Why MTs Succeed: Massage Business Relationships

What’s the difference between a thriving massage practice and a surviving massage practice? Massage business relationships. Thrivers knows how to develop them. Survivors—not so much.

Most of us tend to ignore them.

For good reason: A business relationship is a little weird.

To sustain one, you can’t just keep talking about the weather nor do you want to be sharing deep, dark secrets.

Business relationships are in this awkward middle. They’re not superficial. They’re not super personal. And if you you don’t have experience with them, you’re going to do what I did and make them something they shouldn’t be.

Massage Business Relationships Mistake #1: Superficial

Years ago I wanted to build massage business relationships. So I made a list of doctors, PTs, and other health practitioners in my area. Then I called them.

“Hi, this is Mark Liskey. I have a massage business down the road from you. I was wondering if I could talk to Dr. Goaway…oh, she doesn’t take calls…could I drop off some of my business cards?…fantastic, I’ll drop some off tomorrow.”

Checkmark next to Dr. Goaway on the list. Cards to her the next day. Bam! Let the referrals roll in!



Because Dr. Goaway didn’t care. Why would she? I hadn’t had a meaningful interaction with her.

Massage Business Relationships Mistake #2: Too Personal 

Other times, I went the “let’s be buds” route.

Years back I contacted a chiropractor. We hit it off. I did demo massages at his office, promoted him to our clients, and went out of my way to get to know him.

All was peachy and getting peachier until one day at his office I heard him express his unsolicited political views to a patient.

As time went on, I noticed he did this quite frequently. It was almost as if his practice was a platform for him to rail against X, Y and Z.

Some patients agreed with him, others put up with him, while others asked him to stop (he didn’t).

Can you say unprofessional, un-therapeutic and offensive?

Pulling out of that business relationship was complicated and left a little bit of a rift between the two of us.

Aim for the Middle 

Eventually, I started to realize that the most successful business relationships I had contained these two elements: I strongly connected to the other business person over one or two shared values that related to work AND I didn’t go out of my way to explore the relationship outside the business context.

For me, shared work values are (1) pride in the work one did, (2) a desire to help clients/patients get better, and/or (3) a compassion for people in general.

A Success Story

Here’s a massage business relationship that was a winner

A while back I contacted personal training studios in my area and I offered to work on the owners for free. (Check out How to Build a Massage Business for $0 for more help with setting up demo massages.)

Out of five businesses owners, two bit. Of the two, one business owner had moved into corporate fitness exclusively. The other business owner, Rita, came in for a demo massage.

While Rita was vetting me (getting a massage), we connected on how to get and keep clients out of pain.

After the massage, she encouraged another personal trainer who worked for her to get a demo massage from me.

As the momentum built I offered to do demo massages at Rita’s studio. Rita was more than happy to have me there—especially because she wanted me to work on some of her clients that were in pain.

Rita started sending me clients and our business relationship grew.

Do I know how Rita votes?

Don’t want to know.

Do I know who Rita’s best friend is?

I know it’s not me.

Do my wife and I go out with Rita and her spouse for dinner?

Never gonna happen.

And yet our business relationship is just fine because we both value doing everything we can to get and keep clients out of pain.

When You Can’t Help Yourself

Have there been times when one of my business relationships turned into a good friendship?

Yep, a few over the years. Justin, a personal trainer, was one of them.

The relationship got tricky at times.

For example, if Dr. Suzi Sunshine hadn’t sent me a referral for awhile, I would think, Okay, time to do some demo massages at her office to get things moving again.

But if my good friend Justin hadn’t…hmm…what the hell was that all about?!

Is he mad at me?

Did he find another MT to refer to?

Better not have or he’ll be painting is apartment all by himself next week…butthead…

At the end of the day, our business relationship survived because we prioritized our friendship and didn’t obsess over the business part, which probably didn’t make it the most productive business relationship in the world.

The Quick Version

If you’re new to massage business relationships, here’s what I recommend doing:

  1. Recognize when and why you connect with someone. It’s a go if the connection is related to getting clients better, pride in your work or compassion in general.
  2. Don’t set out to be friends.

Think of massage business relationships as being on a scale. Superficial is on one end. Good friends on the other. Shoot for the middle mark.

  1. If a friendship happens, just know it’s going to be a little more complicated to figure out—but not impossible.

To start building business relationships so that you can establish an A-team of health practitioners and get the referrals cranking, check out Start a Massage Business: Connect with the Right Physical Therapist.

If you have a business relationship question, let me know. Better yet, join my email group. I’ll send you links to the information you’re looking for. It’s free and you can unsubscribe anytime you want. Sign up below:-)

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