Marketing Chair Massage



Marketing Chair Massage
Marketing Chair Massage and its companion Technical Assistance Package are the
handouts included in the TouchPro Marketing Seminar offered by TouchPro Institute. Most of the articles in this book were written by David Palmer, whom Massage
Magazine has called the “father” of Chair Massage. David is also the 1997 recipient of
the prestigious President’s Award from the American Massage Therapy Association
for his pioneering work in Chair Massage. He was the first to bring seated massage
to broad public awareness through his work at major corporations such as Apple
Computer. In 1986, he developed the first specialized chair for seated massage that
is the prototype for all chairs currently on the market.
Additional material in this book, primarily the sample letters, was developed by
Russ Borner, a Senior Trainer for TouchPro Institute, and himself a veteran of the
Chair Massage business.
The experiences of the many other TouchPro Trainers and Practitioners are what
form the practical foundation of the contents of this volume.
About TouchPro Institute
Referrals to TouchPro Practitioners are available through the TouchPro Registry.
Copies of the Registry are available by fax, post, and through the TouchPro website.
TouchPro also sponsors an annual convention and a publishes a member newsletter.
To reach TouchPro
If you are interested in attending a TouchPro Seminar or would like to be kept informed of Chair Massage actitivities you can contact TouchPro Institute by:
Telephone:(800) 999-5026
(415) 621-6817
Mail: TouchPro Institute
PMB 555
584 Castro Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
E-Mail: [email protected]
Resources for Creative Business Planning
TouchPro Institute
TouchPro Institute offers seminars across the United States, Canada, and in Europe
through branches in Rotterdam, Holland and London, England. International
certification in TouchPro Chair massage is awarded through the Institute to those
practitioners meeting the TouchPro standard of excellence.
Marketing Chair Massage
TouchPro Insitute is a non-profit professional association dedicated to training,
certifying, and supporting TouchPro Practitioners. The TouchPro approach was developed by David Palmer in 1986 out of his experience running a school of Japanese
Massage in San Francisco. Palmer and his trainers are all successful practitioners
who bring over 50 years of combined chair massage experience to the TouchPro
seminars. More than 7,000 bodyworkers have been trained in the TouchPro techniques and marketing skills. There are more people giving and receiving TouchPro
Chair Massage than any other style of the seated massage in the world.
Marketing Chair Massage
About this book
By David Palmer
and the Trainers of theTouchPro Institute
ii Marketing Chair Massage
by David Palmer
with assistance from
the staff and instructors of
TouchPro Institute
of Chair Massage
TouchPro Institute
584 Castro Street #555
San Francisco, CA 94114
© 1992, David Palmer
iv Marketing Chair Massage
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any
means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage
and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Printed in the United States of America
1 The idea of business.....................................................................................................................
Essential skills for running a business......................................................
Seven laws of money......................................................................................
Conscious business.........................................................................................
The paradigm shifts........................................................................................
Learning the rules of business....................................................................
Fourteen Key Attributes of Leaders..........................................................
Getting started.................................................................................................
Respect yourself...............................................................................................
2 Creating your business idea......................................................................................................
The “Truth” about Business...........................................................................
Starting a Business with Conviction.........................................................
Clarity: How to communicate your conviction.....................................
Change-ability: Mastering the inevitable...............................................
Creating your business idea.........................................................................
The rationale for business plans.................................................................
vi Marketing Chair Massage
Elements of a business plan.........................................................................
Budgeting your business idea....................................................................
3Defining our profession................................................................................................................
Strategies for inventing the future of massage....................................
Comments on Common Questions..........................................................
The role of personal care massage in the 90’s.......................................
20/20 Vision: The Next Three Decades of Massage ............................
Defining our professional identity............................................................
Industry-wide business standards.............................................................
The principle of full disclosure....................................................................
4 Defining your business...............................................................................................................
The importance of clear intention.............................................................
Designing timely services for your markets...........................................
Case study: Redefining your service for success..................................
Distributing the job of marketing..............................................................
Client analysis inside and out......................................................................
5 Chair Massage Markets...............................................................................................................
Chair Massage is now appearing…..........................................................
Whitewater massage......................................................................................
Natural marketing...........................................................................................
Sidewalk serendipity .....................................................................................
Conventions and trade shows: A primer.................................................
Convention setup............................................................................................
6 Massage in the workplace.........................................................................................................
Worksite Massage Locations:.......................................................................
Benefits of Chair Massage in the Workplace..........................................
Profile: Pacific Health Systems on the Job..............................................
Wellness in the workplace: A brief history..............................................
Front door vs. back door...............................................................................
Rules for selling chair massage...................................................................
Stress notes and quotes................................................................................
Massage and corporate health promotion............................................
Researching massage in the workplace..................................................
Needs assessment questionnaires............................................................
Current health statistics................................................................................
Four articles on stress in the workplace..................................................
7 Marketing tools..............................................................................................................................
Basic business tools........................................................................................
viii Marketing Chair Massage
idea of
ne of the underlying assumptions of this workbook is that massage is revolu
tionary. We have all seen how structured touching has the potential to change
the lives of ourselves and our clients, sometimes dramatically. And it doesn’t take
much imagination to believe that intimate relationships, parent/child interactions,
and even intercultural and international relations would all be less difficult if touching was a positive social value in our culture.
But besides being revolutionary on an interpersonal level I believe massage has the
ability to facilitate social change on a structural level. This notion arises from the
world-view that says how you do something is as important as what you do. What we
are doing is trained, intentional touching—massage. How we are doing it is primarily through various commercial transactions commonly called “business.” Thus the
premise of this chapter is that massage has the potential for revolutionizing the way
in which we do business.
In my mind there is no big mystery as to why bodyworkers have such a hard time operating a successful private practice or developing their own business. It is simply because they have not seen many models of doing business which are consistent with
the values which they believe in and try to embody in their massage work.
Massage is a relationship which works best, as all relationships do, when it is based
on honesty, openness, and mutual respect. Unfortunately, these values are rarely to
be seen in the prevailing business mentality. So the practitioner who graduates with
high ideals from a bodywork school soon finds herself in a curious conundrum. She has
gotten involved in bodywork so as to avoid the values practiced in the business world
and now finds that she cannot earn a living unless she somehow learns to embrace the
business world.
What’s a bodyworker to do? The first step is to rid your mind of the myth that business is somehow inevitably evil. Business, like gunpowder, has no inherently positive
or negative value. Only when we start using it to make either beautiful fireworks or
deadly bullets does it acquire a moral aspect. Business is merely a structure, or scaffolding if you will, used to deliver needed goods and services from one person, or
group of persons, to another.
Our profession has the opportunity to participate in the development of a whole new
way of doing business—honest, conscious business. But the search for an honest
business, like Diogenes in search of an honest man, is ultimately an inner quest. What
is it in our own thinking which prevents us from creating and operating businesses
which reflect the values of our work?
The following articles all address the idea of business. The first three present a variety
of ways to think about your business and about yourself as a businessperson. They
are written by people who have some practical advice and inspirational comments
to stimulate your thinking about the nature of business. The fourth piece presents a
chart which spells out some fascinating differences between the characteristics of
business of the past versus business of the future. The next two selections discuss
what essential knowledge you need to have to create a successful business and how
to go about acquiring those skills. The final article is an object lesson in what happens
when a massage business does not operate honestly and openly.
Essential skills for running a business
classic beginner’s book on running a business is Small-Time Operator by
Bernard Kamoroff. In it he lists three characteristics which you should already
have, or be willing to develop, in order to start a business.
1. The first and most important characteristic is a clear head and the ability to organize your mind and your life. The “absentminded professor” may be a genius, but he
will never keep a business together. In running a small business, you are going to
have to deal with many different people, keep schedules, meet deadline, organize paperwork, pay bills, and the list goes on. It’s all part of every business. So if balancing
your checkbook is too much for you, or you just burned up your car engine because
you forgot the oil, maybe you’re not cut out for business. The work in a small business
is rarely complicated, but it has to be done and done on time. Remember, this is going to be your business; it’s all up to you.
2. A second important characteristic is the ability to read carefully. This isn’t meant to
be facetious. Most of your business transactions will be handled on paper, and if you
don’t pay attention to what you’re doing, you could miss out. You may receive special orders for your product; you will be billed by your suppliers in all kinds of ways,
sometimes offering discounts if you are prompt in paying; and you will have to fill out
a lot of government forms, and the instructions for these forms are sometimes tricky.
If you mess up, these agencies have the most aggravating way of casually telling you
that you’re going to have to do it all over again.
3. A third important trait is, if not a “head for numbers,” at least a lack of fear of numbers. Tax accountants get rich off of people who look at a column of six numbers and
panic. It doesn’t have to be that way. The math involved in running a small business is
mostly simple arithmetic—addition, subtraction, some multiplication.
This excerpt was copyrighted in 1987 by Bernard Kamoroff and is reprinted with the
permission of Bernard Kamoroff. If you are interested in receiving a copy of SmallTime Operator: How to start Your Own Small Business, Keep Your Books, Pay Your
taxes & Stay Out of Trouble, it is available for $14.95 postpaid from Bell Springs Publishing, Box 640, Laytonville, CA 95454, telephone (707) 984-6746.
The idea of business
Seven laws of money
n 1974, long before “prosperity consciousness” became one of the darling
phrases of “new age-speak”, Michael Phillips wrote a book which has become something of a classic for those concerned with understanding the nature of money and
how it works in our world. The book is called The Seven Laws of Money (Random
House). These “laws” are really meditations about the illusion which we call “money”
and serve as a vehicle for examining our own ideas about that illusion.
Michael, who lives part of the year in San Francisco and part in Japan, brings some
convincing credentials to the subject. Until the age of thirty-one he was a hot-shot
vice-president at Bank of America. He was one of the people who was instrumental
in creating and implementing the Master Charge card. Since leaving the confines of
the traditional money world he has developed a consulting business to hundreds of
small businesses in the United States. He also writes significant books and gives workshops on various business topics.
The following is an abbreviated introduction to each of the seven laws. If this appetizer stimulates your mental juices, go buy the book and have the whole meal.
1. Do it! Money will come when you are doing the right thing. The first law is
the hardest for most people to accept and is the source of the most distress.
The clearest translation of this in terms of personal advice is “go ahead and
do what you want to do.” Worry about your ability to do it and your competence to do it, but certainly do not worry about the money.
2. Money has its own rules: records, budgets, saving, borrowing. The rules
of money are probably Ben Franklin-type rules, such as never squander it,
don’t be a spendthrift, be very careful, you have to account for what you’re
doing, you must, keep track of it, and you can never ignore what happens
to money.
3. Money is a dream—a fantasy as alluring as the Pied Piper. Money is very
much a state of mind. It’s much like the states of consciousness that you
see on an acid trip. It is fantasy in itself, purely a dream. People who go after it as though it were real and tangible, say a person who is trying to earn
a hundred-thousand dollars, orient their lives and end up in such a way as
to have been significantly changed simply to have reached that goal. They
become part of that object and since the object is a dream (a mirage) they
become quite different from what they set out to be.
4. Money is a nightmare—in jail, robbery, fears of poverty. I am not expressing a moral judgment. I am making very clear something that many people
aren’t conscious of: among the people we punish, the people we have to
take out of society, 80% or more are people who are unable to deal with
12 Money is also a nightmare when looked at from the opposite per­
spective—from the point of view of people who have inherited a lot
of money.
The Western dream is to have a lot of money, and then you can lead a life
of leisure and happiness. Nothing in my experience could be further from
the truth.
Marketing Chair Massage
5. You can never give money away. Looked at over a period of time, money
flows in certain channels, like electricity through wires. The wires define
the relationship, and the flow is the significant thing to look at. The fifth
law of money suggests that by looking at the gift in a larger or longer-term
perspective, we will see that it is part of a two‑way flow.
6. You can never really receive money as a gift. Money is either borrowed
or lent or possibly invested. It is never given or received without those
concepts implicit in it. Giving money requires some repayment: if it’s not
repaid the nightmare elements enter into it. A gift of money is really a
contract; it’s really a repayable loan, and it requires performance and an accounting of performance that is satisfactory to the giver.
7. There are worlds without money. They are the worlds of art, poetry, music,
dance, sex, etc., the essentials of human life. You know that you cannot live
on the star; it is not physically a part of your life, but rather an aid to orientation. You are not going to reach this star, but in some sense neither are
you going to reach your destination without it to guide you.
Conscious business
n one of my favorite books on spirituality, Chop Wood, Carry Water, I found the
following entitled Fourteen Lessons I’ve Learned Trying to Manage a “Conscious
Business.” They are written by MiraBai Bush.
1. See your business as an organism, alive, always changing—a process, not
a static institution, requiring continual and spontaneous awareness to be
managed effectively. Like the Tao, if you think you know it, you don’t.
2. Practice compassion and empathy. The basic truth that we are not separate
from one another is as central to relationships in business as it is to relationships in the rest of life. Competition is healthy only when we remember that
it is also true that we all are cooperating in a much larger task
3. Keep close to the ground. Use common sense and simple solutions.
Be wary of acting out of a concept of how things should be. The gut (or
hara) is the center for business (informed, of course, by love and wisdom).
4. Work on creating a happy workplace. Benefits, like appropriate salary,
health insurance, vacations, etc., do not make people happy; they keep
people from being unhappy. Happiness in the workplace comes from a
challenging and satisfying relationship with one’s work.
5. Care about your product. You are adding more “stuff” to the environment.
Make sure it’s in harmony with your values.
6. Continually articulate the values of the business. The daily demands of every work situation tend to eclipse the deeper motivations.
The idea of business
7. Create effective strategies—it helps you remember that business is a
game. It also gives flexibility and strength. The martial arts have taught the
Japanese a great tradition of honoring strategy. The wider your choice of
possible responses to a situation, the greater your chance of success.
8. Always tell the truth. If this seems contrary to the demands of American
business, read Gandhi.
9. Don’t get in it for the money. Recognize that a healthy, growing business
needs to be profitable, but if your central intention is to become rich, it’s
not worth doing.
10. Keep the rest of your life alive and diverse. Remember your other priorities.
Don’t get confused about whether to attend a cash-flow seminar or your
child’s Christmas play. Take lots of vacations. Meditate or do whatever reminds you that you are not only the person behind the desk.
11. Encourage personal growth. It increases productivity.
12. Hire people you trust, people who share your values. It’s almost always
more important than skills.
13. Know that the end never justifies the means. The process is it. The end is
conditioned by the means.
14. Be playful. The world doesn’t make sense—don’t forget!
The paradigm shifts
assage practitioners have long recognized the revolutionary nature of touch
ing—how it can dramatically effect a person’s life by altering how they relate to
themselves. We also readily acknowledge the obvious social implications, that people
who are more “in touch” with themselves are likely to be more sensitive to others
around them. But consider that massage is also part of the revolution in the way in
which the business infrastructure of our country provides goods and services to its
Many of the bodywork entrepreneurs are refugees from the nine-to-five world and
realize that there is something inherently dehumanizing about how businesses traditionally treated their employees and their customers. As Paul Hawken notes in his
book Growing a Business, you can’t expect people to like their job if they are treated
as “resources” instead of as human beings. So where do we get our models for evolving humanized businesses? How do we avoid all of the pitfalls of the past? One good
way would be by talking to someone who has lived in both worlds and can describe
their differences.
John Sculley, the current president of Apple Computer and former president of PepsiCo, has written an exciting book (with John Byrne) about his personal transformation from a traditional corporate executive who played strictly by the old rules, into a
leader who is instrumental in creating the management style of the future. The book
is called Odyssey, and is available from Harper and Row.
14 Marketing Chair Massage
While the book makes fascinating reading on many levels (including the mention of
the chair massage which was done in the Macintosh division by my business, Pacific
Health Systems) one particularly useful chart (reprinted on the next page) contrasts
the management paradigms between so-called second and third wave companies.
The first wave of companies were developed for the agricultural age, the second
wave for the industrial age, and the third wave businesses are now being created for
the information age.
Once massage practitioners understand the differences between second and third
wave organizations we can begin to create an industry for the future, and not one
which mimics inappropriate values or styles. Whether we are running a small private
practice, a chain of retail massage facilities, or a national association of bodyworkers,
the following chart could serve as a blueprint for our developing massage industry.
Management paradigms chart: reprinted with permission from Odyssey by John Sculley.
Second Wave
Third Wave
Market share
Market creation
Source of strength
Genetic Code
Goals/strategic plans
Affordable best
No compromise
Personal growth
Title and rank
Making a difference
The idea of business
Better sameness
Meaningful differences
To complete
To build
Learning the rules of business
usiness is one of the great games of life. Every culture has some form of com
merce which moves goods and services from people who have them to people
who want them. There are two components to every business—its structure and its
process. The structure of business includes those rules and regulations, set forth by
the universe or by govern­mental bodies, over which a businessperson has little or no
control. The process of business is the sum total all of the components which we do
control, such as our business idea itself and whatever skills, resources, and creativity
we bring to bear on the implementation of that idea.
This article is about the structure of business, not its process. Business is structured by
the laws of nature and the laws of people.
Universal laws
Although the universal laws of nature which govern business are mostly common
sense laws, they are frequently violated by people who are carried away with the
ingeniousness of their business idea. Entrepreneurs ignore them at great peril. The
ones which follow are probably the most important ones. Read through them carefully and consider whether your business idea might be trying to defy one of these laws.
Law of market demand - Quite simply, you can’t sell something that nobody wants.
One example of this is the saunas-to-Swahilis notion. That is, if people don’t need
something, they won’t buy it. Another situation is where your idea has arrived before
(or after) its time. Medieval Italy was hardly ready to buy a helicopter, despite the fact
that Da Vinci had a good idea.
Law of market awareness - This second law points out that you can’t sell something
16 Marketing Chair Massage
nobody knows about, even if it is a timely business idea. Advertising, public relations,
word-of-mouth referrals, mail solicitation, and “cold calling” are all ways that a business can get its product or service known to its target market.
Law of distribution - Your business must have a way of actually delivering the product
or service to the consumer. Some businesses ask the customer to come to them and
others will go to the customer. Often times new businesses will “piggyback” on top of
an already existing distribution system, for example, a table practitioner who works
through a chiroprac­tor’s office, or a chair massage practitioner who offers seated
massage as one item in a menu of services provided by a corporate health promotion
Law of solvency - This law states that the income of your business must at least equal
the expenses within a reasonable period of time. Many thousands of businesses violate this law every year and end up filing for bankruptcy.
Laws of the land
Besides the universal laws governing the marketplace, each nation creates its own
set of laws about how the specifics of business will be conducted within and across
its borders. In the United States there are three primary levels of regulation for business—local, state, and federal.
Local governments (cities, counties, townships) create ordinances to deal with issues
such as zoning, public health, fire and safety codes, fictitious business name registration, certain business licenses, and local taxes.
State governments regulate the legal form of your business (corporation, partnership,
sole proprietorship), bankruptcy, contracts, securities regulations, insurance (liability,
health, unemployment, disability), employment regulations (health, safety, discrimination), statewide trademark registration, certain business and professional licenses,
and taxes.
The federal government oversees all interstate and international trade, patents, federal trademarks, and copyrights, national employment regulations (health, safety,
discrimination, minimum wage), the Social Security system, and taxes.
Your state and regional federal offices will be happy to send you a complete packet
of information detailing the laws which every business must know about and abide
by. If you are going to be employing other people, make sure that you ask for information about appropriate employment regulations. Often times many employment
laws do not apply to businesses with fewer than five or ten employees. Your city or
county clerk or tax collector will also be a helpful resource in informing you of local
ordinances which apply to your business.
The language of business
To demonstrate that you are abiding by the many financial laws which govern business enterprises, a special language called “mathematics” is used. The math isn’t complicated—an understanding of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division will
do—but the way it is used in business sometimes is.
Fiscal management is composed of three categories. The first is budgeting, which
tells you where you think you are going financially. These projections need to include
cash flow (which projects how much money you will actually have to spend), profit
and loss (which projects your business income and expenses), and a balance sheet
(which is a projected statement of the assets, liabilities, and net worth of your business).
The idea of business
The second category is bookkeeping. After you budget for and start your business,
there is the mechanical process of entering how much money comes in or goes out,
when, and for what purpose.
The final category includes the reports of what actually happened financially in your
business in terms of cash flow, profit and loss, and your balance sheet. By comparing
the actual to the budgeted for any period you can know whether you are on the right
track or need to revise your plans.
The rules of business may seem intimidating at first, but then so did swimming, playing
the piano, or learning a language. Perhaps you can even remember how overwhelmed
your first few weeks in massage school made you feel. But the best advice is to approach business with a light heart and remember—it’s only just a game.
Fourteen Key Attributes of Leaders
here are questions that come up predictably in any discussion of leadership
and one of the most popular is ‘What qualities do leaders have that the rest of us
do not have?’” writes John W. Gardner in Attributes and Context, the 6th paper in a
series of 12 he is producing on leadership for the Independent Sector.
“For many years, those who conducted research on leadership sought to identify
universal traits of leaders, but it proved a frustrating quest,” writes Gardner. “There are
no traits that will guarantee successful leadership in all situations. The leader of a university faculty may have quite different attributes than the commander of a military
attack team. This is not to say that the situation or context is everything and the attributes of the individual nothing. What produces a good result is the combination of
a particular context and an individual with the appropriate attributes to lead in that
He gives 14 qualities found in varying degrees in real leaders:
1. Physical vitality and stamina.
2. Intelligence and judgement-in-action.
3. Willingness (eagerness) to accept responsibility.
4. Task competence.
5. Understanding of followers/constituents and their needs.
6. Skill in dealing with people.
7. Need to achieve.
8. Capacity to motivate.
9. Courage, resolution, steadiness.
10. Capacity to win and hold trust.
11. Capacity to manage, decide, set priorities.
12. Confidence.
18 Marketing Chair Massage
13. Ascendance, dominance, assertiveness.
14. Adaptability, flexibility of approach.
Other papers in the Gardner series are: 1) The nature of leadership (introductory considerations); 2) The tasks of leadership; 3) The heart of the matter (leader-constituent
interaction); 4) Leadership and power; and 5) The moral aspect of leadership.
Each of these papers may be orders at $1 per copy, or a subscription including all
12 titles to date and to come at $12, from IS Leadership Studies, 1828 L Street, N.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20036.
Getting started
ernard Kamoroff notes in his book Small-Time Operator that reading is one
of the important skills to acquire for running a business. I agree. It’s the cheapest
and fastest way I know of to acquire most of what they teach you in the M.B.A. programs, without having to put up with the inevitable institutional bullbleep.
The most painless way to learn something totally unfamiliar, like another language or
business rules, is by reading a little bit about the subject every day. Fortunately there
is a readily available publication which offers a complete course in business for only
pennies a day—it’s called the business section of your daily newspaper. If you don’t
live in a major metropolitan area, subscribe to the best paper of the one nearest to
you. If there are no large newspapers around have the New York Times, Los Angeles
Times, or the Washington Post sent to you in the mail. Particularly when you start,
reading the same paper every day is helpful because there is usually some internal
reporting cycle and standard presentation style to each publication.
How you read it is particularly important. Spend a minimum of fifteen minutes every
day and force yourself to look at every article and columnist in the business section.
Read at least the first two paragraphs. In the beginning 90% of what they are talking
about will make no sense to you. But after 6 months 75% of it will be comprehensible
and you won’t know how it happened. Not only will you be able to talk and think
business, but you will have the added bonus of knowing about your local business
climate. Watch which names get bandied about week after week. Notice which companies are hot and which ones are on the skids.
If you’re on the fast track and have the time, money, and energy, subscribe to the Wall
Street Journal. Read that two hours every day and your business education curriculum will be reduced to two months. The WSJ is also indispensable for those who want
to play business on a national (or international) scale.
Useful supplements to your minimum daily business requirement are weekly or
monthly magazines. Barron’s, Forbes, Business Week, and Fortune are the primary
weeklies but you may be less intimidated, and more informed by, some of the monthlies. There’s a slew of them on your newsstand such as Inc., Entrepreneur, and Venture.
Also notice the business magazines oriented toward women—Savvy and Working
Women for example. A lot of times these articles are much more accessible than
those written for people who already have some background in business. The two
The idea of business
magazines which I subscribe to are Inc., which inevitably inspires and stimulates, and
one which is not often seen on newsstands, In Business (18 South 7th St., Emmaus, PA
18049), which focuses on socially conscious businesses.
Then there are the books. I have used books to help me how to sell a house without
a realtor, fix my own car, bake a wedding cake, and even how to design and lay out a
newsletter. The power of books to transmit information and ideas is awesome. Here is
an annotated list of a few of my favorites from the business realm.
Books about business
The Seven Laws of Money, Michael Phillips, Word Wheel and Random House. This is
the definitive book on the idea we call “money”. This will help you understand why
you don’t need money to be happy or to start a business.
Starting On a Shoestring, Arnold S. Goldstein, Ronald Press. Goldstein’s book will
give you a practical suggestions about how to accomplish a start-up without a lot, or
any, money. A little overenthusiastic in the “Let’s all get rich, kids” vein, but filled with
sound advice.
Honest Business, Michael Phillips & Salli Rasberry, Random House. If you believe that
honest businesses can be successful too, this will reinforce and undoubtedly expand
your conviction.
Growing a Business, Paul Hawken, Simon & Schuster. This is the companion book to
a 17 part PBS series which you can bug your local affiliate to broadcast. This book is
currently at the top of my list of “must reads” for anyone who does not wish to separate human values from economic values. Excellent examples of various aspects of
business development including some from his own successful companies.
Small-Time Operator, Bernard Kamoroff, Bell Springs. All the basic financial, legal, administrative, and inspirational advice necessary to get you off the ground.
The Partnership Book, Clifford & Warner, Nolo Press. A partnership is two or more
people splitting the profits, or losses, from one enterprise. If you are in a partnership
or considering entering one, whether you plan to write it down on paper or not, this
book is an absolute must. It is the best and most readable book on the subject and
contains numerous plain-English examples of partnership agreements.
Business Mastery, Cherie Sohnen-Moe, Sohnen-Moe Associates (602)-744-0094. This
self-published book is written specifically for “healing arts” practitioners. Its workbook
format will take you through the process of deciding whether self-employment is for
you, through planning, skills assessment, and self-management tips.
Running a One-Person Business, Whitmyer, Rasberry, Phillips, Ten Speed Press. Excellent manual filled with hundreds of practical suggestions for developing and maintaining a business. I guarantee there will be many nuggets which will make your running your business more efficient and enjoyable.
How To Read A Financial Report, John A. Tracy, 2nd Edition, Wiley. More than you may
want to know at the moment, but if you ever apply for a loan, or expand from a private practice to a business with employees, this book will make the subject of fiscal
management comprehensible.
Marketing Without Advertising, Michael Phillips & Salli Rasberry, Nolo Press. This is
the first marketing book you should read. New in 1986 the hypothesis is that the best
marketing is personal recommendation, i.e. posi­tive word-of-mouth. That is particularly true for our profession which is built on the personal relationship. The bulk of
the book is how to go about generating personal recommendations and is done in
20 Marketing Chair Massage
workbook style.
Guerrilla Marketing, Jay Conrad Levinson, Houghton Mifflin. There are a number of
similar books on the market that deal with low-cost marketing. This is one of my perennial favorites. As you peruse the business section of your local bookstores you will
find others.
The Publicity Handbook, David R. Yale, Bantam Books. Every massage practitioner
should know something about publicity so that when you do something exciting you
know how to write a press release, and when a reporter shoves a microphone in your
face you know what to say. This is one, but others will do.
Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Peter Drucker, Harper. Well no, in all honesty, this
one is not required reading. But you should know that Drucker is considered the seminal thinker on the nature of business in America. All of his books become immediate
texts in the M.B.A. schools. This is his latest and, surprise!, it happens to deal with a
subject dear to my heart. He isn’t easy, but he’s worth it.
On readers and reading
Three quick notes on different types of readers. The first bit of advice is for those
personalities who would rather read than do. Books contain ideas. Ideas don’t work,
people do. So get off your duff and start putting the meat of experience on your
ideas. The best time to read a book on starting a business is after you have already
begun working on one. You will read it much faster and it will make a lot more practical sense.
The second is for those who think that reading is a substitute for thinking. It isn’t. The
more you read the more you will notice that everyone has their own formula for running a business. No two are ever the same. All of the formulas, however, are true, even
when they contradict one another, because they reflect the personality and experience of what works best for the writer—not the reader. You will have to create your
own formulas. If you want to run a business without thinking, go get an M.B.A..
The third note is for those people who don’t like to read. Give it a try anyway. You
may find that it comes much easier when you are in the middle of running a business.
Every time you pick up a business book you will get an immediate reward—new and
useful information. Not all business books are boring. The ones I have recommended
are all very kind to the reader. If you can manage this newsletter, you will have no
trouble with these books.
Whether or not you are a reader there are other ways that you can learn the business
game and keep up with what’s happening where.
Other ways to learn about business
Workshops are relatively painless ways to get specific skills in a short period of time.
If you hunt around you may not have to pay for a $100 a day seminar. As you read the
daily business pages, frequently there will be notices of workshops. If you are within
calling distance of a Small Business Administration office (look in the White Pages under U.S. Government) you will find that, despite cutbacks, they are still offering free,
or inexpensive workshops.
Check also with your local Junior Colleges and Universities. Everybody’s trying to
cash in on the entrepreneurial boom. You may luck out and find a program specifically geared to the budding businessperson. In San Francisco, for instance, Bank of
America cosponsors, with the city, a four month night course for people starting new
The idea of business
enterprises. It covers all the basics of business plans, marketing, fiscal management,
legal and administrative issues. All for about $300. As a bonus students also get to
rub shoulders with live loan officers, and business leaders.
Useful workshops can appear in the oddest places. Take Pacific Telephone, for instance. They offer free one day workshops in telemarketing. You’ll learn everything
you wanted to know about talking on the phone and take home a big binder of information.
Another, more expensive, way to get yourself educated is by hiring consultants.
There are two things I tell consultants when I hire them. First, I expect them to make
me more money than I spend to pay them, and, second, I expect them to teach me
whatever they know so that I won’t need them any more. The first consultant I ever
hired discovered that the bookkeeper for the non-profit I was running had forged the
signature of my predecessor and stolen over $5,000. We got the money back, many
times more than his fee, and in the process he taught me all I have ever needed to
know about bookkeeping, fiscal management, and consultants.
Finally, hanging around people who are in business is one of the best ways to get
skills and information. Talk with other massage practitioners and join any local support groups, AMTA chapters, or other networks of bodyworkers. Grazing with your
own kind is a way to keep current on professional issues and is always provides an
important emotional support system. Also consider becoming a member of a local
business group such as the Chamber of Commerce, particularly if they sponsor workshops and offer other opportunities to get together with local businesspeople. Local
contacts in the business community are invaluable when you want to find a good
lawyer, or accountant, bank loan, or perhaps even some new clients.
The resources for mastering the business game are all around you. Choose people
to emulate whose values and standards of success you would like to duplicate. And
don’t take the whole thing too seriously.
Respect yourself
“I don’t get no respect!” Rodney Dangerfield’s complaint is echoed in a hundred different forms by massage practitioners frustrated with the lack of seriousness with
which our culture treats our emerging profession. Being required to take tests for
sexually transmitted diseases, always feeling like massage is not legitimate unless the
medical establishment says we are, and allowing quick buck artists to take over and
reap the financial rewards of our efforts all tend to put us on the defensive and lower
our self-esteem.
What’s the solution? How do we get “them” to take us seriously? Aretha Franklin
counsels: “If you don’t respect yourself ain’t nobody else gonna give a good hoot.”
The idea is that we need to sweep our own house clean first on this respect business.
Here are some suggestions for increasing self-respect.
First, we need more practitioners who believe they will be doing massage for the rest
of their lives. Many people use massage as a way to make money while they are wait22 Marketing Chair Massage
ing for their big break in the dance/theatre/singing world, or as a stepping stone to a
“real” medical career like physical therapy, acupuncture or medicine, or as an adjunct
to something else they are doing like nursing or psychotherapy, or even as a conscious way of working through their own touching issues.
What is most needed in this profession, however, are practitioners who have made
massage their first love, who at this moment do not even consider the possibility that
there is any other work that they would rather be doing. For these people massage is
a vocation, a word which comes from the Latin verb vocare, meaning “to call”. These
people feel as though massage has chosen them more than they have chosen massage.
I don’t mean to exclude those to whom doing massage is an adjunctive part of their
work lives, or a means to another end. These practitioners also do meaningful work.
Rather I simply want to emphasize the fact that people who consider themselves to
be in a long-term permanent relationship to massage think about themselves and
their work quite differently from those who don’t.
For example, lifers realize that, if they want to be doing massage when they are fifty,
then they had best be taking good care of themselves now. Regular movement and
stretching exercises, some form of meditation or quiet time, getting outdoors regularly, good nutrition, healthy intimate relationships and friendships are all elements
in a sound personal maintenance program. As has been noted many times, you can’t
take care of others for long unless you learn how to take care of yourself.
A self-maintenance program also increases self-respect by helping to avoid the hypocrisy trap. If you recommend to your clients that they should get a massage once a
week and you are lucky to get one twice a year you are in the middle of a philosophical inconsistency which will some day make you hate yourself and your profession.
Practice what you preach.
In a long term relationship with massage you also understand that you don’t have to
get all of the goodies right away. You can be patient with yourself and don’t need to
pretend that you have all of the skill, wisdom or financial success of someone who
has been doing massage for 20 years. You can also be patient with massage knowing
that, like all relationships, sometimes it will be boring and other times bursting with
excitement and that both times are equally important and valid.
Secondly, we must also respect ourselves as a profession. Massage has been around
at least 5,000 years longer than contemporary biochemical medicine. We stand second to none as a health care modality. Most of the problems we have as a profession
are related to our own confusion about massage. We should be asking ourselves, and
each other, every day the
”big questions”: What is massage? And who does it serve? What is its role in the healing arts?
Like the blind men and the elephant, practitioners working in one modality or located in one part of the country think that the elephant is like a tree trunk because
they feel the leg, or like a snake because they are holding onto the tail. Massage is a
very big elephant. Any profession which has had a 5,000 year old history is bound to
be extremely complex and multifaceted. The more we understand the nature of our
work the better we will be able to respect ourselves and each other.
No one practitioner has all the answers. That is why we create groups and associations—to understand ourselves and our profession and to communicate that under23
The idea of business
standing to the rest of the culture. Massage requires support services of the highest
integrity and maximum involvement from all dedicated practitioners. If you don’t
belong to a local or national group either join one or start one. If you do belong,
make sure you get involved in its activities. Subscribe to Massage Magazine, Massage Therapy Journal, and any regional newsletters to keep yourself in touch with the
whole elephant.
Thirdly, we must also learn to play the business game with integrity. Business is a
structured way of providing goods and services to people who need them. This way
of doing business is fun, useful, and morally satisfying. Some people think that business is a way of making money. That attitude results in boring people providing poor
quality goods and services to customers they think are dumber than they are. Practitioners who practice massage the first way respect themselves and earn respect from
others. People who practice massage the second way don’t.
“R-e-s-p-e-c-t, tell you what it means to me.” In a word respect means freedom. When
we nurture our own self-respect we are free to be our own person, to make our own
decisions based on what we believe to be right and appropriate. Self-respect is the
rock solid foundation on which all of our dreams can be realized. Thanks for letting
me sing along, Aretha.
24 Marketing Chair Massage
ecently a practitioner stopped by my office to ask my advice on marketing her
bodywork skills. She had graduated from massage school about six months previous and was trying to get a private practice started while still working her 9 to 5 job.
How could she find clients who were available to her in the evenings and on weekends, she wanted to know. After describing to me all of the various places she had
gone looking for customers it became obvious to me that, although she had a service
to offer, she didn’t really have a business.
To operate a massage business, or any business, it’s not enough to have a product or
service to sell. Likewise don’t mistake the trappings of business—the bookkeeping
system, business cards, answering machine, etc.—for the business itself. The element which sparks life into a business is the business idea. Why am I doing what I am
doing, what exactly is it that I am doing, and who am I doing it for? Without a clear
vision of the purpose of their work, practitioners become confused, frustrated, and
Having a business without a vision is rather like sitting in a rowboat in the middle of
the ocean. Being able to row and having a boat is not enough. You also have to have
an idea about where you want to go, otherwise you end up floating around for the
rest of your life never getting anywhere. And don’t be concerned, after you do decide
on a course of action, that you haven’t made the right choice of direction. The fact is,
the only bad choice is when you make no choice.
The articles in this section deal with the process of developing your business idea
and getting it down on paper in the form of a business plan and budgets. Ultimately
your best business idea is the one that reflects your deepest dreams and ideals. These
articles prod you to look at yourself first before you decide what direction you want
to go. They require lots of work and participation from the reader, so grab your oars
and start rowing!
Creating your business idea
The “Truth” about Business
n this first section I am offering a series of articles on four elements that I believe
to be essential characteristics of a successful business. They are the “Four C’s of Business: Conviction, Clarity, Consistency, and Change-ability.” I have been talking about
these elements during the six years that I have been teaching business workshops
and, the more I explore them, the more convinced I become of their value. However,
having said that, I now feel obligated to offer a short disclaimer to prevent any misunderstanding of their potential worth to the reader.
Nonfiction writing is just about the most linear of all of the possible forms of communication. When you read a business article, for example, you expect to see ideas presented in a clear, logical fashion: major and minor premises, followed by supporting
arguments, and conclusions tying them all together. This type of writing you can literally diagram in an outline form. Indeed, when I write, I almost always use an outlining
program on my Macintosh computer to help organize my ideas and my newsletter.
The purpose of nonfiction writing is always explicit—unlike fiction, poetry, dance,
music, or painting where the message is implicit in the form of the communication.
Unfortunately for us business writers, the ultimate nature of reality is that it is essentially non-linear. Whether you are a philosopher or a physicist, the further you dissect an idea or an atom the more you realize that reality doesn’t make logical sense.
Philosophers accept the fact that life is not fair, just like our mothers always assured
us when we got blamed for something we didn’t do. People do go hungry, without
shelter, and with only rags to wear even though we have the resources to assure that
the basic needs of everyone will be met; senseless wars are still being fought; and
the good do sometimes die young. Likewise, physicists now know that the nature of
perceived reality depends on entirely on the point of view of the observer—light is a
wave and a particle. They also know that an atom at one end of the universe and affect and atom at the other end of the universe.
None of these things make sense to our logical minds, and yet they are all true.
The reason I feel compelled to point out the nonlinear nature of reality to my readers
is so that when I begin articles that give you the impression that there are four essential elements to a successful business you will understand that I am not telling you
the truth. Or, more accurately, I am not telling you the capital “T” truth. The ultimate
Truth, like God, cannot be experienced, or described by our logical, linear minds.
Truth is a whole body experience that is best described by artists whose work speaks
to us as much through form, as through content.
All I can do is give you my, necessarily, linear interpretation of my personal experience of Truth. That is one filter. Then it goes through a second filter when you read
what I write and your brain interprets my interpretation. Sound complicated? It is, but
take some comfort that is could be worse. I could have gone to business school and
be trying to sort out my experience of the truth about business from what I had been
taught were the accepted “truisms” of business.
My commitment to my readers is to only write about the nature of business as I have
personally experienced it. But since I am writing in a linear, logical style, inevitably it
can only be an approximation, an oversimplification of the Truth about business.
The four “C’s” of business could have easily been the five “C’s”, or the three “P’s”, or the
eight “T’s”. The point is, my job is to stimulate your thinking, not to tell you what to
18 Marketing Chair Massage
think. As you create and work in your own business you will develop your own simple
rules-of-thumb to remind you of what is important in the business process. Every successful business has its own unique rule book. These rules reflect your values, intentions, and core beliefs about what you are doing. They are ways to distinguish what
you are doing from what everyone else is doing.
So as you read the articles in this issue, or any article by anyone, remember that I am
not telling you the Truth. No one can. Honest.
Starting a Business with Conviction
onviction, I believe, is the most important quality that an entrepreneur can
nurture. Simply defined, having conviction means that you are doing what you
know you are supposed to be doing.
In a society committed to allowing each citizen to reach his or her highest potential
the unlimited range of choice is both a blessing and a curse. Our greatest difficulty is
not walking our path in life, but rather finding it. There are too many paths before us
and our culture has not given us the skills to determine which one is the one we were
meant to travel.
Consider the state of our relationship toward work in the United States. If you asked
most people whether they would be working in the same job if money was not a
consideration, the vast majority would choose to be doing something else. This is a
fact we implicitly recognize in the creation of the concept of retirement. Retirement
is a totally modern invention that is held up to be a reward for doing work all your
life that you don’t enjoy. People with fulfilling work lives don’t choose to stop simply
because they reach a certain age. They demand to continue realizing that meaningful
work is essential to good health and well-being.
Why don’t people enjoy their work? For a number of reasons. First because, in the
core of their being, they may not believe in the value of the product or service that
they are creating. Imagine what types of psychological denial must exist among
workers in the tobacco industry in order for them to be able to sleep at night. Contrast that with the easy conviction about their work that comes to someone working
in the solar energy field. Of course, these examples are the obvious extremes, but
most people, with a little soul searching, can see whether their work is life affirming
or life destroying.
Second, people don’t enjoy their work because they have no emotional or economic
investment in the company they work for. They often feel trapped by economic circumstances into doing work they don’t like. They are little different from the indentured servants of past centuries both in how they are treated and how they perceive
their role in the workplace.
The problem lies with the socialization mechanisms contained within the family, the
government, the schools, and even our religious institutions. By the time a citizen
is ready for the workforce self-esteem has been trampled, spontaneity has been
crushed, and the connection with our inner voice of truth—conscience, if you will—
Creating your business idea
has been broken. Our socializing mechanisms were designed to create a dependent
workforce, rather than an independent citizenry—docile factory workers rather than
self-motivated entrepreneurs. People feel powerless and apathetic. Even when we
have power, such as in the election of government officials, the majority of us are too
apathetic to exercise that power.
We have been so manipulated by Madison Avenue marketing techniques that we
aren’t able to separate our wants from our needs. How can we possibly be expected
to know what our path in life is when we don’t have the skills to find it or the self-esteem to even begin searching for it?
I suspect that we won’t find the answer by looking at the people who have not been
able to find their path. Rather we will find it by studying the people who walk in this
world with conviction.
The people of greatest conviction that I have read about in history—Christ, Gandhi,
Martin Luther King, and even Mother Theresa living today—all believed that the
purpose of life was to be of service to others. Whether you are rich or poor, there is
always a path of service that we were meant to walk. Our first job then is to find that
path and, when we do, to walk it with love in our hearts and a smile on our face.
Bodyworkers are lucky. We are, by definition, in a service profession. Our work clearly
makes a contribution to individuals and to society. Most of us got into this work, not
because we thought we would get rich quick, but because something deep inside of
us felt called to this work. The literal definition of the word “vocation” means “a calling.” Bodywork is our vocation. We do not so much consciously choose this work, as it
chooses us.
People with true conviction are unstoppable. They know in the very core of their being that what they are doing is what they were meant to be doing. Conviction is what
gets us through the inevitable ups and downs of business. With conviction problems
are not barriers, but rather challenges. The idea of doing something else other than
the work we love is unthinkable.
Conviction breeds enthusiasm and enthusiasm is like a magnet. As a marketing tool
there is nothing as powerful as true conviction. One of the marketing truisms from
the traditional business world that I happen to agree with is that the person who
believes in what they are selling will always be more successful than the one who
does not. On that premise corporations spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year
on training programs for their sales staff. Unfortunately most of the money is wasted.
What they are training salespeople in is how to act as though they believe in what
they are selling, little more than a sophisticated form of brainwashing. It is a manipulation of their sales staff so they can manipulate their customers.
Conviction can never be imposed from the outside. It is something which arises from
within. Beware of “motivational” speakers. The emotional lift is like a shot of heroin:
it may make you feel good at the time, but it is short-lived and ultimately leaves you
feeling empty. True motivation is simply another result of conviction. Belief in your
work is what motivates you to get out of bed early in the morning and stay up late at
night. Conviction instills meaning into even the most mundane parts of your work.
With conviction the lines between work and play become blurred. People who love
their work feel like they are the luckiest people on earth. They feel like they are always
on vacation. When bodyworkers do go on vacation they almost inevitably find themselves giving family or friends a massage. What better gift of friendship and love?
20 Marketing Chair Massage
How do you know if you have conviction? In this regard conviction is like love. If you
are not sure you’re in love with someone, then you’re not. True love and real conviction fit the wearer so naturally that they leave no doubt about their authenticity.
Another test is to ask yourself if you would do this work even if no one paid you for it.
The path of service is not a conditional one. It is a leap of faith into the void that one
makes because to do anything less would be a failure of courage.
Conviction must be nurtured. It is not enough to simply have conviction about your
work. You must also have conviction about the business path you have chosen to
express your work. This is harder to do. Most bodyworkers have a strong conviction
about the importance of skilled touch. However, it is equally important to have a
strong conviction about your business idea: how you define your service and how
your define your target market. Beauty massage for the high end salon set? Luxury
massage at the spa? Health maintenance massage at the workplace? Corrective massage at the clinic? Once again, search your inner self to find the business idea that if
the best vehicle for your to offer your skills. It may take some false starts, but if you
trust that your path is waiting for you, eventually you will find your way.
My own personal experience is that, most often, the path is right in front of my nose.
My ongoing task is to learn to trust my body and not my brain to tell me if I am on my
path or not. I rarely feel like a leader because I am too busy following my path.
To find your path takes faith, to begin walking your path takes courage. But from then
on it’s a piece of cake. When you are on your path you are in the Tao, as the Buddhists
say. Life becomes easier, lighter. Decisions become obvious. Resources seem to appear out of nowhere. When you do the work you love, the work that you were meant
to do, you become like the proverbial lilies of the field. “They do not labor or spin. Yet
I say to you that not even Soloman in all his glory was dressed like one of these. If that
is how God clothes the grass of the field, will he not much more clothe you? Seek first
the kingdom of God and righteousness, and all things will be given to you.” And, from
the same source, we are told that the kingdom of God is within us. The quest for conviction begins, and ends, there.
Clarity: How to communicate your conviction
hile having conviction about your work is the essential first step to a success
ful value-based business a second tool, clarity, is required to effectively communicate your conviction to the rest of the world.
This concept of clarity has a number of important characteristics as it applies to business.
Creating your business idea
To be clear presumes a commitment to be honest, to tell the whole truth about your
business. This is the business standard that I call “full disclosure,” which I have written
about previously. When entrepreneurs are not honest about their business it is generally because either they don’t know the whole truth about what they are doing, or
they are afraid that if people found out the whole truth they wouldn’t buy the service.
If you don’t know the whole truth about your business, which is often the case when
someone is just starting out, then your responsibility is to own up to the fact that you
are beginner and are still getting your act together. All too often new bodyworkers
are embarrassed by the fact that they have little experience.
The question feared most by bodyworkers beginning their professional career is, “So,
how long have you been doing massage?” But rather than fudging an answer new
practitioners should proudly announce the fact that they are a beginner and boy, am
I ever excited. A beginner’s energy is filled with conviction and the inspiration and
excitement that conviction breeds. Don’t be ashamed of being a beginner, celebrate
it! You only get to be a beginner once so try to hang onto the feeling as long as possible. Your enthusiasm is infectious and is one of your marketing strengths because it
is pure and spontaneous.
A commitment to honest business is a commitment to an ongoing exploration of
your business idea. The greater the clarity you bring to your business idea the easier
it is to have conviction about your work and for other people to relate to you. To say
“I do massage” is only the most superficial layer of your business identity. What is
the intention of your work? Are you honest with yourself about what you personally
get out of this work? Are you clear about your service agenda? Are you aware of the
philosophical assumptions which underlie how you define your service? How do you
define the market you are trying to reach? How do you define your short-term and
long-term goals? Your ability to answer these questions will reflect the level of maturity that you, and consequently your business, has reached.
The search for clarity in business is a process that is never completed. The questions,
and the answers, are constantly changing. Your job is to be as clear as you can be
about what you know, and don’t know, right now about your business.
Clarity also means being able to communicate your business idea in a language that
people can understand. Skilled touch can be talked about in an infinite variety of
ways. The words you use must be appropriate to the market you select and the way
in which you define your service. Are you communicating to truck drivers, corporate
executives, teenagers, suburban shoppers, seniors, people from a Hispanic culture, or
travelers? Each group requires different words which are meaningful and rationales
that make sense. Telling a construction worker that your massage will improve his
muscle tone and make him more beautiful may not have much of an impact. Using
the same approach in a beauty salon, however, would be perfectly appropriate.
One of the most difficult characteristics of clarity to integrate into your business is the
concept of openness. When something is clear, like a pane of glass, it is transparent,
you can see through it, and nothing is hidden. Secrecy in our business culture—not
to mention our governmental institutions—is almost an automatic reflex. We think
that it is normal to hide budgets, salaries, business plans, marketing strategies, and
financial statements. But why?
Doing business is, in its most basic sense, simply about having relationships, be it
with customers, employees, suppliers, or observers of our business. Few would argue
that openness and trust are hallmarks of healthy relationships and yet business rela22 Marketing Chair Massage
tionships are often cloaked in secrecy and adversarial in nature.
I think there are two primary reasons for this. The first is because many businesses do,
in fact, have something to hide. They do make useless or inferior products. They do
treat their customers and employees with disrespect. They do operate with policies
that place short-term profits ahead of long-term concern for the environment, community welfare, and even customer’s lives. Just look at the history of the domestic
auto industry: the Pinto gas tank, the gas guzzling road monsters, the resistance to
polution standards, seat belts, and air bags. Because it is one of the largest industries
it is one of the obvious travesties of responsible business.
For a somewhat subtler example, let’s look at salaries. Rarely do corporations openly
make available information on how much compensation each employee in the company receives. Many times there is an active policy against making this type of data
accessible. There is actually a culture-wide ethic that it is somehow improper to speak
openly about what we, or other people, earn. The only reasons I can think of for hiding my salary are that either I am embarrassed that I make too little or I am embarrassed that I make too much. Both reasons point to a inherent inequality somewhere
in the structure of a business.
At Ben and Jerry’s, the successful upstart Vermont ice cream manufacturer, it is a written policy that no one in the company makes more than seven times the lowest paid
employee. On a visit to Nolo Press, which publishes self-help law books in Berkeley,
they hang the complete yearly budget on a wall, including individual salaries, for all
to see. Both businesses are highly successful and have enthusiastic, loyal employees.
Contrast that with corporations which pay millions of dollars in salaries to chief executive officers while they are closing down plants and laying off employees. What level
of commitment can they expect from their workers?
Secrecy in business, like secrecy in a family, is almost always bad. It leads to mistrust,
miscommunication, dishonesty, and an eventual breakdown of relationships. There
are circumstances when a business is legally or morally bound to confidentiality, such
as personnel files which should only be made public with the consent of the employee, but these circumstances are far fewer than corporations would like us to believe.
Openness when your business is dealing with external relationships tends to follow
the same pattern. In an business committed to honesty and integrity there is rarely
a need to hide what you are doing to the outside world. Realize that every time you
adopt a defensive business position you limit the potential for growth and creativity
in a relationship.
For example, let me describe one type of call I often get from massage practitioners
who have just discovered the potential of chair massage. Perhaps one of their table
clients works in a business which they believe would be receptive to the concept of
chair massage in the workplace. So the practitioner calls me up for advice about how
to approach the company. The first thing I do is ask the name of the company since
frequently that will make a significant difference in the advice I of­fer. Many times
there will be a pause on the other end of the phone before the practitioner says,
“Well, actually I don’t feel comfortable giving you that information.” My response has
become, “Fine, you don’t have to, but I’m afraid then, if you can’t be open with me, I
can’t be helpful to you.”
The problem here is that our culture promotes a competitive mentality about business. We develop paranoid thoughts that everyone is out to steal our current customers, potential customers, business ideas, business names, whatever.
Creating your business idea
Perhaps this is not so surprising because the model that business in our culture uses
to function under is the basic military paradigm. Look at the language that we use in
business: killing the competition, cutthroat competitors, beating, winning, blasting
them out of the water. It is the language of war or its civilian surrogate, competitive
team sports.
Who was it that created our modern day business ethic? Why the “captains” of industry, of course. Mostly men who were officers in one of the World Wars whose training
and organizational models all came from their military service. In the military secrecy
has been developed into a fine art and motivating people to unquestioned obedience is standard operating procedure.
The alternative to a competitive business ethic is what I call “concordance.” Concordance means encouraging diversity rather than monopolies. It means that there is always room for a business that seeks to provide high quality products or services at a
fair price. Although I developed the first specialized chair for seated massage, I didn’t
try to prevent other chairs from being developed. Indeed, I encouraged other manufacturers with free evaluations of their prototypes. I knew that with each new chair introduced the concept of chair massage would gain more credibility in the profession,
more practitioners would buy, and use, chairs, and the overall quality of the chairs
would steadily improve. All of that has, in fact occurred, and I credit the principle of
Clarity has another implied characteristic. When I am clear about what I do, I developing expertise in what I do. So clarity also has something to do with seeking mastery in
your work. Master craftspersons never fear competition from other artisians because
they recognize that whatever they do is unique. They know that nobody could do the
job exactly the way that they would do it, and they can explain to you how their work
is different. Not necessarily better than another person’s work, but different.
Here now, we finally come to the most exciting result of a commitment to the concept of clarity in business. The most important marketing skill in this style of business
is not the ability to sell a product to a customer, but rather to educate a customer
about the value of your product. But that marketing approach only works if you first,
have something worthwhile or meaningful to offer, and second, if you understand
you product or service well enough to be clear about its essential value.
When you educate potential customers you increase their ability to discriminate between the meaningful and worthless and they make better choices about what to
buy, and what not to buy. Education is empowerment. Ignorant people are passive
and dependent. Clarity, full-disclosure as a business standard, creates the best kind
of customer—one who chooses your services because they believe that you offer a
valuable resource in an honest business. That leads to a satisfying and productive relationship for both the businessperson and the customer.
In summary, a business that operates with a commitment to clarity has a certain ingenuous quality to it. Because it is transparent to all observers, what you see is what
you get. There is no mystery, there are no hidden agendas. Customers intuitively are
drawn to the business because of its obvious trustworthiness. They know that there
will be no head trips or rip offs to worry about.
Clarity in business is like a well-cast bell that resonates with a sincerity and authority
which draws all within listening distance to its simple, honest ring.
24 Marketing Chair Massage
n a sense, consistency is the practical result of a commitment to clarity in your
business. As you become clear about the complex nature of the services you are
providing and the market you are targeting, each small component of your business
will add to and reflect the overall purpose and function of your business.
So first of all, consistency has something to do with integration. When anyone encounters a small part of your business, they encounter the whole. Each component
reflects the larger service vision. Let’s briefly examine each of these elements.
Language. How you talk about your business needs to be consistent with
the overall intention of your work. I recently saw a flyer advertising a massage chair that spoke about how comfortable and easy to use the chair is
for the “patient.” Since the rest of the text did not lead me to believe that
they were targeting their chair exclusively for use with sick people, the
choice of that word was clearly inconsistent.
Marketing tools. Your brochures, business cards, letterhead, advertising,
and even phone manner should all present the same image and message
about the intention of your work.
Professional tools. Do you use the right equipment in the right way for
the market and service that you have chosen? A Trager practitioner with a
squeaky table or a Swedish practitioner with smelly sheets is inexcusably
Environment. Does the environment which you create for your practice
support or detract from your service goal. If customers find parking such
a hassle to find, they may feel the additional frustration is not worth the
effort. Or perhaps they don’t feel safe walking in your neighborhood and
it makes them nervous to think about leaving your office. For the internal
environment make certain that the flowers and air are fresh. Walk into your
bodywork environment with beginners eyes and see what type of impression it makes. What do they see, hear, or smell? Get a massage from someone on your table to see what they client will be looking at and experiencing for the length of the massage.
Personal style. Some people simply don’t have the personality for doing
chair massage at the beach. The New York approach may have to be toned
down a bit to work in California. What is your personal style? Does it fit well
with the overall focus of your business?
Consistency brings an essential level of stability and predictability to your business
operations for yourself and for your clients.
Without consistency clients wouldn’t know when to call you for an appointment or
how to budget their time and money to make certain your service is a regular part
of their lives. They also wouldn’t feel comfortable referring your service to a friend if
they thought you were unreliable.
Consistency means creating and sticking close to a business plan. How many clients
can you expect to have this month? What will your expenses be? What type of referral
Creating your business idea
network do you need to set up?
If you know that you need to send out appointment reminders every week or make a
presentation to the local nursing group in order to keep clients coming in, then do it.
There are no shortcuts to doing what needs to be done. If you pay strict attention to accomplishing the small details of your marketing strategy you will find yourself worrying
less and less about cash-flow crises. If you take care of your bookkeeping every week
you will have little to fear from the IRS or the phone company.
When you operate a business with consistency it is easier to make changes and know
whether or not they are effective. If you are always doing everything different every
day it is impossible to develop true expertise or intuition because you never know
which actions cause which results.
In a similar sense consistency puts the qualities of conviction and clarity into a feedback
loop. If a particular marketing approach does not seem to be working perhaps it is because it is inconsistent with your overall vision or is not being communicated clearly to
your market. Consistency provides a check and balance system for your business.
A good recourse policy is the best guarantee of consistency. Having a recourse policy,
such as a money-back guarantee, says that you believe in the quality of your service
and trust that the client will appreciate it. When you trust a client, particularly a new
one, it is easier for them to trust you. If you don’t have a recourse policy there is no
way for client feedback to alert you to problems with your business.
The impact of consistency on the success of your business is undeniable. Consistency
provides the nuts and bolts, day to day operational stability that keeps you going in
the direction intended. It is a type of consciousness that brings together the motivation
provided by conviction and the communication provided by clarity into an organized
plan of action. Without consistency your business is merely a ship without a rudder,
tossed about by the waves and going in no particular direction.
Change-ability: Mastering the inevitable
f the quality of consistency gives your business stability, than nurturing “changeability” gives your business flexibility. Both are essential.
Change is inevitable. Indeed it is one of the signs that biologists use to decide whether a
particular collection of molecules is alive or not. If we do not change, we die.
Our job then, is to become experts at understanding the nature of change, the patterns of growth. One of the best books you can study on this subject is not a business
book at all. It is a philosophical treatise disguised as a book of divination. The I Ching,
or Chinese Book of Changes, is one of the classics of Chinese literature and is at least
thousand years old. The I Ching catalogues sixty-four aspects of change, in the same
number of chapters, which are essentially meditations on the patterns of growth in
the universe.
Achieving mastery in the ability to change is important in two ways. It makes you
increasingly skillful at predicting what will happen next in your business and makes
26 Marketing Chair Massage
you flexible in your ability to respond to change.
When you study the nature of change you become expert at seeing the larger patterns in which the details of your business operates. The obvious example is of what
are called business cycles. This is the normal ebb and flow of the activity in your business. These patterns operate daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, or even longer. The more
skillful you are at recognizing these patterns the more accurately you will be able to
create reliable forecasts in your business plan.
Let’s look at some examples of business cycles.
The street fairs you work at tend to be slow in the morning, busy through
the afternoon massaging the attendees, and then a late rush of customers
from the people who worked in the other booths at the fair. Knowing that
you will be about the last one to pack up and leave, you make certain that
there is adequate staff, and energy, for this final wave of business.
You notice that when you provide chair massage in the workplace certain
types of clients prefer to have a massage at the beginning of the week,
others in the middle, and still others at the end of the week. Because you
also have a table massage business on Mondays and Tuesdays you can
more easily target your marketing to the mid and late week groups in the
Your business increases the first and third week of every month because
that is when you client base tends to get paid and can afford a massage.
Consequently you plan your major bookkeeping and marketing efforts for
the second and fourth weeks of the month.
You anticipate that you will always sell more gift certificates around holidays
and special occasions. For that reason you know that you have to begin
implementing your promotion plans at least two months in advance.
Perhaps your business focus is on relaxation massage and you anticipate
that most of your customers, after a year or so of allowing touch into their
lives, will seek out other types of bodywork. To plan for that transition you
establish mutual referral relationships with remedial therapists, Rolfers,
Feldenkrais practitioners, sports massage bodyworkers, and the like.
The only thing that is absolutely predictable about business is the fact that it is always changing. The greater your ability to understand these processes of change the
more refined and accurate your business forecasts will be.
As you become increasingly expert at recognizing the cyclical patterns inherent in
your particular business you will develop an intuitive sense of what steps are needed
at any given moment to keep your business healthy. Intuition, despite what some
people claim, does not come from the cosmos. It is most often simply the result of
experience, lots of experience over many years, and awareness, paying attention to
the smallest shifts in the world around us. The more we consciously accumulate business experience, the better we will be at asking the right questions when faced with a
business decision, and the more likely we are to come up with the right answer.
Creating your business idea
Change-ability also means the ability to respond to the constantly changing business
climate. When external and internal conditions alter do we resist modifying our plans
and actions, or do we smoothly adapt to the new circumstances?
Developing flexibility in business is essential to long-term survival. There is no hiding
from rapid change in our world. Being conscious of change makes it more predictable and being prepared for change makes it more manageable. Flexibility is the key
to preparedness.
Practicing flexibility starts with exercising a flexible mind. The older we get, hopefully,
the more we appreciate the importance of not being tied down to thinking that what
we believe is the way things are. Prejudice has no role in a flexible mind. When you
start saying things like, “I can’t stand Middle Eastern people,” be careful. Not only are
you limiting your options but the world has a funny way of creating circumstances
that turn them into your next market.
A flexible mind also sees opportunities where other people only see problems. When
circumstances in the business climate change it is always an opportunity for you
to learn something new about your market, your service, the nature of business, or
Don’t resist change, embrace it. Without change the world would be a very dull place.
With change our businesses remain fresh, vibrant, and exciting places to spend our
Creating your business idea
his article is written as an interactive self-help exercise. It will work best if you
have one to two hours of uninterrupted time to complete the whole process. If
you do, get yourself a pencil and a stack of blank paper and seat yourself comfortably
in a chair, perhaps at a desk or table.
At the top of each piece of paper write one of the topics listed in the outline on the
next page. Try your best to do each exercise as it is described without skipping any.
They are cumulative and together will give you a well-rounded picture of your business idea.
Business is simply the way in which our society structures a relationship between one
person who has a particular resource and another person who would like to have
that resource. To be successful in business you must have an in-depth understanding
of the four elements contained in any business relationship: yourself (the person with
the resource), your resource (that is, your product or service), your market for the resource (who will buy it), and the formal rules by which all of the first three interrelate.
Trinity of business relationships
28 Marketing Chair Massage
Your service
Your market
The idea phase of writing a business plan only deals with the first three elements. In
the second phase, when you write the public version of your plan, you will be expected to address and follow the formal rules of the business world. If you want to review
these rules read the related article “The rules of business” in Chapter 1. Working on
understanding yourself, your resources, and your market is the first task. Paying too
much attention to the how of your business at this point can constrain the development of the ideal why, who, and what.
Know yourself
You begin with yourself. You represent the half of the business relationship over
which you have control. Your customer is the other half over which you have little or
no control. There is no one who knows your own mind, your own being, better than
you do. So take a comprehensive look at who you are and what you believe in. If you
are introspective by nature, this should be an easy exercise.
On the first worksheet, Beliefs, summarize your beliefs as they relate to the following
three categories.
1. The cosmological questions - What is your understanding of the nature of
reality? Do you believe that people are basically good or bad? What is your
reason for your existence? What do you think life is all about? Are we here
to serve others, to serve ourselves, or to serve no one? How much control
do you believe we all have over our own lives? Do you believe in an afterlife? Heaven, hell, reincarnation? Do you believe that all such questions are
a waste of time, that action, not introspection, is what life is all about? Do
you lack a philosophy and feel paralyzed because it all seems so pointless?
2. The nature of work - What is your philosophy about work? Is work merely
a way of putting food in your mouth or those of your family? Is it a way of
deriving self-esteem? Does it have a spiritual dimension?
3. The evolution of your beliefs - Where have your belief systems come from?
A particular religious sect? From meditation? From reading you have done?
From your own direct experience?
On the second sheet of paper, Values, answer the following questions.
1. What values are most important to you? For instance, loyalty, honesty,
discipline, hard work, making money, defending the weak, obliterating oppression, fighting for war, or fighting for peace.
2. What ideals would you be willing to sacrifice your life for, if any?
3. What personal characteristics or behaviors are you working to change or
eliminate within yourself, such as sexism, racism, homophobia, impatience,
self-deception, or compulsive behaviors (addictions to alcohol or other
drugs, smoking, sex, love, chocolate)?
On the third paper, Dreams, describe all the dreams and desires that you have for
Creating your business idea
your time on earth, no matter how fantastic or “unrealistic” they may seem. What
would you like to accomplish, to learn, to experience? Jumping out of an airplane,
Outline for your business ideavisiting China, raising a child, changing the world?
Know yourself
A. Beliefs
B. Values
C. Dreams
Know your service
A. Relationships
B. Touching
C. Intention
D. Skills
Having made all three of those lists, go back and see what any of them have to do with
massage or touching. You may have forgotten that touching is a part of your beliefs,
values, and dreams. If so, take time now to add them to the three lists. If touching
doesn’t seem to fit in as a natural priority anywhere, then you might want to consider
doing something else besides bodywork. There is no reason why you shouldn’t be doing what you love to be doing. If you are afraid you won’t be able to make a living, go
back and read Chapter 1 or Growing a Business by Paul Hawken.
The best businesses authentically reflect the people who start them. A common characteristic of successful entrepreneurs is their high degree of conviction. They “believe”
III. Know your market
in what they are doing; the internal reward is more important than the external gain.
A. Personal profile
Conviction is critical to sustaining oneself through the inevitable trials and tribula B. Who do I know?
tions of starting and maintaining a new business. Conviction is also necessary for de C. Who do I want to veloping sound marketing strategies based on honesty and integrity. Customers are
D. Market analysis drawn to a business which operates from conviction because they know the owner
E. Your target market cares about the quality of the service being provided. They trust it and they will advise all of their friends, family, and acquaintances to trust it. An easy test for convic IV. Summary
A. Your business idea tion is if you can honestly say to yourself, “I love my work enough that I would do it
whether I got paid or not.”
Know your service
The second element of a business relationship which you must know intimately is
your product or service. This is sometimes called “tradecraft” knowledge. You can’t
expect your customers to understand what they are buying unless you understand
what you are selling. The idea that any graduate from business school can run any
business, or that a good salesman can sell anything, are myths from a rapidly fading
era. The consuming public has been bombarded too long with sexual innuendo, misleading advertising, and outright lies from salespeople and Madison Avenue. We simply don’t believe most of the sales pitches which we see and hear. We have become
very skeptical and cynical about stereotypical selling strategies. Fortunately, the message is beginning to filter through to the marketing profession. “High pressure” sales
tactics, for one, have almost disappeared from the scene.
So what marketing strategy does work? For honest business there is only one answer—education. The best marketing strategy for high quality services is to create an
informed consumer who can appreciate the value of your service. Customers want to
know what their options are before they buy. The only way they can know is if you tell
them. The only way you can tell them is if you are educated yourself.
Therefore, you must learn as much about touching and massage as you possibly
can. For instance, first and foremost, massage is a relationship. What does that word
mean? What is the nature of relationship—any relationship? When two people make
a connection with each other something special happens. Why? What is it? Take a
moment and write down everything you know about relationships on the next sheet
of paper. Try to describe the type of relationship you have with your massage customers.
Massage is a very particular kind of relationship—it is one where the primary interaction is based on touch. So spend time thinking about the nature of touching. If you
haven’t yet waded through Ashley Montague’s seminal book Touching, do so soon
30 Marketing Chair Massage
and take plenty of notes. Just the act of putting your hand on someone else has incredibly far-reaching implications for our physiological, psychological, and spiritual
well-being. Find out what those are and explore them in your own work. On the sheet
of paper entitled Touching make a list describing the nature and effects of touching.
You might try to answer the following questions in as many ways as possible: “Touching is…” and “Touching can….”
As you look at the last list you wrote, you may note that some of the types of touching you listed were spontaneous and some were not. In massage we are interested in
touching which is structured. Structured touching has three primary characteristics,
it is intentional, trained, and experienced. These are all areas of great confusion in our
emerging industry.
To date most state and national massage associations have primarily focused on trying to develop appropriate standards of training for massage practitioners. Unfortunately, that is putting the cart before the horse. You cannot decide what training
and experience is required to qualify someone as a practitioner unless you know the
intention of their work. A corrective intention, where the practitioner believes that
he or she can alleviate a particular problem, requires much more training and experience than the relaxation intention of a practitioner who does shoulder rubs. Some
practitioners define their intention in terms of balancing someone’s energy, other’s
talk about a sensory awareness intention or a health maintenance intention. On the
next page define, in one sentence, the intention of your work.
Massage schools frequently give their students mixed messages about the intention
of what they teach because they themselves are unclear. Many students are told, for
instance, that massage practitioners do not diagnose or prescribe medical treatment.
However, they are also taught how to identify and treat various musculoskeletal
problems such as tendonitis, shin splints, bursitis, or misaligned vertebrae. Just calling oneself a “therapist” leads both clients and practitioners to believe that they are
medical personnel.
There is no problem with massage being done as a medical modality unless the training and experience of the practitioner does not match the level of intention. A good
rule of thumb in business is to only sell what you absolutely know you have to offer.
If you are fresh out of a 500 hour training program you are not likely to be qualified
to do much in the corrective realm, unless you are doing it under close supervision as
a part of an apprenticeship training program. However, you probably can do a good
massage with a health maintenance intention. That is the level you should be operating on.
Another danger to guard against is that too many practitioners substitute quantity
for quality. They believe that the more tools they have in their bag of tricks, the better the practitioner they will be. Bodyworkers are frequently victims of the peculiarly
Western sickness called, “More is better.” Practitioners often pride themselves on what
they take to be their versatility, which, all too often, simply reflects their superficiality.
Having five modalities listed on your business card does not necessarily make you a
better practitioner, on the contrary, it may make you more suspect.
On the paper entitled Skills, make two columns. In the first list all of the training
which you have had. In the second estimate the number of hours of practice, or how
many massages you have done, in each of the skills you have been trained in. On the
back of this paper list your “Menu of services.” List all of the modalities of bodywork
that you do (Swedish,
Creating your business idea
Trager, acupressure), what tools are required to execute it, and what are its features.
For instance you might write, “I do 60 to 90 minute deep tissue massages, on a table,
with oils. I do 5 to 30 minute foot reflexology without oils with clients either on a
table, or seated in a chair.” You may only have one modality, but ten different ways in
which you can package it for various markets.
Know your market
If you know yourself and know your service then you are ready for the final step for
creating your business idea—knowing your market. A common piece of wisdom
about marketing says that the clearer you are about who you want to buy your product or service, the easier it will be to sell it to them. Even if you already know who
your market is, the next exercises may uncover some obvious markets which you are
not pursuing.
The potential customer for your service that you know most intimately is yourself.
Look at your previous worksheets from the above exercises and try to picture what
type of massage service you yourself would need and be willing to pay for. List on
your Personal profile sheet your demographic characteristics—age, gender, where
you live, what jobs you have held,
do you own or rent, etc. In the earlier worksheets you already created a psychographic profile of your values and beliefs. Transfer that summary to this page. Finally,
develop a lifestyle analysis. Look at how you dress, and wear your hair. What do you
eat, read, watch on TV? Do you exercise, have hobbies, socialize a lot? Then generalize yourself into what markets you represent. Who else looks like you, talks like you,
thinks like you, lives like you? Are we talking yuppie, affluent, and professional, or
middle-aged, low-income, parent? These are your primary markets because you
know them best. They are you.
Divide your next sheet of paper, Who Do I Know?, into three columns. In the first column list all of the people you have a relationship with. These could be friends, relatives, clerks where you shop, former classmates or fraternity/sorority members, other
members of your church, businesses, or social organizations, former co-workers, or
anyone else you can think of that you have contact with at sometime during the year.
Including all of the people who provide you with some kind of service.
In the second column list what relationship each person has to you, and in the third
column note what market, or markets, they represent. For example, you have an acquaintance who is a waitress at a restaurant you frequent. She would perhaps represent the market of all food service providers. You could also put her in the category of
all people who have jobs that demand that they work on their feet. Perhaps she also
represents people who work evenings and have their daytimes free. She may also
represent single working mothers. So right there, in one person, you have four potential target markets. Do that with each person on your list and let your imagination
go where it will. You may end up with a number of pages before you have completed
this exercise.
A third exercise to help identify a target market is to make a list of the people you
have always wanted to get to know but never knew how to meet. Perhaps you love
classical music and have always wanted to get to know musicians. Or playwrights,
models, skydivers, rabbis, or civic leaders. Look at your own hobbies, recreations, and
activities and try to define a specific group of people who might share the same interest. Here is a good place to go back to your Beliefs, Values, and Dreams lists to see
what fantasies you may have left out. Write all of these markets down on your Who
32 Marketing Chair Massage
do I want to know? sheet.
Between these three lists you now should have at least a couple dozen good potential markets to choose from. Start circling the ones which have an intrinsic appeal for
you. Which ones do you feel most drawn toward at this point in your life? Next, match
these markets to the level of intention that you are working on. If, for example, you
have a corrective orientation, and the training and experience to back it up, professional dancers might greatly appreciate your skills, while office workers receiving a
15-minute chair massage might think it inappropriate. Either redefine your intention,
or cross them off your list. Then prioritize the remaining markets further with numbers.
At this point your scope is probably still too large, so take your Market analysis sheet
and this time draw three lines to make four columns. In the first column list your top
ten target markets. At the top of the second column write “Affinity,” in the next column “Accessibility,” and in the last “Affordability.” Rate your target markets on each of
these characteristics as being high, medium, or low as described below.
Affinity means how much a particular group of people already appreciate the value
of massage. Have they had a massage before? If so, their affinity for massage will tend
to be higher than someone who has never had one. If you want to work with abused
wives, they may have a very low affinity for massage, particularly if you are a male practitioner. Affinity also means how receptive they are to the particular product you are
selling. If you are marketing a full-body table massage with oils, requiring an unclothed
customer in a private room, you will be appealing to a much different market than if
you are selling a seated upper-body massage on clothed customers.
Accessibility operates in two directions, how easy is it for them to get to you and how
easy for you to get to them. Will your market be able to find out about your services?
If you are opening a massage business in a hair salon then the customer’s accessibility to you may be very high. If you operate a private practice for wealthy clients out of
your apartment, but live in a rundown neighborhood, your accessibility to them may
be very low.
Affordability depends on what services you are charging for and whether it is within
economic reach of your target market. Your market may have a high affinity for your
service and be highly accessible to you, but they may have little or no money. For example, elderly people in a publicly financed nursing home.
Getting a low score on one or more characteristics does not necessarily mean that
you must eliminate that market. But should you choose to pursue that particular
market it does help to identify the nature of the work that you have cut out for you. If
your target market has a low affinity for massage, then you will have an educational
job ahead of you. Perhaps you will have to give away a lot of free samples of your
work initially to achieve credibility in your marketplace. Maybe you will need to create a slick brochure with testimonials from people your target market would respect.
If your market is not readily accessible you may have to spend more time and money
on setting up information and distribution channels. Likewise, if affordability is a
problem, you might have to give shorter massages, or schedule people less frequently, or make sure you schedule them right after payday, or, in the case of the nursing
home, seek a government grant to fund your services.
By now perhaps one market stands head and shoulders above the rest. Great, that is
your target market. If you still have a number of possibilities from which to choose
take some time to go over what you have written and try to prioritize your final
Creating your business idea
choices. Describe your top choice on the page Your target market. Remember, you
never leave anything behind. After you have been successful in one market, you can
expand your scope by moving into another market.
On your final page summarize the three primary components of your business idea:
your vision, your service, and your market. Having an idea that you truly believe in is
the key to a successful business. Good ideas executed by good people makes for an
unbeatable combination. You may have discovered that you had an embarrassment
of riches—so many ideas that it was hard to choose just one market. If you already
operate a business perhaps now you are clearer about who your target market is and
how to reach them.
What you will discover is that your business idea will change as you change, as your
market changes, and as your skills evolve. That’s fine. Save all of your worksheets so
you can add on to them the new ideas you create about your business. Your biographer will also thank you.
The clarity you have arrived at will make the next step, writing your formal business
plan, relatively painless. The next three articles will help you tackle that task.
The rationale for business plans
olumes have been written about the importance of having a business idea well
thought out before investing your life’s savings (or someone else’s) into a venture. Lack of planning is frequently cited as the major reason why new businesses
fail. Since most bodyworkers start out with minimal business background, thorough
planning is particularly crucial.
Contrary to popular myth, successful entrepreneurs are not big risk takers. The function of an entrepreneur is to develop products and new markets—”to boldly go
where no one has ever gone before.” But the boldness of an experienced entrepreneur comes from knowing that all of the homework has been done and risk has been
reduced to the absolute minimum.
Writing a business plan is the first formal test of whether the seedling of your business idea can stand up to the harsh light of reality. If the business still looks good
after you have examined it on paper, then it is probably worth pursuing. So the first
function of a business plan is to give you the internal conviction necessary to pursue
your idea.
The second purpose of a business plan is to convince others that you know what you
are doing, such as your family, friends, banker, lawyer, accountant, potential investors
and landlords. Creating a new business, particularly your first one, is an enormously
challenging undertaking which is much more easily accomplished with a large group
of enthusiastic supporters. Going through the discipline of detailing your plans on
paper impresses others with your seriousness and makes it easier for you to be articulate and confident when explaining the merits of your idea.
34 Marketing Chair Massage
Note that a business plan is only a description of your current best understanding
of the ecology of your business. Any business is an organic system where the parts
are constantly growing, shifting, and changing to maintain a balanced whole. In that
sense, then, your business plan is out-of-date as soon as you write it. Don’t mistake
what you plan to do for what you will actually do. Nothing ever happens as you expect it to, so get used to being adaptable. When things do change unexpectedly, a
good business plan will help you to know what elements in your business will need
to be modified.
The easiest time to work on a business plan is before you start a business, if for no
other reason than that’s when you will generally have the most time to do it. After
your business is underway you will find that time will become your most valued resource. However, if your business is already operating you will still be able to reap the
benefits of writing a plan. In fact, since you are likely to already know a lot about what
works and what doesn’t, the plan you create will be an even more reliable guide.
A good practice is to schedule regular times when you will review and modify your
plan, at least once a year. When your business is young you may want to plan on
monthly or quarterly updates. Each time you redo your plan it will become a more
valuable blueprint for running your business.
There are two phases to writing a business plan, the private and the public. The private stage is a brainstorming session on paper where you decide on a market and a
package for your particular bodywork skills which are compatible with your personal
motivations, values, and visions. You can’t write a business plan unless you have a
business idea. Even if you already have decided on a business idea or are actually running a business you will find the exercise useful because it will help you see where
your business stands in relationship to similar business ideas. If you are having trouble in a current business it will give you some insight as to what the difficulties might
be. This private phase may convince you that an idea is not realistic or worthwhile,
saving you the trouble of writing a formal business plan, or perhaps showing you a
related idea that might be more appropriate. In a few cases, bodyworkers have even
decided that they were in the wrong profession entirely. The article “Creating your
business idea” in this chapter is a structured exercise for working through the first
stage of your business plan.
The second phase of developing a business plan evolves naturally from the first. This is
when you create the public document—linear, logical, grammatically correct, and visually impressive. A well-conceived and well-written business plan will be a convincing
concrete external manifestation of what was originally only an internal idea. The following article details all of the essential elements for a cohesive plan.
One more thing you should know. There are two major premises which lie beneath
this particular approach to writing a business plan. The first assumption is that your
work should be something that you love to do. You may not be exactly clear on what
that might be at the moment, but that is one of the purposes for the private phase
of writing a business plan. The second premise is that you want to operate an honest business. An honest business (according to Michael Phillips who wrote the book
Honest Business) is one which provides a high quality service at a fair price. If you are
simply out to make the most money with the least effort then don’t waste your time
reading any further. That is not to say that you shouldn’t be concerned about making money efficiently—that’s good business. However, you should not be trying to
rip people off—that’s bad business. If you see business as an adversarial relationship
where the customer and seller are always trying to get the best of each other, then
the process outlined here will not make much sense. Try reading The Prince by Ma35
Creating your business idea
chiavelli instead.
Elements of a business plan
eveloping a business plan involves two stages. The first is the internal, intro
spective process of creating your business idea. The premise being that the best
business for you is the one which you love to be working in, the one which most
closely matches your ideals, interests, and skills.
The second stage is the external one, where you put your business idea down on
paper in a way which makes it comprehensible to other people and useful for testing
the feasibility and ongoing soundness of your business. A written business plan is
also essential if you are attempting to raise outside capital for your endeavor. Whether you are looking for a few thousand dollars from relatives, friends, or even clients, or
hundreds of thousands of dollars from investors, banks, or venture capitalists, a well
developed business plan will frequently be the critical factor which prompts people
to support you or not.
This article will look at the major elements essential to a complete business plan.
Many books have been written about each component so, of necessity, this can only
be an overview. Check out the library or bookstore and read one or two of the many
books available on business plans to get a more comprehensive overview. Since
writing a business plan is one of the most important tasks in assuring the success of
your business venture you owe it to yourself to get educated about the complexity of
business plans.
There are two books I currently recommend. How to Write a Business Plan (formerly
titled: Start-Up Money: How to Finance Your New Small Business) by Mike McKeever
(Nolo Press, 950 Parker St., Berkeley, CA 94710) is a “must read” for practitioners with
no prior business experience who are looking to develop a private practice or a small
commercial operation with only a few employees. The book is very “user-friendly” and
demythologizes the complexity of creating a business plan which will describe your
business honestly and accurately.
The second book, entitled How to Write a Successful Business Plan, by Julie K. Brooks
and Barry A. Stevens (AMACOM, a division of the American Management Association, 135 West 50th Street, New York, NY, 10020) will be a good second book to read,
particularly if you are developing long-term plans for a large commercial bodywork
business. This book is more formal, although much less so than most books on business plans, and will serve you well if you think you might need $100,000 or more to
get your enterprise off the ground.
There is no one book yet available which deals with developing a business plan for
a bodywork practice partly because so few business plans have ever been written.
As more practitioners become adept at developing businesses we will see more
examples of massage-specific business plans. But remember, ultimately there is no
formula for a business plan which ensures a successful business. Success will always
rest with the people who have the business idea and their ability to execute it in the
36 Marketing Chair Massage
Every business idea has four essential components: the creator of the business, the
product or service, the market to buy the (in this case) service, and the distribution
plan for delivering the service to the market. The function of a business plan is to
describe all of these elements in detail, include statements and projections demonstrating the financial viability of the business structure, and present a method for
evaluating whether the business plan has accomplished its goals. Then, all of this information needs to be presented in a way which is easy for a reader to quickly grasp
in summary and study in detail.
The outline on the next page suggests a format for your business plan. Remember
that the best business plan is the one which most accurately reflects your business
idea, so feel free to add elements, rearrange their order, rename them for clarity, or
eliminate them entirely at your discretion.
Title page - A title page is nothing fancy, but should include a line which says “Business plan for,” or “Business plan and loan proposal for,” or similar identification followed by the name of your business, the date, and your name, address, and telephone number.
Table of contents - List all of the topics contained in your business plan with the page
numbers alongside. Include a list of Exhibits, if there are any in the body of the text,
and Appendices. Most private practice or small commercial business plans will not be
more than 25 to 30 pages long. If you are developing a major business, it is not unusual for the plan, with all of its attached documentation, to run 50 to 75 pages. For
longer business plans it is wise to have dividers separating the major sections with
tabs identifying them.
Executive summary - “Executive summary” might be a bit high-falutin’ for a private
practice. You might be more comfortable calling this section an “Introduction”. In any
case, this is the most important part of your business plan. Your reader will decide
within the two minutes that it takes to read this page whether they think your idea is
feasible and whether it is worth reading any further. Many people write this section
last because they have trouble describing their business succinctly.
The summary should include a description of your service, your market,
your background (and those of other principals), and your goals. If your
goal is to raise money through the business plan you should mention the
amount you are seeking, what form you want it in (loan or equity investment), and how the money will be used. Include all of your most important
points in the summary and emphasize the positive aspects. Let your enthusiasm come through.
Business description - Your business offers a service, not a product. This is
the section where you describe exactly the nature of your service and its
unique features. What type of bodywork will you provide? What are its objectives? How are you going to be offering your services? In a facility? If so,
what will the facility look like? Are you offering any special amenities? Are
you modeling your services after another type of business? Will you offer
an outcall service? What type of business image do you want to project to
your customers? Low cost? Exclusive? Medical? Personal service? Alternative health?
These pages should make your business come alive for the reader. They
should know exactly what to expect when they walk into your facility, or
you walk into theirs. Include photographs, drawings of uniforms for the
Creating your business idea
practitioners, floor plans, or other graphics to help your reader visualize
what you are talking about.
Market description - In a shorter business plan this section and the next could be
written together with the description of your market being the first element of your
marketing plan.
The market description should include a detailed profile of your typical customer.
Distinguish whether your customer will also be the one who uses your services. For
instance, if you are selling massage to corporations, the customer would be the company, and the user would be some, or all, of the employees. Define the geographic
range of your service area. What is the demographic and psychographic profile of
your customer. What is their income, where do they work, what do they eat, read, and
buy? Have you done any marketing surveys? What were the results? Use charts and
graphs, if possible, to pinpoint your target market.
Next describe why this market needs your services. If you are selling a sports mas-
Outline for a business
planservice to athletes describe the rationale for sports massage and describe why
I.Title page
II.Table of contents
athletes, in particular, need the service. If you are selling sports massage to fitness
centers you will be making a slightly different case.
Finally, note whether any other businesses are offering a similar service to the same
III.Executive summary
market. If so, how do your services differ? What are the unique advantages of your
service and how do they help distinguish your business from similar businesses?
IV.Business description
Marketing plan - This section describes how customers will find out about you and
V.Market description
how you will deliver your services to the customers. Are you going to rely on adver-
VI.Marketing plan tising, referrals, direct solicitations, public relations, or combinations of all of these?
What will happen to similar businesses trying to reach the same market, and how will
VII.Business risk analysis
you respond? Include a chart describing what sales volume you hope to achieve over
VIII.Management planwhat period of time. Is your strategy to create a new market for massage services or
IX.Financial analysis tap an existing group of people who already believe in massage?
Make certain that you define the rationale for every strategic marketing decision you
make. Be able to describe why you chose one direction and not another.
XI.Controls and reporting
Business risk analysis - While this section is not seen in all business plans it will let the
reader know that you are aware that your enterprise, like all businesses, faces particular problems. Having spent considerable time thinking about your business idea, you
are probably well aware of what these might be. Write them down and describe how
you are prepared to deal with them. For example, if your market has already been
buying massage services, why should they switch to you? If you are pioneering a new
service, what are you going to do if customers don’t materialize as soon as you would
like and you run out of money?
Likewise, every business is limited by the people who own and run it. What are your
honest limitations and how are you going to compensate for them? If you have no
fiscal management experience are you going to hire a bookkeeper or C.P.A. to keep
your accounts in order?
Don’t try to hide the shortcomings of yourself, your business, your marketing strategy, or your service. You may talk yourself out of going into business by facing your
worst fears in this way, but more likely, you will be stimulated to rethink your business strategy and create solutions which head off little problems before they have a
chance to mature into catastrophes.
38 Marketing Chair Massage
Management plan - Whether a business succeeds or fails is up to the people who
design and execute the business plan. Here is where you define who those people
are and describe their background. If there is only you then you can title this section
“Owner’s resume and financial statement.” Remember to include in your resume not
simply your bodywork training and experience, but any experience you have in running a business.
If the business includes more personnel, summarize yours and their background in
one paragraph and what function they will perform in the business in another paragraph. Include each person’s resume as part of the appendices.
If you are running a massage business which will be employing other bodyworkers,
describe who you will hire, whether you will train them, how they will be supervised,
and what their job description will be.
Financial analysis - Your financial statements should be projected three years and, if
possible or necessary, five years into the future. If your business plan is being used to
seek a loan, you certainly want your budgets to reflect the time that it takes you to repay the debt. You also want to be able to describe exactly how you will be spending
the money you have received from creditors or investors. If you are looking for investors then you also want a description of what return they can expect on their money.
For larger businesses include a subsection entitled “Ownership and equity” which
outlines who owns how much of the business and for how long.
Budgets are sometimes called “pro forma” statements. You will need an income and
expense budget and a balance sheet. You will also need a cash flow statement to
make sure that you will have enough money to cover your monthly expenses. For the
purposes of this section, summary budgets will do, but the detail rationalizing all of
your figures should be included in the appendices. The proper order is to first project
all of your income and expenses in as much detail as possible, and then to put it into
summary form.
Objectives and milestones - Objectives are what you want your business to accomplish, milestones are when. Some business plans put this on a chart in the form of a
calendar with weeks, months, or quarters running along the top, and the list of objectives down the sides. Other plans merely use a narrative to describe the objectives.
Objectives will relate to organizational development (e.g. how soon you will have
personnel hired and trained), the marketing plan, or financial goals.
Controls and reporting - Every business needs systems to evaluate whether the objectives of the business are being met. If you are taking a loan out from a bank you
might want to describe how you will keep track of their money and when they will
receive financial reports from you. Generally in every business there are daily, weekly,
monthly, quarterly, and annual reports which are used to control the flow of business.
A daily report might be how many clients were massaged, how many phone calls
turned into appointments, or, for larger businesses, how much cash is in the bank.
An example of where a control system would be required is an outcall service where
the practitioner collects the money from the customer. What is the system for keeping track of that money and getting it deposited safely into the bank?
Appendices - This section contains all of the detail which will support or amplify the
statements and figures which you have included in the main part of the business
plan. Here will be your financial detail, key employee resumes, job descriptions, copies of client cards, newspaper clippings, sample press releases, full details of market39
Creating your business idea
ing surveys, copies of contracts and leases, examples of your logo or other relevant
graphics, and brochures. Don’t be too shy about including every piece of material
that you believe to be relevant.
The binding - The business plan should be bound together in a secure fashion which
still makes it easy to read. As you are preparing the final copies of your pages pay
particular attention to not obscuring important information with your binding. Watch
for the numbers on your financial pages getting too close to the edge. Utilize clear
plastic overlays to hold brochures, client cards, and any other support material which
has printing on both sides.
For very large business plans you will want to have the package permanently bound.
For shorter business plans a good quality plastic cover with a clip or punched hole
binding is adequate. Local print shops often have the Velo binding system which is
durable, semipermanent, and inexpensive. Many’s the time when a business owner
was ready to deliver the completed bound business plan to her banker, only to discover that the last column in the budget for some reason doesn’t add up. It’s nice to
be able to insert a new one quickly.
Conclusion - While all of the work necessary for creating a complete business plan
may seem somewhat daunting at first, you will find that the mere exercise of writing
one will help you to clarify your plans and validate you business idea. The next article
examines in detail, the process of developing a budget for your business. If you start
with the numbers you will find that your thinking will become focused very quickly.
Budgeting your business idea
n the previous article, “Creating your business idea,” we discussed how to de
velop a business idea that fit your personality, interests, and background. The approach was based on the three step process of know yourself, know your product,
and know your market. In this article we will outline a parallel and complementary
process which will allow you to examine your business idea from the “numbers first”
perspective. No enterprise can violate the rules of the marketplace (see Chapter 1,
“Learning the rules of business”) which are mostly defined in financial terms. This is
the origin of the maxim “the numbers must work.” Your business idea, no matter how
clever, is worth very little unless the budgets show the financial viability of your enterprise.
Shortly after you conceive a business idea you should sit down with a pencil and
paper or, better yet, with a computer spreadsheet program and start the process of
developing a budget. The written commentary in your business plan can be seen as
a description of the assumptions and strategies reflected in your budget. So, even as
you begin to put those first numbers on the page, also write down your reasoning
for each one being there. If your proposal appears fiscally sound then the process of
writing an actual business plan becomes merely an exercise in refining the budget
and describing the rationale for each of your numbers.
40 Marketing Chair Massage
Getting started
There are at least three types of budgets which are typically used to describe a business: the income and expense budget (often called profit and loss budget), the cash
flow budget, and the projected balance statement. A breakeven analysis is also useful for a start-up business to determine at what level of sales the business becomes
profitable. In the initial stages of evaluating a business idea the most important tools
are the income and expense budget and the cash flow budget. We will start with the
income and expense budget which contains three important sets of numbers: sales
volume; costs of goods sold, also called variable expenses because they vary along
with the rise and fall in sales volume; and operating expenses, which consist of both
controllable and fixed expenses.
The first assessment of a business idea generally takes the form of a “paper napkin”
budget where a few quick figures give you a notion as to whether an idea is worth
pursuing. Take the case of an chair massage service providing seated massage in the
workplace. This particular style of massage service has gotten considerable press
in the last few years and has attracted thousands of practitioners and not a few fast
buck marketing types. Why? Because the potential market in the business world is
so large, and the overhead for providing the service is so low that, at first glance, the
numbers look very good.
Table 1, Scenario A gives us a paper napkin analysis of this idea. Presume first that
you are thinking about a private practice doing worksite massage. You decide that a
“unit” of service is one 15-minute seated massage. You estimate that you can average
20 massages a day, so in a four day work week you would deliver 80 units of service.
If you charged $15 for each 15-minute chair massage you would be making $1,200
a week. Subtract from that some minimal variable expenses for supplies—$2 per
massage—and you would net over a thousand dollars a week. To find your annual
income also subtract some operating costs such as printing, telephone, transportation, liability insurance, and the cost of a new massage chair every year, say $2,000
per year. Total annual net income based on a 50 week year? $50,000. No wonder over
4,000 practitioners have jumped on the bandwagon in recent years!
Table 1
Private practice analysis
Gross income
Net weekly income
Annual operating expenses
Net annual income
$15 40
$15 40
$1,200 $2 $1,040 $600 $2 $520 $400
$2,000 $50,000 $2,000 $24,000 $2,000
Unit of service = one 15-minute session of massage
However, before deciding that this is a sound business idea get in the habit of presuming that your initial impressions are always overly optimistic. Then revise your
numbers to reflect a more conservative scenario. Let’s make a couple of changes in
our example. If we cut the sales volume in half (Scenario B) we still get a respectable
Creating your business idea
annual income of $24,000 for 10 hours of actual massage work a week. However, if
we reduce the price of each unit of service to $10 (Scenario C), your profit drops precipitously to only $14,000 a year.
Let’s do another shorthand analysis of the same business (Table 2, Scenario A), only
this time you hire other practitioners to provide the service and you do the marketing, supervision, and administration. Presume you have ten practitioners working for
you and you pay them $7 per massage so that each practitioner would be making
$28,000 a year. Your variable costs would still be $2 a massage, but your operating
costs would go up to, say $25,000 a year for marketing and administrative expenses.
Given those assumptions you would clear, before taxes, over $200,000 a year. Now
we will apply our conservative scenarios and reduce the number of practitioners, and
thus the sales volume, by half (Scenario B). No problem, you still would net $95,000.
But if you drop the per unit price to only $10 (Scenario C) you run into a problem. You
would actually be losing $5,000 a year.
Table 2
Commercial business AnalysisScenarios A
Number of practitioners
Total Units/Week
Gross income
Pract expense/Unit
Other expenses/Unit
Net weekly income
Yearly operating expenses
Net annual income
$15 5
$15 5
$12,000 $7 $2 $4,800 $6,000 $7 $2 $2,400 $4,000
$25,000 $215,000 $25,000 $95,000 $25,000
From both of these examples you can see how sales volume, variable expenses, and
operating costs all affect your net income and where the potential pitfalls in this business lie. The number of clients you have, how much you pay your practitioners, and
how much you charge for your service are the key numbers to watch in this business.
You also note that the potential for greater success, and failure, is higher when you
try to provide these services as a commercial business rather than as a private practitioner.
If you are still convinced that this idea has potential you must now attempt to create
a workable budget of much greater detail. The most important category of numbers
relates to your volume of sales so we will begin there. Since this is frequently where
the entrepreneur is most unrealistic in his estimates we will spend a lot of time considering how to arrive at a reliable number.
Sales volume
To start, let’s examine the number 20. In our first scenarios we assumed that a practitioner would do 20 fifteen minute massages a day. If your business is a private practice two questions must be answered to find out if this number is realistic. First, is it
physically possible to do 20 clients four days a week? Second, are there enough people in your target market who are willing to pay for a massage to achieve a volume
42 Marketing Chair Massage
of 80 massages a week? If you are running a commercial business then the first question is less important at this stage because even if a practitioner can only massage 10
people a day you would simply hire more practitioners.
The answer to the first question depends on a variety of factors not the least of which
is stamina. Have you ever done 20 people in a row day after day? Has anybody?
How many days a week is it reasonable to expect you can keep up this pace? Twenty
15-minute massages equals five hours of actual massage work. Does that give you
enough time to get from client to client? Is your idea to do all of the massages in one
location, or will you be moving between offices or buildings? How much time would
that take?
For the second question you have to decide first what frequency of utilization you
are expecting from your client base. Will they get a massage once a week or once a
month? What if some of your 80 clients are on vacation, or sick, or too busy for their
weekly massage. Is your real customer base from which you get your 80 going to
have to be 100 or 150? How long do you expect them to keep purchasing your service? Will you need to be constantly replacing customers who have moved to new
jobs or new cities, or who have decided they want a table massage each week instead
of a 15-minute chair massage? If so, how are you going to do the outreach to new
clients? Are you going to be selling a massage to each employee one at a time, or trying to get their company to pay for the service? Your whole marketing strategy and
resulting marketing budget will depend on the answers to these and other questions.
The best way to justify a sales volume number is to go to people who are already doing what you want to do and ask them about their experience. If you want to do table
massage in a hair salon or a medical clinic, find practitioners who work in similar environments and talk to them. However, many chair practitioners are pioneers opening
up new markets where no one has ever worked before. So an alternate strategy is to
look at the experi-ence of other businesses in the market you want to reach.
For example, perhaps your initial idea was to sell chair massage as a fitness service
in the workplace. It occurs to you that another category of fitness services are the
personal trainers who sell customized aerobic and weight training programs to wellheeled executives . So you find three or four of these trainers and you interview them
in depth about their work. Based on that information you end up with a variety of
options. You may decide that you will limit your services to the “high end” executives
who can afford to pay $35 for 20 minutes of bodywork in their office. Or, you might
decide to give 10 minute massages at a health club which is popular with your target
market. You might even talk yourself out of the chair massage business altogether by
concluding that the best strategy would be to offer free massages to all the personal
trainers you can find. In exchange they would refer clients to you for weekly 90 minute table massages at their homes.
Another approach to creating a rationale for a sales volume figure is through market
research. Pretend you have determined that your market will be all of the employees
in two high-rise office buildings downtown or six blocks of retail stores in a neighborhood shopping district. First, you try to find out, as closely as possible, the actual
number of potential customers for your service. There are frequently directories available in your local business library which give the occupancy census for local buildings. You might also simply walk around to, or telephone, all of the businesses and
ask how many employees they have. You could even stand outside of each building
one morning and count the number of people who arrive between 7:30 and 9:30 am.
In a shopping district you can work up a close estimate by taking an afternoon stroll
Creating your business idea
through your target market and going into each store.
Next, you find out how many of these people would be likely to use your services.
Since we have no public figures on utilization rates of massage services to which you
can refer (although I personally estimate that only 10% of the population has ever
had a professional massage), the best idea is to ask. You can use questionnaires to
find out if people have ever had previous experience with massage in general or chair
massage in particular. With clipboard in hand you could stop people as they come in
or out of your chosen buildings or you can try going from office to office. One problem with this approach is that, while you may find useful information about previous
buying habits (people who have paid for a massage once are more likely to pay for it
again), you may not discover whether they would actually purchase an chair massage
because they may not know what you are talking about.
A better way might be to give samples of your service so people can make an informed decision. Keep track of how many stores or offices you go into, how many
demonstrations you give, and how many positive responses you received. If you do a
representative amount of floors in a building, or blocks in a neighborhood, then you
can estimate the total number of receptive clients you will find in the target area by
applying this percentage of positive responses to the number of prospective customers you arrived at earlier.
Whatever market research strategy you decide upon should give you some rationale
for the sales volume figure which you ultimately put in your budget. Inevitably it will
still be your “best guess”, so it’s a good idea to project your sales into three scenarios:
best case, worst case, and anticipated. If your worst case still makes you a decent living, then you have an idea worth pursuing.
44 Variable expenses - The costs which are tied to the sale of each unit of service are the variable expenses. In a retail business the cost of goods sold
is the wholesale price of your inventory; in a manufacturing firm it is the
price you pay your suppliers for raw materials. In many service businesses,
such as a marriage counselor or a baby-sitting service, there are often no
variable expenses.
For a chair massage business, variable expenses might include such items
as moist towelettes to clean your hands between clients or disposable face
cradle covers if you use a special massage chair. When you hire other practitioners to do the work and pay them on a per massage basis, their fee can
be included as a variable expense.
Think through carefully what expenses you can tie directly to each massage and include them as specific line items in your budget. Then total the
items together to give you your variable expense figure.
Operating expenses - Operating expenses are those items which can’t be
tied to a specific unit of service. They come in two varieties—fixed and
controllable. Fixed expenses are those which you have to pay no matter
how many clients you have. Rent, telephone, or equipment leases are examples. Controllable expenses are those items on which you can spend as
much or as little as the volume of business requires and available capital
allows. The amount which you spend on marketing your services to potential clients is a controllable operating expense. Table 3 suggests a list of
items to include in your operating expense category.
Marketing Chair Massage
Budget detail - Now it’s time to detail your expenses on a monthly basis from the first
day of operation. This will give you an opportunity to think through the specifics of
your business idea. Start by using an accounting pad with at least 14 columns, or a
computer spreadsheet. In the first column list all of the income and expense categories you have created. If you are using pencil and paper, leave a few blank spaces to
add in new categories which you may think of later. Label the next twelve columns
Month 1 through Month 12, and then label the last column Year One Totals. Although
predicting beyond twelve months when starting a new massage business is highly
speculative, I do recommend that you prepare another spreadsheet for the second
year. Most massage businesses need at least two years to grow before they can be
counted on to provide a stable income, and looking 24 months ahead forces you to
think long term.
Table 3
Now think about your new business and fill in the line items month by month. On a
separate sheet of paper write down the rationale or justification for each number. For
some items this might be a formula, for others it might be a reference to other documentation such as a price list. In any case, this list of assumptions will create a clear
picture of what you plan to do and why it should be done in a particular way.
Operating expenses
Fixed expenses
Employee salaries
The monthly budget will reflect your assumptions about how your sales will grow
Employee benefits
over a period of time. Obviously you will start from zero and build your client base
FICA (Social Security)
from there. Looking at your business budgets in this way forces you to clarify your
Unemployment insurance
marketing strategy. Do you expect to grow fast, or slow? Just exactly how will you get
Worker’s compensation
Health insurance your first client? Will you need business cards, flyers, brochures, or direct mailings?
Imagine yourself running your business. What do you have to do tomorrow? What re Utilities
sources will be required? How much will they cost? How long will it take to have your
Interest on loans
resources available to accomplish your task?
Controllable expenses
Marketing expenses
Bad debts
Dues, Subs., Pubs.
Office supplies
As before, create best case, worst case, and anticipated scenarios. If you
don’t have a personal computer you will be tempted to skip this step because it requires a lot more work. Instead, use the same spreadsheets and
squeeze the revised sales volume and totals next to the original figures using different colored pencils.
Start-up budget - You may have already figured out that there are costs
that you will incur even before you begin selling your services. These are
the expenses included in your start-up budget. Equipment, deposits,
licenses, and marketing costs should be detailed here, with the accompanying notes about how you arrived at your figures. For example, if one of
your start-up costs is for a brochure, then you should have a note which
lists all of the expenses required in the production of a brochure including
typesetting, layout, photographs, paper, and printing. Your note should
also list the venders which you have called to get estimates for these services. You might even include a timeline which details how long it will take
you to have the brochure produced, from concept to finished product.
Table 4 is an example of a start-up budget.
Cash flow budgeting - The final budget you need in this process of defining your
business through the numbers is a cash flow budget, similar to Table 5, which will
project how money flows into and out of your business on a month by month basis.
The purpose of a cash flow budget is to make certain that you have enough money
to cover your expenses each month.
The first column is for pre-opening expenses. Enter the summary figure from your
Creating your business idea
start-up budget on the first line. In the second section enter the monthly uses of
cash which you anticipate. Note that here is where you budget your owner’s draw. If
you don’t have money to live on you won’t be working very long. Next, transfer your
monthly expenses from the income and expense budget. Then include any adjustments to your income and expense budget. The example demonstrates how to adjust a withholding tax expense item, which is paid only quarterly, if you have employees. If you have loans which you need to make payments on you can enter them on
the last line of this section.
Table 4
Start-up budget
In the cash sources section enter all of the monthly cash receipts from your income
and expense budget. Next adjust them for any billing which you anticipate doing or
for prepaid customers. For instance, if your customers are accounting firms who pay
you to work on their employees, and you bill them once a month, then all of your
cash receipts will be adjusted to the following month. On the other hand, if you have
clients who pay for eight weekly massages at a time you can adjust a percentage of
your receipts from the one month to the previous month. Whatever adjustments you
make, be sure to document them clearly in your notes. In the example, 10% of the
monthly billings are presumed collectable in the subsequent month.
Cash flow
Pre-opening Month 1 Month 2 Month 3 Month 4 Month 5 Month 6 Month 7 Month 8 Month 9Month 10Month 11Month 12
500 1,500 1,500 1,500 1,500 1,500 1,500 1,500 1,500 1,500 1,500 1,500
Variable expenses
500 1,500 2,000 2,500 3,000 3,200 3,400 3,600 3,800 4,000 4,200
Marketing expenses
1,600 2,000 2,400 2,400 2,400 2,400 2,400 2,400 2,400 2,400
Brochures 800
Media packets
Personal savings 10,000
Total start-up
Cash receipts
500 1,250 3,750 5,000 6,250 7,500 8,000 8,500 9,000 9,500 10,000 10,500
Billing adjustment
Total sources
450 1,175 3,450 4,800 5,825 7,175 7,525 8,125 8,475 9,075 9,425 10,025
Cash balance
12,500 10,050
9,380 10,325
Then, in the first column of this section, put the amount of cash from your own savings that you are contributing to the business. Write in the amount of money that
other people are contributing if you have loans or investors. Total up all of the cash
sources and then fill in the cash balance line. The monthly cash balance is arrived
at by taking the previous month’s cash balance, adding in the current month’s cash
sources, and subtracting the current month’s cash uses. Obviously if the cash balance
at any time is a negative number your business will need more capital to survive. You
should decide how much surplus cash you would like to keep in your bank account
and start out with enough money to maintain that balance. Frequently it is at least
one month’s cash requirements.
You will probably end up spending a lot of time with this budget, and its predecessors, to make the numbers work. Test out your cash needs with the three different
scenarios. If the worst case scenario still brings in acceptable income and doesn’t re46 Marketing Chair Massage
quire more start-up capital than you have access to, then congratulations, your business idea stands a good chance of succeeding.
Summary - While some people are initially intimidated by the thought of having to
create budgets, they can be exciting tools which help you refine your business idea
and gain the confidence to pursue what you know to be a realistic dream. Along the
way you may see your vision transformed into something completely unexpected,
but typically more mature and more beautiful, like the butterfly emerging from the
For a more detailed step-by-step analysis of the budgeting process, I recommend
How to Write a Business Plan by Mike McKeever, Nolo Press, 950 Parker St., Berkeley,
CA, 94710. For a discussion of the true meaning behind financial statements, check
out How to Read a Financial Report by John Tracy, John Wiley & Sons press.
Creating your business idea
48 Marketing Chair Massage
3 Defining our
Strategies for inventing the future of massage
nlike most other service industries, the massage profession is saddled with a
special burden, namely credibility in the marketplace. For many years now the
question facing our profession has been how to turn the initial reaction of the average American, upon hearing the word massage from a snicker into a sigh of appreciation. In a strictly business context what we have here is a formidable public relations
During the past decade two primary strategies have evolved to counteract the image of massage as adult entertainment and to develop the massage profession into
a legitimate, mainstream service industry. The first and most common strategy has
focused on making massage an acceptable branch of the health care services industry. The second, less well-known strategy seeks to provide the general public with full
access to professional massage.
Most massage practitioners believe that both professional acceptability and market
accessibility are important goals. But which goal is most important and what are
the implications of pursuing one over the other? By analyzing and contrasting these
strategies I hope to stimulate discussion within the massage field and help practitioners, associations, and industry leaders clarify their personal and collective agendas.
Professional acceptability
Massage practitioners and massage organizations have, consciously or unconsciously, presumed that the most sensible goal for the massage profession is the integration
of massage into the mainstream health care establishment. Four rationales make a
strong case for choosing this approach as the primary strategy.
First, massage is the original healing art. Animals “licked their wounds” and humans
intuitively rubbed their sore spots long before they discovered herbs, acupuncture,
surgery, or designer drugs. However, massage has never, in this century, been allowed its rightful place as a recognized health care service. Osteopathy, chiropractic,
and physical therapy all began with strong massage traditions. But massage soon
faded into the background as economic pressure mounted to focus on less labor intensive techniques. Clearly it has now fallen to the bodywork professions to demand
that skilled touch be restored to its rightful place in the pantheon of healing arts.
Second, developing massage as a health care service would help resolve our primary
Defining our profession
public relations problem which has, throughout history, confused massage with
prostitution. If massage becomes recognized and licensed as a mainline health care
service then onerous adult entertainment ordinances will become a thing of the past,
as will the “XXXtacy Massage Services” advertising still prevalent in many yellow page
directories and classified sections of newspapers. Florida, which has one of the most
comprehensive state licensing laws, has already seen this occur.
Third, this strategy provides a way to pay for these relatively expensive services. The
price of a full body massage has usually been in the $35 to $65 an hour range, well
beyond what most people can afford on a regular basis. Defining massage as a legitimate health care service opens up the floodgates of third party insurance and government payments and makes it affordable to a much larger spectrum of people.
The fourth rationale for strategically positioning massage as a health care service has
been to raise the self-esteem of massage practitioners already in the field and to attract
motivated people who are looking for a stable career. Like all emerging service industries, massage, until recently, has been primarily a profession of mavericks—people
who wouldn’t, or couldn’t, work in other, more established fields. The status of being
an “outsider” combined with the aforementioned negative public perception takes its
toll on the self-image of practitioners. How many students going to massage school today are still forced to explain to their family and friends that, “No, massage is not what
you think it is?” Defining massage clearly as a health care service will move the profession into the mainstream, give it more prestige, help to create a positive self-image for
current practitioners, and attract new practitioners.
These four rationales have formed the core of the persuasive arguments in favor of
the strategy of seeking acceptability from the mainstream health care establishment
for massage services. Before exploring the implications of such an approach let’s examine the second strategy for legitimizing massage services.
Market accessibility
The second strategy for developing massage into a legitimate service industry is
simply to make skilled touch as easily accessible to consumers as possible. The three
rationales for this approach are that 1) it protects the essential nature of massage, 2)
it insures that the massage services being provided are the ones which consumers
desire, and 3) it inevitably leads
to acceptance of massage as a health care service.
First, an accessibility approach safeguards the essential nature of our work by forcing
us to ask not what is in the best interest of the massage profession, but rather what is
in the best interest of massage consumers.
As an emerging service industry, massage is faced with a myriad of critical questions
which will determine the shape of the profession for years to come. Should there be
a national certification exam? Is state licensing, registration, or certification desirable?
What training and experience should be considered adequate for an entry level practitioner?
With a vision larger than its own self-interest the massage profession can examine
each of these issues in light of the question, “Will the action proposed make massage
more, or less, accessible to the general public?” Put another way, “Will this course of
action serve the public interest or merely the private benefit of massage practitioners?”
All too often service industries forget that their primary mission is to serve others, not
50 Marketing Chair Massage
themselves. The massage service industry, while still in its infancy, need not make the
same mistake. Commitment to a true service ethic at this stage will help protect the
selfless, unconditional nature of massage.
What is the most universal purpose of the massage profession? Is it to fix soft tissue
injuries, or to legalize massage in every state, or to ensure that there are respected
jobs for massage practitioners? I would suggest it is none of these. The universal
purpose of the massage profession is simply to provide the sacred gift of touch to
humanity. Ultimately there is no one for whom massage is contraindicated because
the essential nature of massage is that it is a relationship based on touch and touch is
a fundamental human requirement for the development and maintenance of physiological, psychological, and social well-being.
Striving for complete accessibility encourages us to never forget the roots of massage.
The second reason for adopting a strategy based on market accessibility is that it
assures that whatever specific services are provided are the ones which consumers
actually want. Since we already believe there is a universal need for massage services,
the next question becomes how to offer these services in forms which are comfortable to the 80 or 90% of the population which has never experienced a massage.
With only a little investigation one discovers that the consumers requires three things
of massage: 1) the service must be perceived as being physically and psychologically
safe—no possibility of “hanky-panky” or bodily harm; 2) it must be convenient to receive; and 3) it must be affordable.
Massage done at the finish line of a sports event, for example, meets all of these criteria. It is done out in the open, visible to all, it is convenient to the athletes, and it is
free. Most massage done in a medical environment, paid for by insurance, also meets
these criteria, although some patients may still resist disrobing for a massage even in
what is generally considered to be a safe environment. Likewise, chair massage performed on seated, clothed customers for five to twenty minutes generally meets all
three tests.
This sensitivity to the requirements of the marketplace is important for another reason. Over the past ten years a presumption has developed in the industry that, when
it comes to marketing massage, more is better. While it is true that various massage
disciplines can have a dramatic remedial impact on the structure, physiology, mental,
social, and even spiritual health of a client, it does not necessarily hold true that marketing those benefits will encourage more people to try massage. In fact the opposite
often happens. To some people the claims sound outrageous and to others dangerous. Certainly to the average consumer, a business card listing Swedish, Jin Shin Do,
Polarity, Neuromuscular Therapy, and Cranial-Sacral Therapy is, at the least, confusing.
An entry-level marketplace requires entry-level massage. We cannot ask the general
public to have a graduate level understanding of our work when they have not even
been to kindergarten. There is no point in trying to sell the general public exotically
named therapies when all they are ready for is a shoulder rub.
The third argument for adopting a primary development strategy which focuses on
maximizing the accessibility of massage services is that it will inevitably result in massage being accepted as a health care service. The logic of this rationale is simple. If
massage is widely accessible, the consumers who have experienced it will naturally
want to explore its full range of benefits. People who try a chair massage sooner or
later think to themselves, “If a shoulder rub feels this good, I’ll bet a full-body massage
Defining our profession
feels even better!” People who have tried full-body massage are much more likely to
experiment with more specialized forms of bodywork such as Rolfing, Trager, Hellerwork, or Lomi.
Eventually consumers will realize the efficacy of bodywork in treating a wide variety
of disorders and will begin to pressure the medical establishment to include massage
in the treatment toolbox. While some medical people will fight it, others will begin
doing research and will demonstrate the validity of massage as a legitimate treatment modality.
In our society there are few things more powerful than the will of the marketplace.
If a broad demand for massage services is allowed to flourish, there are few laws,
insurance companies, or medical associations that will be able to stand in the way of
skilled touch recovering its rightful status as a recognized health care service.
Comparing the two strategies
While I am aware that most massage practitioners, schools, and associations have
presumed that the best way for massage to become a respectable service industry
is for it to achieve professional acceptability as a health care service, I am going to
argue the alternative strategy. I believe that adopting a course which makes market
accessibility the highest priority will ultimately be more beneficial to consumers and
to the massage industry.
The second half of this article will discuss why I have reached this conclusion and the
implications of a shift in our primary strategy.
Losing our uniqueness
The first argument is that continuing to pursue a strategy based on defining massage
solely as a health care service might well turn out to be a pact with the devil which
results in massage losing its unique identity.
What, ultimately, is so compelling about the current health care services industry
that we have made its stamp of approval such a Holy Grail? Many of the people who
came to massage in the past 25 years have done so, at least in part, because they
understood that there are things which are terribly wrong with our current health
care system. We need to ask ourselves some difficult questions. Do we really want
to support a system which focuses on treating sick people rather than maintaining
health? Do we want to buy into the reductionistic paradigm of illness rather than the
wholistic model? Do we want to perpetuate the authority figure barrier between the
healer and the patient? Are we strong enough to resist the economic pressure which
turns concerned professionals into impersonal technicians? Do we want to spend the
limited time and resources of our associations in legal and economic turf battles with
other health services?
The greatest strength of massage is the fact that, when used regularly, it helps to prevent people from becoming sick. In another publication (Inventing the Future of Massage, Part One) I have outlined the case for massage being considered the premier
wellness modality. If massage fills that role, then, rather than seeking the embrace
of the health care establishment, one must conclude that there will be, and should
be, a certain adversarial tension between massage and the mainstream health care
system. Why? Because the economic interest of the health care system is thwarted by
any service which robs that system of its consumers. If fewer people get sick because
they receive regular massages, then hospitals, the medical professions, the drug companies, and the insurance companies will all suffer.
52 Marketing Chair Massage
Clearly the old guard in the medical establishment has good reason to fear massage.
And the relatively unsophisticated and powerless massage profession has good reason to fear the medical establishment. For traditionally, when threatened, the medical establishment has adopted one of two postures. First they try to eliminate the
competition and second, if that fails, they try to co-opt them.
Naturopaths, homeopaths, along with dozens of lesser known healing arts, indeed
therapeutic massage itself, were all driven to near extinction in the early part of this
century. Chiropractic and osteopathy have survived the numerous legal, economic,
slanderous, and subversive attempts to stifle their professions but have in the process, conformed to many of the worst characteristics of the dominant health care
system. They, more often than not, operate from a reductionistic rather than wholistic
perspective, provide impersonal, assembly line care, perpetuate the “doctor as God”
myth, and focus on maximizing the wealth of the practitioners rather than the health
of the patients. At the moment the primary advantage offered by these modalities
are techniques which tend to be less invasive than drugs or surgery. Otherwise the
advantages for the proactive consumer are few.
It is an unfortunate truism that the one who pays the piper calls the tune. If the massage profession decides to place a high strategic priority on having access to third
party reimbursement then it will have to dance to the music of those institutions
which pay the bills, namely the insurance companies and the government. Any notion that the massage profession can, at this stage of its development, integrate with
the mainstream health services and not lose a substantial part of its unique identity
as the premier wellness modality is pure fantasy.
If massage becomes primarily defined as a health care service you can be certain that
it won’t be because the medical establishment has shifted to a preventative, wholistic, partnership model. Rather it will be because we have conformed to the existing
paradigm and left our roots behind. One of the comments I heard from a participant
on last year’s AMTA sponsored trip to China was, “I couldn’t get a good massage
there. Generally speaking, they only massage people if there is something wrong
with them.” Unfortunately, given the way our health care system currently operates,
that is the logical outcome of our current tactic for legitimizing massage.
Limiting access to massage
The second reason for shifting our primary strategy is that, while accessibility will
lead to acceptability, the reverse is not true. Striving to become acceptable as a
health care service will actually limit accessibility. Since our health care system is
based on treating sickness, rather than promoting wellness, consumers have the idea
that health care services are sought when there is something wrong with them.
However, massage will only reach the masses if we emphasize the universal nature of
massage, the fact that it is appropriate anytime for everyone not just when they are
Defining massage solely as a health care service will also lead to fewer practitioners
and higher prices for massage than would otherwise be the case. If the entry level
practitioner in the massage profession is called a “massage therapist” then you can
Defining our profession
expect that the entry level training will continue to increase until it reaches the more
realistic 2,000 hour model used in some of the Canadian provinces, parts of Europe,
and Japan. An increase in the training hours will result in fewer people entering
the massage profession and will graduate practitioners who expect to be making
$30‑40,000 or more a year. Both factors will keep the price of massage high and consequently limit its accessibility to those who can’t afford to pay health care prices.
Giving consumers what they want
The choice of defining massage as a health care service has seemed so obvious and
has been touted by massage schools and associations for so long that to suggest
that there is a more appropriate core identity for massage sounds like heresy. Yet, in
our struggle for legitimacy and a sense of self-esteem, we have ignored the role with
which the general public already identifies our work—massage as a personal care
To an outside observer it must seem as though the massage profession is engaged in a
conspiracy of self-deception. The fact is that most massage professionals do not work
in health care settings such as clinics or hospitals. Most practitioners are working in
spas, hair salons, fitness centers, resorts, hotels, private clubs, athletic events, and more
recently, as a result of chair massage, in offices, convention halls, tourist areas, and other high traffic locations. And while these practitioners may call themselves therapists
the public does not generally view the massage as a health care service in the medical
sense. Rather they view massage as a luxury personal service.
Instead of trying to convince the public, and ourselves, that we are health care practitioners, I suggest that we put our efforts toward capitalizing on this common perception which most people already share about massage.
Changing the image of massage from a luxury service to a lifestyle necessity, like getting a haircut, would not be such a large step and will provide a strong foundation for
developing massage as a health care service.
Defining massage as personal care service allows it to cross over all socioeconomic
lines and makes it accessible to everyone. The outlets for massage services will be
even more diverse than the haircutting industry. There will be expensive massage
and low-cost massage. There will be massage that lasts for an afternoon and massage
that lasts 5 minutes. There will be massage done in store front establishments, in the
home, in the office, at the airport, in shopping malls, and virtually anyplace there are
If we set our sights on making massage as convenient and affordable as a haircut
then massage will develop an enormous base of support. Inevitably consumers will
realize that massage has more potential than to simply relax them and make them
feel better. They will begin to seek out some of the more sophisticated forms of bodywork to deal with health concerns. At this point the massage profession will have the
political and economic strength to take charge of its future identity as a health care
service. We will be able to define the health care nature of massage in a way which
protects the integrity of our work rather than sells out to the current medical establishment.
We are engaged in the process of legitimizing massage by taking what was once a
fringe service and making it into a viable commercial enterprise. This endeavor is
sometimes frightening because so few of us have ever participated in a social change
process of such magnitude. We are presuming to do nothing less than transform one
54 Marketing Chair Massage
of our culture’s most prized taboos, touch, into a positive social value. No wonder we
are constantly looking over our shoulders for someone to tell us whether or not we
are doing it the right way.
One thing that I have learned as a peace activist of the 60’s, a social services activist
of the 70’s, and a touch activist throughout the 80’s is that the only “right” way is the
one which puts service above self-interest and integrity before self-indulgence. When
I follow the principled path I thrive and feel whole. When I don’t I cause suffering and
feel disconnected, confused, and lost.
The massage profession will find its own path through honest introspection and the
creative synergy of thousands of practitioners, schools, and associations working
together to develop new answers to old questions. Some say let’s not reinvent the
wheel. Let’s do it the way it’s always been done. I say, take nothing for granted. Challenge every assumption. Hold every decision in front of the light of our ideals and see
if they are obscured or shine freely.
Let us discover our collective vision and combine our collective wisdom to create an
industry that reflects our ideals and the integrity of our work.
Massage should become a recognized health care profession, but that achievement
should be where our struggle for legitimacy ends, not begins. Massage as a personal
care service is what will make our work accessible and legitimate to the mainstream,
and strong enough to become a health care service with our uniqueness intact.
Comments on Common Questions
ot surprisingly, since my ideas about the massage industry frequently go
against the prevailing wisdom, I often get asked pertinent questions about the
validity of my views. Below are some of the most often asked questions, with my replies.
Aren’t you just playing with semantics when you say that therapy is a medical term?
Isn’t all massage therapeutic in the broadest sense of the word?
No, it’s not just a question of semantics. Certainly the word therapy has been applied
to a great variety of services such as skin therapy as practiced by estheticians, or therapeutic hair treatments given by cosmetologists.
However, neither of these professions define themselves as part of the health care
services industry. Massage therapy, on the other hand, as defined by the AMTA and
identified by most bodyworkers is a health care service. When therapy is used in the
health care context it is a medical term and has a very specific meaning in the dictionaries and minds of health care professional. According to Blakiston’s Pocket Medical Dictionary, therapy is defined as: “The means employed in effecting the cure or
management of disease or diseased patients.” Webster’s 3rd has a similar definition.
This is the commonly accepted definition and perception which you buy into when
you define massage as a health care service. This is also why the medical profession,
in general, refuses to take massage seriously. In order for us to meet their definition of
Defining our profession
therapist we would need training which far exceeds what is standard in most schools
I understand the distinction between relaxation massage done as a personal care
service and therapeutic massage done as a health care service, but what do you call
relaxation massage that is done in a health care setting, like a chiropractor’s office?
This question gets to the heart of the grey area surrounding the identity of massage.
At the moment I would call it a health promotion service, rather than a health care
service. Relaxation massage is like good nutrition. Everyone can use it to enhance
their well-being whether they are sick or not. Both nutrition and massage can also be
used to treat specific medical conditions but they then require a different intention
and training on the part of the practitioner. In that context I would call massage and
nutrition health care services.
Isn’t it better to have highly skilled practitioners who can do relaxation massage
when necessary and therapeutic massage if appropriate?
For a number of reasons, no.
First, it takes much longer to train someone to be a therapist than it does to train
them to give a relaxation massage. That would result in fewer practitioners and consequently less massage being provided.
Second, since massage therapists would, in effect, be overqualified to do simple relaxation massage they would always have a tendency to make each session into a
treatment, whether or not that was the expectation of the customer. They would also,
naturally, be more inclined to work in health care, rather than personal service environments.
Third, I believe that the first job of a new massage practitioner is to learn how to
touch, and be touched, by others. Having everyone spending two years as a personal
service practitioner will not only help insure they learn the skill of touching, but also
encourage them to develop a humility about their work. Later they can learn how to
deal with their clients’ physical, mental, or energetic problems.
Won’t defining massage as a personal care service lower the standards of practitioners and open our industry up to the fast buck artists who don’t care about massage?
The specter of bartending schools adding low quality programs for massage practitioners is a possibility. There are plenty of examples of vocational school training
abuse. However, I think there are a number of steps which can be taken to counteract
that trend.
First, is to develop industry-wide standards of training and school business practices
which assure students a quality education.
Second, create industry-wide business standards for practitioners which are consumer-oriented. An example of these is outlined in “Industry-wide business standards.”
Third, have a consumer education campaign promoting both sets of standards to potential students and consumers of massage.
56 Marketing Chair Massage
The role of personal care massage in the 90’s
n “Defining our professional identity,” I have detailed why I think the massage
profession should consciously pursue a development strategy which is based on accessibility to personal care massage rather than acceptability of health care massage.
Now I would like to suggest that, like it or not, massage as a personal care service—
and in particular chair massage—is already well on its way to dwarfing health care
massage by the end of the century. This article will discuss the assumptions underlying this opinion, the trends which have already appeared, and the implications for
the massage profession.
Accessibility = Inevitability
The goal of personal care massage is to make skilled touch accessible by making it
safe, convenient, and affordable. I often suggest that getting a massage should be no
more difficult, or controversial, than getting a haircut. In fact, I believe that massage
has the potential to become even more commonplace than haircuts.
Consider this scenario. If haircuts and 15 minute chair massages (clothed, seated, no
oils) were both offered free, which one would most people be likely to get? Which
one would they get more often?
Most people would prefer the massage simply because they inherently recognize
that it will make them feel better. Almost everyone has, at one time or another, asked
a family member, co-worker, or friend to, “Just rub my shoulders a bit.” If professional
massage were free, most people would get one at least a couple of times a week.
Put in this context the strategy for growth in the massage profession becomes clear.
The general public is ready to purchase massage if we are ready to present it in nonthreatening, inexpensive forms.
What threatens consumers? At the moment, any hint of sexuality associated with
massage will prevent it from moving into the mainstream. What is too expensive? For
the bulk of Americans the price of massage has to drop to below $20, the same range
as a typical haircut, before they will see it as affordable.
The only form of massage which I believe meets these criteria is chair massage. Allowing consumers to keep their clothes on and remain seated removes 90% of the
image of massage as adult entertainment. Providing five to twenty-five minute massages is the only way to lower the labor intensive cost of massage.
Chair massage is the obvious foundation on which to build universal access to skilled
touch. Chair massage is the kindergarten of the massage profession, the place where
the public can start its education about the value of touch in their lives. As more people experience seated massage they will be more likely to lay on a table and to utilize
massage as a therapeutic and personal growth resource. Thus seated massage will supply an ever-increasing number of consumers to all of the bodywork disciplines.
Implications for growth
How big will chair massage be? Let’s compare it, once again, to getting a haircut.
In California there are 200,980 state licensed cosmetologists and barbers serving a
population of 29 million people. That means there is one haircutter for every 144.6
people. Extrapolating to the entire U.S. population, there are 1.7 million people who
Defining our profession
cut hair professionally.
Given the fact that most people get a haircut only once every six weeks (whereas
they are likely to get a massage more often), and balancing that with the fact that a
lot of the massages will be only 15 minutes long, the 1.7 million figure is probably a
conservative estimate of the potential scope of the chair massage profession.
Who will these practitioners be and how will they be trained? What will the services
look like?
A cross-section of people doing massage ten years from now will probably look a
great deal like the people who are currently cutting hair. In fact, I suspect that a lot
of cosmetologists will be interested in expanding their skills to include massage.
One major manufacturer reportedly already sells more massage chairs than massage
tables and most of them are going into hair salons.
I would also hazard a guess that massage will become a popular career for the evergrowing, over-55 population, who have more time and wisdom to devote to nonverbal interactions.
These practitioners will be trained by a whole new generation of schools without
the word therapy in their names. As soon as professional vocational schools discover
that massage is a viable career, they also will develop curricula to train practitioners.
An increasing number of cosmetology and esthetician schools are already moving in
that direction. Current massage schools will either continue to train health care massage practitioners or expand their curriculums to include an entry-level tier for the
personal care service practitioner.
I predict that personal care massage services will have an even greater diver-sity than
hair services because they require fewer tools, are less messy, and can be offered in
smaller increments. By the year 2000 you will see storefront retail massage establishments in shopping malls, financial districts, airports, tourist centers, as well as on the
neighborhood commercial strip.
They will offer five minute foot or facial massages, ten minute upper body massages,
and 30 minute full-body massages all done with the customer in a seated position.
Some will specialize in enhancing the massage with scents and others with sounds.
Hair salons, health clubs, and fitness centers will all have at least one massage practitioner on staff. Corporations will make chair massage services universally accessible
to their employees and, in many cases, will foot the bill.
As a result of the success of chair massage, table massage will also experience tremendous growth and be incorporated into many of these same facilities.
Dozens of new associations will spring up to represent the regional and specialty interests of massage practitioners.
The final factor which convinces me that chair massage will be successful is that the
media loves this type of massage. I have assisted dozens of reporters over the past
seven years doing stories about chair massage and never once did I have to initiate
the contact. Since it doesn’t have to be done behind closed doors reporters are much
more likely to be aware of chair massage and even to receive it themselves. Chair
massage, particularly in the workplace, is a public relations dreamchild. The media
loves the prodigal son message inherent in chair massage. More mentions of chair
massage appear in the press than any other kind of bodywork.
Personal care service massage is poised to be one of the major business success sto58 Marketing Chair Massage
ries of the 90’s. We have the market which is starved for touch, we have the way to
package our services to make them accessible, and we also have the crucial support
of the media. I feel confident that, with 3,000+ practitioners already doing chair massage the critical mass has been reached to give it a life of its own.
Those schools, practitioners, and associations which have dedicated their efforts to
developing massage as a health care service may feel threatened by the ascendancy
of massage as a personal care service, but it is a needless fear. Personal care massage
will only help to legitimize health care massage and provide a client base many times
larger than currently exists.
We are at the beginning of our efforts to bring touch into the lives of all people in our
country, but with continued cooperation and communication there will be room for
all our visions.
20/20 Vision: The Next Three Decades of Massage
This speech was delivered as the Keynote Address at the convention of the California
Massage Therapy Association on March 19, 1992.
In searching for an appropriate topic for this address, I learned that this year, the California Massage Therapy Association is celebrating its 30th anniversary. As I thought
about the role that California has played in the evolution of the modern day bodywork industry I began to fantasize about what the next three decades might look like.
So, I put on my prognosticator’s hat and began developing a vision for the year 2020
All good futurists will tell you that the best way to predict the future is by examining
the past historical patterns of change which surround us and have brought us to the
present moment in time.
To this end I would like to trace with you some threads of change which I believe gave
birth to the modern day bodywork movement and, by extending those threads as far
as the year 2020, identifying some choices that we have for creating our future.
The Sixties
The first decade of the CMTA, in the 1960’s, coincided with the beginning of the reemergence of massage in the national public consciousness. Without a doubt it was
the human potential movement, whose focal point was California in general and the
Esalen Institute in particular, which provided much of the fertile ground for the rebirth of skilled touch.
To understand the roots of modern day massage you have to understand a bit about
the human potential movement. I believe that, at its core, the human potential movement was, and still is, about the rejection of a dualistic world view (for example: humans vs. nature; mind vs. body) and the rediscovery of the truly wholistic nature of
Dualism is about separation, disconnection, and, ultimately, alienation. Alienation
Defining our profession
became something of an art form in the sixties as people became more and more disconnected from their families, their communities, their environment, their work, and
themselves. We see the effects of that disconnection all around us. Obvious social
priorities such as housing, education, health care, stable child-rearing environments,
and meaningful work have been ignored. Environmental and social catastrophes,
which have been accurately forecast since the sixties, are now upon us and we still
refuse to restructure our thinking.
Wholism, on the other hand, is about connection; understanding that the world is
composed of a network of interdependent relationships. When you affect one element in the universe, you affect all others. It is an ecological approach to life that
does not separate human beings from nature or mind from body but presumes that
each affects the other and is ultimately dependent upon the other for survival and
The sixties were a time for discovering the need for reconnection and relationship—
to ourselves, to our environment, and to other people, including those with different
languages, cultures, and skin colors.
Of particular relevance here, I remember that cultural attitudes toward touching another person were being vigorously challenged in that period. Some of you are old
enough to remember that three decades ago hugging was not a socially acceptable
form of greeting or saying good-bye. I can still recall the shock and awkwardness of
my own father the first time I hugged him as an adult in 1968. Now he would think
something was seriously wrong in our relationship if I didn’t give him a hug.
It was no accident that the popular media at the time termed the personal growth groups
that developed in the sixties “touchy-feelie” groups. Therapists were beginning to understand that touch was essential to maintaining good health and well-being.
Along side this exploration of informal touch came an explosion of interest in structured touch. We saw the first wave of popular self-help books about massage coming
into the marketplace. Practitioners began teaching workshops in dozens of new and
old approaches to touching the body. Skilled touch was promoted for healing the
body, the mind, and the spirit in all of their manifestations.
The Seventies
This led us into the Seventies which, for the bodywork movement, was an unfettered
time for exploring the diversity of ways in which touch could be applied to a myriad
of human problems.
The Seventies were also a time when massage schools began to develop, often as
simply workshops within larger wholistic health or personal growth centers, and,
toward the end of the decade, as independent educational institutions. Today only a
very small percentage of the more than 400 formal massage training programs in the
United States are more than 15 years old. We are still a very young industry.
The Seventies were also a time of differentiation. Particular styles of bodywork began
competing in the marketplace for the few clients that appreciated the importance
of bodywork. That meant they had to explain with increasing precision the rationale
behind their approach. Rolfers, Trager practitioners, Feldenkrais, Polarity, for example,
felt it was important to distinguish their work from what was termed “massage.”
In addition to the myriad new styles of bodywork which evolved, the late Seventies
and early Eighties saw practitioners of virtually every existing form of bodywork in
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the Far East, the Middle East, India, Pacific Islands, and South America traveling to the
United States to offer their often ancient traditions to bodyworkers eager for more
and more information about structured touch traditions.
The Eighties
The 1980’s saw a number of significant trends and processes emerge. First, was the
beginning of the institutionalization of skilled touch practitioners into a recognized
service industry. School owners and the leaders of bodywork associations Often the
same people) began to plan for the long-term growth of this emerging service industry.
At that point the bodywork industry was facing three major issues. The first two were
marketing concerns. Primary was how to change the image of massage so that the
public did not continue to confuse our work with prostitution. The second concern
was how to make massage affordable to a wider range of potential clients.
The third concern, not directly related to marketing, was how to begin unifying the
incredible diversity of bodywork styles. Clearly there was strength in numbers. But
how to bring together the vast array of often competing modalities into a cohesive
force for development?
There is no doubt the organization which first began to address all of these issues on
a national level was the AMTA. The leadership of the AMTA must be credited with putting an enormous amount of mostly unpaid effort into trying to find effective solutions to these problems.
Regarding the public image problem the AMTA decided, in the mid-eighties, to adopt
the term massage therapist as the designation for its membership. This would make a
clear distinction in the public’s mind between massage and prostitution. It also fit in
well with the AMTA’s solution to the second problem of how to make our work more
affordable. The AMTA believed that the ultimate solution to affordability was to position bodywork as part of health care services industry and thereby open the doors to
third-party payments from the government and insurance companies. Calling ourselves massage therapists fit neatly into this game plan.
To deal with the third issue, how to unify the bodywork industry, the AMTA instituted
a plan to dramatically increase the membership of the association. Under the skillful
leadership of Bob King this goal was accomplished beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. The tremendous growth of the AMTA from a few thousand members in the
early eighties to over 14,000 members today is talked about as one of the modern
success stories of professional associations.
With the increase in membership the AMTA now had the resources to begin developing the institutional trappings which would allow massage to become a viable,
recognized mainstream service industry. The two primary initiatives developed in the
late Eighties were the national certification and school accreditation processes. Most
recently the National Federation of Bodywork Associations has been formed to give
further credibility to our work.
While the AMTA is to be credited for leading the way into our professional future here
I must point out that the original solutions which the AMTA offered for the first two
development issues mentioned above did not turn out to be the final solutions. I say
this with some relieve because, personally, I saw the AMTA strategy ultimately resulting in the total medicalization of massage. Fortunately that is not likely to happen because there were other forces at work in the field which provided different solutions
Defining our profession
to the development problems.
The basic flaw in the AMTA strategy was presuming that bodywork had to operate only in
the health care arena of our economy in order to achieve legitimacy. In fact, massage now
successfully operates in at least two other distinct sectors of the economy.
The first is the personal care services market where massage has a long history in
salons, spas, and resorts and where its impact continues to spread. The second is the
more recent (since the 1960’s) health and fitness sector of the economy. Here we fit
comfortably into aerobic studios, gyms, athletic locker rooms, as well as in corporate
health promotion programs.
The AMTA was also wrong in thinking that the only way to make massage affordable
was through third-party insurance payments. When chair massage came onto the
national scene in 1986 it brought with it the possibility of bodyworkers being able to
offer their services to virtually unlimited markets at prices most people could easily
Chair massage also provided a better solution to the problem of the public’s perception of massage being a form of adult entertainment. Nobody ever mistakes chair
massage for prostitution. No longer behind closed doors and done in a seated position
through the clothing, chair massage has given a totally fresh image to our work.
And the media has eaten it up. There have been more stories written and filmed
about chair massage than any other form of bodywork making it the best educational tool for changing the public image of massage.
Another second educational nod needs to go to sports massage which was formally
recognized as a result of the pioneering work done by, once again, Californians at the
1984 Olympics. Sports massage has also been highly visible in the media and has attracted the endorsement of numerous high visibility athletes further enhancing our
The Nineties
This brings us up to the present. Based on where we have been what are the tasks
which currently face us and what in what directions will our profession evolve?
I believe that the rest of this century will be dedicated toward continuing to define
our work to ourselves and to the general public. We still can’t agree upon a common
language much less a definition of those words we use to describe ourselves. The task
is twofold. First, to continue to define what aspects within all of the different types of
bodywork join us together, and second, to define the uniqueness of each individual
approach to structured touch.
I have become convinced that what both literally and figuratively binds all bodyworkers together is touch. This seemingly obvious truism was somehow lost during the
Eighties in the quest to professionalize massage. Only in the last two years has it become a serious topic of conversation in massage schools and associations.
If our work is about touch, then shouldn’t we naturally be the experts on touch in our
society? And yet, unbelievably, our industry doesn’t have one decent textbook on the
subject of touch. Schools still graduate practitioners who know their anatomy and
physiology but who don’t know how to have a relationship based on touch with another human being.
This must change and, I believe, by the end of this decade it will, as schools continue
to explore the best ways to teach skilled touch.
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By the year 2,000 you won’t be able to graduate from an entry-level professional massage program unless you have studied touch as a form of communication. Students
will thoroughly explore the attitudes toward touch held by various cultures around
the world as well as their own personal attitudes. They will understand that touch
speaks many languages in many contexts. They will know something about the difference between a man holding another man’s hand in public on a street in Athens,
Greece, and two men holding hands on Castro Street in San Francisco, California.
They will have experienced how shifting the intention of your touch can shift the
qualitative experience of touch. They will know dozens of different ways to ask for
and to receive permission to touch another person. These new practitioners will, and
hopefully by that time all of us also will, understand that there is a road of mastery
to skillful touch which is far more essential to our work than knowing our anatomy,
physiology, and contra-indications.
As touch regains prominence within our profession schools will also come to realize
that the academic model of training entry-level practitioners is inappropriate to our
entry-level work. No one would presume that a pianist, or a dancer, or a carpenter,
or a gymnast truly learns his or her skills in the classroom. Everyone recognizes that
body-based skills require practice, practice, and more practice.
Over the past five years most bodywork schools have implemented clinical practice
as a part of their core curricula but still it is only a small proportion of the total training. By the end of this decade you can expect to see many more schools adopting
apprenticeship-style training programs where students begin practicing their skills,
under supervision, on the general public after as little as one hundred hours of classroom training. At a minimum, entry level training programs will have a 1:1 correspondence between training and supervised practice.
The primary reason why this has not already occurred is because the markets for
bodywork have been so small and supervision behind closed doors doing table massage is sometimes so awkward.
This brings me to my next prediction for the rest of this decade. I believe the market
for entry-level massage will continue to grow and provide thousands of new opportunities for apprenticeship training programs. More specifically, I have come to
the conclusion because I believe that, by the end of this century, there will be more
people giving, and receiving, chair massage than any other type of bodywork.
I confidently make this prediction based on one simple fact—that chair massage is
more affordable than any other type of massage. It ultimately comes down to economics, pure and simple.
Chair massage is also the best entry-level introduction to the value of structured
touching for the general public because it requires so little commitment of time and
emotional energy as well as money.
By the end of the decade you will see chair massage in every shopping mall, commercial district, airport, and theme park in the country. You will see it on street corners, in
parks, in gyms, in salons, and in the workplace.
Because of the tremendous growth of chair massage there will also be a much larger
foundation of educated consumers who want to “graduate” to more sophisticated
forms of bodywork, such as full-body work on a table, remedial work for physical
problems, and psychophysical work for dealing with personal growth issues.
All of this means that schools will begin training students to do chair massage first, as
Defining our profession
entry-level, and table massage later for those who want to expand their professional
skills. Next year my old school, The Amma Institute, will become the first bodywork
school in the country to train people in chair massage who have never worked on a
table. How long do you think it takes to train a practitioner to do 15 minutes of upper-body massage? We are anticipating a 300 hour curriculum, half classroom and
half supervised practice.
The turn of the century
Although it will still be exploratory, you will also see, by the year 2,000 the results of
preliminary research into the efficacy of hands-on work in all of its manifestations.
However, the real commitment from the academic community to researching bodywork won’t come until after the turn of the century. In the first decade of the next
century the bodywork industry will get its biggest boost from the completion of
major research projects which will demonstrate the importance of massage in a multitude of settings.
By that decade we will finally have dozens of textbooks, written by experts, talking
about the near infinite variety of uses for structured touch. People like my friend,
Deborah, who is paid by the New Jersey Department of Corrections to give 15 minute
seated massages to incarcerated, male, juvenile, sex offenders, will be recognized
authorities in their field and will be consulting with prison systems throughout the
Corporations will be hiring specially trained “Hands-On Health Promotion” practitioners to provide massage in the workplace and to also train employees how to give
simple shoulder rubs to each other.
Every dependency program, whether for drugs, alcohol, food, smoking, or gambling
will have a bodywork component reconnecting people to the inner wisdom of their
physical selves.
Every birthing process, from pre-natal, through delivery, and on into post-natal care
of the mother and the baby will be accompanied by massage.
The sensitive touching work of people like Irene Smith, who specializes in massage
for the seriously ill, will become standard in every dying process.
And twenty years from now, remedial massage will also be an accepted treatment
modality for a wide variety of conditions. The medical community will come to appreciate the fact that hands-on therapies can treat, much less invasively, than drugs
or surgery, a vast array of conditions. By the year 2010, Massage Therapists will be going through academic training programs at least as long and as complex as those for
chiropractors. They will be a permanent part of every clinic and hospital program and
they will be licensed under the health care act of every state.
The “Teens”
You will notice that my predictions get shorter the further into the future I move, but
let’s take the big leap. How about thirty years from now?
I believe that by three decades from now the most significant change of all will have
One of the benefits of making bodywork commercially viable in each of the different
economic arenas of personal care, health and fitness, and the health care industries,
is that people will begin to be connected to their bodies. The anti-body attitudes
which have weighed us down for the past 2,000 years will begin to melt as people
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start to actually like their physical selves better. As that happens they will also want
to naturally know more about how their bodies work and how to interact more fully
with each other on a physical level.
My vision for the year 2020 is that basic touch skills will be taught in all of the schools
from primary through secondary levels. Thirty years from now touch will be deemed
so important to our health and well being that everyone will be expected to know
how to ask for touch, say no to touch, and how to give appropriate touch to one another when requested.
At that moment my professional vision will have been realized—that of making
touching a positive social value in our culture.
If all of these predictions sound too utopian, I admit, they probably are. I have not
taken into account the possible effects of wars, ecological catastrophes, or economic
collapse—all of which remain imminent. But without sounding too Pollyanne-ish, my
philosophy is that even though the world is going to hell in a handbasket, our proper
role is to keep making what little contributions we can to reverse the trends.
I actually think that the greatest threat to our success comes not from external forces
over which we have little control, but rather from the internal dynamics within our
own profession.
For example, we could create legislation which would force all massage practitioners
to become massage therapists working in the health care realm. That, of course,
would be a tragedy and seriously limit the access of customers to entry-level massage.
We could neglect to create business standards which are as high as our professional
standards. The only kind of business appropriate to our work is honest business. We
ask our clients to trust us to a level of intimacy only exceeded by what they experience in their bedrooms. In return we must create businesses which honor that trust
and give it back to the client. No high-powered Madison Avenue marketing techniques will ever be appropriate to our industry and we need to fight them wherever
they occur. People who come into our industry primarily because they think they will
get rich quick should be weeded out by the schools. We only want people who come
to this profession with conviction and who intend to stay in it for the long haul.
We could also ignore the essential nature of touch to our work and instead of creating touch experts who are intimately familiar with the language of touch, we could
create technicians who are only interested in the latest techniques of touch. Let’s
not become specialists and forget what is most essential to our work. It would be
a shame if the massage therapists of the future made the same mistake the M.D.’s,
Osteopaths, chiropractors, and physical therapists have made in neglecting to learn
how to touch someone first and treat them second.
Thirty years ago the modern day massage movement emerged out of a need for
connection. We have an opportunity to continue helping people become connected
both to their internal and external environments. Touch has some unique attributes
when it is done by a trained professional.
Skilled touch is revolutionary. It has the power to change the world by
changing an individual’s relationship to him or herself and their relationship to the world around them.
Defining our profession
Skilled touch is always appropriate. From birth to death, in sickness and in
health, in times of growth and change and in times of stability and bonding, skilled touch is always appropriate.
Skilled touch is unconditional. No matter if you are young or old, rich or
poor, fat or skinny, Black or white, Republican or Democrat the gift of touch
is blind.
These are essential characteristics of the nature of touch. If we protect them, no matter what scenario unfolds for us in the next thirty years, we will arrive at the year 2020
AD with our integrity intact and our hearts full with the knowledge that we have
made a difference in each of the lives of the people to whom we have given the gift
of touch.
Defining our professional identity
he touching professions have been so diverse and have defined their services in
so many different ways that no one can agree upon the difference between a
bodyworker, massage therapist, massage practitioner, touch therapist, masseur, or
With this problem in mind, in September, 1989, the Canyon Ranch Foundation in
Tucson, Arizona sponsored a four day “think tank” to begin the process of examining
the core terminology used by touching professionals. The foundation, which is the
nonprofit branch of the famous Canyon Ranch health spa, brought together thirteen
leaders representing a broad spectrum of philosophical, theoretical, and technical
approaches to professional touch.
The conference was designed to be a nonpolitical, academic exercise which would attempt to make a significant contribution to the development of touch professions.
In November, the Foundation released its final report. As one of the participants, I
would like to summarize the report and use it as a starting point for suggesting additional clarifications. (Please see the end of this article for a full list of participants and
information about obtaining a copy of the report.)
First there was the word…
The Think Tank decided that the most important term to agree upon was the one
which would distinguish the work of touch professionals from that of every other service industry. We needed one “umbrella” word which all touch disciplines from acupressure to zero balancing could feel comfortable using to describe themselves.
After examining dozens of potential candidates the choice was narrowed down to
three terms: massage, touch therapies, and bodywork. Each of these terms was submitted to intense scrutiny relative to the following set of five criteria which the group
had agreed upon.
The word chosen to identify the common nature of the touching professions should:
1. reflect what we do
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2. distinguish us from other types of practitioners
3. be acceptable to different touch disciplines and intentions within
the field
4. be politically viable outside the field
5. be saleable to the general public
Although it was apparent that none of the three words satisfied all of the criteria
completely, there was one word which all participants agreed came the closest—
With that word chosen as the one best representative of the professional touching
community the next step for the group was to define the term. After another lengthy
discussion we settled on the following definition:
“Bodywork is the skillful application of touch to enhance health and well-being.”
The group also defined each of the words used in the primary definition (skillful, application, touch, etc.) and added a secondary sentence further explaining that: “Bodywork includes a variety of philosophical approaches, theoretical frameworks, and
techniques such as massage, movement, and education.”
Rather than trying to define words specific to particular bodywork disciplines, the
Think Tank instead chose to suggest a model which other groups could use. The form
of each new definition would contain the general category of which the term was a
subcategory. For example, “Swedish massage (or Rolfing, or Polarity, or NMT, etc.) is a
form of bodywork which…”
We also developed a series of ten questions which we thought might be useful as
a starting point for creating detailed definitions of bodywork approaches, whether
practiced by an individual or a group of people. The questions are:
1. What is the philosophical “world view” which you bring to your work? Do
you believe the world is basically rational, scientific, and linear? Is it more
nonlinear and relational? Is it all preordained? Or is it some other combination?
2. What is the theoretical body of knowledge on which your work is based?
Contemporary Western medicine? Oriental medicine? Ayurvedic traditions? Other traditions? A combination?
3. What is the role of the client in your work? Passive participant?
Active partner?
4. What is the role of the practitioner in the work? Healer? Facilitator? Technician?
5. What is the intention of the practitioner? To promote circulation? To relax?
To teach? To treat ailments?
6. What are your client’s expectations? To feel good? To learn? To have general discomfort or illness relieved? To alleviate a disease process?
7. How much verbal communication is required in your work?
8. Does your work require one session or a series of sessions?
9. What techniques and tools are required to perform your work?
10. What is your client’s position during your work? On a table, a chair,
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the floor?
The problem of massage
Two of the most difficult terms to define in the bodywork profession are massage and
massage therapy. Unfortunately, the Think Tank ran out of time and was not able to
address this issue. I would like to take a stab at examining the problems surrounding
these terms and propose a comprehensive definition for massage.
To begin to understand the problems inherent in these two terms let’s look at the approach the AMTA took during the 1980’s. Going into the decade the acronym “AMTA”
stood for the “American Massage and Therapy Association.” In 1983 the national
board decided to remove the word and from the center of their name. Why did they
do this and what has been the impact of that decision on the bodywork field?
There were two basic arguments for modifying the name. The first was to create an
identity which would not be confused with the adult entertainment forms of massage. The second reason was to begin defining massage as a legitimate health care
Unfortunately, as the designers of the original version of the AMTA name realized, not
all massage is therapy. In fact, most massage falls into the personal services category
rather than the health services category. Defining massage only as a health care service leads to all of the problems outlined in the article “Strategies for inventing the future of massage” in Chapter 10, including limiting consumer’s access to massage and
losing part of what makes our work unique.
I would suggest that we do not abandon the word massage to the prostitutes and,
instead, reclaim it as a necessary and respected part of our professional vocabulary.
Since I personally don’t do massage therapy I will leave it to others to clarify that
term, however, my preference would be that massage therapy be considered a subspecialty of massage. Thus everyone who wants to become a massage “therapist”
would have to work as a massage “practitioner” first.
I would like to present my working definition for massage, utilizing the approach outlined in the Think Tank report. First I define massage in one sentence as a subcategories of the larger field of bodywork:
“Massage is a basic bodywork discipline which utilizes skilled touch to promote relaxation.”
To expand upon this definition I further consider four different facets of massage:
the intention of the practitioner, the expectation of the customer, the interaction between the two, and the limitations of massage.
Intention of the practitioner:
To teach, and learn, how to touch and be touched. This intention should be
at the core of every massage practice.
To promote circulation. This could be defined as energetic circulation as
well as the traditional circulation of bodily fluids.
To make the customer feel better. This is all a massage practitioner can
Expectation of the customer:
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Improved sense of well-being.
Relief of symptoms of stress.
Health maintenance. This is an expectation only of those customers who
realize that by meeting the previous three expectations minor health problems will often be prevented from becoming bigger health problems—the
“tune-up” concept.
Interaction between customer and practitioner:
Each massage stands complete on its own. There is no progressive series of
massages required for the work to meet expectations.
Each customer is screened for contraindications. Practitioners are ultimately governed by the rule of thumb: “when in doubt, don’t.”
Diagnostic decisions are made by the customer. For example the determination of the need for massage (“Boy, could I use a good massage right
now!”), or how much pressure to apply, or where to put special emphasis
during the massage are all judgements which are made by the customer,
not the practitioner.
There is little verbal communication offered or encouraged by the practitioner during the massage other than for feedback regarding the comfort
level of the customer.
Massage is not intended to be “therapy” in the medical sense. Practitioners
do not intend to relieve any dysfunction, illness, disease process, or injury.
If relief occurs to a medical condition the practitioner does not take credit.
This analysis of massage does not include any qualifications on techniques used or
theoretical frameworks underlying the work of the practitioner. Subcategories of
massage might include massage based on cellular theory (such as Swedish massage)
vs. massage based on traditional Chinese medicine theory (such as Japanese Amma);
or table massage vs. chair massage.
Other terms
There are additional terms which are important to clarify as part of our professional
The first is the word we use to describe the person who does the massage. I have
opted for the term practitioner as an alternative to the term therapist which, of
course, should only be used by someone doing massage therapy. The words I would
be happy to never hear again are masseur and masseuse. Consumers can never keep
straight which is the male and which is the female. How about agreeing to exorcise
them from all of our vocabularies?
The second word describes the person who receives a massage. Once again, the term
patient is obviously inappropriate, unless you are a massage therapist. The alternate
that I have been using for years is client. More recently I have also been using the
word customer because it presumes a certain equality, based on the commercial
transaction. The terms client and patient carry the connotation of the receiver of services being in a dependent relationship to the giver of service.
The third term I have adopted is an alternate to using the word treatment to describe
Defining our profession
the massage process. Now I simply substitute the word session as a nonmedical
sounding alternative.
Words are very powerful and whichever ones we use to describe ourselves will determine our self-identity as well as our public image. I encourage all practitioners,
schools, and associations to develop their own glossaries of professional terms building upon the work of the Canyon Ranch group. Then make these glossaries readily
available to your clients, students, and members. Eventually we will be able to talk
about ourselves with greater consistency and clarity.
The participants were: Margaret Avery, Patricia Benjamin, Iris Burman, Carol Carpenter, Ray Castellino, D.C., Steve Eabry, Kathryn Hansman-Spice, Joseph Heller, Peggy
Horan, George Kousaleos, Mary McAllister, David Palmer, and Frances Tappan. Biographical information is contained in the full report.
Industry-wide business standards
f one accepts the premise that by 2000 AD massage will be a major service in
dustry, then the best time to develop standards for our profession is at the beginning before our vision is obscured by the billions of dollars which will be moving
through our industry each year. We can not afford to let the identity of our profession
be created by default. We must actively plan our development so that we can avoid
the most prominent pitfalls.
How, for example, do we ensure that the massage profession will not end up adopting the worst aspects of the cosmetology industry, such as schools which provide inferior training, businesses with poor working conditions, and disreputable franchisors
trying to make their millions at the expense of enthusiastic entrepreneurs, massage
practitioners, and customers?
The answer, I believe, lies in the adoption of industry-wide business standards.
Up to this point, whenever standards in massage have been discussed it has usually
been in the context of standards of competency. Is this person qualified to be a practitioner? Does this school’s curriculum provide adequate training for practitioners?
There are two problems with this approach. First, since we have not come to any
agreement on what constitutes competency it is difficult to measure it. What is the
body of knowledge required to be an entry-level practitioner? How about a massage
therapist? At the moment, nobody knows. In fact, one of the primary reasons the
AMTA developed their initiative to create a national certification exam was to discover exactly what it is that we do in our work and what all practitioners should know to
do it. Until we reach some common agreement, we will not be able to begin monitoring the quality of our services.
The second difficulty is that, even if we could identify what competencies to test for,
we know from looking at other service professions that national certification exams,
state licensure laws, and 1,000 hour training programs are no guarantee that bad
practitioners won’t make it into the profession. And even these tools do not protect
us, or the consumer, from the unscrupulous entrepreneur who does not share our
70 Marketing Chair Massage
values about business.
So I suggest that the best way to protect ourselves now, and in the future, is to come
to a common agreement as to what we consider to be baseline business standards
for the massage industry. If every massage business, school, and association requires
these standards of their practitioners, students, or members, and if every practitioner
only works for, trains at, or becomes a member of organizations which upholds these
standards, then we will have a powerful tool for shaping the identity of the massage
industry in a way which conforms to our vision of what it should be.
Since we have to start somewhere, and since I suggested the idea, I would like to
take a shot at proposing a list of standards which we massage practitioners could
subscribe to. Most of these are ones which I have used in my massage school, massage businesses, and, most recently, in the formation of TouchPro Chair Massage. I
welcome modifications and additions to this list.
Business standards for massage:
Superior service. Each customer will be treated with respect and guaranteed a clean, safe, and comfortable massage.
Unconditional money-back guarantee. If the customer’s expectations are
not met or exceeded the full price of the massage session will be refunded.
Full disclosure. Upon request, practitioners freely make available to customers the details of their qualifications, including training, experience,
and professional affiliations.
Pre-screening. Practitioners agree to screen each customer for any medical,
psychological, or other contraindication which would make the work inappropriate.
Concordance. Practitioners are committed to creating a business environment which fosters compassion and cooperation.
I have striven to keep these standards simple so that they are easily understood by
consumers. They are all consumer-oriented standards which force practitioners to be
clear about the limits of their work and about the expectations of their customers.
They explicitly and implicitly commit the practitioner to high quality massage. If, for
some reason the customer
is not satisfied, they provide appropriate recourse so that satisfaction is guaranteed.
All of these standards foster a relationship between the practitioner and customer
based on trust. They presume the best intentions of both people.
These standards are also designed to encourage customers to become educated consumers which, I believe, is the ultimate answer to keeping our industry honest. There
is no better way to ensure that we are providing a high quality service than by having
a discriminating consumer. If the general public comes to expect these standards
from their practitioners then they will help us to keep the carpetbaggers out of the
Perhaps the Summit process or another Canyon Ranch Think Tank could be a forum
where these standards could be discussed by practitioners, schools, and associations.
While their greatest strength would lie in an industry-wide acceptance of the same
standards, if agreement cannot be reached then I would simply encourage all practitioners, schools, and associations to develop their own lists.
Defining our profession
Americans have a long-standing tendency toward overregulation. When something
goes wrong our first impulse is to make a rule or pass a law so that it will never be a
problem again. The solution I propose for maintaining high standards of service in
our industry is totally voluntary, requires no government intervention, is proactive
rather than reactive, and encourages the consumer to be our quality control supervisor. The carrot is often mightier than the stick.
The principle of full disclosure
One of the business standards that I have proposed for the bodywork industry is the
principle of full disclosure. What this means is that our customers have the right to
know as much as possible about us, our business, and our policies before they purchase our services. Informed consumers make good consumers.
I have seen consumer information about massage services provided in a wide variety of formats, everything from a one page flyer to an eight page booklet. The form
is not so important as is the content. I suggest you consider creating one or more
documents which will address the categories outlined below. Not all of the items will
apply to every business but, generally speaking, the more comprehensive you are in
sharing information with your clients, the better.
What is your business? Here you summarize what services you provide to what type
of clients.
Are you an adjunctive health care service or a personal care service?
Do you treat medical problems or provide a relaxation experience?
Do you specialize in working with the elderly, with harried executives, with
families, with truck drivers, with athletes?
Are there particular groups of people that you don’t work with such as
pregnant women or people with certain medical conditions?
If you have an outcall service, what are the geographic limits of your services?
Do you have a referral network of related professionals and businesses
which you utilize?
What style of bodywork do you practice?
What is this style particularly good for?
What are its limits?
Who are you? Describe your training and experience.
72 •
Where did you go to school?
When did you begin your business?
Where have you been working since you began your practice?
What special training have you had?
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What professional associations do you belong to?
What have you contributed to your professional association (e.g. served on
committees, edited a newsletter)?
What have you had published?
What special awards have you received?
What are your appointment policies?
What hours do you provide your services?
Do you provide only some services at particular times such as in office services Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and outcall services on Tuesday and
Do previous customers get special preference?
How are “emergencies” scheduled?
Is the first appointment longer than the rest?
What is your cancellation policy?
What if a customer is late for an appointment?
What if you are late for an appointment?
What about eating before an appointment? Alcohol, drug use, smoking?
Will clients generally get a phone machine when they call?
If your business phone is your home phone are there times when you appreciate not being disturbed?
What can customers expect? Since there is generally a great deal of anxiety around
getting a massage for the first time you should detail exactly what happens during a
bodywork session.
What professional standards do you ascribe to?
Will there be papers to fill out?
Will there be an interview?
Does the client have to get undressed?
Will they be draped?
Will you start with the client face down or face up?
Do you use oils?
Do they shower before or after?
What parts of the body will you be working on and in what order?
How should they receive the experience? Special breathing? Eyes closed?
Should they help to move or position their body?
What if something feels uncomfortable?
Will there be much verbal communication?
How long will the session last?
Defining our profession
Will there be music? Low light?
How does a customer utilize other facilities at your business (e.g. sauna,
Are there any reactions they should expect after they leave?
What is your policy on confidentiality?
How much will they pay?
What is your fee structure?
Are there any discounts for longer, shorter, or multiple sessions?
Do you take cash, checks, credit cards?
Do you bill?
Do you take insurance?
Are there any referral fees for new clients?
What is your recourse policy? Recourse means what a client can expect if they are not
satisfied with the service you provide.
Do you offer a money back guarantee for your work?
Do you offer a free session?
Can they register a complaint with your professional associa-
Is there a local Better Business Bureau or Consumer Affairs which
they can complain to?
74 Marketing Chair Massage
Defining our profession
Quality Standards for Practitioners
We expect our practitioners to be:
Personable • Positive • Energetic •Patient • Compassionate • Relaxed • Focused • Centered
Adaptable • Open to change • Neat, clean appearance • Good communication skills
Background in massage • Honest • Straightforward interactions with self and others
Greeting a Client:
People are often stressed and frazzled when you meet them. Encourage them to allow the next 20 minutes to let go and relax. Suggest that a jacket be removed, a tie loosened, a collar unbuttoned and that
objects be removed from shirt pockets. Watches and large jewelry may be placed on the shelf of the massage chair below the arm rest. By being compassionate, understanding, and relaxed, you will be starting
the educational process. Positive energy is contagious!
Whenever possible, choose a room that is quiet. Perhaps a conference room or library. If you use a clients
office, suggest that he/she turn off the telephone and not be interrupted for 20 minutes.
Be aware of the impact of language. Use words such as wellness, client, process, co-operate, educate, balanced, and responsibility. Terms such as patient, diagnoses, and cure suggest that:
1) a client may be sick
2) there may be a medical relationship between the client and the practitioner.
These terms also tend to take our work out of the wellness and educational context, which is central to our
focus. Our intention is to provide a service that increases well-being and reduces stress.
Wash your hands or use a mini-wipe starting on each client.
Cover the face cradle of the chair with a clean face cradle cover and change before each new client.
Keep your fingernails short.
Don’t chew gum while working.
Eat only on breaks.
If you must smoke, please do so out of the building.
Eliminate wearing strong perfume or cologne. Someone may find these objectionable and may not
want you to work on them. There is always the possibility of allergic reaction to these substances.
Develop an awareness of how your appearance, speech, and actions effect your interactions with others.
Create a neat, professional, relaxed appearance.
• Be aware of jewelry that may get caught or obstruct your work.
Record Keeping:
• Create a schedule of appointments.
• Have each client fill out a client information form on the first visit.
• After every few visits, ask your client to fill out a feedback form. Feedback is important data to us and to
management. It is valuable reference for potential clients and potential studies about the effects and
benefits of Chair Massage.
•Stay on schedule and build in breaks for yourself!•
(This sample of a practitioner standards form was developed by Harris Fishkin and is used with his permission)
76 Marketing Chair Massage
your business
The importance of clear intention
In bodywork there are many different levels of intention which we bring to our work.
I would like to distinguish between three different kinds of intentions: personal, professional, and philosophical. Every bodyworker has conscious or unconscious agendas in each of these realms. Our responsibility is to make certain that each of these
levels of intention are conscious. Otherwise they may conflict with one another or
with our professional standards and sabotage the clear communication necessary for
healthy relationships and a successful, honest business.
We all have personal reasons for being a bodyworker. Generally we find that our
personal reasons for doing massage change over time so it is a good idea to reevaluate them on a regular basis. Some of our agendas promote growth in ourselves and
others may inhibit growth or be destructive. We can uncover our personal intentions
by asking ourselves what do we personally get out of doing bodywork? A sample of
responses might include the following:
I need to learn how to become more comfortable touching others and being touched in nonsexual ways.
Because I grew up in a household where touching was a positive social
value, I need a vocation where touching is also acceptable .
I like to work with my hands and need work which requires manual dexterity in order to feel fulfilled.
By choice or circumstance I do not have an active sexual relationship
and use bodywork as a way of channeling my sexual energy without being
I use massage as a way to meet sexual partners.
By choice or circumstance I do not have children and use massage as a way
of channeling my nurturing energy.
I need to be in a profession where I am able to see myself as “helping” other people so that I can validate my existence.
Being a massage practitioner reinforces my self image as a maverick in society which validates my uniqueness.
Defining your business
By feeling I am in control of another person’s life I validate the illusion that I
am in control of my own life.
While we may not share our personal intentions with our clients and the rest of the
world, our professional intentions should always be exposed and open to scrutiny.
Our professional intentions respond to the question, “What service am I providing to
my clients?” We frame these intentions in terms of what the client can perceive to be
a benefit. They may be very general or very specific intentions. For example:
My clients have an enhanced feeling of well-being at the end of a massage.
Clients with physical problems will receive symptomatic relief.
Clients who need a safe place for emotional release will find it when they
come to me.
I provide restorative massage to athletic injuries.
My work provides a ten minute creativity boost to marketing executives on
Madison Avenue.
I realign your posture to correct problems caused by structural
My work helps women feel more comfortable during and after pregnancy.
I make headaches disappear.
If our professional intentions exceed our level of training and experience then we will
inevitably end up disappointing some of our clients. In developing your professional
intentions I generally counsel nurturing the underrated virtue of humility. I also suggest asking yourself, “What intention would I be willing to certify with a money-back
The third level of intention reflects the philosophical impact of our work. This is the
visionary level where we remind ourselves that there is a greater meaning to our
work than simply what we or our clients immediately derive. Everyone needs at least
one intention to their work which is beyond their own self-interest. Here we ask ourselves, “How will my work affect the rest of the world and leave it a better place than I
found it?”
Someday touch will be a positive social value.
Someday people will be comfortable with nudity.
Someday sexuality will no longer be seen as “dirty”.
Someday the language of touch will be a required course in all schools.
Someday bodywork will be recognized as a legitimate health care
Someday a massage will be as convenient and inexpensive to get as
a haircut.
Someday people will recognize the difference between sexuality and sensuality.
Ideally your personal, professional, and philosophical intentions should all be in
alignment with one another. Then they become reliable litmus for evaluating the
appropriateness of any behavior or strategy which you are considering. Should you
78 Marketing Chair Massage
develop a specific marketing initiative directed at accountants? Is it appropriate to
support a national certification test? Should you incorporate aromatherapy into your
practice? Examining these questions in the light of your intentions will make it easier
for you to decide on answers which are consistent and justifiable.
Designing timely services for your markets
Defining a clientele based on how many times you serve them may sound a bit unusual but, upon close inspection, turns out to be one of the more useful frameworks
for analyzing a service market.
Bodywork is, first and foremost, a relationship between two people. The length of any
relationship automatically sets limits or defines possibilities. You will treat someone
you meet at a party for the first time very differently from the way you relate to a person you have been married to for ten years.
For bodyworkers there are three different length relationship categories that a practitioner/client relationship can be conveniently divided into: clients that you see only
one-time, those that you provide services to more than once but only on a fixed,
short-term time period; and ongoing clients that you see on a regular basis.
Many markets can be accessed through more than one category. You could use these
divisions to stimulate your thinking about how to develop alternate services for your
target market if it has not been responding to your current approach. You might discover that your business has not been developing because you have chosen to work
in a customer relationship which is too long or too short for your clients. Alternately,
you also might come to recognize that the length of service you provide to your
particular market does not result in the kind of customer relationship that is right for
you. This, in turn, may be affecting your motivation to carry out your marketing plan.
Traditionally the goal of bodyworkers has been to provide services to an ongoing,
stable group of clients. The premise was that a practitioner would be most secure in
a private practice working on the same 25 clients week after week. Unfortunately,
all too often bodyworkers have found this goal illusive or meaningless. Only certain
types of practitioners are able to develop and work comfortably in a private practice.
Many bodyworkers have discovered that they have neither the skill nor the interest to
develop that style of business.
Rather than mounting a massive guilt trip on themselves for not “succeeding” in the
traditional mold, bodyworkers can recognize that the variety of ways of defining their
businesses is limited only by their imaginations. Over the past five years the markets
for bodywork services have exploded as bodyworkers have begun to repackage and
redefine their services for targeting specific market segments. In particular, with the
advent of chair massage in 1986, massage is now accessible to virtually everyone in
the population.
No one market is more significant than any other, whether it involves one-time, shortterm, or ongoing relationships with customers. People having access to skilled touch
services is what is most important. Educating yourself to the full range of possibilities
Defining your business
will more likely result in a satisfying and successful business experience.
One-Time Customers
Seeing a client only one time is the simplest kind of business relationship to develop,
for both the client and the practitioner. It requires the least commitment in terms of
time, money, and emotion. While chair (seated) massage has done much to expand
the possibilities in this category, many of the following markets can also be approached with table in hand. However, most markets require only offering a clothed
This category can be subdivided into two markets: those which rely on high volume
to be successful and those which consist of prepaid customers.
High Volume Markets
The high volume markets require large numbers of people to be walking past your
table or massage chair. These range from totally informal settings, such as parks and
beaches to highly structured situations such as conventions or gift massage. Below is
an annotated list describing the various groupings.
80 •
Parks and beaches. If you like to spend time outdoors and the weather in
your area is accommodating, this can be one of the most fun places to do
massage. The grand-daddy of all the “massage-at-the beach” locations is
Venice (“Muscle”) Beach, California where massage has been happening on
most days for more than 20 years. Other well-known parks are in Pompano
Beach, Florida and New Orleans, Louisiana where individual practitioners
have developed a reputation by regularly setting up chairs in the same location every day.
Flea markets. Somewhat more structured, but still affordable, are the flea
markets and swap fairs. For less than $25 you can set up a booth and put
your hands to work. This is a great choice for those footloose bodyworkers
traveling cross-country.
Street fairs. Some cities and regions have an elaborate schedule of arts and
crafts street fairs throughout the summer season. In San Francisco, each
neighborhood has its own street fair (I can think of a dozen off the top of
my head) and at most of them you’ll find at least one bodyworker plying
his or her trade. In Chicago, block parties are a long standing tradition.
Spending one summer working hard to get your services known can make
you a welcome addition to neighborhood celebrations in years to come.
State, county, and private fairs. Although these annual events generally require purchasing a booth space, the enormous flow of people justifies the
additional cost. Private fairs (such as the many Renaissance Fairs which are
held throughout the country) draw large crowds of happy people in the
mood to try something different. Fairs also have the advantage of lasting
for a week or more and can be done with a group of practitioners.
People waiting. In this category you have a captured audience of often
bored and restless people. Your local Department of Motor Vehicles might
be an example, or a line waiting to buy tickets to the latest Hollywood
mega-hit or Grateful Dead concert. How about the people waiting to get
their cars serviced at the nearby Jiffy Lube or Sears Car Service Center?
Look around. What do people spend a long time waiting for? Popular restaurants? Teeing off on Saturday morning at the local golf course? Many
Marketing Chair Massage
times people would be happy to pay a few bucks for the relief and distraction of a five or ten minute massage.
Travelers. This big category recognizes the fact that pleasure travelers are
often looking for exotic or unusual experiences and business travelers
are seeking relief from the rigors of the road. Many major hotels now offer bodywork in conjunction with a health club facility on their premises.
Hotels and resorts often create weekend “getaway” packages that could
easily include the price of a massage. You can also find tired travelers at
the local tourist attraction, whether it be Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota or
Dollywood (Dolly Parton’s amusement park…I didn’t make this up) in Tennessee.
A few airports around the country have massage services for travelers,
mostly in a health club or airport hair salon. This is one category that dozens of chair massage practitioners have been anxious to break into without
much success to date. Airports are government run, highly bureaucratic and
political, and require a high level of fiscal viability which few bodyworkers
can demonstrate. That being said, I also have no doubt that all airports will
someday offer the relief of skilled touch in their terminals.
Conventions and trade shows. This has turned into a primary market for
many chair practitioners who like the high energy pace of a busy convention hall. If they are doing chair massage, they generally work with a group
of practitioners on the convention floor and are paid either by the convention sponsor or by the attendees. Depending upon what is negotiated,
sometimes the practitioners pay a booth fee and other times the space is
provided by the convention sponsor.
Special events. Every week there are special events happening in your area
such as festivals, sporting events, concerts, and even political demonstrations. Read the newspaper to keep track of what’s happening locally and
make plans to take advantage of these opportunities.
Prepaid markets
The second group of one-time massage markets are those where the massage is prepaid. This generally removes a major marketing burden since the person who pays for
the bodywork does not necessarily receive the service. Let’s look at some examples of
these markets.
Gift massage. This is one of the most commonly overlooked categories of
bodywork services. Most bodywork entrepreneurs could easily include
some kind of gift service in their businesses. Besides offering gift certificates to regular clients, you could develop a whole business idea around
providing gift massages for special occasions, much the same way that
other entrepreneurs market balloon bouquets or singing telegrams. Already there are dozens of practitioners around the country marketing
“massage-a-gram” type services for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and
special occasions such as secretary’s day. Since you are often selling one
massage at a time, don’t be afraid to charge a premium price for this service.
A spa I know in San Francisco, for over a decade only offered a 30 minute
massage service in their basic private room or communal room plans. If
people wanted 60 or 90 minutes they paid extra for the additional time.
Defining your business
Thus, when people asked for a gift certificate, they were always sold a 30
minute massage. Finally a manager realized that they should be offering a
60 minute plan as part of their standard menu of services. While their sales
of 60 minute massages did not increase substantially to regular customers,
from that point on they rarely sold a 30 minute gift certificate. When buying a gift for a friend or loved one, people always try to buy the best they
can afford. Make sure you allow them the opportunity.
Note too that the spa made more money not only because they were selling higher priced gift certificates, but also because 50% of the gift certificates were never redeemed. That’s about as close to a money tree as we
will ever get.
One word of caution. Unless you personally know the recipient, never participate in giving a gift massage as a “surprise.” I have heard many horror
stories of people unexpectedly receiving a massage gift at a time or place
when it was not appropriate or convenient.
Athletic tournaments. Practitioners have been paid to provide massage
services to contestants who sign up for racquetball, tennis, or golf tournaments. The bodywork fee is generally added onto the entry fee in the
tournament. Since not every participant chooses to have a massage that
portion of the fee can be kept low.
Reward and incentive programs. Often businesses will run incentive programs in the workplace to encourage employees to strive for a specific
goal or to reward them for having reached one. I know of one hospital in
Colorado that purchased a 15 minute chair massage for every employee,
from cafeteria workers to physicians, as a “thank you” for cooperating during a difficult organizational transition. Other companies offer massages to
encourage workers to reach particular sales objectives.
Charity events. Russ Borner provides massage practitioners every year to
work on corporate executives who sign up for a charity golf tournament in
New York. The practitioners are paid by the hour and work on participants
after they finish their ninth hole.
Health fairs. As the importance of preventive health care continues to
move into the popular consciousness an increasing number of communities and corporations are sponsoring health fairs. Although many bodyworkers work at these events for free, don’t presume that you have to. I
know many practitioners who charge anywhere from $40 to $60 an hour
for their services at these events.
Special promotions. Often times retail stores will have special promotional
events for grand openings, anniversary sales, or product announcements.
If they are looking for unusual attractions for the customers, your massage
services might be just the ticket. I once provided a group of practitioners
to a large chain of department stores sponsoring a month long Japanese
theme promotion at their gala press party. All of the practitioners were
dressed in Japanese “happi” coats and were paid by the hour.
One-time customers are an enormous untapped reservoir for energetic bodywork
entrepreneurs. These markets are particularly ideal for new practitioners because
many of the customers have never had a massage before and beginning bodywork82 Marketing Chair Massage
ers have an affinity for beginning clients.
Seeing a client only once is also appealing to many practitioners who like the diversity and spontaneity of never knowing who is going to sit down on their chair or lie
down on their table next.
Other practitioners target a one-time market as a way of developing a regular clientele. There are many bodyworkers, for example, who have started out doing chair
massage in a one-time only market and ended up with a full-time table practice of
ongoing clients.
There are also limitations to be aware of in working in one-time markets. Proper
screening of customers can be easily overlooked if you are working in a high volume
environment where you are doing customers “back-to back.” Although there is no
need to keep a written record of each client, at the least, you should always do a verbal screening of everyone who lays on your table or sits on your chair.
One-time markets also do not easily lend themselves to therapeutically oriented massage because there is rarely the opportunity for appropriate follow-up of individual
Short-Term Clients
A practitioner provides services to short-term customers for a limited period of days,
weeks, or months. This necessitates a very different kind of relationship from the
one-time client. The level of commitment and trust is higher, as are the recordkeeping requirements. A written record of each client is essential, detailing not only the
client’s name, address, and phone, but also the date each appointment occurred and
comments about each session.
The most common short-term clients are seen in a health care environments such as
physical therapy clinics, chiropractors and doctors offices, or hospitals. But besides
these traditional settings, bodywork is appearing in a whole host of new and unusual
Movie sets. When I go to the movies I now carefully scan all of the credits
for the magic words “massage practitioner.” Some people, like Michael Neil
in Southern California, have been working on Hollywood movie sets for
years. Newcomers have also found work on movie sets in such places as
Seattle, Santa Fe, Chicago, and New York. These are short-term, high intensity environments where the production staff, actors, and the crew are all
subject to stress overload. Massage on the set is always a welcome addition.
Touring groups. We all know about the major rock stars like Madonna that
never go on tour without their bodyworker. But how about the backup
singers and dancers, the crew, and management having access to your
massage services? And don’t forget touring ballet and theatrical groups,
including popular plays, musicals, circuses, and ice shows. Some bodyworkers sign up for the whole tour, while others base themselves in one
city and develop relationships with promoters who hire them for the few
days a group might be in town.
Special trips. There is another type of tour called a vacation tour which
includes everything from cruise ships to river rafts. With ever increasing
frequency they occur in Africa, the Himalayas, and the Amazon. Some days
Defining your business
these tours will even be available in outer space. With the exception of
cruise ships, whose employment you seek through the cruise line directly,
all of the other tours are arranged through tour operators. There are travel
agents and outfitters who specialize in particular types of tours. If it is in a
highly competitive market, providing a bodyworker may be just the thing
to distinguish them from other tour operators.
Into this category also goes travel agents who arrange tours for cyclists,
marathoners, and tri-athletes around the world. Part of the tour fee goes
toward paying the way of a bodyworker on the trip.
Intense work periods. Business runs in cycles. There will always be times of
the year when a department, division, or the whole company will be under
unusual work pressure. The classic example are accountants during the tax
season from January 1st through April 15th. These markets can be easily
identified and targeted to help the workers maintain their health and sanity during heavy work periods.
The strong advantage of focusing on short-term clients is that you are not selling a
service that anyone has to commit to forever. They know how long the service will
last, thus they know exactly how much it will cost.
Ongoing Clients
As noted earlier, most practitioners automatically believe that the best clientele to
have is a stable amount of ongoing clients. In many ways, however, this is the most
difficult bodywork practice to develop and maintain. The longer the service relationship the more complicated it becomes because longer relationships require greater
levels of intimacy and trust.
Let’s look at some of the categories.
84 •
Private practice. For the past twenty years this has clearly been the most
popular category of massage practice. In large measure this was due to
the bodywork industry’s monolithic idea about how skilled touch services
should be defined, “packaged,” and marketed. Relegating bodywork to
private rooms, full-body sessions, and unclothed clients, however, severely
limits the access of the majority of the general public to the gift of professional touch.
Not until East Asian massage forms began to be widely taught in massage
schools, starting about ten years ago, did bodyworkers begin to address
one of the primary concerns of the marketplace. Namely, that most people
don’t want to take their clothes off. With the introduction of chair massage
in 1986, two other major issues were addressed—the high cost of table
massage and the need for it to be done behind closed doors.
Most bodyworkers don’t understand that private practice is, in many ways,
the most sophisticated and difficult type of massage business to operate.
The goal is basically to convince a customer that whatever service you are
offering is worthwhile enough for them to continue purchasing for an indeterminate amount of time. This is not an easy marketing job for anyone.
If you are a practitioner straight out of massage school with little experience and only rudimentary skills it can sometimes seem impossible.
Retail massage. This is a category which is being mined to great success by
Marketing Chair Massage
many bodyworkers. Typically the bodyworker sets up shop in a beauty salon, health club, fitness center, spa, gym, department store, or even, most
recently, in health food stores. They may be a concessionaire, independent
contractor, or employee. Their target market is the customers who regularly utilize the retail establishment.
I believe that retail massage will eventually be most successful when it is
offered in freestanding massage salons in every shopping center, financial
district, and commercial street in the country. The reason it hasn’t happened so far is because developing these retail outlets exclusively for massage requires far more capital than is available to most practitioners. As we
mature as a service industry, you can expect that to change.
Worksite massage. The most popular image of chair massage, developed
by the media, is the one where it is being done in the executive board
room. In fact, most chair clients are not corporate executives and most
chair massage practitioners do not work in Fortune 500 companies.
Worksite practitioners are working primarily in smaller offices such as law
firms, travel agencies, accountants offices, and the like. Or they are working
in truck stops, at the bus barn, or in the factory. I even know of one practitioner who has targeted the staffs of dental offices in one particular medical building.
Home massage. Besides getting bodywork services while shopping and
working, some people also receive skilled touch regularly at their home.
Many practitioners specialize in “outcall” massage which they price at a
premium level. Others target groups include people living in a specific
building or apartment complex such as retirement communities.
Knowing the needs of your market and understanding which type of relationship—
one-time, short-term, or ongoing—is most appropriate can be a crucial element in
making your business enjoyable and successful.
Think about the market you are working in or are considering developing and ask
yourself the following questions.
Does it target a group of people you enjoy being with?
Is it in an environment that makes you feel good?
Does the length of customer relationship you have defined in your business suit this particular market?
Does it suit you?
Do you have the appropriate level of skill and experience to serve this market with these services?
In your imagination try to conceive of what your business would look like if you
developed a short-term service for your on-going market. You could find yourself
moving in a new and exciting direction which expands your access to existing target
markets or creates whole new business initiatives.
The next article describes an example of how shifting your business definition from
one category of length of service to another can radically increase your chances for
Defining your business
Case study: Redefining your service for success
Here is a practical example of how understanding your market in terms of the length
of the customer relationship can result in redefining the service you provide.
Jonathan is a bodyworker who attends a business support group that I host at my
home every two weeks. Following in the footsteps of dozens of chair massage practitioners before him, one of Jonathan’s target markets is major corporations in the San
Francisco Bay area.
The path he was following was a familiar one. A practitioner, or small group of practitioners, starts marketing his chair massage services, has some initial success with
one or more companies and becomes convinced that major contracts with major
corporations are just down the road. Unfortunately, what most often happens is that
a year or two later they get burned out because the big contracts don’t materialize as
quickly as they had anticipated.
Jonathan and his partners had started doing chair massage on the sidewalk outside
of the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, during a major trade show with
50,000 attendees. Their services proved to be very popular and they made lots of
money that weekend. More importantly, they met a number of people who were interested in utilizing their services after the show ended. Among other jobs, they landed a two month, $10,000 contract to work in a department of one major computer
company that was under a deadline to produce some new software.
Understandably buoyed by that success they began trying to convince other large
companies to contract for their services. However, they felt that the disadvantage of
their original experience with the initial $10,000 contract was that it had only lasted
for two months. What they were really looking for were corporate customers who
would sign on as ongoing clients. So they set about redefining their service definition
for presentation to potential clients.
When he came to the support group he was already beginning to feel the frustration
of not being able to easily open the doors to new corporations. After listening to the
description of his business history, I pointed out that the service he provided initially
was completely different from the service that he was now trying to sell.
In the first situation the company had purchased a short-term service for a definite
time period and a specific amount of money. What he was trying to sell now, however, was a corporate service that would be provided on an ongoing basis with no
timeline and a large and unlimited commitment of money. He was saying to these
companies, “I want you to buy my services forever.” Why should a company make that
kind of investment in something with the dubious credibility and unproven value of
Instead, I suggested, since he had already had great success in selling a short-term
massage program wouldn’t it be much easier to define his service in that category?
Rather than saying, “Employ me forever,” he could say, “The time to call me is when
you have a deadline, or a crisis, or a major transition.”
All businesses have critical periods when their priority becomes keeping hard-working employees as functional as possible. Jonathan admitted that it would be easy
86 Marketing Chair Massage
to get the manager to write a testimonial letter describing the rejuvenating effects
chair massage had on the employees in his department during an extended period
of overtime. This is precisely what large corporations want to hear: a clearly defined
problem combined with a solution to which they can attach a price tag.
Compare this approach to trying to convince a company that massage is a solution
to the ongoing problem of stress in the workplace. First of all, it is not a time limited
solution, which makes the bean counters (fiscal managers) nervous. Second, stress
symptoms take so many forms that it is often difficult to get a handle on exactly what
problem it is that you are addressing (e.g. absenteeism, health care costs, high blood
pressure, morale).
An additional benefit of redefining Jonathan’s business as a short-term service is that,
not only does it become easier to market, but once a company has experienced his
short-term service it is much more likely to engage him on an ongoing basis.
Clearly defining the length of a customer relationship is a critical step in analyzing
whether you are providing the appropriate service to the appropriate market. Don’t
get stuck on believing that the best market is the one that buys an ongoing service.
There are far fewer customers for ongoing bodywork at this point then there are for
intermittent massage services.
Distributing the job of marketing
The process that gets your bodywork services out of your hands and onto your client’s body is called your distribution system.
This element in a service business is often overlooked as a way to develop a target
market because, for so long, distribution of massage services has been standardized
into a few channels. Traditionally a client comes to your house or office and you give
them a massage. The next most common bodywork practice has been one where the
practitioner works in a chiropractor’s office, hair salon, spa, or athletic center. Typically
the appointments are made at a central phone or desk and the practitioner may have
only partial, or no responsibility for marketing the service.
However, exploring alternative distribution systems can often get you into otherwise
inaccessible markets or open up completely new markets for your services.
Consider the difficulty of convincing major corporations to invest in bodywork services. Rather than spending all of your energy trying to get one company to contract
your services, how about marketing your services to a distributor who already sells
services to dozens of corporations.
For bodyworkers, one of the best distribution systems to major corporations are
professional consultants in the field of corporate health promotion. There are many
of these firms throughout the country helping companies to develop wellness programs for their employees. These distributors have the financial resources and marketing experience to make credible presentations to major corporations. A truism in
the corporate world is that business likes to do business with other businesses. Too
often bodyworkers come across as individual practitioners rather than a full-grown
Defining your business
bodywork business.
For many practitioners it will be much easier to sell your services to a wellness consulting firm and then let the consultant sell your services to the corporation. With
their help you might end up doing table massage in a corporate fitness center or offering chair massage at the desk or assembly line.
In a completely different vein of distribution systems are the Canteen Food Service
trucks which ride around from one job site to another. These drivers have routes
which are specifically designed to find people who are taking a break from their job.
What a perfect distribution system for chair massage. You ride along in the truck, set
up your massage chair at each stop, and charge $5 for a 5 minute neck and shoulder
massage. If you do 4 hours of massage a day you will make $240. Pay the driver a 20%
commission and you will be grossing $960 for a five day workweek.
How about the general category of gift massage? I heard about a practitioner who,
in thinking about how to reach the special occasion market, realized that florists are
a prime distribution system. She sold a florist on the idea of offering gift massage to
people who came in to buy flowers and now a regular portion of her business comes
from this market.
When you sell your services to a travel agent that specializes in booking groups for
tours you are tapping into another efficient distribution system. There are tours to
suit the fancy of almost any practitioner interested in taking their work on the road.
Tours developed for athletes (runners, tri-athletes, cyclists), expeditions to exotic locales, and health retreat vacations have all been known to include massage services
in the price of the tour package.
What are the distribution systems you already utilize to reach your target markets?
What other distribution vehicles are also selling to the same markets? This piggyback
approach to marketing can be an easy, cost effective way to open up new markets or
expand existing ones.
Client analysis inside and out
Often bodyworkers never stop to ask themselves the fundamental question, “Who
are my clients?”
However, without a clear image of your target market, it is impossible to develop
a useful marketing plan. Likewise, it is difficult to tailor your services to the specific
needs of your clients unless you know exactly who your clients are, inside and out.
Two basic tools for analyzing, or even selecting, your target markets are the demographic and psychographic characteristics of your client population.
Demographics identify the external characteristics of your market, such as the age,
sex, employment, income, and geographic location of your customers. Psychographics attempts to analyze the subjective, internal characteristics of your clients, such as
their basic philosophy of life, personal values, and self-image. Understanding both of
these elements in your target market will make it easier to design and maintain services which best meet their needs.
88 Marketing Chair Massage
Some practitioners actually use an exploration of these characteristics to help define
their target market. For example, one practitioner may decide that she wants to work
exclusively with women, while another chooses to focus on the elderly, and a third
practitioner may only want to provide services to people who hold similar religious
If you already have a client base, then develop a profile of these people by asking
yourself the following questions:
What is their gender? Why? Does it make a difference to you?
What is their age range? Why? Does it make a difference to you?
Where are they located geographically if you go to them, or, where they
live and work if they come to you? The narrower the geographic range that
you target the easier it will be to reach your market.
What is their income? Can they afford the services that you are offering?
What is their socioeconomic class? Is it one that you are comfortable relating to?
What are their occupations? Do you know what it is like to do the kind of
work your clients do?
What type of political affiliations do they have? Are they basically progressive or conservative? Do you share their views?
Do they accept responsibility for their own health?
Do they value fitness?
Do they value a high quality service?
Looking at the previous categories, what kind of clients do you definitely
not want to work with? Why?
Examine this profile carefully for information about how you can better serve your
clients. If you have trouble developing a client profile, it may mean that you are
spreading yourself too thin. You have perhaps unconsciously developed the desperation method of marketing which says that, “I’ll massage anyone who walks through
my door.” This basically arises from a lack of self-knowledge and self-esteem. You have
to know yourself well enough—your values, skills, likes and dislikes—to know which
markets are acceptable to you and make sense for you to work in, and which ones
don’t. If you have made an honest assessment, then you can trust that when you
clearly identify a target market you will be expert enough to provide them with high
quality services.
Figure 1 shows an example of two client characteristics which are attributes of every
market. One is a demographic element, income, and the other is a psychographic
parameter, affinity. Understanding where your target market sits on the spectrum of
income and affinity is crucial to designing a successful business definition and marketing plan.
Figure 1:
Income and Affinity Matrix
Defining your business
Income means whether a customer can afford your service. Affinity refers to a client’s
predisposed appreciation for the value of your service.
Think about your target market and decide where they fit on this matrix. Obviously
you would like all of your customers to be in the high income, high affinity category,
however, most often that is not the case.
For customers who have low incomes, even if they have high affinity (such as many
dancers, artists, and athletes), you need to make your services more affordable. Try
these methods:
lower the cost of your service,
operate on a sliding scale fee structure,
barter for all or part of your service,
get someone else to pay for the service,
shorten the length of your service.
For example, instead of offering an hour long table massage try a 30 minute version.
Rather than a 15 minute chair massage offer a 5 or 10 minute session. If you are working with a disadvantaged population, perhaps you can get a grant for your services.
If you are providing massage services to people in recovery programs, perhaps an
insurance company or employer will pick up the cost.
In dealing with markets which have a low affinity for massage the key word is “education.” The best education for someone who is unfamiliar with your service is to give
them a demonstration. For people who have never had a massage before, just their
arm or shoulder being touched by someone in a skillful way can be a major breakthrough. That means that if your chosen market has a low affinity for massage then
your first marketing goal should be to provide the customer with a demonstration.
If you are having trouble getting to the stage of giving a demonstration, then the
problem is credibility. People will be more likely to try a service that a peer recommends. The smart people targeting the athletic markets are working to get testimonials from well-known and well-respected sports figures. A common human trait is that
nobody likes to be first, but everybody wants to be second, so that they won’t end up
being last. Developing credibility for your service is the second best way to increase
the affinity of your target market.
The job of each bodywork entrepreneur is to be an expert in knowing who your market is and what kinds of services they want. A thorough demographic and psychographic analysis will help you identify your market, what their needs are, and whether
90 Marketing Chair Massage
it is the right market for you.
Defining your business
92 Marketing Chair Massage
5Chair Massage
Chair Massage is now appearing…
• at your office, or where you work
• in hotels and at airports—for weary travelers
Chair massage markets
• at health clubs and fitness centers—before or after your workout
• as a personal gift—birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, anniversaries, Father’s Day,
• at truck stops
• as part of health promotion programs for corporations and small businesses—to improve employees’ health and well-being while at work
• at handicraft fairs
• at shopping malls
• for factory workers
• at retirement communities and nursing homes
• at grand openings and anniversaries of small businesses
• at flea markets, street fairs, and craft fairs
• as an incentive program to reward top company employees
• in the entertainment industry, with dancers, singers, actors, and musicians—particularly
after a performance or concert
• in department stores, supermarkets, and health food stores
• in your home
• at conventions, conference centers, and trade shows
• at workshops, seminars, and meetings for professional groups
• in hair salons, beauty salons, and tanning salons
• at county fairs and state fairs
• at the start and finish lines of athletic events—bicycling, running, racquetball tournaments, walkathons
• in the offices of health care professionals—doctors, dentists, chiropractors, acupuncturists
• at charity and fund-raising events
• in long movie lines
• at festivals and special holiday events
• in tourist areas
• on rafting trips
• in resorts—at poolside, on deck, after skiing, next to the tennis court
• for the staff at hospitals—e.g. nurses, administrators—as well as with patients and family in hospital waiting rooms
• in parks and on beaches
Whitewater massage
94 How do you find your ideal market niche? One suggestion is to look at yourself and
see who you like to hang around and what activities you enjoy most. The great likeliMarketing Chair
is that there will be an entrepreneurial opportunity just waiting to be tapped.
Take the case, for example, of Libby Bottrell, a practitioner from Sebastopol, California.
Bottrell loves the outdoors and is constantly on the lookout for excuses to be on the
ocean kayaking or in the mountains hiking and camping. One of her favorite activities is to go on rafting trips. Recently she was contacted by a private outfitter who
is taking a group of 12 people on a three week family reunion rafting trip down the
Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. He offered Bottrell $800 to ride along and
take care of any massage needs which may arise.
You might think that spending three weeks in a raft with your relatives is reason
enough for making massage a necessity, but it turns out that there are a couple of
other good arguments for the service. The first is economic. Outfitting rafting trips
has become highly competitive and the various companies are always trying to come
up with something to make their trips a little more special. For instance, besides massage, this excursion will also include wine tasting, which has become a standard feature of many rafting trips.
The second reason is that many of the people who go on rafting trips don’t regularly
do a lot of exercise, making sore muscles and stiff joints are a common problem. Massage will ease the aches and pains and perhaps prevent a few injuries along the way.
The outfitters strive for repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals so making the
trip as pleasant as possible for their customers is a high priority.
Bottrell has done massage on a rafting trip once before, although that time was for
free. She brought her portable table along but found that it often ended up packed
at the bottom of the raft making it only accessible when they stopped for the night.
At rest stops during the day she ended up massaging people while they were
stretched out on a slab of rock by the river.
This time she is considering leaving her table and bringing her Living Earth Crafts
High-Touch Massage Chair™ along. Bottrell is an experienced chair massage practitioner and thinks that the lightweight convenience of the chair will make it an ideal tool.
Bottrell has always believed that massage is appropriate anytime, anywhere. She
makes a convincing argument in the middle of the Colorado River.
Natural marketing
Some people are just meant to get into massage and be successful. Take Marie Soderberg, for instance. One January she was driving a cab full-time in Denver, Colorado.
Four months later she was making a full-time living doing massage as naturally as if
she had been doing it all her life.
Soderberg had never taken a massage class but had always been interested in formal
training. That’s why she decided to sign up for a weekend workshop in chair massage
which I was teaching at the Boulder School of Massage Therapy. Normally the only
people allowed in the class are massage practitioners or students but this time someone had neglected to check her background and she got enrolled.
She loved her first taste of “real” massage so much that she became convinced that
this is what she wanted to be doing with her life. Knowing further training was required, she came to my school, The Amma Institute, in March. There she took a two
week 115 hour intensive in traditional Japanese massage.
Chair massage markets
So how did Soderberg turn these skills so quickly into a successful livelihood? Simple.
By never passing up an opportunity to educate someone about the value of massage
through words and demonstrations.
Now it doesn’t take much imagination to see her, in the early days, talking with someone about massage while driving her cab. Here and there she was bound to pick up a
few clients.
But then there was the time she was in a restaurant and the man next to her wanted
what she was eating and they ended up trading food. She gave him a shoulder massage on the spot which he thought was so fantastic that he invited her to his poker
club. Although Soderberg had no idea of what these places were like, she went over
the next day to check it out.
It turns out there are four legal card clubs in Denver and they are frequented by very
high rollers. The smallest chip is $25 and literally tens of thousands of dollars would
be on the table at any given time. She saw her new friend from the restaurant and
started working on him at his table. Pretty soon everyone in the game wanted a massage, except for one guy who kept making comments about how they were all crazy,
he would never let anyone touch him, massage should be outlawed, etc. Wouldn’t
you know it, this poophead cleans up the table. But by this time the other players
are so relaxed they don’t even care that they lost all their money. The manager of the
card room is pleased that all the players are so happy that he encourages Soderberg
to come back anytime. She does, and walks away from the card room with a few hundred dollars every time.
On another occasion Soderberg got invited to an anniversary celebration of a nail
salon and clothing store in a small Colorado town. Not your most exciting prospect
but the two women who owned the shop were friends of friends so she went not
expecting much business. That day Soderberg made $182 in 7 hours doing 15 minute
chair massages nonstop. Four of the people she worked on wanted her to come and
massage everyone in their families. One woman made arrangements for her to work
on everyone in their office. And she got an invitation to work at a busy street fair the
next weekend. Big oaks from little acorns grow.
By May, Soderberg had been mentioned in two articles in the major Denver newspapers. She regularly works on a bank president and has done 15 minute massages on
some local judges in their chambers at the courthouse. She has plenty of business
and no sign of the growth stopping.
On one level people like Marie Soderberg amaze me. On another level, it all seems
perfectly natural. She loves massage, she lets it show to everyone she meets by talking about and demonstrating her work, and then people pay her to work on them.
No fancy card tricks up her sleeve, just honest enthusiasm. Not a bad marketing formula.
96 Marketing Chair Massage
Sidewalk serendipity
The whole point of chair massage is, of course, that it can be done anywhere, and we
know that the best way to sell seated massage is by giving a demonstration. Add to
that the natural interest which a special portable massage chair creates in the public
mind and what you end up with is one of those typically New York experiences that
Woody Allen so loves to dramatize in his movies.
This story begins one sunny afternoon with Iris Lee and Russ Borner, the owners of International Health Systems, in New York City, returning from a demonstration of chair
massage with a potential corporate client. Their presentation had gone very well and
they were feeling very pleased with themselves.
The time is high noon as they walk past a plaza on the corner of 3rd Avenue and 49th
Street. Sitting next to a sculpture in the plaza is a line of five construction workers in
macho drag, making comments about the women as the lunch crowd streams by
them. As Russ and Iris walk past, one of them points to his buddy’s shoes and, looking at the High-Touch Massage Chair Russ has slung over his shoulders, says, “Shine,
He is kidding, of course, trying to embarrass his colleague about his dilapidated work
boots. Russ, wearing his three piece suit, looks at Iris, also dressed to the nines, and
without a word they stop short in front of the hard-hats.
Russ lowers the chair to the sidewalk, assembles it in a well-practiced 48 seconds,
points his finger at the guy who made the comment about the shoes, and says, “You!
— In!” After a bit of kibitzing the guy actually sits down and Russ begins to give him
a 15 minute massage in the middle of this plaza. In no time at all literally hundreds of
office worker types are crowded around them in a circle 10 deep trying to see what’s
going on. Iris begins giving away what business cards they have and explaining all
about worksite massage.
Soon the sidewalk is blocked and they realize they may end up with a crowd control
problem. Russ finishes massaging the construction worker who by this time, is totally
in awe of what he has just experienced. “My God,” he exclaims, “How do I get you up
to the 48th floor?” He continues to wax enthusiastic about the massage, and people
start standing in line to be next.
But the dynamic duo have other appointments and, besides, all of their business
cards are gone. So Russ disassembles the chair and he and Iris merge once again into
the human stream vowing to never leave home without a camera again.
The moral of the story is, of course, never miss a chance to make a convert to massage. Walking down the street, sitting on a bus or an airplane, or having dinner in
a restaurant all provide spontaneous opportunities for creative proselytizing. Right
now there are probably any number of construction workers high above the city
streets who would appreciate your hands on their shoulders.
Chair massage markets
Conventions and trade shows: A primer
One of the obvious, but most overlooked, attributes inherent in the concept of chair
massage is that it is designed to be “performance” massage. Rather than being hidden behind closed doors chair massage thrives when an audience is looking on and
they unconsciously imagine themselves under the skilled hands of the massage practitioner.
Conventions and trade shows allow bodyworkers to formally showcase this attribute
better than any other venue. Conventions have also traditionally been one of the
most exciting and profitable markets for chair massage. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of massage practitioners have worked at booths in convention halls where a
seemingly endless stream of people waited in line to pay for five to fifteen minutes
of their touch. It’s great for the self-esteem of bodyworkers and is a potent reminder
that our services, when packaged in a format that is nonthreatening, convenient, and
affordable, already have an enormous market waiting for them.
But what about the times when five practitioners go to an event and stand around
for three days and only do ten customers? Why do some shows fly effortlessly and
others never seem to get off the ground? How can you increase your chances of making certain that you will select the best opportunities? And when an event does turn
out to be a lemon, is it still possible to still make lemonade?
What follows is a compendium of ideas distilled from almost ten years worth of the
successes and failures of dozens of bodyworkers working across the country in this
market. While the definitive book has yet to be written on the subject of chair massage at conventions and trade shows this article will serve as a detailed overview
highlighting the most important considerations.
Step one: Be clear
The range of possibilities for working in the convention and trade show market is
so large that a practitioner can easily get fragmented in his or her efforts. When you
first approach this market there is a natural tendency to take whatever opportunities
come your way. But your ongoing success will ultimately depend upon your ability to
distinguish between each of the very different approaches possible in this market.
To help you visualize this market let’s use a fictional example: the Coin and Stamp
Show being held at the AllPurpose Convention Center. The sponsor of the Coin and
Stamp Show is Midwest Promotions. Midwest Promotions has negotiated a contract
with the AllPurpose Convention Center to hold this event on specific dates in this
facility. In major metropolitan areas large convention facilities are generally owned
and operated by the city in which they are located. Smaller facilities might also be
privately owned.
Midwest Promotions makes money by selling booth space in the convention center
to exhibitors and by charging an admission fee to the general public. Exhibitors will
display and sell coins and stamps to the collectors who come to the event. In our example Roy’s Rare Coins is such an exhibitor.
When doing chair massage at conventions or trade shows you have to decide who
your customer will be. The customers who pay you to do massage may well be different from the clients you actually perform the massage on. There are basically four
98 Marketing Chair Massage
You can be paid by an exhibitor, such as Roy’s Rare Coins, to work on select
customers or potential customers in a booth.
The convention sponsor, Midwest Promotions, might hire you as a subcontractor to provide chair massage to attendees, exhibitors, or convention
The convention hall, AllPurpose Convention Center, can lease you space as
a concessionaire, much the same way they do to food service businesses
or shoeshine concessions.
You could purchase a booth space from the convention sponsor as an exhibitor.
While all of the possible approaches have strengths and weaknesses, obviously any
time your work is prepaid you have the security of knowing that you will receive
guaranteed compensation for your efforts.
So ru­le number one is: Look for events where you can negotiate a full or partial prepayment from your customer.
Prepaid events
Here are some reasons why an exhibitor might hire a chair massage practitioner to
work in his booth.
As a special “thank you” to his best customers. Often time trade shows are
the only opportunity that businesses have to meet their customers faceto-face.
To make certain that his customers will spend more time at his booth than
at a potential competitor’s booth.
To attract new customers.
To enhance a theme for the booth or the business. For example, Roy may
specialize in selling Japanese coins and he might hire a practitioner to
dress up in Japanese-style clothing and do acupressure massage.
How many practitioners the exhibitor hires depends on how much booth space is
available to work in and how prominently the exhibitor would like to feature massage.
When an exhibitor hires practitioners, payment is almost always in the form of a flat
fee for the event or a per-hour amount. Rarely are practitioners willing to work on a per
massage basis. I have heard of rates ranging from $40 to $80 and hour.
In the next prepaid arrangement where the convention sponsor, M­­idwest Promotions, hires practitioners, the reimbursement could be more complicated depending
upon who they are hiring you to massage. Here are some possibilities.
You massage the convention staff employed by Midwest Promotions. The
staff people working to put the event together are typically putting in long
hours at full capacity both before and during the convention. Taking a five
to fifteen minute break can help keep the staff sane and relatively stressfree. Here the promoter pays full cost.
• For certain kinds of events there may be a VIP lounge for the exhibitors, the
media, important executives, celebrities, or other people who the promoters want to keep happy. Again the promoter pays.
Midwest Promotions could also offer you a free space on the convention
Chair massage markets
floor. Your clients could be staff, exhibitors, or attendees. Who pays for the
massage is entirely negotiable. If you know it is going to be a well-attended show you might be happy with a free booth space. But the promoters
often also pay for staff or exhibitor massage and occasionally will even pay
for the attendees if they think it will help make the event more successful.
The important aspect to note in this last arrangement is that, even though you may
be in a booth, you are not an exhibitor. Exhibitors pay to be there. You were invited
and pay nothing. Therefore you have a different relationship with the promoter and
can expect additional privileges which may include:
extra signage paid for by the promoter
furniture and decorations for the booth
extra leafleting privileges
having the sponsors name associated with the promotion of your services.
While it is ideal to have your services prepaid totally, often times you will only have a
portion of your services prepaid or none at all.
For example, you might have an exclusive contract with AllPurpose Convention
Center to provide all of the events which happen in their facility with chair massage
services in exchange for a certain percentage of your gross receipts. The exhibitors or
attendees pay for your services on an individual basis. At the moment I know of no
practitioners who have negotiated this type of arrangement. However, as chair massage becomes more common in the public consciousness, it is probably inevitable.
Individually paid massage
Oddly enough, the most common way that chair massage is provided at many events
is simply by the practitioner purchasing a booth space. I say this is odd because it is
the most risky arrangement of all that have been described. Not only are you risking
that you might not make any money, you have already incurred the expense of the
booth—typically $500 to $1,000 or more for a three day event.
If there is one sure way to minimize the risk when your services are not prepaid you
must abide by rule number two: Only work events where the volume of attendees
is guaranteed to be high. I have see dozens of examples where poorly run massage
booths were successful at high volume shows. It is possible to fail at high volume
shows, but it is difficult. On the other hand, even the best organized and executed
massage booth will have to struggle to break even at a poorly attended show.
What volume of attendance is required? To be absolutely safe use the one percent
minimum rule of thumb. For instance, if there are going to be 10,000 people attending the show you can be reasonably certain that you will sell a massage to 1%, or 100,
of them. If that volume, multiplied times the cost of the massage, is not enough to
cover all of your expenses and minimum profit then you should seriously reconsider
doing the event.
Smart entrepreneurs are able to increase their odds of success to greater than one
percent and there are circumstances when you will not even be able to rely on selling massage to one percent of the attendees. We will examine those elements which
can increase and decrease the effectiveness of your booth next. But the underlying
message is clear. If you are an inexperienced practitioner just getting into this market
don’t violate the 1% rule. Actually that’s silly advice. Go ahead, violate it. There is no
better way to learn that it is true.
100 Marketing Chair Massage
How do you know that the volume at a particular convention or trade show will be
high? The best way is to find out how many people attended last year. Presuming
that it isn’t scheduled on Superbowl weekend this year you can expect at least as
many people to show up.
If it is a first time event exercise extreme caution. Ask yourself how much you are willing to invest in being a guinea pig for the sponsor of the event. Even if similar events
have been successful in other areas how can you be sure that the sponsor is going to
do enough advertising and promotion? The safest course is to stay away from new
Also be cautious of professional conferences where the main focus is on workshops
and presentations. The exhibit hall has a way of clearing out every time workshops
are scheduled and the 1% rule cannot be relied upon.
Organizing the booth
Short of a high volume event, the next best insurance for success is a well organized
booth and marketing plan. One of the reasons that conventions and trade shows
seem like such obvious markets for chair massage is that the overhead appears to be
so low. But don’t be fooled. To negotiate a good arrangement with the promoter, hire
and train practitioners, and develop an attractive booth will cost you both time and
money. We will examine all of these elements.
As is true in any retail business, the first three keys to success are location, location,
location. When you purchase the booth space make certain that you find out from
the sponsor exactly what the traffic patterns will be in the facility. Where are the entrances located, the dining area (if there is one), the bathrooms, and any stage demonstrations or workshop areas.
For maximum exposure you would like to be highly visible along a natural traffic flow
path, preferably in a corner booth with two sides exposed. Occasionally, if you know
the show is going to be wall-to-wall people (i.e. you have worked it before), then you,
and the show sponsor, may prefer to have your booth off the main traffic stream if it
tends to create a bottleneck of attendees waiting to get a massage.
Most often you are sent a schematic drawing of the facility and the booth spaces
available. Find out who is going to be in booths surrounding you. There is nothing
more irritating than working next to a booth where someone is pitching a vegetable
slicer over a microphone. Are there going to be other massage booths at the event?
Are you going to be near a stage? Depending on what it is used for proximity to a
stage may be a plus. Next to a food area is often good unless it is too isolated from
the main event area.
Ideally, before you commit to a booth space you should visit the facility and note
whether there are any other obvious problems not apparent on the schematic of the
convention hall. For example, pillars located in front of your booth could be a rude
Related to location is signage. How people find out where you are. If you are a concessionaire or in an event support relationship with the sponsor that extends beyond being just an exhibitor, then you can expect the sponsor to provide signs outside of your
booth. Often times these will be near entrances or at the ends of aisles in the exhibit
hall directing attendees to your booth. Sometimes the event will be held in multiple
locations, but you only have one booth. Make certain that the sponsor also provides
signage at the other location, particularly if your booth is being used as a draw to get
Chair massage markets
attendees from the main facility to a satellite facility. In this case the sponsor will also
probably provide information in the convention program.
Setting the stage
If chair massage is a performance, your booth is the stage. You should have all of the
scenery and props well thought out and prepared ahead of time.
Generally speaking your booth should look like it belongs at the event. The presentation of the booth can range from extremely funky to ultra high-tech. A booth at a
county fair has far different requirements than a booth at a convention of attorneys.
One of the slickest booths I have ever worked was put together by a department
store chain doing a Japan-themed product promotion. They rented tatami mats for
us to work on and placed shoji screens around the back to further define the space.
For additional atmosphere they had included an authentic Japanese furo, a square,
wooden bathtub which sits above ground. As a final touch, on the edge of the furo
was a traditional wooden ladle used for pouring water over the bathers.
All of the practitioners were dressed in Japanese happi coats and headbands. When
the people attending the event wanted a massage they had to slip off their shoes
before stepping onto the tatami mats. There was no signage since the practitioners
were paid for by the hour although there was a note in the program inviting the attendees to enjoy a free 15 minute Japanese massage.
This example illustrates a number of key elements.
102 •
Define your space. Most often an exhibit hall typically provides a six foot
drape at the back of the booth and three foot drapes at the two sides dividing your booth from your neighbors. The most common booth size is
10’ by 10’ square and a double booth would be 10’ by 20’. Within that space
you can further define the space with tables, plants, screens, posters, signs,
canopies, scrims, carpets, ropes, massage chairs, or other appropriate
Decide on costumes. Each of the practitioners should be dressed in a consistent manner that fits in with the event. Often chair massage businesses
will have all of their practitioners wear a top that has the company logo on
it and everyone in the same color slacks. To project a fitness image at a tennis industry show designer-styled sweat clothes might be appropriate. At a
luxury car exhibit tuxedo trousers and formal shirt could be the right outfit.
Telling all of your practitioners to simply “dress nice” is not specific enough
to assure a consistent image.
Develop a consistent image. The space, the props, the costumes, the colors, the handouts, the signs, the language used by the practitioners, the
type of massage done, the length of the massage all have to be carefully
considered as to how each one fits into the overall image that you are trying to project. What is it that you want people to feel when they see and
enter your booth. Serenity? Relaxation? Revitalization? An oasis of tranquility in a sea of chaos? Like they have been transported to another reality?
Decide which feeling is appropriate to your image and stick with it—totally.
Marketing Chair Massage
An attractive booth alone will not fill your massage chairs. Another key element is
developing and maintaining momentum. The importance of this cannot be overestimated. Booths that have momentum almost always work and ones that don’t rarely
The most obvious result of momentum is that all of your chairs in the booth are always filled. Seeing a massage being done is the best way to attract the attendees
to the booth and explain what service is being provided. The more chairs you have
filled, the more momentum your booth will have. Likewise, the longer the line of
people waiting for a massage, the more attendees will want a massage.
At a very busy event the only chair you have to worry about filling is the first one.
The obvious solution is to have practitioners working on each other when the booth
is just opening until the first customer comes by. Soon all of your chairs will be filled
and the waiting list will begin to form.
However, my suggestion is that it is always better to be prepared for the worst. You
never know when a snowstorm or national crisis will keep people away from the
event. And you can presume that few events are going to be packed with people the
moment the doors open. There will always be certain days of the event, or times of
the day, which will be slow.
The priority is to have all of your chairs filled all of the time with full-price customers.
If not, then you should try discounting the price in various ways to keep the momentum going. As a last resort, selectively give the massage away to people who can help
market the service and maintain the momentum in the interim.
The nice thing about chair massage is the great flexibility you have in pricing the
service. Simply lowering the price of the massage at certain times of the day may be
enough to stimulate momentum for the booth. To that end you should only use pricing signs which can be easily, and neatly, modified.
Another modification you can make, which is not, strictly speaking, a discount, is to
lower the length of the massage at the same time that you lower the price. As a matter of fact you might even end up actually increasing the cost of the massage. For
example, you will make more money at $10 for 10 minutes of massage, than you will
at $12 for 15 minutes if all of the chairs are full all of the time. We don’t know enough
yet about what length of massage works best in which situation, but it is worth experimenting to find out what works for you.
Other discounts which help fill the chairs can be offered to exhibitors at other booths.
During slack times practitioners can quickly go through the hall and pass out discount cards inviting exhibitors to receive a half-priced massage during the first two
hours of the convention. Similar offers could be made to the food service vendors,
the staff of the sponsor, the staff of the convention center, the security guards, and so
For extending the discounts throughout the day you can give dated discount coupons to the other exhibitors to pass out to their special clients or potential clients.
You could also have discount coupons next to the cash register by the food vendors.
Depending on how the event is organized you could even enlist the help of the event
sponsor by having discount coupons available at the registration desk, ticket sellers,
Chair massage markets
or convention package that attendees might receive.
Generally a well-prepared discounting plan will save the day at a slow event. If you
still need additional momentum, start selectively giving the massage away for free
to some of the same groups described above. If the event is in fact poorly attended it
might be easy to convince the sponsor to let you set up a chair outside of the facility
to attract passersby, sell them massage, and hand out discount cards.
Remember, empty chairs equals no momentum and without momentum your booth
will be a bust. Don’t let your pride get in the way and think that you are somehow
devaluing your service. Your responsibility is to get as many people massaged as
possible, provide your practitioners with work, and at least break even on expenses.
Do whatever you can to keep those chairs filled and even a bad event can often be
turned around.
The other great advantage of keeping the chairs filled is that you keep the practitioners busy. A practitioner standing around with nothing to do loses enthusiasm and
drains momentum from the booth. They would rather be doing free, or discounted
massage to stimulate business, than no massage at all.
However, that requires a relationship with your practitioners where they are clear
about the purpose of the booth and their responsibilities. They must be convinced
that you have done everything possible to ensure that they will do enough paid massage to make it worth their while.
Working with practitioners is too often dealt with in the most casual manner. It is not
enough to just call up some other practitioners and see if they are free that weekend. These are the people who will be representing your business and providing the
service you are selling. You must select and train them carefully and support them
throughout the length of the relationship.
Most often practitioners are hired as independent contractors. If the event is prepaid
they are generally reimbursed by the hour. Otherwise they are paid per massage.
There is no standard split between the coordinator of the event and the practitioner
because, unless you have a concessionaire contract, each event will be negotiated
individually. In determining how much to pay practitioners the coordinator has to
assess the total direct and indirect costs incurred and how much profit is appropriate
given the time put in to organize the event. Then an estimate has to be made as to
how busy the booth will be to determine the anticipated income.
If the booth has a line of customers the practitioners will be working virtually nonstop. If the price of the massage is $10 for ten minutes, the practitioner could easily
do five massages an hour. If the practitioner is making $7 per massage, then they
would be netting $35 per hour. In a four hour shift that would come to $140.
Since, most of the time, all of the practitioners will be working in a common area it is
absolutely essential to have them all doing the same massage form on the customers
for three reasons:
104 Marketing Chair Massage
Quality control. If they all do the same work then you can distinguish
whether they are good at it, or not. The same work means not only the
same technique, but also the same intention. Hiring a practitioner who
wants to do “therapy” when everyone else is doing relaxation massage can
produce liability problems you don’t even want to think about.
Consistency. If each practitioner is doing something different customers
will develop “favorites” and ask for specific practitioners. In a busy booth
this can result in a scheduling nightmare and promote bad feelings among
the practitioners.
Timing. If two practitioners start a 15 minute massage at the same time,
you want them to finish at the same time. Customers have a way of noticing if they have been “cheated” out of the full service they expect.
Presuming you know the work of the practitioners that you are engaging you will
need a minimum of two meetings, one before the event and one after. If you have
never worked with these people before then you will have to have at least two or
three meetings before the event.
The pre-event meetings are used to explain the purpose of the event and the logistics of booth, location, setup, and scheduling. You also want to make certain that the
primary marketing strategy is clear and what secondary marketing strategies have
been devised if the event is not well-attended.
All of the practitioners should be familiar with the customer screening process that is
done before someone sits in a chair. Will it be written or verbal, done by just the practitioner, or the practitioner and a ticket seller? How will the money and ticketing be
handled? Often times the organizer of the event will not do massage, but rather will
sell tickets and coordinate the flow of customers into the chairs.
The practitioners should know what handouts and other material will be available in
the booth and be able to answer simple questions about the massage and the business sponsoring the booth. More complicated questions should always be referred to
the designated booth coordinator.
In addition, at each pre-event meeting it is advisable to practice each of the massage
sequences which will be used in the booth. You need to know that everyone can finish within the time frames required and still give a comfortable massage. Everyone
should be familiar with the massage chairs you will be using and what kinds of arrangements have been made for face cradle covers and cleaning the hands between
each massage. Everyone should know what clothing and hair styles are appropriate.
If these are new practitioners that you are working with you will often need to practice together two or three times to fine-tune their work and clarify their roles and
After the event you will want to get all of the practitioners together sometime during
the next week for a postmortem. There will always have been problems from your
perspective and from theirs. Try and clarify issues and brainstorm alternatives for the
next time.
While this list of considerations is not exhaustive, at least it should help you see
where the greatest pitfalls lie when you approach this market.
Remember, it takes a certain type of personality to do massage confidently while fifty
people are watching you. But it is a good way for new practitioners to gain diverse
experience quickly and for seasoned practitioners to get a break from the isolation of
table massage.
When it works, there is nothing comparable to the experience of creating a bubble
of quiet, focused energy in the noisy sea of a chaotic exhibit hall. A successful booth
Chair massage markets
transforms both the customers and the practitioners and us, once again, of the incredible power of touch.
Convention setup
This outline was prepared by Gary Bernard, the Administrative
Director of The Amma Institute of Traditional Japanese Massage
in San Francisco.
A. Clarifying the relationship between chair massage and the convention via the contact person
1. As subcontractor
a) The ideal relationship
b) Contractors have privileges that exhibitors do not
(1) signage
(2) furniture for the booth (an exhibitor has to pay for this, a contractor
puts it on the convention’s bill)
(3) leafleting
(4) having the name of the convention be associated with the massage
(5) being able to tell the registrants and exhibitors that we are here as a
service provided by the convention for their benefit
c) We are a resource for the contact person (our role in service as a subcontractor)
(1) Massage the contact person and their support staff regularly and for
(a) Go to them if they can’t come to us
(b) In this way they more fully understand the idea of massage as
(c) They become our strongest advocates and advertisers
(2) In helping to choose the ideal place for our service
(a) they may want to put us in a nice quiet place
(b) we can help them understand the importance of a high traffic
(3) Assisting in the writing of any literature they wish to distribute about
our service
(4) Providing photographs for use in any literature they wish to distribute
2. A marketing tool (a specialized subcontractor relationship)
a) We are their promotional tool
b) We need to be available for TV spots and radio spots to sell the convention
through our service
c) We want to be able to supply our client with promotional material
3. An exhibitor
a) you pay your money
b) you get your booth
c) you sell your service
106 Marketing Chair Massage
B. Hiring practitioners
1. How many do you need?
a) An average number of practitioners for a convention is four per shift
(1) If traffic is light, two people works
(2) If traffic is heavy, seven people works
(3) If traffic is overwhelming, I would suggest two locations
(a) two locations means double the recipe
b) Usually you need enough practitioners for two shifts per day
(1) Having enough practitioners to cover two shifts ensures that no one
burns out
(2) If you hire too many practitioners, they tend to be unhappy because
they don’t make enough money
(3) Each shift is usually four hours long (some people may want to work
both shifts)
2. How do you choose the practitioners?
a) All practitioners must be capable of doing the same Kata
(1) We are selling a service, not individuals
(a) The customer should feel that they are getting the same quality service regardless of who is giving the massage
b) Everyone must be able to perform the massage within an agreed upon time
(1) When two people sit down together, the massage must end together
(a) An agreed upon time for every massage must be predecided
(i) The time will be in all the literature and on the signs
which list the price
c) Everyone must have good communication skills
d) Everyone must feel comfortable working in a performance setting
e) Everyone must look healthy
f ) Everyone must be clean and well groomed
g) Everyone must understand the intention of the work
(1) i.e., that we are not doing corrective massage
(2) that this is a health maintenance massage designed to facilitate the
flow of energy throughout the body
(3) that this form requires a minimum of verbal interaction with the client
(a) we should not be asking them to breathe or relax
h) Everyone must be willing to attend a minimum of three pre-show meetings
(1) They must understand that the final hiring decision will be made by
the end of the second meeting
(2) Attendance at every meeting will be a big factor in hiring
C. Hiring a support staff
1. People to take the money and direct customers to the chairs
a) This is the most important job
b) This person can be you or another practitioner
c) They will be asked many questions
(1) if they are not you or a practitioner, they need to know the answer to
several questions
(a) what does this massage cover
(b) what does it do
(c) will it hurt
(d) is it like chiropractic
(e) do you do this all over the country
Chair massage markets
(f ) what is the name of your business
(g) will you come to our office
(h) how much do you charge to come to my home
(i) is this like shiatsu
(j) I just had open heart surgery, will this be okay for me?
d) They must appear very neat, professional, gracious
e) You need to detail exactly what their job is
(1) take down the persons name on a prenumbered pad
(2) give them a ticket with the corresponding number on the ticket
(3) ask the customer to read the side that is the prescreening side
(4) ask them to tell their practitioner if there is anything the practitioner
should know before they start the massage
(5) tell them that the practitioner will keep the lower half and that they
get to keep the upper half
(6) they will make change and keep the money
(7) once a practitioner has been assigned, write their name to the right of
the customers name
(a) this will help keep track of who did how many massages in
case ticket stubs are lost etc.
2. People to pass out literature to the public
3. People to help pick up needed supplies to have in the booth
4. People to help set up
5. People to help “strike” the “show”
D. Meeting with potential practitioners
1. Purpose of meeting number 1
2. To state to everyone the process of these meetings and their purpose
(1) To work on one another and fine tune our massage
(a) A screening opportunity
(i) Give feedback
(a) is the massage comfortable?
(i) if not, why not
(ii) is the practitioner willing to learn from
the feedback?
II. if not, perhaps this show is wrong for them
(a) can they do the massage in 13 minutes?
(i) if not, can they get it down to that
time? the next meeting?
IV.if not, perhaps they should wait until the next show
V. if they don’t feel faster is appropriate, perhaps chair massage is the
wrong delivery system
VI.pace is a part of the intention of the work
VII. 13-15 minutes is not arbitrary
(1) To discuss the logistics of the convention and our intention in providing this service
(a) The logistics of the convention
(i) Date of move in
(ii) Shift times
108 Marketing Chair Massage
(iii) Help that will be needed
(iv) How much you will be charging for the massage
(v) How much they will be paid (hourly or per massage)
(a) explain where the rest of the money is going
(vi) What your strategy for the convention is (what you
hope to gain from doing this convention)
(vii)Who the practitioners are working for
(a) themselves?
(b) you and your company?
(c) chair massage?
(viii) The importance of a unified voice
(b) The intention of the massage
(i) a comfortable massage
(ii) non-corrective
(iii) 13 minutes
(iv) to facilitate the flow of energy through the body
(v) The dynamics of everyone working together
(a) a bubble of energy inside the booth
(b) importance of beginning and ending together
whenever possible
(c) you’re on stage, be aware of that
2. Purpose of meeting number 2
a) Final screening for practitioners
b) Work on one another
c) Fine tune the massage
d) Make sure everyone can do the massage in 13 minutes comfortably
(1) Anyone that can’t, should wait until next time perhaps
e) Make sure everyone is giving a comfortable massage
f ) Remember, these people are your representatives
g) Discussion of logistics of setting up
(1) asking for volunteers to help with the set up
(2) you may need a utility vehicle or two cars to transfer the chairs
3. Purpose of meeting number 3
a) Work on one another and fine tune - 1 hour
b) Discuss the details of the convention
(1) Procedure for getting into the convention
(a) you need to supply the appropriate person with a list of names
of everyone who will be working
(2) who a customer should see if they want a massage
(a) direct them to the ticket dispensing person
(3) the use of the pre-screening form (also the ticket)
(a) they should have read it over before they get to you
(b) ask them for their ticket and ask the customer if there is anything you should know
(c) tear off the bottom of the ticket and keep it
(i) this is how you will be paid
(d) give the customer back the upper half and tell them its for
their information and to tell their friends
(4) who to refer questions or referrals for more work to, i.e.
(a) do you come to the office?
Chair massage markets
(b) how much do you charge?
(c) where can I find a practitioner in Hoboken?
(5) What words to use to describe the work
(a) the tradition
(b) the intention
(6) Use of face covers between each massage
(a) customers need to see that their face cover is fresh
(7) Use of handiwipes
(8) When breaks occur, how long, etc.
(9) The importance of working on one another when its slow
(a) it attracts people
(10)Should we accept tips?
(11)The importance of understanding that you are on-stage
(a) Posture is important
(b) Pace is important
(c) Precision is important
(d) What you say is important
B. Preparing materials to have available in your booth
1. These will depend on who hired you and why you are providing this service
2. Types of material
a) the tickets (an example in your packet)
(1) a prescreening form
(2) an information piece
(a) should include the OSMA 800 number
(b) should include a money back guarantee
b) throw aways describing the service
(1) coupon for discount
(2) a who, what, where, when, why, and how much flyer
(a) should include a money back guarantee
c) information about your business
(1) this should be a brochure describing your business
(2) this would not be given out to everyone, only people who want more
d) the businesses business card
C. Signage
1. A nice big sign for the back of your booth describing who you are, who contracted
you, what your service is, and how much
2. Depending on the size of the convention, you may also want to have signs which
direct people to you
a) For example, a “we’re in booth number _____ offering a $15.00 15-minute massage for only $10.00.” sign
3. A sign which describes the massage is nice because people can read it as they pass by
Supplies you will want in your booth
Chairs (one for everyone who is assigned to work)
Face covers
A trash can or two
Water Water Water and cups that are labeled for the practitioners
Fruit (but you don’t want practitioners eating in the booth on their break)
110 Marketing Chair Massage
Carpeting (if the booth is not carpeted already)
A plant or two is nice if the space is big enough
A skirted table to put your literature on as well as the water (personal belongings can be hidden
behind the skirt
A numbered sign up sheet on a pad on a clip board
Chair massage markets
112 Marketing Chair Massage
6Massage in
the workplace
Worksite Massage Locations:
a partial list of companies where
Chair Massage has been performed...
Alfalfa’s Market, Colorado
American Airlines
Massage in the workplace
American Express
AMI Broncos
Apple Computer
ASAP Personnel
Austin City Police Department
Austin Peace Festival
Bell Labs
Boulder Community Hospital
Buchanon, Gray, Purvis and Scheutze
Colorado State Correctional Facility
Communications Workers of America
Computer Projections, Inc.
Continental Graphics
Coors Beer
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
Denver Federal Center
Department of Social Services, MI
Family Futures
Federal Correction Institute, Denver
General Mills
General Motors
Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce
Hartstein and Hartstein
Heinz Corporation
Kaiser Permanente
Levi-Strauss Company
Lotus Development Corporation
Medical Clinic For Rehabilitation
Metropolitan Temps
Moody’s Investment Services
Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco
Mutual of Omaha
National Association of Broadcasters
NBC in New York
New York Giants Football Team
NYU Alumni Relations Office
Ogilvy and Mather
Pacific Telephone
114 Marketing Chair Massage
Porter Hospital, Denver
Public Service Facilities
Rocky Mountain News
Rodale Press
RTD Busdrivers, Denver
San Francisco City Hall
San Francisco International Film Festival
San Francisco General Hospital
Sentinel Newspaper, San Francisco
Skilled Nurses, Inc.
Social Security Services
State Farm Insurance
Sterling Drug Company
Stern Magazine
Telecommunications Cooperative Service
Telecommunications Network
Texas Department of Human Services
Texas Highway Patrol Association
Texas Special Olympics
The ALMI Group
Travel Company
University of California Medical Center
United Airlines
Warner Lambert
Weeden and Company
Whole Foods Market
Benefits of Chair Mas-
sage in the Workplace
A chair massage program demonstrates the employer’s proactive commitment to the health and well-being of employees.
Chair Massage is affordable to most companies and/or employees.
The massage is done through clothing making it convenient and psychologically comfortable for the employee.
A chair massage revitalizes employees in only 15 minutes leaving them relaxed but alert.
The highly choreographed massage form allows for a maximum benefit in
the shortest amount of time.
A fifteen minute massage break fits into virtually anyone’s work schedule.
The massage is done with the client in a seated position and thus requires
little space.
As a wellness program, chair massage requires little motivation on the part
of employees resulting in high utilization. Unlike other wellness modalities
there is nothing to practice, learn, or accomplish. In fact, the less the client
does the more effective the work will be.
Besides not requiring motivation, chair massage actually gives people motivation to improve their health lifestyle as it reacquaints their minds with
their bodies.
The results of an chair massage are immediate and guaranteed.
The special massage chair fully supports the employee in a comfortable
position while exposing their neck, shoulders, back, arms, hand, and scalp
for the massage.
Massage in the workplace
Profile: Pacific Health Systems on the Job
This article originally appeared in 1986 in Massage Magazine. For
more current thinking about the future of chair massage please
see the article 20/20 Vision in Chapter 3.
“Worker’s Job Stress, Rubbed Away;” “It’s Nice To Be Kneaded In the Office;” “Different
Strokes—Massage gains a better image;” “The Message is a Massage;” “Get a Massage
At Your Desk? Ah, There’s the Rub.”
All of the above are headlines from newspaper stories about Pacific Health Systems
(PHS), the most widely publicized worksite massage business in the country. Since its
inception in 1983, PHS has been featured in newspapers in over two dozen metropolitan markets, has been mentioned in articles in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today,
U.S. News and World Reports, and Inc. Magazine, and was the subject of a syndicated
column called Trendnotes by John Naisbett, author of the bestselling Megatrends.
How did Pacific Health Systems draw all this nationwide attention This article traces
the history of PHS and details some of the valuable lessons learned. It is a story with
which I am intimately familiar since, as one article put it, PHS was my “brainchild.”
The story begins with the concept of worksite massage and why it continues to attract so much interest from massage practitioners.
What is worksite massage?
Worksite massage is a subcategory of what has now become known as “chair massage,” that is, massage done on a clothed, seated client, lasting 30 minutes or less, and
given a location convenient to the client rather than the practitioner. In worksite massage the location of the massage is where the client works.
The appeal of developing a worksite massage business is strong. First is the overwhelming need. In our culture work has become associated with unpleasantness and
stress in our lives. People on the job feel out-of-control, over burdened, and understimulated. Massage is a fast, effective, and safe means of reducing the negative effects of a stressful work environment while encouraging a productive attitude toward
a job.
A second attraction of workplace massage is the size of the market. If massage can be
sold in the workplace it will be a growth industry for years to come.
The third attraction is that companies, by and large, have the money to pay for massage services.
All of these were reasons why I decided to start Pacific Health system. Additionally,
since my goal has always been to find ways to move massage into the mainstream, I
believed that if massage could be sold to the corporate world it would finally achieve
its widespread credibility.
The First Year
In 1982, I decided to develop Pacific Health Systems as a service business rather than
as a private practice. Operating as a private practice is fine if you wish only to provide
employment for yourself, but I was interested in provided jobs for other practitioners.
In a private practice one practitioner’s skill and personality is the product being sold.
116 Marketing Chair Massage
This puts a limit on the amount of possible expansion. In a service business it is the
service itself that is the commodity. All practitioners are interchangeable, placing no
ceiling on growth. Our practitioners were all graduates of The Amma Institute of Traditional Japanese Massage. They all received additional training for PHS in worksite
massage. Since all practitioners used the same form, quality control, a primary concern of any service business, was more easily assured.
The initial financing for PHS came from The Amma Institute and from personal loans.
I took on a partner, Stephen Pizzella, to share the development workload. We defined
our market rather broadly on two levels, customers who were businesses purchasing
our services for their employees, and employees who were purchasing the service for
themselves. For a product definition we finally settled on the concept of “hands-on
stress reduction.”
In the early months we hardly left a low-cost marketing stone unturned. We went
door-to-door “cold calling” in office buildings in downtown San Francisco. Practitioners pass out flyers and brochures to offices in the morning, and then return later to
give free demonstrations. We did direct mailings with follow-up calls to select markets, such as CPA and architectural firms. We made telemarketing calls with follow-up
mailings to the fifty largest Bay Area firms. We tried display advertising in a periodical
specifically geared to downtown business. We passed out leaflets at bus stops and
train stations during rush hour. We rented space to do massage at the San Francisco
Fair to advertise our services. Our first article, written by a member of Stephen’s softball team, was published in the December, 1983 issue of the San Francisco Business
Our success at this stage was only marginal. A few clients emerged, mostly employees in small firms who paid for the service themselves. By summer, 1983, PHS had
about 60 regular clients whom Stephen and one other practitioner were massaging
each week.
The first year was frustrating because no clear pattern emerged to show us which
method of marketing worked best. They all worked some of the time, but even then
their success seemed due more to persistence than to design.
The Second Year
In May 1984, Pacific Health Systems had its “big break.” The head of a department in
the Macintosh Division of Apple Computer invited us to Silicon Valley to demonstrate
our services. His employees were working long hours seven days a week and he was
hoping to spend part of his department’s discretionary money on services that would
relieve some of the strain. Soon we were massaging the 24 people on his staff every
week. It wasn’t long before other departments heard about the service, and within
nine months PHS was doing 250 to 300 Apple employees each week. We eventually
had client cards on some 650 of their employees, including John Scully, the President
and Chief Executive Officer of Apple, who received a massage at his desk once or
twice each week. “I’m a cerebral person,” he explained to Inc. Magazine. “This let’s me
meditate and clear my head.”
The individual departments were paying for the service at the rate of $10 per massage.
The cash flow looked good. We were paying practitioners $5 for each treatment and
doing some of the work ourselves. Our marketing strategy was to leverage this success
at Apple into media credibility, which would bring PHS to the attention of other companies. In late 1984 and early 1985, we successfully generated most of the media exposure mentioned at the beginning of this piece. We photocopied all of these articles and
Massage in the workplace
they became part of our sales and promotional materials.
Then we fine-tuned our business plan and began looking for $150,000 to 200,000 in
expansion capital to develop a more professional marketing package. The potential
investors were there but they wanted to see us less reliant on one company for our
primary income. They wanted to make certain our success at Apple could be duplicated at other major companies.
So we spent long hours nurturing our contacts at other corporations. We focused
our energies on Silicon Valley and other successful high-tech firms. Unfortunately,
these other companies were slow to respond. At Apple, we had gotten in through the
back door. Even though we were massaging the President of the company, we were
still not in the corporate budget. All of our fees were paid on a departmental level.
At other companies, we were attempting to go through the front door. But the lead
time for making decisions at the corporate level was 6 to 12 months and each level of
management had to be slowly educated about the value of worksite massage.
We learned the language of the burgeoning corporate health promotion field, and
talked with the heads of human resource departments about program utilization
rates, employee productivity, and cost effectiveness. We did demonstrations for anyone who would let us in the door. Then we began redesigning our pricing strategy
and proposing that companies split the cost with their employees, or that employees
foot all of the bill. But somehow, even with all the media exposure and all of the effort, we still were not able to land any major new clients. We soul-searched for hours
on end, believing that perhaps a new presentation, a new brochure, a new sales technique, or something would bring us another major company.
The Third Year
Unfortunately, there is one thing that all the marketing expertise in the world cannot produce, and that is good timing. Our success at Apple Computer in fact did turn
out to be a fluke. When the personal computer industry entered its first recession in
May of 1985, Apple was one of the companies most visibly affected. The last of the
two original owners of Apple, Steve Jobs, was forced out of the company, some 800
employees were laid off, and the organizational chart was totally restructured. As for
Pacific Health Systems, our services were discontinued along with the free juice and
the rented plants.
For two months we stayed away completely from Apple, letting the dust settle. When
we returned, it was the employees who now were paying for the service. Our former
clients were scattered throughout the company in new offices and departments.
Many of them had left or been laid off. Since last Fall the numbers have been slowly
increasing. Right now there are about 60 people who get massaged regularly at
Last December I sold my interest in Pacific Health Systems to my partner, Stephen
Pizzella. It was clear that PHS was still viable as a private practice, but until the client
numbers exceed 150 to 200 a week, it cannot afford to carry any great administrative
overhead. Stephen is making a good living and paying minimal rent and phone costs.
He now has two other practitioners who work for him one day a week each. He is seeing some signs that business will once again pick up and that seeds planted many
months ago will begin to bear fruit.
Oddly enough the greatest success of Pacific Health Systems was not in the inroads
it made into the corporate culture, but rather in the headlines it generated across
118 Marketing Chair Massage
the country. The biggest barrier to worksite massage is ignorance of its existence.
Companies, employees, and massage practitioners who have never heard of it before
don’t know that massage in the workplace is possible and cannot imagine how it is
As a result of the high media visibility of PHS, over two dozen practitioners across the
country are now making their primary living doing massage in the workplace. There
are also hundreds of other practitioners who are actively fantasizing about tapping
into the corporate marketplace. Some of these practitioners will ultimately become
much more successful and important than Pacific Health Systems by acting on these
Down the road
My personal conviction is that within two years worksite massage will be a common
option for companies concerned about employee health promotion. The market will
diversify into a multitude of specialized niches. Some practitioners will concentrate
on services for high-paid executives. Others will focus on the benefits of massage
for factory workers. There will be many more practitioners on company payrolls and
there will be plenty of practitioners free-lancing in worksite massage as a private
practice. There will even be a few well-financed services with training programs of
their own, which will provide dozens of practitioners to the largest corporations.
Eventually, with enough research, massage will become scientifically validated as an
essential component of health maintenance, just as good diet and exercise are now.
On that day the insurance companies will start paying for massage, and structured
touching will truly enter the mainstream.
Wellness in the workplace: A brief history
assage practitioners interested in bringing their skills into the workplace need
to educate themselves about the relationship between the business world and
the health promotion field. The notion of an employer taking proactive responsibility
for the health and well-being of employees is a fairly recent phenomenon. During the
1970’s companies became increasingly concerned about the declining productivity of the American worker. One of the causes targeted was the impact of drug and
alcohol abuse on job performance. To begin to deal with the situation Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s) were developed to provide counseling and referral services
to affected employees.
Large companies developed in-house eap’s and smaller businesses contracted out the
service to independent private firms. Typically an eap is contacted by the employee either in person or over the phone with the program guaranteeing confidentiality. Services vary but most programs start with a foundation of educational material about
drug and alcohol problems in the form of memos, brochures, posters, paycheck
inserts, or seminars. This material will always include information about how employees, who think they might have one of the problems described, can seek help. Over
the past eight years the scope of eap’s has broadened to include emotional problems
which may interfere with job performance, such as a recent death, divorce, or other
Massage in the workplace
personal crisis.
The second major factor influencing corporate attitudes toward employee health has
been the skyrocketing costs of health care. According to Occupational Health and
Safety (June 1984), “Business and industry pay over one-fifth of this nation’s annual
$300 billion health care bill.” In an attempt to find a solution to containing health care
costs companies have been turning toward prevention oriented programs. These
programs go under the title of Corporate Health Promotion or Corporate Wellness
Programs. Services provided can include anything from a million dollar fitness center,
to biofeedback lessons, to seminars on the importance of wearing a seat belt.
Because the field is so new a lot of attitudes, definitions, structures, and markets are
still evolving, and rivalries exist. Just when the eap’s had finally developed some credibility for their services, along came the corporate health promotion programs trying
to steal the ball. Some eap’s have become subsumed under the health promotion
programs, others exist side-by-side in larger corporations. Both groups have national
associations, magazines, newsletters, and, of course, politics. Hundreds of people inside and outside of corporations are competing for the same health promotion dollar.
Find out who they are and what services they offer.
If you are going to attempt to have the corporations pay for your massage services,
make certain that you can talk their language. Do your homework. Go to the local
business library and research the resources listed below. Corporations will expect you
to be informed and up-to-date so educate yourself on the current issues and statistics.
Resources for research
Wellness in the workplace is a multimillion dollar industry. To find out more about
what’s current in the field, and who the competition is to massage, check out the following resources.
Association for Worksite Health Promotion, 60 Revere Drive, Suite 500, Northbrook, IL,
60062; (708) 480-9574. This is the organization to join if you are interested in selling
massage in the workplace. AFB is the largest national association of corporate health
promotion specialists in the country. Membership is $130/year.
National Employee Services and Recreation Association, 2211 York Road, Suite 207,
Oakbrook, IL 60523-2511, (630) 368-1280. [] 3,000 members, publish
Employee Services Management magazine. Not quite as relevant as the first two resources but you should know about them.
The Chamber of Commerce of the United States has a Clearinghouse on Business Coalitions for Health Action which can provide you with loads of information on governmental/health care industry/business coalitions. Write them at 1615 H. Street, N.W.,
Washington, DC 20062.
Most insurance companies are now getting into the health promotion field and may
have their own publications. Contact them.
Many universities now have newsletters to make the public better health consumers.
Check the Department of Public Health or the medical school.
Magazines to look for in your library: Business & Health, Occupational Health and
Safety, Personnel Journal, Personnel Administrator, Journal of Occupational Medicine.
There are frequently regional associations of Human Resource staff which can be
helpful. “Human Resources” is the new term to describe personnel departments.
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Companies which use the term tend to be a bit more progressive and thus more receptive to massage.
Finally, don’t forget to be reading the daily business pages for announcements of
workshops, seminars, or conferences on the topic of wellness. These are good for getting yourself grounded in the field and also for meeting some of the other players.
Front door vs. back door
he strategies for marketing massage to large corporations (over 100 employ
ees) can be divided into two basic approaches—front door and back door.
Front door approaches attempt to bring massage into the workplace through formal
channels with the company giving its blessing and full support to the service. Back
door approaches use informal channels and the powers-that-be may not even be
aware that massage is happening in their company.
Most worksite practi­tioners have been relying on the back door to sell their services
to corporations. Typically a practitioner finds a current client or friend who wants the
service brought to their workplace. After the first appearance others in the office see
or hear about the service and also request it.
At some point the supervisor of these employees becomes aware of what is going on
and either gives tacit approval or an immediate veto. In many cases, if the employee
has had to get clearance before the first visit, the practitioner never gets into the office because of a manager’s perception that chair massage is inap­propriate for the
Another problem with the back door approach is the “looking over your shoulder”
syndrome. There is always a fine line to walk between being visible enough so that
potential clients will know about the service and being invisible enough so that no
one in too high a position of authority takes the time to ask, “What the heck are you
doing here?”
The strain on the practitioner may be subtle, but over a period of time takes its toll.
Often a level of accommodation gets reached where the practitioner no longer seeks
out new clients in the company believing that to push any further would jeopardize
the established practice.
The big advantage of starting with the back door is that it costs very little in the way
of overhead. Marketing massage through the front door of large companies tends to
be much more expensive and requires a great deal of preparation and patience.
Going through the front door means that you have to be well acquainted with how
corporations are structured and where chair massage fits into their world-view. Massage is seen as a part of the corporate “health promotion” or “wellness” industry. (See
“Wellness in the workplace: A brief history,” earlier.) Unless you are familiar with what
services are included in this industry and how they are being marketed you will end
up spinning your wheels. Get yourself educated. You also have to be aware of how
corporations are structured, who has power over what, and how your service can be
used as a political football.
Massage in the workplace
You will also need a lot more money. Credible marketing to companies can be expensive. A good-looking brochure and other presentation materials (testimonials, facts
and figures, pricing options, media reprints, possibly a video) are essential. Also helpful would be an impressive board of advisors and a well-formulated accountability
system for measuring the effectiveness of the work. Finally, going through the front
office generally means that you want the company to pay for all or part of the service.
However, most worksite massage is currently being paid for 100% by the employee.
Another option is to set your sights on small businesses. In fact, most of the success
in moving massage into the workplace has been with companies of less than 100
employees. There is no place to hide in these organizations and you can be certain
that if you are able to work there at all it is because the highest levels of management
approve, or are at least tolerant.
More practitioners are entering the massage profession after careers in the business
world. These are the people who have the wherewithal to bring massage into the
workplace through the front door. If you haven’t had a lot of experience in dealing
with the top management of major corporations you might be better off with the
back door strategy until you have gained enough experience to understand what it
would take to legitimize yourself to a company.
Rules for selling chair massage
hair massage has created a new public perception of the word massage. It no
longer means private rooms, tables, nudity, oils, or even an hour-long session.
But seated massage can be difficult to explain when you are first setting out to market chair massage to corporations, airports, hair salons, and other venues. “Seated
massage? You mean like in a ‘magic fingers’ chair?” Following a few simple guidelines
can save you hours of trouble and loads of money in designing your marketing approaches.
The best way to sell chair massage is by letting people experience a treatment. This
service is so unlike traditional notions of massage that people have to actually sit
down and have someone work on them in order to “get” the concept. Even many
massage practitioners resist the idea until they actually receive a treatment. Never
miss an opportunity to give a demonstration and your marketing plans will go much
more smoothly.
If you can’t get your hands on them the next best way to acquaint people with chair
massage is for them to see someone else being massaged. People will project themselves into the chair as they watch a treatment and much of their initial hesitancy
vanishes. After 10 or 15 minutes they can’t wait to get a treatment themselves.
Video is another way to introduce the work to other people. Although a typical professional video may run $1,000 a minute to script, shoot, and edit, you can generally
negotiate with a competent professional and get charged no more than $2,000 for a
high quality 5 minute tape which includes voice-over and titles.
The cheapest way to finance a professional video is to get the local television sta122 Marketing Chair Massage
tion to do a story on your work. Then either record it yourself when it is aired or have
a professional company make you a master (in the Yellow Pages check under Video
Production Services). A professional duplicating service will edit your segment and
guarantee you a clean copy. Occasionally you can get the TV station to make a duplicate for free, particularly if you throw in a complimentary massage for the reporter or
camera person.
Even if you can’t afford a professional production, rent or borrow some equipment for
a couple of days and shoot a five minute sequence of a practitioner giving a seated
massage. However, remember that the video will be communicating how professional and legitimate you are. So if the video looks too amateurish, it is better not to
use it at all.
The third best way to introduce chair massage is by showing someone a picture of a
client receiving a treatment with accompanying written or spoken words. Generally
this is relied upon only for the first contact, a picture in a brochure, for example, and
will be followed up with one of the methods above.
The least effective method of marketing chair massage is without any visuals—just
the written or spoken word. Fortunately, articles like the one which appeared in Time
magazine allow even the lowest budget practitioner to have access to visuals which
show chair massage in action. Always include a copy of such articles in your mailings
or “leave-behind” packages. They not only explain, but they also lend credibility to
your explanations.
Stress notes and quotes
n the March 3, 1988, issue of John Naisbett’s Trend Letter, an entire page is de
voted to massage in the workplace in an article entitled “Entrepreneurial Opportunities Abound in Stressed-Out U.S. Society.” In it Naisbett, who is the author of the
best-seller Megatrends, states, “Increasingly, people are becoming unwilling to accept stress as inevitable and unavoidable, making job stress one of the U.S.’s leading
health and mental-care concerns.” As justification he notes that, “At one time or another, stress besets nearly 90 percent—218 million—of all Americans. Some 59 percent report “great stress” at least once or twice a week, and 30 percent feel high stress
almost daily.”
Job-related stress is becoming a topic of increasing concern to state officials as well.
California, for example, is currently witnessing an explosion in the number of workers’
compensation claims by government employees for mental stress. The San Francisco
Chronicle, on March 2, 1988, reported that recent figures from a study sponsored
by the County Supervisors Association of California showed an increase from 1,282
claims filed in 1980 to a staggering 6,812 claims in 1986.
“This growth is particularly alarming when compared to the growth of all other workers’ compensation claims,” according to the report which was compiled for the association by David M. Griffith and Associates, a Carmichael, California consulting firm.
“The number of physical injuries as a percentage of the work force is actually declining,” the report stated.
Massage in the workplace
Along with workers’ compensation claims, many more disability pensions are being
activated as workers opt for early retirement from stressful jobs. In Los Angeles, for
example, psychological disability pensions awarded climbed from 2.5 percent of all
disability retirements in 1972 to 23.3 percent in 1982. The survey’s figures indicate another tenfold increase in the number of claims filed due to stress-related disabilities
in Los Angeles by the year 2005.
Massage and corporate health promotion
ne of the barriers to developing worksite massage programs is the difficulty
management has in conceptualizing massage as a valid wellness modality. This
problem is further compounded by the fact that many bodyworkers, trying to tap
this market, do not understand how to describe worksite massage in a language that
managers can understand.
Massage is best positioned as a health promotion or “wellness” service for companies.
But what is corporate health promotion? Twelve years ago, according to Willis Goldbeck of the Washington Business Group for Health, the corporate health promotion
industry did not exist. Yet in 1985 a study done for the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services found that 65.5 percent of all worksites with 50 or more employees
provided some type of health promotion activity. Clearly we are looking at a growth
industry and one doesn’t have to look far to find the reasons.
The corporate wellness industry includes programs such as smoking cessation,
weight reduction, nutrition, on- and off-the-job safety programs, blood pressure
reduction, and fitness (aerobics, weight training, etc.). Massage belongs in the subcategory of health promotion called stress management or stress reduction programs.
Unfortunately, although massage “belongs” there, the experts in the stress management field too often still do not recognize massage as a legitimate stress management modality. Articles in the professional literature mention mind-body techniques
involving meditation, visualization, actualization, time management, biofeedback,
and relaxation training, but rarely does the word massage appear.
The primary reason is that managers and researchers still reflect the biases and misconceptions of the broader culture that massage is either adult entertainment or a
luxury service.
It is this perception of massage that the bodywork industry is fighting rather than the
reality of the massage experience. Even when managers themselves are convinced
of the efficacy of massage in the workplace they still hesitate because they are concerned about the perception of customers, suppliers, the media, the stockholders,
and the board of directors. Massage is happening in dozens of major corporations
across the country but few of them are willing to admit it for fear of the negative impression it might create.
Being an orphaned health promotion modality, massage is forced to make a more
articulate and convincing case for its utility and efficacy than any other stress reduction/management modality.
124 Marketing Chair Massage
Unfortunately there is little research data to justify the use of massage for health
promotion. But there are additional arguments that contrast massage favorably with
other wellness modalities and highlight some of the best reasons for investing in
worksite massage.
The following list applies most appropriately to chair massage only because, being
shorter than table massage, it is more likely to be included in a health promotion
program. However, many of the statements hold equally true for table massage. Also
note that many of the arguments highlight a different facet of the same characteristic
of massage.
Massage is egalitarian. Most wellness modalities appeal to only a limited
percentage of employees. Not everyone needs a smoking cessation or
weight loss program, and not everyone can relate to yoga or visualization
training. However, when paid for by the company, chair massage frequently approaches 100 percent utilization by all employees.
While most money spent by corporations in health promotion programs
goes toward motivating employees to utilize the service rather than for the
health promotion program itself, chair massage requires only the wholehearted support of management in order for it to be utilized by most
Massage tends to be self-reinforcing, that is, the more employees get massaged the more they want a massage. Many relaxation programs are difficult to initiate and maintain because they require effort on the part
of the employee to continue practicing what has been learned. With massage the less the client does the better the massage works.
Massage creates motivation to change behavior. This occurs because massage reintegrates the mind with the body and recipients start to listen to
their “somatic” selves. People naturally become motivated to improve their
life-styles in a healthy direction.
Massage supports all other wellness modalities. One of the most important effects of massage is its ability to rebalance the systems of the mindbody when people are involved in a growth process involving behavioral
changes. Massage makes stopping smoking, losing weight, beginning to
exercise, learning to meditate, or even changing time management habits
all easier to accomplish.
The results of massage are immediate, unlike other wellness modalities
that have a lag time between initiation and effect.
Massage does not have to be practiced to be effective.
Employees can not do massage wrong.
Massage accepts people exactly where they are. It works without requiring
any change on the part of the employee.
Labor leaders are suspicious of stress management programs because they
frequently appear to “blame the victim” and take the focus off the external
sources of stress in the workplace. Massage benefits everyone and blames
no one.
Massage helps to fulfill the minimal daily tactile requirement that more
and more research says is necessary for maintaining physical and mental
Massage in the workplace
Because massage is “structured” touching, people can experience a high
degree of intimacy which, in turn, encourages a higher degree of interpersonal trust with their colleagues.
Most worksite wellness programs are taken advantage of by the people
who need them the least—the conspicuously healthy people who already exercise regularly, watch their diet, and pay attention to the signals
from their body. Massage is attractive to everyone, including the “walking
wounded” who are in a cycle of ever decreasing health.
Criticism of other wellness modalities such as meditation, biofeedback, or
yoga sometimes focuses on the fact that those programs have metaphysical overtones that alienates some employees. Massage may have other image problems, but this is not one of them.
If massage is to be treated as a serious wellness modality in the workplace, practitioners must concentrate on clarifying the features of massage in their own minds so
that they can be coherently conveyed to the marketplace. Learn as much as you can
about the growing corporate health promotion industry. Businesses will treat you as
a professional only if you have done your homework and are able to speak the language that they understand. With persistence and professionalism there is no reason
why massage can’t emerge in the next decade as the premier corporate wellness modality.
Researching massage in the workplace
s massage effective? That question becomes ever more pressing as public accep
tance of massage increases and unprecedented numbers of individuals and organizations begin to see massage as a legitimate option for maintaining and promoting
Finding out whether massage “works” is particularly important in the worksite massage world. While it would seem that the benefits of massage in the workplace are
obvious and even though the media has been more than supportive in popularizing
the notion of worksite massage, the business world, particularly large corporations,
have had a stubborn resistance to implementing this health promotion modality.
Bodyworkers attempting to market their services to the business world inevitably encounter management requests for studies which detail the effectiveness of massage.
Unfortunately, because worksite massage is such a relatively new phenomenon, such
data on massage in the workplace is not readily available. Thus, it is important for all
bodyworkers to understand how they can generate the necessary information out
of their own business experience to justify their services for present and prospective
business clients. The individual experience of practitioners, in turn, will create momentum for more sophisticated research protocols which will benefit the bodywork
industry as a whole. This article will discuss what research is actually possible in the
workplace and how to determine the data collection methods most appropriate for a
126 Marketing Chair Massage
particular business.
Categories of research
Research in the workplace generally falls into one of four broad categories: questionnaires, productivity measures, biophysical indicators, and personnel statistics. Any of
these can be used separately or combined into one research protocol depending on
the circumstances.
A questionnaire is the most general category and therefore can be either the easiest or one of the most involved to implement. For example, in its simplest form you
might develop a questionnaire which assesses the level of demand for your services
to convince the business that this is something which employees want. (See the following article, “Needs assessment questionnaires.”) You could also create a questionnaire which measures the subjective impact of the service on such factors as job satisfaction and productivity. Questionnaires can be administered to measure perceived
stress levels of workers and correlate it to an individual’s state of health or, alternately,
wellness assessment questionnaires can track the changes in health promotion behaviors.
The second category of research tracks the productivity of workers. In general two
rules apply: 1. The larger the company the more likely it is to track productivity; and 2.
The more specific the job description the easier it is to develop meaningful productivity measures. For example, a one percent increase in productivity in a corporation
with 10,000 employees might save millions of dollars a year, whereas the same improvement in a company with 25 employees might only save a few hundred dollars.
That means that formal productivity measures are more likely to be instituted in the
larger company. Likewise, the productivity of a job that is highly structured, say a
telephone operator or assembly line worker, is easier to monitor than that of an unstructured position, such as a manager.
Productivity research ties the benefits of massage directly to cost savings and relies
on measurements which the company already has in place and, presumably, already
believes are reliable.
The next category, biophysical parameters, can be useful in health care facilities, like
hospitals, or large companies which have full-time health care departments. Possible
tests which have a strong correlation to health risk levels include resting pulse rate,
blood pressure, cholesterol levels, immune function, and the levels of certain socalled “stress hormones” such as the catecholamines (e.g. epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine). These tests are best done over a long period of time rather than
expecting immediate changes after one massage. In fact, there is some anecdotal
evidence to suggest, for instance, that in some people, the immediate result of a
massage is to elevate blood pressure and that it is only over the long term that blood
pressure decreases. Thus, it is best to take serial biophysical measurements either before a massage or at a time unrelated to the massage.
The final category includes all of the personnel statistics which companies track
which can be linked to the health of their employees such as health care costs, downtime, absenteeism, worksite accidents, turnover, and substance abuse. All of these
are easily measurable and all of them cost the company money. Once again, in larger
corporations this data is tracked as a matter of course, while in smaller businesses an
extra effort may need to be made.
Massage in the workplace
Which research to choose?
Determining which research should be used to monitor the effectiveness of your
massage service depends upon the specific interest, needs, and resources in a particular company.
First, find out what benefits the company wants to see as a result of implementing a
massage program—exclusively short-term benefits, indirect benefits, or direct benefits.
Businesses sometimes use massage to solve an immediate, short-term problem of
morale or productivity. For example, one of the largest software manufacturing companies in the U.S. last year brought a practitioner in to do chair massage in a department that had a difficult deadline to meet. The management’s attitude was, “Give the
programmers anything they want,” so that they could continue their round-the clock
pace. Other companies bring in massage as a reward for completing a difficult project or as a motivation tool (a massage to the ten top salespeople each week).
For these businesses with specific, short-term goals data collection is not generally
a concern. However, if the bodyworker can institute some, even simple, form of research, a short-term involvement is more likely to be turned into a long-term relationship.
The indirect benefits of bringing massage into the workplace are difficult to measure
but frequently provide managers with enough justification to initiate a program within a company. These businesses are not so worried about the health or productivity
benefits which massage accrues but rather the effect massage might have on employee morale, attracting and retaining high quality employees, and creating a public
image as a company which cares about its personnel. While these rationales can be
found in large corporations, it is often smaller businesses which are more likely to be
satisfied by these indirect outcomes.
Unfortunately, relying on indirect benefits alone to justify a long-term relationship
with a company, particularly the larger ones, may be unrealistic. In this era of “downsizing,” mergers, and aggressive foreign competition, managers often eliminate a
massage service at the first sign of a financial squeeze. That is the time when it is
important to have built a solid foundation of convincing data relating to the direct
benefits of massage.
The direct benefits of massage are those to which a dollar value can be assigned.
These tend to be of greater concern to corporations with relatively large (250+) numbers of employees. Since these benefits involve saving money they are actually easier
to document than most of the indirect benefits and are certainly the most convincing
to corporate decision-makers.
Even if direct benefits are not the primary concern of the company, always consider
whether it is possible to collect some kind of data on the impact of your work. Even
if it is not useful to you in that particular company, you can bet that it will help you to
market your services to other businesses. And any research data will be helpful to the
massage services industry as a whole.
If the company is interested in measuring direct benefits to justify your massage
services, make certain you both agree upon exactly what results constitute success
before you implement your program. Sometimes practitioners negotiate the initial
phase of a massage program at a greatly reduced fee to get into the company only to
discover that the company is unwilling to continue the program three months later
128 Marketing Chair Massage
at the regular rate. Implementing a clearly defined research protocol, even if it is a
simple questionnaire, will force the company to take your services seriously and to
begin thinking about long-term relationship immediately.
Discuss with the company what measurement tools are already in place at the worksite
or easily implemented. Does the company track morale, productivity, biophysical measures, or personnel statistics? Then decide if you want to have a control group which
doesn’t get a massage to compare to the people who receive your services. The use of
a control group will almost always add credibility to your results.
At the beginning of a study you will need to gather baseline data on the participants
and decide at what intervals new data will be recorded. Once again, if the company
has data collection systems in place, try to design your research protocol based on
what already exists and let the company tell you how often data needs to be collected to determine success.
One of the best research strategies is to enlist the involvement of a department in a
local university which is interested in worksite health promotion issues. They have
the expertise to design and implement high quality research and will add significant
credibility to all of your proposals.
Data collection should be a part of every bodyworker’s routine, no matter what
the context. Even in private practice intake forms and session records are essential.
However, working in a business environment allows a unique opportunity to create
large-scale, controlled research which will add immeasurably to the development of
massage as a legitimate service industry.
Knowing these basics about what is possible will allow you to approach companies
with greater conviction and authority. A recent review of the scientific literature could
find only nine studies which adequately evaluated any health promotion program
in the workplace. Although massage has been ignored up to this point by the mainstream corporate health promotion movement, it is not, in fact, all that far behind.
And because it has so many advantages over traditional health promotion programs
(see earlier article, “Massage and corporate health promotion”) massage has an opportunity to become a significant leader in the wellness industry.
Needs assessment questionnaires
odywork entrepreneurs frequently run up against skeptical owners and managers
who believe that massage does not have enough popular demand to warrant inclusion in their particular business. These places include hair salons, fitness centers,
shopping malls, airports, and corporations. Developing a needs assessment questionnaire can be a useful tool to convince these people that there is a market for your
First, a few guidelines:
Needs assessment questionnaires are best administered in conjunction
Massage in the workplace
with a demonstration or sample of your work. If people answered questions about massage without having received one, or at least seen one being done, most likely they will simply respond to the adult
entertainment image of massage which is still so strong in our culture. You
want instead to get their reaction to the actual product which you
are marketing.
While the above holds true whether you are doing table massage or chair
(seated) massage obviously it is much more difficult to give samples or
demonstrations of massages which take 60 minutes than those which take
only 15 minutes.
In general, the simpler the questionnaire, the better. People don’t like to
spend more than a few minutes answering questions.
Written answers tend to be more efficient and useful than verbal responses. They also provide an opportunity to collect names, addresses and
phone numbers if you wish to contact them for further marketing.
A very streamlined needs assessment questionnaire which gets to the heart of the
marketing matter very quickly might include the following questions:
1. Have you ever received a professional massage? If so, how often? Once; 2-5
times; once a month; twice a month; once a week or more?
2. How much would you be willing to pay for the massage which you just
received? (Include a range of at least five choices from very low to higher
than even you think it is worth.)
3. How often would you like to receive one of these massages assuming
you were paying the above price? Daily; 2 times a week; weekly; 2 times a
month; monthly; other?
If you were doing chair massages at a health fair for employees of a company which
was considering paying for your services you might also ask questions about whether
they would rather go to the fitness center to receive a table massage, or stay at their
desk for an chair massage. If the employer is particularly interested in the stress reduction aspects of the work you could include questions relating to whether the employee feels more relaxed after the massage.
Another type of needs assessment questionnaire not only gives you some marketing
data but also educates the consumer as to the benefits of your work. (See the example, next page.) Note that anytime you ask a question such as, “Were the stretches
comfortable?” you are focusing the client’s attention on the effects of the massage.
You are also providing the consumer with an opportunity to verbalize any problems
he or she had with your service. If the stretches weren’t comfortable you certainly
want to know why. This type of questionnaire can be designed with a particular market in mind and will provide you with plenty of opportunities to discuss the value of
your service.
Finally, whatever questionnaire you develop, pretest it with friends and colleagues
or with a small group of your target population. Try different versions of the same
questionnaire. You may find that certain questions are simply not clear to the reader
or don’t elicit the information you want. Pretesting will help you to evaluate and simplify your questions.
Needs assessment questionnaires are versatile and easy to develop. They can con130 Marketing Chair Massage
vince, educate, and turn your marketing guesses into hard fact. Try them.
Sample Needs Assessment questionaire for a health club
Workout massage survey
This survey is designed to help us determine how we can best meet the needs of our membership through workout
massage. Please fill out the front of this questionnaire first to give us an idea of who you are and what your experience with massage has been. Then after you have received your free 15-minute sports massage treatment from your
practitioner please fill out the reverse side.
Thank you for your assistance.
Name: ________________________________________
1. How many days a week do you generally work out? ______
2. Regular workout days:
3. How many hours a day do you generally work out? ______
4. Do you stretch for at least 10 minutes before and after your workout?
5. Have you ever received a professional massage before?
If yes please indicate any styles of massage which you have received:
other _________________________
swedish (oil massage)
How many times or how often have you received a massage?
other _________________________
2‑5 times
Front of questionaire
Post-workout questionnaire
Massage in the workplace
Take a few moments to focus on the results of the treatment and then answer the questions below.
1. Do your muscles feel more relaxed?
upper back
lower back
2. How does a workout massage compare to previous massages?
3. Was the massage chair comfortable?
4. Did you feel the treatment was thorough?
5. Was the pressure comfortable for you? Too strong or too light?
6. Were the stretches comfortable?
7. How often would you like to have one of these treatments?
every time I work out
once a week
once a month
other _________________________________________
Many of the effects of workout massage are cumulative. Massage
increases the flow of blood and fresh oxygen to the muscles. You may
feel less sore tomorrow.
Back of questionaire
Current health statis-
132 Marketing Chair Massage
f you are interested in marketing your massage services
to corporations you will
definitely want to get your
hands on the Spring, 1989, issue of Advances: The Journal
for Mind-Body Health ($10
from the Institute for the
Advancement of Health, 16
East 53rd Street, New York,
NY, 10022). The seven original
articles included are a gold
mine of information about the
current state of stress management programs in corporations.
You will also be rewarded with
an impressive collection of statistics related to health. Below
are some of the highlights.
The average Fortune 500 company
spends nearly a
forth of its after-tax
profits on medical
bills. And health insurance premiums
are rising about 20
percent per year.
Only two of every
ten employees work
at full potential according to the National Commission
on Productivity.
Nearly half of the work force expends only the minimum effort needed to
get by.
In wages paid, the cost of absenteeism is estimated to be $30 billion a year.
The total loss, including lost productivity, is estimated to be as high as
$150 billion.
Three stress-related disorders—chronic pain, hypertension, and headache—are estimated to account for 54 percent of the absences, or $15.7
billion of the $30 billion lost in wages every year. Chronic pain, including
upper and lower back and neck and shoulder pain, accounts for approximately 33 percent of absenteeism. That means chronic pain costs employers approximately $10 billion a year.
From 1982 to 1986, stress-related health insurance claims in California increased by 434 percent and accounted for a sizable 10 percent of expenditure for health benefits.
It has been estimated that stress disorders presently cost U.S. industry as
much as $150 billion a year due to the decreased productivity resulting
from diminished functionality, disability, and absenteeism. That figure exceeds the combined profits of the Fortune 500.
Private corporations pay for 40 to 43 percent of the national health care bill
through the medical plans they purchase. The figure is expected to go as
high as 70 percent as a result of the aging of the work force, new diseases,
cost shifting from government to the private sector, unfunded retirement
plan liabilities, extended long-term care, expanded mandatory benefits,
and new medical technologies.
Overall corporate costs for health care reimbursement have been rising 18
to 20 percent a year since 1983.
It is estimated that between 60 percent and 90 percent of all visits to
health care professionals are for stress-related disorders.
Massage in the workplace
134 Marketing Chair Massage
Massage in the workplace
136 Marketing Chair Massage
Massage in the workplace
138 Marketing Chair Massage
Marketing tools
Basic business tools
While not exhaustive, this list will help you think about what necessary elements you
will need to assemble for various kinds of chair massage business.
Tools for all occasions
The name of your business
Business cards
Massage chair or tabletop unit
Face cradle covers
A place to discard handiwipes and face cradle covers
Screening mechanism
Pricing and discounts
Worksite Tools (ongoing clients)
Appointment sheet
Client cards
Discount cards
Gift certificates
Marketplace Tools (one-time clients)
Space elements
• Space delimiters: ropes, walls, carpeting
• Overhead protection outside
• Cashier station
• Sales table or kiosk
• Place to hang client’s coats
• Storage for practitioner’s belongings
• Wastepaper basket
Signage announcing service and price
Take-away brochure or flyer
Pictures of people receiving massage
Video tape of people receiving massage
Screening mechanism
140 Marketing Chair Massage
Sample contact sheet
Contact Name
Telephone #
Contact Date Contact Date
Marketing tools
frequently asked question is, “Who do we contact in a company about chair
massage?” Our first response, based on our philosophy of targeting markets
whose language you speak, is, “If you don’t know, then perhaps it isn’t the best market for you to pursue.” As a second response, Russ Borner went through his contact
files one day and came up with this list of people he had talked with or written to in
various companies.
VP/Director/Manager/District Manager/Division Mgr/Area Mgr of:
Training and Development
Human Resources
Employee Benefits
Employee Assistance Program
Managing Partner
Quality of Work Life Coordinator (QWL)
United Way Fund Drive Coordinator
“The Person in Charge”
Wife/significant other of any of the above
142 Marketing Chair Massage
Letter of Agreement: Sample contents
Items to be covered:
Client Responsibilities:
# of hours to be paid for
$ amount per hour
Work space to be provided
Support services to be provided e.g.
-scheduling of employees
-collection of funds, if employee paid
If company to pay for services
-when will bill be paid
Schedule of introduction/orientation meetings with employees
Completion of medical history forms
Change in schedule notification requirements (within 48 hours)
Practitioner Responsibilities:
Adequate number of practitioners available on the designated dates and
at appropriate times.
Competency of practitioners
Chairs and supplies
When bill is submitted and to whom
Compiled by Russell Borner
Marketing tools
Sample Implementation Memo
Department Manager
Implementation of our new health promotion service
On (DATE) (OUR COMPANY) will be introducing an innovative health promotion program developed by Pacific Health Systems. This program has been selected for its
proven effectiveness and easy implementation within the context of our work environment.
Once a week on (DAY), (#) practitioners from Pacific Health Systems will be in our
work area. They will be asking you if you would like a chair massage. Chair massage is
a hands-on health maintenance program designed to be performed at your worksite.
This massage, based on techniques of traditional Japanese acupressure, covers the
back, shoulders, neck, arms, and scalp and is highly effective enhancing circulation
to help relieve the symptomatic effects of stress as well as rejuvenate the mind and
Attached is a copy of a brochure from Pacific Health Systems which will describe the
service and answer some of the more common questions people have about chair
massage. Each week when you receive your session be certain to initial the practitioner’s invoice so that we can verify each treatment.
I have received one of these massages and was very pleasantly surprised by its effects. I encourage you to sample this new program in health promotion and, if it is
something you find helpful, please be sure to let me know.
144 Marketing Chair Massage
Sample Schedule
Company: _____________________________
Practitioner: ____________________
Date: _______________________
Day: ________________________
Phone Ext.
Marketing tools
Sample Hourly Price Schedule
ractitioners are available on an hourly basis according to the rates below. To use
this price schedule, multiply the number of practitioners you would like to have
each day by how many hours you would like them to work. Add the totals for each
day of your event together and find that total number of hours in the table below.
Please contact us for rates in excess of 36 hours.
For one to three practitioner-hours of work Pacific Health Systems will provide one
practitioner. For more than three hours we can arrange for as many practitioners as
Practitioners will work on individual clients for 10 to 30 minutes. All of the work is
done through the clothing, on a stool or specially designed chair provided by the
practitioners. Work on a portable table can be ordered by special arrangement.
# of HoursPrice# of HoursPrice
1$ 4019$ 630
3 11021690
4 14522720
5 18023750
6 21524780
7 25025810
8 28526840
9 32027870
10 35528900
11 39029930
12 42030960
13 45031990
14 48032 1020
15 510331050
16 540341080
17 570351110
18 600 361140
146 Marketing Chair Massage
Sample: Individual Price Schedule
Individual Price Schedule
August 1985
We have received numerous requests from small firms and individuals who are interested in purchasing chair massage services on an individual basis. Pacific Health systems has come up with a program to meet those needs.
We will accept individual employees as customers for our in-office service according
to the following guidelines:
1. Minimum number of customers. In San Francisco we require a minimum of
10 individual customers per week, per location. Outside of San Francisco
the minimum is 20 customers.
2. Minimum number of massages. Because of the invoicing problems associated with individual customers the minimum number of massages per
individual is 4.
3. Cost. Individual customers will be filled in advance at the rate of $45 for
four massages and $81 for eight massages (a 10% discount).
The minimum number of individual customers at a location means within the same
office, building, or, in some cases, nearby buildings. The individuals so not have to be
limited to employees of one company.
Marketing tools
Sample letters
The following nine sample letters are all actual correspondence used by Russell Borner, Senior Trainer for Skilled Touch Institute in his worksite chair massage business,
International Health Systems.
They represent classic ways to approach potential clients whom you have met, or
hope to meet.
Sample Letter: Basic follow-up to initiate contact
148 Marketing Chair Massage
February 19, 1988
Daniel Messina
Vice President - Operations
695 Chestnut Street
Union, NJ 07083
Dear Dan:
It was a pleasure speaking with you yesterday. Thank you for your interest in the services offered by International Health Systems.
As we discussed, I am enclosing a copy of our corporate brochure and some recent
articles describing our concept and its implementation.
I would welcome the opportunity to arrange a complimentary demonstration of our
“Energy Sequence” in the convenience of your office, and to discuss how we might be
of service to your organization.
I look forward to meeting with you.
Russell E. Borner
Sample Letter: Initial follow-up to company executive
Belmont letter # 1
Marketing tools
April 27, 1988
Anthony Belmont, M.D.
Medical Director
1 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10010
Dear Dr. Belmont:
I enjoyed speaking with you this afternoon. Thank you for your interest in learning
more about the services offered by International Health Systems.
As you requested, I am enclosing our corporate brochure and some recent articles
describing our concept and its implementation in the business setting. Our current
clients include: AT&T; Warner Lambert; Weeden & Co.; and many smaller firms in the
NY - NJ area.
Our services are being utilized to supplement ongoing health or wellness promotion programs, EAP programs, and as motivational incentives for worker productivity
improvement programs. A number of clients are considering using us to help document company efforts to reduce the increasing number of Workman’s Compensation
claims being filed for stress related causes.
I welcome the opportunity to answer any questions you may have after reviewing the
enclosed material, and as I mentioned this afternoon, to provide you with a complimentary demonstration of our “Energy Sequence” in the privacy of your office.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Russell E. Borner
President-International Health Systems
Sample Letter: Follow-up to letter of rejection
150 Marketing Chair Massage
Turnaround of client objection
Belmont letter # 2
May 12, 1988
Anthony P. Belmont, M.D.
Medical Director
One Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10010-3690
Dear Dr. Belmont:
Thank you for taking the time to review in such depth the material I sent you regarding our services and for discussing our concept with colleagues.
Your observation that our “Energy Sequence” may be a bit at variance with orthodox
methods of stress reduction is, in my belief, precisely its strength. It provides a refreshing, innovative, nonthreatening way for the progressive, leading-edge manager
to address the ever increasing costs of excessive levels of stress in the workplace.
As you expressed the willingness to track our progress, may I invite you to watch the
CNN series next week on “Managing Stress in the Work-Place”. I understand the segment that will cover our New York operations will be shown four times during the day
and evening on Thursday, May 19th.
Please know that I stand ready to respond immediately should you choose to reconsider a trial of our services and be the first insurance company to receive the benefits
we offer.
I hope to speak with you again soon.
Russell E. Borner
President - International Health Systems, Inc.
Sample Letter: Confirmation of meeting details
United Way drive
Chair massage as a motivational incentive for Company’s
February 20, 1998
Marketing tools
George Cavic
201 Tabor Road
Morris Plains, NJ 07950
Dear George:
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me yesterday regarding the services offered by International Health Systems. I hope you received the material I left for you
at the front desk.
I am looking forward to meeting with you and other member of your United Way
committee on Tuesday, March 8th, at 9:00 AM. Judging from the enthusiastic response we received from Warner Lambert employees since being introduced through
the LifeWise program, I believe we can provide you with a new and innovative incentive to increase employee participation in this year’s United Way campaign.
It would be helpful if Carol could call access and meeting location information into
my New Jersey number below. Also, would it be possible to arrange for a 1/2” VCR
and monitor for our meeting? I have a very short videotape that would help your decision-making process.
I’ll see you on the 8th.
Russell E. Borner
International Health Systems
Sample Letter: Annual follow-up and update
Discuss personal situation previously mentioned.
Re-offer demo
April 27, 1988
Leslie Winthrop
President - U.S.A.
152 Marketing Chair Massage
155 East 55th Street
New York, NY 10022
Dear Leslie:
It has been a year this week since our first meeting and I thought I would bring you
up to date on our progress.
I have enclosed another copy of our corporate brochure and some recent articles
describing our concept and its implementation in the business setting. We are really
excited about the Forbes article which appeared last week. CNN filmed us last week
for a special series on Stress in the Workplace scheduled for the last week in May.
We are currently working with a number of firms in the NY - NJ area including: AT&T;
Warner Lambert; Weeden & Co.; and many smaller companies. We are in the final
stages of negotiations for an introduction at Ogilvy as a result of participating in a
health fair they conducted in February.
I have a demonstration scheduled with Bill Rankin over at Pfizer on May 17th. Many
thanks for helping set that up.
I still welcome the opportunity to work with your organization in any way you think
would be appropriate. Anything possible with your monthly or quarterly meetings?
I hope all is well with you and that your neck is completely healed. Let me know
when I can come over to give you the complimentary treatment you missed out on
the day I worked on Glenn Smith.
Russell E. Borner
President - International Health Systems
Sample Letter: Follow-up to a rejection
Thanks for offer to refer to other groups for possible interest
March 23, 1988
William Haven
General Manager
Marketing tools
300 Brae Boulevard
Park Ridge, NJ 07656
Dear Bill:
Thank you for taking the time the other day to tell me of your consideration of the
services offered by International Health Systems. You obviously had spent considerable time in reviewing my proposal with your management team and I just want to
let you know how much I appreciated your time and your feedback. It has and will
have value to our marketing program.
I understand why the time may not be right for an implementation with your guests
or business clients. I do feel, however, that we could make a significant contribution
to your efforts at increasing productivity, reducing stress-related illness or injuries,
and enhancing morale within your own organization. I am grateful for your willingness to disseminate the information I sent you to your department managers. Let me
again extend the offer of a complimentary demonstration of our “Energy Sequence”
to any appropriate individuals.
May you enjoy continued success.
Russell E. Borner
President - International Health Systems
Sample Letter: Follow up with additions
Outline of workshop content offered as freebie
February 21, 1988
Maria Cibenko
Construction Secretary
9 South Warren Street
Dover, NJ 07801
Dear Maria:
It was good to hear from you! It’s hard to believe so much time has passed since we
met at the March of Dimes last year.
154 Marketing Chair Massage
I was pleased to hear that your new organization might have an interest in the services offered by International Health Systems. As requested, I am enclosing our corporate brochure and some recent articles describing our concept and its implementation.
In addition, we offer stress management programs like the one we conducted at the
March of Dimes. The length of the program can be adjusted to meet the needs of the
client and can include topics such as:
• Proper breathing techniques
• In-office exercise routines
• Self-administered acupressure techniques for reducing stress on and off the job
These programs also allow us to give a brief explanation and demonstration of our
chair massage sequence to familiarize office personnel and management with how
our services can improve performance, enhance mental awareness, and boost employee morale.
I am also enclosing a copy of the employee newsletter used by Warner Lambert in
Morris Plains to promote our presentation as part of their health promotion program
“LIKEWISE”. It was given to two well-attended meetings in early January. As a result,
we have been working weekly with an increasing number of employees at their
headquarters location.
I would welcome the opportunity to discuss how we could be of service to your new
company. Please let me know when you would like to get together.
Russell E. Borner
President, International Health Systems
Sample Letter: Follow up from gift
Chair massage as a gift and follow-up for subsequent business
Mention of work with other companies in same field
February 19, 1988
Sissy Sturdivant
Personnel Administrative Assistant
800 Third Avenue, 24th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Marketing tools
Dear Sissy:
It was good to speak with you the other day, I’m glad you enjoyed the chair massage
stress reduction treatment I provided you courtesy of Steve Herfield.
As I mentioned, I would welcome the opportunity to make our services available to
your organization. I have enclosed our corporate brochure and some recent articles
that discuss our concept and its application. Please let me know if you have any questions or would like to arrange a complimentary demonstration for any appropriate
decision-maker in your company.
Judging from the reaction of the over 200 Ogilvy & Mather employees we worked on
at their health fair last week, I honestly believe we offer a service that will improve individual performance, creativity and morale, particularly in the advertising industry.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Russell E. Borner
Sample Letter: Personal Referral
What, how, why, where.
Use Company Jargon.
February 10, 1996
Dr. Richard D. Finucane
Vice President
250 North Street
White Plains, NY 10625
Dear Dr. Finucane:
Joe Duggan, a personal friend of mine, and a recent retiree from your company, suggested I write to you about the service offered by International Health Systems.
156 Marketing Chair Massage
We provide a unique and innovative approach to health management and stress
reduction for corporate employees. Our well-trained, licensed specialists deliver a
highly structured, 15 minute, seated, fully-clothed acupressure treatment of the upper back, neck, head and shoulders. We utilize a specially designed chair that is set up
in the convenience of the office environment. Our work relieves the pain and tension
caused by over contraction of upper body muscle groups, and enhances the functioning of the circulation system to drive out toxins and increase the flow of oxygenrich blood to muscle tissue.
Our existing corporate clients are using our services to improve productivity, lower
absence and tardiness and boost employee morale. We provide an extremely effective motivational/incentive tool for line managers as well as an adjunctive component to your Corporate Fitness and Employee Assistance Programs. Your consumer
response centers, and data entry and telemarketing groups would particularly benefit from our procedure.
Some of our clients include: AT&T; Warner Lambert; NYU; Weeden & Co.; Hartstein &
Hartstein and Metropolitan Temps.
I am enclosing our corporate brochure and some recent articles describing our concept and its implementation in the business setting. I welcome the opportunity to
answer any questions you may have and to schedule a complimentary demonstration of our “Energy Sequence” at your convenience.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Russell E. Borner
International Health Systems, Inc.
Marketing tools
158 Marketing Chair Massage
8The structure
of business
Awhile back a friend of mine, a busy practitioner, came up to me and asked, “Why don’t
you write an article about how to go legal.” He explained that ever since graduating
from massage school he had been working without the required local permits, dealing
only in cash, and not reporting any of his income. Now he was having difficulty figuring
out how to make a transition to a legal, taxpaying practice.
Traditionally, much massage work in this country has operated as part of the underground economy. Practitioners in urban areas worked quietly out of their homes to
avoid frequently anachronistic local ordinances and the burden of local, state, and
federal taxes. Even in New York State, which has strong licensing laws, many bodyworkers, perhaps trained elsewhere, choose to operate without the required sanctions. In a city such as San Francisco, where the licensing law was designed to control
prostitution, best estimates are that at least half of the working practitioners do not
have the required permits to do massage.
However, as massage moves out of the back rooms and into the light of day, more
and more practitioners are electing to operate as legal businesses. This trend is inevitable. If massage is going to be recognized as a legitimate service or health industry it
must be as part of the visible, not hidden, economy.
Those of us who cut our teeth on the social upheaval of the sixties understand that
there is a certain romanticism to being an outlaw. But if we want to effect basic, longlasting change by introducing the benefits of touch into people’s lives, then we need
to become part of the everyday fabric of society. Complaints about lack of respect for
the work we do hold no water unless we are willing to play by society’s rules for moving goods and providing services from one person to another. If you want to advertise, have others work for you, obtain liability insurance, or actively participate within
the local business community, then being “legal” is a necessity.
Underlying my friend’s question is an attitude held by many recent graduates of massage schools: a fear of business. Part of the psychology of being an “outlaw” practitioner is that it feels like a temporary condition. There is always the possibility that you
will “get caught”, so you have to maintain a low profile and limit your ambitions. Running a legitimate business, on the other hand, seems (and is) much more permanent,
and forces a practitioner to make a bigger commitment. A business is a lot of work,
and the larger the investment of time, money, energy, and dreams, the more crushing
any failure will seem. A business is also more “official” and thus, more public. Fearing
that our business will fail is also related to a fear of public humiliation.
To focus on the issue of success or failure in “business” only serves to limit us. A more
valuable perspective, I believe, would look beyond that.
For example, I like to think of running a business as a spiritual practice. It is a perspective that works for me because I too, like everyone else, struggle with issues of self-esteem, independence, and fear of failure. I worry about the “cosmic questions” of why
The structure of business
am I here and where am I going. I try to find balance in the midst of constant change,
direction out of uncertainty, and self-knowledge from inner turmoil.
I have discovered that operating a business, on a daily basis, forces me to confront
all of these issues. Anyone who has ever prepared a business plan, a budget, or even
a brochure will know what a useful exercise in self-exploration it can be. And, like
a spiritual practice, it has an externally imposed discipline inherent in its structure.
There are certain rules which have to be followed, regular “chores” which have to be
done, and a focus of attention which must be maintained. My practice is always with
me, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
This newsletter is about learning the “rules” of this practice, and exploring what they
have to teach us about our work, about ourselves, and, ultimately, about the nature
of reality itself. It is a vehicle for sharing the experiences of those who are already on
the path and have discovered some of the blind alleys and open doors. Running a
business is not necessarily easy, but, when done consciously, it can be enlightening.
So, in tribute to my friend, the outlaw practitioner, the lead article in this chapter examines the basic legal structures for a massage practice. The next articles explore the
variety of roles and relationships that we will encounter in a “legal” business.
Legal structures
Choosing a specific legal structure for operating your bodywork business is one of the
most basic, and sometimes most confusing, issues to resolve. The question is faced not
only by first-time entrepreneurs, but also by those who have been operating a massage
practice under one structure and are thinking of converting to another.
In this article the various common options of sole proprietorship, partnership, and
corporation are described, along with some of the pros and cons of each. Following
these descriptions are recommendations for the appropriateness of each form to various massage practices. Most legal massage practitioners operate as sole proprietors.
As a matter of fact, the majority of businesses in this country are sole proprietorships.
They require the least amount of legal paperwork and have the least government
In a sole proprietorship the legal, taxable entity is the owner. This means that the
owner carries full personal liability for anything which happens in the business. If you
get into financial trouble you may not only lose your business, you might lose your
house and car as well. In the case of a bankruptcy, the business doesn’t go bankrupt,
the owner does. A sole proprietorship is an extension of the owner, an alter ego, so to
speak, which is both its bane and its blessing. You do get to be your own boss, without a partner or a board of directors to hassle you, but you also assume total responsibility for all planning, success, and failure. It can sometimes be lonely at the top.
A point which confuses many people, but which is essential to the concept of a sole
proprietor, is that you cannot hire yourself as an employee. The business and the
owner are one entity so no transfer of money between the two is possible. What cash
you take out of the business for your own purposes is not a salary, it is an “owner’s
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draw.” As such it is not deductible as a business expense, as your employees salaries
are, and you pay no payroll taxes on it. Your income is the same as the income of
the business. If the business makes $20,000 in a year, that amount is your personal
income and that is what you pay taxes on. It doesn’t make any difference if your owner’s draw was $10,000, $20,000, or $30,000.
Taxwise, profits and losses are reported on Schedule C of the individual’s Form 1040
tax return.
A partnership is a legal entity operated by two or more individuals who share in the
profits (or losses) of the business. Legally it looks a lot like a sole proprietorship for
more than one person. Each active partner assumes total personal liability for all business debts. After the profits are divided at the end of the year, each partner reports
the his portion of the business income on his individual tax returns, just like a sole
proprietorship. However, every partnership is also required to file Form 1065 to report the income of the partnership and to whom it was distributed. Like a sole proprietorship, creating a partnership is relatively simple, inexpensive to form, and subject
to far fewer regulations than a corporation.
There are two inviolable rules to a successful partnership. The first is absolute trust
between the partners. If you have the slightest doubt about whether these are people you want to be in business with, don’t do it. Partnerships are based on trust and
need to start out, like a marriage, with total commitment and mutual respect.
Also like a marriage, the relationship may change, and trust may erode over time,
which is the reason for the second rule—you must have a written partnership agreement before you start in business. As they used to say in New England, “Good fences
make good neighbors.” The process of writing an agreement forces you to be clear
about why you are in business, what your goals are, what happens if one partner dies
or wants out, who contributes what resources to the business, and how profits get
divided equitably. The best resource for developing a partnership agreement is The
Partnership Book referenced at the end of this article.
The corporation is the most costly business structure to set up and maintain, but it
has the advantage of insulating the owners from personal liability should they get
sued or have to go bankrupt. How important is that? It depends on a multitude of
complicated factors which you should discuss thoroughly with your attorney. To help
begin to define them let’s look at some specific examples.
Say that you are a private practitioner (sole proprietor) or are involved in a partnership with no major assets other than a car and a small savings account, and have no
liability insurance. The likelihood of your getting sued by anybody for anything is
minimal. Attorneys only sue when there is something to gain. In this case it would
make no difference that you were a corporation. You have nothing to protect anyway.
What if you had significant assets, such as a house with substantial equity or a large
trust fund? In that case a good professional liability insurance policy would provide
more protection than a corporate business structure. The reason is that, if you are
the person actually massaging the client who got hurt, then, most likely, an attorney
would sue both you the practitioner and the corporation. If the corporation had no
significant assets, but you did, then they will simply focus their attention on getting a
judgement against you, the practitioner. Alternately, an attorney might try to “pierce
the corporate veil,” which means that if you are the sole owner of your corporation
and in all other respects look and act like a sole proprietorship, then a court could
rule that you are a sole proprietorship removing any protection the corporate structure might afford.
The structure of business
If the injury to a client was sustained in the hands of an employee of your corporation
then a corporation may protect your significant non-corporate assets unless you get
sued for negligence as a manager.
If your business is in deep financial trouble and you go bankrupt, it is better to have
a corporate structure so that the bankruptcy does not go on your personal credit
report. But here again, beware. Unless you are very careful in how your corporation is
set up and maintained the bankruptcy court might determine that, in fact, your corporation is a sole proprietorship.
The other primary advantage of a corporation is continuity. When a sole proprietor
dies the business dies. When a partner dies, retires, or withdraws from a partnership,
likewise, the partnership no longer exists. But because a corporation is a distinct legal
entity it can have a perpetual existence. Generally, however, a practitioner in private
practice has no need for the business to continue after them.
A third advantage traditionally has been the potential tax savings of having a corporation own your business. This may still be the case, but usually only applies when
the business is generating significant income or the owner has multiple sources of income which are accumulate significant income. If you are making more than $50,000
in a year you should have a financial advisor at your side to help you decide what is
the most advantageous business structure taxwise.
If you are interested in exploring the corporate structure I suggest that you get one of
the self-help books in the business section of your local bookstore. They are generally
titled something like How to Form Your Own Corporation, frequently come in workbook form, and have all of the state forms necessary to fill out incorporation papers.
Make certain that the edition you select applies to your particular state. If you decide
to form a corporation you can fill out all of the paperwork yourself and submit it, or
you can take it to your attorney who will inevitably make revisions and charge you to
file it.
So what legal structure should you start with? Generally speaking, if this is your first
self-employment experience the place to start is with a sole proprietorship, or if
there is more than one of “you”, with a partnership. Read a couple of good books to
get yourself started (see Chapter 1 for an annotated bibliography of business books,
including the ones listed here, or research the business section of your local library
or bookstore), write a partnership agreement if you need one, and then get to work.
Go simple and cheap at the beginning until you hit your stride and develop some
financial stability in your business. If you are running a private practice with yourself
and/or one or more partners, you may very well never need to worry about becoming incorporated.
However, if your ambitions grow and you want to expand your business by hiring
employees and providing more services, or you have previous business experience
and, for example, plan on starting a major bodywork service franchise capitalized at a
half a million dollars, then you will probably want to consider the corporate structure.
If this is your first time developing a business it may make you feel a lot better to
review your plans with an attorney. Let them give their opinion of how you should
proceed but always reserve the final decision for yourself. Remember, you are the one
who has to live with the consequences of the decision, not your attorney.
Finally, please don’t forget that a successful massage business does not rest upon
any particular legal form. The legal structure is only how you interface with the legal
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system of our society. A thriving business is the result of a clear vision, concrete plans,
hard work, and satisfied customers.
For further information:
Small-Time Operator, Bernard Kamoroff, Bell Springs
The Partnership Book, Clifford & Warner, Nolo Press
Nolo News, 950 Parker Street, Berkeley, CA 94710, (415) 549-1976.
This quarterly newsletter of Nolo Press is a good source of self-help
books having to do with business. It also contains frequent articles on various aspects of running a small business. Send or call for a complimentary
Employee vs. independent contractor
question frequently asked by entrepreneurs looking to expand their businesses
and needing more practitioners is whether to retain practitioners as independent
contractors or to hire them as employees.
Most commonly, new businesses trying to minimize their expenses have people
working for them as independent contractors. This method keeps the costs down because no social security, workers’ compensation, or unemployment taxes need to be
paid. In addition, there is no obligation to pay benefits such as vacation or sick leave,
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164 Marketing Chair Massage
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166 Marketing Chair Massage
The structure of business
health or disability insurance. The business owner saves money on the administrative
costs of running these programs, along with the expense of maintaining an employment policy manual.
However, the danger of having practitioners or other staff working for you as independent contractors is that if some government agency discovers that you are treating someone as an employee, even though you call the person an independent contractor, you will be liable for all of the taxes and required insurance that you should
have paid while that person was working for you. In the words of the IRS, “If you have
an employer-employee relationship, it makes no difference how it is described. It
does not matter if the employee is called an employee, or a partner, coadventurer,
agent, or independent contractor…how the payments are measured, how they are
made, or what they are called…[or] whether the individual is employed full time or
part time.”
What constitutes an employer-employee relationship? Again from the IRS: “Under
common law rules, every individual who performs services that are subject to the will
and control of an employer, as to both what must be done and how it must be done, is
an employee. It does not matter that the employer allows the employee considerable
discretion and freedom of action, so long as the employer has the legal right to control
both the method and the result of the services. Two of the usual characteristics of an
employer-employee relationship are that the employer has the right to discharge the
employee and the employer supplies tools and a place to work.”
What constitutes an employee in a massage business? Let’s look at an example.
Linda, a practitioner, signed a lease agreement with Jerry, the owner of a massage
establishment, for using a massage table in a private room in Jerry’s shop. Jerry bears
all of the expenses of the shop, including rental, utilities, advertising, linens, oils, and
other supplies.
Their agreement provides that 70% of the receipts from Linda’s massages go to her
and 30% go to Jerry. All of the receipts are put in Jerry’s cash register, and at the end
of the week she pays Linda the agreed percentage of the receipts.
The shop’s hours are displayed on the street door and Linda is expected to comply
with them. Linda has to take customers in turn with other practitioners, maintain
clean premises, use clean linens, and keep a clean personal appearance. Although
there is little or no supervision over her, she can be dismissed by Jerry for acting in a
manner that would cause the loss of patrons, or for any other reason.
Linda is clearly an employee of Jerry’s.
This example contains a number of relevant tests the IRS uses to determine whether
an employer-employee relationship exists. It is important to understand that there
are no federal or state laws which make the distinction between an employee and an
independent contractor. As noted above, the IRS makes its determinations based on
“common law,” that is, law which has evolved over hundreds of years in thousands of
court cases which have sought to clarify the term “employee.” Although a lot of grey
area remains, the IRS does look for a number of key factors when making a determination.
Ten tests
In the case of massage practitioners who want to operate as independent contractors, here are some elements to consider. While no single fact might positively define
you as an employee or an independent contractor, what the IRS will do is look for the
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prevailing weight of evidence. In the following discussions the potential employee
or independent contractor is called the practitioner, and the employer or parent contractor is the business.
1. Who receives the money from the customer? If the practitioner gets the
money and then pays a portion to the business, it looks more like an independent contractor arrangement than if the business collects the money
and pays it to the practitioner.
2. Who absorbs the losses? If the practitioner gets paid out of the receipts of
the business whether the business is reimbursed by the customer or not,
then an employer-employee relationship probably exists.
3. Who provides the equipment and supplies? The more a practitioner demonstrates that she utilizes her own resources to perform a task the better
the case for independent contractor.
4. Does the practitioner have to perform the work personally, or could she
provide a substitute? If a business requires the work to be performed by
one particular individual it is more likely to be looked upon as an employer-employee relationship. If the practitioner employs other people she
looks more like an independent contractor.
5. Are the hours for work set by the business or by the practitioner? Do absences have to be approved by the business? Controlling the working
hours and time off of a practitioner indicates an employer-employee relationship.
6. Does the practitioner generate her own customers? If all of the clients
come from the efforts of the business, she looks more like an employee.
An independent contractor is more likely to have separate business cards,
advertisements, brochures, and other marketing materials.
7. Who sets the prices the customer pays for the services? When set
by the practitioner a better case can be made for independent contractor
8. Who has the license? In some states and municipalities, massage practitioners can only work in licensed massage businesses. If the license is in the
name of the business it is harder to prove independent contractor status.
9. Is there a written contract? A written contract which addresses the nature
of the relationship between the practitioner and a business
helps to establish an independent contractor status. It is a good idea
to develop one with an attorney familiar with labor law. However, beware
that what is written on paper is not what decides the question. The government will also look at what the actual relationship is on a day-to-day
10. Is the business training the practitioner to do the job? Independent contractors are presumed to already have the skills and resources to produce
the results for which they have been retained.
The bad news
So what’s the worst that could happen if you retain someone as an independent contractor, even though you think the government might rule the worker to be an employee? In a word, bankruptcy. It happens every year and it happens often enough
The structure of business
for you to think twice about cutting corners.
Consider this scenario. If you pay your practitioners as independent con-tractors you
are required to file form 1099 MISC for all workers to whom you paid more than $600.
The is the equivalent of the W-2 form which you are required to file for employees.
Let’s say that one of your contract practitioners, Smith, neglects to pay taxes on that
miscellaneous income and the IRS comes looking for their money. Smith might claim
that he, in fact, was not a contract worker, but instead was an employee. If, upon investigation, the IRS determines that Smith was an employee, then the IRS will bill you
as the employer, not Smith, for all of the taxes which should have been withheld from
Smith’s paycheck for as long as Smith had been working for you. Plus a penalty. Plus
interest. Smith will be liable for nothing. Worse yet, the IRS may choose to review your
whole operation and find that other practitioners were being paid as independent
contractors who should have been treated as employees and bill you for their taxes
as well.
How much would that be? If the practitioner’s taxable income after withholding
allowances is under $18,900 it would be 15% in 1988. If it is over $18,900 but under $44,200 you will owe 22%. In addition you will have to pay your share, and the
practitioner’s share, of social security taxes, which that year would have amounted to
15.02% of the wages. So, at a minimum, it would cost you 30% of the practitioner’s
wages plus penalty and interest. And then there is the 6.2% you would owe to the
federal and state unemployment funds, not to mention state income taxes if they apply.
Horror story number two - Say you have been paying your practitioners as independent contractors, even though you knew they were, in fact, employees. Then suppose
you have to cut back your business and you let one of the practitioners go. That practitioner could, with no malicious intent, think, “Gee, I’ve just been laid off. I think I’ll go
down and apply for unemployment compensation.” The unemployment office would
ask who his last employer was and then check to see if you, the employer, had been
paying unemployment taxes. They would discover that you weren’t and send you
a letter asking you to explain why. At that point you would be obligated to demonstrate that the person working for you was not, in fact, an employee. If the unemployment officials decided that in every way your relationship with the practitioner was
that of an employer, then you will be liable for paying all unemployment taxes due
for that practitioner and all other people they determine to be your employees.
Now take a moment to consider what might happen if you got rid of a practitioner
who was really upset with you. It wouldn’t take very much for a disgruntled practitioner to compromise your whole business and, perhaps, drive you to bankruptcy.
The only absolute certain insurance against this type of catastrophe is, if you are in
doubt about whether your practitioners can legitimately be treated as independent
contractors, don’t do it. Hire them as employees instead.
If you do choose to hire a practitioner as an independent contractor make sure you
have a written agreement spelling out the terms of the relationship using the guidelines above. An attorney who specializes in labor relations can draw up a contract
suitable to your needs. Some people include in the contract a requirement that each
practitioner give them copies of the quarterly returns which are due to the IRS for
income and social security taxes. Practitioners who are not willing to guarantee that
they are making their quarterly tax payments to the IRS are practitioners you prob170 Marketing Chair Massage
ably do not want to be working with. However, there is some question as to whether
you can legally require a practitioner to verify these payments.
In summary, if you are building a business that you want to last for a good long time,
don’t jeopardize it by treating people who are employees as independent contractors. Many a wonderful idea has gone down the toilet through the ignorance of these
regulations. In the unforgettable words of Karl Malden: “Don’t let this happen to you.”
For further information obtain a copy of Publication 539 from the IRS.
Negotiating business contracts
ou’ve just graduated from massage school and plan on starting your private
practice. Wanting to keep your costs low, you consider working out of your house
or apartment. You note, however, that the only room with privacy is your bedroom
and setting up your boudoir as a massage room might give the wrong impression.
Or your roommates are into round-the-clock heavy metal music favored more by the
other type of bodyworkers—the ones who sand cars all day for a living. Or perhaps
there’s just too much daily dog hair accumulation for you to hassle with.
So instead, you decide to find a convenient hair salon, fitness center, medical clinic,
convention center, or airport in which to set up your massage table or massage chair.
After scouting around you manage to find a location that seems ideal, and a business
owner, or manager, who seems receptive to having you provide your services on his
premises. Everything seems to be going fine. Then you get to the bottom line—what
type of agreement should you negotiate? The owner of the business probably has his
ideas and expects that you have yours. But, what if you don’t have any ideas because
you don’t have any experience? And what if your negotiating ability is limited to ei-
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172 Marketing Chair Massage
ther accepting what the other person offers, or walking away.
This article will explore the question of how to negotiate a fair financial agreement as
an independent contractor with a person who has a facility in which you would like
to work.
The most important part of any negotiation is to know ahead of time what all of your
possible options are so that you can speak to each one with clarity and intelligence.
The second most important requirement is to determine what expectations the other
person has as to what is a fair and reasonable arrangement. The end result of any negotiation should be to have all parties satisfied that an equitable agreement has been
reached. Never start a negotiation with the attitude that you are going to try and take
advantage of someone because it will inevitably result in bad feelings and a destructive relationship. If you are out to make a quick buck, please consider pre-owned automobile sales instead of massage.
Let’s start by examining some of the most common arrangements you might agree
The no-cash method - This is ideal. Many practitioners automatically presume that
they will have to pay something for the use of a location. Well, you do have to pay
something but it doesn’t have to be cash. Look carefully at your particular situation
and see if you can honestly make a case for not being charged money for your presence. Do you take up space that was previously not used, or little used? Do you book
all of your own appointments? Do you handle all of your own advertising? Will your
presence increase the number of people coming into the facility who would buy
other goods or services?
Take the case of a health club which charges a membership fee. Perhaps they are willing to offer massage simply as a reason for joining their club and not the one down
the street. Or, if you already have your own steady clientele, a hair salon might be
happy to include your services for the additional hair customers it might gain.
Another widely used no-cash arrangement is where the practitioner agrees to do a
specific number of massages on the staff of the facility in exchange for the space.
The simple percentage method - The most common arrangement between bodyworkers and facilities is one in which the practitioner agrees to pay a certain portion
of the receipts from each massage to the facility. This method favors the practitioner
if volume is low because overhead is directly tied to each unit sold. However, if the
volume is high then the facility might make more money than is fair or reasonable for
what they provide. Say you are charging $40 for an hour table massage and you give
40%, or $16 of that to the facility. When you first start out and are only doing 3 massages a week, that seems more than fair. But how about as business picks up and you
are doing 30 massages a week? Now you are paying the facility $480 a week which,
depending on the location, may or may not be fair.
The simple rental method - In a rental arrangement a practitioner leases the space at
a fixed price. Here the advantage is the reverse of the percentage method. If volume
is low the practitioner suffers because rent must be paid whether or not there are any
customers. If the volume is high then the practitioner will do well with this type of arrangement. After a certain amount of massages every week, all of the receipts go to
the practitioner.
The combined method - If you can’t negotiate a no-cash agreement, the next best
deal is a combination of the percentage and rental arrangements. The idea is to pay
The structure of business
a fixed percentage of your receipts up to a specified ceiling each month. Beyond
that amount you will pay nothing to the facility. An alternative version is to pay a
percentage for a fixed period of time, say for the first 60 days, to give your services a
fair chance to get off the ground, and then, if business is going well, to convert to a
monthly rental. Exactly what the percentage, fixed ceiling, rental rate, or time limits
should be is what you will have to negotiate.
How do you decide what is a fair and reasonable financial agreement? Here are some
questions to ask yourself which will help you in your negotiations.
How much do you need to make from this work situation? First, determine
what your personal expenses are every month. Second, what portion of
that amount do you plan to generate from this part of your work life? For
example, if you are working at this facility only one day a week, perhaps
you expect to generate only 20% of your total income.
What are your expenses at this facility going to be each month? Specifically, who is paying for advertising, booking appointments, taking messages,
linens and laundry, professional liability insurance, and maintenance? The
more costs you absorb the greater your overhead. (Also note that if the facility pays for most of your expenses, you may be jeopardizing your status
as an independent contractor. Please refer to the article on independent
contractors later in this chapter.)
How much are you going to charge? The more you charge the quicker you
will recoup your expenses.
What is the greatest number of massages you can give in one day? In one
month? This will give you a sense of what the high end of your income will
Are you going to be giving free massages to the staff of the facility?
How much do other practitioners in your area earn in similar situations?
What arrangements does the facility have with other people who work for
them? For example, in a hair salon, how does the manager pay the stylists,
manicurists, or estheticians? In a shopping mall what is the standard arrangement for a concession?
How much profit do you expect to be making beyond paying your expenses? Don’t forget that you have to include in your budget federal, state,
and local income taxes, social security taxes, time off for vacations and
holidays, medical insurance, and savings.
After you have thought through the possible financial arrangements and are clear
about the income you require from this work, the next step is to find out what the
facility manager/owner has decided that she needs to earn. As you talk with her listen
very carefully. Is she looking to make money indirectly, by the additional business you
will attract, or directly, through a portion of your receipts? Be careful of the facility
owner who is obviously trying to make a killing off of your labor. If you don’t feel any
reciprocal desire to make a fair deal, don’t get involved.
A good way to get a handle on what is fair is to keep a two column list on a sheet of
paper throughout your negotiations. In one column keep track of what you are contributing and in the second column what the other party is contributing. Don’t neglect to include the intangible elements such as environmental factors (no smoking,
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incandescent lights, lots of plants, etc.) and how this one situation fits in with your
longer term goals. If you are looking for your first job in the massage field your needs
will undoubtedly be different than if you have logged over 2,000 massages.
When you are talking with the manager, or owner, remember that how you communicate is as important as what you communicate. To that end:
Be clear. Since you should know ahead of time what is acceptable to you
and what isn’t, let the other person know where you stand and draw out
the same kind of clarity from her.
Be flexible. The art of negotiation is to find the arena of mutual benefit. Remember the old adage, “Be careful of what you pray for, you might get it.”
We only think we know what we want. Let the other person offer us some
alternative scenarios and then be honestly willing to consider them.
Finally, after you have worked out a proposed agreement suggest that you both
sleep on it for a day or two. If the relationship is such a good match it will survive a
short recess. If the agreement isn’t such a great idea your reservations will probably
surface more clearly in the shower the next morning. At that point you can either go
back and renegotiate or scrap the agreement. Never allow yourself to be rushed into
an agreement.
If you choose to have the agreement set to paper (a good idea) you might also want
to have your respective attorneys look it over (also an idea). Lawyers are very good at
picking out potential problems in a written agreement. Use their advice to clarify and
strengthen the relationship you are building. However, it is generally not wise to have
the attorneys negotiating for you or with you. Lawyers are trained to be adversarial
and you want your relationship to be founded on mutual trust. If you think you are
being taken advantage of, don’t get into the relationship.
Finally, remember that just because you start a negotiation doesn’t mean you have
to finish it. Too often people feel that the initial enthusiasm they have generated for
working together means that they should conclude an agreement no matter what.
But an idea, no matter how exciting, is only an idea. A good business relationship
rests on an agreement which both parties feel is totally satisfactory. Never be afraid
of walking away from a negotiation. Take the attitude at the start that, even if this
particular negotiation doesn’t result in an agreement, you will have learned a lot from
the process. Being a good negotiator requires lots of experience. Don’t be afraid to
practice as much as you can.
Sample: Worksite massage proposal
International Health Systems
January 17,1990
Preliminary proposal: A Chair Massage Program at
Lotus Development Corporation
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International Health Systems (IHS) was formed in 1986 to provide on-site chair massage services to the corporate and professional market. It has been in operation in
the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area serving such clients as AT&T, Warner
Lambert, New York University, Metropolitan Temporaries, Weeden & Company, and W.
R. Grace. Russell E. Borner is the president of IHS and Director of Education for Skilled
Touch Institute, the nationally known training organization for chair massage practitioners. Please see attached resume for additional information.
The Program:
IHS provides a highly structured health maintenance service called the Energy Sequence. The fifteen-minute sequence is a seated, fully clothed, no-oil acupressure
treatment of the head, neck, shoulders, back, and arms which relieves the symptomatic effects of stress.
IHS provides independent massage practitioners, thoroughly trained and certified,
who conform to the national standards set by the Skilled Touch Institute of Chair
Massage, the only professional organization for on-site chair massage practitioners.
All IHS practitioners maintain professional liability insurance coverage. IHS has a full
recourse policy and unconditionally guarantees its work.
IHS practitioners deliver three fifteen-minute sessions per hour, up to a maximum of
twelve clients per day. Appointments are scheduled every twenty minutes, in fourhour blocks, factoring in appropriate breaks.
A minimum of six clients per scheduled day is required. If client demand exceeds
twelve massages per day, the number of IHS practitioners to be scheduled is determined by dividing the total number by twelve. To allow for proper planning,
schedules are established at least one week in advance. Changes in the schedule are
handled by the local IHS practitioner and the individual client.
IHS will coordinate the scheduling, delivery, and quality control for the Lotus Development Corporation (LDC).
IHS will collaborate with LDC personnel in the development of an assessment process
to evaluate the success of the program.
The Proposal:
1. IHS practitioners will participate in the upcoming LDC Health Fair in February. They will deliver five-minute mini-massages to demonstrate the service. LDC employee response will be documented with a jointly approved
2. IHS will collaborate with LDC in the preparation of appropriate in-house
publicity for the program.
3. LDC will schedule, and IHS will conduct, large-group orientation meetings
of forty-five minutes or less. The full sequence will be demonstrated and all
administrative issues will be covered. A question and answer period will be
followed by an opportunity for employees to enroll. All participating employees will complete a medical history/release form to identify existing
4. Each session will cost $15.00, with the fee paid by the LDC employee. The
service will be offered on a voluntary basis to any appropriate LDC employ176 Marketing Chair Massage
ee. An individual may sign up for as many sessions per week as desired.
5. IHS practitioners can be scheduled from 8 AM to 8 PM, in four-hour work
periods. For initial implementation it is suggested that IHS practitioners be
scheduled from 10 AM to 3 PM, allowing for a one-hour lunch period.
6. IHS will provide a local coordinator to handle scheduling and administrative requirements. IHS will provide only fully trained and certified personnel.
7. It is suggested that a three to six-month trial period be established to determine the viability of the program.
8. IHS management services will be provided for the trial period on a no-fee
basis, with LDC agreeing to reimburse one New Jersey-based IHS staff person for travel and out-of-pocket expenses, not to exceed $150.00 per day,
for a maximum of six trips to Cambridge.
9. IHS personnel are available to LDC Health Fairs at $45.00/hour per practitioner.
10. The IHS contact person for project initiation will be Russell Borner, P.O. Box
11, Park Ridge, NJ 07656, (201) 391-8122.
1. LDC will provide a private work area approximately 10 X 10 feet for each
practitioner. The space will be a carpeted, outside room, with a sink if possible.
2. LDC will purchase a massage chair for use by IHS practitioners. Additional
chairs will be acquired as necessity dictates.
3. Fee will be paid directly to IHS by cash or check.
4. LDC will make available an on-line scheduling system for use during the
5. LDC will fund IHS practitioners provided for LDC Health Fairs; parking fees
and cost of one meal are to be included.
6. IHS will schedule at least one practitioner for the LDC project. Additional
practitioners will be scheduled as required.
Sample Agreement Letter
Russell E. Borner
International Health Systems
The structure of business
P.O. Box 11
Park Ridge, NJ 07656
Re: Agreement for Chair Massage Program
Dear Russ:
Lotus Development Corporation (Lotus) hereby agrees to engage International
Health Systems (IHS) and certain personnel (Practitioner) of IHS to perform chair massage services using acupressure methods for Lotus employees and consultants, under the terms and conditions stated in this letter of agreement.
Participation in Lotus Health Fair
1. IHS personnel shall be available for use by Lotus employees at the Lotus Health
Fair conducted February 12 - 16, 1990 and Lotus agrees to compensate IHS at the
rate of $45.00 per hour per participating Practitioner. IHS Practitioners will deliver
five-minute massage sessions to demonstrate the service. Lotus employee response
will be documented through a jointly approved questionnaire. IHS shall provide the
necessary equipment, including massage chairs. Parking fees and lunch shall be paid
by Lotus for participating IHS Practitioners.
On-Site Chair Massage Program
1. For a period of three months from the date of this letter, IHS shall provide chair
massage services under the following terms and conditions. Following the initial
three-month period, Lotus, at its sole option, may engage IHS to continue to provide
these services for a mutually agreed upon term.
Massage Sessions
IHS Practitioners can be scheduled from 8 AM to 8 PM, in four-hour work
periods. For initial implementation, IHS Practitioners shall be scheduled
from 10 AM to 3 PM, allowing for a one-hour lunch period. This period may
be increased or decreased as necessary at Lotus’ option.
Each session will last 15 minutes. An individual may sign up for as many
sessions per week as desired.
Lotus will design and make available an on-line scheduling system for administrative use during the program.
If an employee fails to cancel a scheduled session at least 24 hours in advance, and IHS is unable to place another employee in the time slot, the
employee will be responsible for paying for the session.
IHS will arrange at least one Practitioner for the program. Additional Practitioners will be scheduled as required. Lotus reserves the right to have any
Practitioner removed from the Lotus program and replaced with another
Practitioner. IHS will provide only fully trained and certified Practitioners.
b. Lotus Employee Enrollment and Qualification
c. 178 Marketing Chair Massage
All participating Lotus employees will complete a medical history/release
form to identify any existing contraindications.
Work Areas and Equipment
Lotus will provide a dedicated private work area approximately 10 X 10
feet for each Practitioner. The space will be an outside room, carpeted, and
with a sink if available.
Lotus will purchase a massage chair for use by IHS Practitioners. Additional
chairs will be acquired as necessity dictates. Cost is estimated at $450.00
per chair.
d. Payment Terms
e. Lotus employees will pay $15.00 per 15-minute session directly to IHS by
Management Services
IHS management services will be provided for the trial period on a no-fee
basis, with Lotus agreeing to reimburse one New Jersey-based IHS staff
person for travel and out-of-pocket expenses, not to exceed $250.00 per
day, for a maximum of six trips to Cambridge. IHS management services
shall include:
Provision of a local coordinator to handle scheduling and administrative
Selection, orientation, supervision and quality control of IHS Practitioners
at the four Lotus Health Fairs, February 12‑15, 1990, and for ongoing program implementation;
Maintenance, on a contractual basis, of a sufficient pool of fully experienced, insured, Skilled Touch Institute-trained and certified massage
practitioners who are guaranteed to meet industry standards of intention,
training and experience;
Provision of a local IHS representative to coordinate the scheduling, billing,
and record-keeping for the program;
Provision of orientation sessions and/or development of appropriate introductory materials, as directed by Lotus, to familiarize employees with the
Provision and use of a medical history form to identify any contraindications in employees;
Consultation on the design and administration of appropriate data collection instruments used to assess the viability of the program.
• Insurance and Indemnification
All IHS Practitioners will carry professional liability insurance and be fully
trained and certified by Skilled Touch Institute. Certificates of Insurance
reflecting coverage on each Practitioner shall be received and approved by
IHS shall indemnify and hold harmless Lotus and its officers, directors,
employees and agents, from and against all costs, expenses (including but
not limited to attorney’s fees), damages, claims, and liabilities whatsoever
arising out of all acts of omission (other than acts or omissions which constitute gross negligence or willful misconduct by Lotus) of IHS, its officers,
employees, agents, representatives, and subcontractors in connection with
The structure of business
the provision of any service addressed in this Agreement.
g. Termination
h. Either party may terminate this agreement with a thirty-day written notice
in event of a material breach by either party. If this agreement is continued
for a term beyond the initial three-month trial period, then during such
subsequent term, Lotus may terminate the Agreement with a thirty-day
written notice.
Assignment, Modification, Governing Law
This Agreement may not be assigned by IHS.
This Agreement may be modified only in writing, and then only when
signed by both parties. This Agreement supersedes any prior oral agreements of the parties.
This Agreement shall be governed by the laws of the Commonwealth of
Any notices pursuant to this Agreement shall be sent to:
IHS - Russell Borner, P.O. Box 11, Park Ridge, NJ, 07656, (201) 391-8122.
Lotus - Vice President, Corporate Services, Lotus Development Corporation, 55 Cambridge Parkway, Cambridge, MA 02142.
i. Confidentiality
j. IHS personnel will be required to sign Lotus’ nondisclosure agreement.
This Agreement shall not be construed as limiting or restricting Lotus’ right
to engage any other company providing services which are the same or
similar to those provided by IHS.
Sincerely yours,
Michael K. Balloch
Vice President - Corporate Services
Agreed to and acknowledged this __________ day of March, 1990
International Health Systems
180 Marketing Chair Massage
Fitness Systems
International Health Systems
This Agreement is entered into November 1, 1991 by and between Fitness Centers of
America, a California Corporation, (dba Fitness Systems) and International Health Systems, a Corporation in New York State, referred to in this Agreement as Contractor.
Fitness Systems and Contractor agree to the following terms:
Scope of Service
1. Contractor will provide “Acupressure for Relaxation” (on-site chair massage)
at Moody’s Fitness Center in New York, NY.
2. Contractor’s services will be offered as a voluntary activity for employees
of Moody’s and any other Fitness System employees only. All Moody’s participants must sign a form releasing Moody’s and Fitness Systems and their
respective directors, officers, employees, and agents of any liability regarding such services and stating that their participation is voluntary and not in
any way a requirement for employment at Moody’s.
3. Contractor is responsible for screening participants for contraindications.
Neither Fitness Systems nor Moody’s will determine if it is appropriate for
an individual to participate in Contractor’s program.
4. Contractor is responsible for warning participants in writing of any risks
that could arise during or as a result of their participation in Contractor’s
5. Contractor’s services shall supplement, but be independent of, services
provided by Fitness Systems to Moody’s employees.
6. Fitness Systems, with Moody’s authorization, shall provide Contractor the
space to perform its service.
The structure of business
1. Contractor certifies that all of its employees and representatives who will
be providing services at Moody’s under the terms of the agreement are
fully and currently licensed by New York State. Copies of all licenses will be
provided to Fitness Systems.
2. Contractor certifies training is consistent with standards of the profession.
Insurance Coverage
1. Contractor warrants that each of its subcontractors will obtain and maintain during the term of this Agreement, and any extensions thereof, minimum insurance coverage as follows:
Comprehensive General Liability
$1,000,000 each occurrence
Professional Liability
$1,000,000 aggregate
Worker’s Compensation*
Statutory limit
Employer’s Liability**
$500,000 each accident $500,000 policy limit
*Required of contractors other than self-employed individuals
**Preferred but not required
2. Contractor will provide Fitness Systems with 30-day written notice prior to
insurance cancellation or any restrictive modification of the policy.
3. Insurance requirements shall be met and copies of all representatives’ policies shall be provided to Fitness Systems prior to commencement of services.
International Health Systems shall indemnify and hold harmless Fitness Systems,
Moody’s, and their respective directors, officers, employees and agents, from and
against all costs, expenses (including but not limited to reasonable attorneys’ fees),
damages, claims, and liabilities whatsoever arising out of all acts of omission of International Health Systems, its directors, officers, employees, agents, representatives,
and subcontractors in connection with the provision of any service in connection
with this Agreement.
All activities by International Health Systems under the terms of this Agreement shall
be carried out as an independent contractor and not as an agent for, or employee of
Fitness Systems or Moody’s. International Health Systems agrees to meet all Federal,
State and local tax requirements.
1. The cost of Contractor’s service is payable by check directly to International Health Systems by service participants.
2. Fitness Systems and Moody’s are not responsible for fee collection or
charges incurred for cancelled appointments. If a participant fails to cancel
at least 24 hours prior to the appointment and another participant cannot
be substituted, the participant who originally made the appointment will
be held responsible for payment.
182 Marketing Chair Massage
3. Fitness Systems and Moody’s do not guarantee any minimum number of
Term of Agreement
The term of this Agreement is to be one year, beginning as of the date of execution of
this Agreement. Fitness Systems and International Health Systems may terminate this
contract at any time by a 30-day advance written notice to the individual(s) named
below. This Agreement may also be extended for a mutually agreed upon time at the
end of the first year.
This Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between Fitness Systems and International Health Systems and supersedes all prior and contemporaneous Agreements
of the parties. Any modification to this Agreement will not be binding unless it is
made in writing and approved by both parties. All notices in respect to this Agreement shall be in writing and sent by registered mail to the parties at the following
Fitness Systems International Health Systems
Charles Estey, Regional Vice President
Russell E. Borner, President
1786 Bedford Street
P.O. Box 2712
Stamford, CT 06905
Grand Rapids, MI 49501
International Health Systems
Fitness Systems
Pricing practitioners
As massage continues to move into the mainstream we can expect that the nature
of the bodywork field will change from being a profession of self-employed private
practi­tioners to one where practitioners are employees working for someone else.
Most of the new practitioners employed will be providing “entry-level” relaxation
massage to “entry-level” customers.
If massage becomes as popular and easy to get as a haircut that means that we will
The structure of business
need hundreds of thousands of new practitioners. Now is the time to consider what
pay scale is appropriate for new practitioners who have generally received no more
than 500 hours of training. One way to determine what a massage is worth is to examine some other professions which have similar training and responsibilities.
A Medical Assistant serves as both a glorified office worker and a junior nurse. A
typical training program at one school I contacted was 7 months long; 6 months of
classroom training totaling 360 hours, and one month of full-time externship for an
additional 160 hours. Total training time: 520 hours. The starting monthly salary for a
Medical Assistant ranges from $1,200 to 1,600, equivalent to $7 to 9.20 per hour. With
experience the earning potential is $35,000 a year.
A Physical Therapy Assistant, licensed by the state of California, requires attendance
at an approved school or equivalent training and experience. Equivalent, under the
state code, is defined as 36 months of full-time experience, and at least 30 semester
units (about 450 class hours) of courses in subjects such as anatomy, physiology, pathology, kinesiology. The top end of the salary scale is $24,000 per year.
Next I researched the National Athletic Trainers Association (nata) with 10,000 members. In order to be certified as an Athletic Trainer, nata requires a Bachelor’s Degree,
which must include specified coursework in anatomy and physiology, athletic injuries, rehabilitation, kinesiology, exercise physiology, C.P.R., Advanced First Aid, and
the like. A minimum of 1,800 hours of supervised clinical experience is also required
and students must pass a written and practical national examination. Depending on
where a person started working, an athletic trainer could start out making $1,200 to
$2,500 a month or $7 to 14.50 an hour.
Just for fun, I also called up San Francisco’s Municipal Railway to see what training
bus drivers required. Turns out they train 40 hours a week for 7 weeks, a total of 280
hours. The starting pay is $9.29 an hour, and top pay is currently at $14.80.
If massage is going to become as popular as getting a hair cut, we should know what
cosmetologists make. Cutting hair typically requires around 1,500 hours of training,
more than half of which is spent in supervised practice. Many people who go to cosmetology or barber school never turn it into a full-time career because the field is so
highly competitive. Frequently, the ones that do can expect to make no more than
$70-80 a day although experienced practitioners, working with wealthy clients, can
make $50,000 or more a year.
So what does this tell us about the value of a massage practitioner? First, on the basis
184 Marketing Chair Massage
of training vs. pay, an entry level practitioner who makes $10-20 an hour ($20-40,000
a year) would be doing better than most of the other professions described. However,
that figure presumes a 40 hour work week, 50 weeks a year. Second, it tells us that
something must be missing from my calculations, because most practitioners would
be horrified at the thought of doing 40 hours of massage a week. In my experience
most practitioners feel 5 hours of massage a day is plenty. Yet at $10 an hour that
comes to only $12,500 a year.
Where’s the problem? I could make an argument that practitioners should, in fact,
learn to work more than 5 hours a day. Many people in physically demanding jobs do.
But, I can hear the protests. “Massage is special. A great expenditure of psychic energy
is required to deal with so many people.” Yet the same could be said of nursing, which
often doesn’t top $20 an hour.
So what should a practitioner make? One way that I have come accustomed to looking at it is on the basis of what I think somebody should be making per day. As a massage practitioner starting out, having gone through 500 hours of training and internship, or less, I would think that $100 a day would be appropriate, if I had to do only
5 hours of actual massage. I probably wouldn’t even object to picking up the towels
and answering the phone. For an eight hour day I would be earning $12.50 an hour.
From there, of course, the sky’s the limit. Working in a high priced salon, I would expect to be paid better and to have more experience under my belt. If I work for myself, my ambition is my only constraint.
Now is the time to give serious consideration to the pay scales which we establish
for our profession. As massage moves from being predominantly private practice
oriented into being a service profession of employees we need to be prepared to
provide fair wages for our practitioners. An honest approach now will save us many
headaches, and heartaches, in the future.
Setting a price for your skill
Recently, my friend Lina, who left nursing a number of years ago to pursue massage
full-time, was talking to me about the difficulty she was having deciding what to
charge customers for a massage. She found that developing a price structure was
a major stumbling block to successful self-employment. I asked her to write down
some of her thoughts on the subject, which she did. The following ideas are drawn
from her notes.
Lina loves massage. She believes it is her calling, what she was meant to be doing
with her life. To her, money is not the primary goal. This is significant because I’ve noticed that people who equate money with success ask themselves different questions
when considering the issue of fees. For instance, they would ask how much money
can I make, instead of how much money do I need to make. As a matter of fact they
might find this whole discussion incomprehensible.
Lina understands that you can never make enough money, so trying to make more
money is pointless. She is only interested in making an appropriate amount of mon-
The structure of business
ey—which can perhaps best be defined as what is fair to the customer and to the
practitioner. Lina identified two different sets of considerations which are important
when evaluating whether her price is fair.
The first place to start is with a determination of the minimum price you need to
charge in order to maintain your business. Everyone needs to start with this analysis
because, if your business goes bankrupt, you can’t serve anyone. Note that the word
need, in the context used below, does not mean the same thing as want.
1. How many hours of massage a week can I do?
2. How much non-massage time do I need to run my business?
3. How much money do I need to cover my overhead?
4. How much money do I need to make beyond expenses?
5. How much money do I want to be saving?
6. How much vacation time do I need each year?
After answering the above questions, you should be able to determine an ideal profile of your business, and what is the least you can charge to break even. Next, move
on to the second set of questions. These deal with some of the ethical and comparable worth considerations for your business.
1. Should I use a sliding scale or a fixed rate?
2. What are other practitioners charging?
3. How does my educational and work experience compare to other practitioners?
4. Who are my clients? What can they afford? What are they used to spending? Would, or could, they be willing to spend more?
5. What is the maximum I comfortable charging my typical client?
Now look at the two sets of responses and see if you don’t get a clearer picture of
what is fair to charge. Try not to be overly swayed by any one consideration. For instance, if most practitioners in your area charge $40 for a one hour table massage,
but your market happens to be low-paid social service workers, or very wealthy society matrons, you might need to charge less, or more.
186 Marketing Chair Massage
The structure of business
188 Marketing Chair Massage
and the media
Publicity and the media
The anatomy of publicity
wo significant articles about massage recently appeared in the national press.
Not since the 1984 Newsweek story following the L.A. Olympics has massage gotten such major attention. Since both stories illustrate a number of valuable lessons
about the marketing of massage I think it is worthwhile to dissect them to find out
how they came about, what has been their impact, and what lessons we can learn.
Most of you by now have seen the two articles to which I refer. The Sunday business
section of the New York Times runs a regular feature called “What’s New in....” On
February 8, 1987, the three-quarter page column was devoted to “What’s New in Massage.” The second article was printed one month later in the March 9, 1987, issue of
Time magazine. If you missed either of these articles make a beeline to your nearest
public library and check them out.
Coincidentally, both articles originated in San Francisco. The NY Times article began
simply enough with an assignment from the local San Francisco Bureau Chief to one
of his reporters, Lawrence Fisher, to write a story about the current state of massage.
Since Fisher had never received a massage and didn’t know anyone who did massage
he set about getting a quick education.
He picked up a copy of a local community classes guide, Open Exchange, because he
noticed it was featuring an article I had written called “Mainstreaming Massage.” He
decided that was the perfect “peg” on which to hang the whole story so he contacted
me for more information.
Realizing his limited background, the first thing I did was to spend 20 minutes on the
phone giving Fisher an overview of how radically the massage profession has been
transformed in the past 10 years. I also referred him to more than a dozen people
around the country including AMTA President Bob King, Iris Lee of International
Health Systems in New York, Stephen Pizzella of Pacific Health Systems in San Francisco, and Gayle Davidson, President of Sportsmassage Associates in Philadelphia. They,
in turn, referred him to others who also were interviewed and quoted.
A few weeks after the initial contact, Fisher came over to my school for a full interview. Before we began talking he received a 15 minute chair massage while seated
on the Living Earth Crafts High-Touch Massage Chair. It was the first massage he had
ever had and he was impressed. No oils, no table, no nudity. The chair massage experience is frequently a dramatic turning point in people’s perception of massage.
The article Fisher ended up writing was significant because it took the massage profession seriously as a “low tech cottage industry” and captured much of the multidimensional nature of our profession, our trials as well as our tribulations.
The Time magazine article has a more involved history. The true credit for its origin
goes to Jan Robbins and Hillary Bain of Corporate Stressbusters in San Francisco. Jan
and Hillary have been providing office massage services for over three years. Last fall
the office manager of the San Francisco Time bureau bought her Bureau Chief a 15minute chair massage. He liked it so much that he purchased treatments for all of his
staff as a Christmas present.
Shortly afterwards, in a discussion with one of his reporters, Charles Pelton, he decided that it might make a good one paragraph news item in the Business section of
the magazine. Pelton talked with Jan who, knowing I had a lot of national contacts,
referred him to me. After doing a preliminary phone interview, they realized that
190 Marketing Chair Massage
there was a bigger story here.
I referred Pelton to Bob King at the AMTA, to Pat Malone, the therapist in Chicago
who was mentioned, to International Health Systems in New York who connected
them with two of their clients who were quoted—Joe Morris and Peter Kupersmith,
to the airport massage people Air Vita, as well as a dozen more people who were not
mentioned in the article. Since the story had now assumed a national focus other reporters from local bureaus were assigned to interview these people.
Ironically the final story at Time never gets written by the reporters who do the research. They file their individual stories to New York where the editors decide on the
focus and a staff writer produces the actual copy. In this case they settled on a blue
collar, middle-America slant and disregarded most of the West Coast aspects, probably a good decision for the massage profession, but a bad one for Charles Pelton
who never got any credit for the story.
Which section the article appears in is also up for grabs. At one point three different
departments at Time were interested in publishing the piece. The story grew from
one paragraph to one column, then to two, three, and finally settled at four columns
in the Health and Fitness section.
What has been the impact of these two articles? Although both articles obviously
differed in approach and style, the ultimate point of each piece was the same—that
“there is no doubt that massage has shed its shady image” (Time). Although we
know that is not at all true, it becomes more true because the NY Times and Time
magazine say so. The mass media shapes the mass mind.
As a result more people now know that massage can be done in offices, shopping
malls, airports, and medical clinics, that massage practitioners actually receive training in respectable schools, and that even their mental pictures of massage must be
revised. For example, three out of the four photographs in the Time article were of
seated massage, only one was of a table massage. And none of the three graphics in
the NY Times article showed a naked body. Now that’s progress!
These articles also tend to generate other media interest. For instance, both CNN and
Good Morning America taped stories on Jan and Hillary who hope to parlay these appearances into some local San Francisco publicity. Pat Malone got an interview with
an independent satellite radio station which was aired in a hundred different markets. He also managed to land the staff of the station as clients. The NY Times article
got picked up by their wire service and has been reprinted in various cities throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Additionally, hundreds of other practitioners around the country now use photocopies of the articles in promotional materials and press packets to sell potential clients
on their services and the media on a potential story. Pat Malone has noticed that potential clients never question the legitimacy of his service when they see the picture
of him in the Time article.
I believe that all massage practitioners need to see themselves as publicists for the
massage profession. Massage for the mainstream is still in its infancy and, with the exception of the AMTA, we are not rich enough to hire public relations experts charged
with fostering a positive image of massage. Each and every one of us has to act as a
representative for the whole profession.
If you are a bodywork entrepreneur and doing exciting and innovative things in your
practice write a press release and tell someone. Also call me or someone else who
Publicity and the media
writes within the profession so that we can spread the word around.
Don’t get too territorial. Just because the reporter calls you first don’t think that you
own the story. Refer them to other practitioners, schools, prominent leaders even if
you think they are your competitors. It makes for a more interesting story which will
get more attention. If Jan and Hillary had played Time magazine close to their chest
we might well have ended up with only a paragraph instead of a major article.
Be patient. Sometimes it takes forever for a story to get published. In general the
larger the publication the longer it takes. For slick monthly magazines it is common
to have 2 months or more editorial lead time. Don’t be upset with a reporter who has
said that an article will appear next week or month and it doesn’t. After a story is written, when (and if ) it gets published is a decision made by the editors not the writers.
Frequently stories get bumped because of more pressing news. Don’t take it personally and tell your friends and relatives to be patient too.
Be understanding. Try to cultivate the point of view of the reporter doing the story.
It’s a tough job for which, as was the case for Charles Pelton, reporters wind up with
no credit. If they decide not to use your pearls of wisdom, once again, don’t take it
Try to be quotable. Talk in short sentences and use a lot of anecdotes and regional
metaphors. Be yourself and don’t try to be a star. Talk to a reporter as you would a potential client. Let yourself get excited and allow your conviction to show through.
Don’t expect them to get everything right. I have never seen a perfectly accurate
story unless I wrote it myself, and even then there is no guarantee. Both of the articles
had little things which we wish hadn’t been in there. For instance in the NY Times
story it said a typical 15 minute treatment in the office would cost $6. Many an chair
massage practitioner who read that sentence cringed audibly. The reporter simply
got some facts wrong. Likewise, in the Time article, referring to worksite massage the
article stated, “some therapists report that staffers occasionally are left so relaxed that
they nod off at their desks.” The “therapist” who spoke this gem should be sent back
to Public Relations 101 for major reeducation.
Finally, show your appreciation. Send a thank you letter to the reporter with a gift certificate for a massage. Let them know about the good things that have happened as a
result of their story. In general, treat them as a new found friend. A letter to the editor
praising the publication’s wisdom at running the story and gently correcting flagrant
problems is also in order.
In general, the image of massage as portrayed in the media has improved dramatically over the past 5 years. As we continue to find creative ways of marketing structured
touch for the mainstream, the electronic and print press will be more than happy to
tell our story. I have never had a negative story done by a reporter who I was able to
get my hands on for 15 minutes. If you are unfamiliar with the world of publicity pick
up a book or two on the subject in the business section of your local bookstore. Learn
how to write a press release and communicate with your local media. It’s easy, it’s fun,
and it benefits us all.
192 Marketing Chair Massage
Publicity and the media
194 Marketing Chair Massage
Massage and the media
edia attention can get your name around fast but sometimes its greatest value
is simply in making our profession more visible, whether it results in new clients
or not.
Take the case of Steven Fearing, a practitioner in Austin, Texas. He had some personal
connections with employees working in the state capitol who encouraged him to
bring his chair massage services to the legislators and their staffs who were stuck in a
special session last summer.
Not knowing quite what he was getting into, he took his massage chair to the capitol
and began working outside of a committee room. Unfortunately the governor got
wind of what was going down in his special session and according to Steve, “That
was the beginning of the end.” He was asked to leave after working there for only five
However, during that period he was also discovered by the media and his picture
and a story about his work with the legislators appeared in USA Today and most
of the major newspapers in Texas. Unfortunately they all ran after he had left. Even
though he hardly made any money and all of the media attention only resulted in
one new client Steve was philosophical about the effort. He says it perked up a lot of
ears and turned into a real attention-getter for massage in general and chair massage
in particular. The secretary of the Senate was sorry to see politics get in the way of a
good service and invited Steve back in 2 or 3 years.
Will he try again? “Actually,” says Steve, “that was pretty much the twilight of my massage career. I’m training to become a financial planner.” Oh well, undoubtedly they
need more of those in the Texas capital too.
Publicity and the media
196 Marketing Chair Massage
How to write a press release
1. This is not a magical process! Anyone can write a press release.
2. Begin with having something to say, something that the newspaper will consider
newsworthy. The challenge may be to come up with an angle or approach that is
unique. Use your analytic skills as well as your imagination.
3. Use a format that makes it easy for papers to print them.
Leave about three inches of white space at the top of the release.
Always type press releases.
Date each press release and identify it as a PRESS RELEASE.
State the RELEASE DATE: when the release can be published.
Include the name and phone number of the person issuing the release
(CONTACT PERSON) at the top of the release.
Have an action-oriented lead sentence.
Triple space the copy and be sure to type on only one side of a sheet of paper. Attempt to make the release fit on one page.
4. Use the standard Who? What? Where? Why? How? format to make sure you get all
the important information into the early part of the release.
5. Write with short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs. Write in the present
tense as much as possible.
6. Use the funnel approach in writing your release. Put the most important information at the top and less important in each following paragraph. That way the editor
can cut from the bottom without eliminating important material.
7. If the release is more than one page, write (MORE) at the bottom of Page One. End
the release with these symbols “# # # #” on a separate line.
8. Proofread the release and then have someone else proofread it too.
Publicity and the media
198 Marketing Chair Massage
Common Questions About Chair Massage
What is Chair Massage?
Chair Massage is done with the customer seated on a chair rather than laying on a table. The massage is done
through the clothing, uses no oils, and generally takes from 5 to 25 minutes. Most often the work is limited to parts of
the neck, shoulders, back, arms, and scalp.
What are the advantages of Chair Massage?
Chair massage makes the benefits of skilled touch accessible to everyone because it is:
• Versatile: Chair Massage can be done almost anywhere—in supermarkets, offices, hair salons, fitness centers,
and airports; at conventions, flea markets, and sporting events; even on beaches and airplanes.
• Affordable: Chair Massage is shorter than table massage, practitioners are able to charge significantly less for
each massage putting it well within reach of most people’s pocketbooks.
• Safe: Since it does not need to be done behind closed doors, Chair Massage removes the stigma and mystery
surrounding traditional table massage. This allows customers to relax more fully and appreciate the full benefits
of structured touch.
Who should receive a Chair Massage?
The focus of seated massage is to make massage as convenient as getting a haircut. It is not intended to replace, or
duplicate, a table massage. Thus, the following people will benefit from a Chair Massage.
• Someone who has never tried a professional massage before. Chair Massage is an easy way to experience the
benefits of skilled touch.
• People who don’t have time for a full body table massage.
• Those who need the convenience of a massage brought to them.
The purpose of Chair Massage is to promote general circulation throughout the body by releasing constrictions, particularly in the back, shoulders, and neck. This typically results in one or more of the following experiences.
• a general feeling of relaxation and well-being
• reduction in symptoms brought about by stressful factors in your life
• an increased feeling of vitality
• greater mental clarity
• an increased sense of personal control, that all problems are manageable
Who should not use Chair Massage
Chair Massage is not intended to be therapeutic. Anybody looking for medical treatment for a specific physical or
psychological condition or disease should not look to Chair Massage.
Having said this, it is also important to point out that most medical and psychological conditions do benefit from a
general increase in circulation and reduction of stress symptoms. If there is any question about the appropriateness
of receiving an Chair Massage the rule of thumb is, “When in doubt—don’t,” check first with your medical practitioner.
All styles of massage (e.g. Swedish, acupressure) have particular limits and contraindications. Check with your practitioner to find out which may apply.
How did Chair Massage get started?
Massaging seated clients is as old as massage itself. You can still see ancient drawings of Chinese “an-mo” practitioners massaging customers on low stools next to their bath. However, most massage, through the ages, has been
done on the floor or on a table.
The modern era of Chair Massage began in the early 1980’s when a few pioneering bodyworkers began experimenting with marketing massage to seated customers, primarily in the workplace. One of these, David Palmer, was the
Director of The Amma Institute of Traditional Japanese Massage in San Francisco. Palmer began a chair massage
company in 1983 which achieved national recognition after being hired by Apple Computer to provide massage to
its employees.
Although his initial interest was in creating more jobs for his graduates, he soon discovered that chair massage was
the best way to introduce the value of professional touch to the general population. In 1986 Palmer began teaching
continuing education workshops throughout the country to table massage practitioners. By the end of 1995 his new
Publicity and the media
educational company, Skilled Touch Institute, had trained over 5,000 Chair Massage practitioners in the United States,
Canada, Europe, and Australia. Most massage schools throughout the U.S. now include Chair Massage in their core
curriculum for new students.
Palmer also developed, in 1986, the first specially designed chair for seated massage—the High-Touch Massage chair
manufactured by Living Earth Crafts in Santa Rosa, CA. This chair immediately provided Chair Massage with a new
level of credibility and visibility in marketing. Currently there are more than a dozen similar products manufactured
here and in other countries.
How many practitioners are doing Chair Massage?
Based on the number of practitioners trained by Skilled Touch Institute and the estimated number of special chairs
which have been sold, there are probably about 10,000 people around the country doing chair massage. Most of
these also do table massage as part of their practice. These numbers makes Chair Massage the fastest growing segment of the emerging skilled touch professions.
How much does it cost?
The price of an Chair Massage depends on its length and convenience to the customer.
To have a practitioner come to your office for one 20-minute session will be relatively expensive since you also have
to pay the practitioner for the cost of getting to and from your business. Most practitioners have a minimum price,
length of time, or number of customers to get them to a location. $45 to $60 an hour or a minimum of three customers is not unusual.
On the other hand, when the practitioner is in a fixed location (e.g. trade show, park, fitness center) the charge is on a
per massage basis. One dollar for one minute is a typical rule of thumb in these situations.
For one-time events the fees are often negotiated in a lump sum depending on the number of hours, practitioners,
and expected recipients.
How do I find a practitioner?
The easiest way to find a practitioner is by calling local table massage practitioners that you know and trust. If you
don’t know of any, you can also check with local massage schools in the Yellow Pages. To find a practitioner trained
by TouchPro Institute, in the continental U.S. call (800) 999-5026 for a list in your state.
After you have located a practitioner, be an educated consumer and ask about the following items related to the
background of the practitioner.
• Training: Since there are no professional entry level training programs for Chair Massage, virtually all chair practitioners have been trained as table practitioners first. The evolving standard for entry-level practitioners starts
at 300 hours. About a third of the states have licensing laws which regulate the training of massage practitioners and they run anywhere from 250 to 1000 hours. Ask your practitioner where they received their massage
training, how many hours was it, and how long ago did they graduate.
• Experience: Since professional massage is still emerging as a recognized service industry, training is not anywhere near being standardized. Most of it is academic-style training in the classroom and what you really want
is someone with experience. Some practitioners have had apprenticeship-style training and that, similarly,
counts for a lot. What you really want to know is how long the practitioner has been doing massage in general,
chair massage in particular, and approximately how many massages they have done, or are currently doing a
• Does the practitioner have a clear recourse policy. What happens if you are not satisfied with the massage? The
standard in the massage profession is to offer a money-back guarantee. If you don’t like the massage, you can
get your money back.
• What is the intention of the practitioner? You want to make certain that the intention of the practitioner and
your expectations are in sync. If you are looking for a remedial massage and the practitioner is only doing relaxation massage it’s best to find our sooner than later. Question practitioners carefully, in particular, if they call
themselves “massage therapists.” What do they mean by “therapy?” Do they see themselves as evaluating and
correcting problems you have, or simply giving a good relaxation massage?
What the press is saying about mas200 Marketing Chair Massage
“Americans are rediscovering the value of the ancient healing art of massage. Massage, once a luxury item for the elite, is becoming a necessity for people trying to cope
with fast-paced lives.”
New York Times
“A growing number of USA firms are curbing employee stress by offering free or lowcost massage right at the office.”
USA Today
“Massage is fast emerging as Americans’ favorite antidote to that ancient Grinch:
Time Magazine
“Massage has gone mainstream.”
“A glance around many conference rooms is all that’s needed to understand why massage has emerged as an increasingly popular remedy for the ills brought on by corporate pressures. So, at your next meeting, refresh and rejuvenate your attendees during
a break or at the conclusion of a long, demanding day. Engage a qualified massage
Meetings and Conventions Magazine
“Massage has been reborn as a hands-on stress-management technique: Not only can
it untie physical knots, but it can also clear your head and release the tension of the
Savvy Magazine
“Massage has become a weekly routine for people in high pressure jobs who seek
stress reduction.”
Changing Times
“If you have never had a massage, it is hard to comprehend its totally relaxing, nearly
miraculous soothing powers…”
New York Post
Publicity and the media
202 Marketing Chair Massage

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