Are you considering selling your practice? What things should you think about before selling your practice? How should you model your practice in order to make it more valuable?
In this podcast episode, Alison Pidgeon talks to John Clarke about selling his group practice and starting a new one.
Tired of never quite feeling comfortable with your practice financials? I’d like you to meet GreenOak Accounting. Their goal is to empower private practice owners with the financial information they need to make good business decisions. They specialize in working with solo and group private practices in the mental health industry, so they are uniquely positioned to help with figuring out what’s “normal” in your business finances and what’s not. So if you’ve ever had a conversation with your accountant or bookkeeper that left you wishing that they understood private practice or had some best practices to share, head over to www.greenoakaccounting.com and schedule a free consultation to see if they might be a good fit for you. They can help with all your accounting needs from bookkeeping to payroll to Profit First and budgeting & forecasting.
Meet John Clarke
John Clarke MA, EdS, NCC, LPC is a licensed counselor, former group practice owner (sold in 2019), and private practice coach at PrivatePracticeWorkshop.com. He’s been helping therapists get more clients, make more money, and master private practice since 2013.
When he’s not nerding out over all things private practice, he’s pretending he knows how to play jazz drums, punching people in the face (gently…ish) at Muay Thai kickboxing, and talking to his pets like they’re humans.
In This Podcast
- Selling your group practice
- Lessons learned
- Who to sell your practice to
- The model of John’s new practice
- Telehealth after COVID-19
- Managing a remote team
Selling your group practice
Most therapists don’t think about selling their practice, especially those with a solo practice and that’s a major mistake. When John started his first practice in San Francisco in 2013, he spent a good three years building it up and essentially building everything up around him, a personal brand johnclarketherapy.com. After all that time and effort building the practice and building a lot of equity in the brand, when he moved to Charlotte the business was effectively worth nothing, unless he could find another John Clarke wanting a turnkey practice in San Francisco.
What he could have done that first time around was simply build a generic brand, not his name. The brand itself would then at least be worth something, or a lot in some cases because of the website, web traffic, rankings, listings, etc.
When John moved to Charlotte, he made sure not to replicate that problem so he built a brand that didn’t rest on his shoulders and rely on his reputation, referrals, and relationships. You need to remove yourself as much as possible from the business so that a potential buyer would be able to run it without you.
What if you left your business for a few months right now? What would happen? Would it be dead in the water? Would it keep growing? Would it stay the same?
As the business owner, you need to think of yourself more as the coach on the sideline whereas the people running the business are the players on the field.
Have a brand that doesn’t rely on you
Have systems in place that work and scale:
- Someone else should answer the phone and book people in.
- You should have a billing process that is not on your shoulders.
- Have someone running your payroll.
- You should have a bookkeeper.
- Have someone doing the heavy lifting of your marketing.
Make sure you have consistent profit and loss statements ready to go. You have to look beyond the gross revenue of the business and look at the owner’s net profit. You can have a business that has a really healthy revenue but has too many expenses (be careful of things like paying your clinicians too much and having too many offices that you’re not using). If someone is buying a business, they want to profit from it.
Have a good, solid website that:
- Is really dialed into online marketing.
- Has really good messaging.
- Has really good traffic – organic traffic is super important because it can take years to get a therapy practice ranking well in Google so that is worth a lot of money in itself.
- Has a good email list.
Who to sell your practice to
It’s really hard to find an individual to buy a practice. The individual who buys it is likely to be someone you know because most therapists aren’t walking around with a bunch of cash ready to buy a business. John did talk to a company that looked at the business and was interested. They are called Refresh Mental Health and they buy practices and keep growing them.
They improve them and look at the growth that’s already there. They look for large insurance-based practices that can essentially be wrapped into their franchise or can be franchised. If you have a business like that, selling it to a firm like Refresh Mental Health will probably be your best bet.
The model of John’s new practice
John’s new practice is called “Calm Again Counseling”. A marketing tidbit from John is that anytime you’re naming something, think about the benefits and outcomes of that service or product. Step 1 for John is to get the branding right really early on and also to create branding that doesn’t have a regional keyword in it so that it can easily scale to other markets.
The next step for John has been aggressive online marketing:
- He has built a very simple, but effective, Squarespace website.
- John knows who the client avatar is for this practice.
- He has done the keyword research and placement to get it ranking in San Francisco.
- He is running lots of Google ads.
- He is building an email list.
- They are growing their free listings (Google My Business and Yelp)
Telehealth after COVID-19
There’s many ways to scale a practice, and it doesn’t mean just growing a big group practice, it means repurposing your skills, knowledge and experience into programs that scale or at least scale more than an individual therapy session.
Not only is telehealth here to stay after COVID-19, but the future of therapists and private practice is also growing additional income streams online:
- Online courses
- Membership sites
- Affiliate marketing
Managing a remote team
It takes time and being a manager has been the biggest growth curve for me over the years of business ownership.
Think about who you are hiring. If you already have a team that is very dependent on seeing you in person and doesn’t do well on their own then they’re going to struggle to work remotely.
When John is supervising team members, he approaches it with two things:
- He has them use an EntreLeadership weekly feedback tool that they fill out and John reads that out whenever they meet. This really helps him see exactly how they are doing and gives him the opportunity to be more honest about how they are doing.
- John treats every supervision like a coaching session and takes it really seriously. If you approach it like that and try to make sure that you’re creating a growth environment for your team members and empowering them to own their role and become more autonomous. They then learn how to come to you with the right questions.
- Whitney Owens and Alison Pidgeon Answer Your Most Pressing Questions about Group Practice | GP 26
- Register for the Pivot Your Group Practice Intensive 2020
- Email Whitney: email@example.com
- Email Alison: firstname.lastname@example.org
- PoP Group Practice Owners Facebook Group
- Free resources to help you start, grow and scale
- Work with us
- Consult With Alison
Meet Alison Pidgeon
Alison is a serial entrepreneur with four businesses, one of which is a 15 clinician group practice. She’s also a mom to three boys, wife, coffee drinker, and loves to travel. She started her practice in 2015 and, four years later, has two locations. With a specialization in women’s issues, the practices have made a positive impact on the community by offering different types of specialties not being offered anywhere else in the area.
Alison has been working with Practice of the Practice since 2016 and has helped over 70 therapist entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, through mastermind groups and individual consulting.
Thanks For Listening!
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Green Oak Accounting is the accounting firm I use for my own group practice. I started working with them in the beginning of 2020 and I am so glad I did. Julie and her team are super impressive. They’re always on top of things. When COVID-19 started, they were super helpful with navigating me through the whole process of getting SBA loans. They really helped me to navigate all of the changes that were happening and how it was affecting the finances in my practice. What I love about them is that I felt like in my practice, it had grown to the point where I really needed a sort of CFO perspective, that Chief Financial Officer perspective, to help me make business decisions based on my financials and I feel like that is what they provide. So if you are running a group practice and you’re feeling like it’s hard for you to make business decisions because you don’t have a professional and expert to look at your numbers and help you figure out what decisions to make in your business based on that, definitely check out Green Oak Accounting. You can go over to their website greenoakaccounting.com, you can schedule a free consultation to see if they would be a good fit. They can do everything from bookkeeping to payroll; they can set up profit first. They also do budgeting and forecasting. So, I am so glad that they are sponsoring this podcast because it’s such a great service and I have really benefited from it.
Hi, and welcome to the Grow a Group Practice podcast. I’m Alison Pidgeon, your host, and today I have John Clarke on the podcast. I am excited to speak with him today. We kind of have the episodes split up into two parts. The first part, we talk a lot about what he learned from selling his group practice that he had in North Carolina. And then we talk about the new practice that he’s starting in his new home in California. So, in case you’re not familiar with John Clarke, he is a licensed counselor, he has owned three group practices now, he’s also a private practice coach. He can be found at privatepracticeworkshop.com, and he’s been helping therapists get more clients, make more money, and master private practice since 2013. So, I’m really excited to share this interview. I think it’s really interesting how much he learned from selling his group practice. I think, even if you’re far away from selling, you know, if that’s like 20 years from now, I might think about doing that, there’s actually things that you can do now to get yourself in the best position to have the practice be as valuable as possible for you. So, I found that really interesting. And I did want to note as well that at the very end of the episode, right when John and I were just basically going to say, hey, thanks for doing the interview, bye, the connection totally cut out. So, the interview ends very abruptly. So, if you’re wondering why John just sort of disappears at the end, that is what happened. We didn’t really have anything left to say other than bye, so we didn’t get back on to record us saying goodbye to each other, but just wanted to let you know, in case you’re like, wait, what happened there? That’s why it kind of ends abruptly because we just got disconnected. So, I think you are going to get a lot out of the tips that he shares in the interview today. And I hope you enjoy this interview with John Clarke.
Welcome to the Grow a Group Practice podcast. I’m Alison Pidgeon, your host. I am very excited to introduce you to my good friend, John Clarke. Welcome, John.[JOHN]:
Alison, thanks for having me. It’s been a while, but it’s good to connect with you again. [ALISON]:
Yeah. So, what’s new? [JOHN]:
Oh, a lot is new. That’s a loaded question. I gave you a little preview before we hit record here. But a lot has changed. I’ve been living in Paris, France for the past two years. My wife and I just moved back to San Francisco, where we used to live, to kind of get settled here again, and we just had our first baby about seven weeks ago. So that’s the biggest new thing in addition to adapting to this changing world that we live in, and, of course, because I can’t sit still for too long, even with all these changes, I’m growing a new practice in San Francisco while also running this business, Private Practice Workshop. So, things are good. It sounds like more than it is. In reality, it’s not too much, but I’m always bordering on too much. That’s just seems to be my style. [ALISON]:
Yeah, I understand. I understand. Well, congratulations on becoming a dad. [JOHN]:
Yeah. And I know you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep, but it’ll get better. [JOHN]:
Yeah, that’s what everyone says. [ALISON]:
So, I would love to talk to you today about the practice that you sold, that you had in North Carolina, and what you learned from that whole process. Because I think that’s something that a lot of us think, oh, one day I’ll sell my practice. But we don’t actually think through what we could be doing now to help us, even if that day is 20 years from now. I mean, there are some things you can do, even as you’re building the practice, to help eventually sell it and get the most money out of it. So, I’m really curious to hear about your experience, just having gone through that, and what you learned from going through that process. [JOHN]:
Well, I think first of all, most therapists don’t think about selling their practice, especially those with a solo practice, and I think that’s a major mistake. That was the first mistake I made when I started my first practice in San Francisco in 2013 was I spent a good three years building up my solo practice, and essentially building everything around me and essentially a personal brand, you know, johnclarketherapy.com. And after all of these years and blood, sweat, and tears are building this practice, and basically building a lot of equity into the brand, when I left San Francisco to move back to the east coast and move to Charlotte, the business, unless I could find another John Clarke with an E out there who wanted a turnkey practice in San Francisco, or at least to buy the assets like the website, well, my business was effectively worth nothing when I turn it over. [ALISON]:
Yeah. Cos you take you out of it, and then there’s nothing left. [JOHN]:
There’s nothing left, right? So, at minimum, what I could have done that first time around, is to simply build a brand that is not my name. So if I had just simply built a generic brand, or even like a San Francisco brand, it could have been, you know, San Francisco CBT or something like that; then that brand itself is at least going to be worth something, or in a lot of cases worth a lot because you’re talking about website, web traffic, all the rankings, listings, things like that. You can get into more details like your email lists and things like that, depending on how you go about it, but at minimum, it really stung when I just kind of shut the doors down and that was really it. So, when I moved to Charlotte, I made sure step one, not to replicate that problem. So, to build a brand that didn’t have my name in it and really sticking with that point, building a brand that didn’t rest on my shoulders and also wasn’t built on my reputation, that’s the other thing, too. I could have a great practice, or even a thriving group practice in San Francisco, but if the whole thing relies on my reputation, and my referrals, and my relationships with referring parties, well, what happens when I leave that business? Is that still going to run just as well for the next business owner? And in that case, no. So, I used a lot of that to kind of design how I would build the next practice in Charlotte. And now I’m currently building this new practice in San Francisco. My third practice. [ALISON]:
Yeah, awesome. And I definitely want to ask you about that after we kind of talk about the whole process of selling your last practice and I’m really glad that you brought up that point about kind of removing yourself as much as possible from the business because a potential buyer wants to see that even if you leave a big chunk of income, some vast knowledge of how to run the business isn’t leaving with the owner. And so, I think that’s really smart that you figured out like, I really need to make sure like this could run without me. [JOHN]:
Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I mean, a good way to test that is to even just leave your business right now for a month or two months or even as a thought exercise – what if I left my business for three months right now? What would happen? Would it be dead in the water? Would it keep growing? Would it stay the same? Etc. That’s an easy question you can ask yourself now if you’re listening to this and thinking about your own business. [ALISON]:
Yeah. And that’s what I did last summer. When I went on maternity leave, I was out of the business completely for three months. So that was a really good way to test out if the practice could run without me and it did, which was nice. So yeah, it definitely can be done. So, what else did you learn from preparing your practice to sell and ultimately, selling it to somebody else? [JOHN]:
So ultimately, again, so a brand that doesn’t rely on you, that’s what I would consider kind of step one. I would say step two is really having systems that work and systems at scale. So even right now, in your practice, especially if you’re a group practice owner, you shouldn’t be too deeply involved in the business itself, in the operations of the business itself. For instance, when new clients call, someone else should be answering the phone and booking those people, you should have a billing process that is not on your shoulders, you should have someone running payroll, you should have a bookkeeper, you should have someone at least having a hand in your marketing or doing the heavy lifting of your marketing, etc. The best way that I… someone explained to me recently was like, if you’re the business owner, you need to think of yourself more as the coach on the sideline, whereas the people running the business are like the players on the field. And I think most group practice owners, they are like the coach on the field and every coach on the field and in the [unclear] of the business. So, I would say work on your systems and try to get your business systems working pretty well before you think about selling. So that would be the next step. [ALISON]:
Yeah, I’m all about delegation. Yeah. So, what else did you learn? [JOHN]:
The other one’s really… it’s about really consistent revenue and growth. So obviously, if I’m buying anything, I want to see a history of strong performance and ideally, growth, because I want to make sure that growth is going to happen. If I’m buying a business, I’m taking on some risk and putting in quite a bit equity into this business and so I want to know that I’m not going to take a major loss on it. So I think, again, even going back to bookkeeping, for example, making sure you have consistent profit and loss statements ready to go that can demonstrate not just the… you have to look way beyond the gross revenue of the business and look at the owner net profit. So, my pet peeve is group practice owners that apply to work with me or join one of my programs and their gross revenue is you know, $1.5 million, and their net profit is like $61,000 a year or whatever it is. So, ultimately, you can have a business that has really healthy revenue and you have all sorts of crazy expenses and you’re paying your clinicians too much and you’ve got an office suite of 15 offices and you’re not using most of them. So, you just have to be really careful with that stuff as well. If I’m buying this business, I want to be profiting from it and make sure that part is there.
The rest I would say, you know, again, I’ve kind of always built my practices, not on reputation or referral parties or the old school, networking ways of building a practice. I’ve built it on really solid websites, really dialed in marketing, online marketing essentially. So part of what I was demonstrating when I was selling that practice was a good solid website with really good messaging and really good traffic, and a good email list; all those things is essentially what is going to keep that business running without me, because you have cold leads going to Google and finding the website over and over again, and inquiring into the practice and they don’t even know who John Clarke is. I even went so far as to take myself off of my own practice website, probably a year before I even sold it, just because again, I wanted to promote that brand, promote the clinicians in the brand and I didn’t want it to just be tied to my reputation. So, the traffic is really going to matter. I would say the organic traffic is super important, because it can take years to get a therapy practice website ranking well in Google and that is worth a lot of money in itself. And then, again, really what I would say is the most commonly overlooked asset for a practice is your email list. So, I can talk more about that if you want. But those are just some more of the factors when you think about actually valuing the practice.[ALISON]:
Yeah, that’s very helpful. And I actually was curious about when you did go to sell the practice, what was the most valuable part and I realized there were probably a lot of pieces to deciding what the value was that you were going to sell it for, and all that kind of stuff. But I was kind of surprised when I had talked to Joe Sanok about what was most valuable when he sold his practice and he said it was actually the website. So, I was just curious in your situation, was it like you said, the digital marketing pieces that you already had, or was it your staff, or was it your office space? [JOHN]:
It was the website. Yeah, so similar to Joe’s experience. It was a website, cos I’d been building it over a number of years. I did the SEO myself. I built the site myself, and it was ranking so well and is still ranking well in Charlotte. So, I mean, it’s basically guaranteeing the owner a six-figure salary from day one, minus any cost or any debt that the new owner might take on to buy the business. So that had everything to do with it. In reality, a couple of the clinicians actually left before I sold it, which is fine, because it’s like the business is going to come under new ownership, but it wasn’t very hard for the new owner to go and start making additional hires, because he had the traffic and the increase to fill new clinicians. So really like walking into that practice and then he actually moved it to a different office, I didn’t have tons of office furniture and stuff like that in terms of physical assets to sell with it, or even the staff to kind of go with it. So, in my case, the digital assets were really a big part of how the business was valued. That’s not to say that… you could sell a very different kind of practice that has lots of staff, doing it really big scale, etc. Maybe you own a building and you’re selling that with the business. That’s a whole different ballgame. It’s kind of like selling a clinic or if you were to sell like, a health care clinic, there might be other assets to look at. And that’s also going to attract a very different kind of buyer. [ALISON]:
Yeah, so did you have contractors at the time? [JOHN]:
Yeah, so we had all contractors, and what happened is one of my… it was actually one of my former contractors ended up buying the business. So he had actually gone out on his own and I guess, in so many words, found how hard it was to grow the practice on his own, so decided to buy the practice after all, and then keep growing it both for his sake and also growing the group side of it. [ALISON]:
Nice. That’s awesome. So, did you use a business broker to come to the terms of the sale? Or did you just work it out between yourselves? [JOHN]:
Well, we worked out a kind of a verbal deal between ourselves and then we basically used an attorney who had experience with buying and selling businesses. What we did is essentially what’s called a promissory note, which basically says that the new owner would pay me in installments for the business, just like a bill, or like a mortgage. And instead of going through like a lending company or something like that, he would basically just pay me in installments. If he missed those installments, then we would have problems, obviously, but there weren’t any problems. And it was actually a fairly straightforward process in terms of the transaction itself. [ALISON]:
Nice. Yeah. That’s how I actually bought my building. I borrowed some money from a private lender, and we have a promissory note. Yeah, so I’m familiar and actually for you, that’s a great deal because it’s like guaranteed income every month. [JOHN]:
Exactly. Yeah. It just became basically another source of income moving forward. [WHITNEY]:
Hey, Alison, this sure has been a crazy year. [ALISON]:
It sure has, Whitney. [WHITNEY]:
So, what were your goals for your practice going into 2020? [ALISON]:
Well, I had a lot of them and then I threw them all out the window back in March when COVID started, but then I realized that we might be in this for the long haul. So, I got back on track with accomplishing my goals in a different way. But wouldn’t it be nice if someone created an event to help group practice owners meet their goals? [WHITNEY]:
Yes, it would you mean if they did an event like Pivot Your Group Practice Intensive 2020? [ALISON]:
Yes, I like the sound of that. [WHITNEY]:
So, do I. Let’s do it. [ALISON]:
Yeah, so Whitney Owens and I have put together this awesome, one day, virtual workshop to help you figure out how to continue growing your practice even among COVID-19 happening, and still meet your goals for the year 2020. We will be doing a deep dive into fixing all the problems in your practice and also helping you come up with creative ideas to continue to scale, make more money, and work less hours. [WHITNEY]:
So, the registration will be closing on August 5th, so make sure you register by then. We’re going to keep this limited to only 20 spots so that you can get the most out of this group and the most out of working with the two of us as your consultants. So, the link to register is in the show notes. If you have any questions please follow up with us by email, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, and we look forward to working with you on August 14th. [ALISON]:
So, was there anything about selling the practice that you wished you had done differently, or any regrets that you have? [JOHN]:
Well, I always have regrets in life because I’m human and I’m hard on myself. I’m very competitive. So, I’m always very hard on myself and if I’m honest, I think a lot about my regrets in business, and life, and I try and not replicate them, and I try to not get too stuck on them. But, you know, sometimes I’m better at that than others. In terms of regrets, I wish I had looked into it sooner; I wish I had really thought about selling it sooner. And when I went to actually sell it, it was talking… it’s really hard to find individuals, so the individual that’s going to buy it is probably going to be someone you know, because most therapists aren’t walking around with a bunch of cash, ready to buy a business. Most therapists would sweat at the idea of buying a business, or even buying a car for that matter. Therapists are so stingy. Sorry, therapists, but we are, we are stingy.
I did talk to a company who basically looked at the business and was interested. They’re called Refresh Mental Health – it’s refreshMH.com. They buy practices now. They’re basically like, I don’t know, basically like a capital something or other company, where they basically take money, buy businesses, and then keep growing them. Not really flipping businesses per se, but certainly improving them and looking at growth that’s already there and then buying it and doing more of it and automating it and they’ve kind of figured it out. So, they actually look for large insurance-based practices that can essentially be wrapped into their franchise, or franchised. So, if you have a business like that, certainly selling it to like, basically an equity firm of some sort is going to be probably your best bet. Your business is going to be worth a lot of money and most therapists are not gonna either have that money or take on the risk to go get that money.[ALISON]:
Yeah, that’s really interesting. I guess I never thought about that. I always thought about, you know, finding an individual, like you said, typically, it’s maybe somebody who’s worked for you or is working in the business, who you groom to eventually buy it from you. But yeah, that’s an interesting idea. Any other mistakes that you look back on that you made in terms of, you know, something that sort of hurt you then when you went to sell it? [JOHN]:
Yeah, to be honest, I had a big life transition in the middle of all of it, and I should have looked into it sooner. My wife and I were in the process of moving to Paris, making an international move, and I did run the business remotely for a while, and I don’t recommend that. That’s just my honest feedback. A lot of people have dreams of, you know, living in Mexico and running their practice, a group practice like that, remotely. I think it can be done. I think you have to have really good systems, but also really good people in place, like a clinical director or an executive director, etc. Because at some point, you know, your staff is going to want you there, they’re going to want your leadership. And so, that’s not as much about selling, but it is a point around if you have a personal transition coming up, or you think there’s a chance you could be moving, start thinking about it early and getting your ducks in a row, and you might as well be, again, designing your business to sell anyway. Even if it never sells, you’ll have a better business, regardless, so you might as well approach it like that. [ALISON]:
Great. Yeah. So, I wanted to… sorry to interrupt you. I wanted to kind of switch gears a little bit and talk about the new practice that you’re starting. And I’m curious about what was your motivation behind starting the next practice, because I would think after selling the previous practice, you’d be like, ah, now I can have a break and I don’t have to worry about this practice anymore. It surprised me when I saw you post on social media like, I’m starting a new practice. [JOHN]:
Well, it’s interesting that when I sold my last one, so many group practice owners were jealous. I didn’t really want to sell it, but we moved. So, the thing is, that business was generating its own salary for me. And toward the end of it, I was only working on it for a couple hours a week. I was only working on the practice maybe two, three hours a week. That’s pretty good if you ask me. And again, that has to do with a website ranking well, systems that are working well, having the right things outsourced, etc., and then having clinicians that are pretty autonomous. So it wasn’t that I sold it because I didn’t like the business or I didn’t want to be a practice owner, which is a whole ‘nother soapbox for me. But if you’re listening to this and you are getting into group practice because you want to make either passive income or residual income, you should strongly reconsider and turn the other way because becoming a group practice owner is actually becoming a manager, supervising people, leading a team, being a leader to other people, having other people and their families rely on you, and your competency to run a business to provide for them. I don’t take it lightly, and too many group practice owners just slide into group practice ownership without being especially thoughtful about it. So anyway, that’s a soapbox.
But I started this new one because, there were two reasons. Number one, it’s what I love. I love growing things, and I love therapy. I’m the therapist to my core, it’s… seeing my therapy clients is some of my favorite hours of the week. So, I just love it. I also like building things and, because I spent about 70% of my time over the past few years working as a private practice consultant, it’s my testing ground. Not to get on another soapbox, but there’s a lot of private practice consultants who have a lot of messes in their businesses. And I’m not saying my businesses are perfect by any means – there’s a lot of mistakes I’ve made, I try to talk about those mistakes – but again, I see… and there’s private practice consultants who have that big gross revenue, but no net profit, or no systems, or no marketing, or they don’t actually know how to run a practice, but they teach it anyway. So, for me, this new practice is a constant testing ground for myself. And it is where I get the principles that I teach then to my consulting clients, and the people in our Business Made Human mastermind groups, and in my fully booked training programs. So, it’s important for me to keep iterating, it’s important for me to have a place where I’m doing, I’m walking the walk, and I’m staying one step ahead of the therapists that work with me.[ALISON]:
Yeah, that’s exactly how I feel about running my practice. I feel like without that I wouldn’t be as good of a consultant. [JOHN]:
So, tell us about the model of the new practice that you’re building. [JOHN]:
It’s pretty similar to the practice in Charlotte, except it doesn’t have any regional keywords in it in terms of the brand. So, the brand name is called calmagaincounseling.com. And I chose to call it that because you know, a little marketing tidbit for you guys is that anytime you’re naming something, think about the benefits and outcomes of that service or product. So, if you’re selling something that helps people, I don’t know, lose weight, or break free from addiction or whatever it is, think about a name that reflects that. So, it took me years to come to the name of Fully Booked for my online program that helps therapists get new clients consistently, versus Digital Marketing Made Simple, which is what it used to be called. So, to me, that’s like kind of step number one, is really getting the branding right early on, and also creating branding that doesn’t have a regional keyword in it so I can easily scale to other markets. That’s one thing I’m doing.
The second thing I mean, to be honest, is I’m just aggressively marketing online. So, I’ve built a very simple but effective Squarespace website. I know who the client avatar is for this practice. I’ve done the keyword research and placement to get it ranking here in San Francisco. We’re running lots of Google ads, I’m building an email list, and we’re growing our free listings like crazy. So, Google My Business and Yelp. That’s effectively it. If I’m gonna summarize, it’s exactly what I’m doing. And it’s already… I’ve only been doing it for a few weeks now, and it’s already producing a handful of consistent new increase every single week. So, it works. I’m kind of following, again, my own method for Fully Booked here. But again, really building that brand from the ground up and making sure the brand doesn’t rely on me.[ALISON]:
Yeah, so the plan is to not have any brick and mortar office space at all. It’s just all going to be a virtual practice. [JOHN]:
That’s a good question. So, I have physical office space right now – I’m in my office here in San Francisco. I’m in Novi Valley, if anyone’s familiar with the area. I’ll have this office no matter what. But in reality, we’re just going to see how the world unfolds because in California, we’re taking things a lot slower than let’s say my friends down in Florida, my friends down in South Carolina, or wherever, Texas, where you guys are. We’re taking things a lot slower here. So, I don’t foresee seeing clients in person for a long time anyway. So, it’s going to be a hybrid model for now. If and when we can see people in person, great, we’ll do it. Otherwise, I do think online practices are kind of the way of the future. I think a lot of therapy consumers are never going to go back to in person sessions for the sake of the convenience, the time saved, etc., etc. I think there’s just a lot of reasons why people are going to end up staying online. And I think more and more therapists really like it as well. [ALISON]:
Yeah, I’m curious to hear more about your opinion. I think a lot of people are talking about what are the trends that’s coming out of COVID-19, obviously, and telehealth, and a lot of people are asking me, do you think telehealth is here to stay, even after COVID is over? And I think it is. And I’m curious to hear what you think is gonna happen. [JOHN]:
Not only is it here to stay, but therapists… to me, the future of therapists and private practice is also growing additional income streams online. So, things like online courses, membership sites, podcasts, affiliate marketing, things like that. That’s something I’ve been preaching for a few years now. Because the biggest threat to a therapy practice is if you or someone is not conducting a session, you’re not making money. And there’s many ways to scale a practice and it doesn’t mean just growing a big group practice. It means repurposing your skills, knowledge, and experience into programs that scale, or at least scale more than an individual therapy session. So, you know, 5-10 years from now, I think that’s going to really be the future. Again, as therapists who are largely online, clients who’ve become accustomed to doing online therapy, and clients who’ve also grown accustomed to consuming therapy in different modalities, whether it’s an online course about panic attacks, or a membership site on beating porn addiction, which is what one of my consulting clients has been building the past year or so. So, I think there’s things like that, we’re going to see different iterations of therapeutic offerings but in in different packages. I think it’s a good thing. I think we also have to preserve the integrity of therapy itself, and not productize it too much. So, we’ll see how that plays out. [ALISON]:
Yeah, I think for me, I just see all of the positives coming out of it. In terms of, you know, even access to care and insurance is covering telehealth. So, I’m really excited to see what happens in the future. I think that’d be really cool, if we’re able to kind of create other ways of helping people. [JOHN]:
Yeah, yeah, there is… I feel a little bit ahead of the curve in that I, again, I’ve been running an online business for a few years now. And I’ve been working remote exclusively for a few years now as well. And for some of my therapy clients, I’ve seen them online for many, many years. So, I’ve gotten pretty accustomed to that, I’ve kind of learned how to work online. I’ve learned how to supervise a team online, and a lot of people in COVID times are being hit with those learning curves really, really suddenly. But part of the beauty of it is, back in probably 2015, I was treating someone with severe OCD who lived in a rural part of California, because there was no one else out there that could treat OCD effectively. So, I was living in San Francisco, but I was treating her for OCD because she couldn’t get that kind of care where she lives. So that was really cool. That was a long time ago, but it was kind of my first taste of how effective it could be. And also, just the convenience, and even the opportunity to help more people by reducing that physical barrier. [ALISON]:
Yeah, definitely. Something you said just a minute ago I wanted to go back to; you said that you have the experience of managing a remote team. Could you talk a little bit more about that, how that is different from managing a staff that’s working at the office and you’re present in the office also? Because I think that, myself included, have been put into this situation because of COVID, of now even though all my staff is close by, they’re all at home. I haven’t seen them in three months. So, any tips for managing a remote team? [JOHN]:
Well, I think that step one is you have to think about who you’re hiring. I think that’s where it really starts. If you already have a team that really is very dependent on you, or dependent on seeing you in person, or doesn’t do well on their own, then they’re going to have a hard time remote no matter what. So, I mean, I’ve been through my share of hires and people not working out in running a remote team, who don’t manage themselves well, are not very autonomous, they get distracted easily, they don’t report back to me, they don’t communicate well, and those people are not generally going to be good for a remote team. So, I think the hire has kind of everything to do with it.
Part of it is developing how you’re going to evaluate them. So, kind of the key performance indicators of that staff, or the OKRs, or whatever you want to call them for that staff. So, if a therapist, or a team member, is doing well, how are they going to know it? And how are you going to evaluate it and give them that feedback? You know, we have to go beyond just like, okay, we’re all online now, so let’s do zoom happy hours once a week, or make it a mandatory thing. That’s just not going to do it for everyone. And in fact, sometimes meeting more isn’t the answer. Or even if you’re having supervisions with your team members, your staff, you have to really show them how to use that time, and that’s what I’ve realized as well. So, I approach it with two things, like, when I’m supervising team members, one is that I have them use this entree leadership tool. If you just look for entree leadership weekly feedback tool, I have them fill that out and I read those results every time we meet. And that really helps me to see exactly how they’re doing, and it just gives them an opportunity to be more honest about how they’re doing. And the second thing I do is I treat every supervision like a coaching session. So, I take it really seriously and I see… I approach it just like how I approach a coaching or consulting session with like a therapist I’m working with, because I think that if you approach it like that, and you really try to make sure you’re creating a growing environment, like a growth environment for your team members, and really – I know I’m not supposed to use the word empower – but you really empower them to kind of own their role and become more autonomous, and then they learn how to come to you with the right questions, then you’re really rock and rolling, like, you’re really finding your groove there. But it takes time and being a manager has been the biggest growth curve for me over the years of business ownership. It’s been traditionally the hardest part for me to be honest, even though I’m a really good therapist and really good with my consulting clients, managing people has always seemed a little harder.[ALISON]:
Yeah, I think it’s something nobody teaches us. And then we have to sort of figure it out on our own or hopefully have a mentor somewhere along the way that helps you learn how to be a boss. But yeah, I wish there was like a class on it in graduate school. [JOHN]:
Yeah. Me too. Maybe someone out there can create one. I bet they will. [ALISON]:
Yeah. If you create one, I will buy it. [JOHN]:
Yeah. Me too. [ALISON]:
Maybe I should make one. [JOHN]:
Maybe. Maybe. [ALISON]:
Yeah. Well, I’m really excited about your new practice, and I’ll definitely be following along as you’re building it and sharing your knowledge with everyone as I know that you do so well. So, I’m excited to hear about it. I’m kind of embarking on the same kind of model, trying to build a telehealth arm of the practice that would serve people all over our state. So, it’s like a whole new world and new challenges to figure out and I think it’s exciting. So, thank you. [JOHN]:
Yeah. Lot’s to come. Should be interesting. [ALISON]:
Yeah. So, if people want to get in touch with you, John, what is the best way for them to do that? And I know you also have a lot of different… I think you have a Facebook group, and I know you have a consulting website, and you have a giveaway, so can you kind of go through all of that for us? [JOHN]:
Yeah. Yeah, you can find us on pretty much all the predictable places, the first one being our website, privatepracticeworkshop.com. We have one of the biggest YouTube channels in the private practice space. If you go to YouTube and type in ‘private practice workshop’, we have a lot of really good videos there. We have a podcast as well, the Private Practice Workshop Podcast, wherever you listen. And then the giveaway, I have something interesting that is… I talked a little bit about the email list and how important that asset is. Most therapists don’t know how to collect leads for that email list, how to nurture them, how to tag them, and so what we did is we built an email funnel using ConvertKit that you can download for free and try it out and see if it’s something that you want to use for your practice. But it’s a very good funnel, it’s like a plug and play kind of funnel for your practice; I highly recommend you at least check that out and see if you can start using that in your practice to both collect leads, warm them up, tag them, and segment them in a list, all with this automated funnel. So, if you go to privatepracticeworkshop.com/ck, for ConvertKit, it’ll show you how to kind of get started with that funnel. So privatepracticeworkshop.com/ck will get you there. And yeah, otherwise if you’re interested in working with me, just get in touch through the website. I’d be happy to hear from you, and I hope this was helpful. [ALISON]:
Yeah, it was super helpful, and I learned something new, so that’s great. And I really appreciate your time. I know you are a busy, tired, new dad, and so I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today.
So, as you can tell by the abruptness at which the interview ends, that’s where we had our technical issue and obviously, we couldn’t say bye when we were still recording, but the interview was over. So, I think we got lots of valuable information from John. I really appreciate the fact that he said that, you know, he wants to start this new practice so that he can be doing those things firsthand that he’s teaching his consulting clients about. I really believe that you really have to walk the walk in order to help other people through it. And so, I’m really excited to see what he does with his own practice, and then I’m sure he will do a fantastic job with helping other people develop their practices as well. So, thanks so much, John, for coming on the podcast today and I will see you all next time.
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