If value isn’t about how the numbers add up at the end of the year, what is it?
Michael Ellsberg, an author, advisor, and pioneer, asserts that value is about an exchange of caring, which underlies all other forms of human value and is at the root of everything.
“If you focus on getting more money, you may or may not get more money. But if you focus on giving and receiving more value, not only will you end up with more value running through your life in general, but also more value in the form of money specifically. Money is a red herring; the real issue is value.” —Michael Ellsberg, Facebook post
By nature, massage therapists are called to this profession to help, to heal, to improve the lives of the people around us. In order to define your small business brand, it’s important to connect to what drew you into this field initially, and what keeps you going.
In this article we will be defining who you are and what you offer.
Knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing is critical to your success. Why? Because if you do not absolutely love what you do, and totally believe in it, neither will your potential clients. If you aren’t 110 percent committed to what you’re doing, your business will struggle to make it past the first year. (Statistically, most small businesses fail within their first year.) Starting from the beginning, we need you to dig deep and find out who you are and what makes you awesome, so you can be sure to beat the odds.
What makes you special and unique? What life experiences have you had that add value to your services? Where are you in your life? If you stopped offering your services tomorrow, what would clients miss most about working with you? This last question was particularly hard for me to answer at first, so I began by thinking what I would miss if my favorite restaurant closed. They always know my order. They greet me with a smile when I come in. The food is always good, and the ambience is lovely. Try doing this exercise for your favorite restaurant, bar, or coffee shop.
Now think again about your business and try to put your finger on what people would miss most if you were to close your doors. This exercise can help to tease out that special something that you bring to the table. Once you identify what it is that makes you stand out, make sure that you lead with it—it should be prominent on your website, social media, and in how you talk about your business.
When we talk about defining ourselves, it’s critical to be real. Don’t try to be something you’re not, or somewhere you aren’t. Clients value authenticity and expertise.
Brene Brown writes: “Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”
If you’re a recent college grad, you might find your best clients among other recent college grads, who can relate to you. If you recently gave birth, you’re likely an expert at all things pregnancy, and what the specific needs and wants are of that particular community. I’m not saying to limit your client base to people like you, however, being honest with yourself about who you are and where you are in your life will help you to share your particular message and your small business brand by connecting you to people using what makes you uniquely special. Tap into your own uniqueness so that others can recognize how you stand apart and celebrate you.
For example, I created a “Hipster Massage Mix for PRESS” on Spotify to use at my studio. I recognized that in my late 20s and early 30s, a certain kind of music and vibe really resonates with me, and with my clients! The music I feel is most authentic to Williamsburg (the hipster-y neighborhood in NYC where I started my practice), has a certain kind of alternative blend of interesting tunes (Andrew Bird, José González, Mazzy Star, Antony and the Johnsons, Iron & Wine) that has put us on the map and even attracted musicians as clients. So many of my clients now follow our Spotify playlist! Be your authentic self and people will take notice.
I also grew up with scoliosis and chronic back pain. When I started my private practice, I led with this on my website, and attracted a lot of other clients who were experiencing the same difficulties. They trusted me because I deeply understood their pain.
Look for other examples in your own life that have colored your experience. Maybe you’ve been injured, or cared for a loved one with an illness, or watched a friend go through something in their lives. Take whatever experiences you’ve had that have shaped your views, and start there.
There’s another compelling reason to be authentic. If you pretend to be someone you’re not, you have to work double time to keep the illusion going, which is incredibly detrimental to mental health.
In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown says that we should all be born with a warning label like the ones that come on packages of cigarettes: “If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.”
Save yourself the stress of trying to be someone you’re not. Instead, define what makes you special, wonderful, and uniquely you. As a result, you will create a small business brand you love.
This article was excerpted with permission from “Massage MBA” (2021), by Rachel Beider.
About the Author
Rachel Beider is a licensed massage therapist, entrepreneur, and the proud owner PRESS Modern Massage company, a group of award-winning massage therapy studios. Rachel helps wellness entrepreneurs grow thriving practices via Wellness Business Consulting. She lives and works in New York, New York.
 Brown, Brene. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are (Minnesota: Hazelden Publishing, 2010), 49.
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