Massage & Bodywork

SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2018

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A B M P m e m b e r s e a r n F R E E C E a t w w w. a b m p . c o m / c e b y r e a d i n g M a s s a g e & B o d y w o r k m a g a z i n e 83 Bodywise Wellness also performs its full share of support for community institutions, especially those engaged in artistic and scientific endeavors, whose activities may seem less directly connected to clinic success but support a vibrant community. Bodywise Wellness employees notice. "In this community, I feel proud of the work we do," Montgomery says. The Produc t Word-of-mouth recommendations from Bodywise Wellness's 8,000-strong loyal client base permit a modest advertising budget, while keeping bookings full. Typically, there are no openings for prospective clients calling in hoping to schedule a same-day massage session. Clinic fees are reasonable, especially considering the quality of assessment and therapeutic work provided. Sessions range from 30 to 90 minutes. For a 60-minute session, clients pay $65 for work with a therapist still progressing toward full certification, and $70 for a certified therapist. Tipping is neither encouraged nor discouraged; many customers do tip and 100 percent of tips go to the therapist who provided the work. Bodywise Wellness has a compensation structure that therapists describe as generous and fair. "People here make a good living. I net roughly double what I did in private practice," Montgomery says. "I feel well compensated for what I do," Taylor says. In 2017, total pay (including tips) for the five therapists working the most complete schedules averaged $48,250 for their clinic work. Therapists still working toward full certification earn $36 per hour-long session, and fully certified therapists (a majority) earn $42. The only drawback to this pretty picture of scheduling flexibility and generous pay is a thin array of fringe benefits. The primary offering by the company is a Section 125 cafeteria plan that enables pretax treatment of qualified expenditures for health and welfare of employees and their family members. Despite these thin benefits, typical of most massage therapy organizations, the many positive elements Bodywise Wellness provides its therapists has led to stunningly modest therapist turnover—merely 7 percent a year from 2014 through 2017. In 2017, Bodywise Wellness generated approximately $900,000 in revenue. As a corporation solely owned by its leader, looking at an income statement line labeled "profit" may not be meaningful without also considering how much in salary the owner draws. At Bodywise Wellness, the owner has elected to take a quite reasonable five-figure salary commensurate with the leadership responsibilities shouldered. She also earns compensation for client work she performs. Integrating these compensation, facilities, and session-pricing decisions, Bodywise Wellness earns approximately 5 percent profit before tax. That result is highly respectable. The company's/ owner's earnings level has been highly consistent, including right through the 2008–2010 recession and the subsequent arrival of national competition. It is obvious that the driving force is not owner profit maximization. Rather it is to provide a good living for loyal therapists, to keep services affordable for community clients with varying incomes, and to contribute toward improving the massage therapy profession. Ask Davidson about economic success and you are unlikely to get an economic answer. "What drives success is passion and commitment to service," she says. There is considerable honor in this model. No wonder Bodywise Wellness employees display considerable pride about their contributions and choose to stay. What resonates above all at Bodywise Wellness is authenticity. Honesty in describing the benefits and limitations of the work performed. Genuine respect for learning and the valued contributions of each employed therapist. Fair compensation. Collegiality and support. Individual client attention coupled with intentional work to address pain. Living the talk. Appreciating the community in which work is being performed. It is a model from which each of us can learn. Postscript This clinic operates in a modest-sized metropolitan area in the American heartland. It is a community with a relatively stable economic base and mostly reasonable living costs. Why feature it? Both the clinic owner and I desired to illustrate what is possible and to encourage others to create similar establishments. While many massage therapists derive satisfaction from individual practice, work in a chiropractic or physical therapy office, or affiliation with a national franchise organization, those are not the only career choices within the massage therapy profession. We hope graduating therapists will look more broadly into career options. For those readers already on a conventional path, might you summon the courage to consider a different model? This profession could use more Natalie Davidsons. She and I both would be exceptionally pleased to see individuals with an entrepreneurial spark, a passion to teach, a drive to help address client pain, and a desire to lead to consider forming their own clinic—modeling important aspects of Bodywise Wellness. Such an enterprise, incorporating an atmosphere of respect and collegiality, can be immensely rewarding for a founder and a team of therapists alike. Most important, such an enterprise offers immense benefits for clients in need of improved body health. Bob Benson is chairman of Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals.

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