It’s been over 10 years since I went to school for massage. In my early twenties, I was a bright-eyed bushy tailed student eager to learn the art of massage. While in school, I always knew I wanted to work for myself. During class I daydreamed of how I would design my space, sketched floor plans, crunched numbers and saved every penny to make my dream a reality. A reality that was based on outdated and limited information.
One of my required texts was about the business side of massage. It was apparently like the holy grail that broke down expenses for equipment, supplies, renting a space, and even the legal stuff people tend to overlook. This book actually told me I could start my own practice with less than $2,000. Yes $2,000.
To me that was cheap! I had my table, my massage lotion, business cards, brochures and my own little dedicated room right out of my home where people could just come and get a great service. The fact that at one point in my life I believed this was all I needed is both embarrassing and astounding. Yet I realized I was not alone.
I wasn’t the only one required to read that text and take an exam based on something that told me advertising in the back page of a newspaper or a phone book would yield a ton of new clients. Even 10 years ago, that information was outdated, but sadly when you don’t know, you don’t grow.
Since then I’ve started 4 companies. And with each I’ve learned something new. But what I want to share with you is the real cost of business ownership and that is sleep, trust, control, risk and money.
I once read a book that said if you’re doing something you love you won’t mind losing sleep. When it comes to starting a business it’s like a newborn baby. It’s schedule is unpredictable and it’s needs are plenty. As the parent/owner, sometimes it wakes you up at 1am and doesn’t let you rest again until 5am. Just to turn around and do it again in 2 hours. But you love it, nurture it and hope that the sleep you lost is worth it to develop a self-functioning entity that is your business.
In order to grow you must be able to trust on multiple levels. Clients, staff and self. Trust that your clients are going to show up. Trust that your staff is going to represent your brand well. Trust that your instincts are right and you know what you’re doing. If you spend every moment doubting yourself or others, you are wasting valuable mental resources on things that are essentially out of your control. Which leads us to 3.
This is a hard one for many small business owners to do. Give up control. You can still have the final say in how things are done without needing to control every aspect. Prime example. One of the services my company Spa Analytics does is build websites for the spa, massage, and salon industry. It’s one of the hardest services to sell because the owners can’t fathom giving up the control. They want to do everything themselves instead of allowing a trained professional to do that time consuming task. What the owners could really be doing is focusing on ways to improve their skills, close a sale with a customer or get existing clients back in the door. But instead they feel their time is better spent trying to poorly build an unattractive visually outdated website just to have an online presence that is lacking in the most basic of SEO. But I’ll move on to 4.
Risk is something no business can avoid. You have to have some level of risk in order to have rewards. Simply saying you’re a business owner comes with zero risk. But quitting your job to pursue it full time is high risk. Signing that contract for your commercial space…high risk. Deciding to hire an employee or two or three…yep. Risky! Could it all fail leaving you unemployed, broke and full of debt? You bet! But if you never give yourself the opportunity to pursue you dreams you can’t know what may happen. If your business is outgrowing it’s single treatment room office space and you’re turning clients away, you may need to consider taking on some more risk and do what your business needs in order to expand.
As you can see, all of this is tying together. You’ll lose sleep over all these details and somehow still manage to function. When you trust yourself and trust the people you brought on will do the job you hired them to do, you can begin to focus on other parts of the business. When you allow yourself to control those parts of the business that need YOU to work it, you begin to appreciate that risk is just a part of it. And there’s a reason 5 is last.
The reason I left money for last is because I’m about to get all kinds of crazy on this final point. You can’t do anything without money. Period. I didn’t say you need a lot of money. I’m saying things cost money. Your business, whether you care to admit it or just don’t seem to realize it, has expenses. The phone you use to call clients, the internet you use to send emails or network on social media, the office space you use in your home, the water and detergent you use for laundering your linens and towels. ALL EXPENSES!
Even if you aren’t some 10 treatment room full service spa, the day you filed that paperwork to become a legitimate business was the day you needed to stop treating that business like a dream and start working it like a business.
The reason owners, and I use that term loosely, keep failing is because they either don’t plan or don’t account for all those real expenses of their now REAL business. Too many “owners” are just comfortable with the title but aren’t serious about the financial investment necessary to make it all work. They didn’t save enough or have proper resources in place to cover down and allow their business to survive through the growing pains. They thought it was unnecessary to invest in a professional to provide this service they desperately needed to help their business turn the corner. Let me try to break this down for my fellow service providers to understand.
Massage Therapists: You tell clients that a professional massage is the best way to relieve stress and chronic pain. You want them to stop bugging their unlicensed spouse for a back rub and invest in the real deal. Stop searching for coupons and pay for what a good quality highly skilled service is worth. Yet you won’t even invest in a professional to help you navigate through those tax issues. You would rather save money and spend time muddling through tax articles. When you get nowhere you then resort to asking for advice in a Facebook group. Your massage practice is your baby yet you’re trusting the comment section of a group post to treat it with care.
Am I striking a chord? I probably am because I used to be that way too. The cost of business ownership far exceeds that of money. With a good plan and strategy you can begin to sleep better at night, trust that you’re making the right moves, control what you can, make better informed decisions that limit risk and appreciate the financial realities that come with owning a business. How can you expect a client to invest in your business if you won’t?
Kamillya Hunter is the owner and founder of Spa Analytics. She encourages independent owners to focus on The Details That Matter when running a business. She’s a mom of two, an army wife, author and a self diagnosed “Spa Junkie” who lives, eats, breathes and sleeps the personal service industry.