Shane Evans – Founder & CEO, Massage Heights

Shane Evans is co-founder and president of Massage Heights, an international franchise company founded in San Antonio, Texas, in 2004.

Massage Heights’ vision is to elevate the lives of the people they touch. Massage Heights provides a heightened service experience to the Guests and Members of its retail spa-like Retreats, a purposeful, values-based employment opportunity for over 5,000 Team Members and a proven business proposition that Franchisees can be proud of in a space where the sky is the limit!

Massage Heights retail locations provide professional, quality, therapeutic massage, and skincare services in an upscale environment through an affordable membership model.

While Shane’s day-to-day responsibilities are leading the franchise company, she is also the co-owner of several Massage Heights retail locations; co-owner of the supply chain, Summit Franchise Supply, LLC; co-owner of The Gents Place Franchising, an ultra-premium men’s lifestyle and grooming club; and is on the Board of Directors of the Massage Heights Family Fund, which she passionately co-founded as a crisis relief resource for Massage Heights franchisees’ team members nationwide after her appearance on Undercover Boss in December 2013.

Shane is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and serves on the local chapter’s Board of Directors as the Learning Officer. She’s also active in the International Franchise Association (IFA), including several IFA committees such as the Franchise Relations Committee and Women in Franchising Committee.

Shane is married to Massage Heights co-founder Wayne Evans and they have three daughters — Kayci, Wesli and Braydi.

Tell me about your early career.
I started out working in the health club industry, which is where I learned to refine my customer service skills, sales skills and got my initial management and leadership experience. My next job was in medical sales for a company that manufactured and distributed medical supplies where I would visit doctor’s offices regularly to detail doctors about the devices. The job required personal motivation and accountability due to the nature of the position and the territory. I learned how to develop and nurture relationships and also how to handle rejection without taking it personally. It just encouraged me to find better ways to get to the referral source and to be diligent in my pursuit of reaching goals.

How did the concept for Massage Heights come about?
At the age of 19, I hurt my lower back and ended up laying flat on the floor for a week with my feet up on a chair. I was miserable. A similar kind of back pain would occur about once a year. After going to the chiropractor many times, I realized that my visits were making the pain worse. One year, I decided to get a massage instead and felt better in a day or two and realized the immediate benefits. I started to get massage therapy but not too often because it was expensive at spas and hotels and the less expensive places were not reliable nor professional. I knew I wasn’t the only one who would benefit from an affordable, convenient, and professional massage therapy option, so I sought out to come up with a more costly solution.

A family road trip to Sedona, Arizona really helped the idea of Massage Heights go into motion. Being in the car for days significantly increased my back pain, so my husband scheduled a massage for me in spa of a international brand hotel and unfortunately, I didn’t have a good experience. The negative experience coupled with the high price point at the hotel inspired me to look into membership-based massage therapy options and after doing many visits and research, we weren’t able to identify a single company that stood out so we completed our business plan which we had started in the car ride home from Arizona and started Massage Heights four months later.

How was the first year in business?
It was hard. We didn’t have a lot of money and cashed out on stocks, our 401K, the Texas Tomorrow Fund we had established for college tuition for our kids, along with any additional savings we had. In the beginning, we would buy the least expensive massage lotion at the grocery store which was also used by one of the local massage schools and therapist liked, but the point is that it was inexpensive as we were watching all of our costs. We would purchase essential supplies such as toilet paper or cleaning supplies on an as-needed basis, no big expenses with bulk products. We had no money to spare so we had to go day by day.

As business really kicked off, we were making money and were able to start building our second Retreat about nine months after we opened the first. The local community kept asking when we would open a Retreat near them and at that point we realized people were utilizing massage therapy for reasons surpassing a day at the spa. We realized we were truly elevating lives and the momentum continued to build. We needed to expand and do it quickly.

What was your marketing strategy?
You’ll often hear me say that I don’t believe we would have been as successful if we started the business anywhere other than San Antonio. Your roots are so important when starting a new venture and with that, a lot of our initial efforts were guerrilla-marketing techniques. We really counted on the friends and family in our community. We leaned on inexpensive tactics in the beginning such as putting flyers on cars, placing door hangers in local housing communities, direct mail campaigns, and word of mouth. The Internet barely existed back then. Of course we had a website, but that held very little weight in 2004. We established a strong referral program amongst new Members and also formed relationships with local doctors and chiropractors to have them refer their patients to us.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
We opened the doors to our first Retreat in 2004 and the second location in 2005, just 9 months after the first. Two years later, we started franchising. By 2007, we had grown to 10 locations in and around the San Antonio and Austin areas and the next step naturally was to start franchising the brand on a national level and our growth has been substantial but strategic ever since.

How do you define success?
Success for me is defined by the success of others. If our franchisees are successful, then that means we, the franchisor are successful. If our franchisees are successful then we are a successful brand with scalability and sustainability. We’ve seen our franchisees reinvest in the franchise over the years as they’ve been able to surpass their personal and professional goals and that is super exciting and really rewarding.

The whole concept of Massage Heights was founded to help people live their lives better and that stems further than solely our consumers. It is my hope that all of our team members can go to work every day and do what they love in an environment where they feel cherished and appreciated. The franchise model allows franchisees to live out their dream of business ownership, but most importantly, it should help them realize their personal aspirations and the reasons they first walked through our doors. People don’t buy a franchise just to make a living; they are looking for something more fulfilling. Whether that is to control their own destiny, have freedom in their business, or to determine their hours and spend more time with their families, we have the flexibility to allow that to happen. Seeing other people’s dreams come to fruition is a true testament to success in my eyes.

What is the key to success?
Diligence. Too many people stop when it gets hard but it is vital to keep moving forward. Have a plan. Follow the plan. Pivot when needed. Never give up.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Talk less, listen more, but do ask questions; lots and lots of relevant questions. The only bad questions are the ones that weren’t asked.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“Culture is what culture does.” – Shane Evans

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” – Richard Branson

“So long as there is breath in me, that long will I persist. For I know one of the principles of success – if I persist long enough, I will win.” – Og Mandino

“Begin each day with the blueprint of your deepest values firmly in mind then when challenges come, make decisions based on those values.” – Stephen Covey

“Its not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.” – Unknown

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” – Henry Ford

What are some of your favorite books?
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz is a great book about a company that has experienced challenges and how to come out of them. A few additional of my favorites are Good To Great by Jim Collins, Start With Why by Simon Sinek and many of the books by author Brené Brown.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
There is a consistency in the toughest days I’ve gone through as an entrepreneur. The days are the challenging ones when I feel like I am not enough and question whether or not I have not done enough to help enough people. I tend to take it personally when someone is struggling. The question “Are we as an organization doing enough of the right things to help all stakeholders realize success, inclusive of our corporate team members, our franchise partners, and the 5000 people our franchisees employ in our nationwide Retreats who are the heartbeat of our brand?” tends to arise and it helps me step outside of the day-to-day and strategize on ways to improve.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Having the responsibility that so many people rely on me. There are more than 5,000 people that work for Massage Heights and there has been millions of dollars invested into this company by our franchise partners. Each of these individuals, along with my family and loved ones, and our HQ team, rely on me every single day to be a good leader. The responsibility to get up and continue leading for them, to help them realize their personal goals and dream, is the fuel to my fire and the reason I keep moving forward.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
It may be cliché, but the advice I give is to “Just Do It”. Once you come up with an idea for a new business, start making it become a reality. Create a plan and bounce your idea off of as many people as you can. From my experience, you will truly be surprised with how many people want to provide beneficial feedback or even be a part of the process. Lastly, search for a mentor that will not only help develop your idea, but also help grow yourself as an individual.

This interview was conducted for research purposes by Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.

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