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.

Practice Management vs. Practice Leadership

Leadership

When you examine how your therapy business is running, from what perspective are you reviewing your results?

Are you thinking, “well, my clients seem happy, my notes are almost caught up, my billing isn’t too far behind, and oh, I have a networking event this Friday?”

Or are you thinking, “my practice is growing as planned. I’m almost full, so I need to start thinking about how I’ll continue to grow my income after my hours are full. I am going to get some help with my billing so everything is caught up, and I’m going to plan to meet three strong referral sources at the networking event this Friday.”

Do you hear that these approaches are different?

If you had to describe it, what would you say the differences are?

When I read these words, I think about the difference between practice management and practice leadership. Both are necessary, and one isn’t better than the other- but the truth is that most therapists run their therapy businesses by managing them, not leading them.

They focus on the execution of the tasks more than the results the tasks should create. If that sounds like you, don’t worry- we all start there.

It takes a particular kind of internal muscle building to shift from being the manager of your practice to becoming the CEO of your practice.

In a way, it moves you from getting the tasks done, to examining whether the tasks you’re doing are getting you closer to where you want to go.

If you feel that you could be running your practice better than you are- and chances are, you probably could be- I want to strongly urge you to step into ownership of your practice – and to either join me for my upcoming class: How To Make More Income Without Getting One New Client.

Or, if you’d rather work 1:1 with a coach, please explore with me the possibility of individual coaching here: http://beawealthytherapist.net/help

Your practice can be more profitable, more enjoyable, and you can feel more confident. You just have to decide you want this – and take the next right step to get it.

How to Make More Income Without Getting One New Client

Individual Coaching

What To Do When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed

Q: Sometimes building my practice feels really overwhelming to me. After I see clients, and handle billing, and do my therapy notes, there doesn’t feel like there is enough time to go out and meet people and do all the things I know I need to do to grow my practice. Any tips for me on how to balance this better?

Arie Arie shares: The tip would be to do an 80/20 analysis where it is very likely that the therapist is doing longer notes than needed, longer sessions than agreed and even spending too much time in billing and other activities. The tip is to re-train the therapist mind to think 80/20 and just engage the minimum input for maximum output.

Examples:

  • Just write the basics in the progress notes
  • Finish sessions on time
  • No need to do a 2 hour workout, with 45 min is enough
  • Ask delivery of groceries at home
  • Hire someone to do house cleaning
  • Use uber and make phone calls or take a nap during the car trip

It is a mix of 80/20 and delegation. This could add 10 extra hours a week.

Jeremie shares: I would suggest two things:Jeremie

1. Try and systematize things like billing, notes, etc so you can turn them into a habit that you do automatically   without thinking about it. This will save all of the time you normally spend thinking about and preparing to do these things, and actually just do them.

2. I would take a look at my number of clients and my pricing. It may be that you are priced too low and having to see more clients than is healthy for your business.

StacyStacy shares: Yes, there are times that it can be overwhelming building a practice; however, it is important to remember that there will be ebbs and flows to your business through out the year. Sometimes are just busier than others.

That said, when things are crazy busy it can be helpful to identify your ‘must do tasks’ and schedule them in your planner just like you would a client, like answering emails, returning phone calls, billing/finances, etc. This also includes connecting with new people or those you already know or may have referred clients to you in the past. Schedule a breakfast or bring coffee to their office.

I know I have been guilty of trying to do too many things at once and this can really slow me down during the day. ‘Batch your time’ by focusing on one specific task at a time so you can fly through it vs. hopping around like a rabbit from one task to another.

On the other side, when things are little slower with the business- Don’t freak out! Take a deep breathe and be grateful for the time you have to catch up on the less urgent to do list. If you are still having trouble with finding time to market….then ask yourself if you are over scheduled with clients? Then, how is that helpful for you, your business and your clients.

Jenny shares: It is always helpful to stay connected to your “WHY”. Why did you decide to grow your business, leave Jennyyour agency job, or hire additional therapists?

My guess is because you want more: financial freedom, professional autonomy, or personal expression. Maybe you have a passion for serving a particular demographic and are yearning to get out there and make it happen! Hurray! This means that you are an entrepreneur! And what you are learning right now is that as an entrepreneur there is ALWAYS more to do.

So, rather than imagining that one day you will wake and *miraculously* there is nothing on your to do list, I might suggest that you start getting to know your own overwhelm and take these steps

1) remember: this is not a race,

2) you signed up for this because you want something more and are willing to take a risk to get it (yay you!), and

3) give yourself bite-sized tasks to complete each day. It also helps to become efficient with your time, streamline your systems and take really good care of yourself (that means go for a walk, meditate, eat yummy food, and generally love. yourself. up.). You are going to need lots of good fuel in your tank for the exciting things ahead!

JylJyl shares: Start with self compassion. You may think I mean not holding yourself accountable, but this is very different. You help your clients normalize their feelings when they get overwhelmed.

Try listening to what you are saying to them. When you step back from harsh self criticism, then you have more energy to take the next step…and the next. Accountability means learning about what snags or stops you so you can grow into your own vision of great therapist and CEO.

Casey here again: And there you have it! Sound advice from my Elite coaching team. Now you can see why I adore them and so appreciate all the value they bring to supporting our clients!

Saving Money in Your Therapy Business

Saving Money

When working with therapy business owners, my coaches and I are often asking the question, “how can you save money, too?” Because not only do we want private practitioners to make more money, we want them to learn how to manage their income, too, so they are not wasting money on services or products they don’t need.

One area that we look to save money is in the cost of therapy office buildouts and maintenance. While it can be tempting to spend thousands of dollars with your landlord for the promise of a beautiful new therapy space to work from; you really do need to take a deep look at whether the expense of this is worth what it costs.

For example, one of the therapy business owners that we coach had moved into new office space, and he was only planning to be there for 3 years. The space was quite functional but the landlord brought in a designer to ‘help make the space look nice.’ The designer suggested some changes in order to upgrade the office suite, at a cost of $15,000 in buildout dollars to the private practitioner. My client was initially excited about this idea; but then ran the numbers. He realized he’d be paying an extra $5000 per year to upgrade space that he wasn’t even sure he’d be staying in past three years. The space (as is) was nice enough, and other than adding some new wall posters, he decided not to spend his money there. In a sense, he saved himself $15000 over three years.

Another client of mine spent a great deal of money furnishing her therapy office, only to realize that all her clients preferred just one chair in her office- they all sat there no matter how much other furniture she had in the room. As a result, she realized that the amount she’d spent on expensive furniture for her office was probably unnecessary– she could have just spent some money on a very nice patient chair or two, and saved the rest.

Do you see what I mean?

It’s not that I don’t want to have a nice office or nice furniture. I just want you to understand if these items are really going to make a difference to your practice and your practice profitability. Sometimes (and I’ve been guilty of this too) we spend money on expenses like these because they make us feel good, not because they necessarily represent the best business decision.

Other places you might look to save money?

You can try to renegotiate any existing phone contracts, merchant account fees, or service fees you pay each month. You can see if you can reduce expenses by cutting back on unread magazine subscriptions in your waiting room, or by skipping the super fancy phone system.

Again, it’s not about depriving yourself or your business of what it needs; it’s about being smart and thoughtful about where you spend the money you’ve worked hard to earn.

Again, if you want to learn how to increase your profits in your therapy business as it is right now, do join me for: How To Make More Income Without Getting One New Client.

 

Growing Your Practice is Not Just About Marketing

Growing Your Practice

When asked how to grow a therapy business, most therapists will say that it’s mostly about gaining new clients. Is that true? Yes. But is it everything?

No.

Let me tell you a story. One time I was in a Chinese restaurant with Bob, and there was a sign on the wall that said, “trying to run a business without profit is like trying to eat soup with a fork.”

What does that mean?

It means that if you think that you can run a business without profit, and make up for it in volume of people (clients), you are basically eating soup with a fork. All the good stuff runs through the tines.

If you have no idea about profit, or you have no idea if you’re making any profit, and you’re marketing consistently, you may, unfortunately, be putting effort into your business that just leaks out. Not to mix examples, but it’s like trying to sail a boat that has sprung a leak. No matter how fast you go, or how many more people get into the boat, you’ll eventually sink the boat because the boat is leaking.

In practice building terms, that means that if your business’ core foundations aren’t set up correctly, it won’t matter how many clients you see- you’ll still be sailing a leaky boat.

This is why it’s vital that you know about- and actively implement the CEO Core competencies in your therapy business. Without them, you’ll constantly be working harder and harder, and still be short of money. Without realizing it, you could be leaving thousands of dollars on the table- money that you’ve earned and have a right to.

As we come up to US tax filing day; you may be noticing that your income wasn’t all you hoped for 2015. You may find that you didn’t make as much money as you wanted; or that you didn’t retain as much money as you needed.
These are all signs of a leaky boat.We can fix this, together, starting in May.

Join me for my newest class: How To Make More Income Without Getting One New Client and we’ll fix up your leaky boat (or get you a spoon for the soup, if you prefer food metaphors)- but either way, let’s look at your business and how you can make more money from all the work you’re already doing anyway.

And, if you’re one of the first nine people to register, you’ll get a private 1:1 coaching session with one of my Elite coaches. This is an added value, because I really want you to succeed.

Register here: How To Make More Income Without Getting One New Client.

How Well Do You Receive Help?

Help

I have been thinking about this topic for a while, the idea of how easy it is for me (or not) to accept help. Generally, I’m most comfortable being self-sufficient- but I am gaining in my skills and capacity to accept help. It’s been wonderful to feel more supported- and to let myself feel more supported.

Accepting help is one of the themes I explore with my therapist-clients, too- and most of them (not surprisingly) have an uneasy relationship with receiving help as well.

I think this probably stems from history and experience- we talk about the idea that people become therapists because of life circumstances- most of us weren’t born that way. 🙂

I see challenges around accepting help when clients come to sessions and feel they should be further along than they are. I hear it on classes, when people ask for my help and negate a lot of what I offer. I see it in speaking events, when attendees want some information but argue with me about why what I’m saying won’t possibly work.

It seems that while we can sometimes really, really want help – it’s difficult to accept. Why is that, do you think? Maybe it makes us feel less competent? Vulnerable? Dependent?

Yet the flip-side of this is that, too often, therapists wait too long to seek out the business help they need. They suffer, week after week, from not enough clients and not enough money, and from working too hard and teetering on the edge of burnout.

This is why I’m so passionate about our coaching and mentoring programs- they are designed to help you in just the right way, at just the right time. We offer the only business mentoring programs of our kind- specifically for therapists. Our clients stay with us for years- mainly because we help their practices grow, and help them become the CEO’s they want to be.

If you’re tired of doing it all alone- and want a better way- let us help you.

Learn more at http://BeAWealthyTherapist.net/help – it just takes one click and a simple application to get the support you really need.