The interview with Saskia Kleinert is a result of several coincidences. Several months ago one of our readers sent us an e-mail in which she expressed her concern that we choose as Person of the Month only well known names. She also mentioned that we don’t give our readers a chance to learn about successful practitioners who may help us in these difficult times by sharing their expertise and experiences in how they have succeeded in the field.

This e-mail stuck in the back of my mind and, despite the fact that we did interview S. Rayson, LMT in the January-February issue of our Journal the reader clearly had a point. I know personally many successful practitioners many of them at one time were my students, but I envisioned something more striking.

One day we got an e-mail from the owner of Emeryville Health and Wellness Center about her successful massage business in Bay Area. I am a strong believer that life always guides us in the right direction as long as we take every chance it gives us. This is why I decided to do a little research about this Center and its practitioners. The more I’ve read about Saskia and her colleagues in the Emeryville Health and Wellness Center the more impressed I became with the lively and vibrant concept they use to help their clients through a wide variety of somatic, visceral and psychological problems.

After some electronic correspondence I was ready to talk with Saskia and the following conversation convinced me that she was the perfect candidate for Person of the Month interview. Her massage therapy business model, her views and her expertise fit perfectly into the concept we try to promote in our Journal. We think that this interview will help our readers in building a successful massage therapy practice.

Dr. Ross Turchaninov

Here is our interview with


Saskia Kleinert, LMT
Saskia Kleinert, LMT

JMS: Please tell our readers how you got into the massage therapy profession.

S. Kleinert: I loved caring and taking care of people starting at quite a young age. By the time I was 12, I wanted to become a doctor. However, Switzerland, which is where I am from, was still very conservative regarding women’s rights at that time. My parents told me as a girl, I was not suited to be a doctor but rather I should become a nurse. I subsequently worked as a nurses assistant an ER, in psychiatric nursing and post-op, to figure out which aspect of nursing interested me the most. I quickly found out that we could only have very little contact with our patients except for handing out medication, a fact that did not appeal to me, and I decided against becoming a nurse.

I eventually came to massage therapy after a long detour away from the health field through my martial arts training. Part of the requirements for a black belt was to learn traditional Japanese massage sequence that was used to help with injury recovery. It was “love at first touch”! I signed up for massage training shortly after that experience and have been at it ever since. The field of massage therapy has turned out to be an incredible fit for both my love of caring for other people and my interest in health and medicine.

JMS: You have a very successful massage therapy business in a very competitive area of San Francisco. Please describe to our readers your business model.

S. Kleinert: If I were to give my business model a term I would say it is a ‘loyalty business’ model which is based on quality of service, professionalism and integrity leading to customer satisfaction, which leads to customer loyalty. A solid education coupled with a passion for my work and ongoing efforts to continue learning have been the keys to my success. My training in orthopedic massage has most definitely put me ahead of the crowd so to speak. Without that, I doubt I could have achieved this level of success. The orthopedic training has given me that ability to achieve real results with my work and help my clients improve rather than just have them feel better in a couple of days.

JMS: Do you think that the integrative approach to somatic rehabilitation you and your colleagues practice is the major contributing factor to the success of your clinic?

S. Kleinert: Yes, I believe so. That and the fact that our practitioners have been in their respective fields for a long time and are highly educated and very dedicated to their work.

JMS: What impressed us the most is a healthy, non-competitive relationship between the different practitioners who work in your clinic. Very frequently the practitioners bitterly compete for the clients, even within the same facility. You were able to establish optimal professional relationships, keeping in mind the clients health benefits only. Please tell us more about this aspect of your clinic.

S. Kleinert: We have what we call a “non-competitive agreement” at our center. What that means is that we refer clients and patients to one another, but we don’t ‘steal’ them from one another. It would be against our policy to go up to someone else’s client and offer them treatment of the same kind for a lower rate or such.

In talking about the issues to one of my colleagues last week we concluded that because we all have confidence in our own abilities and, “know what we know and what we don’t know” we have no fear of referring clients out. We know that they appreciate us for our abilities and will always come back to seek out our services when appropriate.

As a result we really never had an issue with competition. I think we all understand that what goes around comes around. If a client decides to work with someone else, then that simply means that the other practitioner is a better fit for them and chances are that there are enough clients with varying needs coming through our center to ensure that there is plenty of work for all the practitioners and teachers here. Additionally, all of our practitioners have a high level of integrity which allows us to have a sense of trust in one another and to release our clients into someone else’s care without fear.

JMS: Please share with our readers, especially those who are in private practice the marketing tools you found were the most helpful in promoting your clinic.

S. Kleinert: On a personal basis: consistently good service! I have rarely not had clients return in the 16 plus years I have been in practice. Plus I also get countless referrals from my existing clients.

As a center we have found that personal contact with potential clients works better than ads. We participate in local health fairs of various kinds and attend events that are sponsored by the local chamber of commerce.

Additionally we do the typical kind of stuff; discount cards at local cafes. We have a website and are listed on the local chamber of commerce site. We also send out a monthly email newsletter with health info and offers for new services. We have accumulated a whopping 850 email addresses over the past six years and get a very good response from this form of advertising.

JMS: The massage industry is suffering greatly from the world – wide economic turmoil. Some practitioners have even changed their profession to make ends meet. We think that one of the additional contributing factors to this unfortunate situation is the significant reliance of practitioners on stress reduction massage and the inability to form productive relationships with other health practitioners (partly because of fear) to build a referral base. What do you think about this, and how does your clinic build bridges with the medical community?

S. Kleinert: I agree with your assessment that too many practitioners rely on stress reduction massage. For one thing many practitioners offer only one type of massage, no matter what the client’s complaint is. They may focus a little bit more in one area or another, but basically perform the same sequence of strokes. I think that training in one or another form of medical massage is imperative in being successful in private practice.

Additionally in my experience, mixing orthopedic/medical massage with other modalities really appeals to clients and produces great results. I personally use a number of hydrotherapy treatments, moist heat, herbal compresses, hot stones and ice friction massage as well as linements, herbal and essential oils to address problem areas.

I do think that forming productive relationships with other health practitioners is crucial in sustaining a successful practice. I think the fear of losing clients when we refer them to someone else for treatment is completely unwarranted. Quite the opposite, in my experience if I refer the client to say the acupuncturist because I feel that she could help them more than I can, I get both gratitude and respect from that client which makes them much more likely to then refer their friends and family to me in turn! In that sense the situation really becomes a win-win. Regarding building bridges with the medical community; many of us try to have a productive relationship with our clients’ physicians, psychiatrists and therapists, some with better results than others. There are still plenty of physicians who don’t see the value of our work and are not interested in working with us. But quite a few of us have had good experiences in collaborating with our clients physical therapists, and some of us have been able to establish real working relationships with MD s who work as staff physicians for some of the major local corporations.

JMS: What advice would you like to give to our readers?

S. Kleinert: Be specific with your work, do a thorough intake with each client every time you see them. Address their concerns, educate yourself if you don’ have the skills necessary to work with a specific condition. Learn from your fellow practitioners, exchange ideas and techniques. Also try to be eclectic as a practitioner, draw from all the different massage and healing traditions available to you. Make use of whatever works! I studied traditional Thai massage in Thailand and use those stretches and pressure points in my therapeutic orthopedic work. I studied aromantherapy, and put that knowledge to use in every session. I always get a massage when I travel and in doing so have learned some great tricks in such unexpected places like Vietnam and Nepal. Never think you know it all. There is always more to learn!

Saskia Kleinert, LMT has had her private health and massage practice since 1993. She received her massage diploma from the National Holistic Institute. In addition she is certified in orthopedic massage, pre- and perinatal massage, ashiatsu, traditional Thai Massage, as well as in health education and aromantherapy.
She has a certificate in “Heart Disease and Nutrition” and in “Cancer and Nutrition” with Dr. Andrew Weil’s Institute of Integrative Medicine and is currently furthering her nutritional education through Hawthorn University.
Saskia has had 19 years of experience in the Martial Arts and holds the rank of 3rd Degree Black Belt.
She is the founder and director of the Emeryville Health and Wellness Center, a successful multi practitioner center, in the San Francisco Bay area that has been in existence for over six years.
The Center’s philosophy is based on the understanding that the best health care comes bout when people have a broad range of modalities to choose from to address what ails them and that optimal health can only be achieved through an approach that is tailored to each individual’s needs.
Reflecting that philosophy, the Center offers a great number of health modalities. Acupuncture, Ayurveda, Chiropactic Care, Massage and Bodywork, Naturopathy, Nutritional Therapy, Yoga, Qigong, Feldenkrais, Pilates, and holistic Skin Care.
Saskia feels very passionate about health and health care and feels honored to have been chosen as the person on the month.

Category: Person of the Month