Boundaries and the Fine Print

Independent massage therapists (like myself) have a few extra duties to perform during the course of their careers. One of the least fun is leasing space.
My first office was a pretty simple deal. I rented two days in another therapist’s office and we had a handshake deal. I paid once a month and kept the place tidy while I was there. The biggest challenge was making sure we did not “borrow” each other’s supplies without at least a note and a replacement and or payment. Boundaries. Pretty easy stuff.

My next venture involved renting space in two local hotels. I had to come up with a contract that protected them, protected me and kept the business model viable. The first hotel signed the contract I wrote with the help of an attorney. No sweat. The second hotel wanted me to indemnify them from any negligence on their part with any of my clients and to pay court fees, etc. We went round and round for months. The hotel manager and I wanted the deal, the attorneys “got in the way.” We ended up changing the wording just enough to make it look like it was in compliance with corporate but did not really put me on the hook for anything beyond my massage room door. Whew.

A third facility was a negotiation nightmare. The corporate folks had in-house attorneys make up a “standard contract” for everyone that fit far better for a salon (and their toxic chemicals) than a massage center. The proposed contract ended up with about 20 paragraphs that were checked “does not apply.” Corporate would put the stuff back in. I ended up walking away from the deal rather than get hooked up with the “robo-lease.”

I learned to negotiate, a difficult skill for any businessperson, and I also waxed nostalgic for my handshake room-share lease. Keeping good boundaries, as in massage practice, is never easy.

By Sue Peterson

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