Ep 347 – All Islands Meet Underwater with Doug Nelson and Jennifer Crozier

Image of sign saying come in we are open.

Since opening the doors of BodyWork Associates, Doug and Jennifer have helped countless individuals achieve their career and life dreams. But how did it start and what did it take to open a successful practice? Kristin and Darren are joined by Doug Nelson and Jennifer Crozier to discuss why opening a massage therapy clinic is a viable career path, how community relations are the best marketing strategy, and why mentorship helps in building strong foundations.


PMNT: https://www.pnmt.org/

BodyWork Associates: www.bodyworkassociates.com

“Dream Bigger,” Massage & Bodywork magazine, September/October 2018, page 78, http://www.massageandbodyworkdigital.com/i/1013756-september-october-2018/80

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Author Bio: 

Douglas Nelson is the founder and principal instructor for Precision Neuromuscular Therapy Seminars, president of the 20-therapist clinic BodyWork Associates in Champaign, Illinois, and past president of the Massage Therapy Foundation. His clinic, seminars, and research endeavors explore the science behind this work. Visit pnmt.org or email him at doug@pnmt.org.

Jennifer Larkin Crozier is a board-certified massage therapist, specializing in Precision Neuromuscular Therapy. She is a teaching assistant for NMT Midwest. Jen is a 2003 graduate of the clinical massage therapy program at The Soma Institute in Chicago. Since that time, she has worked with Doug Nelson, at his massage clinic, BodyWork Associates, as a protege and student of PNMT. In addition to a busy clinical practice, she has recently taken on the role of clinic manager to the 18-therapist practice. 



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PurePro: www.purepro.com


Touch America: www.touchamerica.com


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YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2g6TOEFrX4b-CigknssKHA  


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Full Transcript: 

0:00:00.0 Kristin Coverly: Are you looking for a new treatment table but not getting the attention and customer service you expect? 40 years ago, Touch America's first massage table went to work, and we've never stopped working. For the practitioners who make it all possible, call us at 180067 Touch or visit touchamerica.com to utilize the 20% off discount code found on ABMP 's member discount page abmp.com/discount. We're open from 9:00-5:00 Eastern time Monday through Friday. So reach out today and feel the Touch America difference. 




0:00:47.6 Darren Buford: I'm Darren Buford. 


0:00:48.1 KC: And I'm Kristin Coverly. 


0:00:49.8 DB: And welcome to the ABMP Podcast, a podcast where we speak with a massage and bodywork profession. Our guests today are Doug Nelson and Jennifer Crozier. Doug is the founder and principal instructor for Precision Neuromuscular Therapy Seminars, president of the 18-therapist Clinic BodyWork Associates in Champaign, Illinois, and past president of the Massage Therapy Foundation. His clinic, seminars and research endeavors explore the science behind his work. For more information, visit pnmt.org. Jennifer is a board certified massage therapist specializing in precision neuromuscular therapy, and she's a teaching assistant for NMT Midwest. Jennifer is a 2003 graduate of the clinical Massage therapy program at the Soma Institute in Chicago. Since that time, she has worked with Doug Nelson at his massage clinic BodyWork Associates as a protege and student of PNMT, in addition to a busy clinical practice. She's recently taken on the role of clinic manager to the 18-therapist practice. And listeners, our topic today is opening and running a massage therapy clinic, and the basis of this conversation is the 2018 feature article "Dream Bigger". Why opening a massage clinic could be a viable career path for you? Featured in the September October, 2018 issue of Massage & Bodywork Magazine. Hello, Doug, Jennifer and Kristin. 


0:02:10.9 Jennifer Crozier: Hello. 


0:02:12.1 Doug Nelson: Good morning. Hello. 


0:02:14.3 KC: Hello. We are thrilled to have both of you joining us on the ABMP podcast. Now, I have to start, Doug, that M&B article came out in 2018. Why are we doing a podcast now in 2023?  


0:02:27.9 DN: I've been thinking about a comment that Bob Benson made when he visited us. He spent three days with the clinic and for a multitude of reasons at that time, I wanted to do it kind of anonymously. But Bob and I and my wife had dinner and Bob was telling my wife about how amazing he thought the clinic was and at that point he said to my wife, Janet, it's really incredible, but I'm not sure it can be replicated. And I've thought about that comment ever since Bob made it. It's been five years I've been stewing around, and now it's time to address that and talk about the structure of the clinic and hope that that inspires people to do the same, which was the essence of that article. 


0:03:10.1 KC: Let's start with the beginning of your journey. We often talk about practitioners either working as an employee or opening their own practice, but obviously you took the next step and opened a massage therapy clinic. Let's talk about that. How did your massage story evolve from being a solo practitioner to opening the clinic?  


0:03:28.3 DN: I think there are a couple of things. One, from the beginning, I've just had a passion for the role and purpose and mission, the power and the promise of what massage therapy can bring to both, the healthcare sphere and to the public in general. And so it was started with a solo practice and then it just really organically evolved. It's funny, yesterday I saw someone who worked at a bank 41 years ago and I had approached the bank maybe to do a loan and he said he was that loan officer and said, there's no way this is ever gonna work. And we still laugh about it. I tease him constantly about this because at that time, I have to say I never thought it could fail. I was so naive and mission-driven that it just never occurred to me that there was a level of risk involved or all the things that it could. I was just so focused on what is the mission, what are we trying to do here? And then the question is, can I do that by myself? And how much impact can an individual make? And I understand that could be a lot, but there's that African saying about if you wanna go fast, go alone. If you wanna go far, go with others. And pretty quickly I decided there's power in numbers and with greater numbers we can have a greater impact on the community. And it's really that impact on the community that for me is the driving force. 


0:04:58.6 DB: If you can, Doug and Jennifer let us know, the listeners know, about how the clinic consists, what's the makeup of the clinic?  


0:05:08.1 DN: So we have, as we said, 18 therapists in the clinic, all of which really, we primarily do the same sort of thing. So you could have a clinic with multiple practitioners with multiple disciplines and approaches, or you can have one clinic that just has one thing and hopefully that one thing really well. And there are advantages and disadvantages to both. We have chosen to do the one thing that we do, which in this case is precision neuromuscular therapy. Everybody's aligned around that kind of approach. And there, again, are shadow sides to that 'cause we only do one thing. But I think if I chose again, I would still do that, that everyone's aligned around that mission. It makes it very clear who we are and who we are not. And that's important when you're kind of posing that out to branding and to out to the public, who are you, what do you do and why does it matter?  


0:06:06.3 KC: Yeah. When you say, who are you and what do you do, Doug, you mentioned when you were describing, when you were thinking about should I open something, can I do it myself? What's my mission and how can I meet that mission? Tell us, what is your mission?  


0:06:20.8 DN: The mission for us is that we believe that soft tissue work can address the multitude of people who fall through the cracks of healthcare. I just saw some national statistics, musculoskeletal issues are the number one healthcare expense across the board. And it's a tremendous burden on the economy and to people's lives and to suffering yet who really deals with that in a meaningful way and in a hands-on way. And I think that's us and I think we have something to offer and that is the niche that we serve, that's the direction where we put all our attention. And massage therapy can be used across the board for so many things and in so many ways they're all wonderful. We've decided to focus on just one aspect and make the clinic around that. 


0:07:11.1 DB: Because the clinics focus like that, does that allow therapists to step in for one another? Or like do therapists work with one specific client or is it shared across a spectrum of all the employees?  


0:07:22.8 JC: Therapists actually share clients. We encourage that. We encourage because our schedules can be busy that you see multiple therapists, that way you have options. 


0:07:34.3 DN: And that's really important because in a singular practice, if Jennifer's not available, it's a yes no thing. But with the power of this, instead of having 18 individual practices, you have the group practice, which if Jennifer is not available, then you see somebody else and/or somebody else. So that or the public is such an advantage. 


0:07:57.9 KC: And I'm curious too, I know you have your main clinic, but then you have two satellite clinics as well. Tell us, how were you making those decisions? When was it time for you to branch out even more beyond that main clinic space?  


0:08:10.9 DN: We ran outta room. [laughter] I mean, it's pretty simple, like wow. Now, as we grew we outgrew the space that we had and then like, how could we serve the community by having a location in a different place that would potentially also serve a different population? And so that's always difficult decisions. A lot of like the phone calls all come through the central location so that it's not like we have to hire desk people at other locations and incur a whole set of overhead that would make that process even more difficult. 


0:08:48.1 JC: No, I think one of the ways that we have also been able to have these other clinics outside of our main office is the relationships that we've had with the community and the entities that we are serving there. As Doug said, we're able to serve different populations. One of our locations is near the University of Illinois campus, so we have a relationship with them. The other location that we have is within a Pilate studio and we have a relationship with the practitioners that are there and their clients and it's just a really wonderful thing. 


0:09:18.3 DB: So Doug and Jennifer, I know a little bit about your story, so I wanna dive into that for just a minute, because I know being a part of the community has been huge with regards to your growth, your expansion, your communication. And that wraps into what you said a minute ago, Doug, about just your belief in the practice itself. So tell us about, like, I don't know if a lot of listeners would think of that as necessarily a path. Now, clearly we know word of mouth or getting out there and doing maybe chair massage or something in the public space to spread the word. But tell me about that path you did because your community involvement just seems big and large and a very important part of what the clinic does. 


0:09:55.5 DN: I'm gonna answer that very carefully 'cause my wife and probably Jennifer would say I'm a little obsessed with this. So, [laughter] I'll just say committed, they would say obsessed. [laughter] So, last night for instance, I went to a performance at our performing arts center, and when I look around that space and I see all these people who are also clients at our clinic and how we have volunteered many many hours at that performance space and also treated performers, we are integrally involved in that space. And it's such a warm feeling to look around and think we make a difference here. When Bob visited the clinic, he also saw something called the Art of Science, which is a project that I started years ago using scientific images from a department at the university called the Institute for Genomic Biology and then connecting the university with the town. And by displaying those images as art, it turned out to be an explosive thing. It's now all over the country and it's pretty cool that that was started by a massage therapy clinic and that the heads, the leadership of the University of Illinois know who we are and appreciate the difference that we make. 


0:11:08.9 KC: And Jennifer, as a practitioner, how does that feel to get out into the community to create these relationships and really spread the word about how massage can help people with a variety of needs?  


0:11:20.7 JC: It feels really amazing, but I am forever the person that's like, okay, and what else can we do? And what else can we do and how can we reach more people? And I feel as though we have a nice size community that we are here within and it's very interconnected, but I also think like there are still people that don't know about us. There are still people we can help, there are still people we can educate. There are still people that we can bring into the fold. And that's often sort of my mission and what I look at. 


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0:13:09.7 KC: Let's get back to our conversation. Okay, so I'm curious now, one of the reasons that a lot of practitioners who might have the dream of expanding and opening their own clinic, no matter what size it might be, there's a little bit of a fear around hiring, training, managing a team of therapists. So Doug, talk to us about your philosophy on hiring and creating that team. 


0:13:35.4 DN: The one advantage, again, when you have a clear mission, a clear focus for the clinic is, we are clear about where we're going. So when we talk to someone, do they wanna get on that bus? Essentially, are we in alignment? Are we in concordance, is where we're going, where you want to go? And that kind of takes care of a lot of the discordant things that can happen because the direction is really clear and then it's a matter of finding people who share that mission wanna be part of it, and then finding them as that saying about, it's not just getting people on the bus, it's getting them on the right seat on the bus. And that's really now Jennifer's role and taking over as clinic manager and she's the one who's really kind of shepherding people through that process, and mentorship. Jen, you wanna talk just a little bit about the mentorship and that process?  


0:14:29.1 JC: Sure. Our mentorship process is multi-dimensional, I would say. We have the opportunity for new therapists in addition to our seasoned therapists to work with multiple athletic teams. We have mentoring that goes on within the office amongst our senior staff. We have amazing continued education opportunities through NMT Midwest for our therapists. We have any kind of resources that our therapists need. I want to be the person to provide that for them. I feel like it's my role now to be the person that provides these things for our therapists. 


0:15:10.5 DN: It's a place of growth. And so that's one of the criteria when we look at people. Is it someone who's curious? Is it someone who has a sense of discovery? Do they wanna learn and grow in this work? Because honestly, being in the clinic will challenge you every day. It's funny, just as I was trying to scram out of the office to come and do this podcast, one of my associates, Mike said, I know we all signed up for this, but occasionally it'd be nice to have something easy [laughter], which is hilarious because we do, we see a lot of people with very difficult things and that will challenge your head, it will challenge your heart, it will challenge your skill level. And that's a really good thing. It's your hands, your head and your heart and all three of those things are involved, but it really rolls down to a sense of curiosity, discovery and people who wanna grow as practitioners, but also as people because we're in relationship with people who hurt and that's where the heart comes in. And that's a really important part of this process as well. 


0:16:16.8 KC: And what really impresses me as a practitioner, when you talk about growing and someone who's curious, you give them that support, Doug, you are very interested in providing training and making sure that people have the tools they need to continue to grow in what they're able to offer. 


0:16:32.3 DN: Too many therapists are islands and when we're traveling around the country and we see people who are practicing by themselves and struggling by themselves, I just feel like there's that saying, all islands connect underwater. And I think even maybe the people in the office in my office don't realize what a benefit it is to be around other people who are sharing that same passion and also the same struggles, and you can talk to people, sadly, that's a little bit remarkable, around the country too many people don't have that mentorship possibility. And then after a while you just feel like it could be easy to be overwhelmed. 


0:17:15.7 DB: So Doug and Jennifer, I know from the original article that you have, or at that time when the article was written, do you still have a tiered structure for practitioners there? Meaning like their skill level and they can kind of level up over time and it also adjusted the fee and the rates that they charge for services?  


0:17:34.9 JC: Yes. Yes, we do. So we have our entry level essentially, massage therapists that are LMTs, they receive a certain rate of pay based on the fee that we charge for the session. They receive a percentage of that that they're compensated for. Once someone goes through the PNMT certification process, that is when the next level comes with it, a pay raise, and of course, the education and the skills and the knowledge that they've received. 


0:18:04.6 DB: Excellent. And then also I had a different question. When I think about the clinic in general, you must have many solo practitioners, many franchises, many other clinics that surround you. How do you differentiate yourself? How do you stand out?  


0:18:19.4 DN: In one simple answer. I think in the community we're known as this is where you go when you hurt. And when one of the franchises came into Champaign-Urbana, it was actually a really good thing for us because it made us clarify, no, wait, who are we in this ecosphere? That was a great thing for us, and because before when we were the largest thing, and then you could kind of be all things to all people, which is almost next to nothing. But when someone, when we had that kind of more competition, then it was, wait, we have to clearly define, who are we? And that was a wonderful benefit. So we can let other practitioners do what they do and do it really well. And then we sharpen our focus on doing the very thing that we do and hopefully attract practitioners who wanna be part of that. 


0:19:12.0 KC: Yeah, again, coming back to that very clear mission and that everyone is on the same bus and really moving in the same way and then the community knows that as well. So I'm curious, another thing that makes your clinic stand out as being unique is that you have a self-care room where the public can come in and use the space for about 30 minutes and you have got different tools in there. Talk to us about that. 


0:19:34.9 DN: It's a really kind of fun thing. So there are different massage tools that are in that room and also like electric mechanical beds that do acupressure, that kind of stuff. So not always is somebody available. Right now our wait list is way, way too long and that's frustrating, but people can use that. Actually the staff is one of the biggest utilizers of this. When we have a little gap between sessions, people will go in there and use that just to keep themselves healthy. So it's been a new addition for us and it's a nice thing. We're just making that more available, making that more known to the community. So it's a wonderful addendum to the whole offering that we do. 


0:20:15.8 DB: Jennifer and Doug, I think our listeners should know how large that client list is. I think that's a really important thing. Can you tell us what the size of that client list is?  


0:20:27.2 DN: It's somewhere between 8000 and 10,000. 


0:20:29.1 DB: Yeah, that's substantial. That is awesome. And like you mentioned, not done overnight. So now I think we're at the point of the podcast. I know our listeners would like some take home things. They wanna know, how do I make that brave leap? Like I'm here, I'm practicing by myself, but I get it and I love the mission and I'd like to establish a massage therapy practice myself. So what do they need to know to make that leap? I mean, is there a certain amount of business acumen they need to have or is it just the leap of faith itself? Where should they start on this process?  


0:21:00.3 JC: My opinion is that, well, first of all, let me back this up a bit. I am the person that could do endless research. I'm the person that could think about this wherever and ever. Doug and I were just talking earlier, you can have the skills in terms of being a therapist and knowing exactly what you can do for your clients and how making that next step to take the leap and trust that the step will be there for you to catch you is incredibly scary. I thank Doug for pushing me to just do the thing because you can have all the research that you want, you can get in your head and think about it over and over again, but until you just make the step, you will not know. And I think a little bit of just blind stubbornness, like Doug was saying, realizing that you can, nobody can tell you no and just figuring it out as you go along. I think that's a good thing as well. 


0:21:55.5 DN: I think fear of failure stops so many people from making the attempt, and if I was really good, I could quote the Shakespeare thing to that. But it is really true. And if people thought it out clearly about when to have a child, no one would ever have one, right? [laughter] They would be at retirement age. So, there's the time just to do it and not be afraid to fail because all the struggles along the way, that's where the learning happens and that's a good thing. So I think it's really important just to be clear about the why, because when storms will come and storms will come potentially, who knew in the form of a pandemic, but there will be storms. Nobody told me about that one. Then when you're clear about your mission, the why, but that drives you behind it all. That will still move you forward when your goals and your five year plans and all that stuff have blown up in your face. 


0:22:52.0 DB: Can you tell me a little bit, Jennifer, I'm curious, so you've got these employees now, you mentioned it earlier or you alluded to it, you called it mentorship, I think, but to me, what's that like onboarding process like? Like I know somebody's trained as a massage therapist, they're trained in PNMT, but there must be some magic in either the hiring process and/or the onboarding too, or what happens when somebody's not a fit? Can you just walk me a little bit through that?  


0:23:20.4 JC: Thankfully, I haven't really hired anybody that hasn't been a fit at this point, so that makes me feel good. However, I do recognize that that may come along at some point. I personally feel as though it's my responsibility to sort of shepherd people along. So I'm available for questions at any time. I am very much invested in how someone is getting along the first, 30, 60, 90 days. If they've got questions, if they have situations that come up with clients or things of that nature, I'm going to be available. If I'm not available, I have a group of our core therapists that I know that I can take someone aside and say, Hey, this person is really struggling, or they need some guidance, would you be willing to step in and take over? Or would you be willing to spend some time with this person? We actually encourage that our therapists get massaged from one another, although with our wait list right now, it's been kind of tough. But we do encourage that. And I think in those moments too, we are having the opportunity to learn a little bit more about, especially our new therapist and for them to get that hands-on experience from our more experienced and skilled folks, and during that time you have those opportunities to talk and connect in a way that maybe you wouldn't otherwise. 


0:24:38.9 DN: So I think the mentorship is both formal and informal. 


0:24:42.5 JC: Yes. 


0:24:42.7 DN: And adhering Jennifer, I picked the right person to do this. [laughter] The right person on the bus and on the right seat, well, she's driving the bus actually. 


0:24:52.7 DB: And so as we bring this podcast to a close, Jennifer and Doug, can you give us a little bit of advice, from each of you, if you can take a turn giving our listeners advice on making that brave leap and your own kind of assessment, a little bit of word of encouragement and maybe a couple things to think about as they're wanting to do this?  


0:25:10.0 JC: I personally have been given this opportunity, I have the opportunity to sort of help run a business without having the risk involved. I've got Doug who is believing in me to help him shepherd our company forward into the future, right? My advice for people is to find some really amazing mentors because I wouldn't be where I am, were it not for him and other amazing people in my life and in my career that have brought me to this moment. 


0:25:43.7 DN: And I would say back to that, being involved in the community. When you believe in the work and you believe in yourself, then it transcends the work and it transcends yourself. Be connected to the community, be a part of the community. When people talk about what's your marketing and all that sort of stuff, instead of like trying to get people to come to see us, like come see us 'cause we do this, we're actually, what can we contribute out there? How do we be part of this community? And maybe I have to say, maybe it's a legacy because of so many years in the field, and in the beginning that level of insecurity. What do I have to offer now to know that the community sees us as a viable partner in every sense of the word? That is the best feeling for me, but that's local. I would love to see clinics all around the country doing that same thing because each one of us represent the field, whenever we're doing our work, each one of us represent the field of massage therapy. And that's a tremendous responsibility as well. It's an opportunity and a responsibility. And I believe in this work, I've really given my life to it and I wanna see other people do the same. And we have a voice that needs to be heard nationwide now more than ever. And can I say thank you to both of you for amplifying that voice in so many ways and for all the ways that you have made a difference in the field and in the community and reaching out? Thank you for what you do. 


0:27:18.5 DB: We are delighted to do it. And as you mentioned, it is also Kristin and my life's passion at this point with regards to our tenure here at ABMP, and Kristin happens to be a wonderful massage therapist. So absolutely, it's the thing that we embrace fully. I wanna thank our guest today, Doug Nelson and Jennifer Crozier. For more information about the good work they're doing, visit pnmt.org. Thanks, Doug, Jennifer and Kristin. 


0:27:45.7 DN: Thank you. 


0:27:46.7 JC: Thank you so much. 


0:27:47.7 KC: Jennifer and Doug, thank you so much for this really inspiring conversation today. I hope it sparks some of our listeners to take that next step, whatever that might be for them. And also for being so generous in sharing your "secret sauce", you know, giving us the information so that others can replicate your success. That's not always done and we truly appreciate that. 




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