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Show Highlights

It happens every once in a while that a center you knew closes down and it can seem like a dark omen for the rest of the industry. The reality is that these are individual circumstances that are brought about not because of a major trend as much as just life events coming up.

Graham and Ashkahn share their take on other float centers closing and what they know about it and how frequently they think it’s occurring.

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

Ashkahn: Hey, welcome everybody.

Graham: Choo-choo. All aboard the Daily Solutions Express.

Ashkahn: Where does it take you?

Graham: One takes you right over to information land, my friend.

Ashkahn: This guy. Yeah, I’ve been meaning to go visit information land.

Graham: I think we both need to visit, actually. Okay. I’m Graham.

Ashkahn: I’m Ashkahn.

Graham: And today’s question is: “do you know how many centers has shut down in this past year and why they’ve shut down?”

Ashkahn: Has shut down?

Graham: How many has shut down, yeah.

Ashkahn: I think probably most of them shutting down because of grammatical errors.

Graham: That’s real killer, and the US census shows that not just for float tanks, but for most small businesses that can be-

Ashkahn: 90% go out of business in the first year because of grammatical errors.

Graham: I mean this is kind of an easy question for us because, no, I have no idea how many have shut down.

Ashkahn: It’s a really hard thing to track.

Graham: We’re still here. We’re still going strong.

Ashkahn: The difficult thing about knowing how many float centers have shut down is that when you’re closing your business, you don’t have a lot of motivation to reach out and cross all your T’s and dot all your I’s, you know, spreading the news. It’s not something that’s high on your list. Even going and clearing your float center off of directories you were listed on or maps that you’re on, like none of that stuff. Like you don’t care.

Graham: And it sucks like shutting down probably unhappily and you didn’t want to and you wanted to have this business that kept going. So I mean dealing with all that stuff too, and letting the float world know or even just answering a survey, you know, if we had something for a float tank solutions, like we have our industry report where it’s totally voluntary. I don’t think that we would get anyone who fills it out after shutting down or maybe one or two.

Ashkahn: A couple people, definitely a much lower percentage than people who are open. So I guess what’s going to follow here is just get a gut feeling answers because, you know, we do hear about things and we can make some kind of semi-educated guesses based off of anecdotal experience. Definitely places have shut down.

Graham: Yes, there are places that close, there are places that sell, which is not shutting down. Like I wouldn’t even put that in this category.

Ashkahn: It’s an interesting one because I feel like sometimes they’re selling for unrelated reasons and sometimes you’re selling because they probably would shut down otherwise, but want the place to keep going and like of the places that sell some have good luck in and do it rather quickly and other ones-

Graham: Never do. Or shut down.

Ashkahn: I feel like I can be pretty confident in saying that less places are closing than are opening. Float centers are opening by I think a healthy margin or even a healthy multiple than the number of places going out of business.

Graham: And if you include selling in there, like I think more and more new centers are coming along then like anyone’s trying to get out of the industry currently.

Ashkahn: For sure. Like if I take a guess in the US of how many places have closed in the last year. I mean Including everyone who sold. I’d put it under like 20 at a high.

Graham: That’s what I was going to say. I was going to just gut check it at like 20.

Ashkahn: That feels like a very generous like number high number. I would probably actually put it somewhere between 10 and 15.

Graham: It’s just really hard and it gets down to the definition even of float center to a certain degree, right? If someone has a single float tank out there, they’re big wellness practice and they realize eventually appropriately that taken care of the float tank is a very difficult task that they are not trained on themselves. Like if they’re not passionate about floating, like within a year they could be like, “you know what? This is a mistake. Sell the float tank, make this room for massage”, has that float center shut down? And I know more cases like that or like someone ran a float tank in their host house, and now they’re moving and they ditched the float tanks because they didn’t want to move it across the country, you know?

Ashkahn: I would say yes to those, like those two, like I consider for the context of this conversation, someone who was offering floating and decided it wasn’t worth it for whatever reason, you know? Basically the effort or a lack of income outweighed what would they were getting out of having it.

Graham: Yeah. Or yeah, the difficulty or whatever. Anyway, if we’re including just like removing a single tank from a spa and removing like a tank from someone’s house when they move across the country and they’re not offering floating to the community anymore, I might put the number a little higher, like maybe more like 30 to 40 or something like that.

Ashkahn: 30 to 40, really?

Graham: Including selling every center that sold, every person who’s moved across the tank and ditched their float tank.

Ashkahn: On one year.

Graham: Yeah.

Ashkahn: It feels really high to me.

Graham: It could be high. I don’t know. I mean people, people move, you know, like wellness centers much more often will dabble in things and then get rid of them. The point I guess I was making with all of that is, that’s not even against their plan from the beginning, you know? They want to experiment with something. Having a single float tank is a hard thing to have in your wellness practice sometimes. Especially if you’re not familiar with taking care of it, if you’re not the one who’s passionate about it.

Ashkahn: Especially if you got it without realizing the maintenance and everything that goes into it.

Graham: So I’ll just say at a high side like, so you know again if we’re including all those small ones, I’ll put 40 at my high point of what I think is like is going on.

Ashkahn: It feels high to me. I would put it probably still that like 20 number in my head was including all those things.

Graham: Yeah. And that sounds a little low to me. So I guess that’s why we’re different people.

Ashkahn: Yeah, exactly. 30 places, I think is what it is. What was the question? Was just the number of places?

Graham: What what was that?

Ashkahn: What was the question that they asked?

Graham: Oh, how many has shut down and why they’ve shut down. Okay. So, let me back up though, because the number of big places that have actually shut down, as opposed to selling in the last year, I’d put a lot smaller.

Ashkahn: So kind of what we would consider “Proper floats centers”.

Graham: I’d say just three tanks or more. And they shut down.

Ashkahn: And it’s the focus of what they’re doing.

Graham: Yeah. Yeah. And floating is the focus of what they’re doing and that’s who we’re talking about. Yeah. Now I’m looking at a lot less, you know, like under 10.

Ashkahn: Under 10. Yeah.

Graham: Nice.

Ashkahn: Alright, we’re back on the same page.

Graham: Feels weird whenever we’re off page and okay. So yeah. So, so there’s a general context why they’ve shut down. I mean, this gets into a really interesting territory because lots of times we don’t know, you know, and even people who I know that I’ve talked to them personally and talk to them about shutting down, they’re probably painting a little nicer picture of things then it would be otherwise, you know? I’ve heard from some people that just like, “Hey, I got offered this great job and I’m going to be doing that now.” And if my center was struggling and I also got offered a great job, I’d probably focus on saying that I’m doing this great job. Not that my center was struggling, you know? So it’s just, even if you’re in contact with someone shutting down, it’s hard to get necessarily the honest answer out of them.

Ashkahn: I feel like part of what goes into people making these decisions is that the idea of, a lot of changes in your life are I think incompatible with the idea of maintaining a float center. Like it’s not an easy business to move, by any means. Right. So let’s say you want to move cities, the idea of reopening another float center in another city is basically just the same idea as opening a whole brand new business again. I think another one is that if you maybe didn’t spend as much money or cut a lot of corners on your initial construction, like you might find a point two, three years in where you’re facing 100,000, $150,000 of renovations to get your whole place back up to snuff.

And that’s a big decision point. And so I think it’s just the nature of a float center and kind of pushes you to these kinds of these points where you just have to make a grave decision like that sometimes when the circumstances appear. So I could see that being one of the reasons why, you know, as opposed to someone who has like an online business, who maybe they don’t close it down but it just kinda becomes a smaller part of their life in the background or something like that. It’s just hard to run a float center and be doing a lot of other big opportunities in your life or if something else comes up. It’s not the easiest thing to balance with other stuff.

Graham: I think you touched on two really good ones. There’s opportunities like you’re moving to another city and doing some big life change. Your parents need you to take care of them because they’re getting older or whatever. Or bad construction initially, because there are definitely centers I know that both closed down and sell because the prospect of going through a massive renovation is just too much for them either financially or even emotionally. And it’s a lot to go through.

Ashkahn: I mean we just heard from one place, they’re closing because the landlord wouldn’t renew their lease because their float tank did so much damage to the building in their current lease. Like again, it’s not like the most common story in the world that I hear, but it’s a good tale to understand has actually happened to somebody like they like they didn’t protect their building enough to the point that their landlord was just like, “Uh-uh, I’m not going to let you keep being in this building”.

Graham: Quick interjection there too, just as a public service announcement or something, which is do your float construction research. There’s a lot of great information out there now. Don’t just trust your contractors when you’re talking to them. Some of these unfortunate remodels are as a result of trusting contractors who said that they “knew better” and they’ve “totally worked with wet environments”, but they have not worked with this much salt.

Ashkahn: There’s a lot of air quotes going on, there, that you guys can’t see.

Graham: Very, very dramatic air quotes. I hope it came through in my voice, anyway, end of public service announcement. Just take great care in your construction. It’s one of the most costly, devastating things to get wrong. Again, and you won’t even know until two, three years in sometimes.

Ashkahn: We’ve heard a couple times of people not getting their leases renewed. And again, that’s another thing that just pushes you to that decision point, like not getting your release renewed and having to change locations. This is again almost as big of a decision is starting up a whole float center again from scratch. Like you’ll still have your customers, which is nice as opposed to moving cities. But financially, the cost of doing that construction again is a huge decision to make.

Graham: I’ll do two, two for the price of one as well.

Ashkahn: Okay, bonus.

Graham: Both people who have launched alone, who’ve just started to float center with no one else around and there are lots of successful solopreneurs out there who are running float centers. But that said, it can also be trying running any small business by yourself. And sometimes at the float center we’ve talked about whether or not they have partners in another episode. But it, it can be trying, you know, and even if you’re just, as I say, banging your head against a brick wall, it’s really nice to have someone there  banging their head against the same wall.

So I think doing things that are exhausting anyway can just be a little more exhausting with one person and-

Ashkahn: Bonus.

Graham: Bonus, a partner disputes. I’ve heard of places selling,  and I actually don’t think I know of any place shutting down, but I know of at least two or three that were trying to sell as a result of partners who were getting into arguments and-

Ashkahn: Don’t have business partners but also don’t start without business. Super useful.

Graham: Or more like take great care no matter which direction you go, right. They both have their pros and cons and weighing them appropriately is really important beforehand. They often say that a business partnership is even more intense than a marriage. So date first I guess.

Ashkahn: Open some smaller, easier business. Yeah. I guess as long as we’re going down the path of all the things that can happen to people to ruin their lives, I feel like another one is-

Graham: Not listening to our podcast. I was going to say the same thing.

Ashkahn: Big mistake.

You know, you open a float center and I think like it’s hard to have the instinct to get your float center to a place where it kind of can run functionally without consuming your entire life. And I think people can end up in a situation where they’re starting to get burned out from how much work they’re putting into this. But that’s the point where they start thinking about like, “Man, I should bring some people on” or “Get this to so it’s not so much pressure on me”, and in some cases it’s just kind of too late.

You know, like you’re at the point where you’re already at your rope’s end and kind of exhausted. And the idea of starting there to try to get your place to get people trained up and run smoothly without you is kind of a big thing to tackle. So it’s something that we think should be top of mind and we gave a talk about this at the float conference a couple of years ago, to kind of be thinking about making your business sustainable and realizing that you want to bring other people in to kind of have the knowledge and experience that you do before you’re completely exhausted. The idea of throwing in the towel is more appealing to you then getting your business to kind of run sustainably.

Graham: Yeah, so go watch that conference talk, it’s a good one. I’d like to end on a positive note, as well.

Ashkahn: They’re selling it because they won the lottery and the invested in-

Graham: Or other cool things like, I mean you talked a little bit about, you know, life changes and stuff, but sometimes it’s just they actually do have some really cool life opportunity that’s come up. I know one center that was selling because their podcasts just taken off and gotten nationally syndicated and rocking it. And that’s what they were really passionate about was this health podcasts that they were doing. And some of the best reasons you can sale is because some other part of your life is so successful, you no longer have the time to devote to your center, you know.

Ashkahn: Which makes sense, you know. I don’t think we should always look at ending something you’re doing as a failure.

Graham: No, not at all.

Ashkahn: You just gotta realize that time is finite and you gotta put your energy where you want to put it in. Sometimes you have to make compromises or stop doing something that even if you love doing it, just because there’s something else that’s calling you more.

Graham: And a long enough timeline, all float centers suffer the heat death of the universe. Alright.

Ashkahn: Anyway, so-

Graham: I’m sorry. I also think that’s a positive note.

Ashkahn: It is positive.

Graham: We’re all the same matter.

Ashkahn: So whether you quit now or you quit later, you know, it doesn’t really matter. So this is the last episode of this podcast.

Graham: Happy flag day, everyone.

Ashkahn: Wrapping it up here.

Graham: No, we’re around for a while. We’re around. Head to our website, go there. You go over there. Send us questions.

Ashkahn: Go to floattanksolutions.com/podcast, and it’d be great for you, it’d be great for us. I think it’ll be really nice for everybody.

Graham: Children will rejoice.

Ashkahn: Children rejoice. We’ll send you a small token of our appreciation.

Graham: Oh.

Ashkahn: Maybe.

Graham: We will, we will.

Ashkahn: Keep it mysterious.

Graham: The next person who sends in a podcast question, we’re going to send them a nice if you put your address, in there. You put your address in that podcast-

Ashkahn: Mention that we said this so we remember.

Graham: In fact, if you’re anyone who’s listening to this today, we’ll send this to you.

Ashkahn: If you’re questioner number nine, lucky questioner number nine, you’ll get a prize.

Graham: Send us a question, we’ll send you some stuff. All right, bye everyone.

Ashkahn: Right.

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