Early days as a massage mogul

Mega busy right now getting a handle on the new business. Took over last Friday after the usual round of complications, none of which I can be bothered going into. Walked in the door Friday and basically said, “Hi, I’m your new boss!” It went down better than it might have.

Since then I’ve tried to get a sense of how the joint operates, whilst looking to gradually introduce improvements across the board. Functional improvements are needed, but I don’t want to spook the staff there too much so that’s slowly, slowly. In the meantime I’m implementing some simple marketing jobs to get things up and rolling. I’ve advertised in the online advertising sites, both in general, and looking forward to Mother’s Day and the specials available then. The brochure is being re-done, business and loyalty cards printed, gift vouchers created. At some stage I’ll engage with the local traders to introduce myself, as well as to offer discounted massages. There’s also a hospital around the corner I want to get in contact with to offer discounted massage to anyone who can produce an ID. And so on.

To assist in all of this I brought in my own manager, otherwise formerly known in these pages as the yoga teacher. That moniker may be out of date as she’s also a marketing manager. It’s quite by accident that I got her involved here. I was having a drink with her, mentioned all of this was happening, and she piped up with I’m here to help if you need it. I do need it. She’s happy to take on a part-time possie, and is quite enthused at the prospect of marketing the business.

So, how’s it going? Hard to draw a line through things at this stage. Had a couple of goodish days, one very nice, and one ordinary. I might be little ahead when I take out all my costs. Given there has been no marketing put into the business since before Christmas, and the lack of general collateral, I’m satisfied that I can make some early inroads once our plans have been rolled out.

So far the biggest challenge has been the personnel. That’s not a huge surprise, and I had been warned. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I should be taking a step back. Here I am a middle-aged, burly Australian male. I’m not the sort you want to bump into in the reception area of a genteel massage shop. More importantly, I represent a difficult demographic when it comes to dealing with massage staff who are almost all Asian and completely female.

Having travelled through Asia a bit I was ready for the cultural divide, but knowing it doesn’t necessarily help bridge it. I’ve spoken very quietly and with a smile on my face, while getting the yoga teacher to act in my stead. I’ve bought chocolates a couple of days running – very happily received – and generally tried to allay any fears they might have. Most challenging is the most important person there – N.

N has worked there for more than two years. She’s an elegant, attractive Thai woman, but like many quite diffident with the likes of me. She works on reception, as well as giving the occasional massage – she is one of the staff customers request by name. She’s quite upset that the owners have sold out, despite the fact they exploited her shamelessly – working her 7 days a week at $10 an hour. She doesn’t understand that. She’s unsure I think of what she wants to do, and claims she no longer wants to do any massage. Complicating it further is that her English is no better than rudimentary, and she seems unable, or unwilling, to say exactly what she wants.

I’m giving her a lot of rope for now. I’m hopeful that she will calm down and that we’ll be able to establish some parameters going forward – which includes at least one day off a week, and a pay increase to the legal minimum ($16/hr). I’ve asked her to think about what she wants, and reassured her that we’ll help out in any way we can. It’s no good though if she won’t do any massage. I think she’ll come around.

In any case I’m advertising for someone else to help us out. A qualified masseuse who is also responsible, reliable, and capable of looking after reception as required. And I’m going to give another of the girls a retainer on top of her massage commission. She’s a go-getter, friendly, and has lots of energy – I’m going to encourage her to be the boss back of the house, of all the masseuse, savvy enough to know what needs to be done and capable of keeping them in line.

Don’t reckon you can have a successful business unless you have the right people. That’s the theory I’m working on.

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