Kristin Paiva – Massage Envy
In late 2018, right around the time Kristin Paiva was interviewing to become the new general counsel for Massage Envy Franchising, LLC, the company was just months away from inking agreements to bring several multi-unit operators into the fold to develop and acquire franchise locations numbering in the triple digits over the next five years.
Once completed, the deals would increase the brand’s current count of nearly 1,200 franchise locations, while further bolstering the network’s roster of 35,000 wellness professionals.
It’s a scope of work that would cause most candidates to question their own ambition—especially those with no prior in-house experience, like Paiva.
Luckily, her resume touted the next best thing: She’d spent nearly five years representing Massage Envy Franchising, LLC as one of the company’s dedicated outside counsels.
“I knew what the Massage Envy brand was about and I’d always been impressed by the management team, the company’s values and vision—all of it,” Paiva says. “I loved being in private practice, but I saw in this opportunity a chance to look at things through a different lens.”
Into the fold
It didn’t take long for things to come into focus. With Massage Envy being the first and largest massage franchise in the country, it had no plans to rest on its laurels. Instead, with Paiva on board, the brand continued its efforts to be an industry leader in the wellness space.
According to Paiva, bringing in the right franchisees has been tops on her docket. Because all of the Massage Envy franchise locations are independently owned and operated, Paiva and her colleagues look for experienced businesspeople—particularly those in health and wellness, hospitality, retail, and sales management.
When Massage Envy finds a promising candidate, the potential franchisee will fly to corporate headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona, to participate in what Paiva calls “discovery day”: meetings with representatives from various departments aimed at providing more insight into the challenges and opportunities of franchise ownership.
“It’s a pretty lengthy process to become a Massage Envy franchisee, but an exciting one, too,” Paiva says. “We’ve developed discerning standards for entry. Candidates need to be consumer-focused and share our brand vision, along with making sure the company’s standards are met.”
The right balance
In addition to focusing on new growth, Paiva must also take into account the needs of the existing business—an entity that comes with a host of varying legal considerations, from ensuring a deep knowledge of the constantly developing law impacting franchise systems to the more granular local and state standards relating to specific areas of expertise (estheticians, for example).
But while Paiva and her team are heavily involved in a diverse array of legal matters relating to the company and the Massage Envy brand—things like squaring all marketing materials against guidelines set out by the Federal Trade Commission—when it comes to franchise location-specific issues, the company encourages independent owners to seek out the legal counsel that best suits their needs.
“There’s no substitute for the kind of boots-on-the-ground knowledge that a local law firm has,” Paiva says.
Speaking her piece
As she approaches her one-year anniversary, Paiva says her focus remains the same: to navigate legal barriers that might impede Massage Envy’s status as an industry leader.
Indeed, keeping her eyes on the prize is something Paiva is plenty familiar with.
“Growing up, I was surrounded by strong individuals who were always pushing me and encouraging me to grow,” recalls Paiva, who spent her formative years in Chandler, Arizona. “My mom modeled a steadfast dedication both to her career and the importance of a good education. My sister taught me how to be resilient. And I had wonderful, thought-provoking teachers that instilled in me the confidence to chase my dreams.”
Those same teachers recognized another of Paiva’s qualities: a unique knack for argumentation.
“Everyone always said I should be a lawyer,” Paiva says with a laugh. “But it was more than that; I needed to understand the reasoning behind how a decision was made.”
After studying marketing at Arizona State University, Paiva made good on that childhood skill, earning a J.D. from the UCLA School of Law in 2008. From there she took a position as an associate for the Phoenix firm of Fennemore Craig, where she quickly found a calling in the high-stakes world of commercial litigation.
Moving across town to Thorpe Shwer PC in 2014, Paiva worked for a diverse clientele of national and local businesses—including Massage Envy. When the company began its search for a new general counsel in late 2018, Paiva didn’t hesitate to throw her hat in the ring.
So far, the professional fit is proving to be a perfect one—just like the company-franchisee relationships she’s helping to foster.
“I’ve always appreciated the role franchising plays in promoting the growth of small businesses,” Paiva says. “Although there’s certainly a place in today’s economy for both mega-corporations and unique outlets, franchising kind of marries the two concepts. It’s a really exciting endeavor to be a part of.”
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