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A Year in Review: Practice Building Resources and Tips

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By: David Kent, LMT, NCTMB

As 2008 winds down, I am reminded of all that I have to be grateful for: good health, my friends and family, and—for the most part—a thriving business and practice. Yet, at the same time, I am concerned about the future. The economy has reached record lows and has negatively impacted massage therapists everywhere. Right now, you may be wondering if it’s possible for your clinic, spa or outcall practice to weather these storms. The answer is yes; however, surviving these challenging times will depend largely on how resourceful and creative you are when it comes to your business.

During the course of the last two years, I have had the privilege of writing many articles for Massage Today that offer practical solutions about how to create a flourishing massage therapy practice. I’d like to take a moment to refer you to them now. Whether you are a new or experienced therapist, this article will provide you with a cheat sheet to my previous articles. Think of it as a “Solutions Guide” that will help you find new ways to energize and reinvigorate your practice.

Eliminating Blind Spots

Our thoughts determine our focus, which influences our actions and effectiveness. If we think negative, unproductive thoughts, we produce outcomes at a lower level. An example of this would include looking for your keys while continually saying, “I can’t find my keys.” Stating that you can’t find your keys over and over simply reinforces the negative situation that you are trying to avoid. Or, at the very least, it creates a blind spot in your thinking. Are you creating blind spots in your career? Then you need to focus on solutions. If business is slow, don’t focus on how slow it is. Instead, focus on what needs to be implemented to turn things around. One rule of thumb is to focus 80 percent of your time and energy on 20 percent of the things that matter most to you. Read: The 80/20 Rule: Maximizing the Return on your Investment

Attaining your Goals

We must take a few minutes every day to work on attaining our goals. What are three things you could do right now that could help your practice, but that you have delayed because you are fearful of the unknown or of possible rejection? To put those thoughts and fears behind you, you need to be proactive. Make a list twice as long of all of the good things that will happen by taking action. You will immediately have clarity and a desire to move forward. Read: The Power of a Minute and The Power of the List.

Balancing the Systems

Just as the body has many systems that work in harmony with one another, so must the systems in your practice. Is your practice operating as efficiently as possible? What isn’t working that you would you like to change? Read: Massage Your Balancing Act and All Systems Go.

Keep Your Skills Sharp

They say, “If you don’t use it you loose it”. I still regularly treat clients at my clinic and love to receive massage. I learn allot from every treatment I receive. When was the last time you received a massage?  Are you following the recommendations you tell your clients?

What about hands-on seminars, have you studied anything unique lately? Read: The Body is in Charge and Feeling is Believing. What textbook could you read to improve your knowledge and skills? Are you reading articles on treatment? Read: Safety Protocols: Carotid Artery and Subscapularis: Overlooked and Under Treated For many DVD programs with accompanying photo manuals are get aids. This type of tool supports hands-on seminars by allowing you study prior to or after a training.

Maintaining a Polished and Professional Demeanor

Imagine walking into a store to buy a specific item. You locate the item, which is manufactured by two different companies and sitting on the shelf side by side. Each is priced the same. One box is nice, new and brightly colored; the other box looks like it was run over by a truck. Which one would you buy? Now imagine that you are a potential client or employer looking to hire a massage therapist. Do you think that a therapist’s overall appearance and actions might influence your purchase? Are you dressing or “packaging” yourself in the right light? What sets you apart from other therapists in your area? Do you specialize in a particular modality or possess special training? Are you setting high standards of care by asking your clients the right questions? Are you communicating to clients that you are highly skilled and knowledgeable in your field?  Read: Questions with Direction.

Tools of the Trade

All healthcare providers use paperwork, instruments and devices to gather information, as well as to evaluate, educate and treat their clients. Pain scales are great tools to show progress over a series of therapy sessions. Many massage therapists take postural analysis photos to document their client’s progress and educate their clients about the benefits of treatment. Trigger point charts help you explain referred pain patterns to your clients, which gives them confidence that you can design a treatment plan to help them. Read: Charting your Progress: Visuals for Success; Simple Answers Create Positive Results; and Getting Comfortable with Postural Analysis.

Building Your Practice

Does the community know about you and your business? How do potential clients contact you? Have you distributed your cards and/or brochures in health food stores, gyms, and chiropractic and medical offices? Have you met the tennis and golf professionals in your area? Have you considered writing an article for the local paper about the benefits of massage therapy and/or your particular specialty? Do you have a Web site that is up to date? If you are a new therapist, are you communicating your availability with phrases like, “Now Accepting New Clients”, “Outcalls Available” and “Introductory Specials”? Are you taking a few minutes to follow up with new clients after their initial visit? Are you sending thank you cards to your clients and referral sources? Remember to show your clients and your referral sources your appreciation. A little acknowledgement goes a long, long way. Read: Building Raving Fans: Consistency is Key.

As we move into 2009, I encourage you to stay focused and positive. Times are tough, but things will get better. In the meantime, continue to educate yourself and improve your craft. Check out MassageToday.com for unlimited resources to help you build a successful practice, and stayed tuned for more great articles in next year’s “Keeping It Simple” series. Happy Holidays!

David Kent, LMT, NCTMB

David Kent, LMT, NCTMB, is an international presenter, product innovator and writer. His clinic, Muscular Pain Relief Center, is in Deltona, Florida, where he receives referrals from various healthcare providers. David is President and Founder of Kent Health Systems which teaches Human Dissection, Deep Tissue Medical Massage and Practice Building seminars, and has developed a line of products, including the Postural Analysis Grid Chart™, Trigger Point Charts, Personalized Essential Office Forms™, and DVD programs. Visit www.KentHealth.com or call (888) 574-5600 for more information.

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Questions with Direction – Practice Building Tips

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By David Kent, LMT, NCTMB

One of the most challenging aspects of being a massage therapist is trying to build a thriving practice with repeat clients. So, it’s no surprise that many therapists have felt the crunch with the recent downturn in the economy. And, unfortunately, services like massage therapy are often among the first things to be cut from one’s budget in times of economic crisis.

Therefore, it is now more important than ever to convince your clients to stay the course with their massage therapy sessions. This article will show you how asking some simple questions can ultimately lead to repeat clients, whether you work in a spa, outcall, seated- or clinical-massage setting. Soliciting a client’s feedback by way of asking thorough questions will better help you understand you client’s needs and deliver results. But even more important than asking the question, is listening and responding to the information your client provides.

One way to organize your questions is to make use of the wide-range of forms available for these purposes. In fact, your questions will, to a degree, be directed by the information you obtain using forms. I have my clients complete intake forms prior to therapy; these help me develop targeted questions to clarify my knowledge about their health history, their specific areas of pain, the stresses in their life, the ergonomics of their activities of daily living (ADLs), medications they are taking, and to identify any precautions or contraindications before the session begins. Using intake forms helps me develop goals for the client’s current and future sessions—which is also useful in persuading my clients to commit to ongoing treatment.

There are various types of questions; however, this article will focus on two primary categories: general and those related to a client’s pain. General questions are great for helping you understand your client’s expectations, no matter what kind of practice you have.

General questions:

  • Question: What are your goals for today’s session?

Reasoning: If you don’t ask this question, you won’t know if a client wants a relaxing Swedish massage or a vigorous sports massage that integrates stretching. This is also important so that you are responding to your client’s needs and not responding to your perception of your client’s needs.

  • Question: What areas you would like me to focus on today?

Reasoning: This question also relates to the question above. At one time or another, we’ve all probably had an experience with a therapist that seemingly ignored the very thing that brought us to therapy in the first place. When you ask this question, it is very important to listen closely to the answer. When you listen to the client and deliver results, it increases the odds that your client will reschedule and/or refer others.

  • Question: Have you received massage therapy before?

Reasoning: Regardless of the client’s answer, this is the ideal time to communicate to the client how you will perform the session. For new clients, you might advise the client to disrobe to his/her level of comfort and then discuss draping techniques. For veteran clients, you might ask if they’d like you to do something extra special, such as incorporate essential oils into the session.

  • Question: If you have received massage therapy previously, please tell me where you received it, by whom, and which treatments were the most beneficial?

Reasoning: This information can help you understand how to adapt the session to the types of massage therapy that have produced positive responses for the client in the past. You might also ask the client what he/she thinks makes a great massage—and then do what you can to meet the client’s expectation.

  • Question: What type of pressure do you prefer?

Reasoning: Keep in mind that levels of pressure are subjective for each client; what you perceive as light pressure and what the client perceives as light pressure could be entirely different. It is important that you check in with the client at the start of and during the session.

  • Question: Have you ever had any negative effects and/or experiences from receiving massage in the past?

Reasoning: People respond to massage in different ways. Some people get ill or are sore for several days after they receive a deep massage. This is where intake forms and questions can be very useful. Some questions might include what medications the client is on, if he/she bruises easily, what the client’s diet is like, as well as questions related to general health and exercise.

  • Question: Is there anything else that I should know?

Reasoning: I intentionally keep this question open-ended so that the client can add additional information at their discretion. It is up to me to connect the dots. I am frequently amazed by how many clients will tell me about a traumatic accident and/or major surgery in the past that they didn’t mention previously.

Questions about Pain:

 

  • Question: What other healthcare providers have you seen recently and for what?

Reasoning: This question immediately informs you if your client has seen a doctor or if the client has self-diagnosed. I can then quickly perform a postural analysis (See my article, “Getting Comfortable with Postural Analysis” in the July issue of MT), check range of motion, and perform relevant muscle tests and orthopedic assessments to determine if it is appropriate to proceed or if the client needs to first follow up with a physician.

  • Question: Have you tried different healthcare practitioners over time? If so, which one(s) provided the most relief? What did they do and how long did the results last?

Reasoning: Understanding more about the treatments a client has sought for pain relief will give you insight into how you can best help him/her. For example, if the client sees a chiropractor on a regular basis, you might suggest that he/she schedule an appointment with you immediately before the appointment with a chiropractor for maximum results.

  • Question: What do you do for pain relief?

Reasoning: I am always surprised by how many people buy topical pain relievers at a drug store. Why should the drug store get the money? Consider selling topical ointments in your practice. Integrate a topical into the therapy session and then send the client home with a sample. The next time the client buys a topical ointment, it might just be from you.

  • Question: What aggravates your condition?

Reasoning: If the client reports increased back pain when standing or straightening after bending down, it might indicate lumbar and hip flexor or extensor involvement. A muscle-movement chart can help you determine exactly which muscles to assess. Trigger point charts are useful for educating clients about referred pain. Additionally, using the postural analysis information combined with photos helps show the client how stressed or shortened muscles have contributed to the formation of trigger points. This further leads into a discussion of how a series of treatments can be beneficial.

Asking the right questions can help your practice tremendously. I am looking forward to learning how the questions in this article worked for you. I encourage you to read my other articles that can help during these challenging economic times.

David Kent, LMT, NCTMB, is an international presenter, product innovator and writer. His clinic, Muscular Pain Relief Center, is in Deltona, Florida, where he receives referrals from various healthcare providers. David teaches Human Dissection, Deep Tissue Medical Massage and Practice Building seminars, and has developed a line of products, including the Postural Analysis Grid Chart™, Trigger Point Charts, Muscle Movement Charts, Personalized Essential Office Forms™, and DVD programs. Visit www.KentHealth.com or call (888) 574-5600 for more information.

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Taking Action to Improve Your Massage Practice

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BY: David Kent, LMT, NCTMB

In my May column, I talked about how to empower your clients using simple communication skills. It doesn’t matter whether you work in a clinic, a spa, or as an outcall massage therapist; chances are, you have encountered one or more clients who experience feelings of hopelessness and depression because of their physical pain. Keeping an open dialogue and educating your clients about their bodies, as well as maintaining a positive attitude in the treatment room, is as essential to a client’s well-being as the bodywork itself. Sometimes, however, this is easier said than done—especially when you are in the midst of your own challenges.

As massage therapists, we are often so focused on helping our clients that we neglect our own professional, financial, personal and spiritual lives. So how does one go about creating balance in all of these areas? In this article, I will walk you through five steps that can help you balance and produce positive changes in any area of your life.

If you’ve listened to the news in the last couple of months, chances are you’ve heard the buzz about the economy. Prices for basic goods, services and gas continue to rise, and many of the experts are predicting some tough times ahead. Obviously, some things—like the economy—are outside of our control. And it’s not healthy to expend large amounts of energy over the things that we can’t control. Rather, what we need to do is to focus our efforts on those things in our immediate lives that we can control; then evaluate the challenges and take steps to overcome them.

In addition to running a massage practice, we all perform various juggling acts. I am on the road several weeks a year teaching seminars, as well as running a clinic and continually working to develop new and improve existing products. This doesn’t take into account trying to maintain a social life and my relationships with friends and family. Perhaps you are dealing with similar issues: running a massage practice, trying to devote more time to yourself and your family, and a host of other personal and professional obligations. So, here is rule number one: It’s easier to deal with the stresses of life when you are flexible. There is no doubt that challenges will be constantly thrown your way. Maintaining flexibility and a willingness to adjust your plans will make dealing with these challenges much easier. You can start with the following five steps.

Five Steps to Positive Change

1. Acknowledge that something is out of balance and needs your attention. No one ever improved a situation by looking the other way. No matter how painful, scary or unpleasant the circumstances, it is generally best to face it squarely. 

 

Professional Challenges. Are you worried about increasing volume or just maintaining your massage practice in this unsettling economy? Try one or more of the following:

  • Visit businesses, gyms, and other health care professionals in your area to establish new referral sources.
  • Offer discounts and incentives for regular and repeat clients.
  • Educate your clients so that they will continue therapy and refer friends, coworkers and family.
  • Learn new treatment techniques so that you can specialize in a particular area of bodywork.
  • Sell products to generate additional income.
  • Check out my article, “Building Raving Fans,” in the April issue of Massage Today for a host of additional practice-building tips.

Financial Challenges. Are you making a decent living or barely making enough money to get by? Hire a financial planner who specializes in small business money management. A financial planner can help you create a reasonable budget that you can stick to; help you plan for retirement and unexpected financial emergencies; and help you get organized so that you can see the bigger financial picture down the line. Can’t afford to pay a financial planner? Consider trading services with one. Or check out your local bookstore—there are plenty of great books that specialize in financial planning and small businesses.

Personal and Spiritual Challenges. You won’t be much good to your clients unless you are taking care of your mental and physical health. Exercise, eat healthier, and take time out to recharge your brain and do the things you enjoy.

2. Ask empowering questions that include a specific positive outcome. Ask yourself what you can do right now to immediately improve your situation.
Professional Challenges. Empowering questions would include:

  • Are there mentors or other professionals that I can turn to for advice?
  • Are there sources of information online or elsewhere where you I can learn more about how to handle this problem?
  • Should I take some educational seminars?

Financial Challenges. Empowering questions would include:

  • Do I have a functional accounting system?
  • Do I understand the finances of my business? If not, you may need specialized computer software or other practice-management options, such as customized business forms.
  • Should I take a financial class or tutorial?
  • Should I update my business tools? Perhaps you own charts and tools, but they are outdated. For the price of one or two treatments, you could pay for updated materials that increase your volume. That’s an investment in your business (and a tax write-off).

 

Personal and Spiritual Challenges. Empowering questions would include:

  • What do I need to do to stay personally and spiritually balanced?
  • What physical activities do I enjoy doing that work with my schedule?
  • What can I do for myself that has a positive influence on all the areas of my life?

3. Implement change by taking action. The empowering questions you asked in step two will help determine the actions you need to take. There is a saying that goes, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” The key is to start and then constantly move in the direction of the outcome. Don’t get frustrated if things don’t happen right away. Most things take time to come to fruition—and patience is a virtue.

4. Assess and modify your plan to achieve your outcome. This is where flexibility comes into play. Always prepare for unexpected challenges and try not to get overwhelmed when things don’t go exactly right. Instead, ask yourself, “What did I learn today?” When you hit a wall, start at step one above, and repeat the cycle. Realize that there will be occasional bumps in the road. For more about achieving your desired outcomes, check out my article, “The Power of the List,” in the January 2007 issue of Massage Today.

5. Maintain a positive outlook. It is important to see the silver lining with everything we do. Most people will never completely understand the challenges we face as massages therapists, but you chose this profession because you wanted to help people. No matter what challenges you are facing, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Stay positive. Take the lemons in your very capable hands, and make lemonade.

Join me again next month for more valuable information, until then stay focused, be positive and enjoy the process.

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Simple Answer, Positive Results

Finding the source of your clients’ pain

By David Kent, LMT, NCTMB

Addressing the pain and discomfort associated with trigger points is one of the most common complaints massage therapists deal with in the treatment room. It’s not uncommon, for example, to palpate a trigger point in the upper trapezius, sternocleidomastoid or suboccipital muscles that produces a referred phenomenon to a completely different area of the body, such as the head. When trigger points refer into the head the phenomenon is often described as pain, a headache, pressure, tingling and/or numbness. Although clients are often surprised at this phenomenon, most are thrilled when I am able to isolate and treat the trigger point. Occasionally, however, a client might show distress at this discovery and say something like, “I’m all screwed up,” “I’m wired wrong‚” or “I’m weird.” In this article, I will share simple solutions for addressing these types of comments in ways that will help empower your clients to have a positive attitude and take a more proactive approach to their health care.

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David Kent – Massage Today: Simple Answers Create Results (05/08)

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Building Raving Fans: Practice Building Tips

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By David Kent, LMT, NCTMB

In my March article, “The 80/20 Rule: Maximizing the Return on Your Investment,” I talked about how to use the 80/20 rule to produce a better return on your investment of time and money in  your clinical, chair, outcall, or spa massage practice. I discussed focusing 80 percent of your efforts on the 20 percent of the tasks that matter most, and I stressed the importance of thanking your clients for their business. I also touched on the importance saying thank you to those professionals and others who refer new business. This month, I’d like to expand on this idea with a few simple “20-percent actions” that will set you apart from your competition and help you build “raving” fans.

Saying “thank you” to someone for referring a new client isn’t just the polite thing to do—it’s a means of maintaining relationships and building new business. When was the last time you got a “Thank You” from your health care provider or from a patient that you referred to another health care provider? It doesn’t take much to say thank you; yet, simply acknowledging someone’s efforts on your behalf can go a long way.

Get clients involved. When new clients are checking out, I hand them a blank note card and ask them to write a simple thank-you note to the person that referred them. The message is quite simple: “Dear ____, Thank you for referring me to David Kent’s Muscular Pain Relief Center. Today I received my first treatment and I already feel much better! Sincerely, ___.” This simple action only takes a few minutes, and most clients will be more than happy to write a thank-you note, especially when they have just received a treatment that has relieved their pain. This simple gesture makes everyone involved feel good and strengthens the relationships. Make it easy on the client: Provide the envelope and the stamp, and mail it for them.

Send personal thank-you cards to first-time referral sources. It’s not just up to your client to thank the referral source, especially if you want that source to continue sending clients your way. Create or buy some massage-specific thank-you cards, and send them every time you receive a referral from a new source. Make sure that you personally sign the card, too. I sign every thank-you card to new clients, referral sources, and people that have inquired about or ordered my products.

Make a statement. While it’s probably not necessary to send a thank-you card every time you receive a referral from the same source, you should make a point of consistently acknowledging that person’s contribution to your practice. Do special things throughout the year for your referral sources—not just on holidays or special events. They will appreciate and rewarded your actions with more referrals. I stand out by thanking my referral sources in unique and personal ways. Some ideas include

  • Offering chair massage for everyone at the referral source’s office or business;
  • Dropping off a basket of healthy snacks, fruit, nuts and bottled water (with several business cards attached, of course);
  • Offering discounts for sessions;
  • Giving away samples of topical analgesic and lotions; and

A word about samples. Everyone loves free stuff, and free samples are an easy way to build raving fans while producing extra income. I use certain topical applications on my clients during treatment; then I show clients’ how to apply them for self-care between sessions. I explain how these topical aids can work in conjunction with stretching, rest, ice and exercise. I also make the analgesics available for purchase at the clinic. Clients often ask for samples to pass out to family, friends and coworkers, many of whom later become my clients. One large company offers two samples with your name and telephone number printed on a product brochure. They’ll even ship it to you for free.

Office visits, distance and timing. To maintain my relationships with the referral sources in my area, I make occasional personal visits. Some of my referral sources have relocated over the years, but they still refer clients to me from time to time. A doctor who was once very close to my office is now almost an hour away. But I still take the time, on occasion, to drive out to see him. Just because a referral source has moved away doesn’t mean he or she will stop referring. Remember, the world is still a small place!

 

While making personal visits is a good method of maintaining your relationships, it’s also important to time your visits with discretion. Some referral sources may work odd shifts or weekends, such as a walk-in clinic. I work those visits into the different 20-percent parts of each day during the week. My sources often appreciate that I took the time to stop in and say thank you.

Personalize your visits. Each meeting is an opportunity to strengthen your professional relationship. If, for example, I am stopping in to a doctor’s office, I will take some time to learn about the doctors, nurses and staff members so that I can personalize my visit. During one visit, I learned that a doctor only ate organic food. On my next visit, I brought in some organic fruit and snacks. He appreciated that I took the effort learn about his eating habits and then responded with a customized gift.

Become a support system for your referral sources. When people need help, they call the people they know and trust. Many clients call our office asking if we can help people they know. And they want to know whom we recommend if we cannot help. Take care of the referral sources that take care of you.

Maintain consistency. Rarely will a single conversation, meeting, personal gift or thank-you note build a relationship or produce long-term results. Plan some 20-percent time every week to say thank you so that you can maintain your current relationships and build new ones. For more ideas, check out my past articles at www.massagetoday.com. For more practice building visit www.KentHealth.com, and drop me a line with your great ideas.

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The 80/20 Rule: Making the Most of Your Limited Time

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By: David Kent, LMT, NCTMB

Lets examine the 80/20 rule, which is also called Pareto’s Principle or Pareto’s Law, after Italian economist and sociologist Vilfredo Pareto.[1] Pareto’s original principle applied to land ownership and wealth distribution when, at that time, 20 percent of the people owned 80 percent of the land; however, I’ve discovered that the general theme of Pareto’s Principle can be loosely applied to other circumstances. In fact, the 80/20 rule has saved me valuable time, energy and money, while helping me improve my practice and produce a better return on my investment.

I first understood how I could make the 80/20 rule would work for me when I realized that I was spending far too much time on a specific project without any positive return. Although I was dedicating an exhaustive amount of time and effort to this project, it was costing me money, and my business was also suffering because I wasn’t focusing on other areas that needed my attention. To utilize the 80/20 rule in this new way, I determined that I would have to focus 80 percent of my efforts on 20 percent of the tasks that matter most to me.

Consider that it is 20 percent of the actions we take that produce 80 percent of our results; however, it is learning to tap into that 20 percent that is pivotal to making this philosophy work. What 20 percent of tasks can you focus on to have the biggest positive impact on your practice?

Let’s start with clients: Do 20 percent of your clients produce 80 percent of your income? If so, work on nurturing those relationships by making follow-up phone calls or offering occasional treatment discounts. Do 20 percent of your referral sources send you 80 percent of your clients? If so, what 20 percent of your actions can you take to help maintain and improve those relationships while producing new ones? Do you apply 20 percent of your techniques 80 percent of the time? Then become a master at utilizing those techniques in your practice. And remember: No matter what type of massage practice you have, the 80/20 rule can work for you.

 

 

 

Saying “Thank You”

One of the easiest actions you can take is to send a thank-you card to new patients, as well as the person or business that referred them. Include your business card with each thank-you note, and consider also sending a gift certificate for a complimentary treatment. Each week, I strive to make contact with current referral sources. Usually, I deliver a healthy snack when I visit, so that I can demonstrate how valuable these relationships are to me. Likewise, send your new clients a thank-you card for giving you the opportunity to be of service. Let them know that you will do everything possible to merit the confidence they have shown in you.

New Business

Don’t dismiss the importance of spending a portion of your 20 percent researching potential new leads. To obtain referrals from the medical community research physicians in your area to determine who would be a viable resource. Seated massage therapists may want to research various professional office buildings to determine where seated massage might be a good fit. I will be discussing more about showing gratitude to your referral sources and generating new business in my April column—you won’t want to miss it!

Education

To avoid spending too much time on less-than-quality educational and supplemental training materials, look for programs that give you more bang for your buck. DVD programs are very popular and have multiple benefits. And some DVDs may double as educational tools for your clients to demonstrate trigger-point locations or stretching techniques. Select programs with clearly indexed menus and supplemental materials that complement the DVD, such as manuals or workbooks.

The dissection lab is another great place where I can apply the 80/20 rule because the amount of knowledge I gain from the time I spend in the lab is invaluable, and it gives me more confidence in my hands-on abilities. Just ask Edgar Moon, a blind massage that I wrote about in my second article for Massage Today, “Feeling is Believing.” Edgar, who “sees” with his hands, attended a dissection seminar and said that it helped enhance his kinesthetic skills tremendously.

Employment Opportunities

As everyone knows, we never get a second chance to make a good first impression. And it doesn’t take much to be prepared: dress professionally; have all of your paperwork with you, including copies of your massage license, liability insurance and certifications; and do a little homework to learn everything you can about your potential employer. Does the clinic provide a certain type of therapy that matches your skill set? Do you already have the proper training and experience? What current skills do you have that can benefit your future employer? The most important 20 percent of this exercise will be during the interview, so make it count! Prove that you are ready to work!

Recognizing the importance of and focusing on that 20 percent will make a huge difference in your life. It will revolutionize your practice and give you maximum return on all of your investments of time, energy—everything, really. Review your goals every day, plan your outcomes, and then ask yourself, “What items on my list are the 20 percent that really count?” I invite you to read my previous articles at MassageToday.com, such as “The Power of the List” or “The Power a Minute,” for more practice-building ideas. Each article supports the other, so make sure you check them out.

Additionally, visit www.KentHealth.com where you can listen to free audio clips that provide additional tips to keep you focused on the 20 percent that counts. (I recently interviewed a CPA who is also an LMT, and she shared the 20 percent of things that will save you money at tax time!)

Drop me a line at [email protected] to let me know how you are applying the 80/20 rule to improve your practice. Next month, I’ll expand on the idea of thanking referral sources and generating new business. See you then!


[1]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pareto_principle

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Charting Success: Effectively Treating and Retaining Patients

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By David Kent, LMT, NCTMB

Whether you perform massage in a medical, clinical or spa setting, it is important for clients to feel they are benefitting from treatment. Using visual aids is an excellent way to chart and evaluate a client’s progress. Charting allows you to show a client his/her progress. It also helps you and the client stay focused on which course of treatment to pursue.

In my last article, “The Power of the List,” I presented my goal-setting questions and Power List to help you kick-start the process of identifying and achieving your goals for your practice and all areas of your life. In this article I will share tips for using visual aids for your client’s benefit, no matter what type of massage setting you work in. I also will describe how I use visual aids in my own practice. These tips will help you gain, maintain and increase the momentum you need to attain your professional goals while you subsequently help your clients.

Few goals are ever achieved in one step, and one massage therapy treatment is rarely going to resolve the core cause of a client’s stress, pain or dysfunction. Many clients want instant gratification—the “magic bullet” or the one-treatment fix that will immediately solve their problem; however, it is incumbent upon us to educate our clients about the accumulated benefits of a series of treatments versus a single treatment here and there. Clients who make a commitment to regular treatment often are quickly amazed at the positive impact it has on their quality of life.

Here’s a brief quiz. Imagine you are driving down the highway and the “low oil” warning signal displays on the dashboard. You take the next exit and drive to the nearest gas station where you check the oil level and see that the engine is low by two quarts. Should you:

  1. Buy just enough oil so that the warning light will turn off; then drive the car until the warning light comes on again, only to do the same thing again. This is the human equivalent of taking over-the-counter (OTC) medication.
  1. Pull the fuse so the warning light doesn’t annoy you. This is the equivalent of seeing a doctor for prescription medication that masks the pain.
  1. Locate the wire that connects the light to the dashboard and cut it so it can never send the warning signal again. This is the body’s equivalent to surgery.
  1. Add one quart of oil and drive until the warning display lights up again; then add one more quart of oil. This is the equivalent of a client with headaches, neck and shoulder pain scheduling an emergency massage therapy session. Upon completion of the session, you recommend follow-up sessions, simple stretching techniques, ergonomic changes, and other methods of self care; however, the client doesn’t follow any of your recommendations and the next time you hear from the client is when his/her pain is at the crisis level and he/she needs to “get in as soon as possible.”
  1. Immediately add two quarts of oil at the gas station and then schedule an appointment to have your car serviced as soon as possible. Think about it. Maybe there is an oil leak or maybe something is drastically wrong with the car. Over time, the oil in the car breaks down. This is what the experts call “loosing oil viscosity.” Could that be similar to loosing range-of-motion?

Obviously, the best answer to the question is “E”.  You need to schedule the car for service – not only for a filter and oil change, but for a complete checkup. You make this decision on simple information that would be obvious to any person. It’s not too hard to see that the car in this scenario is a stand-in for the human body. And this valuable machine needs attention and care to run correctly and last for the long run. Ultimately, it’s cheaper to maintain the body’s health than to “pay” for a complete “breakdown” in the long run in the way of lost work, doctor bills, medication, pain and a reduced quality of life.

The point of this exercise is to demonstrate the importance of gathering information the right way at the right time. For example, a client complains of headaches that occur three to four times a week and require prescription medication; however, even with increasing medication, the client frequently misses time off work. This client also has secondary complaints of neck, shoulder and upper back pain that disrupt sleeping patterns. In this example, my short-term goals are to reduce the headaches and the neck pain intensity, frequency and duration, as well as to improve sleeping patterns.

Here is where I start collecting my visuals to create my starting point of reference so that I can measure the client’s progress from this point forward. To begin, I have the client fill out intake forms, questionnaires and a pain-scale chart before and after treatment. Other aids I use to establish a baseline include documenting range-of-motion; conducting muscle and orthopedic assessments; using trigger point charts; taking postural analysis photos; and evaluating gait.

Depending on your massage therapy setting, you will probably adjust which visual aids you use in your practice; however, most clients, regardless of the setting, find it both useful and comforting when the therapist uses charts and models to describe their condition and note their progress.

Lastly, we all need a little encouragement to produce the results we want in our lives. Often, however, we have no one around to motivate us. Every day, I list the things I am grateful for, as well as the things I did to move myself closer to my goals. I also ask my clients to do the same. A client with chronic headaches might be grateful for finding you, the massage therapist, and—thanks to continued treatment—he/she might be grateful for missing less work and sleeping better at night. This client might be following your recommendations and stretching and exercising every day as a means of reducing the frequency of the headaches.

As for me, I am grateful for my health and my practice. And whether it’s learning a new skill, following innovative practice-management techniques or using visual aids, I make a point of doing something every single day that will help me reach my professional and personal goals.

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