At Ceterus we work with small business entrepreneurs every day. We never fail to be amazed and inspired by their hard work, energetic attitudes, and dedication to their business and to their communities. We interview some of them for our podcast, Small Business Edge, so that we can share their knowledge and insight with the world.
Listen to this episode of Small Business Edge here, or read the transcript below.
TK: I am here with entrepreneur extraordinaire Terri Jacques. Terri Jacques is a franchise owner for Massage Envy, she currently owns three locations and is working on a fourth. Welcome to the show.
Terri: Thank you, thank you for having me.
TK: So, I’d like to know a little bit more about how you got involved in being a franchise owner. What is your day to day work like with Massage Envy?
Terri: Ok sure. So, my husband and I work in fields or worked in fields that were increasingly becoming…shall I say, extinct. Or, things that were eventually going to be outsourced overseas. We pretty much saw the writing on the wall. I worked in the IT field for 15 years for Verizon, and my husband worked in broadcasting in Washington DC. There were a lot of layoffs going on, and we just knew that we needed to look for other things. Some of our very close friends were getting into the franchise world.
We weren’t too familiar with franchising so we went to a franchise broker. The broker brought several concepts to us, and one of the concepts was Massage Envy. There weren’t any Massage Envy’s in our local area, so we went to another state and did some due diligence. I had gotten massages in the past. That’s what I always wanted as a birthday present, anniversary present, feel good present. It made sense to me, it was something that I really enjoyed getting personally. Then, learning about the massage in the membership model concept made total sense. Massages cost a lot of money, and if you wanted to get it on a regular basis, it’s very costly. Massage Envy made it affordable to get massages on a regular basis with a membership model.
For me it was a win-win. It was something that I enjoyed getting on a personal level, and now I could see myself getting involved in it on a business level. There was one location available, they were sold out even though they weren’t technically open in my area. There was one license available in my area and we jumped on it. The rest is history!
Luckily, a couple of other opportunities opened up where some other people had backed out, and we jumped on it. I’m a very engaged and hands on person, I really put my full energy into anything that I do. When I decided to do Massage Envy, I was still actually working at Verizon. I kept that job as I was working with Massage Envy — I just needed to have my hands full, but I also needed to make sure that it was going to work because it was a new concept in the area. I did that balancing act for 5 years actually.
TK: 5 years!
Terri: 5 years! For 5 years, I maintained that. Verizon probably wouldn’t want me to put that out there, but I did, I was managing both. Luckily I had a really good store manager who could manage the day to day operations in the beginning. I handled a lot of the bookkeeping and payroll and marketing, things that could be done outside the normal 9-5 hours. I did a lot of that stuff but as we really started to grow and the company started to turn a great profit, I knew that I could jump ship from Verizon and jump in this full time. At that time I already had my second store!
TK: Wait wait wait — are you telling me that you had a second store while you were still working for verizon, is that what you’re telling me?
Terri: (Laughing) Just for a few months!
TK: Ok, so for a 90 day period of your life, you owned two franchises and you were working at verizon. Please tell me what that workweek looked like. How many hours were you working at Verizon?
TK: 40 hours at Verizon a week.
Terri: 40 hours a week. Believe me, I was doing 80/90/100 hours some weeks trying to manage both of these things, it was fun for me!
I loved being an entrepreneur, now I love the opportunity that one day I was going to walk away from that nine to five job. That’s what drove me to work like a crazy woman doing both of those jobs. Just to give you some back story of coming up in the working industry — I shouldn’t probably be putting this on air, but…
TK: Back to the days when you were working a meager 50 hours a week?
Terri: Something like that! At the age of 13 I got my first job as a lifeguard. You weren’t supposed to start working until you were sixteen. I embellished my age and I worked from 13 and I’ve been working like that until this day. When I went to college, I went to college full time, I had a full time job, and I had a part time internship, all throughout college.
That has always been my way of life. Working at Verizon, owning two franchise businesses at the same time, it was very stressful. I can’t imagine counting what I did, but it drove me to hit any type of goals. I’m a wife, I’m a mother, all of those things were happening during those times too, but I’m a very good manager of my time and making it work. Just driven. That’s all I can say.
TK: Wow, that’s absolutely phenomenal. Would you say that that amount of work ethic, that amount of hustle, that amount of time spent, is that necessary for someone that wants to follow in your footsteps and own a franchise business? Do they have to be mentally prepared to go at it for 70 hours a week?
Terri: At the end of the day, no one is going to put in the sweat like the owner, like the entrepreneur. At the end of the day, the employees are going to punch that clock and walk away from it. The owner has got to make sure everything is right, the light bill is paid, the telephone is working, the paychecks are getting pushed out. It does not matter what is going on, it still has to get done. I’m on the clock 7 days a week.
I’d love to be able to say it’s easy and it’s fun, and there are some times when it is when things are running smoothly, but that’s what we hope for, but it is not like that always. Vacations, mostly are working vacations — just because you have to be in tune. If you want your business to be successful, you can definitely put the right people in place and it can run smoother but you will always be the one that has to be dialed in if you want your business to be successful.
TK: Terri, I grew up watching movies like the Christmas Carol, where the rich person was just focused on money. They had no life, they never laughed, they were overly serious, and they lived to work rather than worked to live. I know for many people that don’t have the entrepreneurial personality they don’t quite understand that. Tell me, what’s your why, what makes you different from someone who just lives to work?
Terri: The reason why I work so hard is that I’m driven, and I have a personal goal to make sure things are successful. I’m definitely financially invested into this business, but I work hard because I want to make it easier for my employees.
I work Sunday night to make sure files are scanned, customer emails have been checked. That’s one less thing for them to do in the morning because I found the time to do it over the weekend. I work hard so that their job can be more like a regular kind of job. It sounds kind of crazy, but I like to make it easier for my staff, and that’s why I do it!
I do it for my family, in order to make sure their life is secure and all the things that they need in their life is a little bit easier, but I’m a very giving person and I enjoy what I do. It’s a lot of hours but it’s enjoyable for me. It’s what I know and I do it very well, and if you do something that you like to do, it’s not hard, it’s time consuming but it’s not hard.
TK: I love it. I can tell that you enjoy every second of it, it’s awesome to hear that come through. Now, when you had the first franchise, you’re working at Verizon full time and running that, an opportunity opened up for you to open a second location. I imagine when you first started the goal was just to get out of Verizon and dedicate yourself fully to the first franchise. So, at what point did you decide that you wanted to have a second one? Was this a part of the original plan, or was it a spontaneous decision?
Terri: It was part of the original plan it was to have two locations. The opportunity was not available, it was always a hope that another territory would become available. Those were two options that I was hopeful that would come.
What ended up happening was there was a certain territory of folks that were driving from another territory to come to my location. What the regional developers realized was that was an area that wasn’t on the map but that a lot of people were coming to Massage Envy from. They asked me if I wanted to open it because I owned a lot of the client base. I raised my hand, of course! I would love to do that.
It was not the territory that I was going to get involved in but it just made sense. Space became available, and then I had to go through the whole process of getting qualified again. If I had not had the success of that first location I don’t think that I would have been able to start a second location so quickly — within two years. Knock on wood it worked out. I don’t know if it was luck, it was a lot of hard work and a lot of being driven, and again, a blessing.
TK: Amazing. How does a business owner know when they are ready for a second location?
Terri: That’s a great, great question. When you’re seeing growth in your business, when you’re seeing the demand outweigh the availability. If you have so much demand and you cannot meet that demand, you have to look for a new opportunity. This is a massage business, and there’s only so many massages that we can do. I was at a capacity and I could not add another employee to do massages at any time of the day. I’m at max capacity in my facility, so I need another facility. I need to go look for another location, where I have a whole new seven days of opportunities of appointments. And that’s how it worked out — luckily, knock on wood.
TK: Now, you have three locations and you mentioned to me offline that you have some interesting branding efforts that you’re making with regards to the fourth — can you talk to me a little bit about that?
Terri: Yeah so I’m extremely excited to be embarking on the first location in Washington, DC. There is no massage envy currently there, and no competitors in this massage membership model concept has been able to break ground in Washington, DC. This has been three years in the making. It has been a very difficult journey finding space, finding affordable space, and getting through.
There’s a lot of zoning and special exceptions that we had to deal with. We work with zoning attorneys, we work with special leasing lawyers, we went through three different leases with three different landlords to try to find the right landlord who would be understanding of what our use was and what our concept was, and we finally landed on one in the last six months and hopefully in the year 2017 in the early spring we’ll be bringing the first massage envy location to Washington, DC! Super excited about that.
TK: This sounds really interesting. You’ve referenced the membership model a couple of times. In fact you mentioned when you visited the broker that was one of the things that attracted you most to Massage Envy can you tell us a little bit about that?
Terri: Sure so think of your typical gym membership — Gold’s Gym, LA Fitness — you pay a set fee monthly. In the membership model, or in the gym membership model, you’re able to pay that certain fee and then you’re able to come as many times as you like during that month’s time. With Massage Envy’s membership model, you pay a set fee, and that includes one massage or one facial each month. But the real benefit is if you come multiple times during that month, you can get additional massages or facials at 50% off. So it’s not quite as many as you would like at no cost like a gym membership, but you can come as often as you’d like with 50% off the cost.
TK: I love it, that makes a lot of sense, I’m ready to sign up!
Terri: You know, stress is the number one cause of a lot of illnesses, and massage can really help alleviate stress. Facials are becoming increasingly popular and are another type of service that can help eliminate stress in your life. Doctors are really starting to understand that if people maintain their bodies, if they lower their stress levels and regularly take care of themselves through various types of wellness services, they will live more productive, healthier lives. So this is where the massage membership model really is successful. People are really starting to understand that massage is not just a luxury. You need it to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
TK: You are in the stress management business, so let’s talk a little bit about stress and your relationship to it. What would you say is the first major roadblock you encountered as an entrepreneur and how did you respond?
Terri: Ok, so the very first roadblock that I had was getting financing. I had never owned a business before prior to this, so I had to convince banks that I could run a business successfully. You have to have a lot of liquid cash and/or equity in order to finance businesses, and I did own a house and have cash. But, I didn’t have experience running a business.
The one thing I was able to leverage was my real estate career that I had had for a few years. Real estate is an entrepreneurial industry. You’re out there developing leads and hopefully you’re buying and selling homes. You do that through a broker, but most of it is very entrepreneurial.
I was able to leverage that experience, and then I was able to convince the banks to bank on me because I had a relationship with the bank for about 15 years. I was able to leverage some of my contacts and networking in that opportunity. Between those two, I could make it happen, but it took several months to get through that process.
I was provided with the financing and once they were able to see growth in my business, I was able to leverage that into the second business and obtain financing. So that was really my first hurdle involved in this. Trying to get the financing to move forward with my dream of having this franchise business. Luckily I was successful and I was able to prove that I was someone who could make it happen.
TK: I totally hear you on that. You know, one of the things that draws people to franchise ownerships is that they don’t have to reinvent the entrepreneurial wheel. A lot of the roadmap is laid out for them, but at the same time, many people have this impression that owning a franchise means just follow the script and you’ll succeed. What are some of the ways you still have the pressure of differentiating yourself within this context?
Terri: Yeah that’s a great question. And that’s very true for a lot of people’s thought process is that going into franchising. Everything is laid out for you and to some degree that is correct, you know, the way that the pricing is involved and the way that the products are secured maybe some of the basic foundations of the business is there for you. What’s different from all of that is that you are responsible for hiring all the staff. That’s one of the biggest things.
There’s no manual on hiring and managing the staff. That is fully the entrepreneur’s or the franchise owner’s responsibility to hire and manage and motivate and set goals and do all of the HR related things that are necessary to maintain a staff. If you don’t have a great staff, you have no business. It is very important to have a great management team so that they can help you to manage the staff. That is your most important asset beyond anything that you do. So, it’s very important that you engage and that you pay attention to that.
In the massage business the labor supply consists very heavily of maintaining massage therapists on your staff. That is a shrinking labor supply. It’s very important that you retain your employees — you don’t want to go through a process of losing your staff. If that is what’s happening there is something far greater going on. Setting up employee relationships and setting a great culture in your business is extremely important to retain your greatest asset which is your employees.
TK: And Terri, how big is your staff?
Terri: I have around 110 employees. Yep that’s prior to us getting rolling on that fourth location and soon to be new concept that we’re getting involved in.
TK: Wow. Alright so, before we wrap up here I wanna ask you a few questions about your influences and insights for others. What’s the worst piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Terri: Oh that’s a really hard question because worst piece I probably don’t remember because I probably didn’t take it!
TK: (Laughs) Here’s a variation we could take on that. There’s a lot of folk wisdom out there, there’s a lot of cliche knowledge, and we live in the age of the inspirational Facebook post and things along those lines. What would you say is a common sense piece of wisdom or a popular cliche that you think is BS?
Terri: I think that there are entrepreneurs and franchise owners that are out there that believe that they do not need to be involved in their business. They think they can find someone to run the business while they can kick back and go to Fiji and just hang out drinking Mai Tais. That is by far the saddest statement ever. If you want your business to be successful, the entrepreneur has to be involved.
My staff loves to see my face in the business. They can’t believe that yes, Terri is taking out the trash and sweeping the floor and answering the phone. They tell me all the time how much they are excited and feel so valued that I have all of this other stuff that’s going on, three different locations, trying open up a fourth location and I take the time to come in and take the trash out for them.
I think that the biggest cliche is that you can just hire a bunch of people and they’re gonna take care of everything for you, and that your business will be successful. Yes, you can hire someone to do everything that’s needed to do but will your business be successful? I am one to say that that is not true.
TK: What is the most awesome thing about being a franchise owner that nobody knows?
Terri: I love that I have the opportunity to promote people and see their growth every single day. I’ve hired people that would have never thought that they could one day be a store manager, you know? They started from the bottom just basically being a sales associate or what some people may call a receptionist. And within two years time, I have been able to promote people to running a multi-million dollar business. I’m excited to see that type of evolution in someone.
I’m also excited for the people that learned a lot of business from me, and have gone on to other opportunities. We still keep in contact, and many are now running their own businesses, or have gone into another field. They always come back to me and say “Terri, I really feel as though I got a great foundation working under you – I learned great sales techniques, I learned how to talk to people, I learned how to build relationships.” I love the fact that I’ve been able to influence and make people’s lives much better as a part of my business.
TK: That’s amazing. Last question for you: tell me about one other franchise that inspires the way you do business.
Terri: Any business that takes care of their employees is a business that is inspirational. People talk about Chik-fil-A all the time and how they treat their customers. I don’t think they could treat their customers as well as they do, unless they treat their employees even better. Your staff will not deliver the brand promise or the company values if they don’t believe them, if they’re not valued themselves. So, any business that takes care of their employees — that’s a business that excites me.
TK: Terri, what would be the best way for someone to either contact you?
Terri: Sure, if anybody wants to contact me directly they are welcome to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or they can definitely reach out to any one of my franchise locations: College Park (301) 313-0555 Woodlawn (301) 364-3400 Laurel (301) 497-9977 — got em all in!
TK: We got em in! Terri, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me.
Terri: Thanks so much.