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Starting Over

 

*While Laura Wrote this back in April, its applicable today as we look to the new year, especially as we see a second wave hitting several places, with new shutdowns in place. 

 

A couple of months ago, any one of us could have started a sentence with “When this is over,” and chances are, no one except your family or close friends might have known what personal problem you were referring to. Now, everyone knows what it refers to: COVID-19. For many of us, it’s personal on some level. We’ve had a friend or family member or acquaintance who was sick with it, or died from it, or maybe you’ve personally been sick with it.

At this point, no one knows when “it” will be over…” it” meaning the effects on society. There are millions of Americans out of work due to shutdowns of “non-essential” businesses. There are shortages in grocery stores…every day on my social media, I am still seeing people who can’t find a roll of toilet paper. This is Easter Sunday, and millions of Americans who would otherwise be at church are at home watching a service on television or streaming service on the Internet.  Some churches are holding parking lot services where the congregants remain in their cars.

I’ve had a lot of private messages from massage therapists asking my opinion on when we’ll be back to work. The short answer is, I don’t know. Nobody knows. I live in NC, and the governor ordered things shut down until April 30. I personally believe it will be extended beyond that, and even if it isn’t, I will probably wait several weeks beyond the date that it is lifted to go back to work. I’m the suspicious type, as well as one who errs on the side of caution, and I fear a “back to work” decision from the government that is based on economics instead of actual safety.

We tend to think in terms of ourselves and our own occupation and our own lives. There may be no intention of being selfish or self-centered, but that’s the way things are. In reality, there are going to be a lot of businesses, of every type, that do not survive this shutdown. Your favorite restaurant, coffeehouse, or bar may be forced out of business. Your neighborhood florist, art gallery, or gym that is privately owned and not part of a big chain may be gone. While some landlords are giving rent relief, others are not. Some business owners simply cannot pay rent for several months when they don’t have money flowing into the business to cover that cost. In fairness, some landlords count on their rent money to make ends meet themselves.

For many massage therapists (and others), once the shutdown is over, this will be like starting all over at square one. While many may have faithful clients that can’t wait to come back, we have to consider that many of our self-employed clients or those who work in businesses deemed non-essential, may be in the same boat we’re in: unemployment checks are not coming in yet, but the bills keep piling up.  A lot of people may have to choose between getting a massage or trying to catch up on their bills.

For those who are self-employed, and ICs (many of whom are misclassified, but that’s another story altogether), this situation may cause you to rethink your employment circumstances. Those who are employees have had a much easier time signing up for unemployment. While the federal government has announced the intention to extend unemployment payments to self-employed and ICs, most state unemployment websites have been waiting on instructions from the feds to get that started. NC’s website states that it is expected to be in place by April 25 for self-employed and ICs to file. If you don’t have a cash cushion, that’s a big financial strain for those who are waiting.

Anytime you choose to be self-employed, you’re taking personal risks. If you’re using independent contractors in your business, they (and you, if you have them misclassified) are also taking a personal risk. Ask yourself if you could live for 6 months without money coming in. If the answer is no, rethink your decision about your work circumstances. Go over your budget and see where you can cut expenses in order to save money. Maybe that means doing without stopping for coffee on the way to work every morning or doing without eating out. Or giving up your addiction to new shoes, or carefully tracking the mindless spending most of us do. I recently saw a meme pointing out that spending 27.35 per day adds up to $10,000 in one year. Using an app like EveryDollar can help you see where your money is actually going.

Many people are just one paycheck away from total disaster. I’ve been there myself in years gone by. This isn’t meant to be negative; it’s meant to be a reality check. We don’t know how long this is going to last, but it’s already evident that many people are in big trouble.  It’s a good idea, when the world returns to some semblance of normalcy, to treat this as an opportunity to start over with a plan to be better prepared, so the next emergency doesn’t knock you flat.

It’s also a fact that at the end of our lives, none of us are going to say “I wish I had worked more.” We’ll be wishing we had taken more time to stop and smell the roses, spent more time appreciating our families, had more quality time with our spouse, or learned to play the flute or paint or whatever you think you never have time for. If you have that time now, just do it. While you’re adding up your problems, don’t forget to add up your blessings.

In closing, I express my gratitude to all the medical personnel who are on the front lines, and the essential workers who are enabling us to still go to the grocery store, the gas station, and wherever else we NEED to go. I’ve found out in the past couple of months that I don’t need to go near as many places as I thought I did. Bless all who are sick and suffering and all those who have lost loved ones.  Bless you, all, and may you remain safe and well.

Learn How Community Involvement Can Improve Your Business

 

Absolute Therapy is a clinic in Victoria BC, home to an amazing team of fifteen talented practitioners and a collaboration-based treatment environment that epitomizes the ideals of client-centered care. 

However back in 2010 during our humble beginnings, I was the clinic’s sole practitioner – it was just me. With a brand new lease in place and tenant improvements complete, it was time to sink or swim. 

I knew I loved being an RMT, but how would I fare as an entrepreneur? How would I succeed? Well, there’s that old saying: it’s not what you know but who you know.

Anyone who has spent any time in Victoria will tell you that despite its size, it behaves very much like a small town, so to me, just getting out and getting involved seemed a good place to start.

Getting Involved In The Community

I started by offering free educational opportunities (about injury prevention, stretching, workplace wellness – you name it!) to any group keen to host me. 

I did casual talks for office groups in my area, banks, local fire halls, or sometimes more formal engagements such as ProD workshops with schools – I was happy simply to chat about wellness and provide education that would make massage therapy more accessible. Initially, much of my motivation with these talks was of course to promote my practice and business, but the more time I spent with local groups made the larger impact I was having become evident. 

Not to mention the support I was receiving for my business was inspiring. The more connections I made, the more motivated I became to find new and different ways that I could engage with and provide value to this community that was supporting me in my own entrepreneurial journey.

That same year, a friend of mine suggested I join a local business networking group (Business Networking International, or BNI), and it was through this group of connections that Absolute Therapy became involved in its first on-site fundraising gig. One of the members of my group was married to an organizer for Turf Burn, a local soccer tournament. 

The second year of the event was being planned and the organizers were excited about the opportunity to have a couple of RMTs present to provide short treatments for participants (by this time I had one other RMT working with me). We agreed to provide the treatments by donation and, in return for the exposure and the marketing we received, we would donate all the proceeds back to the tournament to go towards their fundraising initiatives. 

And so it began.

 The model of “help-us to help-you to help-them” was officially adopted by Absolute. (Side note: we had our 10th consecutive year with Turf Burn this past Summer; it has grown into a much larger tournament with a great following and now fundraises big bucks for local non-profits – so cool!)

I began researching other local events in which the participants or people involved could benefit from on-site massage therapy and reaching out to the organizers to pitch our “in-kind” sponsorship. We soon became involved in the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival, another event that we would end up sponsoring for many years to come. The Victoria Dragon Festival Society has been a long-standing supporter of the BC Cancer Foundation, and the participants were very appreciative to have the option of pre and post-race treatment. 

The resulting donations we collected on behalf of the VDBF for the BC Cancer Foundation were sizable, and I was once again filled with gratitude for the opportunity to be included in such an amazing local event and awed by the fundraising potential of our involvement.

Building A Reputation By Helping

Event by event, and year after year we gained more notoriety as a clinic passionate about being involved in local events and fundraising initiatives. We became more established in Victoria’s healthcare community, and through our events and other marketing endeavors, garnered a large client-base able to sustain new practitioners on an ongoing basis. 

Throughout all of this, I volunteered with a number of event committees, which of course led me to know other event organizers, which led to more events. As a clinic we have been lucky enough to work with so many local organizations over the years; groups like MEC who tirelessly fundraise for non-profits like Power To Be, or the Victoria Goddess Run who have raised countless dollars for groups like the Victoria Transition House and the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre. 

Trust me when I say that in the amazing community we live in, the opportunities are endless.

I am immensely proud of the efforts that the Absolute team members contribute each year at our on-site events. They come out to events on Saturdays and Sundays in the middle of Summer (when I’m sure there’s a part of them that would much rather be at the beach!) and provide treatment after treatment – and they do it with smiles on their faces.

Sure, we make it fun; we have good snacks, and we goof around and we treat each other during the downtime – but I do not want to minimize the amazingness of how much this team gives. It is part of OUR community – our clinic culture. When I am considering new practitioners for our team – we talk about this. I always endeavor to be clear that this is not a clinic where you can come in and do your daily treatments and leave; we expect greatness, but the personal and professional support one can expect in return from simply being a part of this remarkable team is pretty great too.

I asked our friends at the Victoria Foundation (a registered charity that funds hundreds of initiatives large and small, both locally and throughout BC and Canada – if you don’t know them please look them up) to help me summarize the important part that local business plays in Victoria’s community:

“The Victoria Foundation has a vision to make our community stronger, and our shared quality of life better now, and for the long term. We’re inspired by the shared commitment of the local businesses we’ve worked with to help make this vision a reality, and by their passion to make positive changes in Greater Victoria and in communities across B.C. and Canada.”

-Sandra Richardson, CEO

In short – just get out there and get involved. Your clinic will receive recognition in the community, your practitioners will thrive, massage therapy as a profession becomes more accessible, events have more to offer, and local non-profits and charities receive more support to continue doing all the awesome things that they do! Everyone wins.

Articles Of The Week November 4, 2018

 

We shared a similar story last week and this one is just as important. There is a movement taking place for a push towards evidence-based practice within manual therapy. It looks like the change is going public as some chiropractors push back against their peers. This should be happening in all aspects of manual therapy and I hope to see all of our professions following suit.

“Chiropractors At A Crossroads: The Fight For Evidence-Based Treatment And A Profession’s Reputation” – Paul Benedetti and Wayne McPhail

Sometimes putting yourself out there and writing blogs can be a pretty scary thing. The author of this post did a great job of putting this post together to explain what massage can do. It’s definitely worth the share.

“What Can Massage Really Do?” – Leyla Rsk

We learned breast massage in college and the topic has come up several times in practice. I’ve never done breast massage in practice and would probably refer out to someone with more experience in this area. This is a great discussion on some of the issues related to doing breast massage including safety, consent, and respect.

“Examining Issues Related To Breast Massage” – Nick Ng and Rachel Scott

It is always important to consistently market your business, but sometimes it’s tough to come up with new and effective ways to do so. This is a great quick article outlining why with the holiday season coming up you should host a charity event to increase business and give back to your community.

“Quick Tip: Why You Should Host A Charity Event This Holiday Season” – Lou Schuler

There are many obstacles we have to overcome to be successful in business. Quite often some of these things are out of our control, so we just have to try and figure things out. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always go well. This post shows some examples of how things don’t go well and one of our colleagues ends up shutting down their practice. There are certainly some things to learn from this one.

“Why I Left Massage Therapy After 14 Years: The Career That I Loved!” – Massage Therapist And Body Worker

Articles Of The Week October 21, 2018

Richard is always great at putting educational resources together for our profession and he’s at it again. Here is a long list of educational resources for you to use and share with your network about the benefits of massage therapy.

“Open Educational Resources For Massage Therapists” – Richard Lebert

Review is always a good thing right!? This post was done way back in 2014 but we stumbled across it this week. It’s a great review of a peripheral nerve root, which helps us understand how they work just a little bit better.

“Anatomy Of A Peripheral Nerve Root” – Diane Jacobs.

Ever wondered how much you should increase the load or training demand when doing rehab with a patient? Well, its always a variable, but the 10% rule is a good place to start and this article sums up nicely how to implement that.

“When Progressing Training, Not All Load Is Created Equally” – Tim Gabbett

Sometimes research is done to try and prove what we “think” we are doing, as opposed to trying to prove a theory wrong, or prove what’s “actually” happening. Unfortunately this happens a lot in manual therapy. In this post some bias’ get challenged and research shows what is “actually happening” with some of our treatments.

“Model Issues” – Sam Jarman

This is a VERY important article to share because it could happen to ANY manual therapy profession, and SHOULD happen to every manual therapy profession. The College of Chiropractic here in British Columbia is telling all chiropractors to remove any advertising there is no acceptable evidence to support, or face discipline. Kudos to them for making their practitioners accountable to the public and pushing for evidence based practice.

“Chiropractor Crackdown: College Gives Ultimatum On Misleading Health Claims” – Bethany Lindsay

 

 

Making Win-Win Decisions And The Value Of Relationships

In the past, we’ve had several posts talking about the importance of building relationships and business.

While this is a crucial part of the therapeutic relationship with our patients, it’s just as important in our communication and in building our practice with other practitioners.

However, not everyone sees this or treats it with the importance they should.

With this post, I’ll go into why it’s important and two different circumstances where this has made a massive difference in my life, and in my practice. If spending time building relationships with patients and other practitioners aren’t something you’ve been focusing on, I suggest you start.

Here are two examples where this has helped me in the past two years.

The Job

Back in 2009, it was my third term of massage therapy college.

I knew from the start, I wanted to work with athletes and teams. I was fortunate enough to have a friend from my hometown playing for our local Junior A hockey team, so I asked if they had a Massage Therapist working with them. They didn’t, so he helped get me in touch with their head trainer, and my start in hockey as a therapist began.

The first game I was introduced to the team chiropractor, he instantly started getting players to get treatment from me. I was astounded at how supportive the medical staff was.

For the next seven years, that chiropractor and I worked together on the team. Once I was certified and in practice, we referred patients back and forth. A year or two into my career, I looked at the schedule and half of the people booked in with me one week were referrals he had sent.

There are patients who I’ve been seeing for the past seven years of my career (obviously only when they need it, not weekly or anything) because they were referred from that chiropractor.

About three years ago, he referred another patient to me, and the relationship building with that patient started. He spoke fondly of our chiropractor friend every time he came in. As our relationship built, I mentioned how I was a volunteer firefighter and hoped to get a career job one day. He immediately told me about one of his best friends who worked at one of the fire departments in town (and it was the department I really wanted).

Skip ahead a year and that department started a hiring process.

My patient got a hold of his buddy and said: “you gotta help this guy, he’ll fit in perfectly.”

Then the text messages started. His buddy was giving me advice on what to study, how to get ready, exactly what steps to take. As the hiring process unfolded, he texted me every step of the way with advice on what to do. The advice was invaluable and helped me with the process in ways I can’t even explain.

AND I HAD NEVER MET THE GUY! However, based on his friend’s recommendation, he was willing to help!

After volunteering for 16 years, applying to several departments, spending thousands of dollars on hiring processes, this past June, I was the first person hired off the hiring list and started a career that I worked so hard to get.

None of that wouldn’t have happened if nine years ago, I hadn’t started building a relationship with my chiropractor buddy, or with the patient he referred.

The Win-Win

Back in 2005 a good friend and I invested in a franchise business for repairing dental equipment.

Whenever people bought a franchise, they would have to go down to Oregon to receive training on how to repair the dental equipment and learn the business etc. The man who owned the parent company would always have the new franchisees attend a two-day workshop that was basically a self-improvement kind of thing.

We honestly scoffed at the idea initially, but it turned out to be a pretty good two days. One of the key messages we learned was that whenever we made decisions both personally and professionally we would always try to make the decisions a win-win. Each decision had to be made so it would always be something that would benefit us both.

We worked that business together for two years until we came to the realization it was only going to make enough money to support one of us. After some discussion, we decided he would buy me out, and that was what paid for me to go back to college to become an RMT. The decision was truly a win-win as he still runs the business, I’m clearly enjoying my career, and we’ve remained good friends ever since.

Fast forward 11 years to 2016 and I was faced with another business decision.

Do I take a chance and move on to another clinic to pursue my interest in exercise with patients, or continue with the clinic where I was given my first real chance to build a practice. Part of the difficulty for me was the stories I’d heard about people leaving clinics and there being a fight over patient clinic files between the owner and contractor. Plus the clinic owner and I had built a solid relationship and a great friendship over my five years there, how was that going to work out?

Over a three day period, I kept trying to ask her to grab a coffee or go for a drink or something so we could chat about it, but our schedules didn’t work. On the third day when I tried to arrange something, she looked at me with a smile on her face and said: “are you breaking up with me!?”

When we actually sat down and talked she said it would never be held against me for chasing after the career I wanted and to make sure and email all my patients so they knew where I was going so they could find me and book in.

Since then I’ve referred patients to her clinic, she refers patients to me and there has never been an instance where a disagreement occurred about a patient file. In fact, I still have access to all of the files for when the lawyer requests records for one of my patients.

Even better, that clinic owner refers her family members to me and comes to me for treatments herself (and yes she gave me permission to write that, so I’m not breaking confidentiality). So, when I hear those rumours (I hope they’re just rumours) about owners and contractors bickering over patient files, I can’t help but wonder WHY!?

Why is this an argument?

The patient has the right to choose where and to whom they go for their treatment, it’s not up to the practitioner or the clinic to decide that. I get there might be an instance where there is a monetary value to the file if a lawyer or insurance company etc requests the file, but it’s not so great a value that is worth ruining a relationship over. There are many patients who followed me to the new clinic when I moved and just as many who stayed behind and continued at the old clinic because all of them had the right to choose. The most important thing in that whole experience is the relationship that remained between myself and the clinic owner. Because the decisions made between us were done on a win-win basis, the patients win, both the clinic owner and I win, and our relationship has never been better. And to be honest, that relationship is far more important to me than the monetary value of a file, or whether a patient followed me. 

 

 

Articles Of The Week September 2, 2018

This is a great start to our articles from Greg Lehman. The words and language we use with patients matters and some of the language has to stop! The article generated a lot of discussion on our facebook page, so hopefully, it will get more therapists thinking about their communication with patients.

“Watch Your Mouth, The Nonsense Is Breaking Many” – Greg Lehman

This is another article attempting to dispel some myths, however, its about strength and conditioning. Fortunately, some of the topics are still applicable in manual therapy as well.

“10 Strength And Conditioning Practices That Are Overhyped” – Carl Valle

This one is actually a podcast and its a quick listen, so worth your time listening. One of the points I loved, is how the term “pain science,” has taken on its own life when in reality it’s just science. What matters is understanding how to help people who are in pain.

“Massage Therapy Now” – Eric Purves

We all have to prepare for the unknown. Whether it’s an injury, retirement, or just simple issues that could come up with our practice, we need to be prepared. This article shares some ideas on how to prepare, but also some ideas for extra income, or career shifts.

“Who Knows What Is In Your Future” – Sinead Kelly-Barber

Massage is a valuable healthcare modality, but it for some reason when it comes to the financial cost of getting a massage, some companies are undercutting prices, and in turn the value of our profession. This article shares some ideas on how to give your patients an experience they will value enough for you to charge appropriately.

“The Value Of Massage” – Julie Onofrio