In interviews conducted by Til Luchau with 2500 massage therapists, a couple of surprising beliefs revealed themselves regarding the likelihood of building a successful bodywork practice or not. I noticed also how the success ratio rose when participants had an open mind regarding their businesses.
My own experience perfectly aligns with Til’s discoveries. When I was attending massage school in 1989, I had a very clear vision of how my professional career was going to go. Yep! I was going to go immediately into private practice in a beautiful spa-like environment that I would create (of course). And then….
I got offered a position with a local chiropractor that would guarantee me a monthly paycheck and provide me my own room in which to build a private clientele. I turned my nose up at it. That was not what I wanted!
Fortunately, for me, one of my massage school instructors intervened and told me straight up that I would be stupid not to jump at the opportunity to support myself completely with bodywork right out of school. Not wanting to be seen as stupid, I accepted.
And that move turned out to be an important and probably the best move for me. Not only was I able to support myself completely doing reflexology and massage, I got to put my hands on a lot of people with a variety of physical challenges, build my confidence and experience, and network with other practitioners in the community. I also got to test reflexology’s ability to influence musculoskeletal pain, as the doctor allowed me to decide what approach to take with each of his patients.
What I learned from those four years with the doc was, number one: to be open-minded and flexible with how I would go about realizing my vision. I learned that I could keep my eye on the end goal (of being in business for myself) and allow life to present me with the stepping-stones that would get me there. In hindsight, I realize now how much more prepared I was, after a few years under my belt, to run my own therapy business than when I first graduated school.
And that leads to the second and the most important distinction, and the one that surprised Til from his interviews.
Right out of school, both reflexology and massage, I thought of myself as a practitioner – a reflexologist, a massage therapist. I really had no idea that if I was going to open a business, I would have to shift my perception of myself from that of a practitioner to that of a business person. I had to move from managing a ‘product’ (my hands-on services; i.e. perfecting and improving my techniques, practicing good therapeutic communication skills, adding to my education, etc.) to managing the ‘company’ that managed the product. Those are two very different hats to wear, and I really didn’t understand that concept when I started out.
It took time, but I get it now. I can comfortably identify myself as a businessperson whose services (I prefer ‘services’ rather than ‘products’!) I manage are a:
* hands-on reflexology practice
* teaching academy
* professional writing career
Too often I witness reflexologists and massage therapists cower when it comes to placing a value on their time and services. Well-intentioned, caring people who are willing to jeopardize their ability to support themselves (and sometimes a family) rather than charge what their work is worth; what they are worth.
A businessperson talks to clients about business (the price of a session, scheduling recommendations, consequences of late arrival or cancellation, etc.). A therapist talks about the therapeutic services (choice and benefits of the model of bodywork, influence of repeated actions on anatomy, lifestyle changes, referrals, etc.).
The roles cannot be interchanged, and one person can adequately manage them both.
Both skills can and must be learned.
If you look at your own work situation, where are you strongest? Where do you need to put some attention? And are you willing and ready to do so?