Shortly before we got the keys to our location and could start improvements, I went overseas to visit my family. A few days after I arrived there, Renan called and told me someone else had bought the Massage Addict franchise system. My heart sank and I was really scared—what had we done?
Luckily enough, things turned out great! When I got back, I took a four-day crash course, training at a Massage Addict location in Ontario. There was an overwhelming amount of information, as they teach franchisees everything they need to know about running a clinic.
When searching for the right location, we narrowed down three options. The one we ended up with is excellent. At nearly 3,000 square feet, it’s really big compared to other Massage Addict franchises. There are 11 rooms and we were able to negotiate a very good lease rate, despite the large size. It’s right next to a gym and near a movie theatre, so there is lots of traffic coming through the area at all hours of the day. Success in a strip mall really depends on what other businesses surround you.
We opened our clinic on schedule in October 2014.
When we bought our franchise, the system was under its original ownership. Just two months later, while Masa was away in Europe, we heard it was sold and panic mode set in for her. As we got to know the new franchisor better, however, we realized the sale was actually very good news. The new owner had many years of franchising experience and there would be much more support available.
Since I’ve lived in Edmonton for almost my whole life and I’ve worked in the construction industry, I know the city very well. Our first clinic’s location, which is in a strip mall on St. Albert Trail in North Edmonton, gets phenomenal traffic, including people coming through on their way home from work, which is a perfect time for them to fit in some massage therapy. And as Masa mentioned, there’s a health club right next to us; its members come to us with a variety of issues, from muscle soreness to tightness.
We started out with three registered massage therapists (RMTs), one part-time employee and myself working at the clinic. There were a lot of hours to put in for the first six months or so.
I knew I could do it, as I enjoyed dealing with day-to-day clients and I was comfortable with working in the health industry. The scary part was being the boss for the first time in my life, which meant running the place myself and having people rely on me. For the first month, I lived and breathed Massage Addict constantly, because I was scared of failing.
One of the reasons I had a lot of self-doubt was that we were opening a new clinic in an untested location, rather than taking over an existing franchise. As we moved along, though, business grew and everything progressed in the right direction.
As we became busier, I had to learn to delegate more. I had to let go of certain tasks, as I could not physically manage it all by myself. I trained all of our employees to ensure they would provide equal and consistent quality of service. Our goal was to ‘wow’ every client who walked in the door.
Ultimately, this business is about the quality of the customer experience. Both Renan and I knew we wanted to have a positive impact in this regard.
This franchise was mainly supposed to be my wife’s job, but it has turned into a lot more than that. We split up our roles. She handles day-to-day operations, while I take care of making presentations to RMT schools throughout the city, recruiting staff and managing payroll.
When we opened, recruitment was a challenge. We received a lot of applications, but not all of them were who we wanted.
What makes Massage Addict different from its competitors, though, is how well it develops relationships with RMT schools, such that their graduates want to work with us instead of elsewhere. I really enjoy making presentations for and talking to people at the schools.
All the while, I’ve still been working my full-time job for the scaffolding company, which has meant lots of long days for me, too. At first, when our clinic wasn’t as busy, I could do recruiting in the evenings, but now that we have 21 RMTs, human resources (HR) is a bigger challenge. I’m working from the phone more than usual.