What is My Experience Worth?
Updated: Oct 15, 2018
In the winter of 2010 I began my journey into the world of massage therapy work. This was a continuation of the work I had begun years earlier in the field of holistic wellness with food and nutrition and more formal. When I started I had a vision in my head for where I would work, because being a young idealist the luxury spa scene didn't allow me to change the world the way I wanted to. However, life had other plans for me. My first job outside of school was with a company that sends independent therapists to hotels and offices for in-room massage and office chair massage. After a couple of months of getting in to a rhythm of how things worked, I felt confident in my ability to start interviewing at some of the best spas in the area and I landed one at a popular downtown luxury spa. When I spoke with my classmates about where I was working, every single one of them was shocked to find me in a space like that. Truthfully, it was probably the best thing for me.
It was at that spa that I learned about the standards of the industry, and through the process of getting my license I gained an understanding of the standards of the governing massage board. On top of that, I met spa workers with much more experience than myself that taught me so much about the field that I had ventured into, as well as a community. While working at this spa I also worked in a physical therapy and rehabilitation clinic providing me with a first hand look at the medical side of things. I observed everything that happened everyday, taking everything in that I could to learn how to structure my own business without "recreating the wheel." What were the issues therapists and companies were dealing with and how do I limit those in my business? That attitude and activity finally manifested into me managing a spa and consulting for a chain spa franchise owner. I did all of these things for a period of approximately eight years, while running my own business.
Last year, I began to feel isolated and alone in my industry because I wasn't working with other bodyworkers regularly. The wear and tear of entrepreneurship was weighing on me and I realized how hard it is for some people close to me in other fields of work to understand the difficulties I was having. I just wanted a community again, so one of my long time colleagues told me to apply to work at a brand new spa being opened in the new MGM National Harbor. I applied and here I am...
This day marks 1 year and 2 months since I've been in this facility. I designed the signature massage on the menu. I've built a network of professionals that help me continue to build my business. I'm having a wonderful time with my team doing what we love. With all of those wonderful things happening I am currently sitting in the massage treatment room writing this to help myself find peace. It all stems from the sheer incompetence I've witnessed from the management company that runs the place. We operate like a hole in the wall that doesn't even attempt to meet board standards. I've heard boasting of having the largest spa in the region, yet we have one first aid kit on site, no water for guests, and for the last 7 months have struggled to keep the basic materials to do the work clients have spent their money on. The spa director claims to have 30+ years of spa experience yet can't figure out how to drive business without turning us into "Discounts-R-Us" and today we had to tell her that ear candles are not incense... On some days it's comical, on others I realize why she's had to replace nearly 60% of the staff that opened the place. I've come to realize that she hasn't trained the front desk and spa host teams well, because she is incapable of doing such. This is not an isolated incident either, speaking to other therapists I find that this is fairly common in corporate spas.
I don't write this to speak poorly against her or express a lack of gratitude. I'm very grateful for the opportunity to do something I enjoy for a living. It is precisely my love for the work that makes me demand a high level of excellence and beyond. So much so that I've made attempts to assist in bridging the gaps in where we are and where we need to be, only to be told by management to not cross jobs. This cold and heartless model of business is dying out, especially in places where creative and skilled employees work. I'm writing this because I want it to be known the type of business I am building. I know through my experience in running my own business that I don't know everything, and I'm excited for every lesson on this journey. I also know being on the other side that I don't enjoy my experience being completely ignored, especially when I suffer due to it. I look forward to being the boss that values and celebrates the input of my team. I want my team to feel as though they can use whatever skills they have obtained over the years to advance the cause of the whole. I want my team to feel as though I am pushing them to be the best version of themselves. I know it can work because I've been doing it on a very small scale and though I'm not paying my contractors enough for them to live off of, they will jump through hoops for me because they "feel the love" working with me.
I look forward to this next phase of business growth I am venturing into, and what it will allow me to do for those that have trusted me along the way. This post will be a reminder to myself of what is at stake, either build the business I dream of or let the industry remain as it is.