June 30, 2010

Full Slate – The convenience of online scheduling within your reach!

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Chris Korol, co-founder of Full Slate, which is a company that provides a popular online appointment scheduling solution for many massage clinics and other small businesses in the health and beauty space. I was really impressed with what I learned about Full Slate and wanted to share with our community. And for what it’s worth, if you are running a practice and do not yet offer online scheduling for your clients, Full Slate is real find and definitely worth checking out.

Before founding Full Slate, Chris was working full time, leading a busy lifestyle with a busy schedule. Making appointments for personal services like a haircut or massage was always a challenge. With a day full of meetings, it wasn't convenient to get on the phone during the workday so she usually tried to make appointments for personal services after hours. She recalls leaving a lot of voicemails, not always hearing back, and missing out on preferred appointment times once she did. The phone tag was a real obstacle to getting an appointment scheduled.

This is when it occurred to Chris that small businesses, especially those that didn’t have the luxury of dedicated phone staff, were probably losing out on a significant amount of business. With a background in online marketing she felt that service providers who have a website aren’t getting full value if their clients still have to pick up the phone. Consumers are beginning to expect that they can do everything on the web and they really want to be able to schedule appointments online too. So Chris decided to make it her mission to help small businesses serve their clients better by enabling easy and affordable online appointment scheduling.

After looking at some of the scheduling software that was already on the market, Chris and her team noticed that many of the existing solutions were un-intuitive and hard to use. Small businesses need to focus their time and energy on providing great service and taking care of clients, not figuring out how to use some software. So the Full Slate team set out to make the friendliest possible scheduling solution - for both businesses and their clients. For example, one drawback with some of the existing solutions is that clients of a business need to register and create and account before they can schedule an appointment. Recognizing that many clients would be turned off by this extra step, Full Slate chose to make registration optional for the clients. One more challenge the Full Slate team observed with the other solutions was that they were simply unattractive. To quote Chris directly “If I am a business and I offer online scheduling for my clients, I want this to be something that looks good, that I am proud to show my clients.”

Full Slate released the first version of its web-based scheduling software to the public in early 2009. The company chose to focus specifically on the Health and Alternative Medicine providers - like Massage clinics, Hair Salons, Acupuncture and Chiropractic clinics – wanting to do a great job for these businesses before considering others. Their strategy seems to be paying off handsomely. Chris shared with me that there has been more than a handful of users that have offered to start paying for the service even before the end of the trial period. Now that’s a testament that users are getting a lot of value from the software!

Chris says most businesses that sign up for Full Slate find that after a few months, up to 70% of their appointments shift to being booked online, which translates into huge time savings. There was one client, an acupuncturist, that had actually begun to resent her clients because she was so stressed with the administrative aspects of the practice. Full Slate completely alleviated her stress. In an email to Full Slate, the acupuncturist raved about how she went on vacation and upon returning, had lots of new appointments that her clients had booked online through Full Slate.

Another thing that users often say about Full Slate is that it feels “Mac like”. That’s a serious compliment because Apple does a great job of making software easy to use and it means something to be compared to Apple. The team at Full Slate prides itself on providing personalized customer support and tries to talk to every new business that signs up. This really makes a difference and re-assures the small business owners that there are real people at Full Slate, available and willing to help if and when there are any questions.

So what should you do if you are intrigued and wanting to learn more? Just go to their website and sign up for a free trial of online scheduling. The trial is not time-based. Rather it lets you explore and test all features fully and you can use the software for free up to the point where 10 clients have booked online appointments. After that, there is a very affordable plan to keep using the software. This is a nice way to try out online scheduling because when you see your clients actually using it, then you truly grasp the value of the software. Full Slate also offers a live tour for a fictitious massage clinic at http://massage.fullslate.com. So, without sounding like a broken record, if you have ever considered online appointment scheduling for your clients, now you have no excuse NOT to do it. If you do try out Full Slate, come back and share your experience on this blog!

All the best,
Larisa Goldin,
Find Touch Co-founder

June 20, 2010

Love Gifts

My mother had a term for gifts given without a reason: love gifts. Unlike Christmas, Valentine, or birthday gifts, love gifts just come out-of-the-blue on any old day, for no other reason that you love someone. Not hearts-and-flowers love, necessarily. Just any quantity or variety of like, love, respect, admiration, etc.

For example, last week I picked up a used copy of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden for a long-standing client of mine. I often do guided imagery with her using a garden, and when I saw this $3 love gift, I knew it was meant for her. Another regular client of mine who makes jewelry left me an acrylic-encased butterfly wing pendant as a tip the other day. She did not know how much I loved butterflies or that I sometimes dream of raising them and releasing them as a hobby or of taking a Costa Rican butterfly tour. The unexpected surprise of the tiny beautiful thing, though, brought an unbelivable amount of joy to my day.

One of my recent favorite love gifts are the kodama labels with our names on them that a fellow therapist made for the "buckets" that hold our indivial supplies of oil, lotion, etc. Based on illustrations from Princess Mononoke (see image above), they are a delight and certainly much more inspired that the sticky notes we had been using as labels.

I think that love gifts are a wonderful way to support each other in all times, but especially the tough economic times we find ourselves in now. The rush and stress of doing our jobs well and compassionately in the face of paying all the bills and meeting the financial committments makes for quite a balancing act. A love gift is never expensive and often nothing you would think to buy or make for yourself. When you give it, you lead with your gut and you help someone to stop for moment and smell the proverbial roses . . . and when they smile, you smell them too.

June 18, 2010

Triggers and Patterns and Bears, Oh My!

Massage therapists often hear from clients that chocolate or caffeine drinks trigger headaches.

When you work with people seeking relief from pain, these common trigger patterns tend to emerge – certain foods or bright lights, loud noises, etc.

Over the past 15 years of doing massages, I've observed some interesting developments on the list of headache triggers. As infamously infallible as observation is, I suspect many therapists use it to guide our massage therapy practices. I like to think that patterns of muscle tightening in response to outside stimulation may be responsible for a lot of headaches and neckaches, and that massage and other techniques will work to break the patterns, disarm the triggers and keep those bears away.

For instance, one of my clients told me she can't talk on the cell phone for more than a minute. The act of holding the phone to her ear triggers a headache. I think that is easy to figure out, as crimping the scalenes and shoulder girdle can stimulate muscular patterns leading to headache. I massaged her scalenes and traps, and suggested she try the speaker phone whenever she needed to stay on the phone for more than a minute.

Another client reported that that talking to her mother on the phone triggers a headache, while other cell conversations do not. Sensing a pattern, I asked her if talking to her mother in person triggers a headache, too. Gosh darn, it did. Hmmn.
Avoidance works with chocolate, but what about Mom?

That's a tough one. She decided that cutting Mom off wouldn't be practical, so together we worked on establishing and maintaining diaphragm breath even while talking to Mom. My client reports that it helps, as long as she can keep up the diaphragm breath. Once that goes, it's headache time.

Interestingly, some triggers apparently can help problems instead of triggering them. A client who at one time was having a lot of urinary tract infections told me that when she really had to pee but couldn't go, she would get in the car and go to Walmart.


Something about going to Walmart made her go pee, she said. The bright lights, the hard floors, the endless aisles, something. She'd walk around for five or ten minutes, get the urge to use the restroom, and then she could go home and get some sleep. Luckily, her nearby store is open 24 hours, she said.

As a massage therapist, I feel comfortable using massage, suggesting speaker phones and breath work to reduce the power of certain triggers, but I'm not going to go around suggesting retail therapy for urinary tract infections. Seems a little out of the scope of my practice.

While we are on the subject, I'd love to hear from other therapists about their list of common – and uncommon – triggers. Can you top Walmart?

June 9, 2010

U Stink But I Luv U

As I recall, "U Stink But I Luv U" was a single recorded by the fictional Billy and the Boingers, a musical group composed of Opus, Bill the Cat, and other characters from the cartoon strip Bloom County. Bloom County was a favorite pleasure back in the 80's before the writer Berke Breathed refused to let it die a natural death and parts of it ended up becoming the best-never-penned Outland. But--you know--I digress.

This song title popped into my head when a therapist asked my advice on what to do when I client smells really, really bad. Well, I haven't had that many stinky clients, really. Sometimes I think I've been lucky. Years ago, I overheard a post-session conversation between two therapists where one gasped, "Oh my god!" and the other asked, sympathetically, "Armpit, ass, or something else?" So apparently stinky clients show up often enough.

And really, all you need is one smelly massage to keep you reliving it vividly. One of my few stinky clients smelled so bad that after he left, I had to fumigate the room--and the hall--with citrus spray. So, I told the therapist seeking my advice that a good thing to do is to dab something under your nose that will cut the odor and get you through without gagging. I did warn her, though, to learn from my past desperate mistake and avoid using a large gob of Tiger Balm unless she wanted her lips and nose to ignite as well (a tiny smear is just fine).

So dabbing something under your nose can work quite well in these kinds of situations, as long as you're careful of type and amount of the chosen substance. A favorite essential oil (e.g. lavender, lemon, bergamot, rose) can not only mute the odor, but flood your brain with whatever good feelings those scents evoke for you. And if you don't want oils on your face, your shirt collar can work, or a scented hankie tucked into your shirt collar (one of the many reasons ladies used to carry handkerchiefs). As a bonus, lightly scenting your face or collar will work without exposing the client to your own new perfume. Now, you'd think breathing your lavender oil would be a good thing for Mr. Sweet-Yet-Stinky, but most of us now work in scent-free environments where ironically, in the interest of avoiding asthma attacks and migraine headaches, people still have the right to exude "armpit, ass, or something else" if they desire.

You can also get more creative, and keep a few vapor cough drops on hand or pin fresh rosemary to your shirt if you know a known stinker will be arriving. Other than that, I'm not sure there's much else to be done. The therapist asked if therapists should talk to stinky clients about their odor problems. Mmmm, I'm going to say no on that one, unless their toes are black and you attribute the putrid stench to gangrene, which is life-threatening. While I realize that the therapist's client had had breath that seemed life-threatening to HER (she could smell his breath even when he was face-down), chances are he would have been really hurt, offended, and/or incapable of addressing the issue without clouding emotions. On the other hand, there may be times when therapists have to speak up about odor . . . case by case, I guess. One day at a time!

June 7, 2010

Accidents Happen

My fingers were trying to get these medial scalenes to show some sign of softness and life.

Rebar. These scalenes felt like rebar. You know, that metal stuff they put in concrete to stabilize it. Rusty rebar.

My neck always hurts there, my client said. Would you like to get rid of it? I replied.


That’s a pretty good go-ahead in the course of a massage. Not to make light of the purpose, but a good resounding yes makes the transition from rebar to flesh much more likely, in my experience.

How long has it been there? I asked.

Seems like forever. At least 25 years, she said.

Did you have an accident or injury before this started hurting?

My amazement has not waned whenever I ask this question. Clients who report never being hurt, the model of health, etc. will suddenly remember an accident in which they were scared good but emerged completely unscathed. One client told me she was a passenger in a car that rolled six times - but she was fine. Another told me about a drunken teen escapade in which the car flew off an overpass and landed upside down on a freeway ramp. The responding officer asked him and his buddies if they were witnesses, assuming whoever was in the car was dead.

No injuries, huh? The pain, migraines, stiffness whatever didn’t start until a few months or a year after the accident in which they were not hurt.

I’ll take a lightbulb moment wherever I get it. In my massage therapy experience, epiphanies are a blast, even if there is not lightening bolt or burning bush. Besides, that’s been done.

This client with the rusty-rebar scalenes had a tale to tell.

She was driving down a busy street in Los Angeles in a new SUV. Suddenly, as she entered an intersection on a green light a car T-boned her vehicle and sent it crashing into the corner sidewalk. A nimble pedestrian jumped up the crossing light pole, narrowly missing becoming roadkill. She was sitting in the car, dazed, when she saw one of the occupants of the car that hit her take off.

It turned out that the two occupants of the car had been fighting, and drinking, for most of the day. They were sitting second in line, stopped at a red light in the left turn lane when the driver decided to end the argument right there. She pulled out from behind the car in front and gunned the car into the intersection. That’s when she T-boned my client’s car and sent it spinning into the pedestrian.

The police were called. She told the officer the occupants had been drinking. No police report, no drunk driving test, no citation. File a claim with your insurance, she was told.

Soft tissue injuries aren’t just bumps and bruises. When someone has been hit, the sudden cascade of hormones and chemicals unleashed by terror, anger and frustration is compounded when that other driver was not only negligent, but intent on harming themselves and others.

I was willing to be a witness to the accident that happened 25 years ago. I felt the dense armor in her scalenes soften.

Intense, sure. I had a nice lie-down when I got home. I felt a bit of satisfaction that I was able to assist the client in processing the horrors of that day. Now it is a memory, not a cage.

June 1, 2010

Celebrity Massage Careers

A client asked me the other day if someone--a very wealthy person or even a celebrity--asked me to be his or her personal therapist on a yearly salary, would I take the job? She added that Bob Hope had a personal massage therapist and she was sure there were others out there who employed personal massage therapists. "Mmmm," I said hesitantly, trying to picture myself massaging Bob Hope everyday. "I really don't know..."

And I really didn't know. What makes it an interesting question is that it is a job choice for a massage therapist, just like running a single private therapeutic practice or working for a large spa or working on a cruise ship or strictly doing chair massage at events and street fairs. Okay, it's a choice that probably won't present itself often, but thinking about it might help one solidify one's thinking on the types of massage careers one does or doesn't want to have.

Unlike asking "What would you buy if you won the lottery?," the question "Would you become a personal, salaried massage therapist?" is not so simple, probably because it involves both societal and market norms. For example, could you work for someone everyday who threw screaming tantrums and hit her personal assistant in the head with shoes and cell phones (e.g. like a famous supermodel)? I couldn't. What's worse my personality doesn't say "step away calmly" when hypothetically struck with a cell phone, my personality says "feed her the cell phone." So great, now I've lost my salaried job from hell and am doing prison time for assault and battery.

Now the potential benefits of such a job are obvious: job stability, financial success, no worrying about marketing, the possibility of meeting Bob Hope's friends for autographs, etc. But the potential drawbacks make up a much larger list, in my opinion: skill stagnation, feeling like a servant/slave, dealing with or dodging various kinds of abuse, dealing with having both a strong social and market-based relationship with a client, and--most importantly--not being able to reach out and help a large variety of everyday people because I'm all tied up with Bob Hope.

So I guess I would have to say no. Okay, maybe. If the contract and the person met a long list of criteria. So for example, if President Obama asked me to be his personal massage therapist, I could feel good that helping him was indirectly helping the entire country. He'd be too busy to fixate on our relationship, and he seems too polite to even consider hitting me with a cell phone. He has plenty of other employees, so he'd never ask me to house-sit (what a laugh, huh?) or cook meals for him if he gets cravings. He's generally surrounded by people, though, and that might set of my claustrophobia like Mardi Gras Eve on Bourbon Street. He also makes a lot of far-reaching international decisions; and I have a fear of coming home worrying myself sick about the fate of peace talks with some small Asian country when "Mr. B" doesn't have the most relaxing massage experience.

Yikes... guess I'm not ready to make any decisions on being a personal, salaried massage therapist anytime soon.