Hey Fabulous Health Professionals,
As I get ready to chat with Cathy Love (Private Practitioner and OT Coach extraordinaire – save your seat here) I’ve been reflecting on the ups and downs of having an established practice.
There is so much information out there about what to expect when you first launch your private practice, how to get set up and establish yourself, but we’re in a bit of a wasteland when it comes to figuring out what to do next.
I know a lot of us have asked “well what the hell do I do now” in private practice. I know this because even after nearly a decade of owning a business (and Cathy’s 30 plus years – did I say veteran or what) I still can feel confused and quite lonely in this (mostly awesome) journey.
But I know I’m not the only one.
So here is my story: 3 things that I did NOT see coming in my private practice journey and what I’ve learned from it all. I hope you can learn from my experiences too.
And don’t forget, click here to save your spot in the webinar + get access to the recording.
Lesson 1: Apparently I suck at people.
Before I went into private practice, I had been managing and growing a large rehabilitation company into a national presence. I was a manager – so I thought I had a really good handle on how to manage people, how to keep people on board and motivate, encourage and inspire others. So it was a big surprise to me when, after hiring one of the first consultants into my practice, things went a bit wonky.
I was certain that we would get along – this consultant was fabulous, fun and we shared a lot of the same values. And it was great until I went overseas for a 6 week holiday that I totally busted my butt to make happen (that’s another lesson for a different day).
While I was gone, this consultant had approached my existing customers to solicit referrals without my involvement. I felt betrayed, I felt hurt, and I felt like I MUST be a terrible judge of character to not have seen this coming.
My mind had a field day telling me all different kinds of stories about how I should stick to just doing this alone because I clearly wasn’t equipped to manage a team or grow my business into something bigger.
Sometimes decisions unfold in a way that you can’t anticipate. I don’t begrudge this person because I know there was no ill-intent there, and I happy to say that she is doing well and is well respected in her current niche. We worked hard to find a win-win solution to dissolve the work relationship, but it took a serious amount of reflection and self-compassion to not beat myself up for what appeared to be a poor hiring decision.
Think of it like this: when you first started out as a clinician, it took a long time to figure out the kind of clients you love, love, love to work with, didn’t it? Those clients who weren’t a good fit became crucial in helping you figure out the work you love to do, the way you love to do it. They aren’t a reason to give up and they aren’t a reason to let your mind haul out that old “I’m a failure” story. (Yeah – we all have that story).
The same is true for our business decisions. Sometimes, we take a leap that doesn’t work out but we always learn from them, and most importantly, we use the information we gather from the experiences to inform our judgements in the future.
This is often new territory for clinicians in private practice who want to grow past being a business of one. There is a lot of trial and error involved in building a business and a team that you love. Don’t expect every decision to work out well but DO expect yourself to reflect on what’s working and what could be better:
- Why didn’t that work out?
- What was your contribution to the issue?
- What was beyond your control?
- What will you do differently going forward?
Lesson 2: Well Hello there, Ms Ego
Fortunately, I did manage to continue growing my team. At that point I felt it was going to be smooth sailing – here’s my team, they’re all fantastic, now I can reduce my client load and finally escape the trap of billing my time for money!
The thing is, I found it really difficult to sell my team. I started out as a one-man band (one of my first programs was actually called Business of 1). People in my industry knew me, they knew what I had to offer and the difference I could make.
So my Ms Ego was very well stroked. How validating it was to be the go-to person for the difficult and complex cases that other people didn’t want to touch.
The thing about Ms Ego was that she brought up a lot of conflict in me.
I had big desires to step back from my large caseload but boy, it felt good to be so in demand.
I just assumed that people would hear that I had a team and start referring to them because of their implicit trust in me – well, no. That is not what happened.
Marketing your team requires an active strategy and I found it really hard to implement one when I was used to just saying “yes” to every referral that came my way. This is something I still struggle with now – despite having come a long way since then – I am still working on getting down to an ideal caseload of no more than 5 people at a time. I’ve even spent time on creating a referral “checklist” that I have to run through mentally before I say yes to a new referral (although there are still times when my “yes” monster beats me to the punch. It’s a work in progress).
It’s a vicious cycle to be stuck in – you can’t market a team when your caseload is so full that you have no time to work on your business.
It takes a conscious effort to quiet down your “yes” monster and the scarcity monster that comes with saying no so that you have the time and space to create something bigger. I know that many of us are used to feeling overstuffed with our clinical load because overwhelm and working frantically makes us feel like we are working hard to pay our bills.
Having room to breathe is sometimes really uncomfortable.
The question I would ask you, if you identify with this, is to sit down and reflect on what matters more to you in the long term. It is inevitable that self-sabotage will pop up – you’re human. But is it worthwhile to sit with the discomfort of saying no, of not being the one to fly in and solve everyone’s problems for once, to achieve those dreams you have of freedom, flexibility and fulfillment?
If you really want this, go further and create a plan for how you’re going to manage the “yes” and scarcity monsters when they rear their heads again. How will you tame them?
Lesson 3: There’s a fire over there! (Oh wait. I did that)
Remember that vicious cycle we spoke about in lesson 2? It happened because my fear of saying no (and some ego) kept me in dealing with minutiae and spot fires in my business. It is incredibly hard to break out of overwhelm when you’ve lost the forest for the trees, going from one emergency to another.
Being in a state of constant reactivity meant that I lost my vision for the future and totally stopped marketing my business. This was fine while my caseload was high, but as those cases progressed, cash flow dropped off. This was terrifying for me.
My challenge to you is to try to recognise the self-defeating patterns of behaviour that keep cropping up in the decisions you make each day about your business.
For me, it was a tendency to say yes, to want to fix things for everyone and… part of me really liked being the go-to person. I was the queen of bandaid solutions in my own business when I encouraging the exact opposite thing for my clients.
A huge step forward came for me after I recognised the need for to rip the bandaids off and bring in a full time, onsite practice manager. This was also very terrifying for me because I knew that some big costs were coming as part of bringing on a salaried employee.
Here came my scarcity monster again – afraid to spend money on something my business so sorely needed so that I could have the room I needed to grow (and breathe).
Ripping off bandaids is SUPPOSED to hurt! (For a little while – if you’re bleeding, you’ve done something wrong!) Ripping them off isn’t fun but if you want to position yourself for growth and tame the spot fires, you must do it.
Where are the bandaids in your business right now?
Join Cathy Love and I for a candid talk about the warts and all of having a private practice – and how you can thrive. Click here to save your seat.
Here’s to your success,