On New Year’s Eve 2011, Sean McCormick and his friends decided to escape their desk jobs because they felt “it was time to do something that we care about and not die with our best still inside us.” They scraped together money from friends and family and started Float Seattle, a sensory deprivation center north of Seattle.

Curious about what these isolation tanks do? We were, too!

Here are excerpts from my conversation with Sean, co-owner of Float Seattle and self-described “head of floatation exploration.” 

What inspired you to start this business?

I was the kid who liked to spin around on a tire swing for hours getting dizzy, then falling over. My parents were supportive in helping me find simple, subtle techniques for quieting my mind, so I first attempted meditation when I was about 12. I sat still (not an easy feat for me), focused on my breath, and searched for an inner connection to a higher state of consciousness. I kept at it, and have experimented with various meditative techniques ever since.

My first float experience—floating in a high-density saline solution in an environment that blocks out external distractions—was transcendent. I wanted to share that completely natural and effortless experience with the masses.

At the time, I was working in sales and marketing, but I knew what I wanted to do; it was only a matter of time before I busted out of the trenches.

My friends Erin and Leila joined the movement on New Year’s Eve 2011, and we opened the doors to Float Seattle in November 2012.

Floating has been around since the 1950s and ’60s. It’s gone through waves of popularity and, with so many people feeling like they’re constantly bombarded by stuff, it’s becoming very popular again. New wavy or not, I want to help people reach a higher level of consciousness and tap into the best version of themselves. Floating is an experience that can do that.

What do you want to say to people who are interested in floating for the first time?

Our bodies and our minds take a lot of abuse, and it requires a conscious effort to step back and literally block things out. Floating delivers more “nothing” than you’ll find anywhere else; it’s unlike anything else you’ll ever experience.

There’s nothing to look at, nothing to listen to, nothing to touch, nothing to pay attention to. Just the peace and calm of floating near-weightless in a serene and private environment.

Many people—from entrepreneurs to artists—find the isolation inspiring, but if that seems a little too “hippy-dippy” to you, there are a lot of practical benefits. Some people come just to get away from the constant barrage of distractions to unplug. A lot of athletes float to give their bodies a break and time to recover (Seattle Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka stopped by after his team won the Superbowl!).

Tell us more about the effects of floating. How does it feel?

Floating puts you in a near-weightless state that’s very beneficial for physical recovery. Ninety percent of our nervous system deals with gravity; when you remove that from the equation, your body has a chance to heal itself.

Because so many other distractions are filtered out—it really is just you and your thoughts—people feel a unique stillness that they’re otherwise not able to find. It’s like the ultimate time-out.

We have 600 to 1,000 people come in every month and nearly everyone emerges feeling less stressed.

What made you decide to switch to ZenPayroll (now Gusto)?

We were doing all the paperwork manually. What a hassle!

My partner Erin Cobb has owned other businesses, so we know what we’re doing, but the paperwork is still so time-consuming. Instead of focusing on your customers, you waste emotional brainpower worrying about the wording on one form or another.

We were stressed out about paying taxes, doing all the paperwork correctly, and mailing everything in early enough to account for any lag time.

When we heard about ZenPayroll (now Gusto), we just went for it. The simplicity is so awesome. It really does take a payroll process that is very stressful and makes it really simple.

What are the biggest benefits you’ve experienced from using Gusto?

There are three features that have really made a difference for us:

  • We’re a family-run business that serves a lot of people; our business relies on equipment, but we usually have five or six employees. We thought paying people via direct deposit would be really complicated, but with Gusto, it’s not.
  • The employee self-onboarding is so easy to do. It also holds your employees accountable for their own payment and their own time.
  • The language Gusto uses is immaculate: it’s clever, easy and so casual. The whole process takes something that’s really official and makes it very smooth.

The peace of mind we have now is even more valuable than the time we’ve saved by switching. And we know a thing or two about peace of mind!

Steffi Wu Steffi Wu, a contributing author on Gusto, provides actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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