Guest Blog: Cassie Sampson on “Being a Duck”

Recently, I vented to a friend (and fellow spa owner) about a frustrating business issue that was keeping me up at night. While she was sorry for the situation, she said she was relieved to hear I also had challenges in my business because, from the outside looking in, things seemed to be perfect. She confessed that she’d been building up resentment about how easy I made things seem when, in actuality, we had similar challenges.

In my previous career, I worked as an activity coordinator for years in a long-term care center. Our residents included those with memory impairments like Alzheimer’s. In that job, I learned “be a duck.” People with dementia may not always respond to your words, but they respond to your energy. While a duck looks cool and collected gliding across the pond, under the surface, that duck’s feet are paddling HARD to keep moving. Whether leading an off-key sing-a-long because the day’s performer no-showed, or gently redirecting a resident trying to leave through an emergency exit in search of her long-deceased father, I looked calm and cheerful. Under the surface, I was fighting to stay afloat and always thinking a few steps ahead.

The “be a duck” mentality has served me well as an entrepreneur in a healing profession. When I act frazzled, my employees become anxious because they’re responding my energy and emotions and that anxiety comes across in their customer service. If I remain calm in a tense interaction with a customer, the customer responds in kind. In marketing and networking, it is imperative that I glide across the pond without a care in the world because nobody wants to visit a frenetic spa to relax! That doesn’t mean I’m not allowed to vent, seek advice, or even have a mini-meltdown among trusted friends and advisors. We are all human and sometimes we need to pull back the curtain and be real. The key is knowing when, and with whom, that is appropriate.

The best thing about the “be a duck” mentality is that it eventually becomes second nature. When I catch myself visualizing webbed feet going crazy underwater, I laugh. These days, I can convince even my toughest customer…myself…that I’m calm, capable, and everything will be just fine.


Cassie Sampson, BA, LMT, has been a licensed massage therapist since 2005 and opened East Village Spa in 2008. She employs a 25 amazing and dedicated service providers and support team members. Cassie has a degree in Recreation Therapy from the University of Northern Iowa and feels that her background in healthcare recreation departments in diverse settings including residential mental health care, brain injury rehabilitation, and senior care give her a unique perspective on business management and customer service.

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