Tag Archives: bodywork

The Business of Massage – I mean CAM therapies

Originally published in WA State Massage Therapy Journal – Oct 2011 – Chase_WMTJ_2011-10_Business of Massage

This summer I have had the good fortune to work at the Samueli Institute in the Washington, DC, area. The institute, founded in 2001 by Henry and Susan Samueli, is a research firm dedicated to the scientific investigation of healing and its role in health care and wellness. Their focus includes complementary, alternative and integrative medicine, optimal healing environments, relationship-centered care, the mind and lifestyle in healing, health care policy, and military and veterans’ health. If you’re keen on industry findings, you may be familiar with them. If you’re new to the field or its emerging research, their name might be yet unknown to you. I would like to propose that the work of this institute and others like it is reshaping the field of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) around us in innumerable ways—and so it behooves us to pay attention.

While massage is often a standalone service in clinics or private practices (as in mine, I’ll admit), I’ve come to understand that research supporting the efficacy of our work is truly relevant if we are ever to be peers in comprehensive client/patient care. In short, I think CAM research is raising the bar for massage practitioners by generating quantitative and qualitative data meaningful to people outside of our field. Maybe you’re inclined to dismiss the importance of research regarding things you “already know,” e.g., that massage and complementary medicine are effective. I would suggest that the research isn’t necessarily for you, the practitioner. It’s for those who want nonnarrative-based support that CAM therapies work. Like it or not, the Western world craves scientifically validated results that go beyond empirical experience. So even if you yourself don’t need proof, are you willing to support agencies working nonstop to bolster our reputation to laypeople?

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Pain Management for Your Pocketbook

Let’s do some numbers – and I’ll tell you now they’re not pretty. The average bodywork session in the Northwest is about $75, from which we need to pay expenses and only after that try to get ahead. For a self-employed bodyworker, overhead includes rent, utilities and Internet, laundry service, insurance, lotion, tools, magazines, and tea, after which you finally get paid. Let’s look at an example of $800/month overhead for a one-room treatment space. Estimating revenue of $75 and taxes of approximately $6.75 per session (based on a 9 percent rate), where x = the number of sessions needed to cover overhead, ($75)x – ($6.75)x – $800 = breakeven. This comes out to slightly less than 12 sessions. For employers, whose overhead also includes wages to therapists, the breakeven is much higher—about 24 sessions. 24 sessions! This simple example accounts for just the basics; other expenses and higher taxes would increase these numbers.

As Daniel Pink explains in his national bestseller, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, “Too many organizations – not just companies, but governments and nonprofits as well … continue to pursue practices such as short-term incentive plans and pay-for-performance schemes in the face of mounting evidence that such measures usually don’t work and often do harm.”[i] Applying Pink’s theory to our industry reveals what I think is an important yet shrugged-off topic within the industry: demotivating remuneration plans.

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Sustainability as the foundation for bodywork economics

It’s hip to be “green” these days. But what does this really mean? Does it entail big sacrifices or cost a lot of money? How green is “green”? And where do I draw the line? I mean, massage is pretty green already – and I do have to stay in business, right?

In 1987 the Brundtland Commission defined sustainability as that which “meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” [1] That’s a pretty lofty goal!

The language of sustainability seeks to understand how we impact people, planet, and profit. These three together are called the Triple Bottom Line [2] and look at the whole picture rather than just the traditional measure of business success: profit alone. One could say that the Triple Bottom Line looks at profit through the lens of sustainability as a holistic perspective rather than just a symptomatic one. When we use only one of the three to evaluate profitability, the others suffer. But with all three in balance, we can thrive.

Think of this project as you would a client with injuries serious enough to warrant working together for a long time. In your heart, remember to hold space for success and full recovery. You’ll be amazed at what’s available to you with a framework for sustainability at the root of each decision you make in your business and your life!

[1] 1987 Brundtland Commission report Our Common Future.

[2] Coined in 1994 by John Elkington (the founder of a British consultancy called SustainAbility). Nov 17 2009 | From The Economist online