Coronavirus Strategies for a Massage Business

Bodyworks DW Inc. is a studio in New York offering therapeutic massages and more. David Weintraub and his staff’s services include medical massage therapy with a clinical approach for pain management. David and his highly trained staff offer treatments to help clients feel better in a lasting way.

Unfortunately, his business is in a high-touch industry and had to close the doors to their physical space because of the coronavirus COVID-19 crisis. We chatted with David during this difficult time to see how he is keeping his head above water using creative strategies.

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How are you holding up during this scary time?

David Weintraub: It has been very weird to say the least. My business model for Bodyworks DW has basically been "do one thing, the best." And we really nailed that ethos over the last 5 years and had what most would consider explosive growth. I think back to when I started hiring my first employees in 2015. My private practice gross revenue was just over 100k. Last year we filed for 1.2 million.

How do you feel about shutting your doors to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

DW: We are literally prevented from doing that one thing that we are the best at. Prevented legally, ethically, morally, and really from pure self-preservation. I myself have an auto-immune disorder (psoriatic arthritis) and am on an immuno-suppressant to manage it. So I'm in a higher risk group for bad outcomes if I were to catch this virus. And our profession, massage therapy, is on a higher likelihood that many others for transmission. Can't exactly socially distance and give a massage. So, really, it’s fairly devastating.

Do you have strategies to stay connected with your clients and offer them the top-notch service they are accustomed to?

DW: As hard as it was, we decided to close our doors on March 16th, actually 6 days before we were legally mandated to do so. We talked together as a team and realized there was no way to square staying open with the "do no harm" ethos that our profession mandates. We are working on a few new things. For example we’ve produced 1-on-1 video self-care consultations, group Zoom pain relief classes, and our Bodyworks DW TV self-care video subscription library.

These are just getting started but are all solid ways that we can diversify and create some potential non-massage related income. Hopefully, the time we put into them now will grow into a significant new revenue sector for the business. And help pad the monthly revenue for the probable time it will take to regrow business back to where we were pre-coronavirus.

How are you keeping up communication with your team?

DW: One very helpful and important thing we've done that has helped both me as the owner, and the staff, is have at least weekly Zoom meetings to keep everyone updated. Updated on the newest research, updated on relief funding, brainstorming as a team what sorts of virtual content we could offer, crying on each other's virtual shoulders, etc.

Having most of the staff show up for these regularly keeps me feeling positive, and also forces me into the position of having to create positivity. Of course I try to be transparent.....if I don't know something I don't make false promises, but I do want everyone to know that I am looking out for them.

Are you keeping busy during this downtime?

DW: Bodyworks is really viewing this time as an opportunity to work on potential side projects that we normally don't have time for. The video and virtual offerings have always been a possibility, but one we never really had time to focus on as time was better spent on the main business of in person medical massage. Since we are literally not allowed to practice massage therapy right now, having something else to work on keeps us sane.

How are you funding your business currently?

DW: We are weathering as best we can….a few weeks ago we received an advance on the EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loan ) which is a small help and keeps us afloat for a few more weeks. Just a few days ago, we also received a PPP relief loan from the SBA which helps us at least chart through the next couple of months. I’ve worked with SmartBiz before for our first SBA 7(a) loan. I believe having an existing relationship with the SBA seems to be a factor. I'm thankful to SmartBiz for helping build that relationship since our first loan in 2017.

On the "creative and positive side" we really are all in this together. If we can get back to work in the next 90 days even at diminished capacity, we can very likely stay afloat through the next 12-18 months while a vaccine is being developed. We might have to close one of our two offices, we might not. But I don't think we'll have to close everything completely and we just might get through this totally intact.

Any words of wisdom for other business owners during this time?

DW: Words of wisdom.....I guess I would say this. Really think about whether the need for your business is reasonably likely to return post Covid-19. And I do think most businesses will still be relevant to people and nobody wants to spend the rest of our lives inside without human contact except on a screen. If the answer is no, well, maybe your business wasn't really providing something valuable in the first place. Take this time to rethink how you can be of service to society and humanity. You'll still have your customer contacts and they will still be totally interested in anything you have to offer of value in the post-corona world.

Additionally borrow what you need to borrow. Invest what you need to invest. Make deals with your landlords if you can. Cut costs, put things on hold. Shrink if you have to. You grew it before, there is no reason you can't grow it again. Whatever version of that you can engage in, the rewards are totally immediate. And a great way to stave off the massive fight or flight fears going on right now.

Maybe I should get to watching all the seasons of The Walking Dead so that I'm better prepared for what’s ahead. < laughs >

To learn more about David’s business, read his company story on the SmartBiz Small Business Blog: Bodyworks DW: How an SBA Loan Grew a Medical Massage Therapy Business.

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