Bear with me - I will get to the point of this message, but the context around what MassageBook is and why it was created is important to understand first…
As many of you know, I was the founder of Massage Warehouse. What started by selling paper face cradle covers that I cut up evenings in my house to a few local massage therapists from my sports massage practice in Atlanta (when the internet was still a very, very new thing) grew over a decade to become a fairly sizable business. That business consumed me, however, and in 2006, I decided to sell the company and step away. I wanted to live a more sane life and start a family - and I was very, very tired. It was a painful decision to make, but there really was no other choice.
In the years that followed, my wife and I moved to northern California and started a family. I slowly regained my health - and with it (eventually), a desire to get back into business. I considered many options, but nothing I looked at “spoke” to me. The secret for me to succeed at something has always been a feeling of “I don’t have a choice. I absolutely have to do this, or I can’t live with myself.”
It took a long time for me to realize what it was that I “must” do. I had to find a way to pay back the community of massage therapists and bodyworkers - and the profession as a whole - for the success they allowed me to experience. I feel an overwhelming debt of gratitude to massage therapists for the substantial financial rewards I received from the sale of Massage Warehouse. They were the reason for the success of the business.
The vessel for paying it back, as you probably realize, is MassageBook.
The vision for MassageBook was (and still is) to provide every massage professional with the absolute simplest to use and extremely low priced software to manage and grow a practice with. I gained a lot of business and marketing experience in my days at Massage Warehouse that I felt could only be shared with large numbers of practice owners via a software solution that “did the business things for you” as much as possible.
I also felt strongly (still do), that consistently getting the benefits of massage in front of the public and making it super easy for them to find modality-specific specialists who could be booked quickly and easily online with great confidence was a critical step towards the ultimate vision: getting massage to be accepted and universally recognized as a key part of our healthcare system.
I felt that I was in a very unique position to make a difference, and that as wonderful as the AMTA and ABMP are in supporting our profession, that they would not undertake something as financially risky, and outside of their sweet spots, as developing a full software platform for the long term benefit of all.
I realize some of you are probably thinking “So what. You created another successful business - how is that considered paying back?”
I realize that many of you might think of MassageBook as a big business that makes tons of money, but let me open our “kimono” and share the reality of things. I first began working on this project ten years ago. It first took a very painful and expensive 2 year lesson in how not to start and run a software company and, after realizing it all had to be thrown out, another start from absolute zero to finally get MassageBook on the right track. It then took another 5 years to slowly build our team and develop the software to a place where it could be a legitimate contender with competing products. And all that time the business was losing a lot of money.
I have no investors. I have paid the bills, the salaries and all the other costs that a business incurs. I’ve also paid to support thousands of newer practices on the free pricing plan during the entire time - and still do. We don’t make a big deal about it - we just do it because it’s the right thing to do to help those starting out. For our paid plans, we keep our prices as low as we possibly can, even though we know we could charge more. It took 9 years for us to reach break-even. That was early last year, in 2019.
Since then, we’ve been taking our earnings and have invested in adding more staff and developers to increase our rate of progress on software development and to further improve the level of support we offer our customers. Our team numbers about 20 dedicated and hard working people in total. It’s a small group, but they’re all very dedicated and, I’m convinced, manage to put out the work equivalent to teams twice our size.
I have put the last 10 years of my life and the majority of what I received from the sale of Massage Warehouse back into MassageBook with no real hope of ever being paid back. And even though there’s a little left over each month now, I still don’t pay myself a salary.
I share this not because I want or need any sympathy - only to illustrate the level of my ongoing commitment to the massage community and this project. It’s way, way beyond a job for me. And you should know, and feel great about, being part of something that benefits all of our bodywork brothers and sisters.
Now let’s talk about the present day challenges you’re facing with your practice and what we can reasonably do to help you get through this - and to get your practice ready to hit the ground running once the crisis stage passes and we can all get back to what the new normal ends up being.
First, I know money is on your mind. We’re going to help, but giving our software away for free while our expenses stay pretty much the same is just not feasible given that our pricing doesn’t provide any real profit cushion. I also feel strongly about avoiding any drastic action that seriously sets back the realization of the long term vision of MassageBook being a platform on which our profession can grow.
So here’s what we’re going to do in attempt to provide you with some immediate relief, while still helping to set you and other practice owners up for a rapid recovery:
We’re going to cut your current subscription fee in half for the next month. There’s nothing for you to do. Whenever your next monthly billing occurs, from Tuesday March 23 (tomorrow) forward, you’ll see your 50% credit applied. In four weeks we’ll see where things stand and we’ll consider extending this 50% cut.
We feel strongly that communicating with your clients during the next month will be an important step towards getting your schedule filled quickly once you open your doors again, so we’re turning on the premium marketing features of Email Campaigns and Promotions for all plans for the next month. We’ll be creating a video this week to show you how you can use promotions to sell gift certificates while you’re still closed, which may help you manage your cash flow.
We’re also making the Gift Certificates feature available to everyone for the next month. We saw a number of practices selling a lot of gift certificates last week to clients that want to support their therapists. This allows you to make it very easy for them to do so.
We’re eliminating any fees related to sending you new clients from MassageBook or Google for the time being. Not a big deal right now, I realize, but we’ll keep this going once you can start seeing clients again. Once we see practices are back on track, we’ll reintroduce these.
We’re also eliminating any fees we may collect from managing Membership plans until things pick up to normal for practices. If you feel that offering memberships will help get your clients back in the door and seeing you regularly again once your doors are open, now is a good time to set up a Membership plan and make sure it’s ready to share with clients whenever you feel the time is appropriate.
Since unused membership credits can roll over and be used in the future, it’s the perfect way to ensure reliable cash flow each month while encouraging regular visits from clients and offering them tremendous flexibility as to when they receive their pre-paid appointments.
We’re going to stay on top of any developments related to small business loan assistance programs and other government offers of assistance to small businesses. We’ll do our absolute best to keep you informed of anything that may apply to massage and bodywork practices. I expect that the government will be announcing relief packages for both individuals and businesses in the weeks to come. Along those lines, the SBA is already accepting low interest loan applications for any states and areas that have been designated as disasters. I’ve also heard that some local banks are offering 0% loans to small businesses. That’s anecdotal at this point and I’ll try to get the facts as soon as possible.
Lastly, I want to make sure you understand how much I (and our entire team) value your support. We wouldn’t be here or be able to pursue our mission without it. Let’s help each other get through this sudden and dramatic challenge that’s been thrust upon us. If we do this, I’m certain that we’ll find ourselves stronger and even better off than we were before.
Wishing all of you good health, and sense of calm from knowing that this too shall pass…
- Author: Mark Volkmann
- Published: March 23, 2020