75% of massage therapy clinics are owned by practicing massage therapists, that means that these business owners are taking on two very taxing and different roles; both a business owner and a therapist.
Running a massage therapy clinic is a delicate balance of administration, human resources and customer service. While massage therapy training provides extensive skills in helping and healing bodies, it often does not provide detailed training on how to run a profitable business even though this is the route most graduates take upon completion. Because of this, the industry suffers because if a therapist’s business isn’t making money, it isn’t sustainable.
Surprisingly, many clinic owners miss out on the profits they deserve due to a few key elements of administration. These checks and balances, systems and procedures can be set up (with the help of a business professional, if required) and once in place, can increase profit margins significantly and also protect a clinic from an unforeseen business upset (ie: audit, sickness, economic turn).
Here are the business elements of a massage therapy clinic that need to be set up and maintained in order to create a long-lasting, profitable business. These business practices are especially important for owner-therapists, so they can spend less time worrying about their business and more time doing what they are the experts at, helping their patients!
Always know your numbers! This is the foundation of a solid business. Setting up a good accounting system to manage cashflow, keep up-to-date records and knowing your numbers at all times is the key to staying in business. For massage therapy practices, this means having a system to keep on top of all your client billing, insurance direct billing receipts (if you are doing that for your customers) and tax payments. Implementing a practice management software right from the beginning that allows you to input all of your charges right in the same system that manages your appointments will make it easy to not miss any information. Many massage therapists spend a lot of extra time and money paying for bookkeepers to transfer information from their paper appointment book to an accounting software, this step and cost can be totally avoided if you use a software that records payments and creates receipts right at the time an appointment is completed. The other part of bookkeeping for a massage therapy practice, is keeping on top of overhead expenses so that you can see them on a monthly statement. Rent, laundry, insurance, sanitization supplies, equipment maintenance, advertising and lotions all add up and need to be accounted for in your overall profit and loss analysis. Looking at your numbers every month will allow you to make better decisions and not let expenses, tax remittances and overdue accounts catch you by surprise.
Whether you have 1 or 15 massage therapists in a clinic, a staff management plan needs to be in place. Because the primary service equipment of massage therapy, is the therapists themselves, the need to prioritize health and work atmosphere is paramount. Well-balanced work schedules, healthy self-care practices, reasonable breaks, a healthy and optimistic atmosphere and continuing education budgets all need to be mapped out and budgeted to ensure long-term health and growth to lessen the chances of therapist burnout; which is common in this industry. One idea to help new hires in a massage clinic to be successful is to assign a mentor to new therapists to support them in their transition. Even if a therapist is a commission-based subcontractor, having a mentor will increase their chances of success and allow them to become an asset to the clinic instead of a liability.
3. Clinic Management Software
One of the smartest decisions a clinic can make is going paperless. Not only is this decision great for the environment, it’s a solution that will pay off long term in cost and security. Records management of health data is a liability that health practitioners take responsibility for. Finding a clinic management software software system that holds your client data in a secure and encrypted format reduces your risk and increases your ability to meet industry standards of data security. Keeping electronic treatment notes that are searchable and accessible from any device, officially makes your practice ready for an insurance or tax audit at any time. To truly being able to sleep at night, knowing your clinic is Audit Proof and if anything happened to your office, your entire practice could be opening in a new location without any lost data.
4. Client-Centric Service
Your customers are why you’re here, so to stay in business, you need to keep your business about them. The number one reason a client leaves a massage therapist is because the therapist talks too much or they are uncomfortable during the treatment and don’t feel welcome enough to speak up. This is a simple problem to fix, but is too often overlooked. Clinic practices need to make sure that every client is listened to carefully, that they feel comfortable speaking up before, during and after treatments and that there is a constant feedback loop. As the massage therapy profession grows, another important aspect of therapy feedback is to create systems that monitor symptom improvement. Keeping data and setting goals for patients and then re-visiting them and sharing with your patients their improvements will help them see your value and engage them in the long term benefits of regular therapy. Finding software, attaching pictures and sending home therapy advice through your clinic management system will create a strong database of data for constant improvement as well as open opportunities for collecting research data and career advancement.
Ongoing marketing with an allocated budget is an extremely important ingredient in the recipe for a healthy and profitable clinic. First, make it easy for clients to find you and book you anytime – offer online booking. Your next task is to set up an ongoing referral program that encourages your clients to give reviews and referrals, set up easy ways for new clients to find you on local professional services directories and seek opportunities to give your clinic exposure in your local community and to referring complementary practitioners. These all will set the groundwork for organic growth. Learn as much as you can about low-cost effective marketing for your clinic and implement and budget and a plan, including recruitment and company culture investments if you are planning to grow your staff.
6. Business Intelligence
Collecting all your data is one thing, using it to make good business decisions is another. Looking beyond the clinic booking numbers to get metrics on client retention by staff, cost acquiring new clients, top referrals and niche markets are all helpful insights as a business owner. If you have a staff member who has low retention rates and is consistently only treating new clients brought in by clinic marketing, this indicates that they are actually draining the clinic of valuable clients by not retaining and building relationships with clients. The key is to see if staff members are assets to your business or liabilities. Massage therapists need to be building a practice of returning clients and referrals or their business is not sustainable. Take the time to collect the data and then go over it with a professional if you feel like you need to see more than just the basics. Decisions from your data can help you improve in areas which can be easily overlooked in the busyness of day to day interactions. As a clinic owner, your job extends to maintaining a healthy practice, just the same way you help your clients release points of tension in their body, you need to do that in your business as well.
Taking on the role of clinic owner as well as working as a therapist is tough, but if you set up these business systems initially and have them working FOR you, the financial and work culture benefits will pay off greatly.