Your Business Action Plan

3 Steps to Transform Your Practice

By Les Sweeney and Kristin Coverly
[Business Side]

Need to jump-start your practice? In this column, we tackle what we feel are the four key areas—schedule, income, expenses, and marketing—that are fundamental to building a healthy, vibrant practice.
A quote we like to use around the office is: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” For us to help you make progress in transforming your practice, we need to break it down into three concrete steps—track, plan, and act.
The track-plan-act process will guide you through evaluating where your business stands in each of the key areas and then through planning, setting goals, and creating action steps for each area.
(Note: ABMP members, download the accompanying “Business Action Plan” worksheet from

In the tracking step, you’ll collect as much data about each of the different areas of your practice as you can from your business spreadsheets or office management program. Even though it may feel like a lot of number crunching and maybe even a bit overwhelming, this data is incredibly useful for you to take an honest look at where your practice is today and set goals for growth and change. So, let’s embrace some numbers and statistics!
Determine the following stats about your schedule for as far back as your data allows: total number of sessions per year, total number of sessions per month, total number of sessions per week, average number of sessions per week, and session totals for each day of the week.
Once you have your data, start to look for trends. Is your annual number of sessions increasing or decreasing? Which are your busiest and slowest months? Which days of the week are your busiest and slowest? Are these stats consistent year to year?

Use the planning step to identify what you want and need for your practice and create your goals.
Use the data from your tracking phase to shed light on areas of your schedule that need some improvement and to make decisions about your practice. For example, if Mondays are consistently slower days, you may choose to shift your schedule to take time off that day and add more session times to your busier days, or you may choose to run a special promotion to encourage clients to book sessions on Mondays.
Identify what days and hours you want to work. This can change over time as your life and practice change, so periodically evaluate whether your schedule still works for you—and your clients.
In conjunction with the income section coming up next, identify how much income you need per week to meet your financial goals. There are two variables that make up your income: sessions and price. One approach is to set your financial goal, and then determine which is going to drive your action: your sessions or your price. Have a specific session price in mind? Then use that to determine the number of sessions you’ll need to perform. Or, do you know how many sessions you are willing to perform? Then use that number to determine your price (one that still works in your market).

Based on your goals from the planning step, create definitive action steps you can take to move your practice from where it is today to where you want it to be. Write the detailed steps of how you’ll promote Monday sessions or how you’ll shift from working every Saturday to every other Saturday. Is August always slow? Block out your online calendar now to take time off when your clients do.

Use data from your financial spreadsheets or practice-management program to organize your income into different categories. For this exercise, we’ll use gross income, meaning your income before taxes. Determine the following for as far back as your data allows: total income per year, total income per month, total income per week, average income per week, and income by day of the week.
Also, determine where the majority of your income is coming from. Which modalities, services, session lengths, etc., are the most popular and profitable for you? Ideally, your more popular services are also the most profitable per session.

Based on the averages and trends you discover from your data, start making some decisions about how you’re earning money. Is it time for a rate increase? Can you step up your marketing efforts to promote more of the services that are your most profitable? Would it make sense to start selling products?
Set goals for how much income you need per year and per week to meet your financial goals and translate this figure to a number of sessions per week. Look, too, at how it would impact both your schedule and income if you were to increase the length of your average session—say from 60 to 75 minutes—through marketing efforts.

How are you going to make your goals from the planning step reality? Break those goals down into smaller, easier-to-attain action steps. What marketing ideas are you going to use to promote longer sessions and your hot-stone massage upgrade? Which products will you sell to clients as a test to see if that’s a viable option for you? What steps will you take to meet your goal of increasing your average weekly income by $100?

Let’s take an in-depth look at your expenses. How much are your average, and somewhat fixed, monthly expenses like rent, cell phone, etc.? Are those monthly expenses more or less than last year? When are your occasional expenses—like state license renewal—due? How much do you typically pay in quarterly or annual taxes?

The goal with expenses is the same as doing the limbo: “How low can you go?” It’s absolutely worth spending a little time to research ways to reduce your expenses, if you can. A famous businessman once said, “Expenses are like nails; they need to be trimmed regularly.” Easier said than done, but being prudent can make a difference.
Can you share your office space or move to a different office to lower your rent? Is there a less expensive cell phone plan available? Can you change your credit card plan to one with lower fees per client payment? Is it less expensive to buy your massage supplies in larger quantities? Are you taking advantage of all the discounts on products, supplies, cell phone plans, clothes, etc., that are included with your ABMP membership?
Plan ahead for expenses like taxes, state licensing renewal, association membership renewal, equipment purchases, CE classes, etc., by setting aside the appropriate amount of money each month. Nothing causes a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach faster than getting an invoice for an expense you haven’t planned for.

Make the changes that are best for your practice one by one. Need inspiration? Calculate how much you’ll save each month (and year) by doing a little legwork now.
Tip: keep your receipts! It helps reduce panic at tax time and allows you to maximize your business expenses, which reduces your taxable income amount.

Write down everything you’ve done to market your practice in (at least) the last three months. Include all your efforts—big to small—like giving massage at events, speaking to groups, creating a website, handing out business cards, maintaining social media accounts, promoting gift certificates, offering a referral program with incentives, etc. Look at the longer-range picture, too, and include your most successful efforts from your practice’s past.

Since marketing your business isn’t a magical once-and-done proposition, you’re going to be in the marketing planning phase pretty consistently if you’re trying to grow your practice. Use the data from the tracking phase to evaluate what’s working and what’s not. Are you still doing the strategies that led to the largest number of new clients in the past? Is so, do they need revamping? If not, is it time to bring them back?
Look around at what other businesses—not just massage and bodywork businesses—are doing. Would a monthly membership plan work for your clients and you? Explore it! Is it time for you to get out into your community and provide massage at local events? Start planning! With marketing, it’s important to maintain and improve what’s working, let go of what’s not working, and regularly try new things.

Marketing efforts can all too easily get pushed to the side while you’re maintaining a busy life and practice. Be proactive by creating a marketing calendar and planning a variety of marketing strategies each month. Partnering with a fellow therapist or complementary business helps you streamline your efforts, double your impact, and increase your marketing fun factor (yes, it’s a thing). The bottom line is you need to determine which marketing efforts are the most successful for your unique business and then plan and schedule ways to implement and maintain them.
Don’t stop there! Let the track-plan-act fever take hold and do this same process for other areas of your business like your physical space, skills (is it time for some continuing education?), and more!

Les Sweeney, BCTMB, is ABMP’s president. Contact him at and read his occasional blog posts on Kristin Coverly,, is the manager of professional education 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.