One of the most important decisions you will have to make as an RMT is whether you want to start your own business, or work for someone else. There are pros and cons to both situations, and not everyone is suited to running their own business. There are many misconceptions about the amount of work required to run a clinic, as well as what clinic owners are likely to earn from their business. If you’re considering starting your own business, it’s imperative that you make sure you have a firm understanding of everything that’s involved. The best way to do this is to create a comprehensive business plan.
What is a business plan?
Business plans are documents, usually 20 or more pages long, which describe in detail various important bits of research about a potential business’ likely success or failure. It looks at factors like the location of the business, potential customers (clients), the costs of running the business, what the competition is like, and potential income from the business.
Business plans are traditionally required when you’re applying for a business loan or some other form of external funding. However, creating a business plan even if you don’t plan to apply for a loan is hugely beneficial as a potential business owner. Gathering and organizing the information required for a business plan helps you to make educated choices about your business, and to avoid a lot of the common missteps that new business owners encounter.
There are several components to a business plan. We’ll break each one down, and give you some direction for what to include with each component.
The Executive Summary is a short form of the entire business plan, including the most important elements of each section. It’s usually only a couple pages long at most. It’s purpose is to provide a concise “short form” of the business plan for someone to review quickly, so they get a good summary of what’s contained in the more detailed plan. It should be included at the beginning of your business plan, but it’s also a good idea to have independent, stand-alone copies ready too. Because the Executive Summary contains information from all the other sections, it’s better to leave this create this section last.
The Business Overview includes general information about the business.
You’ll want to include the proposed structure of the business. The three common types are sole proprietorship, partnership, or incorporation incorporation. If you’re not sure what the difference is, you can read more about business structures here.
You’ll also what to include information about the history of the business (what lead you to creating the proposed business), the type of business (a massage therapy clinic, multi-disciplinary practice, mobile practice, etc.), and the location.
The Business Overview isn’t long, but it should give the reader a clear idea of what sort of practice you will have.
The Operations Plan is a description of the day to day activities of the business. In the case of a massage therapy clinic, you would describe the different types of tasks completed at the business, such as booking appointments, maintaining and storing client records, treating clients, and so on. This section is also where you describe the layout of the business – how many rooms will the clinic have, and what purpose will each of them have? What types of employees / contractors will work at the location, and what are their general duties?
Assume the reader has never been to a massage therapy clinic before. After reading the Operations Plan, the reader should have a clear understanding of your business’ daily operations.
You will want to show that there is demand for massage therapy in the region you plan to operate your business. The Market Analysis section is where you describe the demographics of the area (population, age, average income level, etc). You can find this information in the Census Program data from Stats Can. You start by searching for the city where you want to pull data from, and go from there. The most recent data as of the time of this writing is from the 2011 census, but the 2016 data should be released soon.
You’ll want to identify your target market(s) in this section. Target markets are subsets of the general population that you believe your services will appeal to the most. Although it can be tempting to say “I want to target everyone!”, it’s usually better to focus on a particular niche of the population and focus on your attention on them. Obviously you can still treat people outside of your target demographic, but narrowing your focus to a niche allows you to create more effective marketing, build your client’s reputation within that community more quickly, and differentiate yourself from competitors. Examples of target markets include “new moms”, “youth”, and “athletes” (ideally specific types of athletes, such as “runners” or “group sports players”). You should pick a target demographic that you are already very familiar with; usually a niche that you actively belong to yourself.
Once you have a target market figured out, you can use the demographic data to see if the population of the area you selected is likely to support your business. For instance, if you’re planning on opening a clinic which focused on “new moms” in an area which is predominantly elderly, you will struggle to find clientele.
You’ll also want to find census information specific to health conditions and healthcare in the area. Stats Can has information on this topic as recent as 2013 as of the time of this writing. Identifying common health concerns in the area can help you narrow down what areas your practice could focus on, based on what impairments are likely to be prevalent in that region.
It’s helpful and visually appealing to create charts and graphs to show the data you collect in this section. You can use Excel or similar programs to show how large your potential target markets are, how much of the population is likely to have conditions that you can treat, and so on.
Products and Services
In this section, you’ll describe all the various services (and products) your practice will offer. You will want to break down each service / product with a brief description.
Assume your reader doesn’t know anything about massage therapy. After reading this section, they should have a good idea of what a typical treatment will entail (intake, assessment, treatment, home care, etc.).
Sales and Marketing
The Sales and Marketing section is where you will outline your price list, and how clients may purchase your services (in clinic, online, etc.).
You will also use this section to describe your marketing efforts. How will you market reach your target demographic? What will make them want to buy your services? Be specific here – instead of “I will do short in-person seminars running groups”, specify which running clubs you’ll approach, the length and topic of the seminar, a proposed schedule for the talks, and so on. Include several different marketing approaches here, and be mindful of potential costs… you’ll need to know how much each marketing activity will cost for your Financial Plan. Outline how you track to see which marketing activities are working and which aren’t.
Need some marketing ideas? Check out the ClinicWise article “RMT Marketing Strategies“.
Identifying how much competition you will have in your chosen region, and the relative strengths and weaknesses of each of those competitors, is a big part of determining whether starting a business in that area is viable.
You can use Google Maps to search for massage therapy businesses in a specific region. On the map, you can see the areas that have high or low concentrations of massage clinics. You can also use the “Street View” function to see what the area looks like – is it an industrial area or more of a suburb? Is there a major attraction (mall, big box store) nearby, or is it almost entirely residential? Does the area look very wealthy, more low-income? Where are the major employers, likely to offer their employees benefits, relative to the area?
Once you have found a region you like, and have identified your nearby competitors – I would recommend other clinics within a 3-5km radius of where you want to open your clinic, but it depends on the population of the area – you will want to research each one. Check out their location, as well as their marketing materials, to identify strengths and weaknesses. Do they have easy access to parking? Are they located for a lot of walk-in traffic? Are they visible from a busy street? Does the location look profession? Is their marketing appealing? How many practitioners do they have, and what services do each offer? Are their prices above, below, or on par with the other competitors? What makes them stand out from the other clinics? What might turn a client off from visiting that clinic? Are there any elements that would appeal to (or dissuade business from) your target market?
For each competitor, briefly discuss how you will compete against their relative strengths and weaknesses. Make sure to detail what will make you stand out from them. Will you offer services none of the other clinics do?
The Management Team section is where you provide the professional biographical information for all key people involved in the business. In a typical sole proprietor massage therapy practice, this might be just the owner of the business, but in larger practices it could also include proposed co-owners, clinic managers, chief operational / financial / sales officers, and so on. A list of each person’s qualifications is important to show they have the skill set required to make sure the business operates effectively.
The Financial Plan section is likely going to be the most detailed and time-consuming component of your business plan. However, it’s also arguably the most useful part, as it will help you figure out if your business is financially viable or not.
In the Financial Plan, you’re going to include all financial information related to your business. This includes:
Start up costs. What investments will you need to make before you even open the doors? You’ll need to factor in things like registration and insurance, any deposits or down payments for property / renovations / vehicle / etc., stocking your initial supplies, purchasing office and treatment equipment, legal / consulting fees, and so on. Create a spreadsheet and list every single item, along with it’s cost. Don’t estimate costs – research the cost of each item so you have a realistic idea of what the actual total will be.
Ongoing expenses. What monthly / yearly costs will your business incur, just to stay open? Lease payments, hydro and other utilities, yearly registration and insurance renewal, online booking / record keeping systems costs, and other monthly or yearly expenses should all be itemized and listed.
Marketing and promotions. Any new business will likely need to invest a significant amount of resources into acquiring new clients. We often her the value of word-of-mouth marketing, but we need to get clients in the door first. Depending on your target market, and considering the marketing initiatives you described in the Sales and Marketing section, compile a list of all the costs associated with your planned marketing activities. Many of those costs may be on-going.
Occasional / per-treatment expenses. Some expenses fluctuate based on how busy you are. For instance, any supplies you use as part of a treatment will be consumed more often when you get busier. List all costs related to offering your services (locations, acupuncture needles, cleaning supplies, etc.), and break down roughly how much of each supply you use per typical treatment.
Debt repayment. Many small businesses will require to take out loans to cover their start up costs. Make sure to factor in debt repayment into your financial plan. Other debts like student loan payments should may also be considered business expenses – separate out how much is payment on the principle, and how much is interest payment, as you can possibly deduct the interest you paid at income tax time.
Expansions / Renovations / Repairs. Any successful business should have a plan in place for growth. You may want to upgrade equipment (like going from manual to hydraulic tables), renovate your space, of even more into a larger space after your business grows to particular size. On the other end of the spectrum, things break, and money may need be invested periodically for repairs. You’ll want to plan to set money aside regularly to allow for repairs and long-term growth.
Income taxes. As a business owner, you will be responsible for setting aside money for income tax. Your income tax rate varies based on the amount of money you earn during the year (you can find more information on that here). Remember to factor that in as you calculate your income.
Salaries / IC payments. Most successful clinics eventually need to hire additional therapists in order to expand. You will want to include any staff payments in your financial plans as well. Some clinics prefer to make their staff employees, otherwise prefer to go the independent contractor route. The rules for employees and contractors are different, both in payment structure and in labour conditions, so make sure you have a firm understanding of the difference before deciding how to proceed.
Projections. Projections refers to how much income (gross and net) the business is expected to generate. Calculating projections isn’t an exact science, as you’ll need to create estimates about the number of clients you’ll acquire, especially earning on. As a general rule, it’s better to be conservative and low ball the number of clients you’ll acquire for the purpose of creating projections. You would typically break this down into weekly or monthly segments. If you’re not sure where to start with your projections, you can refer to the ClinicWise article “How much should I charge for my fees?“. It features an Excel spreadsheet tool you can download and play around with some numbers to see how much income you can expect to earn with different service pricing.
The information is usually presented in a table (spreadsheet) format, which is set up to do the calculations for you. That makes it easier to adjust the calculations if one of the amounts changes. The scope of the Financial Plan in your business plan should cover at least a couple of years.
At the very end of your business plan, you should include your references. Typically this is supporting evidence for the claims you make throughout the business plan – print outs of pricing for equipment, raw demographic data, resumes for your management team, and so on. You don’t have to include price lists for cheap office supplies like paper and pens, but any large purchase (massage tables, bulk lotion, office furniture, commercial lease pricing, etc.) should be included as reference.
That’s it! Take your time when creating a thorough business plan. It’s better to have accurate figures rather than hasty ones, or you’ll only end up making uninformed decisions and hurting your business in the long run. It’s always a good idea to have your business plan reviewed by someone you trust who is familiar with business operations, as well as an accountant or someone in the financial industry to help you figure out if your projections are realistic.
- Business Plan Creation Guide for RMTs - February 7, 2017
- Massage Therapy Marketing Stories Contest! - July 8, 2016
- A Beginner’s Guide to Reading Massage Therapy Research - March 13, 2016