Holiday Party? It’s Not Too Late!

I’ve made it my goal to host a monthly event at my office. It’s good for the community, it’s a pretty solid marketing effort, and it keeps me out of trouble. 

In November I hosted a holiday shopping themed event. I offered free hand scrub/hand massage treatments…and I made four dozen sugar cookies and over $300 in sales! (This number may sound paltry to those of you operating out of a large, multi-service-provider business, but for this lone wolf it was a big deal.)

Most importantly, I got to spend time with people who mean a lot to me and it was fun

I managed to fit a treatment area, retail display and cookie station in my little hobbit hole of an office. Yay!

I managed to fit a treatment area, retail display and cookie station into my little hobbit hole of an office. Yay!

Here are some tips I’ve collected regarding successful office events:

  • Spend your event budget wisely. Events can be cookies and laughs. It doesn’t make sense to spend more money on hosting an event each month than what the event brings in.
  • Invest in visually interesting games, food, products for sale, decorations, etc. You can Instagram the hell out of these things!
  • Push yourself to come up with event ideas that match up well with your existing clients’ expectations. Will they respond best to a monthly event that’s pretty much the same each time, or an off-the-wall themed event that’s different each month? Somewhere in my idea queue there’s a Pajama Cereal Party that’s just waiting to become reality!
  • Post the event on your website and in your newsletter, flyer local businesses and bulletin boards, make a Facebook event and invite people to it, etc. Remind people about the event using these tools, too. 
  • Remember that an event isn’t a failure if you don’t sell anything during the actual shindig. People who enjoyed your event will likely purchase things and schedule services at a later date. 
  • If the idea of hosting events sounds like a dreaded chore, find a way to do it on your terms and make it fun. If you can’t do this, don’t host an event. 

I already have my Annual Holiday Brie Feast planned for December 14th! If you’ll be in Vegas then, stop by and let me fill your belly in a manner not unlike that of a Sicilian grandma. 

Practice Promoting Parties

The other evening I hosted a Halloween gathering at my office so I could roll out my new product line while having fun with friends (both new and old). I supplied yummy treats from Target and Costco, handed out those ridiculous plastic vampire teeth that glow in the dark, and offered free mini facials using products from the new line. Oh, and I brought my theremin for everyone to play with! Here’s a video…

The Halloween event went so well I’m thinking I’ll host a monthly themed fun thing. Next month’s shindig will probably feature free hand massages using the line’s hand cream. Attendees will be able to choose their scent from a variety of testers, and tubes will be available for purchase. If I’m feeling super adventurous I may even supply warm paraffin wax, plastic gloves, and doughnuts. 

I’ve hosted office events in the past and I’m always amazed by how well they turn out. For the first 30 minutes I worry that I’ve bought way too much food and that nobody will show up to eat it, but 30 minutes after that guests show up in droves and the party is in full swing!

Aside from the obvious fun to be had, here are some other things I like about hosting a party at the office that’s open to the public. Many of my fabulous guests have:

  • met other guests (laughter and networking ensue)
  • asked questions about services and products
  • purchased retail items and gift certificates
  • booked appointments
  • tried new things without feeling obligated (mini facials!)
  • given valuable feedback on products, services and party ideas
  • checked in and posted about the party on social media
  • explored the office and building, sometimes for the first time
  • signed up to receive a monthly email newsletter
  • told their friends how much fun they had at the silly little spa in that silly old building

Have you ever hosted an office party? What was the occasion? What worked best? What would you change the next time (if there is a next time)?

Things that are funny and things that are not

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about professionalism and ethics. Specifically, the differences between them, and the applications of those definitions on our actions and words as massage therapists.

I’ve labored over various definitions. I’ve looked at situations where I’ve used the words interchangeably and probably incorrectly. I’ve though about where I’ve used each word properly. And I’ve come to a conclusion.

ID-10065252I kinda don’t care about getting the exact verbiage right.

I care about the meaning, the intent, and the context of any particular interaction. What follows is the story of how I started thinking about this.

I saw a funny graphic on Facebook. It was pretty funny. It said, ” Crazy Client Request “I want extra work on my neck, but don’t mess up my hair.”” Lots of people commented on how funny it was. A few hundred people have shared it. Because it’s funny. And true. We know it happens all the time.

But it bothers me. It bothers me that a few hundred massage therapists think it’s okay to publicly joke about client requests. (Side note: I expressed this in the comments under the image and got nailed. Rightly so. I know better than to start a fight on someone else’s turf. I should’ve just sent a message to the page owner. I’ve apologized for that. I was an asshat.)

Plenty of people disagree with me and think I’m being a tightass. They are correct. I am a tightass. My question is: Why aren’t they?

If a client walked into your office and said, “I’ve got an awful headache, but please don’t get oil in my hair, I’ve got to go back to work after this,” would you actually say, “That’s a crazy request, hahahah!” Would you holler out to a colleague, “Hey, Jane, check it out, this client wants me to work on her head but not get oil in her hair. HA!” Probably not.

Shouldn’t we all be extra sensitive about accidentally, or intentionally, saying something that may make a client afraid to speak up, or afraid to come to us?

Let’s apply this to real life

Let’s say a very shy person, a potential client, is following your Facebook page. They enjoy your posts about stretching, the links to local community events, and the occasional picture of your silly office antics. They’re warming up to the idea of getting massage as they get to know you through your marketing.

Then, they see a joke titled Crazy Client Request. A joke made at the expense of a client. What’s the underlying message here? If you ask your massage therapist for something, they may make fun of you. Publicly. It’s pretty safe to assume that the shy person will never step foot in your office.

Is this an extreme line of thinking? Yes. As it should be. When we’re talking about the feelings of clients, about accidentally intimidating someone, alienating an otherwise ideal potential client, or about hurting a current client’s feelings, we should absolutely think in extremes.

In the most extreme of circumstances, this man committed suicide. He refused to seek help because throughout his childhood he heard his parents and other medical practitioners breech confidentiality and make sport of their mentally ill patients.

Jokes about hair are not extreme. They are silly and funny. But it’s a slippery slope, and a very easy connection for an already shy person to make.

Ummmm, Allissa? Aren’t you a preacher of Marketing with Personality?

Yup. I’m a big fan of letting your personality shine through in your business.

But let’s be clear, there’s a big difference between being silly enough to display a Darth Vader cookie jar in your office, and actively making fun of a client.

Marketing with personality isn’t about casually treating your clients like crap. It’s about being human, warm, and fun in your business. And if you’re too busy to download the ebook, no worries, here’s the important stuff:

You want to be yourself. But you want to be a professional version of yourself. This is a huge topic, we could spend endless chapters on boundaries. Here are some potential land mines to be aware of, and avoid.

 

Be yourself, unless…

You’re a jerk. If you’re surly and grumpy and super-sarcastic, rein it in. I’m not suggesting that you flip into Happy Cheerleader mode whenever a client walks in the door. Just consider the way your edges could be smoothed to improve the client’s experience.

You’re a flirt. If you’re a highly sexualized person, very flirty and touchy, rein it in. When you are anywhere that could be a marketing/networking possibility, stop it. Don’t do a giggle and a hair flip, don’t talk about sex. Don’t. Just don’t.

Take some time to explore what your weakness are. Recognize them, and have a plan in place to diffuse these land mines before they explode.

 

Be yourself, unless…

You’ve got a guilt complex. If you’re someone who likes to give and give, and you tend to overcommit and overwork yourself trying to help others in all aspects of your life, rein it in. It’s simply not an effective way to run a business, it’s not a healthy way to work.

You’re a pushover with your schedule. Stop it. Find the easy ways to say no. Practice saying “I’m sorry, I’m booked up.” Get cozy referring out to MT’s who work on your days off.

It’s important to acknowledge that there should be real thought involved in this process. These guidelines are not One Size Fits All. We’re not talking about ignoring ethical concerns and getting casual at your place of business. This is a process, and like any other aspect of business, you need to use good judgement and common sense.

So for me, I think of it this way: I may have clients leave because they don’t like my hands-on techniques. I may have potential clients who never come in because they see an occasional atheist sentiment in my twitter stream. I’m okay with that. But if I ever lose a client or potential client because they felt I was insensitive to their needs, or they feared I would make fun of them, I will consider that a huge professional failure. Huge.

For you: Well, you’ve got to figure that out for yourself. Consider your feelings. Consider the feelings of the people who will see what you ‘like’ and post on Facebook, and interact accordingly.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Think Before You Speak

I remember being chastised as a kid for asking my aunt if she was “racist” during a family dinner party. We were at the kitchen table at my parents’ house, and she said something about Ted Danson and Whoopi Goldberg dating. If memory serves, it was along the lines of “why can’t she find a black man so a white woman can date him?”. I can only assume the technical answer to this question had something to do with Ted Danson’s impressive chin anatomy, but my kid brain didn’t care about that. It only cared that it was taught not to judge people based on their appearances, and an adult’s comment in my parents’ house didn’t match up with that world view. A kid, a comment, a question, a curse. Maybe that’s when I learned to fear my own thoughts.

I redeemed myself in future years, catching loved ones in the act and pointing out that saying “that’s so gay” (intended meaning: “that’s so bad/ugly/uncool”) sounds ignorant and ridiculous. These weren’t ignorant bigots saying this, and this was not a Danson/Goldberg/kitchen table moment. This was nonsensical verbiage projectile vomited into the Millennial Collective Consciousness, and we were better than this. 

Taking offense is a personal thing, although overheard mouth caca need not be personal in nature to be offensive. Sometimes the things we say or gestures we make almost daily have the potential to offend, turn off, cause unease or make us look less intelligent and professional than we really are.

As massage therapists it is our calling to comfort, but this can be challenging when we’re oblivious to what we’re communicating. Do any of the following examples sound familiar?

Retarded – Saying that someone or something is “retarded” is bound to offend sooner rather than later, even if you’re just talking about yourself. Think twice before uttering “this table warmer is being retarded”. Also worth noting in this category are words like “idiot”, “dumb”, and “lame”, as these words have historically referred to people with different mental and physical traits that deviate from the norm, and are now used in a negative context. 

Gyp – Let’s lump this one in with all racially-derived digs on a person’s character. It turns out the Roma people (“gypsies”) don’t appreciate being associated with cheating and scams. Saying “I don’t want to gyp you out of your time” can make your very kind sentiment sound icky and ignorant. (Same goes for “jewing down”, “Indian giver”, and any similar utterance.)

Perv – A term often used in our field to reference a table grinder or happy ending enthusiast. “That perv just threw a $20 bill on the table and undraped his package.” Just keep in mind: It wasn’t that long ago that many common bedroom practices and expressions of sexual and gender identity were classified as pathological in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Many of us would’ve been labeled as “pervs” in years past, even though we’re good-natured people who wouldn’t hurt a fly (unless he asked for it). I prefer to use “creeper”.

Suicide References – Unless you truly feel like you may be suicidal, please stop threatening (thereby trivializing) self harm. Saying “if the Cowboys lose one more game I’m going to kill myself” is insensitive to people who have attempted, succeeded, considered, or lost someone to suicide. Also, I don’t care if you’re a hip hop artist or a comedian: unless you truly feel like you may want to put a gun to your head and pull the trigger, do not bend your fingers into a gun shape and point your index finger at your temple. I know someone who did this with a real gun and now they’re gone, and you’re just an asshat who’s still here. 

Oversimplified Statements on Complex Issues Verbalized Using a Judgmental Tone – “Abortion is terrible”, “suicide is selfish”, “Mega-Mart moving in down the street is great for everybody everywhere”, and “your deceased pet was just a tarantula and mine was a teacup poodle, therefore your grieving couldn’t be comparable to mine” are examples of statements that are usually best left unsaid. Maybe that client tended to his tarantula at a time when he desperately needed someone or something to care for, and maybe he obtained just as much emotional support through his relationship with his spider as you did with your puppy. Maybe that associate’s mom lost her job at the local hardware store because the Mega-Mart cut into the indie shop’s market share. Maybe an abortion saved an employee’s life. You know a lot of things, but you don’t know more. 

I too am guilty of saying things out of ignorance. Twelve years ago I answered the phone at the print shop where I worked. The woman on the other end described a messed up print job she had obtained from another facility in town. I offered a sympathetic “that’s crazy”, and was promptly lectured by this caller (who had spent a significant amount of time being treated for mental health issues) on the offensive nature of the word “crazy”. Twelve years later I’m still not exactly sure how I feel about the word, but I do consider this woman’s standpoint regularly. 

What do you wish people would take a moment to think about before they speak?

(Want to read more about overheard mouth caca? Check out this nifty article.)

Dropping The Banhammer

 

Bob* was in his 60s. Southern accent. Tall and not a slight dude (from what I could ascertain upon our face-to-face meeting, as he was fully clothed).

Bob sat down in the reception area of my office, grasping the clipboarded intake form but not yet filling it out. His words came at me in rapid-fire progression.

“Now I get massages every week back home. Can I just use a towel to cover my midsection?” (I use bath towels instead of flat top sheets anyway, but the asking of this question raised a bright orange flag…or maybe it was pink. Fuchsia? Anyway, internal eye roll. Resume transmission.)

“OK, I booked a ninety minute service today, but I need at least thirty minutes of massage on my lower abdomen.”

 

SCCCRRRRREEEEEEEEEEECHHHH.

 

“I’m sorry Bob. I don’t do abdominal massage here.”

“Why not?! It’s the only way I can relax.”

“It’s my policy, no exceptions. I totally understand if you want to go elsewhere.” I ready myself to rise from my desk and escort him out of my office, but this guy is persistent. (Please forgive the bombardment of non sequiturs I’m about to lob your way, but this was my life last week.)

“I’ve been so stressed at work. I run six companies.” He pulls out his phone, points the screen in my direction and starts scrolling through photos of what I’m to assume are his crew and their work trucks.

“I got divorced in the ‘90s but I’ve been with my girlfriend for years. I’m leaving my business to her when I die.”

“I’m telling you this stuff so you’ll know some things about me.”

“I have two phones.”

“You really won’t do abdominal massage? How long have you been doing this?”

“You really won’t do abdominal massage? I don’t know what kind of massage you think I’m looking for.”

“You really won’t do abdominal massage? But I want to come in tomorrow and the next day too.”

“If you don’t do abdominal massage, what do you do?”

“When I was a little boy my mother would give me abdominal massages. It was the only way I could fall asleep.” (Mommy! An unexpected twist!)

“I’ll make it worth your time.”

“I’ll tip you really well.”

“One hundred dollars.”

“One time I was working with my crew in the woods and we got infested with ticks. I had to shave off all of my pubic hair but I didn’t realize I had to keep shaving it.” (This marked the turning point for me. Parasitic infections of the groin are not my area of expertise, and for good reason.)

“Bob, yeah, I’m not going to be able to help you.” I got up, keeping an eye on him, and made my way to the door. Still facing him I turned the knob and held the door ajar so he could exit. He did, but not before handing me his business card.

“In case you change your mind.”

“Bob, that’s not going to happen.”

Then I noticed that he had cleverly left his phone on my desk, so I exclaimed “Oh! Here’s your phone!” The last thing I needed was more alone time, here, with him.

I came to realize, partway through the convo, that Bob had called me several weeks prior from a different number (two phones!). During that phone call he wanted me to work “overtime” for “a really good tip” of “one hundred dollars” “if [my] husband didn’t mind”. Unfortunately for Bob, I was “booked”.

Adding to the absurdity was this: His persistence was completely unnecessary. In Vegas (as is true in many cities), you have so many happy ending options at your disposal you can’t throw a dead cat without hitting a rub and tug or rash for cash. I mean, Craigslist will bring the lower abdominal massage to you at no extra charge! (The explanation I’m going with is that some folks find my combination of profuse anxiety sweating and groundbreaking bathroom humor utterly irresistible.)

As a rejected Bob walked out the door and down the hall, I was prouder of myself than I had been in a really long time. Like a lot of massage therapists (or humans, even), in the past I’ve worked on people I should’ve fired five minutes into meeting them. Messed-up, battle-scarred people looking for a metaphorical punching bag. People who just make you feel shitty.

And I’m over it.

Call Mommy and have her pick you up.

End transmission.

 

*Not his real name.

Happy Endings and Icky Jokes: How to respond when it happens

IMG_3289One of the weirdest parts of being a massage therapist is the less-than-classy questions people will ask. It happens much less now than it did 10 years ago when I started in this business. But every so often I’ll get introduced to a new person, and the crass oaf will say. “Do you give happy endings?”

And we all have ‘that friend’ who (repeatedly) posts stupid massage jokes on our Facebook wall, because they think it’s hilarious. Ugh.

It can be tricky to handle these awkward confrontations. It can be trickier to handle these confrontations and not be a catty jerk who embarrasses and alienates the poor oaf. (Or maybe that’s just me?)

For me, it helps to have some scripts ready when these things come up. I need to think about what to say and practice it, so I don’t get all stupid or pissy in my response. And so I don’t just laugh and blow it off and feel like crap about my lack of response later.

So I checked in with a few friends and pulled together our favorite responses.

When you get the dreaded, “Do you give happy endings?” questions

“Weeell, no. Because I’m not a sex worker. I’m a trained and licensed health professional.”

I like to be clear, and use the actual words instead of catering to innuendo. It deflates the whole cheeky joke thing.

You can say it harshly and get all catty about it. But there’s not really a point to that. You want to gently but firmly educate someone without shaming them. Partly because you’re not a jerk. Also because they will understand and retain the lesson better if they are not made to feel stupid and defensive.

This is not the best time to go all out with a lecture on how disrespectful that little ‘joke’ is to all massage therapists. That becomes apparent when you say the words ‘sex worker’.

Once you get out that response, you have two choices. You can change the subject entirely, “So what do you do?” Or just keep talking and tell them about your work. “I’ve got an office in Plainville, mostly working with people who sit at desks all day then run marathons on the weekend.”

My friend Leslie says, ”Almost all my clients leave happy, but it’s never because of sexual services. That would be illegal and completely not what I do for a living. Happy endings are for Disney and the library. Sexual services are for prostitutes.” She’s got a kickin’ sense of humor and can pull that off.

My friend Ian responds, “Everyone gets one massage sex joke, and that was yours. You totally wasted it, by the way, I’ve heard way better.”

If it happens in the office, my friend Tracy likes to inform people that by asking that question seriously, they are soliciting sex, breaking the law, and setting themselves up for a call to the police. That’ll deflate their casual, stupid humor pretty quick and likely ensure it doesn’t happen again.

When the inappropriate jokes are virtual

There are equivalents to this silliness in the virtual world. People share junk like this all the time, and occasionally post similar ‘jokes’ on my profile, or even my massage business page.

You may be great at just ignoring these things. Or you may be like me, and feel that this teaching moment should be utilized.

This is a time for a private message:

I wanted to let you know that I deleted the link you put on my wall. I know you had only good intentions and thought I would find it funny. But I need you to know that I did not, and I think it’s important that you know why.

I take my job seriously. I have extensive training in massage, I maintain my licenses and certifications, and I run a business that serves my community.

So when you post a video that makes a joke, and an uncomfortable joke at that, about the services I provide, that’s a problem.

I would never want anyone to think those kind of shenanigans go on in my massage room. I would never want a current or potential client to see that on my wall and think I would be disrespectful of their comfort and privacy.

So I hope you understand why that ‘joke’ isn’t funny, and that you’ll consider not sharing things like this in the future. Not with me, or anyone. 


Yes, it’s wordy. But I think that response also strikes a nice balance of kind, informative, and firm.

How do you deflate these situations, without putting someone on the defensive, so it can be a useful exchange?

Closing Down

Today’s guest post comes to us courtesy of Tracy Bradley. Tracy has been practicing massage therapy since 2003 in rural Arkansas. When not massaging she can be found sipping Cherry Coke, watching cat videos, reading massage discussions, or hanging out with her family. She publishes a client-centered blog at The Comfort Zone Massage. Her 8-year-old daughter creates stories about her two zany cats at Cat With a Chat. Tracy is moving over a hundred miles from home to begin a new adventure with her family!

***

One month and then my massage business is closed. A month. No more clients, no more sheets, no more hot towels, no more. I feel like I’ve never done this before even though I left a different place 4 years ago. I wasn’t as emotionally involved with that place, I suppose. This place, this business is like home. I’m leaving home.

What will I do with my hands now? Will they miss the feel of flesh gliding under their fingers? Will my skin shrivel up and dry out without the daily use of massage oil? My hands, who have caressed, kneaded, rocked, pushed, pulled, rubbed, and comforted humans for the past 12 years, won’t know what do anymore. Will they lead me around searching for an aching shoulder like a forked limb leads one to “witch a well” for water? I apologize in advance to those I hug. My hands will surely try to massage your back and shoulders in what should be a brief moment.

Have you ever closed your business? Have you ever had to tell your massage clients you’re moving away and never coming back? It’s a difficult task.  After almost 4 years working as a massage therapist in a small town I’m moving away. Telling loyal, regular, make-their-appointment-before-they-leave clients is one of the most emotional things I’ve ever done.  The first eight years of my massage career were extremely part-time. The past four years were more than full-time. They were full emersion. I fully devoted most of my brain, heart, and soul to growing this business and caring for my clients. And now it ends.

I spent the week telling clients I’m leaving. A few were devastated. Most were supportive of my family’s new opportunity.  We cried. We hugged. We talked it out.

I will miss these people. Even with “good boundaries” relationships are developed. People talk. Living in such a small town many of us go to the same church, family members work together, kids attend the same schools, we go to fundraisers together, etc. We conduct our lives side-by-side. Boundaries are there but they are different than someone who lives in a place they never see their clients outside work.

All this said, I’m ready for a break. I’ve been “all in” for quite a while to make sure I supported the family while my husband was in college. I loved it most of the time. The Hustle becomes such a rush!  You try something to get more clients and your week fills up!  You write a blog and people read it and tell you they like it.  You develop a way of doing things, communicating with your clients, and operating your business. You get shit done. You try a new promotion that flops but it is still a rush because you get to brainstorm again. It never stops: the planning, writing, researching, talking, etc. It can’t stop if you want to stay busy.

I’m tired. I’m ready to shut that part of my brain off for a while. I’m ready to see if there is a Tracy inside me. She wants to laugh and smile and read and write and play and stuff.

Thrift Store Finds for Your Massage Business

Running a small business can be expensive, ever wonder where to shop to save a images (1)few bucks? When I mention shopping for my massage business at thrift stores, I sometimes get a sideways glance or two…but there’s a method to my madness. The trick to fabulous finds at thrift stores is to make small trips often. It is unlikely that you will find all of this great stuff with one or two trips, but if you stop in every once in awhile, you’ll soon start to make great little discoveries. I usually pop in to various stores for a 20-30 minute trip once or twice a week. Since I am a mobile massage therapist, I usually make these trips between clients or on my lunch break in different parts of town.

If you have never shopped at a thrift store before, or if you find thrift stores unsavory, this post might not be for you…but if, like me, you enjoy a good thrift store and find shopping to be a relaxing experience – you might find yourself scanning the shelves with a fresh pair of eyes. Here are some of the things you can look out for. 

  1. This one is as obvious as it is surprising: professional massage equipment. It isn’t likely to be found, I have only come across a few things in my thrifting excursions, but when you do find some, it is especially exciting. I once bought an extra Earthlite facerest platform for my massage table for $7, and a professional leg bolster for $5. There was an Oakworks Nova massage table for $80, which I didn’t purchase at the time because I didn’t need one. My latest find, that I am really excited about, is a Medi-Rub foot massager machine for $10! If you have ever used one of these bad boys you know what a steal that is. I use it for myself, as well as bring it with me to office and convention chair gigs as an added perk for my chair massage clients. 
  2. Self Massage tools – from foot massagers to finger massagers, to vibration and percussion tools, people are constantly sending their self-care devices to thrift shops. These can be a great way to practice a little of what we preach between clients to take care of ourselves. Some of the things I have purchased include a Homedics shiatsu massage chair mat for $12 (this works incredibly well to ease my scoliosis symptoms when I can’t get in for a massage right away), an “Original Foot Log” for $3 (hands-down amazing for people with plantar fasciitis – I bring it with me to appts for clients to try out), and a calf-stretching rocker for $3. I am also the proud owner of a vintage Spine-a-Lator which I purchased for $125. My favorite recent find is a Spoonk acupressure mat which I paid $5 for. I LOVE this thing. I use it before bed or sometimes after a hot shower and find it incredibly relaxing on my back and the soles of my feet. It is a huge stress-reliever.
  3. Office organization supplies. You can find everything from briefcases to sample cases, binders and new packs of filing folders, executive planner cases, mail sorters, magazine racks, bulletin boards, white boards…and even smaller items such as three hole punches. I have bought all of my mobile massage bags at thrift shops – I usually use business traveling cases – my last one was a nice Kenneth Cole which I purchased for $10, and my current one is a Franklin Covey equipment bag which I purchased for $2.50. 
  4. Decorative Items. This one is pretty self explanatory. You can find many decorative items at thrift shops, the biggest problem here is really knowing what/when not to buy, so that your massage room doesn’t end up cluttered and messy. Often I find great deals on candles here. Such as the big three-wick candles usually used on coffee tables for a buck or two, or wooden wick candles, or huge bags of tealights for a buck. My favorite find so far would have to be my Himalayan salt glow lamp, which I purchased for $3. I know it is pretty cliche for a massage space, but I just love the golden pink glow from a pretty salt lamp…and they can be expensive in health food stores. My second favorite find would be the old style glass bulb Young Living essential oil diffuser which I purchased for…wait for it…75 cents! 
  5. High quality massage sheets and blankets. The concept of buying used massage linens came up in a massage group awhile ago and it seemed people were pretty divided about it. If you are someone who is comfortable using secondhand sheets (and really, aren’t they all secondhand once one client has used them?) then you can potentially buy much higher quality and/or higher thread count sheets for a fraction of the price you would pay for much lower quality new sheets. It is incredibly important that you thoroughly inspect every inch of the sheets to make sure there aren’t any stains, rips, or loose threads and that the sheets are thoroughly sanitized before going into rotation with your other sets. This means hot water, detergent and bleach, as well as a hot and thorough drying cycle. 
  6. Promotional display items: Comment card boxes, raffle boxes, picture frames, poster frames, A-frame signs, business card holders, etc.
  7. Client gifts. I know, that sounds cheap as heck…but give it a chance. Thrift stores are actually an amazing place to find small special client gifts. For instance, one of my clients just loves Disney, she takes her family to Disneyland every year for their annual trip, and a lot of her Christmas decorations are Disney themed. When I saw a gorgeous limited edition Disney Christmas ornament at a thrift shop for $8, picking it up for her as a Christmas gift was a no-brainer (after inspecting it very thoroughly for any defects). The original box was a bit banged up, so I tossed it and instead wrapped it in a satin organza bag and put it into a little sequined re-usable Christmas box which I picked up at the same store for $1. She loved it.  For my client who loves The Little Mermaid, a tiny snow globe for $2. For my client who is a chef who loves French cooking – a little kitchen sign with a quote from Julia Childs was a great personalized gift at only $3. Shopping this way allows me to give something my client will like, rather than something impersonal yet affordable which they don’t need. We all have/receive enough of that stuff. 
  8. Stationery and paper goods. Honestly, here is where I save the most money when it comes to thrift store shopping for my business. I send out a lot of cards, and you can buy big packs of greeting cards, beautiful stationery, envelopes, etc for a fraction of the price you would buy new. My newest great find for my summer promo mailers were these beautiful Papyrus notecards. There are 14 cards, envelopes, and gold hummingbird seals in each box and I got 5 boxes for $1.09 each. I’ll send these out with a little personal note and some summer promotions to all of my regulars, possibly with a coupon for a friend or family member. Photo paper is also always available in abundance for a tiny fraction of the price you pay at the store. Another paper good you can almost always find is Avery printable business cards. These aren’t really good for using as actual business cards (you can buy inexpensive, much better quality cards online) but they work very well for promotional purposes as coupons or referral cards. I like the versatility of thinking up a promotional idea and being able to print up a sheet or two the same day, possibly tailored to a holiday or specific event. You can usually pick up a pack of 250 for $1. 
  9. Furniture. Desks, bookcases, filing cabinets, lamps, chairs, good condition throw rugs, etc. This one is pretty self-explanatory. 
  10. Attire. If you are looking to build a professional wardrobe, but on a smaller budget, thrift stores are a great option with clothing that is often higher quality/longer lasting than the cheap new stuff you can buy at your local EverythingMart. You can buy a cheap polo shirt for $10 or $15 at your local big box store, or you can and buy a name brand Nike (for example) polo shirt of much higher quality at a thrift store for about $5. They cost less, you get more use out of them, and you keep goods out of the landfill. Not to mention many thrift stores are connected to Charities in your local community, so you may also be helping out those in need depending on where you shop (My favorite local store is Savers – which benefits SafeNest). That’s a win-win in my book.

Always check items very thoroughly for defects, and remember to have fun! Do you have an awesome thrift store or garage sale find in your office or in use in your business? If so, please share in the comments :) 

Weird things that matter when you’re running a business.

I live in New England, where we’ve been getting an unholy amount lots of snow over the past few weeks. It’s a project to dig a car out and clear it off post-storm. Common sense dictates one would clear off one’s car completely.

But some people don’t. Some people clear most of their windshield, maybe a little of the rear window, and set out onto the roads putting other people in danger.
That’s a mark of character, I think. And I wasn’t too sad to see the state police pulling people over for it during the recent blizzard.

car covered in snow

photo via the MA State Police Facebook page: http://ow.ly/ILx6p

 

I’m a hardass. I know I skew a little stricter than average about guidelines and rules, especially when it comes to running a business. Just like the snow-on-the-car thing (but certainly not as dangerous), I think there are actions and inactions that indicate character in a business owner. I think they matter.

Where you park your car
Some business owners park in a spot far away from their entrance, reserving the closer spots for customers. And I’ve seen others take the spot closest to the door, and stay parked there all day while clients have to schlepp from a distance, both before and after their massage.

The bottom line here is, are you making convenience a priority for you or your client? Your clients will catch on to that.

(Yes, I know that not everyone can control the parking situation around their business. If that’s the case, this doesn’t apply to you.)

What you wear
I know. I KNOW. People get piffy about this one. But the reality is, if you show up every day in ragged yoga pants, dirty sneakers, and a tshirt, it’s pretty damn clear that you don’t respect your work. Our ‘uniforms’ will vary according to environment. But the clothes you wear for work should always be clean, not worn-out, and not overly-casual.

Oh- and let’s have a little side chat about wearing custom tshirts with ignorant puns or ‘jokes’ about massage. Stop it. Your profession is not a joke. It’s a career, dammit. A career that has the potential to change lives. Unless of course, those people think you’re an unprofessional twit who wears silly tshirts. Then they will never come to you for massage and you will never change lives. “I’ve got your back” is fun. “I’m a massage therapist, I get paid to hurt people” is not.

Your trash
We need trash baskets. They will often have trash in them. This isn’t rocket science. But if you let them hang out more than half full for days at a time, it looks bad. It looks like you can’t be bothered to empty your trash. If you let them hang out full and overfull, it looks even worse. Trash is a visible indicator of how clean the rest of your office is, even the not-so-visible parts. Make it a good indicator.

What else? What are the little ‘things’ you notice that turn you on or off to certain businesses?

10 Things Your Mother Never Told You About Entrepreneurship

Since posting about my resort spa-leaving in October, a handful of lovely people have approached me to express their own desires to go out on their own and become entirely self-employed. Some have asked questions like “what’s the first step?” or “how do I find clients?”. I hope to share my insight on these matters briefly yet somewhat competently in this post.

Let me start by mentioning that no two paths to entrepreneurship will be the same. Each of us are born into individual circumstances, raised in different environments, given unique opportunities, and influenced by factors specific to our own lives. I share some of my experiences here, modestly hoping that at least one small, useful part resonates with someone out there in our virtual living room. If you have an entrepreneurial story of your own – good, bad, even completely unrelated to massage therapy – I encourage you to share it in the comments section. Entrepreneurship is one of those blog topics that can only benefit from group participation, and I thank you in advance. Now let the listing commence!

 

  1. Identify your vision. What kind of work are you passionate about doing? What types of products are you passionate about using? I love doing many kinds of massages and spa treatments, but foot massage is right up there at the top of the list. I also like using luxurious creams and oils that are beneficial to the skin (this is especially important here in the Mojave Desert). So I opened a little day spa that specializes in feet. Pinpointing your passion will help you to hone in on your signature offerings, which will set you apart from the chain massage clinics down the street. This is one of the first steps to building your identity as a business.
  2. Get cozy with your branding and stay consistent. Maybe you live in a small town and you’re the only massage therapist within 200 miles. You can probably afford to name your business “AAAAA Massage Therapy” even if everyone hates the name. But in my experience, I’ve found that in a marketplace full of half-baked business ventures and forgettable distractions, having a fun, clever or thoughtful name is a plus. It also helps to keep you on track when you’re considering the overall feeling that your brand conveys. “Feetish Spa Parlor” has always been very Victorian in my mind, so I keep my branding consistent with that vision as much as I can. Victorian influenced furniture, cabinets, ceiling tiles, lighting fixtures, décor…even the typefaces and clip art used on my signs and printed materials are reminiscent of the time. Obviously I use a smartphone, hot towel cabi and factory-produced hand soap too, but you get the idea. You wouldn’t install Ashiatsu bars in a room that isn’t used for Ashiatsu, so don’t clutter up your image with inconsistencies that dilute and confuse.
  3. Remember that you can’t be all things to all people. I can’t do couples treatments because my office is tiny and there’s only one of me. Once in a while I have to explain this to a caller. But I continue to put myself out there, and the right people find me. Again, focus on what you can do, and on what you enjoy doing.
  4. Location is key. I don’t necessarily mean you have to be in the biggest, flashiest building in town, but if you’re running a brick and mortar operation, location is pretty damn important. You’ll want your location to be convenient to the clientele you’re looking to attract. You’ll also want your location to be convenient to yourself, as you’ll be your very own #1 VIP client. Is there parking nearby? Is the area relatively safe? Are there other businesses in the area that mesh well with yours (cafes, boutiques, other places where relaxed or adventurous people with disposable income hang out)? Are there other businesses in the area that compete with yours that might cannibalize your clientele now or in the future? Stake out the locations on your list of possibilities. Become obsessed. Check out the flow of people on different days of the week during different times of the day. Do this for months. Talk to people who are active in the community where you hope to set up shop. Make allies before you sign your lease. Spend your money in this community. Say hello. Smile.
  5. Make your presence known. You will have to market your business. You will have to invest countless hours into this seemingly thankless task. You will be tempted to give up, but you shouldn’t. Cast a wide net. The advertising I pay for right now consists of my website, business cards, and printed spa menus. I will sparingly and selectively donate gift certificates to causes I’m passionate about. I send out a monthly email newsletter using MailChimp. I have a free Yelp listing. But other than that, most of my marketing efforts are concentrated on social media. I use Instagram a lot, and I usually auto post my photos to Facebook and Twitter. Someone may see you on Yelp today, someone else may see you on Google tomorrow. You never know.
  6. Don’t get in over your head. Signing a lease on an 8,000 square foot facility may sound like a dream come true right out of the gate, but I’m having heart palps just thinking about it. It’s perfectly OK to start small.
  7. Consider your schedule. The more hours you make yourself available to take appointments, the more appointments you’ll likely take. Wait! You say you only want to work Tuesday through Thursday from noon ‘til 5? And you wonder why you’re only booking two appointments per week? And you resent the whole damn thing because you just drove 45 minutes one-way to perform a 30 minute service when gas is $3.26/gallon? It sounds like it’s time to rethink your schedule. Two years ago when I first opened my business, I had set hours when I was in the office — appointments or not –five days per week. This was good at the time. But last year I realized it benefitted my clients (and my sanity) more if I switched to working by appointment only, but with greater availability. Now I can schedule my life around the appointments on my book and vice versa.
  8. Make things happen. Create excitement! Start a blog for your biz! Video chat online and upload it to your business’s YouTube page! Visit with your neighbors! Throw a party at your office and invite the neighborhood! Offer them food! Share meals with people…people like to eat! The early days of business ownership are usually the loneliest. Fill that time connecting with people and building relationships with people in your community, because eventually, when you’re super busy with appointments, you’ll wish you had more time for that.
  9. Adapt. Now that I have more appointments on my book I’m no longer able to sit in my office with the door open, waiting for retail customers to stroll by. So I’m running a clearance sale on Dermalogica this month, and it’ll probably be a while before I order more retail-sized items. And y’know what? I’m totally OK with this.
  10. Some pressure is OK. Like a firm handshake or a leather corset. But business is messy, invention is messy, and life is messy. To quote my dad: “We can’t control everything that comes our way; we can only control how we react.” Countless successful entrepreneurs have failed in business multiple times before they eventually made it big, but they learned a lot along the way. Entrepreneurship is hard work, long hours, boatloads of stress and tons of sacrifice. I’m still really happy with my decision to take this path, but if it ever gets to be too much for me – if I feel like I’ve been paying too high a price for too long with too little return on investment – I’ll do my best to adapt. And if that means hanging up my holster for a bit so I can treat myself to some well-deserved kindness and understanding, then that’s what I shall do.