Who Are You Today?

10 Different Roles for One Successful You!

By Les Sweeney and Kristin Coverly
[Business Side]

Ever feel like your practice requires you to be a different person from day to day? Great—that means you’re doing it right! Les and Kristin discuss the diverse roles therapists need to step into on any given day to achieve the ultimate role of business owner. Have you mastered all 10?

1. Public Speaker
LES SWEENEY: One of my favorite Jerry Seinfeld jokes (it’s nearly impossible to choose among the hundreds of great “Seinfeldisms”) is when he talks about the fear of public speaking. He says, “Number one fear is public speaking; number two is death. That means at a funeral most people would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy!” Do you feel that way? All this gets back to your confidence.
Remind yourself you are a professional who can be proud of who you are and what you do. And you are selling something (massage, health, feeling good) that people want! Don’t get too technical—focus on them. If you do that when you speak, you’ll be surprised how comfortable you’ll feel. If you feel comfortable, you’ll be more likely to seek out opportunities to speak. And public speaking doesn’t necessarily mean giving a formal speech—it can be emceeing the local 5k or an event at your kid’s school. Let that personality out! That’s what people are hiring when they book a massage—YOU!

2. Juggler
KRISTIN COVERLY: We all feel like we’re a star performer in our own little Cirque du Soleil show—juggling what feels like a million responsibilities and roles each and every day. And often that’s before we add our practice into the equation! Let’s face it: there are a lot of plusses to having your own practice, but it also comes with a lot of ongoing responsibilities. Having a plan in place helps diminish that panicky feeling you get when you feel like you’re about to drop one or more of the balls you have in the air.
Set aside time every week to manage and market your practice, and schedule that time on your calendar just like you would schedule a client appointment. Knowing you have dedicated time to sit and focus on your business tasks helps ease the stressful feeling of juggling your long to-do list.

3. Detective
LS: Are you a sleuth? Many therapists I’ve met say one of their favorite things about practicing massage and bodywork is discovering more about the human body. In particular, meeting a client and conducting an assessment can be a great intellectual pursuit. Massage and bodywork professionals aren’t doctors, but we are health-care providers—meaning we can help our clients feel better and live better. That’s what it’s about, right? To be effective, we need to know the human body and know this human who stands (or lies) in front of us. Letting your clients know everything you know won’t get them to a better place; what will do that is learning about them—what they do and why they feel what they feel. Discovering sources of pain or discomfort, and applying the knowledge you have to help ease that suffering, is the essence of what we can do as therapists. Applying the same treatment over and over again, regardless of the client or condition? That’s not helping anyone. Dig in, learn more, and apply good judgment. That will make you a successful professional.

4. Customer Service Agent
KC: The great news about having your own practice is you get to make the decisions about how, where, and when you want to work. The tough news about having your own practice is you’re in charge—all of the time. You get to set your own policies, but you also have to enforce them. You’re the first and last point of contact if a client is unhappy with any aspect of your practice; there’s no supervisor to jump in and save the day. So even if you’re having a tough day yourself, you need to be friendly, warm, and welcoming to your clients. This usually isn’t too hard; we choose to do this work because we love working with people and want to help them, so it’s easy to give excellent customer service most of the time.
To make sure you’re at your best on even the toughest days, create a game plan for grounding and centering before each session, and plan snacks to stave off the onset of “hanger”—that dreaded hungry anger. Remind yourself often that even though the next session may just be one of many for you, it’s the one and only for your client, and she’s probably been looking forward to it for weeks. Make sure it’s a great experience (for both of you)!

5. Athlete
LS: Bodywork is work. Hard work. It can be very fulfilling, but that doesn’t change the fact that it requires concentration, dexterity, and stamina. Sounds like a tennis player, basketballer, or hockey player, doesn’t it? Are you a positive example for your clients? Not to get all judgmental here, but do you smoke? Slam down a Big Gulp between sessions? Come to a session smelling like a Big Mac? I am a firm believer in freedom of choice—don’t tell me how to live my life, and I won’t tell you how to live yours. But your actions are influencers, and how you are perceived will affect your credibility—and your ability to positively influence your clients or potential clients. You are a world-class athlete, competing in the “Making People Feel Better” category. Keep yourself in world-class condition, so you can get a gold medal from your clients!

6. Listener/observer
KC: When ABMP surveys consumers about massage therapy, one of the main reasons they tell us they don’t go back to a therapist is they didn’t get the massage they asked for. We all know how important it is to really listen to our clients when they tell us how they’re feeling, what they need, and what they want during their session—and to follow through on what they asked for. In addition to that, you must develop the observation skills that go beyond listening. What nonverbal cues are you picking up? Their gait as they walk into your office? How comfortable (or uncomfortable) they are in the face cradle? Their body’s actual reaction to the level of pressure despite what they’re telling you verbally? Use these observations to fine-tune your session plan with your client. W need to hone our listening and observing skills so we can give clients the session they asked for (and need) and keep them coming back.

7. Salesperson
LS: We have learned from surveying over the past several years that a majority of our responding members would like more clients and/or sessions. In general, there is a feeling that there is room for growth in the adoption of massage in the United States. So how does that happen? A Super Bowl commercial? Research showing regular massage removes belly fat? News flash: I’m proof that one isn’t true.
So how do we increase massage’s popularity? Well, you’re a good start. How much do you sell massage? How much do you sell yourself? How would you rate your “convincing” skills? We know the true value of massage, but many clients or potential clients don’t. It’s your job to get them on board. I’ve welcomed students to the profession for years by stating, “Congratulations on your career in sales!” This usually elicits a few frowns and/or terrified looks. And selling gift certificates can’t be the only source of revenue. Repeat business is where it’s at. Sell your clients on regular bodywork—once they get it, they’ll get it.

8. Educator
KC: Think that just because you don’t teach in a massage school, the educator role doesn’t apply to you? Think again! This one goes hand-in-hand with your salesperson role. Through your marketing messages and conversations with clients, you’re constantly educating people about the benefits of your modality. Before clients make the decision to see you for a session, they need to know what’s in it for them—how will they benefit? What can they expect? What is myofascial release? How is that different from Thai massage? It’s your job to tell them.
Our greatest obstacles to people receiving our work on a regular basis are time, money, and not understanding why they need the work. Through education, you can move a session with you up your clients’ priority lists by making sure they know the benefits are worth the time and money. You know that a massage with you is worth adding the one-hour appointment to their busy schedule and is a smarter choice than one more dinner out, but do they?

9. Organizer
LS: This one is especially true if you are an independent practitioner. Heck, who am I kidding? If you are an adult, it’s critically important. As I’ve mentioned in this column before, if it’s not on my calendar, it doesn’t happen—I was very proud of myself recently for remembering to do something I hadn’t written down, but that’s the exception, not the rule.
You have 168 hours per week, and hopefully you’re awake for no more than 120. In those 120 hours a week, you have to manage your practice, eat, provide bodywork, get your exercise/self-care, travel, brush your teeth, parent, support others, post on Facebook, practice the tuba, volunteer, commute, read, tell jokes, and who knows what else. You better be organized! If not, you better get organized!
Organizer also can mean organizing others. Many think of massage as solitary work, and the majority of it usually is. But there are lots of ways your life needs your organizer gene, to help others navigate their 120 hours.

10. Student
KC: While all the roles we’ve mentioned are important, this one can be just plain fun. Make time to learn something new and put yourself back in the (in-person or online) classroom. Choose topics you know you’ll like, but also try something totally out of left field; you might just surprise yourself with a new passion. Learning even one new technique a month will invigorate your practice and keep it fresh for you and your clients. Need inspiration? Visit ABMP’s Online Education Center!

Les Sweeney is ABMP’s president and resident blogger. Contact him at les@abmp.com and read his blog on
www.abmp.com. Kristin Coverly, kristin@abmp.com, is the manager of professional development at ABMP and teaches workshops for therapists and instructors across the country. Both are massage therapists with business degrees who care about you and your practice. Want more? Check out their ABMP BizFit video tips on www.abmptv.com.