Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why Massage Envy?

Continuing my FAQ series, I'm going to jump into one of the tough ones to get it out of the way:

Why do you work for Massage Envy?

Aren't they the Walmart of massage? Don't they undervalue the industry? Aren't you worth more than what they pay you? Do you like being an assembly line/sweat shop/Mcdonald's fry cook worker?

I hear a lot of complaints about Massage Envy as a company, from inside and out, so let me defend my employer for a few minutes...

I started at the Massage Envy clinic in Tallahassee (Bull Run) at the recommendation of a real estate agent who was helping us with our house. She was a friend of one of the owners. Kayla and I both interviewed for jobs, side by side in the Starbucks next door with the Therapist Manager and one of the Owners. I had worked for several types of massage establishments for more then 4 years prior to that interview. I worked poolside in a pop up tent at a resort by Port Canaveral. I worked in a medical clinic by Holmes Regional Medical Center (A hospital in Melbourne). I worked in a day spa in downtown Tallahassee. All of these had pros and cons and obviously the cons had outweighed the pros in each situation, because I was still looking for an outlet for my massage skills. Both of us had solid resumes and easily passed the practical portion of the interview.

From day one, I was impressed with the organization. The strip center was in a good location and had been well planned and researched by the corporate folks before the franchise was signed over to the owners. There were rules about what other businesses could be their neighbors. Each room's dimensions and decorations were laid out in the rulebook. Everything felt clean and simple, like a medical clinic setting, but also comfortable and relaxing, like a spa type setting.

Kayla and I had tried briefly to start our own establishment in one of the cottages at Lake Ella in Tallahassee. That venture fell apart for a number of reasons, but the moral of the story was that we could not have made a setting for massage, on our own, that was anywhere close to the standard that Massage Envy had established.

She was in school and I worked full time for the state. We needed a boost in our income from part time jobs. Massage Envy was perfect for that need. We didn't have to do sheets in our free time. We didn't have to call anybody or handle money or make bank deposits. We didn't have to have wildly variable schedules because the clinic was used to working with the many college students/LMT's they had working. The owner told us what the minimum requirement was (10 hours a week I think) and we agreed happily.

About a year passed and the owners at that clinic had a falling out- it was two married couples and one of the pairs bailed. It happened to be the guy I liked who left, but that wasn't really important to my daily life. Kayla and I started an event planning company during her senior year of school and I needed to cut back my workweek to something less than 50 hours to accommodate my part in the new company. My full time with benefits state job wasn't going to be the one to go, so I left Massage Envy- honestly a bit disgruntled, but only because of personality conflicts with the remaining owner who was in over his head now that his partner had abandoned him.

Overall it had been a highly satisfying, Godsend of a job. I met some outstanding people who really supported me and helped me grow as a therapist- clients and co-workers alike. Most of my Facebook friends are still affiliated with Massage Envy clinics or I met them at one. As a company and a business model- it was absolutely beneficial to my wife and me.

When Kayla finished school and we planned to move to Tampa for her to pursue a seemingly perfect job in her field, I started job hunting in Tampa. Being a highly experienced and extraordinarily nerdy social work techie was great for a dude who lived in the state's capital, but getting a job anywhere else was next to impossible. I also had massage as a backup plan and had done some due diligence in job hunting with my alter ego's resume.

Nobody in Tampa would talk to me about massage. My experience, rock solid resume, diverse training, and outright natural talent never made it past the initial question of whether I had a penis or not! I called, I emailed, I kept scouring Craigslist and newspapers and finally went right up the road to Massage Envy in Lutz. I dropped off my resume, telling the manager that I had prior Massage Envy experience, and she asked when I could work.

I admit I was a little disappointed that I was back at the same exact company I had left, since I was actually pursuing massage as a full time career now, with no other jobs, I was hoping for more money, professional respect, or something. My first day was May 20th- the beginning of Summer, the dreaded "Slow Season." Sure, I was spending a couple hours a day in the breakroom- getting plenty of reading done- but I was also building up regular requests at a steady pace. The policy of Massage Envy call takers is to offer male therapists first whenever possible to help offset the bias of stereotypes.

To make a long story short, Massage Envy's model came to the rescue a second time in my life. I showed up, they kept me busy, I went home with some cash and knew a paycheck was on the way on an exact date. I still didn't have to wash any laundry or call any people or drive all over the county- pretty good gig in my opinion.

So a quick rundown of why I love working for Massage Envy:

The male therapist first policy not only levels the playing field, it's far more progressive than all the potential employers who saw me as unhireable.

They pay other people to answer phones, do laundry, take out the trash, wash toilets, and handle money.

The pay may be on the low end, but the overhead they provide is worth it to me- I know the owners of my clinic aren't getting rich quick by standing on my back- the economics just don't support that cynicism. Have YOU ever tried to lease a credit card reader and the service plan from a bank?

Because it's a franchise, clients from out of town know what to expect.

I meet all kinds of clients and other therapists who I would never have access to through my own marketing and networking efforts.

Did I mention the MARKETING? They have this ridiculously effective marketing machine- it's why I don't make 70% commission, but I don't have to stand by the road in a funny suit and wave a sign either! Have YOU ever done market research?

The membership plan is affordable, easy to understand, and allows people to get regular therapy at a good price. My goal in life is to heal people, not to come up with package deals and price structures. This is as plug and play as I can get in this industry and IT WORKS. Repeat clients who make real progress in their journey because of the system Massage Envy offers- why does that bother so many people???

Inexpensive massage for me. I learn something every time I get a massage. Every time. $25 for an hour massage and I get to chose from several therapists I respect and know I will benefit from. That's awesome.

One more thing to wrap this up...

The question of undervaluing the massage industry. Don't kill the messenger- Massage Envy Corporate figured out what the market in this economy could bear and put it into action. Don't get mad that they're successful at bringing affordable massage to as many people as possible- way more than all the mom and pop massage establishments could serve, with consistency and limited liability. Overall they are a good thing for the industry.

"I didn't sell out Stevo, I bought in..." -Christopher McDonald as Stevo's Dad in SLC Punk

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