Is Massage Franchise a Dirty Word?

That is the title of a recent panel discussion at the Alliance for Massage Therapy Education Conference last week in MN.

6 representatives from various franchises were on a panel to talk about what is going on in the massage franchise world.

Introduction by Eric Stephenson  Massage Continuing Education and Consulting.  Works with Elements in training MT on self care.

Overview of Introduction:

Eric had heard a story in 2005 ABMP said that 60000 people are leaving the massage profession.  Wanted to create something to change that statistic and help massage therapists survive in a career in massage.  Wants to help massage therapists extend their career.

The Blue Ocean Strategy in business means that there is a bunch of competitors in the industry called the red ocean – spas, chiropractors, health clubs etc.  The red ocean is the conventional way of doing business.  Wikipedia says The blue ocean strategy” tries to align innovation with utility, price and cost positions An example of the blue ocean strategy is how Circe De Soleil took the concept of circuses and turned it into a total experience and revolutionized the entertainment industry.  There are disrupters in any industry that change the way things are done like Napster, Netflix, Apple and are in every industry.  Are the franchises the disrupter in the massage profession?  Yes most definitely  but is it all for the improvement and longevity of the profession?  (My question)

Why don’t people get massage?   Deep tissue hurts the clients, or the pressure is just not right.

Why are franchises so popular?  Because the franchises have figured out what people want and what is most successful as far as services.  Consumer research helps them create their business.  People need to feel safe.   It is about systems.  The consumers are dictating what is offered.

Lee Oberg, – 7 locations in MN. 140 MT. 100% guarantee.

Michelle Merhib Maruniak, Elements founder.  3000 MT, 1.5million massages,  MT want jobs.  Consumers want consistency.

Kristine Fisher.  Elements Massage

Daniel Jaramillo, Massage Heights

Gary Myers, Scott Huber, Massage Envy

There was a lot covered so here is just my take on it all and the things that stood out for me.

The general consensus is that there is an increasing demand for massage and massage therapists.  There is a very big drop in enrollment in massage schools.  The franchises seem to want to put this on the low enrollments but the question really is why is the enrollment down?   They don’t seem to want to look at the fact that you can’t make a living working as a massage therapist although the franchise owners seem to say differently and they always will include tips into what a person can make.  Tips are optional, vary and are not to be considered part of the income.  Massage schools don’t know how to market themselves.   They have been doing fine for quite some time until the past few years.  Schools were full and the profession was growing until the franchises came along and changed things forever.

One of the panelists mentioned that issues with body mechanics seems to be a problem as mentioned by one panel member…but is that really the issue?  There is much more to body mechanics than just standing in certain ways and using your arms/hands correctly.  When people don’t feel valued or respected in their jobs, people use poor body mechanics.   They also are required to do back to back massage.  They probably don’t make enough  to get the required 1 massage a week that a massage therapist really needs to take care of themselves when doing high numbers of massage sessions.  Some of the franchises recommend one massage a month and one franchise makes it mandatory but 1 massage a month is not enough.

Why aren’t franchises doing advertising/marketing for careers in general to promote massage schools was one of the questions that was brought up.  The two could be working together.

What about connecting more with high schools and parents who are more concerned these days about whether or not their kids will be able to pay off school loans after college and are looking for alternative?


My comments:  What about franchises raising their rates so that they can pay their therapists more?   What about making the franchise fee less and the owners taking less money in order to pay the massage therapists more?  No one asked or talked about this.  If this happens, then the sole proprietor and small massage business can raise their rates too so that the franchise is still the low end of the fees to entice consumers.