A Business Lesson That Hurt: How NOT to Fool Yourself

I wanted to start an on-site, hotel massage business. I had a business mentor, Dave, and he gave me my first task to do.

I did it, but then I made a critical mistake.

I didn’t have him check my work—and it cost me big-time.

Massage and Other On-Site Services

Not knowing that I had made a critical mistake from the get-go, my wife, Lisa, and I took the initial idea of an on-site, hotel massage business and expanded it. We decided to offer a full range of on-site services.

I have to admit that our bigger business idea was pretty, freakin’ cool.

We hooked up with a local chef, and we offered a package where customers could get a couples massage and a gourmet meal at their house or in their hotel room.


One downside to massaging when a gourmet meal is being prepared in the room next to you is the mouth-watering aromas wafting your way.

It will take me 5 minutes to clean up. Save me a seat!

And There’s More…

We also connected with a salon so that we could offer on-site hair, manicures and pedicures.

We even experimented with professional dinner guests. Okay, that needs some explaining.

A professional guest needed to be an expert in an interesting topic and also needed to be entertaining.

For instance, we recruited a local, retired, history teacher who was an expert in the U.S Civil War. He was really good at making history come alive.

Putting on the Ritz

So this is how an evening might look with our services:

Bev, a bazillionaire, is having a small dinner party.

She hires us to do chair massage for her guests before dinner. She uses our on-site chef for the meal. After dinner, our Civil War expert does an informal presentation about Civil War songs. (By the way, he was great at getting people to sing along.)

Oh, and anyone could get a Brazilian wax in between the massage, food and singing. Joking about that one.

Back to how I screwed up…

So, as wonderful as our on-site massage business sounded, there was a giant problem. The market for our core, money-making service—on-site, hotel massage—wasn’t big enough.

My Business Mentor Tried

This was not my mentor’s fault. Dave first instructed me to do a survey to see if there was a market for on-site massage at local hotels.

I did.

I called all the hotels within a 15 mile radius of our offices and asked the front-desk staff how often guests inquired about massage.

Once I finished surveying all the hotels, I did a happy dance.

Here’s why: (One to two massages per week per hotel) X (2o to 30 hotels) = 80 to 240 massages per month.

I gave Dave the good news.

When he started to ask me questions about the survey itself, I assured him that the numbers were solid.

Not a Good Idea

But as you may have guessed by now, my survey was severely flawed.

First, I had only asked front-desk people about the number of massage requests per week. In retrospect, I should’ve asked Sales Directors and GMs, too.

Next, some front-desk people had initially reacted as if massage at a hotel was something new to them. That made me wonder if they might be pulling their “massage request” numbers from their butts.

Also, later on I had learned that there’s a high turn-over with front-desk staff at hotels. And newbie, front-desk personnel wouldn’t have been around long enough to provide accurate information.

And lastly, I realized that I had asked leading questions when the front-desk person didn’t have an exact number, like: “Would you say 1 or 2 a week…a month?”

Damage That Was Done

So, because of this flawed survey, I pushed forward believing that the number of on-site, hotel massages needed to grow our business was there.

In essence, I spent money and lost time trying to build a full-time business with employees that was doomed to fail.

If I had accurate data from the survey, I would’ve approached hotel massage as a part-time gig to pick up extra money for me and one or two part-time employees.

By the way, if you’re looking to do on-site, hotel massage for extra money, this should help you out: Hotel Massage: How to Make Extra Money.

Going Forward

The physicist Richard Feynman once said: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”

This is how I fooled myself then: I saw disaffirming information while conducting the survey, like the front-desk people who really were out of touch with the request for massage at their hotels.

But my desire to make on-site, hotel massage a full-time business got in my way, which resulted in me “hiding” my work from my business mentor.

This is how I prevent “fooling myself” now–I have someone I trust review my work.

When you're too attached: It was the best biz idea ever even though it bankrupted me. Click To Tweet

Get an Extra Set of Eyeballs (Friend, Business Mentor, Coach)

If you have a big, business decision coming up or are finishing a crucial step in a business plan, here’s how you can get another set of eyeballs on your work:

  1. SCORE is nonprofit organization that offers free, business mentoring.
  2. Find a business mentor within your network of contacts, like a client with a strong business background.
  3. Hire a coach.

The potential advantage of a coach is that she’s got skin in the game (her rep and livelihood). So, she’s motivated to go the extra mile to make sure that you reach your goals.

Just downright confused? Let me know what’s going on. Email me anytime.

P.S. Hey, in case you didn’t know, I also have a free email group. Once you sign-up, I’ll notify you when my latest information is out, and you can opt out anytime:-)


(Visited 51 times, 1 visits today)
0 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: