Recession-Proof Your Practice: Advice from the Field

We asked “What can a massage practitioner do to recession-proof their business?”.

John W. Corry, RMT
Do a talk! While it is true that many people are terrified of public speaking, generating a conversation about Massage Therapy to a target group of people that interest you AND have near-recession proof occupations and benefits can provide “bread ‘n butter” clients!

Ten runners at a running/shoe store, 6 pregnant couples at their midwife company, your local firehall, 15 RN’s at every floor of a hospital!! (weekly “In-service” meetings). The staff at your dentist’s office,  the stressed teachers at your child’s school….

Jenn Hewitt, RMT
My advice is to develop strong professional relationships with local doctors and lawyers. These professionals are fabulous referral resource for RMT’s.  My clients regularly return to their doctor or lawyer with evidence based results from their massage treatments.

If an RMT can make a doctor’s patient/lawyer’s client feel better, those professionals are more likely to refer clients to your clinic.  I have not had any slow-downs during the recession. In fact, we have hired another RMT to handle the over-flow.  I also do not experience any seasonal slow-downs that many other RMT’s report.

Lily Starling, CMT
I have built a thriving practice in the midst of the recession in a little less than 18 months. I’ve hired three ICs, and between us we have over 500 clients.

Online booking (I use FullSlate but Timecenter is also a great one, and Genbook has integrated analytics) is the foundation of my practice.  It pulls 7-10 new clients into my practice every week without me having to talk to them on the phone. We’ve completely circumvented the need for a receptionist, at least at this stage in our growth.

The real key is that online booking captures a trend in communication and ease of booking. I give people the option of NOT having a conversation on the phone with a stranger, or waiting for a call or email back to schedule or confirm an appointment.  Consumer communication is moving into the world of technology and away from strictly verbal communication (for good or ill).  On-line booking allows people to book with us 24 hours a day, so we capture a lot of night owls and early risers who book before and after appointments.

Nathalie Roy, RMT
I never experience a lack of business. My secret is simple: I do a consultation, I assess the problem and I treat it with the best of my knowledge and abilities. Back pain will never run away in an economic recession.

In my long-time experience of receiving care from RMTs, regardless of what province I am in, I found very few RMTs take the time to properly consult and assess before treating. The pattern looks like this: Short consultation, hop on the table and rub the boo boo.

Most of the time, they don’t even book the next appointment!  Oh yes, sure my back muscles feel thight, but what is the (cause of the) problem??  When you don’t address the client’s problem, you are not raising remedial massage therapy to the level our profession deserves.

Don’t be afraid of doing your pathological test, to assess the range of motion of a joint, to address an associating condition….Get out of your confort zone.  Mark those findings in your chart, measure the progress, establish a treatment plan…in short, apply what you learned in school to your practice.  (After all), anybody can do a relaxation massage.

In time of recession, people will cut on relaxation massage because it is viewed as a luxury. When you are in pain, you are not viewing your treatment as a luxury but as a necessity.  If you can demonstrate in your practice that – in collaboration with your client – you can make a real and enduring difference in their quality of life, they’ll follow you no matter what and they’ll refer you all the time.

Joanne Scott
I have had a closed client list for years,
I work very hard, stay current and spread the love.
I have a passion, it is to heal.
I am the queen of self care. The message flows if you walk it .
I can focus, and my best tool is listening.
Intake can lead the way to a path of restoration and health like nobody’s business.

(BTW I love how Joanne ends her emails, “There is NO rush, Take a nice deep breath”…very good advice for all of us.)

Bob Jensen, LMT, RMT
My practice has really taken off since the recession began in the U.S.  I’ve gotten so busy that I actually had to stop accepting new clients in April 2011.  I increased my fees in Nov. 2011 and still find myself fully booked for weeks (and sometimes months) in advance.

So here’s my tip:  Focus your practice on working with clients who are in pain and don’t forget to give them ideas on how to correct their issues.  People in pain are willing to pay out of pocket to get relief.  They’ve been to one doctor after another seeking relief and have probably gotten a different diagnosis from each practitioner.

Each doctor treated the symptom, but usually not the underlying cause of the pain.
Personally I feel it’s because too many “specialists” have become too specialized and miss the larger picture. Most of my clients suffer from repetitive stress injuries or poor posture due to their profession. I work to relieve their pain but also educate them on ways they can make changes so their bodies begin to make the necessary corrections and the pains disappear.

Of course I know human nature… clients will slip back into bad habits and return yet again for additional treatments. It keeps me very busy.

Darlene Mapp, RMT

My business considering the economic situation is doing really well. It wasn’t about a year and a bit ago, but we have experienced an upward shift. I believe I am doing as well as I am mostly because I fell in love with my profession again.

I have been a therapist for 12 ½ years now and about 2 yrs ago I started to resent my work and certain aspects about it such as the lack of vacation time, lack of control over when clients wanted treatment the most, the fact that it can be so physically demanding on me when I have other parts of my life that are just as demanding and require my energy. I started to see a decline in client return. I was in a slump and was starting to get really agitated and bothered by the stuckness I felt. I was trying so hard to find other employment that would allow me to still continue with my business and yet be complementary to what I was doing. There really wasn’t any change until my attitude changed and I began to look at my situation from a different perspective. With some soul searching questions I discovered what I really wanted and needed and then started to take action.

I have for a long time wanted to take my 200 hour certification in Yoga, which I am now in the midst of. This in itself has opened up so many doors. Let me explain. I have worked with breast cancer survivors since 2004. The Breast Health Program here in Saint John had approached me about working with breast cancer survivors to help improve their ROM and pain levels. I absolutely love working with this group of women (and men…I have had one come through the program). When I took the leap (most financial leap) to taking my Yoga training my intention was to develop and teach a program for BCS.

In my Yoga teacher training I have met two lovely BCS’s and together are working toward offering a yoga program for women with cancers. I am now looking at other aspects to be added to my existing massage business that will bring me closer to working with this demographic that I enjoy so much. Things started to fall into place when I finally let go of the resentment and negativity and focus on the things I could do and positive points of my career and life. Since asking myself the hard core questions about what I really want to see happen in the short and long term with my business and then taking the plunge, I now have a renewed energy and passion for what I do. I believe this is the biggest reason my business has experienced an upswing. I have more desire to put the work into what I need to do to manage and grow the business. This has all had a positive snowball effect! I can honestly say I am excited about my massage career again…great place to be!

Jim Smyth, RMT

1. Review your existing files and phone clients who have not been in for a while. If you are uncomfortable phoning send a reminder card, or send an e-mail, or just send a card.

2. Now is the time for advertising. Use the most cost effective method but get your name out to the general public.

3. Send regular updates to doctors or other professionals who have referred clients to you.

4. Send Thank You cards to anyone who refers someone to you.

5. Book your clients next appointment before they leave your office. If they are unable to book, confirm that you will follow up in 2/3 days – and do the follow up.

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