Lying face down on an osteopath’s couch in your underpants makes you a bit of a captive audience.

After two trouble-free years, with exquisite timing my lower back decided to go into spasm on the second day of our holiday. It’s a condition I’ve lived with for years, so I have a team of tried and trusted osteos – Alan in Richmond and Rachel in Antibes. Trouble is, my back went on a Sunday and Rachel is at the Monaco clinic Monday to Thursday.

That meant my first session with her French colleague Romain, a bit of a surprise at a practice called  the English Osteopath. Predictably, he speaks perfect English and clearly believes that talk is the best painkiller. We seemed to have plenty of ground to cover. After a quick summary of what I do for a living, my inner Michael Parkinson took over and I started asking about how he enjoyed the lifestyle of a Riviera therapist.

As you might expect, May to September is his peak time with July and August being ‘manic’. Some patients have been coming to the practice for 16 years, others like me just once in two years. Smart marketers that they are, they also do yacht visits at a mere 300% of the usual in-clinic fee.

Romain’s reputation is clearly spreading, as he has been invited by the Six Senses resort in Dubai to be their osteopath in residence for a six week season starting in October. The desert climate will not interrupt Romain’s 15 hour a week training session for the Iron Man event in Nice happening in July 2020 – the air-conditioned gym and Olympic size pool will be just fine.

‘Will your wife be able to join you there?’ was an obvious question that triggered a whole new conversation. It turns out that Romain’s wife is one of the top vegan food experts in France, with several books published and a membership website where people spend hundreds of euros to follow her programmes.

Before she became so busy she used to cater for vegan yacht parties in the Port Vauban marina. One of her clients was a Russian billionaire who, seeing my reaction, Romain insists ‘is a really nice guy’. The billionaire asked her to become his personal chef, which meant being available at a moment’s notice to jump on his private jet, or his yacht, or move from his Cote D’Azur villa to his Atlantic coast mansion near Biarritz.

One telling hint of how the super wealthy can be become a little bit disconnected from reality – Boris Billionaire (names have been changed to protect the rich) asked Mrs Romain to go to the market and get some fresh ingredients for dinner. He gave her some cash to cover the bits and pieces she needed for one meal for Boris and a few guests. When she checked the bundle of notes, he had given her €5,000. And that’s without the need for any meat or fish…

She stayed on Boris’ payroll for 14 months, even though she only actually worked five of them. Trouble is, she was becoming too well known and having to turn away too many opportunities to be able to continue being permanently on call. Which brings us to why she can’t join Romain in Dubai. She is going to America for the second part of a $20,000 programme with the world’s top performance coach Brendan Burchard!

I’ve been an admirer of Brendan’s work for some years and was shocked to hear that someone in France would sign up for any of his courses, let alone the highest level course which he personally leads. Why shocked? Because most small businesses I come across in France are clueless about customer service and in the Dark Ages when it comes to marketing. Most of the American ‘gurus’ draw their audience from the English speaking world, so hats off to Mrs Romain for being in the tiny minority of French business owners willing to invest in herself on this scale.

Whether from choice or to satisfy the French equivalent of ‘a Happy Wife is a Happy Life’, Romain is also now a vegan. ‘Won’t that be a challenge on the Iron Man?’ said I, showing off my deep knowledge of the minutiae of elite sport. ‘Not if you take the correct supplements’ said Romain, who also has a secret weapon up his lycra sleeve: ‘My wife is preparing all my gels, drinks and bars so I will have everything I need’.

I then broke one of my cardinal rules. Never give free advice to friends or, worse still, family. I may not be a vegan, but my marketing antennae can recognise a profitable niche at 26 miles. ‘You should turn those into a product range for vegan athletes’ I said. ‘Build up the business to a profitable level then a big dumb company like Nestle will write you an eight-figure cheque for it’.

Just as I started to congratulate myself on spotting this multi-million euro opportunity, Romain responded with his first Gallic shrug of the morning. ‘Yeah, but we are so busy I don’t think we’ll have time to fit it in…’

He pummelled a muscle hard. I winced. The multi-millionaire moment had passed…

Until next time.

Graham