Lessons In Leadership: One On One With Shane Evans, Founder & President of Massage Heights

I spoke to Shane Evans, Founder and President of Massage Heights, about her best advice

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Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts on leadership. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?

Shane: Very few people know this about me, but my dream job — other than the one I have — is to be a broadcast journalist.

Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?

Shane: We got to where we are today by having so many committed and loyal people on our team. Once the idea sparked to create Massage Heights, and my husband was on board, our family members quickly followed offered their full support, not just personally, but in the business as well.

In the beginning stages as a startup company, we didn’t have the capital we needed to hire people that were qualified and deserving of higher salaries. We brought on employees and asked them to take on larger roles within the company before we could properly compensate them, but luckily we found people who believed in the vision and leadership of our team, who inevitably chose to stay on board and grow as we did. These core employees did whatever they needed to be successful which was critical to the growth we experienced in the first few years.

Knowing the founders’ strengths and weaknesses, inclusive of my own, heavily influenced our ability to determine who we needed to hire, but at first we experienced challenges involved with building the infrastructure of our leadership team. We also struggled with how to ensure that the right people were in the right seats and that we had the capital needed to attract and retain not just talent, but people whose values aligned with ours.

Additionally, once we started franchising, we learned quickly that while we were eager to grow, we had to be smart about it and bring the right franchisees on board, rather than anyone who could write a check. Having built Massage Heights from the ground up, my family and I are incredibly proud — and protective — of the brand. Not only do our franchisees need to have the right experience, they need to be aligned with our mission, vision and culture.

By taking every setback we experienced and using it as an opportunity to learn has helped Massage Heights grow to more than 155 locations across North America — with many new franchised locations in the pipeline for the coming year. We’re growing nationwide and targeting additional franchise development in cities like Nashville, Chicago, St. Louis, South Florida, and Las Vegas.

Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader? How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?

Shane: In my experience the number one defining quality of an effective leader is simple: the ability to understand people. By empathizing for and with those you surround yourself with, you build a level of trust where they are empowered to produce quality work and share ideas. As an employer, I’ve made it a priority to understand the dreams and aspirations of my employees and work toward positively impacting both their work and personal lives.

It’s also important to be self-aware and hold yourself accountable not only to hit goals and get the job done, but also to take ownership of the things that go wrong. If your team is not succeeding, those in leadership roles need to reevaluate how they are holding their employees accountable and assess their overall leadership strategy. If the leader is focused on the right things, the overall success of the company will prosper. If you’re having trouble, don’t be afraid to hire a coach that can identify the strengths and weaknesses of your team to help navigate to a more successful route.

Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?


1. Speak and seek to understand. Seek out mentors and ask a lot of questions.

2. Hire colleagues and employees who align with your values.

3. Make every decision based on the values that you have created for yourself, your team and your company.

Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?

Shane: “To follow through on commitment, big or small.” – my dad.

Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?

Shane: Become a mentor. Make it a priority to give someone else your time, talent, or treasure. In a startup company you may not always be in the position to give financially, but there is always someone who can learn from your guidance and experiences. When you mentor someone it helps develop you as a leader. You may even learn a thing or two from your mentee, as well.

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they shaped you?

Shane: Camping, fishing and hiking. I love to do anything outdoors. Growing up, my mom and dad took us on camping trips and outdoor adventures all of the time, so it became a very important aspect of my life. As an executive, I am very grateful to have the opportunity to travel and stay in nice hotels, but at the end of the day they don’t define who I am. I love the mountains and hill country, and utilize any spare time to plan trips that immerse me in those surroundings. These experiences provide a solid foundation for my life and continue to ground me — even when the day-to-day of my professional life gets challenging. My goal is to do more of this more often, and yes, I tent camp!

Adam: Is there anything else you would like to share?

Shane: Leaders need to be diligent and have a plan. While seeing a plan through, it’s also important to be flexible if you need to improvise and pivot. Nothing ever goes 100 percent as planned. As an entrepreneur, you’re always chasing the shiny object, but in order to reach it you need to put a plan in place and stick to it, while keeping in mind the importance of staying flexible. 

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