Are You Working “In” Your Business or “On” Your Business?

For small business owners, it’s easy to begin “working in the business” versus “working on the business”. The former is focused on focusing on the daily details while the latter addresses the longer-term vision for your company. Regardless, for most small businesses, it creates stress derived from addressing business growth, controlling expenses and attaining sustainability. Stress is an enabler to more serious health issues which can affect you mentally, physically and personally.

However, there are several ways to address it including using various forms of therapy, including teaching and offering massages to relieve the anxiety resulting from stress.

I discussed this with Kathy Skubik, Executive Director, of Southfield-based, Irene’s Myomassology Institute–the largest massage therapy school in the Midwest. Skubik joined the school at the urging of her late mother, Irene Gauthier, who was a pioneer in offering myomassology techniques and who became an exceptional teacher and successful businesswoman. At her mother’s urging, Skubik started her career at the school by taking attendance and taking a job that paid $5 an hour.

Today, she presides over a school that teaches 250 students per year and employs 70 people, including 20 full-time.employees.

Lee: Please tell us about Irene’s.

Irene’s is a place of serious learning and serious tranquility. From the woodsy views outside the classroom windows to the gurgling of fountains within, the school offers students a nurturing environment in which to develop job skills that are in demand in a variety of venues. Irene’s helps students through the admissions and financial aid process to licensing and job placement. As a nationally accredited institute Irene’s is committed to providing the best program in therapeutic massage available. This is a family-owned business that truly cares about each student. The curriculum is founded on Irene’s innovative techniques and more than 50 years of experience.

Lee: What is the mission of Irene’s?

I am a firm believer in karma . . . what comes around goes around. The mission of Irene’s Myomassology Institute is to improve the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of individuals and society. That’s what my mother was all about. I believe we have racked up a bunch of good Karma points that come right back to us and to help grow our business.
Lee: What advice would you give to assist entrepreneurs and small businesses?

I was fortunate that my mother’s talent gave me a great product to market. She was a gifted healer and teacher. She thrived on helping others. She was never in it for the money. Of course the bills have to be paid, but if you are in it for the right reason, you are much more likely to be successful. Combine that with good solid, honest business practices and you should flourish.

Lee: What was the most significant challenge you had to overcome?

I honestly found it more difficult to get our school nationally accredited than it was to earn my master’s degree. If I had known how hard it was going to be to earn our school’s approval, I may not have attempted it. However, I suspect we would have gone out of business if we were not accredited. I learned the professional ways to run a business in my master’s program. My education taught me how to weigh profit and loss, calculating risk, promotions, et. al . I then combined that knowledge with my intuition. I rely heavily on my instincts and follow my principles. I have had people tell me we could make more money if we sold…other unhealthy products. However, that would go against my belief system and the mission of our school.

Lee: What have you implemented to ensure business success?

The procedures and protocols are important for a business to have. I simply apply my holistic principles to our operations. Make sure you have the infrastructure in place and employee protocols are spelled out. Then, get creative. Make sure you’re evolving with the needs of your customers, offer something new. Don’t abandon your core strengths, of course, but branch out, grow and evolve.

Lee: What challenges did you face that other small business owners might face?

For us, it’s important to attract new students. On the rare occasions if revenues slow, we find ways to cut expenses. We don’t cut back on promotions or advertising. We make sure we have a strong admissions department to service our incoming students. We invest time and energy into helping our graduates to gain employment, and they are our best source of referrals.

Lee: How have you creatively generated awareness to attract new clients?

I have found creative ways to get folks into our building. We have events for the public and most of them free or to raise money for charity. I provide free yoga classes every week. I figure if I have the space and it doesn’t cost a lot, I make good use of it. It’s a win-win because the school gets exposure and people benefit from education and even massage that they may not be able to afford to pay for.

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