Practice Nation, Meet Howard Spector from Simple Practice
Howard Spector is the CEO and Co-founder of SimplePractice. He has years of experience creating and developing technology companies and was the creator of TrackYourHours.com. He has a MA in Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute and a BA from the University of Southern California.
I met Howard when he reached out to me in 2014. Simple Practice is an easy-to-use cloud-based private practice management system.
Today’s Private Practice Resource
Resources from the Podcast
What you’ll discover in this podcast
6:30 How to know when it is time to do something new.
9:06 What good will can do for your business.
13;32 What is acquisition cost?
25:22 How to make a business grow.
Music from the Podcast
Silence is Sexy
Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC
Joe Sanok is an ambitious results expert. He is a private practice business consultant and counselor that helps small businesses and counselors in private practice to increase revenue and have more fun! He helps owners with website design, vision, growth, and using their time to create income through being a private practice consultant.
Joe was frustrated with his lack of business and marketing skills when he left graduate school. He loved helping people through counseling, but felt that often people couldn’t find him. Over the past few years he has grown his skills, income, and ability to lead others, while still maintaining an active private practice in Traverse City, MI.
To link to Joe’s Google+ .
Photo by Horia Varlan
Here is the Transcription of This Podcast
How to Streamline a Private Practice An Interview with Howard Spector CEO of Simple Practice
This is the Practice of the Practice Podcast with Joe Sanok, Session 72. Welcome! I am Joe Sanok, your host and I am so glad that you’re here today. I hope your week is just going fabulous. I don’t have a podcast sponsor today, but a resource that I want to tell you about is becomeaconsultanttoday.com. It’s a new venture I’ve been working on for a while. A lot of you are already kind of following that. You’ve joined the Facebook page, the email list and just doing some really fun stuff with people that are consulting.
I was just hanging out with a chiropractor friend of mine, and we were talking about podcasting and just the power of it. When we looked at the competition around being a chiropractor and talking about business and things like that in iTunes, there are just so few people that are doing it, and it’s so true in counseling, too. When I launched this podcast a number of years ago, so that would have been like winter of 2013 I think it was, so just about 2 years old it is now. It was a fun way of saying it, 2013, two years old it is now.
The only other podcast about private practice and counseling was the ACA podcast and they hadn’t posted in probably 6 months. Right away, I became the only podcast that was doing this at the time. All the others were outdated, they weren’t posting regularly, and it’s still that way. There’s a lot of great podcasts coming out around counseling and around private practice. There’s just not a ton of competition there, so if you’re looking for ways to just grow a consulting business or grow just in general, I’d say check that out.
Today, I have Howard Spector from SimplePractice with us. Simple is one of the sponsors of The Most Awesome Conference, and really, I’ve wanted him on the show, anyway. Super excited because they’re just doing cool things around practice management. After this interview, I was just amazed at how many valuable statements Howard made, just about like business and client acquisition and by the end of this podcast interview you are going to know so much about just kind of thinking through how do you grow a practice, how do you do it in a smart way, how do you acquire clients, and do it in a way where you’re kind of exchanging nickels for quarters.
He offers so much value in this. It’s a really long interview, so I just want to make sure that we have enough time for him. Without any further ado, I give you Howard Spector from SimplePractice.
Joe Sanok: Howard Spector, from Simple Practice, welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast.
HS: Hey Joe! Great to be here. Thanks for having me.
Joe Sanok: Yeah! No problem. I’m really glad to have you on the show. We connected probably, I think it was last summer because I remember I was driving and it was warm outside. Right now it’s blustery snow. We started talking just about what you offer with SimplePractice and we’ll kind get into that, but why don’t tell me just a little bit about your story, like who you are, how did you land on Simple Practice and then we’ll go from there.
HS: All right. That sounds good. I’ll give you the very abridged version because I know we’re probably limited on time here. I have a background in technology for the most part, and then basically around the .com bubble burst in early 2000, I started thinking about what I really wanted to do. I just kind of lost touch with a lot of things and there was actually a psychology program here in Southern California called Pacifica Graduate Institute that had a very unique program. I was rooted in depth psychology, you basically go up and you live there 3 days a month, and the teachers who taught there wrote books that I was reading.
I just felt called to go and pursue a degree in psychology there and the plan was to do that and then go out and practice as a therapist. I went through the program. It was fantastic, and I was doing all my training. Here in California you have to accrue thousands of hours of experience and in a very specific way. Long story short, I ended up creating a software product called Track Your Hours that allowed you to track all your hours online, generate all your State forms, and had all the rules built in. It turned out to be a huge hit and now thousands and thousands of people use Track Your Hours to track all the training hours.
While I had Track Your Hours I thought “I’d love to …”, I was also thinking about when I go to practice, what practice management product am I going to use and I started looking what was out there, and nothing really resonated with me and I thought, “You know what? I’m going to build one.” I ended up selling Track Your Hours a couple of years ago to focus full time on SimplePractice and you know, that’s how SimplePractice kind of came to life.
Joe Sanok: Wow! Did you end up practicing in private practice or did this all just kind of take off, and then you kind of pivoted what you’re doing with your life?
HS: I did all my training, my 3,000 hours, I practiced in a pre-licensed capacity, but I never got a license because I got sidetracked with all the software development stuff. I practiced as a trainee and an intern, but not as a licensed professional marriage family therapist.
Joe Sanok: You know, it’s so interesting when that happens because even in my own life, I’m in the midst of leaving what I thought was going to be my forever job and all this time I’ve been working and there’s just — I want to get a really good benefited job with State benefits and then this coming Thursday, so by the time this goes live, it’ll be in the past. That’s my last day there because I’m switching and it’s just — how did you make that decision? Because, I know for me, like you know, when you’ve gone so far into a goal, it’s hard for me to pull out and say “No, I need to do something else.” I mean, tell me a little bit about that decision.
HS: First of all, congratulations. It’s always exciting to me to hear about people like doing new things and pivoting and moving on. I think it’s awesome.
Joe Sanok: Oh, thanks.
HS: You know, life is short. You got to like follow your dreams and your passion.
Joe Sanok: Yeah.
How to know when it is time to do something new
HS: That’s great and I really believe life is short and you have to really — if you have a lot of interest in things and you want to do different things, you really have to follow your heart and for me, that’s really what it’s about. I know when it’s time to do something new. When I get an idea and it’s interesting, since Steve Jobs, he gave this speech at Stanford, it’s a pretty famous thing that’s online. It’s a very motivating, amazing speech that he gave, a commencement one and he talked about when…
He said something like “You know when too many days go by, and I look in the mirror and I’m not excited about what I’m about to go out and do that day, I know it’s time to move on” and I’ve come the same way. It’s like I know when it’s time to make a switch or I know when something’s interesting to me. I’m not risk-averse, so I just kind of go for it.
Joe Sanok: That’s where we differ. I’m so risk-averse and such a planner. Did you — when you made that jump, was that something that you felt like you’d spent a lot of time planning out or did you just go for it?
HS: I just kind of go for it.
Joe Sanok: Oh man.
HS: Ideas kind of pop in your head sometimes you just got to run. I’ve learned sometimes when you spend too much time drilling down into things and trying to analyze whether something is like right or wrong to do, in terms of a business to idea, you know, some people want to create these complex business plans or financial models. Every time I’ve tried to do that, it’s been a failure in terms of just — I feel like I have a pretty good instinct about certain things, and I just got to honor that.
Joe Sanok: That’s awesome. I think that whole like paralyzed by perfection, like wanting it to do things right the very first time, it’s just something that we all combat in different form and it seems like it’s easier when you get something rolling and then you kind of adjust as you go versus just like “Hey I have this perfect plan set up so I don’t fail.”
HS: Yeah. Well, I would say yes and no because I’m kind of a perfectionist. Once I have the idea and move forward, it’s very painful when — like with SimplePractice, for example, there’s a lot of things in our software that I want to change and make better and I see them all the time. It’s very challenging, it’s very hard to release something when it’s not perfect. I’ll also start to realize that you know, you have to compromise, you know things aren’t perfect and sometimes something’s good enough and you can always iterate on it and make it better. It’s like this double-edged sword.
Joe Sanok: When you were early on with SimplePractice, like what were some of the strategies to get new clients? Because I think that’s something that usually often applies to private practices as well as that kind of client acquisition, and the time, and the cost to do that? Can you speak a little bit to like those early days and then kind of what you’re still doing?
What good will can do for your business
HS: Yeah, sure. I think that I was a little lucky in this because I had Track Your Hours and I spent years with Track Your Hours and building up a lot of good will, and a lot of relationships and a lot of networking with people. I developed a lot of trust, because people loved that product and they saw what we did with it, so that was a big part of our initial growth, but the way that I can kind of relate that to therapist is, and I feel really strongly about this, I feel like networking with your colleagues is such an important thing, and it seems like your colleagues should be your number 1 referral source and not looked at as competitors.
The more that you can interact with them and the more relationships you can establish that way by going to events or reaching out to people or going to conferences and things like that, then you know, you build a great network and people get to know you. I feel like that’s a great way to generate business. That and also being, I think I wrote about this in a blog, being really specific about what you do. Like if I met you at an event and you said “What do you do?”, and I said “Well, I do individual therapy.” That’s different than saying “I do — you know, I work with teenagers, of divorce or whatever.”
I think being really specific, knowing what you’re going to say, and getting out there, and meeting with a lot of people, and networking, and having a good network, that to me is really a great path to finding success in whatever you’re doing.
Joe Sanok: I like that you kind of bridged those two things, of kind of the good will and trust and then really having a clear specialty that you’re in because people I think make assumptions after they find out that you’re a specialist, they then will say “Well, if he can…”, like one area I specialize in is with angry kids, and so I say “I help angry kids”. They then say “Well, if he can help angry kids, he can probably help anxious kids, and kids with ADHD and probably parents and couples.” I mean they make all sorts of assumptions where it almost makes that net even broader by specializing. I don’t know if you’ve seen that with SimplePractice or the clinicians that you work with.
HS: Well, I can say that, I mean I think that there’s fear that kind of lingers around everything and like for us at SimplePractice, our main focus initially has been solo practice and we’re going to launch a group practice version this year, but to me, you know being very focused and saying “We just work with people in solo practice”. At the back of my head it’s like, “Oh my gosh. That’s so limiting, you know what people aren’t going to realize we’re doing group practices when we do it.”
It’s hard sometimes to kind of put yourself in a box, because you feel like you’re going to lose a lot of other opportunities around that. In fact, like you said, it’s more liberating. I mean, you can be really focused and specific and then you can kind of move out from there, but it’s really important, I think, at the beginning to be focused and specific and then again see what happens from there.
Joe Sanok: I think that as you do that, then you can refine in. I just finished this book called, The One Thing, and he was talking about you can go an inch in a million directions or you can a million inches in one direction. It’s like that idea is just profound where so often we try to do everything for everyone and for me this year, and any of the listeners will know that I’m just trying to really focus in on what’s my one thing in my private practice. For me, that’s filling up the schedules of the people that work here, so the counselors that work here because that’s going to make my life easier if they’re full. Not as much is going to come out of my pocket for rent and all those other things. Everything I’m doing around the private practice is trying to build their clientele, and it seems like when you do that, like you just can just make so much more progress and I definitely see that with what you guys are doing.
HS: Yeah, I know, I think it’s a great point. I think focus in anything will breed great results, but again it’s a challenge sometimes to maintain that focus, like if you’re a new therapist and you’ve got all these expenses and someone comes to see you, but it’s really not in your primary like wheel house that you want to be doing, you take that client or not because you want the money. It’s a challenge and I think that you just have to be resolute and just say “Look, this is what I’m going to do”, and stick to it and things will work out. You have to really believe and be strong.
Joe Sanok: Absolutely. Now before we started recording, we were just talking about a few different ideas within business that I thought were really important for just counselors to know and if they aren’t doing these, I think that they should start doing some of this math, but we were talking about this idea of acquisition cost.
Joe Sanok: Do you want to chat about what that means because to me, I think it’s such an important idea, but it’s something that nobody teaches in grad school unless you’re in business school.
What is acquisition cost?
Maybe talk about acquisition cost? How do you guys apply it? Then maybe we can talk about how it might apply to people in private practice.
HS: Yea, absolutely. I think that it’s interesting as I started writing my blog and trying to bridge the gap between the things that we deal with as a software company and what therapists deal with, it’s all the same things. Acquisition costs are something that we look at how much we spend on advertising and things like that, like how much does it cost us to get a new customer for us and there’s different ways to calculate that. But for a therapist it’s things like are you on Psychology Today or on a different kind of directory? What are you doing that’s costing you money, for example, that is all in service to get in new clients, like your website, all these different things?
How much money does it cost and I think what you and I were talking about, Joe, is like it’s what might seem like a lot of money initially, like 30 bucks a month for whatever. If you can get 1 client, you know a client might have a lifetime value of thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars to you. If you’re spending 40, 50, 60 or even a 100 dollars on acquiring a new customer, a new client, then that’s nothing compared to how much money that person’s going to bring to you over the long term.
These are things that we look at all the time because it’s a very competitive market and there’s a lot of people that could potentially be our customers or client or our customers. We are always looking at acquisition costs, like how much we’re spending and what it’s costing us and we’re the best channels. A lot of that comes down to really tracking, how well is Google doing for you or not doing for you and how well is this directory doing for you or not doing for you. I think those things are really important for any person in business, but for a therapist to look at where are you spending your money? Don’t be afraid to spend money. You have to test things out and see what’s going to work and what’s not going to work because you might be surprised at where certain growth is going to come from.
Joe Sanok: Yeah and I know that almost whenever I do some sort of new marketing thing, I’ll do something that’s of equal cost to kind of run against it to see which one brings in the best results and you know, something really simple, is just on your intake form, put how did you find out about Mental Wellness Counseling or whatever the name of your practice is? Because if you do that, then they may put a certain school counselor, they might put the website. You might be able to drill in and say “Well, was there an ad or did you just kind of Google Traverse City counseling?” If you know where people are coming from, then it’s so much easier to decide what’s working and what’s worth letting go.
HS: Yeah, I totally agree. I think the challenge for most of the folks out there that are listening to this podcast is that it’s how much time do they have to really drill down and understand how to do AB testing, you know, how to look at different home pages, how to do different things, themselves. I feel like there’s a lot that one can do to understand like what’s going to work best for them, but they probably should find someone to work with that really understands true SEO for example. They can give them really good analytics and help them understand what it is, but all these things cost money.
I think people have to be willing, and this is your business, to spend a little bit of money on these things, to really get an understanding of where’s it been best to spend on your money in terms of your advertising and how to get your website set up the right way with the right key words in it, the right home page, etc. It can seem like a lot, but ultimately it’s going to pay off huge.
Joe Sanok: I know a lot of guests on the show have really kind of said “You got to not just work in your business, but on your business.” It’s so hard when you have new clients coming in to not just be another clinician at your business, but actually think about what’s the business side here that’s my overall strategy too. One thing I wanted to ask you about, you just had a huge release this weekend.
I actually saw on Facebook and I told you that I’d send you the screenshot if I can find it again, but someone had mentioned that it was like Christmas morning for counselors and I thought that was really awesome that they said that. Maybe take us through what are some of your new updates and why are those important updates for people in practice management?
HS: Okay, yeah, thanks. It was a big release. It was actually the biggest release we’ve ever had and we’ve been working on this one for about six months. The two main pieces of it are: We had an online scheduling system, so it’s something that people seem to really be wanting these days more and more where a new client can come and schedule their first appointment or existing clients can come and log in and view their appointments and schedule stuff.
We added that to SimplePractice. We also added the ability to create custom progress notes and different types of notes templates, so you could — if you have a certain kind of note that you want to do for DBT, or if you’ve got a minor client and you got a certain progress that you want to use for him or her, or whatever it is, you can now create as many different custom progress notes as you want and just select which one you want to use for that session.
To me, that actually, the notes thing was kind of one of the pieces that we were really missing because when we first started SimplePractice, I decided to just do a very generic note field that people can just type in whatever they want. That was the wrong assumption. People really wanted something more structured. Now, they have the option of either going with unstructured note or creating a more structured note that they want.
That was a really big thing for us and I feel like that and then the online scheduling and there’s a lot more customizations and things that came with this release, were really things that are going to provide a lot more flexibility for our customers, allow them to make the product more of their own which is what we really want. We wanted to create a system that’s really super flexible that it can adapt to your work flows. It didn’t force you into certain work flows, and I think this really gets us there.
Joe Sanok: You had mentioned possibly coming out with a group version and that’s obviously appealing to me because I a group practice. Tell me more about that, like what are you guys putting into that?
HS: Yeah, well that’s okay. The genesis of that was, going back to what I was just saying when we started SimplePractice. When we started SimplePractice, when we came up with the idea, I wanted to do something for people that did not take insurance, that was solo practitioners and I forgot what the other one was, but it turned out that once we launched it, people loved it so much and then we started hearing from groups saying “We want to use it for our group and we want to do insurance”, so we realized okay well, we better start adding these things.
With the group practice features that’s something that — this latest release actually introduced something called team members. There’s a team member section and today you can add supervisors, but in a few a weeks, we’re going to blow that out so you can have billers and schedulers with separate logins. Underneath all that is already the workings of our group functionality where you’ll be able to add multiple clinicians to your account and then have a real group practice management product.
That’s something that’s being built now. We hope to have it out in the next couple months or three months, depending upon how development goes and we’ll be reaching out to a number of folks before that to do beta testing for us, but that’s coming really soon. It’s been something that we’ve wanted to do for a long time. We have too many people asking us about group practice functionality. It’s something that we’re building and we’ll do it in a way that we try to approach everything and really integrate it well into the product and not just slap it on top and make it really well for you.
Joe Sanok: Yeah and I know that it just seems like people, you know if they are a solo practitioner, if they’re good, oftentimes, they grow. You don’t want to lose this person that’s been a client for a while. You have the opportunity to talk to people all over the nation in regards to their private practice, so what are some themes that you’re noticing in practice management or maybe trends we might say, and whether it’s HIPAA compliance or whether it’s practice management. Any themes or trends that you’re starting to pick up on from just people that you talk to?
HS: Let me think about that for a second. I mean, obviously everyone’s always concerned about security, as are we. I mean, there’s nothing more important than security of patient health information, but I think that you know, I do talk with a lot of people. I have been talking with a lot of people. I think that there’s a lot more people now looking for practice management products and there’s a lot of options out there, which I think is really great. I mean, options are good and some people love our product and some people love our competitors’ products and I think that what I always tell people when they’re looking around is that you should find the product that works best with you and do the different free trials of different products and see which one is really going to be something that you’re going to use every day
And also, Joe, tell me if I’m off topic here, but these are the trends that I feel like — these are the questions that we always get about what to use and should I use yours? It’s really don’t necessarily look at a feature list of a product and make a decision based on that. Get into the products, use them, see what you’re going to use every day, and make sure that it’s going to work for you. I feel like — forget how much it costs also. The bottom line is this is a product that you’re going to use to run your business, and as long as it’s not ridiculously priced, you should be willing to spend some money on something that really creates the infrastructure of your practice, but find the one that’s going to work best with you.
Joe Sanok: Well, you know for me, when I decide what I’m going to spend money on or what I’m not going to spend money on, I really look at how much time is this going to save me, or how much headache or liability or any of that, so that when I make that decision or that purchase, then I know, “Okay, well because of this, whether it’s an accountant or an attorney or whatever, I can sleep at night or I can know that my clients’ health information is safe or I know that I’m not going to probably get audited by the IRS.” Or whatever it is that I’m putting money into, it’s usually because it’s going to save me time or risk.
HS: Yeah and that’s a good point and I think for the most part whether it’s practice management software or website or whatever it is, I found overwhelmingly that most therapists for example, or clinicians are just focused on the dollar amount that they’re paying for all these things. I think that what you’re saying right now is you really — I really wish I could just say “Look you’ve got to focus on how much time something saves you, how much security it provides you. Your time is money and this matters. There’s a lot more things to look at and just focusing on price all the time I really feel like it’s limiting and it doesn’t really give you the whole picture. Again, I’m not just saying that about practice management or in defense of that at all. I’m saying across the board in general.
Our company, we spent a year and a half developing our product before we released it. We spent thousands of dollars a month on building a great infrastructure that we didn’t see a penny of income for a long time, but we had to do that. It was the right thing to do because we wanted to build a really solid secure product using the best hosting and the most secure hosting, et cetera. And I think therapists need to think about their businesses the same way even if you’re just getting started. You have to invest in your business. There are start-up costs, you’re going to spend more than you’re bringing in initially, for the most part, and that’s okay.
That’s what a start-up does, so I feel like that mind-set that shift needs to occur because therapists, again they are entrepreneurs, they’re small business owners, and the same things apply. You’ve got to have a place to work, you’ve got to have the tools to do your job. Some people say “Well, I’m just starting out, I’ll come back you guys later” and I’m thinking “Why?” Just come and if you come start now. Get in your head that you’re going to be successful and get all these systems in place.
I feel like that’s an important shift, again, whether it’s practice management software or your website or whatever it is, get the stuff that’s going to work best for you and your business will grow.
How to make a business grow
Joe Sanok: Well, and so much of that applies to what other people have said that have been on this podcast because most of the listening audience in some form wants to get off of some insurances, if not all and so, it seems like a lot of the people that are trying to grow a private pay private practice, they’re learning how do you educate clients on the value you provide and why someone would want to pay out of pocket. One of the first things is teach your clients why cost is not the only thing. If someone wants to work with someone that works specifically with angry kids in Traverse City, I’m the guy.
The doctors and school counselors, they know that. They refer the angry kids to me and because of that, it’s not — my name isn’t just on a list with a bunch of other insurance providers. I’m the person that a personal recommendation came from and so it sounds like you’re saying kind of the same thing in how we approach our own private practice that, yeah, of course, cost and price is going to be part of the equation, but it can’t be the only thing when you’re launching or growing a private practice.
HS: Now, I totally agree. You’re absolutely right. It is not the only thing, absolutely and a lot of it’s going to precede value, like what’s the perception of you and the value of the service you’re providing. I think there’s a lot of hesitancy for people to charge more for their services or whatever and that’s too bad because it brings the whole profession down, regardless of you know. I feel like people go to school, they spend a lot of time, they spend a lot of money, they do a lot of training and a lot of people don’t get paid in training. That’s a huge investment that therapists are making to be in business and it’s an amazing profession and people are called to it. They should be compensated for it. Lawyers are compensated very well. Why shouldn’t therapists be?
Joe Sanok: Right.
HS: I think this whole perceived — it’s like a chicken and the egg. It’s like what’s the perceived value of a customer like can get a therapist, or a client, or patient, but then what — how’s a therapist looking at, what’s their true value and really owning that and being strong about that and charging what they believe is the right thing. You probably would be surprised if you do like a sensitivity analysis and look at it like, if I had ten clients, and they pay me 50 bucks an hour, or 5 clients pay me 100 bucks an hour, what do you want? You just have to look at the bigger picture and charge what you believe you’re worth. I think that’s the only way to really build a practice that’s going to sustain you.
Joe Sanok: Now, how have you seen in, and maybe you’re not sure on this question? But in regards to counselors getting over that emotional hurdle of charging more, have you seen anyone kind of successfully do that and if so, how do people get over that emotional hurdle?
HS: I think a lot of it has to do with people’s personality. I mean some people just do it from the start and they just go for it and they do it. Other people are a little bit more timid about it. I think a lot of it — and this is beyond the scope of my knowledge and a lot of this has to do with people’s relationship with money. It’s like I’m looking at these books on my shelf right now. One is called Mindfulness and Money and I forgot the name of the other one. But it’s like you know, people’s relationship with money really plays in as a therapist for example, in terms of what they’re going to charge.
I think a lot of it also comes down to this thing where people feel like this is such a special gift that they have to be able to do this work and they feel guilty, I think. A lot of folks for charging money and raising a rate or things like that and I totally get it, but the bottom line is, you said this earlier. This is ultimately it’s a business and in order to stay in business, you have to be able to pay yourself and survive and feel good about how you can live your life based upon your income and I feel like you need to find out what that cost is to charge that’s going to pay for your infrastructure and pay for the maintenance of you going to CE, conferences, and things like that.
All of that has to be factored into your fee and I think that’s important to do and I don’t know if a lot of people do that. They just say 100 bucks an hour or yeah, maybe I’ll raise it to 120 now or whatever it is, but that’s arbitrary. You have to really look at what are your costs? Again, it’s just not my phone, and my office, and my practice management product or whatever it is, but it’s how do I have money to maintain my office and paint it once in a while, or I can go to the conferences that I want to go to and do the continuing education, not just trying to find the cheapest courses, but find out about the right ones for me. You got to have money for that, and that’s got to be factored into what you charge.
Joe Sanok: I know a story that I told when I was doing a webinar with you guys, was that my brother who is a business consultant and he also owns a company called Specifically Pacific, and you actually might like it. They have the trademark for the Highway 101 that goes up the West Coast and so they get all sorts of really cool sunglasses and stuff. Anyway, I was totally full, I was working full time and then I also had my private practice, and I was like “I’m so busy, I’m going to have a waiting list.” My brother said “How long does it take for the average person to decide to go to counseling?” And I’m like “Oh, probably weeks, if not months before they decide”. He’s like “And then you’re going to put them on a waiting list and then expect that they’ll be waiting for you to be ready to take them?” I was like “Oh, yeah.”
He established that I’d probably lose those clients and then he said “Well, why don’t you just raise your rates?” I’m like “Come on Pete. That’s just heartless, you and your business soul.” He said “Well, if someone was going to give you a thousand dollars for 45 minutes of your time, would you do it?” I was like “Yeah, absolutely” and he said, “So, it’s not about rates then because you would do it.” Then he just kept working down. He’s like “what about 500 dollars?” I was like “Yeah”, and he said “what about 200?” I said “probably” and then he said “what about 150?” I said “yeah.”
He said “Well then, raise your rates to 150. If that’s going to be where you feel good about it and you show up excited to see that client, then don’t have a waiting list, just raise your rates.” For me, that was – it still such a light bulb moment when I shifted and really did shift from just that mindset of “I can’t raise my rates, too.” I deserved to raise my rated. I’m so full that I’m going to go crazy if I keep this pace up.
HS: Yeah, that’s a great point. I think what happens is people get afraid. If I raise my rates to that, I’m not going to have any more customers or clients and people are going to leave. The reality is some people might leave, but again going back to what we talked about earlier, if you have the fortitude to stick with your guns and that things will work out, people will come to you if you’re good, right?
Joe Sanok: Right.
HS: You just have to bite the bullet and do it sometimes and usually it turns out okay. People turn out, but you get new people and they come in and that’s the rate and they’ll pay it. I just think it’s an interesting thing about what you charge and the psychology around it and the fear around it, but I feel like if you really believe that you’re worth X or that’s what you want to work for, try it out. You can always change your rates if it’s not going to work, if you end up with no clients, but you know what? Like you said, if you — you’ve got to find the price that you really feel good about because you shouldn’t have to worry about those things. That should be — you show up and you know you’re going to be paid this and that’s good for you.
Joe Sanok: I’d love to hear people’s comments on this. Feel free when we do this live, those of you that are listening, to comment on how you are raising your rates. One thing that one of my score consultants had said to me is “So, you use the blink method?” I said, “What’s the blink method?” He’s like “You just keep raising your rates until somebody blinks.” It felt so heartless, but I mean, I guess I kind of do do that, but maybe people out there disagree. Feel free to weigh in in the comments section when this goes live on the website.
Howard, one question I always end with is if every counselor in America were listening right now, what would you want them to know?
HS: I want them to know that — well, about SimplePractice or just in general?
Joe Sanok: Anything. Obviously, you own Simple, you like people to sign up for SimplePractice, but what else should people know maybe just to like grow their practice, or become a better person, or kind of, I leave it pretty wide wide open.
HS: Yeah, that’s a pretty broad thing. Again, it goes back to something that I’ve been blogging about, and that I feel very passionately about and that’s, I really want people to work in this profession, to really think of themselves as entrepreneurs and small business owners and really look to those practices that companies that mine use or that I use to build my business. Apply those as best you can to your business because, again it is a business. You have to pay your bills, you’ve got to be able to survive and you’ve got to be able to grow your business to be around. I feel like that’s something again I feel incredibly passionate about, regardless of whether you use our product or someone’s else product. That’s not that much of a concern in terms of this. It’s really, honor what you’re doing as an entrepreneur and a small business owner and really spend the time to understand those things, and like I think you said earlier Joe, “Make the time to focus on the business part of your practice as well as the clinical part” because they can’t survive without the other.
Joe Sanok: That’s awesome. Well, Howard Spector, from SimplePractice thank you so much for being on the Practice of the Practice Podcast today.
HS: Yeah, thanks for having me Joe. I appreciate it. I’ll come back again anytime.
Joe Sanok: Oh! I actually — sorry I almost kicked you off the show without letting you talk about — you’re giving some things away for free. It’s going to be at simplepractice.com/joe and you’re going to have some extra tips on managing a private practice.
HS: Yeah, that’s correct. It’s simplepractice.com/joe, come there and we’ll get you some free information on how to manage your practice well, some tips on picking a practice management product, whichever one that is, so please come by and check it out.
Joe Sanok: Awesome. Well, Howard thanks so much for being on the show.
HS: All right, Joe. Thanks so much.
Joe Sanok: I think one of the things that I really like about what Howard did is he just jumped in. I just sometimes have a really hard time totally like just jumping in. I mean to have gone through grad school, doing your internship, and then he launches Track Your Hours and then launches a practice management system. It’s just amazing to think about. Sometimes I think we have these voices in our heads that Howard might have been thinking “Well, how do you know how to run a private practice? You haven’t even been licensed yet.” He easily could have just let those voices stop him from doing something and then we wouldn’t have something like SimplePractice.
It’s just a good reminder that I think it’s better to just try stuff out, see what works, and then adjust as you go, like that whole idea of being paralyzed by perfection for high achievers. It’s really hard to do that. I love how he addressed that whole idea of once he decided to do it, he’s kind of a perfectionist, but you just change and you launch, and you switch.
I look at when Practice of the Practice first came out and there’s a handful of you that were there like right at the beginning and the design was ugly and my logo was ugly, but I got started. It’s better to have something going and moving than not be out there at all.
Whatever your next step is, it might be launching a private practice, it might be growing your private practice, it might be starting a blog or an Instagram, or becoming a consultant, whatever that next step is, focus on that and do it even if you’re just scared out of your mind because it’s going to work. I just know if you keep with it, if you keep at it and you keep adjusting and changing based on what you’re seeing happening, it’s going to work and it’s worked over and over for so many people.
If you need any help, by all means, contact me through Practice of the Practice. I’m really active on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. All that stuff is on Practice of the Practice. I’d love to connect with you. If you really like Practice of the Practice, my one ask would be, would you put a comment or rank us in iTunes? Let them know what you think of us. If you think we’re great, if you think we’re terrible, whatever, please review us on iTunes. That would be super awesome.
Thanks for letting me into your ears and into your brain. Have an awesome week.
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