Massage & Bodywork

MARCH | APRIL 2016

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HAVE CLEAR LONG-TERM FINANCIAL GOALS What started Kenny's process was having a specifi c fi nancial goal. Once he was on that road, he began to work on the particulars of achieving that goal— especially the emotional confl ict between the security of a spa job and the daunting prospect of establishing a private practice. I'd like to repeat what I told the class: income is only one aspect and by no means the only touchstone of a fulfi lling practice. As a practice grows, it may be wise to realize when you are busy enough and to say no to the allure of ever-more income if you begin to feel a slave to our culture's overemphasis on fi nancial success. I know quite a few therapists chasing the almighty dollar who bemoan their lack of leisure time, their fatigue, or even injuries from burnout. I RECEIVE A LOT OF EMAILS about some of the issues that come with establishing a practice—several practitioners happily report the gratifi cation they are enjoying in growing a successful and emotionally rewarding practice, and quite a few say they have found success by combining spa work and a private practice. I want to pass on a few of these success stories, because it saddens me when I see people undervaluing their skills, not having confi dence in their approach, or not visualizing their possibilities for success. Along the way, I will comment on some of the recurrent themes in these stories that are crucial for planning your long-term success. There are plenty of books and articles on practice building. Business skills and advertising/promotion are helpful and important to get your clients in the door. But after that, your future is in your hands, literally. To me, the key is not looking outside for marketing expertise as much as looking inside to clarify a vision of just what type of work you have passion for, and the specifi cs of the practice you would like to have. What possible roadblocks are hampering that dream, and what steps can you take to empower yourself? I'd like to share a letter I received from a student named Kenny whom I've had continued contact with for many years. Sometimes we talk about treatment- related questions, but we also discuss Kenny's vision of building a practice that is gratifying, both fi nancially and emotionally. "Dear Art, Your article in the March/April 2015 issue of Massage & Bodywork ["Where Are We Now?," page 74] about the massage profession reminded me of something we were discussing in one of your classes in 2008, right at the beginning of the recession. I was shocked at your response, when you were asked how much one could hope to make in an established practice, and realized that I had no clear goals and had never considered making that much. I was selling myself short. You did caution that it was crucial to recognize that income is only one factor in having a successful and fulfi lling practice. You suggested that a therapist must have clarity in his long-term vision, realize the things you can control and the things you can not (such as the economy, competition, and other factors), and distinguish your specifi c manual skills from the very different business and promotional skills, and especially distinguish yourself from the masses just doing massage routines. The beginning of the recession really hurt my business, and I knew I had to keep my focus, keep a positive long-term attitude, and specialize to survive, while still working at a spa for consistent income. Largely due to the techniques and concepts I learned from your classes, but also at your urging, I expanded to an eclectic view, studying Erik Dalton, Whitney Lowe, Til Luchau, Tom Myers, and others. I gained expertise and confi dence, and built a reputation as the go-to therapist at the spa when people had problems. Your emphasis on communicating with clients to fi nd their needs was the most important skill. So many people expressed gratitude for my sincere interest when their previous experience had just been to jump on a table and have someone perform the same routine they used for everyone. It took a few years to cut a day at a time from the spa as I built my private practice, but all the work was so much more gratifying anyway. Last year, I made the total transition to private practice and couldn't be happier. By the way, I easily surpassed that income you suggested, and I now have a lucrative profession … not just a job! The skills I learned from you and others were great, but I think having clarity in my goals, looking inside myself to fi nd what was holding me back, and having a long-term plan are what did the trick." Kenny LET'S LOOK AT SOME OF THE IMPORTANT THEMES BEHIND KENNY'S LETTER: NO. 1

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