Practice, Practice, Practice
To broaden your opportunities in the future, take training now so you can develop spin-off businesses.
By Gerald Y. Kinro
Kathy Kawana had been practicing massage therapy for about 10 years when she felt a need to acquire new skills to employ in her practice. "This is a common burnout point for many massage therapists," she says. "I had to do something else so I could continue working. I could not envision doing the physical aspect of massage indefinitely."
Acupuncture seemed to fill that void, for age and physical strength would not be a deterrent. "Knowledge of the points and the ability to control the needles are the keys to performance," she adds.
Kawana enrolled in acupuncture school while still maintaining her massage practice. She took courses not only in acupuncture, but in herbology and nutrition as well. She graduated, became certified by a national commission, and became licensed by the State of Hawaii. Now she is able to practice to diagnose and treat accordingly. She offers various types of massage, acupuncture, or a combination of acupuncture and massage. Her training also enables her to use moxa and Oriental herbs with acupuncture.
This expansion has been fruitful. Hawaii's two largest medical insurance providers have recently recognized acupuncture and massage therapy without physician referral, and she has capitalized. New clients have come in while existing ones sought acupuncture treatment. Furthermore, her new skills address her original concerns, and will enhance her physical longevity in the profession she enjoys.
Why Difficult Times?
All businesses face challenges no matter how established they may be. Many fail. Simplified, one of the main reasons for business difficulties is a lack of revenue. From this we can further break down the problem into several specific reasons.
- Health or physically not being able to perform. We discussed the burnout factor as an example.
- Bad economic times. Many areas, Hawaii in particular, have not enjoyed the economic prosperity that blessed the rest of the nation. A steady decline of disposable income has forced many to put financial priorities in areas other than massage. Many existing and potential clients left to seek fortunes elsewhere. For many businesses it was a futile struggle for survival.
- increased competition is always a challenge for any business, even in the best of times. In a given area, there are only so many clients who will get massages. More therapists will dilute this available pool. For instance, another therapist opened a practice in a highly visible shopping mall across the street from Kawana's office. She acknowledges that this other business did lure away some of her long-time clients.
According to Big Ideas For Small Service Businesses, by Tom and Marilyn Ross, prosperity is a result of synergy (two or more things working together to produce a desired result). Going further, one way to survive and grow is to diversify into other activities. Its immediate result is added revenue and a broadening of the client base as discussed in the above example. In fact, many businesses are vitalized with new activity.
Diversification is a natural traffic builder. Clients who frequent the "new" endeavor often turn toward the original activity. In Kathy's case, this was massage. According to The Popcorn Report, a book of trends written by Faith Popcorn, this concept is called "cluster marketing." Popcorn says that products or functions that allow a customer to get more than one thing done at a time will be most successful.
Jan Schmidt of the Absolute Wellness Center in Hawaii agrees. "People like to get several things done at one place," she says. Schmidt, an ordained minister, is a model of a diverse practitioner. She came into massage therapy later, having started out as a spiritual counselor. She wished to do more for her clients, and attended classes to add massage therapy, healing touch, nutrition counseling, and hypnotherapy to her repertoire.
Each activity now complements the other, and she serves her clients with a holistic approach to health care. When a client first comes in, she has him/her fill out a questionnaire. After serious perusal, she decides what program is best suited for the client. "Most people come in for spiritual counseling," she says. "People have health issues and relationship issues. Later on they come back for more, usually for a massage or healing touch therapy. The health effects are usually the aftereffects of other stresses that is going on." Schmidt tries to get to the real cause.
In addition, Schmidt has recently written and published a book, Absolute Bliss, which teaches its readers how to find "bliss." Public appearances at book stores have given her even more exposure and the opportunity for workshops in wellness. She sees this as bringing in more clients.
Diversity Through Association And Sharing
Not all can acquire the skills of a Jan Schmidt. Still all can diversify. The ultimate in one-stop shopping can be illustrated in the case of Sophie Ann Aoki. Aoki is a massage therapist and aromatherapist who likes to call her work "essential oils therapy." She uses botanical extracts to help clients relax and to heal specific ailments. She is active in distributing these products, teaching classes in essential oils therapy, and incorporates them with massage.
Although well on the path to diversity, she recently opted to share work space at the highly-visible healing center, The Simple Journey, in Honolulu. There are about 10 other practitioners here, each offered a space to work yet given the independence of a self-employed person. Their disciplines are massage therapy, essential oils therapy, metaphysical counseling, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, reiki, nutrition, and feng shui. In addition, the center operates an attractive retail gift shop that carries Aoki"s oils. An arrangement like this is convenient for the practitioners. "Everyone takes a share and does not have to be here all the time," says Aoki. "It allows others to deepen in what I do and to honor the paths of others."
The Spiritual Journey is in a high traffic area that brings in many walk-ins. This gives opportunities for practitioners to offer regular classes in their craft to further increase their visibility and income. There is also a lot of sharing. "Often clients will be channeled from one discipline to another," says Cindy Mosher, metaphysical counselor and owner of The Simple Journey.
"When one comes in for something and sees other disciplines, there is tendency to try something else," Aoki concurs.
For The Good Of The Client
Each of these practitioners emphasizes that the prime beneficiary of diversification is the client. The combination of therapies has increased Kathy Kawana"s healing success by 20 percent, significant enough to elate any professional. "It elevates massage to a higher level," she says. "There is more knowledge to pass on to the patient."
If she suspects something wrong with the body, she feels and presses the various acupoints and meridians to detect potential problems. She often diagnoses ailments of which her patients are unaware. These are usually confirmed by the patients who, at the same time, are developing trust in her skills. Some of these diagnoses have uncovered potentially life-threatening conditions. Kathy speaks of a client with tender points that intimated problems with her lungs. Kathy suggested further medical evaluation. A physician's diagnosis confirmed lung cancer.
Jan Schmidt and Sophie Ann Aoki also look at the overall health and well-being of the patient and success follows. Jan advises therapists to go forward and not be limited. "Be open-minded. It not only helps the client but helps ourselves, too. With different disciplines, you can better address the root of a problem to avoid recurrence," says Schmidt.
Steps To Spin-Offs
Some of the examples listed require significant amounts of time and finances for training. While all practitioners say the investment was worth it, there are less-expensive alternatives.
Some activities evolve naturally. These spin-offs work best when attached to the main source of revenue. In the case of massage therapy, the revenue center is health care. In fact, all practitioners interviewed stressed that all healing deals with energy. This broadens the opportunity base. Clients get massages for better health, relaxation, for the treatment of injuries, for pain relief, for a better appearance, and for better energy. Anything that contributes to these is a potential spin-off. The following are steps to assist you:
- Evaluate your long-term goals. Where would you like to be 10 or 20 years from now?
- Evaluate your knowledge and skills. Do you know enough to achieve your goals? As a massage therapist, you already know a tremendous amount about health and the human body. You may be able to do something right now, or you could build on this core knowledge to enter other areas such as healing touch, reiki or acupuncture. Kathy Kawana found her ahead of her fellow acupuncture students. She was used to touching people and was already comfortable with patients, something you may take for granted. Her palpation skills made her a better diagnostician.
- Licensing. Some disciplines require licensing by state agencies, while some are already covered by your license in massage therapy. Some require none.
- Certification. While many arts like hypnotherapy do not require a license in many states, there are national boards that certify practitioners. Appropriate certification increases your credibility.
- Get training if necessary to meet all requirements.
Most importantly, do it!
Gerald Kinro is a freelance writer based in Hawaii. He can be reached at: [firstname.lastname@example.org].
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