The Secret Sanctuary – Part 3

I heard Liz and her client’s footsteps disappear into the back and the door close to
Liz’s workspace.

I took a sip of coffee and through about the previous two years since we had graduated and opened the shop.  We weren’t millionaires but we weren’t scraping for cash either. We’d had very few complaints, no particularly difficult customers that we felt we’d need to drop as customers, and most importantly; referrals were growing our client base fairly quickly.  We had informally talked about bringing on another therapist or two to help manage the workload.  I still didn’t think that I was carrying my weight with clients but Kate and Liz wouldn’t let me since I was running the “back office” side of the shop.

I figured I’d go back and randomly pick 10 or 20 of Kate’s client visits and see how they reconciled against the appointment type, what was received, and all that good office management stuff.  As I dove into the first visit, I thought for a bit about paying a case reviewer to come in and audit Kate’s records but I knew it would cost more than we
would likely be able to sue Kate for if we fired her for embezzling funds from the company.

As the computer pulled up the records, I heard a car pull up. I looked at the day’s
schedule to see there was no one scheduled until Kate’s 11am. Maybe I can pick up a new client…

When the door chime sounded, I looked up and saw a younger looking man walking in, scruffy beard, kinda crazy hair and thought to myself, “Oh great, someone who’s lost.”

“Uhm, hi.  I was referred by Kurt and I wanted to see if I could set up an appointment some time.”

Referred by Kurt, this could prove interesting.” I thought to myself as I made eye contact and was surprised by the intensity in his gaze.

“Sure, no problem.  We don’t have any openings today but we might be able to get you on the schedule for tomorrow.” I said as I grabbed a clipboard and a new patient packet. “If you want to have a seat and fill out our new patient questionnaire and the medical history sheets here. We are not covered by most insurance plans at this time, so you
will need to pay directly for any services rendered.  We do accept flex spending and health savings accounts.” I paused to catch my breath. I’d gotten into the habit of just  rattling off the entire spiel in one long breath. “I’m Pete and if you have any
questions, please feel free to ask.”

“Thanks Pete,” he said and took the clipboard.  He walked over to the far
corner and started filling out his paperwork.

I went back to reviewing charts and over the next 20 minutes found that
every one of Kate’s encounters fit the same pattern.  I tried to keep my discouragement from showing but to no avail.  I was just taking another drink of my coffee and wishing I had something stronger than half-and-half to put in it when our potential new client came walking back up to the desk.

He flashed a smile and asked, “You having a bad day too?”

I smiled back at him, “Nah, just the joys of being the office manager. Getting to review billings and all that.”

“Sounds boring.” he said with that same smile and what I could have sworn was a wink.

I chuckled to myself and thought, “If I wasn’t the manager and if I was looking for someone, I might be interested.”

I looked over his paperwork, “So. Chris, did you have any questions?”

I continued scanning over his paperwork and saw that he was looking for
a male therapist. Swing! New client for me!

“Not really, just wondering what your rates are and how soon I could book
and how often.”

I handed him our standard rate card and let him know that we were looking at 3-4 weeks out for booking as we were getting busier than our current staffing would allow and we were about to start interviewing to hire another therapist or maybe two.

“Oh, I pulled my hamstring or something and my left leg is bothering me.”

I hadn’t really watched him walk in or around the office, so I took his word on it.  I pulled up our master schedule.  With Kate out of the office for the day and maybe longer, I didn’t want to try to get creative with trying to work him into the schedule.

I looked out a couple of days to Friday and saw that if I scheduled Liz for the front desk in the morning, I could work Chris on to my schedule.

“Chris, would Friday morning at 9am work?  It’ll be a minimum of a thirty  minute appointment as I’ll be doing your initial assessment.  Did you know how long of a session you wanted to schedule?”

“I, uh…” Chris stumbled as he fumbled with the rate sheet, “Well,
I’ve never done anything like this before, so I think I’d wanna
go all in and go for the two hour deluxe.”

I smiled, “Okay, but if your leg is an actual inury, that would be
the more expensive sport/injury session not our normal relaxation

Chris looked at the rate card, “No problem.  I don’t think I’d need
that kind of session that often.”

“True, just wanted to make sure you were aware of the rate changes.  I look
forward to seeing you Friday morning at 9.  Did you want an appointment reminder?”

“Nah, I’ll remember Pete.” and with that Chris ambled back out the door and I was left wondering what Liz would say about me adjusting her schedule.

Other authors posting this week:

The Secret Sanctuary – Part 2

I sat down and started reviewing the notes on my new mystery client.
Normally, the person who has the initial contact with the new
customer takes them.  In this case, it was Kate. As I paged through the records, I saw nothing but standard massage appointments. Nothing labeled as deep tissue or
any advanced treatment modalities.  Actually, it looked like any other suburban housewife that would come in for a “selfie” day of pampering.

I looked out the window and saw it was snowing again and heavily enough that
it looked like we’d get several inches before it was done.  I didn’t really want to think about it so I turned back to the chart for “Kurt Fleming”. Regular visits every two weeks which were never missed since just after we opened.

“You know Liz, this could be a model client, it’s too clean. Appointments every two weeks, never missed an appointment, but all the treatment notes are for normal sessions.  No deep-tissue, no focus, nothing.  Even the session notes are basic, clean, nearly cookie cutter notes.”

Liz spun in her chair as she said grumpily, “Let me take a look. I’ve seen this guy a couple of times in passing and he looks like he’d be a lot of work with his build and being an
athlete.”  She turned back towards her desk poured herself another cup of coffee.

I quick flipped through some of her patients, almost all of them were the same pattern.  It was as if she had a perfect “relaxation only” client base.  No one ever had specific issues, places that needed worked extra…

“How long has this been going on?” I asked out loud.

“Wha?” came the response from Liz. “This Kurt guy is too perfect.”

“Exactly Liz! I just started looking back through her clients and they are all like that.  No injuries, no deep-tissue.  Everyone is here for relaxation.  Either we are getting the wrong clients, she’s gotten some amazing referrals or something is going on here.”

“You know Pete, normally, I’d be the one to play devil’s advocate but
in this case, I’d have to agree with you.”

“Well, since I have Kurt on my schedule at 11am.  I think I’ll talk to him and see what he has to say about Kate and her services.  If he doesn’t suspect anything, he might tell us more than he should.”

“Yeah, true.  I’d hate to have to fire her.” Liz said looking at me.

“I’m already thinking about it.  If she’s doing advanced work and not billing for it, she’s pocketing that money that should be going to the shop.”

“Exactly Pete.  If it’s one client, we could have a talk with her. If it’s all of
her clients, we have to let her go.”

I sighed and nodded.

I looked over Kurt’s vitals and demographics, nothing out of the ordinary there. Kate’s treatment notes were so vague that I couldn’t really build an idea of what to expect or what to plan for…A blind session, haven’t done one of those since we were in massage

I’m going to head up front and play receptionist while I work on clinic stuff. Kate’s not here so, yeah, I get to cover the front. Maybe we should hire a receptionist/scheduler.”

Liz let out a small laugh, “Maybe we could if everyone was paying in their fair share of their work.”

I let out a grunt as I undocked my laptop and headed up front to unlock the doors and open for the day.  The whole thing with Kate was starting to bother me more than I thought it would.  Could she really be skimming off that much from the company?

I set my computer down on the desk and unlocked the front door.  I gave a look outside and didn’t see anyone waiting, so I went back to get another cup of coffee.  It was just going to be one of those days.

I got my coffee, headed back up front just in time to see the first guest of the step about to step in the door.  I heard Liz walking up the hall behind me and assumed it was her first client of the day.

Other Wednesday Briefs authors this week:

Cia Nordwell
Carol Pedroso
Jon Keys
Julie Lynn Hayes

The Secret Sanctuary – Part 1

I looked at my schedule for the week.  Busy but not overbooked, the schedule looked
to be filled with regulars.  One good thing about being a massage therapist, if you’re good, you quickly develop a steady client base. A week of regulars meant that I’d really not have much unexpected work come in and that meant steady money.  I will never
complain about steady money.

There were three of us who worked at The Secret Sanctuary.  We had gone to massage school together and decided that we would open a massage shop/spa with a more esoteric focus.  It would take us longer to gain a steady client base but we would be doing what we really wanted to do with our schooling.

“Another Tuesday.” I sat at my desk and opened my e-mail.

“Hey guys!

I’m out sick today. I only have one appointment today. Pete, can
you take my 11am?  He’s pretty easy unless he asks for a deep
tissue session.  He plays football over at State and got referred
over to us by one of our regulars.




“Well, hell!” I thought to myself as I looked at my schedule, “Oh look, my calendar
got shifted so that I’m free from 11am to 2pm.  Thanks Kate…” I muttered out loud.

I was the de-facto office manager, which meant that my schedule was kept lighter so that
I could take care of things without having to juggle clients and work weekends.

Liz said out loud as she turned from her computer, “Isn’t that great? She has one
client today and takes a sick day. Today’s your office day and then you are booked the rest of the week.”

“Yeah, at least the client I’m picking up is a regular and, at worst, a 2 hour session. Hopefully he tips well.”

Liz let out a laugh, “Don’t we say that about every client?”

I had to chuckle, “Yeah, we do. Business is finally hitting the break even point.  If
Kate would take on more clients, we’d be making a small profit every month.  I think I’m going to start doing office work on the weekends so I can take on more clients.”

“Pete, no! We got into this together and we decided that you would be the manager since
you have the head for it.  We need you to do that job.”

“I will be, just on Saturdays.  I might take Saturday morning for office work and take
a couple of clients on Saturday.  Depends on how things work out.”

“You sure?” Liz asked as she poured herself a cup of coffee while yawning.

“Yeah, besides, I get more done when it’s quiet.  If the hours are listed as Saturday
afternoon only, I can leave the phones to roll to voicemail until noon.”

“But Pete, that’s still more hours you’ll be working.” Liz said with a scornful

“I know Liz, but we really don’t have a choice do we?  I don’t want to see us have
to close down.”

“True.” Liz said as she stepped closer, “What if we were to buy out Kate?”

I paused, “Liz!” I said with somewhat real shock, “But to be honest, I’d been
thinking about that already. I was working out what a fair offer would be to buy her out and keep her on as an employee.  She has a steady client base, but she just needs more of them.”

Liz nodded and took a drink of her coffee.

“There more coffee left?” I said looking at the coffee maker.  It was a solid aluminum
pot and you couldn’t tell how much coffee was in it unless you picked it up and opened it.

Liz nodded again, “Let me know what half of the offer to buy out Kate would be, would
you?  Call me or text me, no need to send it on email here.”

“Good plan.  The less that could be discovered if she were to try and sue us, the

“Exactly! I think she’s riding our coattails.”

“Really?  I can’t say that I really watch over you guys that close to see that you are
making the sessions/cash flow that we agreed for everyone.  I just make sure that I’m on it every month. I’ll go back and make sure there’s not a pattern we need to address.”

Liz, being the silent type for the most part, just nodded again. It was one thing I
really appreciated about her, she was a talkative one with clients but she wasn’t the type to feel the need to make office chatter.

“Well, I suppose I should review the notes for this 11am client. I thought I was just
going to have my 3 and 4pm clients.  Wait a minute, why would she block out three hours for this guy and let him have the option of a deep tissue session when he’s booked for a standard one hour? That’s not right.  If she does a deep tissue, she’s getting paid
a lot more than she has to pay the shop.”

I shook my head, “I’ll look into it after this client is gone.  I don’t want to
be upset working on a client.”

Liz nodded yet again, but this time it was laced with a growl.

“So,” I thought to myself, “let’s see what Kate has dumped on my table.”