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Practice Management: Money & Healing … Mutually Exclusive?

In my previous article, I outlined how massage therapists can begin the road to financial fitness. This article looks at negative yet common beliefs about money, and how these beliefs may be harming more than our bankbook balances.

December 22, 2009  By Don Quinn Dillon

In my previous article, I outlined how massage therapists can begin the road to financial fitness. This article looks at negative yet common beliefs about money, and how these beliefs may be harming more than our bankbook balances.

These beliefs can arise from a dichotomy – a sharp or paradoxical contrast. On one hand, we see ourselves as altruistic healers. We are here to give and not receive. Yet, without receiving in the form of money, free time, recuperation and appreciation for our work, sooner than later the well runs dry … we become ineffective and unable to provide care.

To live in a North American economy, we require the means to pay for shelter, food, clothing as well as the refinements that enhance our learning and our lives. I’ve met with many good therapists who quietly suffer because they give too much away without replenishing and receiving.

In my own experience, I’ve struggled for many years to balance the needs of my family, to balance fairly the value of my work and the needs of the marketplace, and how to go from financial ignorance to intelligence.


Is it possible to attract wealth into one’s life, and still facilitate the healing of our patients/clients? Are wealth and healing mutually exclusive? I hope this article will encourage broad discussion on the topic.

Money Is The Root Of All Evil

In this oft-misquoted passage from the Bible, we see that the love (read that as “lust”) of money is the problem, and not the money itself. The apostle Paul states: “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (Timothy 6:9-10).

Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft recently pledged $6 billion dollars – most of his personal fortune – to eradicating illness in third world countries.  Past U.S. President Bill Clinton is actively involved in the fight against AIDS. Money is used everyday for philanthropic and humanitarian efforts, many of which could not be supported without charity.  Money is a vehicle to make things happen, and can do a tremendous amount of good.

In Making Peace with Money, Jerrold Mundis describes the true nature of money. “Money isn’t real – it isn’t a thing like an apple, a mountain or a piece of coal. It is an idea, a symbol.

It exists only in that it represents something else, other than itself.  The moment it ceases to do that, it ceases to be money.”

Do therapists have a distorted belief about money? We may struggle internally, thinking, “Money is bad” yet our reality suggests, “I need more money to sustain my business and my life!” Our pretense may suggest money makes us greedy, self-centred, uncharitable, and unconscious.

I’ve concluded that money is neutral, neither good nor bad. Money’s effect depends on our intentions and actions in its use. If you have a hammer, you can use it to build someone a home, or you can hit someone over the head with it. Same object, but different intention.

What intention will you ascribe to money?

“If You Pay More Than X% For Rent, You’re Being Taken For A Ride!”
Well-meaning colleagues and college instructors may suggest a hard-and-fast figure in massage therapy agreements that should never be crossed. If you cross it, the taunt is that you’ve been taken. I have found that this figure, whether a dollar amount or percentage agreement, is not based on fact but on fearful opinion.

Many therapists find that operating their own business can easily cost $2,500 to 3,000 per month in expenses. To take on an associate without properly apportioning the increased costs and risks makes for unsustainable business and broken business relationships. If you’re looking to associate, there are many benefits. You will find great value in a clinic that has high traffic “run-off” from senior therapists, mentorship, and the opportunity to observe well-established business systems that work.

If you’re looking to associate, I recommend that you identify four or five qualities of your ideal practice. Qualities such as:

  • established location and reputation;
  • other practitioners/potential for referral sources;
  • financial terms/quality of agreement;
  • potential for personal and professional growth;
  • close to amenities – important if you’re a parent and time-strapped!

Ask for interviews at several potential workplace sites.  Assign a rating of one (poor) to five (excellent) for each quality for each of the sites, and analyze the scores to carefully select your top two choices. Decide which site provides the highest value (and by the way, that doesn’t mean the cheapest rent!) and proceed to negotiate the terms and acquire a position. This exercise is useful in that it removes the emotion of the moment and encourages you to carefully weigh opportunities more objectively.

The rent that a therapist pays is based on the value the clinic manager and the associate assign to it. I implore you to take collegial opinions only as one piece of information, and instead determine what is fair based on the value you perceive in the opportunity. You will get what you pay for.

It’s Unethical To Profit From Associate Agreements
When a therapist becomes a clinic manager and takes on associates, they must acquire a whole new skill-set in financial accounting, human resource management, familiarity with business law, and stronger aptitude in marketing. A clinic manager carries extra risk and cost when they bring on an associate, and they should be paid for it.

The business becomes a valuable asset, and it must generate income to cover business expenses (BE), an owner’s draw (OD) for personal living expenses, and a return on investment (ROI). ROI is the reward for creating a successful business – store it for potential expansion, for emergencies and savings toward retirement.
Success is no small feat given that statistics show four out of five businesses fail within five years of start-up!

When you take the extra risk, and spend the time and money to open a larger enterprise, you spend the early years cultivating it so it can provide for you – like a garden provides for you at harvest time. 

To decide not to make money from your business is like sowing a garden only to leave the harvest on the ground. You and your associates rely on the opportunity that your business provides.

Your business has value and purpose. Businesses need to make money in excess of their immediate operating needs. Don’t put your business on a scarcity diet!

“In Our Agreement, You’re A Contractor”
Many massage therapists maintain their agreement defines the relationship as client (clinic) and self-employed contractor (practitioner). There are mutual benefits to this arrangement, in that the associate can deduct expenses incurred while providing therapy against their income, thus lowering their taxable income.  

The clinic manager needn’t bother with withholding taxes on the associate for federal and provincial tax, Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Employment Insurance (EI), nor provide workplace benefit packages or WSIB coverage. However, there are a number of business and regulatory laws we must comply with, regardless of our personal take on the agreements we make. 

If we carefully examine the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) document RC4110 “Employee or Self-Employed,” we observe that many massage therapy agreements appear more like an employee/employer relationship.

I outline some of the similarities and differences in my book “Better Business Agreements: A Guide for Massage Therapists,” but for now, let me recommend you visit the CRA website and review the RC4110 document.

The CRA makes very clear the consequences of improperly defining an employer/employee relationship as a client/contractor relationship. “An employer who fails to deduct the required CPP contributions and EI premiums must pay both the employer’s share and the employee’s share of any contributions and premiums owing, plus a penalty.”1

Part of attracting wealth into your life is to develop financial intelligence – the skills and experience to make sound, informed financial decisions. Ensure you’re building your financial and legal intelligence by being aware of regulatory and business law that impacts your business.

“I’m Sure I’m Making Enough Money”
How do you know you’re making enough money?

In my previous article, I stated the importance of knowing your average monthly business expenses, personal living expenses and income from all sources. You are making enough money if income from all sources provide for your business expenses (BE), owner’s draw for living (OD) and a return on investment (ROI) to put into expansion, contingency or retirement.  

If you don’t track your income and expenses and analyze them each month, chances are you may be borrowing to meet your expenses, or eating away at existing savings.

In a 2003 survey of massage therapists in Ontario, the authors reported that 43 per cent of therapists were not happy with their income. Further, of seasoned therapists seven-plus years in practice, fully one-third are not earning the incomes they desire. The researchers found that the average difference between what therapists wanted to earn per year, and what they actually earned exceeded a negative $20,000.2  

Ignorance is defined as “lack of skills and experience, uninformed,” which is converse to the definition of intelligence. Life is more fulfilling being intelligent than ignorant when it comes to money.

In Closing
If you struggle with bringing enough money into your life, the obstacle may be your beliefs. I know I’ve had to overcome many of my own harmful beliefs and have many more to actively work on.  

I think the best place to start is by actively examining our individual and collective beliefs about wealth and healing in our profession. I encourage you to take some time and examine your beliefs, then share your discoveries with friends, family and colleagues. Be prepared … money can be an emotional subject!  

“If we are seeking something in ourselves and in our common life, that is both deeply meaningful and unshakably real – then in this time and place, in this culture that shapes us, all right here today, we have no choice but to take very seriously the power money has – not only to seduce us or frighten us – but to show us what we can and must develop in ourselves, that which can never be bought or sold at any price.”

– Jacob Needleman, Money and the Meaning of Life

1. Employee or Self Employed?: RC4110(E) Rev. 06, pg 3
2. Collis & Reed: Report on the Massage Therapy Census 2003 – Membership Survey Report.

Donald Quinn Dillon, MT provides seminars, One-To-One Coaching and business tools for massage therapists. You can reach him via his website at

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