Relocating Your Practice
The thought of relocating is a terrifying thought for many of us. Being uprooted from friends, family, work and everything that you are accustomed to is among the top most stressful situations that we will encounter in our lives.
By Andrea Collins
The thought of relocating is a terrifying thought for many of us. Being uprooted from friends, family, work and everything that you are accustomed to is among the top most stressful situations that we will encounter in our lives. Many therapists are faced with this situation either out of choice for a change of lifestyle or out of a sense of adventure. Many moves are the result of necessity, such as massage opportunity elsewhere, employment for partners/spouses, or family obligations.
Relocating out of a sense of adventure or a change in lifestyle provides the opportunity to do some investigating of your options ahead of time. Of primary importance, you should not inform your current workplace or clients of your plans to move until you have something concrete to tell them. You do not want to have to deal with a knee-jerk reaction from them if things don’t pan out and you stay put. In the meantime, you should be investigating the massage work opportunities in the potential new community.
Look for position postings and investigate networking with other therapists in the area. Get a feel for the climate of the massage market (see sidebar, “Considerations for moving your MT practice to a new area,” in this article for some things to consider). This is only a start to your investigation as your answers will create more questions, and this is a part of the process.
CONGRATS – YOU’VE MADE THE DECISION!
Once the decision to move has been finalized, you now have to deal with your active business. If you work at a clinic with other massage therapists, your responsibilities are slightly reduced versus being a sole practitioner working independently. But, once you know your timelines you can begin to make plans.
You need to review any contracts or leases to remind yourself of your contractual obligations in order to establish timelines to exit your agreement. Most clauses have specific timelines that need to be observed for notice. This is something you may want to consider when you are deciding upon your scheduling for the move – if you have a choice.
If you own a clinic or are an independent practitioner who maintains your own practice, you have many more decisions in your future. The size of your practice will come into play – if you have a larger practice, you may have the opportunity to sell your practice – as will business name (if you have established an identity outside of your given name), client list and goodwill that you have established in your community. Determining the value of the practice is where most therapists struggle. A quick list of considerations: fixtures (table, office equipment, linens, etc.), the size of your active and inactive client list and the previous history of your business (you should assemble statistics of your treatment times and gross income [not including GST/HST or expenses] for one to two years) will give you some idea of value. For a more comprehensive description of how this works, please see Lloyd Manning’s article titled “My Massage Therapy Practice – What Is Its Value?” in the business guide included in this issue of Massage Therapy Canada.
You also must consider existing liabilities against the name: leases for space, outstanding gift certificates and receivables, existing contracts that are tied to the business name (advertising, including ads, websites, etc.) to name a few. This brief list is only an overview of your options and there is a good chapter in Don Dillon’s book Massage Therapist Practice to help with your determination. The bottom line is, your business is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.
TRANSITIONING YOUR CLIENTS
When I recently relocated, I had to deal with all of the above – but the hardest part for me was telling my clients. Whether you are a therapist within another therapist’s clinic or a sole practitioner, you will be affected when informing your clients. If you have been in practice for a number of years, you develop relationships with clients that you see on a regular basis. Many of my clients had seen me for several years, some for over a decade. I knew that leaving my clients was going to be hard, but I was not prepared for the emotions that came after everyone’s final treatment. One of my clients put it best: “It feels like you are breaking up with me.” Imagine having to do this with 50 people. There were many tears shed during our farewells. One way I used to help deal with this loss was to do my best to find another therapist that I could refer them to in order to make the transition for my clients easier and to create as little disruption to their treatments as possible.
OTHER BUSINESS CONTACTS
Some final details you would need to deal with are the address notifications. We all remember our driver’s licence, health card, utilities and credit cards, but don’t forget your business contacts. These may include your regulatory body or new jurisdiction regulatory body (don’t forget many provinces have mandatory change of address notification periods); provincial or national associations; professional or lobby magazine subscriptions; school or additional training course mailing lists for education notifications or updates; investment or insurance companies; business related memberships, like Staples or massage supply outlets. Once you’ve established the list of contacts, you may consider keeping a file for future reference or in the event of future moves.
Change in our lives can be scary but also exhilarating and an adventure. If you are prepared and organized, your move can be less stressful, if not stress-free, and your new life can begin.
Considerations for moving your MT practice to a new area
- Is the area over-serviced or under-serviced? Examine population size versus number of therapists.
- Is the area urban or rural? This will help you to understand the client base you will be helping as well as start to develop your advertising strategy.
- Is there a group of therapists that you could network with?
- What are the going rates for massage?
- Do you need more or less liability insurance than you are carrying (leaving your jurisdiction)?
- Do you need to apply to another college or association or register before you can even work in this jurisdiction? – This is especially important because if you go from a non-regulated province to a regulated one, unfortunately, you will not be able to hang your shingle and start to work right away.
- If you are leaving the country, will you need a visa to work and would you qualify?
These are only suggestions and a starting point from where to start your investigation. Your answers will create more questions and this is part of the process.
Andrea Collins, RMT, has been a massage therapist since 1999. She has worked in a variety of settings, and owned her own clinic. Collins has taught business at a private massage school and has expanded to CEU seminars in business (four-part series) and a techniques course (Massage Smarter, Not Harder). She is currently working on a business book for Canadian massage therapists that is due out in the near future. For more information, please visit www.rmthelp.ca.