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Keeping Great Associates

This profession does make a difference in people’s lives. And if you are a clinic owner/manager who would like to contribute to this difference as well as leave a legacy, then you need to have reliable associates working with you.

January 21, 2011  By Jim Smyth

This profession does make a difference in people’s lives. And if you are a clinic owner/manager who would like to contribute to this difference as well as leave a legacy, then you need to have reliable associates working with you. To leave something for future generations, and be able to sell what you have built when the time comes, will require the best possible team.


In order to meet the preceding objectives (i.e., making a difference, leaving a legacy) the following environment must be cultivated:

  • supportive and fulfilled associates;
  • solid business reputation;
  • loyal clientele;
  • nourishing clinic atmosphere;
  • history of turning a profit.

Your ship will founder without these hallmarks of good business acumen. However, the most essential of these maxims is the crew – i.e., your associates. The crew is the adhesive that will hold the ship together and keep it ship afloat, whether you are sailing in fair weather or stormy seas.

Why to avoid the revolving door
A viable practice cannot be sustained with a revolving door of associates coming and going through the clinic foyer. The coming involves continual retraining and orientation of personnel – new and existing. The going typically means the loss of therapist and clientele – contract or not, clients will most often stay with the therapist of their choice. So both sides of this revolving door represent an unsustainable situation for you – there will be an impact on your profit, an impact on normal operations and a disturbance to the nourishing atmosphere. The inevitable result will be that your workload will increase, your stress levels will rise and, as I said before, your ship will founder.


It’s not just one person
Let’s consider the loss of one associate in a six-person clinic. In this example, one associate could very easily represent 17 per cent of the clinic’s business. I can state this because, most often, you are going to lose the best producers: the people who have built their practice in your clinic and now envision a better opportunity in a different location.
Seventeen per cent of any business is substantial; rebuilding from this loss can be a leader’s nightmare. As captain, you must guide your ship through these rough waters and all the while pay vendors, pay loans, pay mortgages or rents, meet payroll and cover any other overhead expenses.

One person leaving will also have an effect on the rest of your colleagues. A remaining associate may think that: “If Tom made the move then why couldn’t I do the same?” If they also decide to go – and do so too soon after the first person leaves – then you could be facing a 33 per cent collapse in revenue. A 33 percent loss could create a situation from which a business may not recover.

Preventing the loss of associates
Choosing your associates wisely is one of the most effective ways to prevent these challenging scenarios from developing. You need to take the time to clearly define your requirements, the needs of the clinic and the wants of the existing staff, so that you can develop an outline that is suitable for the whole clinic. This strategy will also help the new associate understand the potential benefits that will be available to them in their new situation. It is important for you:

  • to be specific about what you need in an associate;
  • to know where to look for an associate;
  • to properly evaluate the new candidate;
  • and to understand the needs of the new person as well as the needs of the clinic.

Before you begin the search for a new associate, you must outline what you need and expect from a new associate. Your outline must be specific and it must be prepared ahead of time. There are a number of queries to address: Do you want someone with experience who will require less training, or are you willing to spend the time training a more junior person? What skills do you require to enhance those of the existing staff? Do you want someone who has similar skills to the group you have in place now? Or do you want to look for a unique set of skills that will allow you to create a foothold and draw from a different sector of the population (i.e., a new market)?

It is important, also, to be conscious of the dynamics of the existing clinic group and consider how the new person will fit in. You need to consider a number of issues:

  • Is the new person going to get along with the existing team?
  • Does it matter if there is potential for minor conflict/confrontation?
  • How are you going to approach confrontation issues during the interview process?

Put yourself in your potential candidate’s shoes, and compile a series of questions and answers that you might ask yourself.

Finally, it is more effective to prepare this list before writing ad copy for the job.

Effective ad copy for finding an associate
Concise ad copy is the most effective from a dollars-and-cents point of view. Budgets in massage clinics are usually tight, so the fewer words you use to get your message across typically means the more money you can conserve. Most magazines, professional journals and local newspapers charge by the number of words, so it is important to get your message across in as few words as possible. There are six criteria you should address in your ad:

  • experience;
  • background;
  • technique specialization;
  • hours of operation;
  • dollars/split;
  • contract/employee status.

Presenting these six items, in a straightforward manner, allows you to get to the point and capture the readers’ attention, quickly. Here is an example of concise ad copy:

Remedial Inc. has an opening for a passionate registered massage therapist with three plus years of experience. You will be joining a devoted team of professionals committed to client rehabilitation and wellness. Competitive contract percentage.
Please send resumé to: Remedial Inc., c/o John Doe, Etc.

This concise copy identifies the main criteria for the position in the following ways:

  • it calls for a passionate registered massage therapist;
  • it makes clear that experience is expected;
  • it defines clinic specialization;
  • it identifies a professional approach;
  • it makes a reference to remuneration and contract status.

The balance of the crucial items, split percentages and hours, can be addressed during the interview process.

This clear, succinct message captures and holds the reader’s attention quickly. Your ability to communicate effectively is established by the clarity of the writing style. This unambiguous message initiates the beginning of a potential working relationship. People who act on the ad will have a good idea of what to expect during the interview process, and afterwards. The straightforward message will lead them to expect clear, frank communication without a lot of exaggeration. The implied professionalism in the text indicates that each of you will have to live up to a professional standard during the interview process and after the mutual decision is made to work together. Passion for the work comes through loud and clear. And the clinic name provides additional information regarding the type of practice in which the clinic specializes.

Alternative communication strategies
Advertising, however, should not be your only resource for filling that spot on your team. Great associates can be found by using a number of methods: begin a word-of-mouth campaign in your local community, connect with the local massage therapy association, engage your existing associates in the process, make contact with your competitors, visit the closest massage college – where you might speak with the professors, post openings on the job board and touch bases with other health-care professionals.

Any one of these resources could be invaluable to your current search and could also be useful for future requirements. Different people will provide varied levels of assistance. However, it is important to note that anyone in business will be encountering a similar set of the problems that you may also encounter in operating your clinic.

As a final point, you should keep your eyes open and your ears to the ground at all times, for any possibility that may present itself. An accidental meeting, or someone moving to town, could very well provide the opportunity for you to fill that vacancy now or at some time in the future. My advice is to use every resource at your disposal.

The following criteria covers the attributes that I explore in a promising colleague:

  • dedication to his or her craft
  • exceptional client care
  • good communication skills
  • excellent documentation skills
  • dedication to continuous learning
  • commitment to the welfare of their clients
  • commitment to the welfare of the clinic
  • ability to be a team player

I must point out that finding someone with all of these proficiencies is a difficult assignment. Each of us has some of these qualities, but almost everyone will need to improve in one or more of these competencies. As a bottom line, when you are able find a person committed to continuous learning and dedicated to their craft, then you have a candidate who should prove to be a valuable asset in your clinic.

Taking the time to clearly define your requirements, and outlining the needs of the clinic and the desires of the staff, will allow you to develop an outline that will assist you and your new crew member in making the right decision. Building the proper foundation will also help you to develop a motivating culture that will keep your associates interested and committed to the long-term benefit of the clinic, the clientele and themselves. This is only a first step in developing a long-term associate, but it is a very valuable first step that will allow you, the clinic, the clientele and the associate to garner numerous benefits over the time period you choose to work together.

Jim Smyth owns and operates a clinic in Peterborough, Ontario, with seven massage therapists and a fitness facility on site. Smyth’s e-Book Find and Keep Great Associates is available at

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