Strategies for Getting a Grip

Is Your Business a Hot Mess or Are You on Solid Ground?

By Allissa Haines
[Blueprint for Success]

There are so many moving parts to an independent massage business. It’s easy to lose track of details and structure as a business grows. Now add that most massage therapists don’t have any training in running a small business and, well, things quickly can get disheveled.
If you feel like your business is running you, like you don’t have a strong grip on what’s happening day to day, it may be time to reinforce the foundation—the inner workings—of your business.
Why is this so important? I think the reason is twofold.
1. An organized business means less stress. Annoying tasks are accomplished easier and faster when you have handy what you need. It’s also easier to delegate tasks you dislike when you’re organized. Structure reduces the unknowns and instability of running a business. The work becomes way less work.
2. A smooth business is poised for success and growth. When you have your collective stuff together, you can jump on opportunities that present themselves. You don’t have to get ready because you’re always ready.
What follows is a whole bunch of work. Some of it will feel tedious and boring. But this work is also empowering. A strong foundation is what turns a massage hobbyist into a successful business owner. And this level of organizing your business is what allows you to define your future, instead of just letting it happen to you.

Client Information

Is it easy to call a client when a last-minute scheduling debacle occurs, or is it a nightmare of “Oh no! I don’t have the right phone number, and they’ll be waiting at my office alone!” proportions?
Ideally, all your client contact information will be in a spreadsheet or software program that is easy to access and update as needed. Individual client charts—electronic or otherwise—should accurately and securely reflect contact information, health history, and current medications, along with a record of visits and treatment notes.
If your system was never very organized or is outdated, it may be time to revise your routine. Ask clients for updates and record them properly moving forward. Yes, it can seem like a gargantuan task, but that effort can streamline record keeping and cost you much less time and effort in the long run.

Your Network

Off the top of your head, do you know which client or local business owner has sent you the most referrals this year? Or how many new clients you’ve had in the last month?
Keeping track of referral partners and activities in a structured manner goes a long way in nurturing relationships. You can do this on paper, on a spreadsheet, in the contacts program on your computer or mobile device, or in a fancy customer relationship manager (CRM) program (I’m a big fan of the free CRM at
Tracking where you get and send referrals and keeping their contact information and specialties handy makes it super easy to thank the right people and keep relationships strong.

All the “Other” Paper

Years of licensure forms, insurance policies, utility statements, and all kinds of paperwork will pile up both physically and virtually. Best case, it’s frustrating when you can’t find what you’re looking for. Worst case, you could find yourself in an emergency facing property loss or liability and unable to rebuild because you lost some paperwork or never documented your belongings properly.
Check your files and be sure you’ve got all the documents you need, including your licensure information, sales permits, insurance policies, list of property, etc. I like to scan these items right when they come in the mail, before I have a chance to lose them or forget, and store the originals in my file cabinet.
Likewise, have handy all your information for potential jobs and business networking. If you do corporate gigs or events, you’ll likely need a resume and references. Create a folder on your computer with your resume, references, and a short bio of 50 words or less, along with a head shot or logo in JPEG format. This saves a bunch of scrambling when an opportunity comes your way.

Tasks and Processes

Could you explain to someone else how to assemble a client chart or what questions to ask a client who is booking for the first time? Ideally, another smart massage-business owner could look at your setup, see how you do things, and catch on within an hour or two. Make note of all the things you do on a daily, weekly, monthly, and even annual basis, and all the procedures you follow.
This may seem excessive, and it’s certainly at the super-organized end of the spectrum. But imagine someone offers you a great business opportunity, but it will take a bunch of your time and effort. Could you quickly and easily delegate all your nonmassage work to an assistant? Or imagine you get injured and can’t be in the office for a few months. Organize your business so that a competent colleague can step in and easily handle the load without you needing to micromanage every detail.


Getting a grip on your finances is probably the most powerful business skill. When you have structure in your finances, you have more freedom in, and control of, your business.
If you don’t have a system set up yet, it’s time. Schedule some time, make a plan to learn software or spreadsheets to make it happen, set up an appointment with a bookkeeper—whatever it takes. Once you’re set up, you should be able to easily see how much you make, how much you spend, and what kinds of changes you want to make to that equation.
Want to retire early? Now you have the information to create an exit strategy and make a financial plan for that. Thinking of expanding and hiring employees? Your training manual is already started, you know how to reach your local business attorney to check out your contracts, and your bookkeeper can help you set up payroll.
A strong business foundation sets you up for opportunities, growth, and a happier career. Now get started!

Allissa Haines runs a massage practice and collaborative wellness center in Massachusetts. She partners with Michael Reynolds to create business and marketing resources for massage therapists like you at