20 Ways to Improve Your Practice Right Now

How to Get to the Next Level of Success

By Les Sweeney and Kristin Coverly
[Business Side]

If you’re like us, you sometimes seek (or, more honestly, need) motivation. Whether it’s diet, exercise, work, or even column-writing, external inspiration can serve to give us that little kick-start to get started on an initiative or see a project through to its completion. So here are a few morsels to take you toward that next level of success, be it personal or professional, financial or emotional. While we think all 20 items have merit, don’t feel the need to pursue all of them at once—pace yourself!
1. Put Your Room to Work
Kristin Coverly: For the most part, your massage room’s job is to shelter you and maintain a serene and therapeutic vibe. If that’s all it’s doing for you, though, you’re letting it off easy. Put it to work! Take advantage of the walls and shelf space as opportunities to communicate important information to clients in a tasteful way that fits with your overall décor. Post a sign promoting your gift certificate sales, package plans, and referral program.
2. Buy Yourself Something Nice
Les Sweeney: This does not need to be, and should not be, a giant cinnamon roll from Cinnabon (although that does sound delicious … mmm ... Cinnabon). But think about what you need, not what you want. Need to get in better shape? Buy yourself some running shoes, a gym membership, or a couple sessions with a personal trainer. Overscheduled? Treat yourself to a retreat, a spa day, or a good ol’ one-hour massage. The idea here is to help you improve at something, not simply indulge. But once you identify that something and address it, then you may get a Cinnabon.
3. Integrate a Technique of the Week
KC: Challenge yourself to learn one new technique to use in each of your sessions this week. If you have an hour, visit the ABMP Education Center and watch one of more than 100 webinars from leaders in the field. Only have five minutes? Visit ABMP’s YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/ABMPmassage/videos) for short technique videos.
4. Become a Data Scientist
LS: Even though “data scientist” is now the hottest job out there, we’re not suggesting you change careers. Actually, we’re suggesting you nose around your booking records. What do you know about your clients? When was their last session? Do they have any brothers, sisters, spouses? Dig in to your client database details and construct a plan to maximize your session time from it. And you don’t have to be a computer whiz to do this, either.
5. Connect with Colleagues
KC: Non-bodyworkers always think our jobs are so social; we get to see people all day! But the adjective many therapists use to describe their private practice is isolating. We crave interaction with colleagues to share and help each other brainstorm new ideas and solve problems. Plan a colleague catch-up in the next few weeks. Set a consistent time to meet—breakfast the first Friday of every month—so these inspiring get-togethers don’t get lost in the shuffle of busy schedules.
6. Brand Yourself
LS: No, not with a cattle iron. Do you have a professional persona? How do your clients, and potential clients, perceive you? Do you have professional marketing materials that set a certain image? Take 30 minutes to think about how you want to be perceived. Once you’ve done that, put a plan in place that results in a stronger professional perception of The Brand of You.
7. Find a New Midday Pick-Me-Up
KC: On work days, we tend to think of our phones and tablets as business tools, using them for online bookings, client communication, and credit card payments. Tap into the more inspiring benefits of technology and turn your tablet into a self-care resource. Download meditation, yoga, and stretching apps to use between sessions and at the beginning and end of your day. Find the tech teacher who’s right for you with a quick search in your app store.
8. Don’t Watch TV
LS: This is difficult, because we love TV! You can still watch it, but pick one night a week to do something other than watch the tube, and use that time to improve your practice. Read a book (here’s a cool one: The Obstacle is The Way, by Ryan Holiday), or check out some of the webinars available on ABMP.com—yes, kind of like watching TV, but learning, too! ABMP members get their CE credit for free, because that’s how we roll.
9. Plan aN INspirational Retreat
KC: In all that spare time you have, how often do you sit down and plan the future of your practice? When I ask that question at an ABMP BizFit Workshop, every once in a while I see a raised hand, but most of the time people just laugh at me. Make the time. Set aside one hour to several days—whatever you can fit in your schedule—to analyze where your practice is today (what’s working, what’s not), create a vision for what you want it to be, and plan the steps to make your vision a reality.
10. Try Something New
LS: This fresh wisdom can be practice-related or just for fun/personal improvement. An awesome guy we work with learned to play guitar so he could make music with his son. Some of us have been dumb enough to run marathons. Have you ever thought, “I wish I had learned to do that”? Well, it’s not too late. New technique/modality, public speaking, or juggling. Whatever. Go for it!
11. Change Your Website
KC: Don’t panic! I don’t mean completely overhaul your website, I mean change at least one thing on your website to keep it updated and give people a reason to return to it. Add a photo of you doing hands-on work or a video of you introducing yourself and your practice. Reorganize your pages. Refresh your language and descriptions. Make sure your package plans, referral program, and specials are highlighted and up to date (nothing says “I’m not paying attention to my practice” like a November special that’s still on your home page in July).
12. Volunteer
LS: You have a crazy skill you want to share—massage and bodywork! Give it to someone else. You’ll feel good about yourself, you’ll be a better human being, and it’s very likely you’ll grow your client base as a result.
13. Make Something
KC: Do you need to create a new marketing piece—business cards, gift certificates, postcards, referral program cards, etc.— but keep putting it off because it feels too intimidating? Use your ABMP member discount with Vistaprint to easily create professionally printed materials. Or pop on www.canva.com to create your own social media graphics and other design projects.
14. Go Old School
lS: Appointment calendar looking a little anemic? Try some shoe-leather sales and marketing. Do a little cold calling, and hand out 50 business cards this week, but make the person pick one from the deck. Include one free massage among them and a couple generous discounts. But fortify every one with some small gift (a free 10 minutes, or something like that), so that everyone wins.
15. Freshen Your Forms
KC: How often do you have clients fill out new health history forms? I suggest you do it every year. I know that sounds tedious, but here’s why it’s useful: clients are much more likely to write down a new injury, medication, or emergency contact on a form than they are to remember to tell you in person. This also gives you the opportunity to update your forms and add items like a checkbox that gives you permission to send them emails.
16. Balance Your Checkbook and Your Practice—At the Same Time
LS: If you’re in private practice, have you thought about working at a facility as well? There has never been a greater employment demand for massage therapists. Adding some work at a spa or franchise facility may provide an interesting balance in your practice. Regardless of where you currently practice, if you are seeking a little more green in your wallet, you may consider a part-time job in a different setting. Therapists have told us over the years that working in an entirely different setting—retail, or an office environment, for example—provides them with a good alternative to massage and bodywork and keeps them fresher in their practice.
17. Form a New Relationship
KC: I’m not referring to online dating, but good luck if you’re out there. Find one new business or group with which to partner. It could be a company that buys gift certificates for their employees or a real estate agent who buys gift certificates as closing gifts for clients. Agree to put an esthetician’s business cards in your office and vice versa. Arrange to speak to a local mom’s group or give massage at a bicycle club’s season kickoff event. Get out there and connect with your community in a
new way.
18. Create a “Week” of Your Choosing, Just Because
LS: Did you know this week is Bring My Dog to Massage Week? It’s not, but if you have an awesome dog, maybe your clients will like having him around. Or make it “Client Appreciation Week,” because your clients will love it. Or have a music theme week, and play that type of music in your session. Massage and bodywork is not loud or raucous, but we can make it fun. Make it fun.
19. Pat Yourself on the Back
KC: In the midst of all of this self- and business-improvement, don’t forget to celebrate your successes—big and small. Have you built your client list from 10 to 50? Celebrate! Did you launch your first successful Bring My Dog to Massage Week? Acknowledge it! Create a visual timeline tracking your practice from launch date to today with successes marked along the way. Start a “smile file” with positive client feedback and reminders of your achievements to re-energize you when you’re having a challenging day. Rewarding yourself along the way gives you the motivation you need to inspire future triumphs!
20. Go For a Hike
LS: Whoever said after a hike, “Well, that was a waste of my time”? Answer: no one. You’ll feel better, and it’s a great place to clear your mind and think about important and nonimportant stuff. Now that you’ve read this, take a break and go!

Les Sweeney is ABMP’s president. Contact him at les@abmp.com and read his blog Expect More, with Les, on www.abmp.com. Kristin Coverly, kristin@abmp.com, is the manager of professional development at ABMP and creates resources and teaches workshops for therapists across the country. Both are massage therapists with business degrees who care about you and your practice.