Many massage practitioners lead rather solitary lives.
The nature of this field is that while practitioners work with a variety of clients, their focus is, and should be, client-centered.
They most likely handle business operations by themselves, if self-employed, or office staff does those tasks if the practitioners work at a company.
Even practitioners in clinic settings often discover that little case management occurs.
This can lead to a deep sense of isolation, which can be an unwelcome surprise to the new massage practitioner.
Humans tend to function better in groups. Why not collaborate with colleagues?
Collaboration is key to a thriving, fulfilling, long-term career—particularly for people who are self-employed.
This is why you should consider partnering with other practitioners on a regular, occasional or even one-time basis.
It’s a lot more fun, productive and cost-effective to collaborate with colleagues.
Some common collaborative activities include supporting each other in business tasks, doing cooperative marketing, sharing office space, purchasing bulk items and educating the public.
Collaborate with Colleagues: Create Support Systems
Business support can take on many forms, including joining a mastermind group; apprenticing with another practitioner; finding or being a mentor; engaging in peer supervision; and sharing office-management tasks.
It’s vital to have ongoing support.
You might consider developing a mix of formal and informal support systems.
Get together with colleagues on a regular basis to talk about business challenges, brainstorm ideas and get support.
These informal meetings can help ease the stress of running a practice and are usually a lot of fun.
Also, you might find that collaborating with colleagues is useful. Someone in the group may really enjoydoing a certain task that you dislike, and you can help that person in return.
For instance, let’s say your office needs to be reorganized, but that’s not one of your talents.
Another member of the group loves to organize and decorate.
She also wants to be more active online but doesn’t know what to do, and you happen to be a technology wizard.
You could set up her social media accounts, update her website and redesign her newsletter, and she could give your office a makeover.
The support you give each other could also be on a smaller scale.
The two of you might set up a time to work on your own projects, but do it in the same space.
For example, I have a friend who was procrastinating about getting several writing projects underway.
I always have writing projects in the works, so we decided to support each other.
For several months, she would bring her laptop to my office once a week and we would both write.
We didn’t talk much, but just knowing we could ask each other for feedback was comforting.
We were focused and got a lot done.
Share Office Space
Many practitioners share office space.
An office space can range from a location where a group of massage therapists share equal space, to a multidisciplinary center consisting of several practitioners.
Sharing office space can significantly reduce your overhead: You only need one waiting room for everyone, and you can split the cost of a front desk person.
It’s a lot more enjoyable to have colleagues around, and it increases your personal safety.
A side benefit is that it can also increase the number of clients you see as a result of cross-referrals.
Of course, complications can arise, so it’s wise to have a specific written agreement about expectations, responsibilities and finances.
Purchase in Bulk
It’s usually more economical to buy supplies in bulk.
The problem is that it could take you a long time to go through a case of products.
This is when cooperative purchasing comes in handy.
One of the major categories of bulk purchases is office supplies, which can be easier and less expensive to buy in bulk from warehouse stores and online distributors.
Cooperative purchasing can also be helpful if you sell products in your practice.
You get better prices when you buy in bulk, and most distributors require minimum purchases.
This can be challenging if you are just starting to retail; are considering a new product but you aren’t sure how well it will sell, the products have a short shelf life or the products are expensive.
Cooperative marketing often increases the success of marketing activities, reduces the risks and costs, saves time and effort, and makes those tasks more enjoyable.
Pooling your resources helps you afford more imaginative, elaborate, expensive and long-term marketing projects.
These projects can include simple activities, such as you and a colleague placing each other’s brochures on your front desks; to more weighty activities, such as joint advertising, co-sponsoring a fundraiser, submitting proposals to corporations for your services, sharing a booth at a health fair, and giving presentations to the general public.
The public needs to be continually educated on the benefits, scope and credibility of touch therapies.
The more visible you are in the community, the better.
Public speaking is one of the best ways to promote our industry in general, and your practice in particular.
I realize that many people think they would rather die than speak in public, but you don’t have to do presentations and demonstrations alone.
Public speaking is much less intimidating and more impactful when done by two people.
I really enjoy public speaking, yet it’s still much more fun when I co-present.
Power in Numbers
Estimates gauge the number of massage and bodywork practitioners in the U.S. to be between 250,000 and 300,000.
Imagine if every practitioner paired with another practitioner and did 10 presentations each year on the benefits, scope and credibility of touch therapies.
Let’s also imagine that 15 people attend each presentation.
That would mean about 20 million people would hear about touch therapy each year.
This is just one example that illustrates how there truly is power in numbers.
Editor’s note: Download the free New Practitioner eBook, The Blueprint for a Successful Massage Career.
Cherie Sohnen-Moe is an author, business coach, international workshop leader and successful business owner since 1978. She has served as a faculty member at a massage school, acupuncture college and holistic health college. She is the author of Business Mastery and Present Yourself Powerfully, and co-author of The Ethics of Touch. She is a founding member of and is the current president of the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education. Visit massagemag.com/targetmarket to read Sohnen-Moe’s “Create a Target Market Profile.”