Learn best practices for starting and running a float center:
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Show Highlights

For people just starting out, it can seem really daunting to start a float center. They may not even know where to begin.

Graham and Ashkahn tackle this idea head on. The most important thing is to do a lot of research (definitely check the resources) and to make sure you have people that you can call and refer to for support when you need it.

Show Resources

Listen to Just the Audio

Transcription of this episode… (in case you prefer reading)

Graham: Welcome everybody.

Ashkahn: Hey everybody, welcome to this perfectly normal podcast.

Graham: If this is your first time listening, just go listen to a different intro and see what that has for you. My name’s Graham.

Ashkahn: My name’s Ashkhan.

Graham: A.K.A dentist/patient, over here. And we answer questions.

Ashkahn: That’s right, that you send us.

Graham: And we’re going to do that today too. And the question for today is, “What are the first steps to starting a floatation business.” Well, writing in was a great one.

Ashkahn: Yeah, you’re off to really good start.

Graham: And listening to these intros in general is going to really prepare you for the long road ahead.

Ashkahn: There’s a secret message coded into each one.

Graham: Invaluable float wisdom that was just planted there.

Ashkahn: Yeah, if you string them all together. Yeah, I can see how it’s overwhelming when you look at the entire thing. I mean, there’s a big construction project ahead of you, and there’s a lot information to absorb, and these things have been around for years and years. And there’s a lot of money that you’re about to spend, it’s a good chunk of money to open one of these things up. So it is useful to go back and be like, “Okay, like where do I actually kind of leap first here.”

Graham: So , just a ton of research, as simple as it might sound. And obviously already you’re in that vein, if you’re listening to our podcast. And you found us talking at you.

Ashkahn: For number one, you should float a bunch. You’d be surprised, some of you may be rolling your eyes like, “Of course, that’s such a obvious piece of float advice Ashkahn.” But you’d be surprised how many people come to us, with all sorts of questions. They’re looking for this granular financial information, and this and that. And they haven’t even floated, or maybe they floated one time.

Graham: It’s crazy. It’s honestly, the first time that happened during one of our apprentices was very early on. And I’m just like, “What do you mean? You’ve never hopped in a float tank? You flew all the way out to Portland and paid money to take a training class. You’ve never floated?” And they’re just like, “I just knew it was for me.” But it’s true, there is a portion of you listening, who that’s you, and you’ve listened like a whole of our podcasts and never hopped in a float tank.

Ashkahn: Yeah, so get in one. Go get a membership from your closest float center and float. Start to actually float, on a regular basis. That should definitely be a step one for you.

Graham: Yeah, for sure. Step two.

Ashkahn: Open a float center.

Graham: Step three, profit. Right, but it’s almost more than something specific to start putting into your brain. Just really starting to go out there and see everything that’s going. Because there is, form construction, to water sanitation, to marketing, to staffing. There’s all the skills you need to run a regular business, plus, a healthy dose of water chemistry and crazy contracting knowledge and experience.

Ashkahn: So then it’s like the absorption phase, get that info into your brain. And there’s a lot of places with just free resources.

Graham: Float tank solutions, for one. Great site. Great guys run it.

Ashkahn: Yeah, I mean there’s this podcast, we have a big blog on our float tank solutions site. There’s a number of free materials, one is called “An about float tanks guide,” that’s literally just like a primer in learning about what the heck float tanks are, and their benefits, and the history, and the industry. There’s a lot of just free information out there for getting yourself up and running. There’s other podcasts, like the Art of the Float podcast. There is a Facebook group called “Float collective”.

Graham: Yeah, which it’s just for float center owners, and people who are really serious about getting into it. So if you apply and don’t get in just yet, don’t hold that against the group or anything like that. It’s really just them trying to. And then, by the way, we do not run the Float Collective so we have nothing to do with these decisions. But understandably, as the industry grows, it’s really been trying to maintain this state of just sort of being people who are actively in the industry. But, pretty much once you have a building or anything like that, it’s a great group to join and get nice feedback and advice on. And the search feature in that, and on our blog. Just like searching big archives of preexisting float information, for whatever you happen to be looking for. Awesome. That’s a great way to go and just make sure you’re getting the collective wisdom of people who came before.

Ashkahn: Yeah, and then after that I guess, I mean honestly the kind of unfortunate but realistic side of me wants to say, take a good look at the finances involved. You may really want to open a float center, but it’s expensive, it honestly is a expensive business to open up for the size of shop you’re opening and things like that. There’s the expensive build outs required. Probably a good early step is to realistically see how much these things cost and understand if this is something that makes sense for you, or if this is like ten times higher than the amount of money you think you could put together through whatever yourself, or bank loans or things like that. Cause that might be a kind of reality check that is good to hit sooner rather than later.

Graham: Yeah, talk to other float tank center owners. Along those same lines too. Just financially, you need to vet out, and make sure this is going to work for you. Make sure it’s actually the lifestyle you want. I think its not an uncommon belief to go into this and because its a relaxation business, and its centered around healing and kind of doing the least amount of anything that you possibly can as a human being that the actual act of running a float center is likewise going to be a kind of a mellow relaxed experience. And yeah, Ashkhan is already laughing over there, because it’s so not. And any float tank center owner will tell you that too. I usually call it “trial by water”. It’s like getting into the business in your first year. But, it’s a little crazy, providing that healing space of nothingness for your clients. Takes a lot on the backend and on the owners side. So, it’s worth kind of doing your gut check on making sure that this is going to be viable for you price wise to open up. Do a good check and make sure that offering this kind of service is also the lifestyle you personally want, and you’re prepared for the amount of work that goes into it.

Ashkahn: Yeah, and prepared for working the shop. If you’re going into this thinking you’re going to open a float center and higher a bunch of employees and then you’ll be sitting in a hammock raking the money in at some point, within five months. That’s not usually how it goes. Like most float centers in their first several years of operation, the owners are in there full time, working the front desk and cleaning rooms and getting people into tanks. That’s part of the gig, so if that is not in line with your vision, that might be something that you want to come to terms with or realize that maybe this is not for you.

Graham: Yeah, and that’s almost true of business in general too. If this is your first go at any business, also know you’re starting on kind of like hard mode with a float tank center. With any business, you kind of need to be in it, in order to actually make the documents for other people to follow you and make sure you know how you want things run before you just turn it over to a staff.

Ashkahn: Otherwise you are going to be a really bad manager, if you’re have very little experience working in your own shop.

Graham: And, I guess I would say the next thing too, is just get training from someone, or get consulting help, or find someone to help you get through a lot of the early process. You can throw a bunch of stuff into your brain and still have no idea of where the shortcomings are, or what you’re missing. And I cannot speak strongly enough to the fact that you should take the advice of someone who had come before you. There are lots of people out there in the float industry now, who offer consulting or will actually have you out at their shop to all you to shadow their shop employees or do a kind of training. Obviously we do that with float tank solutions. We do our monthly apprenticeship, and we have other shadowing options for our shop, and we do onsite consulting.

But, we’re not the only ones. Art of the float, with Dillon, the other kind of big podcast, does consulting as well. And just in general, making sure to not think that you’re not smart  enough or experienced enough, that you don’t need to get help form people who came before you is really important. Otherwise you will just end up making understandable but really unfortunate mistakes, that can cost you a lot of money and heartache.

Ashkahn: Yeah, when people come out to our apprenticeship classes , it’s really like, if they have not taken any concrete steps towards anything yet is often the best experiences that they can have. Cause if you found a location already or if you’ve already secured a certain amount of money, most of the time you’re going to find out that that location is not actually what you wanted or that was not enough money. That’s the kind of information you’re going to be getting from talking to people and getting that kind of more detailed insight into this. And so it’s really nice to get that information before you’ve secured yourself to anything, or kind of committed to anything that may, now that you know more, be something that is not actually ideal for you.

Graham: Yeah, and every single time, people are so grateful they’ve come out, especially early in the process. And any time people come out late, we’ve had people out to do our trainings when they’re half way through construction. And those are just the most heartbreaking, I guess, experience. They’re literally just leaving the construction class, calling their contractors being like, “Stop what you’re doing, we can not do this. It’s going to mess up everything.” And usually what happens is they get halfway through the construction day and they just put their entire construction on hold until they finish and can kind of get a better grasp on things. Again, it’s really easy to make the same sorts of mistakes that many other float centers have made before. And it’s a result of this industry being weird, and salty, and soundproof-y, and kind of all these things that aren’t usually mixed together. After you’ve kind of actually floated a bunch, after you’ve shoved a ton of knowledge in your head, make sure you hear from people who came before you, and get that hands on help.

And have people you can call, like during construction, as questions come up. You should have someone on hand who you can call for advice. And fortunately the entire float industry is behind you in that sense.

Ashkahn: Those are good starting steps, at that point I think most people start actually looking for a location once they have that kind of base of knowledge and everything like that, and it all makes sense, and they know its going to work for them. Cause that can take anywhere from like, perfect you found the great space in a week, to some people searched for over a year for that right location. It’s a good thing to think about as one of your first kinda concrete steps forward.

Graham: And also if you’re far enough along. Even before you get a location, consider getting a test float tank for your house. Or your apartment, or whatever it is. If you’re not planning on having a giant built in cabin, or something that has to be firmly attached to the area you’re building it. I always like to kind of shock the students who are coming through the apprenticeship class by suggesting they get a float tank of their own. And I think it’s great to get both hands on experience with the water chemistry, to get to float a bunch like we were saying, and make sure you actually like it. And find out if you like this tank. If you’re thinking about getting five of them, having one to play around with early is really nice. And if you do like it, you can move it to your float tank center.

If you don’t like it, the resale market for float tanks is pretty high, so you can actually just sell it. And there are some people who have followed that advice and gotten a float tank at home, and emailed me and said “They’ve decided not to open a float tank center.” And they realized in the process, they’re like “Actually I was just trying to figure out a way for me to float free all the time, and that opening a center sounds really hard and this is really easy.” Never a bad first foray.

Ashkahn: Worst case scenario, you got a float tank in your house.

Graham: Yeah, right. This is just going to cascade now the second step so yeah, I guess we should just end it at some point here.

Ashkahn: When you hit your tenth year anniversary.

Graham: The first step for your tenth year anniversary is, yeah, okay. Well if you have questions of your own, go on over to-

Ashkahn: Floattanksolutions.com/podcast.

There’s a question form right there. You can put a question in and we’ll answer it. It’ll be fun, it’ll be fun for both of us.

Graham: Yeah, we’ll have a great time.

Ashkahn: Yeah.

Graham: Alright, air five, ka chow. Bye everyone.

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