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Nathan Nordstrom joined Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa in February 2018 and currently oversees the management of massage services including therapist training, and the introduction of new massage services and protocols.
He also serves as a liaison for Hand & Stone to professional massage and spa associations for the nationwide franchise of over 350 locations.
Connect with Nathan on LinkedIn.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- An interstate compact application to massage therapy
This transcript is machine transcribed by Sonix
Intro: [00:00:07] Welcome to Franchise Marketing Radio, brought to you by SEO Samba Comprehensive, high performing marketing solutions for mature and emerging franchise brands to supercharge your franchise marketing. Go to SEOSamba.com that’s SEOsamba.com.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:32] Lee Kantor here, another episode of Franchise Marketing Radio, and this is going to be a fun one today on the show, we have Nathan Nordstrom with hand and stone massage and facial spa. Welcome, Nathan.
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:00:43] Well, thank you so much, Lee.
Lee Kantor: [00:00:45] Well, I’m excited to learn what you’re up to. Tell us a little bit about hand in stone. How are you serving, folks?
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:00:50] Wonderful. Hannah Stone is the second largest franchise massage therapy spa group. We go out and we try and bring massage therapy, which has always been considered a high end service to the standard population, making sure that everyone can afford to get good stress reduction and get their bodies feeling good and being able to go through a regular day without the aches and pains of life.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:15] Now what’s the back story? Did it start out always to be a franchise or did it start as kind of a mom and pop and just organically grew?
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:01:23] Well, John Marco was the original starter, and John was a physical therapist who realized the benefits of massage therapy and really trying to get massage therapists organized and structured. He did open his own spa and quickly decided that he knew that there were other people who wanted to really invest in this ability to expand the success of what massage therapy can bring to people. And so, yes, it did become a franchise fairly early and and spread over the years. And now we’re right at about five hundred in North America, including Canada.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:57] Now has the pandemic and just the kind of the the lay of the land in terms of the economy and attracting talent. Has that impacted your industry and your business?
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:02:11] Of pandemic definitely impacted everyone. But as a massage therapist, when you have to have a hands on service, we can’t digitally give a massage. And so being able to transition was quite difficult. We were very successful in the ability to connect with governing bodies and make sure that we could get in to talk with them and connect with them to demonstrate how successfully we how successful we were being with making sure to wear masks and sanitation and being able to do all the things we could to make sure that a session at a Hammond St. Spa would be completely safe for the general person. Other things that kind of have obviously been challenges is trying to find employees in general, but specifically for licensed massage therapists, that’s been a continuous issue that we continue to strive and focus on.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:05] So do you have any strategies that seem to be working in regards to attracting talent?
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:03:10] Oh, that’s part of our secret sauce, I think. No, we actually do. We’ve got several things that we connect with. We do connect with the massage therapy schools that are out there, many of them massage therapy schools have been limited, especially currently with COVID with education. And so that’s become more of a challenge. But we really want to make sure that everyone knows that working at hand in stone is going to be supportive of the massage therapist as a massage therapist myself. One of the big pieces that Shannon Stone has that’s a unique from other portions is that we have employees as massage therapists. So instead of being a independent contractor, we want to make sure that they’re taken care of not only for their taxes, but for other aspects as well. And we have great owners who are really supportive of the massage therapists to give them an appropriate pay with appropriate benefits and bonuses and other options that they have and are very excited to see the massage therapist be successful in our spouse.
Lee Kantor: [00:04:09] Now you mentioned that licensing is a component of massage. How does that impact the business in regards to a massage therapist? What if they have to like, say they’re in near different areas and they do. They need a new license for a different area? Like how does that work?
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:04:26] Yeah. So licensing is definitely one of those challenges myself I’ve been in. I’ve had six different massage therapy licenses in six different states, and that’s because when I find a job that I need to move for, I would have to get a massage therapy license in that state wherever I move at. And that has been quite a challenge over the years when we have a successful massage therapists say in New York and they decide to move to Florida, then they have to then get a massage therapy license when they get to Florida. And this is one of those restrictions that. As massage therapist, we look at it as a challenge, but we also look at it as a benefit, having a license to practice limits us and elevates the profession of massage therapy so that we’re not looked at as something inappropriate. We want to make sure that we’re elevating the profession, but in that process, there are better ways and we’re working on many of those to make a massage therapist like myself. Or a lot of times the military spouses or someone who does a lot of traveling for their family for work would be able to assess their practice no matter where they went.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:39] Now is that a component of this interstate compact?
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:05:43] Correct. The interstate compact is something that came up in the last year, and actually it’s been in the process for a little bit longer than that. But it has been supported by the military as a military spouses support because I have several students who I taught in massage school years ago who are related to or connected with a military home. And so they want to support this ability to have a interstate compact. So what that would mean is the massage therapy board in Oregon or Ohio or Kentucky or wherever else they might be, they would. We’d create a compact which would allow someone to work from who has a license in one state to work in multiple other states. For example, this is more known in the nursing field where if you have a license to practice in one state, you can practice in hospitals, in other states, and it’s something that is being very looked at as as a really good model for massage therapy as we do have a lot more transient aspect to make sure that we’re able to help people no matter where they are or when it is.
Lee Kantor: [00:06:50] Now is this something that the therapists are are clamoring for?
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:06:55] Um, the therapists who are claiming for it are clamoring for it loud. The ones who aren’t clamoring for it aren’t ones who probably move very often, don’t really have a lot of concern about this. There are some who don’t move a lot who are actually looking at as they get up closer to retirement age, the ability to work part time in one state. And then, for example, during the summer, they might go up to an Oregon or Washington state, but in the winter, when it gets cold, being able to go down to California. Same thing on the East Coast. New York during the summer is beautiful and away from the heat of Florida and then in the winter being able to go down to Florida. So this is something that many massage therapists do. And so currently they have to have multiple licenses and maintain those licenses to practice in multiple states.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:48] Now how is it like as my understanding of the interstate compact, that it doesn’t mean every state’s like in if if a handful are in that, it kind of grows organically among the states who who are interested in it?
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:08:03] Correct. So the first thing that they’re actually doing is they’re putting together the interstate compact language and they have a committee that’s coming together and that’s working together on this to make sure that the language is usable and appropriate for the majority of states. Not every state will be able to participate because of their certain models that they have. But what will end up happening is then after the language has been created, it will then go state by state for the different state licensing boards to implement into their into their governing bodies and making sure that they can participate in this process. I know that they’ve got several that are clamoring for it, several states that really are excited about this option. And so they’re striving to work quickly so that they can get it into these first few states. But as those states start accepting it, then it’ll be able to be presented through the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, which is one of the groups that is connecting with this and be able to present to all the state licensing boards so that they can have an opportunity to enter into this process as well.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:06] And then and if that’s the case and you mentioned like I live in one state and half the I live in another state, then I would just need one license and then I’d be able to practice in both states
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:09:16] As long as both are in the compact. That is correct, right?
Lee Kantor: [00:09:19] So they all everybody recognizes each other’s licensing.
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:09:23] And that’s part of the joys of having one language that they’re putting together independent of a state licensing board. They’re striving to create the language so that as everyone accepts it as it is, then it won’t be well. But you have to have this here and you have to have that there. It’ll just be the compact itself. So because it’s standing independent, it will create that uniform acceptance across the
Lee Kantor: [00:09:45] Country now because of the size of hand. And stone is is something that you have, you know, kind of influence over or you have encouraging certain kind of parts of the licensing.
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:09:58] Um, so I’m my history has been all in massage therapy, and so I’ve been the leadership in the American Massage Therapy Association, the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Body Works. I’ve been on the executive boards and teams, the president of AMP and others. And so being able to connect it that way has given me a lot more insight in kind of who’s in what and working with what. I have requested an ability to look at the language after the committee has completed it. They’ve been more than willing to participate and say, yes, we want to know the major contributors in the industry’s feedback and really want to make sure that as we look at it, we feel confident with it as well. And so I do get a little bit of connection in that direction. I don’t know several of the people on the committee as well. And so that’s it’s really exciting to see this kind of moving forward because massage therapy will be able to move forward and really change and be more successful. One of the things that I’ve seen so regularly as a massage therapist who does move from one state to another because the application of licensure takes three plus months, sometimes they can’t just sit around for three months and wait for their license, so they get up and end up getting another job and then exit the profession because they’re finding other things because they’re being distracted by other things instead of the profession that they loved and wanted to stay engaged in.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:24] And I would imagine with the aging of the population, this is something that more and more people are want and are going to take advantage of. And you need more of them, not less of them, right?
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:11:33] And it is not only the senior population that we would be looking at because we have a lot of people. We’re starting to see an uptick in the students who are graduating from high school and then they want to get a trade school degree. They want to take a six month or nine month course to become a licensed massage therapist and then they want to go to college and and extend their education. Well, in most cases, if you graduate from high school, get your degree. If you’re going out of state now, you can’t practice in that other state and unless you get your license in that other state. So this would be another benefit for for the massage therapists who are coming out of high school or those really young massage therapists because more likely, you’re going to be traveling and moving from two multiple different states. And so this gives us more ability to connect with people, really develop not only the massage professionals who are already in the field to maintain their practice and really even decide, Hey, you know what, instead of retiring, I want to be part time. I’m I’m a 60 or 70 year old person who only wants to do three or four massages a week. Well, Hannah Stone loves this model, and we’re always willing to engage people who are willing to work with their clients successfully and work with our brand because we love great quality massage therapists, no matter where they are in their professional career.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:52] Now are your franchisees typically massage therapists?
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:12:57] They aren’t we actually have a small percentage of massage therapists who are franchisees. A lot of the challenge that I, as a massage therapist see is when I look at the business side of massage therapy education, there is little to no business training. And so a lot of the massage therapists end up being a practicing massage therapist instead of really a business managing massage therapist. We’ve seen many different companies who are starting to build business education for massage therapists. But in that practice, a lot of the times the people that we see buying into a franchise are people who either a love receiving massage, they just know that it has helped them. The second one is people who have had great business experience in the past and have decided that maybe the business that they had wasn’t as supportive to health and wellness. And so they want to create a business that really aids and supports people in health and wellness and strengthening their own practice as as society, building and creating health. So I love to see when we do get a massage therapist or a spouse of a massage therapist who comes and buys in, but it’s not a normal thing, a regular thing that we see now.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:17] Can you talk a little bit about how Hindon stone encourages in the local market, maybe to partner with an existing spa that’s there and then transform it into a hand in stone?
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:14:30] Yeah, so this is something that we haven’t done a lot of a lot of the challenge that we have had in the past. Does that hand in stone has several unique aspects about it in what a hand in stone style looks like. Most of the time when you think of a hand in stone, you think of the hot stone massage, which is our signature service. And one of the best tools that we have for that is in a hand in stone build out. You actually have a sink in each of the rooms. Now this allows for sanitation and cleanliness and and for the ability to wash those stones in that room instead of having to pick them up and carrying them around the spa, which can cause not only problems with the massage therapists with having to carry things, but also causes more, more fuss around the spa. And so we kind of looked at that, and that was kind of one of the big challenges. And so just recently, we’ve actually done a large expansion of if there is a spa that has closed in the local environment, you can go in and look at the facility, see the floorplan and be able to implement the standards of hand in stone into the rooms that you can.
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:15:40] For example, if some of the rooms are more able to have plumbing, then great. We would expect that you would have plumbing in some of those rooms, and that’s where you would do hot stones. However, you may not need all of the rooms to have plumbing. And so the rebuild out is a lot less expensive. It’s a lot more inviting, and a lot of those spores that were there already had customer base that were coming to them. And so being able to come into a market that already knows massage therapy may not have a connection with our brand, but be able to gain an understanding of what the benefits of hot stones massage is for the client is really helpful, and it really opens up a lot more excitement when we show the quality and customer service that we have connected with for each of our customers.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:30] Yeah, I would imagine that, and it lowers the risk in the minds of these folks because there’s already, like you said, an existing facility, existing base of clients, and now you’re kind of up leveling it to hand in stone. That seems like a win win.
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:16:46] Absolutely.
Lee Kantor: [00:16:47] So what does growth look like going into next year?
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:16:52] Oh, you know, it’s it’s funny. When COVID hit, we were really concerned about our growth and development, and we were roughly at about one new spa a week before COVID and then the year of COVID. We still had 20 spots that opened and we started expanding. So this year, we’re definitely going to be quite a bit over that. And next year we’re planning 2022 to hopefully be right back to where we were pre-COVID. We’re striving and we continually have new investors who want to come in and open up their spas, and we’re excited to connect with them and give them an opportunity when things are slim and when they’re going to get more attention because we have less bars opening to be able to really engage them and develop a new spa in the developing world of hand in stone.
Lee Kantor: [00:17:41] Now are you penetrating new markets or are these existing markets just expanding within the markets they already are in?
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:17:48] Yes, both. We do have. We have a larger percentage of our stores on the East Coast from Florida, all the way up to New York and around. We have a big chunk in Texas, but the West Coast has actually shown what we’ve got several new, including Boise, Idaho. And so we’re getting into these other markets that are more spread out as the West Coast is being able to see new places. And even kind of in the Midwest, we’re seeing a good pull of new places that are opening up.
Lee Kantor: [00:18:20] Now are you targeting certain regions right now or is this kind of a free for all, wherever anybody has an interest, you’re, you know, in the market and the real estate makes sense.
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:18:30] I am excited to say that it’s not my expertize is the massage therapist training. I can see kind of where they’re at. And in the planning of that, I usually see it about after they start opening. So I’m not positive on how they’re going about that. I think they’re doing a great job of allowing the natural growth to happen, but they’re definitely working on kind of seeing the new markets that are needed and kind of figuring out where is going to be most beneficial for them. On more of the the real estate side, my side is kind of the hands on practice with the licensed massage therapist.
Lee Kantor: [00:19:08] Now any advice for emerging franchises on how to kind of get that escape velocity that they need in order to be successful?
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:19:18] You know, it’s been said so many times know your customer and know what they need in our industry as massage therapists. It is very focused towards kind of knowing their pains, knowing their dysfunction, knowing what’s going on in their body and being able to connect with your service providers as the owner being able to say, Hey, you know what? I have 10 massage therapists. I’ve got 15 massage therapists. Do you know what those massage therapists focus are what their skill set is? Because if you can maximize the skill set of your employees to really make the client have the best possible experience, they’re going to refer and they’re going to come back and then you’re going to need to expand because you’re going to have the number of clients really pounded down the door so that you can really expand to another market as well.
Lee Kantor: [00:20:13] Now how do you kind of as the owner of a franchise, how do you kind of keep the the client seeing the value of the brand rather than the value of an individual massage therapist? Because that seems to me would be tricky because it’s so personal and intimate in terms of the relationship, how do you kind of transfer the relationship to hand in stone and not, you know, build a massage therapist?
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:20:41] So you’ve got two major aspects one hand in stone, right? My job itself is continuing education for massage therapists. So hand in stone franchise, we want to make sure that each of the massage therapists, they come in to a hand in stone spa that they have access to understanding the best quality tools that we provide, the ability to really expand their practice and feel confident and comfortable. So when the as a franchisee, they’re looking at how to make that massage therapist really grow and thrive in their profession, really connecting with the hand and stone model and connecting with our continued education to really get them excited about what they’re doing is kind of a symbiotic relationship where it’s not just, OK, I’m investing in my employee, but I’m investing in my employee using the tool that is hand in stone because they’re providing great quality education with the massage therapists and getting them excited about new things. For example, next year, we’re actually looking at doing a showcase that goes across the country, which is a conference. For just the massage therapist and getting them excited about getting connected with each other in the local region, but really investing in the brand and feeling confident with what Hannan stone values are for the massage therapist and why we’re so successful with having massage therapists. Want to come back to and stone?
Lee Kantor: [00:22:07] Yeah, that’s an interesting. I interviewed the HR person a while ago and he said something to me that really struck me, he said. A lot of people are afraid that what if you train them and then they leave and he goes, Isn’t it worse if you don’t train them and they stay right?
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:22:26] Right, and that’s one of my my favorite pieces is that when I create a course for massage therapists, we’re continuing education. There’s there’s two major things. One is the quality of the tools that we’re providing, so we bring in some of the top brands. I’m going to use Theragun as a specific tool, and Theragun is one of those tools that is a percussive therapy device. And we don’t just say, OK, use the Theragun and have fun. We actually do the science, the concept behind. And we talk about the value of being in a hand in stone spa and the reasons why in a hammerstone spa. This is so successful and why Hanlan Stone supports the tool and being able to say yes, a massage therapist after we trained them. They might they might say, you know what? Ok? Six months later, I don’t want to work here anymore. However, they’re going to know the benefits of working at a hand in stone with that tool. So when they’re using a similar tool or the same tool at another place, they’re not going to see all the benefits that they had at a hand on stone. And so being able to connect that consciously in the training at the very beginning is something that we really want to focus on and make sure that the massage therapist says I got to go back to a hand in stone, right?
Lee Kantor: [00:23:41] And that probably attracts the right therapist to the brand. And it also is probably a better overall experience for the customer. So it’s a win win. It helps you attract the right folks, and it gives that kind of consistent quality that you’re looking for
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:23:56] And even the customer when it comes down to it, you want to have the right customer coming into any franchise that you’re looking at. And we all know that there are some bad apples not only in in the training or the employee side of things. There’s hopefully very few, but on the other side, there’s bad apples of customers. And so you want to make sure that you can give them the best quality experience and expect the best quality response from them. Because when the customer gets done, they should say, You know what? That was a great massage. I can’t argue with it. I may not have liked this or that. Or gosh, the the calming music was annoying to me, but you can’t please everyone every time, and so you can give them the best possible response response and let them know, Oh, I’m sorry that you didn’t like the music. We can definitely turn that down in the treatment room so that you don’t have to listen to it. And so really opportunities to make the customer know that we respect them and want them to have the best experience is always beneficial, right?
Lee Kantor: [00:24:56] Well, congratulations on all the success. If somebody wants to learn more about hand, some what’s the website?
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:25:02] It is hand and stone is the best direction to get a hold of us.
Lee Kantor: [00:25:07] Good stuff. Well, thank you so much for sharing your story today. You’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Nathan Nordstrom: [00:25:12] Appreciate it, Lee. Thank you so much.
Lee Kantor: [00:25:14] All right, this is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you next time on Franchise Marketing Radio.