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Success Story: Joe Bob Smith

Starting out as a massage therapist, Joe Bob Smith took the leap into massage education by purchasing the massage school he attended. Joe Bob served on the Board of the California Massage Therapy Council for almost 5 years before heading up its new school approval process, which oversees the approval of 130+ massage schools.

Joe Bob believes quality education supports a strong massage profession and likes to write the occasional song about massage in his spare time.

How did you get your start in the massage industry?
I found therapeutic massage as a result of my marathon training. I had not been much of a runner up until this point in life, so the long runs left me sore for days. Realizing that others in my group were incorporating massage into their routine, I thought I’d give it a try. My recovery time went from 3 days to almost none. It was incredible what an hour of “rubbing” could do! Always curious about how things work, I signed up for a local massage class never actually intending to become a massage therapist. However, I loved practicing on friends and members of my running group so much and they kept asking for more.

If you came from another industry, what made you pursue spa and wellness?
Before massage, I had worked in the film industry and then the family business of insurance. While these are very diverse industries, the common denominator is making people feel better. Massage allowed for that instant gratification of making people feel better right in the moment.

Having a business background definitely helped me grow in the profession. A full-time massage therapist may only massage 20-30 hours a week. Those other 10-20 hours are all about taking care of business. If you ignore that, it’s hard for a therapist to make their desired income.

What roles have you held in the industry during your career?
I started as a sports massage therapist, focusing mainly on runners. A friend from massage school and I partnered to buy the massage school we had attended. We really wanted the clinic that was attached to it because it was nearly impossible to get a zoning permit for massage at that time. Luckily, we did not know the difficulties of what we were getting into or we wouldn’t have done it. Turns out we loved growing our little school and eventually selling it to a larger group of massage schools.

What I thought would be a year transition there turned out to be 8 years during which I managed opening two more campuses for them. We achieved that rare balance of big school and quality education. As part of my duties there, I was the school’s primary liaison to the massage profession, including 5 years serving on California’s new certifying organization. When the law changed for the California Massage Therapy Council to approve schools, I took the job of creating and overseeing that division, which is what I do now.

What professional achievement are you most proud of and why?
Bringing some sort of order to the wild west of massage education in California is definitely the pinnacle of my career so far. Of course, I loved my clients; I loved helping others become massage therapists; but I feel like what I’m doing now has the most long-term impact on the profession and, thus, helps the most people.

California used to have 200-300 massage schools, many questionably regulated. After un-approving over 60 schools, the state legislature mandated that CAMTC proactively approve all schools before accepting their education. In the process, we’re weeding out dozens of fraudulent schools and boosting the minimum education provided by the remaining ones. It’s not an easy task, but I keep reminding myself of the importance of what I do.

Is there someone in the industry who has had a profound impact on your career? Why?
Lynda Solien-Wolfe. Not only has she introduced me to a world of people, she taught me how to network, the importance of believing in what I was doing, and, most importantly, that laughter is key.

What one piece of advice would you give someone starting out in the spa and wellness industry?
Have a plan, work like crazy, adapt the plan, keep working like crazy, and never stop having fun!

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