David Palmer: Bringing standardization to the field of massage

Apparently, it is not politically correct to call someone a masseuse anymore. David Palmer, who is sometimes referred to as the “father of the chair massage,” says the term was retired long ago.

“Masseuse is not used anymore in the massage profession,” says Palmer. “We use massage practitioner because it is not gender-specific so that seems to work the best for most situations.”

Palmer is a massage practitioner and entrepreneur with the hope of standardizing thefield of massage. His latest venture, Zubio Inc., is an on-site massage station company with stations scattered throughout malls, office towers and corporate events. He believes franchising the massage business will demystify the field a bit.

“I think that the massage profession is in a crucial period of transformation,” said Palmer. “There hasn’t been a level of professionalism that is required if the profession is going to make it to the next level of its own evolution. A lot of chair massage is done in informal, funky contexts. What Zubio brings is a consistent service that is unique not just to chair massage but to massage in general.”

Palmer says customers appreciate a consistency in product. He said customers are hesitant to get massages when they don’t know exactly what they are paying for, so he created a training program for his massage practitioners that is replicable and dependable.

“Customers appreciate the fact that we’ve figured out how to train professionals to a quality of service that is reproducible,” said Palmer. “And this concept of branding brings a level of professionalism that people are looking for. The Zubio brand is intent on being the premier brand for chair massage so that when companies are looking for practitioners to come into their events or when they see a Zubio station in the mall, they have that recognition that this is a trustworthy and reliable service.”

Palmer said the lack of consistency in massage is what forces talented professionals out of the field. According to his research, most people who graduate from massage school quit within two years because they are forced to fend for themselves, finding a place of business and clients. For this reason, Zubio massage practitioners are full-time employees. He doesn’t believe in the independent contractor model.

Palmer has been in the massage field for nearly 26 years. He had been running a social service agency for 10 years when he decided that he needed a shift in profession. Massage, he says, was a job that was portable and lucrative.

David Palmer

BUSINESS

New job: Chief operating officer, Zubio Inc.

Last job: President, TouchPro Institute

Number of e-mails a day: 50 non-spam

Number of voice-mails a day: 5-10

Essential Web site: http://www.integralinstitute.com

Best perk: Working with my 30-something business partner

Gadgets: Cell, Zire 72 PDA/camera/voice recorder/mp3 player

Education/credentials: 13 years of Catholic education (in 1966 that was the equivalent of a college education), a massage school diploma, passed the National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork.

First job: Neighborhood lawn care through high school, flipping burgers at Burger King and factory work through college.

Career objective: Making touch a positive social value.

PERSONAL

Details: Born Nov. 27, 1948; hometown: McHenry, Ill.; children: One daughter

Sports/hobbies: Yoga, swimming, film, technology, integral consciousness

Transportation: Bike, Muni, car

Favorite restaurant: Saigon Saigon, Zuni Cafe

Favorite clothier: Lululemon

Vacation spot: Vacation?

Role models: Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Václav Havel, my mother for her unconditional love and optimism, my father for his sense of community responsibility

Reading: “The Simple Feeling of Being: Embracing Your True Nature,” by Ken Wilber “Christopher Isherwood Diaries: 1939-1960,” by Christopher Isherwood and Katherine Bucknell; “The Future and Its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise and Progress,” by Virginia Postrel

Worst fear: Boredom

Motivation: If everyone were able to get as many massages as they liked, the world would be a far different place.

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