Business Owner Lisa Keplinger Predicts More Standardized Massage Education Across the Nation

Lisa Keplinger1. Tell us a bit more about you and your practice as it is today? i.e. are you a solo practitioner or a business owner? If solo, what kind of an establishment do you work for, how large is it, what is the clientele like, what is the specialty offered? If it is a business that you own, kindly include the same time of relevant information that will give the reader a good idea about your establishment/practice. Please also include where you live and work?

I’m a business owner and a solo practitioner among many. The business is That’s the Rub Massage Therapy Center. We have five treatment rooms, eight massage therapists, a Tarot reader and an acupuncturist, we also have three front desk staff and a wonderful marketing manager.

Our clientele varies. We are a college town (Bloomington, IN) so we work with a lot of professors and students alike. There are also many businesses around us because we’re downtown that a lot of people from the surrounding businesses also come to see us.

Our specialty is our Therapeutic Rub. It’s focused on exactly what their problem areas are, then we pick them apart and put them back together again with an integrative deep tissue, myofascial and massage to name just a few of the modalities that most of us do. Then we all also have our individual specialties that come into play.

We consider ourselves family and is a family owned business. My husband/business partner and I established That’s the Rub Massage Therapy Center in March of 2010, we’re about to celebrate our four year anniversary. Each therapist is an independent contractor and is responsible for their own schedule/communication with our front desk staff to keep things running smooth and in an orderly fashion.

2. Tell us why you chose to go into massage and at what point in your life did you decide to do so? What were you doing at the time? Where did you first hear about the massage career? What factors influenced your decision? What were you looking to get out of this decision?

I was told by a friend one day that she thought that I’d make a great massage therapist. Even though I’d had several massages, it never occurred to me until she mentioned it that I should look into becoming one. My family and I were living overseas at the time. I was in my late 20’s and I was doing personal training, group fitness, and directing the kids after school program on Rheinmein AFB, Germany.

When we returned to the states I was working as a receptionist and kept hearing radio ads for Utah College of Massage Therapy ( I was living in Utah at the time) after a few months of listening to that day after day, I took it as a sign that I should go check out the campus. I was so excited about their program, that I signed up immediately, paid the parking pass, then called my husband and said, “I hope you don’t mind, but I just signed up for massage school.”

I went back to work and quit my job, school was full time with a 50min commute each way so I wouldn’t be able to work around the schedule. This happened on a Thursday, school started the following Monday. The rest, as they put it, is history.

At the time I decided to go back to school, I was looking to further my education in something that I loved, Anatomy and have a private practice. Little did I know that was only the beginning.

3. What were some of your questions and concerns before further pursuing your massage therapy goals? Talk about concerns with school and the profession itself.

I really didn’t have any questions or concerns. I was doing what was best for me and my family’s future. My main concern at the time wasn’t the school it was two weeks after school started, my husband lost his job, and we had to sell most of the stuff that we owned. We moved to Salt Lake City where I was going to school, so we could cut down on the cost of the commute. A week after that we found out we were pregnant. It was NOT an easy time for us.

I didn’t know much about massage as a profession. I was getting into massage because I wanted to be in private practice or so I thought. Thirteen months after having my practice, I sold it to move cross country to go into spa work. I was lonely to talk to colleagues and to do bigger things that couldn’t be accomplished in private practice.

4. What is your specialty and what are the top three contributing factors to your success today?

My specialty is kind of hard to describe. I do specific work with the client and their goals in mind, some massages are more active for the client than others. No two massages are alike. I guess in today’s massage world you would call it integrated. I call it effective and results oriented. If what I’m doing isn’t working, I keep changing things up until it does. Most of my clients come to me with something that needs to be fixed.

My top three contributing success factors would be: One- my wonderful supportive husband, without him I don’t even know if I would’ve become a therapist. He’s always there encouraging me to do what’s best for me, sadly he doesn’t tell me what that is, so I have to figure that out for myself. He’s my marketing guru as well as front desk help (when necessary), so he really does wear A LOT of hats. Two- Having a fixated love of Anatomy, Kinesiology and everything having to do with the human body, it’s so fascinating that I’m never bored.

It’s exciting to go to work every day. Three- My general managers over the years (at different resorts) I worked for, both the good ones and the bad ones (you know who you are). I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the best people. They taught me so much about how to be a good boss, consistency and patience. The bad ones taught me how to be better and how I want to treat others. All of those lessons were important. I was able to do stupid things and make bad decisions on someone else’s dime. So when it was time to have my own place, I knew what to do and how to do it with as little mistakes as possible.

5. What do you like about your specialty? What do you like about what you do in general as a career? Why?

I like my specialty because I use whatever “tool” I want to ensure that I’m assisting my client in getting the results they’re looking for. I like that my clients know they’re in good hands and I will do my best to help them.
I like that I’m my own boss. I know what I’m doing and I trust myself. In the past I’ve had to work for people that would hire me because they needed me and I’m an expert in my field, then proceed to tell me how to do the job.

That didn’t work for me. That didn’t make me feel good. Today and every day of the last four and a half years I feel good about going to work every day and getting to make my own decisions. I enjoy helping my staff feel good about themselves. Work should be enjoyable.

6. What do you not like about what you do? Why?

I don’t like taking time off, no one pays me to be out of the office and I enjoy being there. There are no sick days or vacation days without a lot of planning and hoop jumping to make it happen.

Then I need a vacation for my vacation. For me there really isn’t a lot that I don’t like about being in business for myself…. maybe the slow times, all the bills still need to get paid, but there aren’t a lot of clients walking in the door. Those times are scary. I’m hoping that most of that is behind us now.

7. If there were three things you could change about your work or the industry as a whole what would they be? Why would you change them? What would you change them to?

The three things I would change about the industry would be more business training in schools and more standardized training nationally, insurance coverage for massage as a preventative health care. I’ve had the honor of managing more than 200 people over the course of my career and I can say without a doubt that the therapists who treated their massage like a business, showed up professionally- ready to work, and had more hands on experience were by far and above better therapists than the ones with less education and experience. There is a difference between the therapist with 500hrs or less training and those with 800hrs or more.

Its confidence and the more business oriented the therapist the more successful they are. Some therapists do come by these skills more naturally than others, but it’s rare that the business minded therapist and the technically skilled therapist are one and the same without a lot of training in one area or another and they have to be willing to learn it. I remember the groans our business teacher used to get out of the class when it was time to write a resume vs the class that we learned cranial sacral.

It’s one of the reasons that we created That’s the Rub. I wanted a place where people could do what they loved to do and we would do the marketing, bill paying, etc. In most cases, the therapists learn some of the business side too (we share everything with the staff, expenses, sales, marketing, etc.), hopefully they’re absorbing the information should they go out on their own.

8. How long do you plan to practice and what do you plan to do after?

I don’t have a plan on how long I’m going to practice. That is my next step in my line of other duties to think about. I will be working hands on at least long enough for my husband and partner to graduate from his master’s program and be gainfully employed. However, I would imagine that until I figure out what I want to do next, I will do bodywork. It’s part of who I am.

9. Do you currently have another job or business whether full time or part time? Tell us a bit more about it and how you are able to juggle that with your massage career?

That’s the Rub Massage Therapy Center is my full time job, so is wife and mother. Anything less than full time commitment garners half time results. For me it’s all or nothing, it’s kind of how I roll. Anyone that isn’t happy with what’s happening in their massage career needs to ask themselves are they committed to its success. If not, maybe they need to reevaluate their plan. You must engage in the process, you must be dedicated at all times to the success of the process and you must be present to win.

10. What are some mistakes you made in your career pursuit that you’d like to warn other students about so they can learn from your experience and avoid it?

Get good accounting and financial advice. It’s not something that we therapists come naturally to, so we have to find a good numbers person to support us. They’re important and don’t be afraid to pay them for their services, the cheapest doesn’t mean the best, nor does the most expensive.

Find the person that suits your needs as well as someone you can get along with. The major mistake that I made early on as a contractor/owner was not keeping up on my taxes. I eventually caught up, but it was hard and arduous. Pay your quarterly taxes, hire and accountant so you know what those are and stay on time. It will bring you such peace of mind.

11. What would you advice someone who is looking at massage therapy schools? What do you recommend they look for and how? How do you recommend they determine whether the school is the right one for them?

Look at schools that offer the best education you can afford. Do they offer the types of bodywork modalities that you want to pursue and perform? How many hours they offer will depend on the state you’re in and what the state requires. Does the school offer financial aid? It was worth it to me to pay extra money for tuition to get aid and a better education.

Take tours of the school. Ask them questions about the program. If the school won’t do either, it’s not the right one for you. Everyone should be forthcoming about what they have to offer you when you’re paying them large sums of money. The only way to determine the right school for you is to trust your gut. Your gut NEVER lies! Your brain may try to talk your gut into something else, but don’t let it. Your gut knows best ALWAYS!

12. What do you recommend for someone who wants to go to massage school but cannot afford it?

Go anyway. The best investment that you can make is in yourself. Once you have skills you will make the money to be able to afford it. Go to school part time and work full time. If it’s worth it to you, you make it work. I know. I did it. It’s still worth it.

Now when we think back to that time we just shake our heads at how far we’ve come. It’s an awesome, crazy, wonderful ride. Buy the ticket, hold on to the rails and enjoy the ride. Especially on days when it’s scary. That’s how you grow.

13. What are your three biggest points of advice for an aspiring massage therapist today? What should they do/not do? What should they think about and consider?

Consider what you’d like to do in the field. One of the reasons I chose massage therapy is because I didn’t want to be bored. It’s such a wonderful world of choices and I’ve done it all. I’ve worked in a hospital (as a sub for another therapist), in private practice (too lonely), in resort spas (fun, but too much 7—14 treatments a day), as a spa treatment supervisor (hiring/training treatment staff), as a spa director (managing daily operations), as an opening director (building a spa from construction through daily ops- four times), as a spa consultant (opening a spa and training a manager to do daily operations) and now as a business owner (again), but this time as a co-op with colleagues to help grow and support and that help me grow.

We’re in this together and we work well as a team, but also as individuals. It’s really a wonderful arena. There are so many choices, the key is not to limit yourself. Where you think you will be and where you end up could be many miles apart if you’re willing to just go with where things take you. I thought I wanted to be in private practice. As you can see, if I’d stayed in my little cave, I would’ve missed out on some wonderful people, places (many different places) and opportunities. Never close a door on an opportunity, if you think it’s what you might want to do. After all how will you know if you don’t try?

14. Any open thoughts / comments – anything else that you’d like to share about yourself, the massage industry, profession, future, etc? If nothing, make one prediction for the future of massage?

Massage will see more standardized education across the nation. There is too hard of a push for it right now for it not to happen. As for anything else, the sky is the limit.

15. What is your passion outside of massage? What are your hobbies and interests which you pursue when you are not working? Tell us why you enjoy what you enjoy.

My passions outside of massage are running/racing, weight lifting, nutrition and yoga. I enjoy reading, mostly about running, nutrition and weight lifting and about the massage industry. I’ve always been a physical and sporty person, I ran track in high school and played volleyball and swam in junior high school.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve also tuned into more nutrition and how that supports the things I want to do (I used to work out so I could eat what I wanted), now I know that nutrition is 85% of attaining any fitness or life goal. On my short list are learning to kayak, which I hope to do this summer with my daughter, hiking more with my family, and traveling the country.

Lisa Keplinger, NCBTMB currently lives in Bloomington, IN with her husband, two kids, two puppies, and two cats. She is going to take the Certified Weight Trainer class in Indianapolis in April to do personal training again. She is the proud owner/director/manager of That’s the Rub Massage Therapy Center specializing in RESULTS oriented massage therapy. She also contributes to her website posts that her business partner/husband manages. Please feel free to contact her on her website here.

Neal Lyons is a founding member and volunteer contributor at the MTSI Institute, an information based portal dedicated to guiding and assisting aspiring massage therapists establish a successful career in massage. Neal is a published author and has collaborated on several mobile applications that serve the massage profession. You can view his published work on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Sony and Kobo. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and on Google+

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