In this episode of The ABMP Podcast, Darren and Kristin are joined by Cindy Meiskin, chief experience officer of Hand & Stone, to discuss the National Association of Spa Franchises (NASF), the new employment verification system (EVS) and how it works, and what success looks like with this new system in place.
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0:00:43.9 Speaker 2: I'm Darren Buford.
0:00:44.8 Speaker 3: And I'm Kristin Coverly.
0:00:46.4 S2: And welcome to the ABMP Podcast, a podcast where we speak with the massage and bodywork profession. Our guest today is Cindy Meiskin. Cindy joined Hand & Stone in 2012 as Director of Training but was most recently the Vice President of Brand Experience before becoming Chief Experience Officer. Throughout her 30-plus year career, she has been able to support the women on her team and created an environment where they feel empowered to do their best. In her current role, Cindy believes that effective and efficient training is the cornerstone of success, and enjoys her position where she's able to personally engage with each and every franchise in the Hand & Stone system. Cindy is also the President of the National Association of Spa Franchises, the basis of our conversation today. For more information, visit nationalassociationofspafranchises.com. Hello, Cindy, and hello, Kristin.
0:01:34.3 Speaker 4: Hi, Darren. Hi, Kristin. So glad to be here.
0:01:37.2 S3: Cindy, we're thrilled to have you here. And thank you so much for taking time out of your very busy schedule to have this conversation with us. This is really important information that we want to make sure that our listeners are hearing about as soon as possible. So we are going to talk today about the National Association of Spa Franchises, or the NASF. So we'll start at the beginning. What is the NASF?
0:02:00.8 S4: The National Association of Spa Franchises was... I'm going to give you a little bit of the backstory. So back in 2019, this was pre-COVID, if we can remember the world before COVID, [chuckle] I was becoming a little frustrated with the service providers traveling from brand to brand, when we really needed to keep them out of the industry. So I walked into our Monday morning executive meeting and I said, "We need to hold a meeting with all of the brands, and let's collaborate. Let's work together to see how we can fix this, because when it comes to health and safety, competition goes out the window." And so we all got together, there were three brands there, we met in Chicago, and we just sat in a conference room for the day and talked about all of our best practices, what we were doing, and how we could manage this, because we can't always count on reference checks, we needed a central place where spa owners, managers, whoever does the vetting, could check to see if this potential hire was flagged. And we talked about that and a number of other issues that were facing the profession at the time.
0:03:07.6 S4: I think this was a concept that was trying to be created by different governing boards within the massage licensing boards, but it had been going on for years and years and years, and anybody that knows me, I'm a rather impatient person, so we tried to push that along. And then Todd Leff, our then CEO, a couple of years later, about a year or two ago, sent me an article where Uber and Lyft were doing exactly this. So they were doing it through the background check company, HireRight, and I reached out to them to say, "Can you do this for us?" Well, this was not an industry that they worked in. So I reached out to Crimcheck, because I already had a relationship with them, I've done other projects with them, and they were awesome, they're like, "Let's do it." And in less than a year, we had the employment verification system up and running, and in July was when all three brands onboarded, and we've been using it since then.
0:04:01.3 S2: Cindy, what groups today have joined?
0:04:04.2 S4: So our founding members were Hand & Stone, Elements, and Massage Heights. We have recently welcomed Spavia and Woodhouse and hot off the presses is Zen Massage and MassageLuXe, and we're also speaking to a number of other brands, too. After our press release, it's been awesome, because we've had a lot of interest from a lot of other brands. We don't care what size, the more the merrier. They don't even have to be franchised. We want everybody to have the opportunity to have the benefit of the NASF and the EVS or Employment Verification System.
0:04:39.0 S2: Are there requirements to membership, or what does membership entail?
0:04:43.2 S4: There really isn't. If they have... Our smallest, we have brands that have as little as nine locations, all the way up to... We're the biggest one right now, we're pushing 600. So if they expressed an interest... I love that they care about keeping the industry safe and doing what they need to do. So we usually have a conversation, I explain the program to them. They'll talk to Crimcheck, and I have a little agreement that they sign, there's annual dues, and that's really it. And then we have quarterly board meetings, which is a really great opportunity, especially for smaller brands, to hear what the larger brands... 'Cause I'm sure most of them are aspiring to grow, and it's a great opportunity to network and speak to the other brands, ask questions, brainstorm, and even a small brand can bring tremendous value to the table.
0:05:35.6 S3: Let's talk a little bit more about the EVS or the Employment Verification System that you mentioned. How does that work?
0:05:42.7 S4: So just as a spa would order a background check, it's just one more check that they do on the Crimcheck platform. So since July, we've had well over 10,000 searches. We're probably pushing 12 to 13 searches at this point, and that has resulted in 12 hits, so 12 massage therapists have been flagged, that's really exciting, it's working.
0:06:09.7 S3: Yeah. And tell us a little bit more. What would cause a practitioner to end up on that list?
0:06:15.6 S4: When a brand joins, we have a whole onboard guide and document and their specific criteria, it's a breach of safety protocols, and so we have very specific protocol as to what would constitute being entered into the EVS, but it's all centered around breach of safety protocols.
0:06:35.3 S3: Let's take a short break to hear a word from our sponsors.
0:06:38.6 S1: Anatomy Trains is excited to invite you to our latest in-person fascial dissection workshop, April 10th through 14th, 2023 in Boulder, Colorado. Join Anatomy Trains author, Tom Myers, and master dissector, Todd Garcia, on this voyage of discovery. Visit anatomytrains.com for more information.
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0:07:55.1 S3: Let's get back to our conversation.
0:07:57.6 S2: And Cindy, I'm guessing success, like you mentioned, or the 12 that have been flagged currently, and success also probably looks like onboarding more and more franchises and more and more spas, whatever that might mean by the various sizes. Correct? That's your next path?
0:08:15.2 S4: Absolutely, yeah. So knowing that the spas are using it and it's an annual requirement, they have to re-check it every year, and they'll also have to continue to check it as we onboard new brands, because as a brand is onboarded, they're going to put in all their history. So if they have whatever incidents they may have had in the past, they need to populate with that and then they'll keep adding as... Hopefully, there's not a lot of adds, but we're being realistic here. So as incidents occur, they would continue to add. So it's something that spas have to continually stay on top of, just like the annual background check requirement, because things changes, it's a fluid environment. So success is knowing that our spas are using it, and that's obvious from the fact that we've had over 10,000 searches, so that feels really good to know the spas are using it as part of their vetting process. And then every time, I really do get so excited when a new brand reaches out to us.
0:09:15.1 S2: Cindy, I know that the NASF has other goals, that you mentioned to me before with regards to your initial meeting in Chicago in 2019, with the success of your launch here recently and with the EVS, can you tell us about some of the other priorities that are on the NASF list?
0:09:32.6 S4: Sure. So certainly, we have recruitment issues, and we try to brainstorm different ways to get interested parties into the profession, so definitely recruitment. Education, we want to work on beefing up the ethics curriculum and coordinate with schools on that. We also would like to have more interest from our franchisees. So I think it's really important for these brands to have a presence in the state licensing boards, because I think sometimes franchisees have a bad rap as opposed to being an independent practitioner, and we're very passionate about what we do, and there's a lot of power to working for a franchise, and so I think it's important that the franchisees have a presence at the state licensing board. So we have an ambassador program at Hand & Stone, where we try to involve our owners in these meetings, and so that's some of the stuff we discuss as well.
0:10:28.4 S3: Cindy, I'm trying to put myself in the minds of our listeners and anticipate questions they might have as they're listening to this conversation, so I'm curious if there's a practitioner that comes up on a search that's been flagged by one of the franchises, and they feel that that is an inappropriate flagging, it's not true, not valid. Do they have any way to reach out and to ask questions to get themselves removed from the Crimcheck list, or how might that work?
0:10:57.5 S4: So just like a background check, there is an adjudication process, and if there is a flag, if there's a hit, they will be notified and they have the opportunity... There's also complete an adjudication, so if there is a hit, the brand that entered it will be notified just to double, triple check to ensure that it is an accurate listing. We have had ones where the brand reconsidered and did take them off of the list, so it could happen, but they will have that opportunity.
0:11:27.3 S2: Cindy, as we bring the podcast to a close, we just want to say we're really excited about the work that the NASF is doing, really important work with the EVS. Can you just tell us overall, what success looks like with the NASF?
0:11:39.7 S4: Well, complete success would be total elimination of inappropriate touch in the treatment room, [chuckle] so that's it. That is my goal, but it would be to grow this association and continue to bring in new brands, no matter what size, collaborate with each other, network and give each of these stakeholders in these brands a place to come with questions, with ideas. And we love having guests, you guys are welcome to be a guest at our board meetings, 'cause we do that quite often. It's a great way to just share information, 'cause you're going right to the source and just see the number of searches continue to grow, but the number of hits, hopefully, decrease as we become more and more effective at keeping the profession safe for both our clients and our service providers, because this is a way to protect our service providers, because a blemish on one brand is a blemish on the entire industry. And it's really important for massage therapists to be recognized as the professionals that they are and the health care providers that they are, because I read... We use a survey company, I read these surveys... Massage can be life-changing, and I don't mean to be dramatic. It's incredible some of these surveys that I read. And so that's what we...
0:12:55.7 S4: I want to highlight that. And I hate that we need to spend our time on this, but it's a reality in any profession. Whether you're a coach or a teacher or a religious leader, it's unfortunately the way the world works, so our goal is to just keep the professionalism in a really, really important service.
0:13:14.6 S2: I want to thank our guest today, Cindy Meiskin. To find out more information about Cindy and the NASF, visit nationalassociationofspafranchises.com. Thanks, Cindy, and thanks, Kristin.
0:13:26.1 S4: Thank you both. It was a pleasure.
0:13:28.0 S3: Thank you so much, Cindy, for being with us today and for everything that you and the NASF are doing.
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