April 5, 2016

Building a Wellness Business With a Heart.

Shelly McGregor article photo
I chose a career 20 years ago that allowed me to be true to a purpose of wellness. I chose teaching others and helping them achieve their health goals—while making decisions that had emotional connection to feed my soul.

I considered myself heart-centered, choosing and making decisions from a place of love, empathy and an understanding that life is fragile.

I was in my early twenties when I had an accident that shifted me to my core. I spent a month in a wheelchair, three months in a back brace and was told I likely wouldn’t run again. I received physical therapy for a year and at the end of all that soft tissue work, I changed my career path and started down the road to a career in massage therapy and self-discovery.

I also ran my first half marathon a few years later.

For the next ten years, I was a massage therapist with a focus on connecting to my passion for life, my experiences and my thirst to create change in myself and others. I was part of a clinic that was set up with contractors sharing rooms, each building our own massage practice and also working three other jobs to make ends meet.

Our clients didn’t have health spending accounts or insurance benefits for massage, but we were able to keep the lights on and pursue our passion for body work. We knocked on doors, volunteered in our community, built our network through donations of time while sharing our stories, passion and knowledge about the power of touch.

For ten years, I was in the treatment room building a practice…until my focus became building a business for others to create wellness one client at a time. I discovered I wanted to create a space, a business for other therapists to connect to their passion but also to make a living as a massage therapist.

A few years ago, it was common knowledge that the career life span of a registered massage therapist was only four years. Many could not make a living while paying high rents or build a business without a marketing budget. They struggled to stay connected to their heart purpose and chosen career path.

It is very difficult to graduate from a two-year program where the focus is on training students in soft tissue manipulation (massage therapy) and then expect to run a business. There are many certificates, diplomas and degrees that prove this to be difficult. Take dentistry, for example. Students graduate with a professional designation and skill, hang a shingle and then sign up for managing people, building a clientele, marketing and making sure they are fiscally responsible; they also have the highest suicide rate of all professions.

As a massage therapist who wants to start their own business, they need to consider many facets of running a clinic or spa. They will need to negotiate a lease, understand the financial responsibilities and legal obligations, interview staff, enter into contracts, understand scale of pay, investigate insurance options, establish a marketing budget, set fees and hope for profit. They will need to understand retention rates, data collection, privacy act, banking advantages and contracts for POS, negotiate supply chain, laundry services or equipment, office supplies, taxes, utilities, build business relationships and understand the difference between variable and fixed expenses while watching your overhead accumulate.

The list of responsibilities grows and the option for only making decisions in a heart centred way seems impossible.

It can be difficult to operate a business with compassion, empathy, joy and love but I think these five things have helped me run a successful wellness business while staying true to my passion to help others and be revenue positive.

1. Repeat often, “That is an interesting idea, let me consider it and get back to you.”
This allows you space and time to evaluate the pros and cons of any given decision while asking yourself if this change benefits the therapists, the client, or the business. It is important to listen to the wisdom of your emotional heart and power of your mind. Take time to ask yourself what decision has to be made to cultivate the idea, build momentum and then execute the change. As well, giving yourself time to answer allows the other party to possibly move away from the idea if they really are not committed to executing their new idea. No longer make quick decisions that will impact your business in unforeseen ways.

2. Be fiscally responsible.
I currently have thirty people who choose to work with me in my business. I cannot make decisions, adjustments, add marketing expenses or pay for big ideas without understanding consequences. It is easy to get excited about an event, cause or opportunity to spotlight your business; it is not a winning idea if you spend next month’s rent to do it. Your team depends on your conservative strategic thinking to keep the company in the black.

3. Listen to Understand.
This is a core value at our clinic. It applies to every conversation. Often we appear to be listening because our mouth isn’t moving but, in reality, most people are preparing their own opinion or point of view before the speaker is even finished. They want to rebut, be heard and often share their idea without actually understanding completely what the other person’s message really was. People want to be heard and understood. Slow down communication and let the speaker know you understand what their concern, idea, point, or value is by asking questions to further understand. Continue to ask questions, discover what the person really needs, wants and believes, this is how you build trust, understanding and value in relationships with staff, clients and business associates.

4. Remind your team, “This decision has nothing to do with how much I value you.”
Practice and share the fact that you have to separate your heart from your business and make decisions for the better good of all involved. Far too often we bend, sacrifice and offer more than we can give to one another…in life and in business. When we do this, the consequences can affect more than the two parties leaving people feeling resentful, depleted, unbalanced or betrayed. As the owner, I suggest you get comfortable steering the business in a direction that benefits the business…in turn this benefits the team that chooses to work in a successful clinic. Your team will believe in your conviction and trust the outcome—this is a win/win relationship for all involved.

5. Ask yourself “Why do I want to own my own business?”
Before you start a business or purchase a spa or wellness business, this question needs your deep consideration. Think about what values and desires you have that would make you choose the financial risk of signing a five-year lease over applying for the perfect job. Consider the team’s expectation that you will fill treatment rooms or classrooms. Ponder the idea of being the one person who cannot leave.

For years I was considered a peer as I worked with other therapists treating clients and sharing a common goal. As the business started to grow and evolve, I left the treatment room. The team started to refer to me as the owner, their boss. The owner was no longer generating income hour by hour in treatment and was being paid from the work of others. As my focus changed from the treatment room to creating a business that supported others, it also started to financially support me. The business grew and we were able to support more marketing, management, administration, as well as new decor and better equipment.

Choosing to be an owner of a business in the wellness world takes a heart centered approach, with a strategic and powerful mind.

You need to understand the impact you will have on your own life but also on the lives of the people that believe and support your dream—to help clients and therapists find balance and live a well-lived life.


Relephant read:

Hippie Karma: Learning to Live Without Plastic.

Author: Shelly Macgregor

Apprentice Editor: Lois Person / Editor: Sara Kärpänen

Image: John Haynes Photography/Flickr

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