at Performance Health. She is a Licensed Massage Therapist and has been in private practice in Merritt Island, Florida for more than 20 years. Lynda graduated from Space Coast Health Institute in West Melbourne, FL.


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