Happy Holiday!

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Today is one of my favorite days of the year—National High Five Day (seriously). This glorious day was started in 2002 at the University of Virginia, my beloved alma mater. And it’s not awesome just because it started at UVa (full disclosure: I probably wouldn’t celebrate it if it came from Duke). It’s awesome because it celebrates something. Something. Something as simple as the good ol’ high five.

 

What is a high five? It’s an act of camaraderie! In one swift move we share happiness, joy, and solidarity with another human being. What’s more important to celebrate than that?

 

Celebrate your clients today. Celebrate your spouse. Celebrate your freedom, your friends, Mexican food, your dog, music, your awesome association—whatever moves you.

 

National High Five Day seems whimsical, but it gets at why we do what we do. To share the love.

 

So share it.

 

High Five!

Decisions we make

 

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I finished closing out my bank account this week; since I became an adult (feel free to insert your own joke here), I believe I’ve had five bank checking accounts, primarily dictated by where I lived. What’s funny—and scary—is how many of the banks don’t exist any more—my first was Sovran, which was the result of a merger (the original bank served Robert E. Lee), which then merged with another bank, then merged with another bank, and now (in some form) is Bank of America. The next two banks were swallowed up in similar fashion. The bank I just switched from was my local bank—not part of a big banking conglomerate out there.

 

So why’d I switch? Well, like many customers of different businesses, I felt taken for granted. The bank recently announced “free” checking would become “$8.00 a month” checking, although part of the fee would be waived if you utilized the bank’s Bill Pay option at least three times a month. What?!

 

So I switched to a different “local” bank, one that is bigger and has more branches across the state, but is not one of the national banks that seem to be everywhere. They offer free checking, although they do charge fees for some things and in some ways don’t provide the same services as my old bank. So far, I feel like it was a good idea—I think.

 

All this has me thinking about how we all make decisions as consumers, and naturally, it prompts me to also think about our members and why and how they choose to join ABMP. We ask them about such topics, and get helpful feedback, and I’d like to think the overwhelming majority of our members don’t feel like I did with Bank #1. But I had an exchange yesterday with a member who did indeed feel she wasn’t being served. What I like is that I have a chance to directly connect with our members and learn about how we can do better. I want to make sure we’re not Bank #1.

 

The other lesson on my mind is that while Bank #2 has its merits, it’s easy to sell yourself on one facet of a situation and not think more broadly. There’s a chance at the end of a year that I’ll consider the charges incurred from Bank #2 and determine I didn’t save any money. Occasionally we hear from our members that another outfit that is “cheaper” solicited them or is having a sale, but when they look more closely at the other offering the extra costs tally up. That other outfit really isn’t cheaper. Or—even more importantly—their service, resources, or quality of liability insurance doesn’t stack up to ABMP’s. Apparently, the grass isn’t always greener.

 

Remember the slogan, “Choosy shoppers choose Jif”? Do you know why and how your clients choose you? Is there a chance they feel like you take them for granted?

 

My job: to make sure our members don’t feel that way. So, for starters, thank you. I treasure your support. If you do feel that way, let me know. Before you switch.

Go Away

 

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Well, this seems a little drastic, doesn’t it? You’re probably thinking, “Sweeney, aren’t you usually blathering on about getting MORE clients?”

 

Yep, I do blather. But a successful practice is about quantity and quality.

 

People take energy or add energy, all throughout your life. And you do the same—do you add energy to relationships, or do you take energy?

 

You are on a journey, on a path to career success as you define it. You need to be a thoughtful, caring person. But you also don’t need to get sidetracked by those who take more energy than they provide. Life and bodywork should be win-win propositions.

 

Is it easy to fire a client? No. But getting where you want to go isn’t always easy.

 

Review your client list. Are these people you look forward to working with? Do they take an active role in their wellness, and more importantly, yours? If not, serve yourself and remove them, and go find new clients you want to serve.

Remember Me?

 

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Now where was I?…

 

My apologies for disappearing for a while. Clearly I’m not on my blogging pace for 2014! But the good news is I am slowly but surely making progress training for the 2014 Boston Marathon (and my coworker and and running buddy Kathy Laskye would love your support). We are just 45 days away from this incredible event!

Seemingly forever ago, I posted about the importance of getting client feedback. And my partner-in-crime and co-Massage & Bodywork columnist Kristin Coverly reminded me we did not post our new and improved client feedback form.

So my reappearance comes with a new resource for you. Enjoy! And let me know if you think it’s valuable.

Talk to you soon. Promise! (A lot sooner than I have been!)

In Good Hands

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Since it’s New Year’s Eve, I thought I’d check in on a 2013 resolution. Early in the year, in the throes of training for the Boston Marathon, I made a commitment to receive more bodywork than ever. In particular, because I needed it.

 

So how’d I do? Well, thanks to these beautiful people above (plus a few other therapists), I did pretty well—not quite to my goal of averaging a massage every other week, but I did receive 24 massages in 2013. You’d think I’d look and feel better! Ironically, this is my 24th blog post of 2013—not exactly meeting my personal goal of weekly or even bi-weekly posts, but an improvement.

 

Alas, it was not a banner year for the ol’ corpus—starting off with pneumonia, then surviving the marathon, but losing my momentum in July due to a broken fibula (the one downside to my love of ice hockey). Still on my way back from that injury and subsequent surgery, I am nonetheless excited and motivated to once again ramp up my training for Boston. All of us who weren’t able to cross the finish line thanks to the bombings, have been invited to run again. I’m not missing this second chance. New Year, new challenges.

 

Work-wise, a pretty good year—but more opportunity lies in front of us. Family-wise, a healthy and prosperous one, my fibula excepted. Two graduations—my son Joe from high school, and my wife Sarah with her MBA. And with each year, growing appreciation of all my blessings, from my wife and sons to my (reasonably) good health, and my beloved ABMP family, both inside the building and across the land.

 

Happy New Year.

 

 

Happy Birthday Pop

 

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Today is my dad’s 82nd birthday. As usual, he’s not keen to celebrate it. He received flowers from my brother’s family, and rather than admit to his fellow assisted-living facility compatriots what the flowers were for, he told them, “My cat died.” His cat died in the early 1990s. He does, however, keep track of who sends him cards.

 

The four people who have given me the most in my life are my wife Sarah, Bob Benson (my cohort and mentor here at ABMP), and my parents. My dad, also named Bob, has passed down to me integrity, the importance of vocabulary and the spoken word, a thick head of hair, the value of dedication to a task, and his sense of humor. The last of these attributes has caused him great consternation, as my sons’ quips have for me. Being a wisecrack apparently does not skip a generation.

 

When I think about growing up, I think of my dad coming home from the office, changing his clothes, and working in the yard. And every weekend he spent working in the yard, unless he was on a plane somewhere.

 

Bob Benson and I like to use a phrase here at ABMP—“90% of success is showing up.” Bob Sweeney has shown up his whole life.

 

Happy birthday, Dad.

 

 

I’m Back (again)!

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You’ll probably recall that this summer I broke my fibula playing ice hockey, which necessitated surgery to insert a plate and eight screws. The surgery was successful, which means that the bone healed properly. However, the bone healing is really about ¼ of the way there when it comes to recovering.

 

What you don’t understand about surgery before it occurs is a saying we massage therapists use—the issue is in the tissues. Putting your lower leg and foot in a cast for 6 weeks doesn’t do good things for the condition of:

 

  • Your flexibility;
  • Your skin;
  • Your psyche; and
  • Your waistline.

 

Life doesn’t wait, and my appetite hasn’t slowed down, so I have some fitness to recover.

 

Fast forward to the last few weeks: I am 3+ months removed from surgery, but my ankle is not as good as new. There’s occasional nerve zapping, still some swelling, and a reduced range of motion. It’s easy to get frustrated because things aren’t “normal.” Part of the recovery process is adjusting your mind as to just what “normal” is. My wife Sarah went through a similar experience a couple years ago—but worse—thanks to a dislocation as well. I like to say that most couples married for a long time start to dress alike—in our case, we have matching plates and screws in our left ankles.

 

Back in July I said I’d be back on the ice by Christmas. Instead, I made it by Halloween. Not without some rust, mind you, and some cautionary talk from my great physical therapist, Mary, but I am back skating. After skating I told Sarah, “Well, my ankle’s sore.” Her answer was, “Yeah, mine is every time I play.” Welcome to the new normal.

 

The 2014 Boston Marathon isn’t waiting either. I am a little over five months away, and have started out on the roads again, albeit slowly. I have some fitness to recover. (Did I mention I’m out of shape?)

 

What’s your big challenge you’re facing right now? Are you motivated to take it on? I’ll keep you posted on how my challenge is faring.

 

 

Are You Any Good?

 

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Here’s a tough question for you: Are you a good therapist?

 

Whatever your answer (and I hope you immediately said “yes!”), my response is, “How do you know?”

 

Do you have that inner feeling, an educated confidence, a strong sense of self? These attributes are critical to being a top-notch practitioner. My experience as a massage recipient (which I’m dedicated to expanding) is lack of confidence can be a therapist’s biggest downfall. Almost always I can tell immediately if a bodyworker is confident in his or her own abilities.

 

But let’s assume your skills are solid. How do you let your potential clients know you have the goods?

 

Two words: GATHER FEEDBACK. And then share it.

 

As you’ve heard me say, the best sales force is a satisfied clientele. Empower your existing clients so they can inspire others to book a session.

 

And by gathering feedback, I mean more than asking, “how was it?” as your clients drift out of the treatment room and fumble for their car keys.

 

Ask them for specifics, and do so within 24 hours of their experience. Your request can be as formal as sending them a brief online survey, or as simple as following up with an email asking them to share their thoughts about your work in a few sentences. You don’t have to do it after every session, but you should be checking in semi-regularly with ALL of your clients. Don’t assume that all is perfect with your “regulars.”

 

You can also check out the article in the latest issue of Massage & Bodywork about sharing client reviews online.

 

Whichever method appeals to you, just do it—and share the results on your website and in your marketing materials. In fact, we feel so strongly about you gathering feedback, we’re going to help you. We’ll develop a brief evaluation tool and share it with you in the next couple weeks.

 

Then you can give us feedback.

Where Have You Been?

 

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I have been AWOL from my blog post for several weeks. Why? Travel, other stuff, the dog ate my laptop, the usual.

 

If you were my clients, I would be pretty lonely right now, because I haven’t touched base regularly enough. And you know what? I would deserve it.

 

We are all busy—having a life, managing to get through each day, getting stuff done. But we also need to be prospecting. You can’t assume those clients will come through your door forever. That’s why pro sports teams have scouts—the all-stars get older and retire. Your A1 client might get transferred. Who will step up and take their place? Well, compadre, that’s up to you to figure out. Is your client base right where you want it today? Then time to make sure it stays that way.

 

The good news? I actually have been busy, and I’m starting running again, and I have some cool stuff I want to share, but it’s not quite ready to come out of the oven. So you’ll have to sit tight for a bit longer. But don’t worry, I won’t forget you—I never do. I just need to tell you that. Just like you need to tell your clients.

 

Talk to you soon(er).

In Praise of AMTA

 

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I have just returned from my fifth American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) annual meeting. This year’s edition was held in the friendly climes of Fort Worth, TX.

 

Why is the President of ABMP attending the AMTA annual convention, you ask? Well, I was invited (well, I was invited at one time … but I kind of assumed it was an open invitation). I have no official role or duties, other than perhaps to be welcomed in a spirit of camaraderie. I have a very cordial relationship with Winona Bontrager, AMTA’s current president, and Bill Brown, AMTA’s Executive Director. In that spirit, it’s worth saying that despite our healthy competition and some philosophical differences, we are all in this to help massage/bodywork practitioners, and that’s really the point.

 

And you know what? AMTA does a nice job with their meeting.

 

ABMP has on occasion been asked, “When are you going to put on a convention?” But AMTA’s meeting is largely in support of their House of Delegates and state chapters—elements that don’t exist for ABMP. Most of the attendees appear to be involved in the governance of the organization. And conventions are expensive—for the organization and the attendees.

 

Our structure is different, and we’ve chosen to marshal our efforts and your membership fees to generate additional member benefits, and therefore value, while keeping our fees stable for more than 20 years (I had to get that in somewhere).  So while I don’t see an annual convention in ABMP’s near future, I applaud them for theirs.

 

For those involved in the AMTA meeting, it is a good time. I’m glad they let me attend.  Congratulations to Winona, Bill, and everyone else on a successful meeting.