The Entrepreneurial Spirit

By Robert Chute
[Practitioner Parables]

As a freshly minted massage therapist, I headed northwest and ended up in Edmonton, Alberta. I knew I was going to open a massage clinic, but I didn’t know anyone. I just knew I needed to work for myself.

I had to quickly find a place to work. I’d started up businesses before, so I knew this would be a very busy, creative, lucky time. I had mountains to climb, no rope to grasp, and no net below me.

Sometimes it seems there is an entrepreneurial deficit among massage therapists. That’s OK. Having your own business is not for everyone and many practitioners—for many good reasons—prefer to work for someone else. One colleague told me she loved going to work, massaging, and walking out without doing anything else. Accounting, advertising, and marketing—these were things the boss had to worry about, not her.

Well, that’s true. In fact, in many new, small practices, the employees may even make more money than the boss because payroll has to be met first.

But there is great fun and fulfillment in starting something bigger than yourself. I must admit, my career arrangement has more to do with what many people consider my character flaw: working for someone else feels like sandpaper on my frontal lobe. Everyone serves someone, but I need to wind my own clock.

As a massage therapist, we have many bosses. Each client is a boss in the sense that each requires our attendance, attention, and skilled care. Having many bosses is good because it would take a cataclysmic event (dancing on your table, nuclear war, zombie attack) for all your bosses to fire you at once.

But, of course, it’s a risk. In my first year, the risks I worried about most were financial. I was out there every day desperately fanning fledgling sparks to ignite my practice. Until the fire caught, I woke up each morning before dawn. Going out to promote myself and talk about the wonders of massage were the only ways to fan the flame. I did something every day to build my practice.

Starting a practice is, in many ways, the best of times. Many roads and crossroads (and dead ends) lie ahead. You live in limbo wondering what the future holds, eager to see how your story will progress. You’re excited to help people. You never know whom you will meet around the next corner.

As a young therapist, I had much more missionary zeal than I do now. Now my energies are directed toward helping all those wonderful people I’ve already met. I’ve little room for new faces.

You’ve got a fresh pocketful of flashy new business cards and (luckily) dumb optimism. If you understood the odds against launching a small business and succeeding, you might instead be an informed coward who did not try.

As the saying goes: not trying is the only way to guarantee you’ll never fail. Or succeed.

 Employee or entrepreneur? Which did you choose and why? Tell me at