Want more ease, more time off and more profit?

High expectationsWhen I started my private practice, I thought that if I were a great clinician, I’d be successful in private practice too.  Clients would love me and come back!

Soon I learned that I needed a marketing plan to get those clients into my office. I built an online and community marketing plan that worked and my phone started ringing.

That was the good news. The bad news was that I felt overwhelmed, exhausted, and burned out as a business owner.

You see, I thought that being a clinician (and at times marketing my practice) were my only jobs.  I was annoyed when I had to play telephone tag with prospective clients.

Can you relate?

It took me almost 20 years to realize that as a private practice business owner, I have more roles besides being a clinician and a marketer.  These roles included operations, finance, and visionary.  Since I had been largely ignoring these roles, I did not leave time for them in my day. In fact I saw them as an intrusion to my clinical work.  Not only was this leading me to burn out, it was also leading me to accidentally leave money on the table.

Not paying attention to all these roles is why 80% of small businesses fail. The business owner continues to do the technical work in the business (in our case, therapy) and ignores the operations and finances of the business.

It is time for private practitioners to find more ease, more time off, and more profit in our businesses.  Let’s look at your five roles as a therapy business CEO and determine which ones might be sleeping. Then you can take the appropriate action steps to improve that role for a more satisfying and rewarding business.

Operations: You do several repetitive tasks every day including answering the phone, scheduling and rescheduling clients, and preparing intake paperwork.  Do you have these procedures standardized and documented? Do you make these a priority? In presentations, I share how therapists can earn up to $70,000 a year in additional income by streamlining implementing and improving their operational procedures.

Finance: How many sessions do you need to do each month? And if you have a number in mind – how did you arrive at that number? Many of us picked it based  on how many sessions we felt “comfortable” doing.  But let’s look at this another way. You have a business in order to make money to pay for your personal lifestyle. In order to really know how many sessions you need to do, you need to know how much it costs to live the personal life you’ve been living and how much it cost to run your business. We add those two numbers together with some additional numbers for savings, profit, and taxes and that becomes your annual income goal.

Visionary:  What is your plan for the future of your practice?  Do you want to just break even? Do you want to have a profitable business filled with ideal clients? Do you want a boutique practice with just a few clients or a large practice? Do you want to eventually add associate clinicians? Your vision will change over time but it is important to know what your vision currently is. That way your daily tasks – in all your roles – can be in service to the vision.

Marketing: Do you currently have an effective online and community marketing plan?  Do you regularly work this plan with weekly tasks and follow-ups? Do you track where your referrals are coming from?  If you feel like you want more calls from prospective clients, and perhaps waking up your marketing role might be a good idea.

Clinician: I have no doubt that you are an amazing clinician. I know you love what you do. If you find that your clients aren’t staying as long as you’d like – or they aren’t reaching their goals before leaving treatment,  it might make sense to look at whether or not you are taking a leadership role in the consulting room. Remember, if your clients stay twice as long (ethically of course), your income doubles.  Research shows that  50% of clients leave before their treatment goals have been met. If you can take a leadership role and help your clients remain in therapy when they need it, everyone wins.

Take a moment and look at your five roles.  Is there one or two that you might want to focus on?  Remember this does not have to be done overnight. Step-by-step, we look at the roles that could benefit our practice and take small action steps. Many therapists have done this and are finding they have more ease, more time off and more profit in the business. How cool is that?

Quick note: Want to hang out with me in Northern Ca? I will be presenting at the East Bay CAMFT on Saturday, Feb 4 from 9-4. We will be diving deep into these roles (including how to add associates to your practice if your practice is full) with action steps that you can implement immediately. To register – visit: http://www.eastbaytherapist.org/event-2335801

Improve your Skills

Improve_Skills

Continuing our short series of articles on how to be productive in the midst of a summer slowdown, today we’re going to focus on the idea of sharpening or improving your skills.

Generally, most therapists are very open to learning and growth, especially in clinical areas. Most therapists invest a lot of time and money to develop new clinical skills and to be better clinicians.

But those aren’t the skills I’m talking about improving- mainly because you’re probably doing that anyway.

Instead, I’d like to encourage you to sharpen or improve one of your business skills; ideally, something related to the management and oversight of your therapy business. While this may not be as exciting as learning a new treatment modality, it’s at least as important.

So what skill could you work on improving in the next 30 days? Here are a few to consider:

1. You could practice your client intake script, and improve your delivery of that. This will let you handle new inquiries with more confidence and ease.

2. You could go ahead and learn a piece of technology you’ve been putting off, but which will make your business easier to run.

3. You could strengthen your skills in terms of reading your profit and loss statements for your practice and in understanding what they mean.

4. You could systematize more aspects of your practice, and finally finish your operations manual.

5. You could learn one new marketing skill and implement it- within the next 30 days.

The key is to select an activity that will strengthen your business and your business skills, not just your clinical ones.

You need both business and clinical skills to run a profitable private practice.

Do a Time Audit

Continuing our theme of how to be productive in the summer (especially if your practice is seeing a summer slowdown), I wanted to share the concept of a time audit with you.

You see, many therapists feel pressured for time, and as if there is never enough time. In some cases, yes, you might be just too busy- but, more frequently, it’s likely to be a question of not using your time as efficiently as you could.

This is where the time audit comes in. It’s a process where, for five typical days, you chart how you’re using your time, on an hourly basis. So, that means if you wake up at 7am and get ready until 8, you would mark down 7-8am, shower and get ready for work. You repeat this for five days, charting exactly how you’re using your time, by the hour.

What you find might surprise you.

One client Ann* did this exercise, and she found that part of the reason she was never getting her clinical notes done each day was because she sat down to work on them during an afternoon break, and then spent hours checking out Facebook and shopping online instead. And she did this everyday for the first three days.

Once she saw this pattern, she decided to do something differently on days 4 and 5. 🙂

And that is the power of attention and focus. When you observe yourself through the process of a time audit, you will see that you start to become really conscious of how you’re spending your time.

The key is to first observe, without trying to change anything. Once you’ve identified a pattern- something you’re doing most of the time that you want to change, then you can decide how to change that behavior.

But unless you are booked back to back with clients each day, and everyday, and literally have no time to do your notes or send out your billing… you are probably not utilizing your time as you could.

(And if you are really that busy where you are booked solid day after day, it might be time to hire some help for your billing!).

If you’re curious about how you’re spending your time each week, I invite you to keep a log for a week and audit where your time goes.

You might be surprised!

Networking in Your Community

Networking

If asked, most therapists would share that they lean toward the introverted side of the marketing spectrum – tending to prefer marketing methods that don’t require a lot of face-to-face or one to one contact. (I wonder if this is because we spend so much time doing that clinically that we don’t want to invest in marketing that feels like more of the same..?)

In fact, you may have heard me share the story of how I used to attend networking meetings and then put my purse on the chair to the right, and my books and other materials on the chair to the left, so, effectively, I had three chairs to myself, and nobody could get too close. (I don’t do this anymore, by the way – even though I sometimes want to.)

I know that I do better with a plan for directing my marketing activities, so I wanted to share with you a sample networking plan from my book:
 
Community Marketing: Networking

In order to get more referrals, we must build relationships with existing referral sources and potential referral sources. (Remember you are building relationships rather than asking for referrals.) This is a critical concept. If you try to talk about your business right away, your referral sources will be unlikely to refer business to you.

Here are the tasks we recommend to our therapist-clients:

Initially or Annually:

  • Create a list of at least 20 (and up to 90) existing referral sources or potential referral sources. These could be people I know or people I’d like to get to know.
  • Get contact information for my list.

Daily:

  • Reach out to between three to five people on my list using a variety of methods: email, phone, handwritten note or card, small gift, or in-person meeting.
  • With each interaction, plan to share my compassion, my knowledge, or my network. (See Tim Sanders’ Love is the Killer App book for more on this, as well as the upcoming chapters on marketing.)
  • Document who I reached out to, how I did so (what contact method), and, if I like them, put them on my calendar for the next time I wish to reach out. Record any personal information they gave that I can reference later such as an important upcoming event. If I don’t like them, eliminate them from my ongoing “reach-out” list.

Three to five people per day may seem like a lot, but if you do this first thing in the day, and do it without too much overthinking, you will find that you can easily connect with 3-5 people per day.

After a month, you will have reached out to at least 60 people, and after two months, 120.

I like to collect checkmarks on each day I complete my networking activities, and then reward myself with a treat when I reach 10 days in a row. 🙂

While it can take some time to build a strong and active referral network, all big things start from small seeds.

Is Marketing a Dirty Word?

Marketing

In the course of my journey as a business mentor for therapists, I’ve met a lot of therapists. (The number is probably in the thousands by now.)

And in these thousands of therapists, there have been very vocal therapists who have been horribly offended by my focus on marketing and sales as a function of owning a sustainable therapy business.

You see, there are still therapists out there who believe that “if I build it, they will come.” Yet, in most cases, this is a slow and agonizing way to build a therapy practice. Certainly, after 30 years of providing good service in the community, you will have built something that people will come for.

But between year 1 and year 30, what do you do?

The answer is – marketing.

You’ve heard me say this over and over, but I’ll say it once again.

The most reliable (and least agonizing) way to build a therapy business is by creating and implementing a regular program of consistent marketing.

This doesn’t mean marketing when you feel like it. It doesn’t mean marketing just before you run out of clients. It doesn’t mean marketing from a place of worry or desperation.

Just like you wouldn’t expect to reap the ongoing health benefits of exercise from just one exercise session a month, you can’t expect to reap the ongoing rewards of a full practice until you market it consistently.

Ok, so maybe I’ve convinced you of the importance of regular marketing. And maybe I’ve reminded you that you’re not yet marketing as consistently as you need to.

You’re intrigued and want to get going.

So I suggest you just get started.

And if you could use some guidance on exactly what to do in your marketing, then please check out my Therapy Marketing Bootcamp – it’s on sale until May 31.

Get the details here!

To get your discount, at checkout, use promo code: TMB25 (be sure to hit the “apply button”).

Now you have no reason not to get started. 🙂

P.S. If you can’t even find the time to market yourself, then I strongly suggest you join me for How to Make More Money without Getting a Single New Client. We started last week, but you can still join us if you sign up today.