Why should you decide on 1099 or W2s sooner rather than later? Which missing pieces of your new group practice do you need to fill in and fix? Are you searching for a community in the mental health business?
In this podcast episode, Alison Pidgeon interviews Lexie Lee about starting a group practice.
Meet Lexie Lee
Lexie Lee, LPC is the co-owner (with her husband, Ron) of Lee Counseling Services, a group practice in Weatherford, Texas. They also own Texas Marriage Retreat where they offer intensive retreats for couples wanting to work on their relationship.
Lexie and Ron are serial entrepreneurs and are getting ready to launch a new podcast for entrepreneurs married to each other called The Married Entrepreneurs Podcast.
In This Podcast
- Joining Group Practice Launch
- Filling in the missing pieces
- Lessons learned
- Lexie’s advice to new practice owners
Joining Group Practice Launch
To start her group practice, Lexie was prepared to invest in joining a mastermind group that could help support her through the initial transition.
[I liked] that it was a long [event] … taking you through several months in the process and that we check in [weekly] with questions and there is somebody there along the way. I liked that [there] was going to be someone who was going to partner with me for a while. (Lexie Lee)
The mastermind group provides a group setting where clinicians work alongside one another in the effort to grow and launch their practice while Alison and Whitney provide the necessary guidance.
There is both accountabilities to motivate you, and experienced wisdom for you to follow.
Filling in the missing pieces
Joining the mastermind and working with experienced people helped Lexie realize where she had missing pieces to fill in her practice.
She realized that she needed:
- An assistant to help her with admin and free up her time
- An attorney to work with for legal advice
Lexie learned the lesson and the importance of being flexible and being able to pivot when necessary, which is something she feels she did well.
When life threw changes my way [I didn’t get] too bogged down and [I knew] this is the path that I am on and I [want] to stay on this path. (Lexie Lee)
However, Lexie struggled with 1099 to W2 transition and advises new practice owners to figure out whether they want 1099 or W2 clinicians earlier on in launching their group practice.
Lexie’s advice to new practice owners
For sure get a consultant, absolutely hands down … I tried it without one, and how much I have accomplished since I have gotten into GPL … my growth has been so much faster. (Lexie Lee)
Lexie tried to start a group practice by herself, which took a lot of time, money, and energy.
Investing in the success of her practice by joining a mastermind helped her to feel supported, and less afraid to try new changes and different things.
The community that she joined provides her with accountability, support, and encouragement.
Useful Links mentioned in this episode:
- Grab your ticket to the Faith in Practice Conference
- Visit Texas Marriage Retreat and connect with them on Facebook.
- Find out more about Lee Counseling Services and The Married Entrepreneurs Podcast.
- Enroll in Group Practice Launch
Check out these additional resources:
- Laurie Wilson is brainstorming how to help women with ADHD | PoP Bonus
- Apply to work together
- Next Level Practice – next cohort opens in March 2022
- Sign up for Next Level Practice — Cohort Open!
- Events – click on the event’s dropdown
- Sign up to join the free webinars and events here
- Podcast Launch School
- Practice of the Practice Podcast Network
- Free resources to help you start, grow, and scale
- Apply to work with us — decision-making matrix for your next steps
Meet Joe Sanok
Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.
Thanks For Listening!
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Well, I so excited about this series that Alison and Whitney are doing; session 672, why start a group practice in 2022, 673 we’re going to be talking about how it’s easy to start a group practice, a step by step guide, in 674, Alison is going to be interviewing someone from Group Practice Launch and giving some real behind the scenes look. 675, same thing, except it’s Whitney. They’re going to be doing all sorts of interviews with people from Group Practice Launch to give some real life stories of people that have launched group practices. Then session 680, which is going to be on the 3rd of March, group practice story time where Alison and Whitney are going to talk all about different things that have gone on in group practice.
I’m just really excited that the two of them are putting on this series because leveling up oftentimes means going beyond starting a practice where you only make money when you show up. And having a group practice is one of those great ways to add another stream of income. There’s lots of other ways it can be doing a podcast, can be doing e-courses, offering other sorts of consulting. But a group practice really is that low hanging fruit for most people. So without any further ado here is that series with Alison and Whitney all about starting a group practice.
[ALISON PIDGEON] Hi, Lexie. Welcome.
[LEXIE LEE] Hi Alison. Thank you for having me on.
[ALISON] I’m excited to talk with you today. So before we get started, can you introduce yourself and your practice?
[LEXIE] Sure. My name is Lexie Lee and I have Lee Counseling Services in Texas. I also have Texas Marriage Retreat, which is an intensive retreat for couples who are struggling with their marriage.
[ALISON] Nice. The reason that we’re talking today is because you are going through our Group Practice. Launch membership program and so you’re in the process of starting your own group practice. So maybe we can start from the very beginning and talk a little bit about your thought process around starting a group practice. How did you make that decision?
[LEXIE] Sure, sure. I think it might help a little bit to understand how I got into private practice to begin with because it was never my intention. I was working for an agency as an infant mental health specialist. I had a co-worker say that she had a friend who was offering parenting classes to families that were involved with child protective services and did I want to make some extra money doing that? I said, “Yes, sure. That sounds right at my alley.” I started doing in-home parenting classes and I was like, I think I could do this on my own. I don’t think I need someone to make the connections for me. So I did some research and I waited through all the red tape of government contracts and I got a contract for a seven county area.
I’m in Texas. So that’s a big area. I hired 10 people and was off to the races. But the problem was, all of my eggs were in one basket because shortly after leaving the agency job, the state canceled all contract statewide because of budget cuts. So I went from making more money in a month than I’d made in my agency job to, okay, how am I going to make money? I pivoted very quickly because my rep with child protective services was awesome and she’s like, you’re a counselor. Why aren’t you offering counseling services for us? I was like, frankly, I’m making more money doing the parenting classes, but I pivoted. I had an office in the next week and made a whole lot of decisions very quickly. I found myself in private practice.
To do that contract, you have to take insurance. So there was no decision on am I going to be private pay? I mean, it was just all like all the decisions from there on were decided for me. I recognized that I needed to cut expenses so I subleased our office space as a lot of therapists do to other therapists. Then I realized one day that I’m limited in how much money I can make this way. That I’m just time bound. I only have so many hours and I only have so many office spaces that I can lease. What I didn’t like about subleasing is that I didn’t have any control over the people who were leasing from me.
If they were late showing up for a client, I had no recourse for that. Yet the clients that they were seeing didn’t really know whether or not I was affiliated with them or not. It looked like I was. So I felt like it was giving me a bad name as well. Then along the same time, my husband had been working on his masters in counseling. So he came on board. At first it was like, okay, we’ll just do the two of us. Then still that struggle of we’re limited by the amount of money. My husband has always been an entrepreneur. So for him it was like a no brainer. We need to do this.
We eventually hired someone as an employee and it just wasn’t going as well as before. She was great, but I was struggling with paperwork and making sure that everything was done in the proper way. So I backed off from it for a little bit and then I decided I really think that I need someone to walk along with me on this. That’s why I joined Group Practice Launch.
[ALISON] Nice. That was a long story, but lots of important details in there. That’s really interesting how you got that contract and then all of a sudden it was like gone and you had to pivot. I mean, I think that’s such an entrepreneurial thing. A lot of people would just give up, but I think somebody who has like that entrepreneurial spirit is like, “Nope, we’ll just find a different way to make this work.”
[LEXIE] Yes. Because it ran through my mind. Maybe I need to go back to the agency, but the freedom of being in private practice and doing own thing, that made me really go, no, I really don’t want to go back to agency work.
[ALISON] I’m glad you told that story too, because I feel like that’s also another sort of common story for people who end up reaching out for consulting. They try to get the group practice started on their own and then they run into issues or they just don’t know what they don’t know and they realize, “Oh I really need to ask somebody for help who’s really done this before so I can actually make this work,” because they run into issues like you’re talking about. They hired the wrong person or whatever
[LEXIE] Yes. Well, and I had often told clients the analogy of I can go to the gym and I can figure out all the equipment on my own and not hire a trainer and I will get there eventually or I can hire a trainer for a short amount of time and they can get me there a whole lot faster than I can get on my own. So finding a consultant, it took a little while to get there and get around that mindset for myself because walking your talk sometimes is more difficult, but I’m so glad that I did.
[ALISON] Oh, good. So what was appealing to you about the program?
[LEXIE] Well, that it was long, it wasn’t just like a one-day seminar or just a month. That it was several months taking you through the process and that weekly check-in to where if you have questions, there’s somebody there who can be there along the way. So I liked that it was going to be someone who was really going to partner with me for a while.
[ALISON] Nice. It feels very supportive, I think to a lot of people because you’re in a group, but then you also have Whitney and I. What were some of those early things that you did when you got into the group and you started going through the information? Obviously you had already started, so there may have been pieces that you’d already put into place, but what were some things maybe that you did when you started the group?
[LEXIE] There were some missing pieces, several, actually. The first one was that I didn’t have an assistant and you all really encouraged us to make that happen. That has taken so much pressure off of me. I feel like I am more productive. I still have some work to do around that because I tend to have that personality if I can do it all. It’s still funny, just this one week, I was talking with my sister who is a manager and I was like the higher up you go, the less you can touch everything.
That’s true in group practice as well. I can’t touch everything and do it well. So hiring an assistant was a big thing. The other thing was the legal advice and running everything by an attorney. So it took me a minute to find a local attorney, but I found someone who is really good and I feel like I have a partnership now that I didn’t have before. So if I have questions I’m sure that I’m covered in a way that I didn’t protect myself before.
[ALISON] That’s great. It’s like, again that you just don’t know what you don’t know thing until you learn it. Where are you at now in the process? So you filled in these missing pieces and we’re about four and a half months into the group now out of a six months. So what have you accomplished so far?
[LEXIE] Well, so far I have hired an assistant. I have interviewed a few therapists. I, going into this already had one therapist who was a 1099 and I’ve decided to go with W2 employees instead. So we’ve made that transition at the top of the year. I have brought on an intern actually. I decided to go that way because I was having trouble getting responses from therapists. We’ve run Zip Recruiter and Indeed ads and we’re just not getting a lot of applicants. It’s part of the nature of where we are. We will start adding benefits. That was something that you had brought up to me and I really appreciated that advice. You advised it’s not as expensive as what I thought it would be. So I’m feeling very hopeful in the new year that we’ll be able to add on a couple of more with that.
[ALISON] That’s great. Are you happy with your progress so far?
[LEXIE] I am. I actually had made a job offer to someone in December and I was excited about her and she got an offer from another company that she said she had wanted to work for for a long time. So that was disappointing, but yet I appreciate the process. I really feel like God will bring the right people at the right time but it’s still my goal to hire two full-time therapist this year. I feel like I’m going to easily be able to do that.
[ALISON] Very cool. So I imagine that if you made that transition over to W2 employment that took a little bit of time just to get all of those pieces organized. Now that you have that in place, what is your plan in terms of, are you already offering benefits? Are you planning to offer them later in the year?
[LEXIE] We’re planning to offer them later in the year because part of what makes it affordable is having the right number of employees. My person who was a 1099 is just part-time. She didn’t want to go full-time at this point, but we are talking later in the year that she may do that.
[ALISON] That’s great. So what surprised you about this process? It sounds like you had some experiences already building a business and hiring people, but what’s surprised you since you started in earnest over these past few months?
[LEXIE] Really I think this surprise was how few applicants I would get. I felt like it would’ve been easier, especially when I put out there that we would be offering benefits because I felt like, okay, if I make that change, maybe I’ll get more. So I have to dig in more in maybe what’s going on. We’re in a small town outside of a major metroplex area. That contributes a little bit. I think maybe this part, being in Texas, also people have more of a self-employment mindset. So finding that right net, that has been the thing that has been the most challenging.
[ALISON] We talk about that quite a bit in the group how, especially, it seems like this year, just because of the landscape of employment in general, which affects our professions as well is just so hard to find good people to hire and you have to be really creative in how you find people because just running an ad on Indeed is not enough anymore.
[LEXIE] Yes. Well, and the added challenge, we’re an insurance-based practice. So the onboarding practice is so much longer with insurance than it is with private pay.
[ALISON] And probably then the salary’s a little bit lower than a self-pay practice.
[ALISON] So some challenges there, but I’m sure you’ll figure it out.
[LEXIE] We will.
[JOE] The Faith in Practice Conference is right around the corner. It starts on Thursday, April 21st until Sunday, April 24th. It’s going to be at the Courtyard Marriott on Jekyll Island. It’s going to be in amazing. The Faith in Practice Conference is a unique space for faith-based counselors of all kinds to develop their clinical skills, boost their business acumen and take time away for quietness and reflection. I can’t wait to be a part of the Faith in Practice Conference. Will you join me? Head on over to practiceofthepractice.com/faithinpracticeconference. Again, that’s Faith in Practice Conference over at practiceofthepractice.com/faithinpracticeconference to learn more, see pictures and see who’s speaking at the Faith in Practice Conference. I can’t wait to see you there in Georgia.
[ALISON] So what do you feel like are some, I’m going to ask you both sides of the coin, what do you think are some of the things that you did right, that you would recommend to somebody else and what do you think are some mistakes that you made that you would advise other people not to make?
[LEXIE] I think what I did right was being willing to pivot when life changes my way and not getting too bogged down. This is the path that I’m on and I have to stay on this path. You have to be flexible, especially being in the pandemic, we really still don’t know what life is going to be like. There was a lot of pivoting that a lot of people learned during the pandemic and switching to online if you need to and that sort of thing. What I think I would recommend not doing is, I would figure out the W2 and the 1099 thing sooner and really understand what the benefits of having the W2 employee would be. Yes, I guess that would be the biggest thing that I regret because it’s not easy switching over. I was so afraid that I would lose my 1099 person because it appears as though she’s going to make less money, I don’t think that it will work out that way, but it, when you’re talking about it at first, it can sound like she’s going to make less money.
[ALISON] But then obviously once you actually dig into how the taxes get calculated and all of that stuff, it actually ends up being about the same.
[LEXIE] Yes, exactly.
[ALISON] Yes, but you have to, yes, I made the switch over too at the beginning 2020, and we had to have detailed conversations about this doesn’t really mean you’re going to make less money even though on paper at first it looks like you are.
[LEXIE] Just remember what it feels like when you do your taxes with the 1099, whereas now it will feel very different.
[ALISON] So let’s talk a little bit about your experience of being in the group. The group is about 30 people total, we have weekly webinars, you have videos that you watch every single week that go through really the A to Z topics of how do you start and run a group practice. So what do you feel like was most beneficial for you with all of those pieces?
[LEXIE] The videos are great and they’re not, they don’t take a whole lot of time to go through and they really are a great starting point for the weekly meetings that we do. So it was really helpful to get a little taste and then have the opportunity to dig in on our group calls so that we could, if we didn’t quite grasp something about it, or we had a million question which sometimes happened and then hearing other people’s questions because sometimes somebody would ask a question that I hadn’t even thought of. I was like, oh, that is such a good question. Please answer.
[ALISON] Yes, that’s like the beauty of being in a group, because you’re all going through the same thing at the same time essentially. So you’re going to have things other people think of that you haven’t thought of, but is still helpful.
[LEXIE] Well, and with this group, there has been a connection. We are cheering each other on and people are hosting in the Facebook group of some of their wins or their challenges. When somebody has a challenge, people are rallying around them and just, there’s been so much support. I really appreciate that.
[ALISON] Is that something that you feel like is a big value for you, just having that support from group and seeing other people going through similar things?
[LEXIE] Yes. I think most of us want a sense of community. That is something that can be a challenge for me because I can be so independent and I can figure this out on my own. Being a part of a community requires even more vulnerability, sorry, my voice is struggling today. But yes, vulnerability is important for the community and there have been so many people who have been willing to do that and that has been so beneficial.
[ALISON] What’s interesting is that we’ve run this group now twice. You’re in the second cohort and I feel like this group is very willing to be like raw and vulnerable with each other about what they’re struggling with and if they’re having a moment of freak out or whatever, and just to see other people responding; like it’s okay. You’ll get through this, giving advice and just being generally positive has been really cool to see.
[LEXIE] Well, and even though we all know that we’ll get through it’s still so nice to be reminded of that by someone who is walking in the same shoes.
[ALISON] Something else I know that comes up a lot in the group is just talking about mindset shifts and just thinking of things differently as a business owner, especially when you’re growing into that role as a boss. We were talking yesterday in the webinar actually about how when you start hiring people, it adds this whole nother layer of legitimacy to your business. So not just like you created a job for yourself, but it’s like now you’re employing people and they’re depending on you and that’s a whole new level of responsibility. So do you feel like you went through some of that, having to do those mindset shifts or wrapping your head around just thinking of things differently, like starting the group practice and all of that, what that entailed?
[LEXIE] I think that I had gone through that mind shift a little earlier when I first got the contract with CPS. But what I would say has been a shift for me is that the potential of what it could be. And what really gets me excited is the fact that I can provide a work culture for therapists. I think that therapists don’t get valued enough sometimes and that I have the ability to have an agency where I can do that, where if you want family to be more of a priority, you have that flexibility, you have a work culture that really supports you. That’s the part that was a shift for me thinking how exciting that can be to offer that for other people.
[ALISON] So where do you feel that came from? Or how do you actually carry that out?
[LEXIE] I think that part of it is one being able to hire the right people, but also just giving that flexibility to them and saying there are people out there who need all kinds of schedules and there are people who need all kinds of therapists. So we don’t have to necessarily just say, okay, we are only this as an agency. Certainly we can have a niche that we work on, but there is space for so many people that I think they think that they have to just stay with an agency and they don’t get to see their ideal client. And I can provide the space where they can do that and they don’t have to have the weight or the pressure of keeping up with the paperwork or doing the marketing or the things that maybe they’re not good at, but that I don’t mind doing. And being able to offer for people so that they can make money doing what they love and yet still have that family balance.
[ALISON] I feel like it’s so rampant in our industry that, like you said, therapists, aren’t valued. They’re not treated well. They’re told like, oh, you just have to see more clients, see more clients. Sometimes I feel like it can just be the simplest thing to treat your staff well. Some of my staff has gotten sick lately and I’ve been in situations where I would call in sick and you could tell the boss was annoyed or he was like, “Ugh, her kid’s sick again.” You know what I mean? That thing. And I’m always just like, oh, I hope you feel better. Please rest and take care of yourself. I don’t ever respond in the way my former boss responded to me. So I think it can just be as simple as that. It doesn’t have to be anything super complicated.
[LEXIE] Well, and I think we forget that, we assume that the therapist doesn’t want to do a good job. The therapist that I know want to do a good job. They want to serve their clients and if they are calling in, they’re calling in for a good reason. It’s not just that, I don’t feel like it today.
[ALISON] Yep, for sure. So if somebody is considering starting a group practice, what advice would you give to them?
[LEXIE] Oh, for sure, get a consultant. Absolutely, hands down.
[ALISON] Why would you recommend that?
[LEXIE] Well, because I tried it without one and how much I’ve accomplished since I have gotten into this GPL has just, my growth has been so much faster and I feel supported and a lot less scared in doing it because I know that there’s somebody who’s been there that I can ask the question of.
[ALISON] Nice. I think that’s such a great way of looking at it; if you get some help from somebody who’s already done it before, you’re basically learning all the shortcuts and avoiding a lot of mistakes. Anything else that you want to tell us about your group practice or future plans for this year? I know we’re recording this in January, so we have the whole year ahead of us. What are you hoping to accomplish in your group practice?
[LEXIE] Well, in the group practice, I’m wanting to hire two full-time therapists this year. That’s my goal. I feel like that’s a doable goal. We also have Texas Marriage Retreat. So we’re wanting to look at turning that into a group practice as well. Right now it’s just my husband and I doing the intensives. It’s more of a challenge in bringing someone on, one who has the training to work with couples, who wants to spend 16 hours over three days with someone. It’s a lot. So it will require some additional training. That’s going to be a big challenge also for us and growing that.
Then because my husband and I don’t have enough to do, we also are launching of podcast called The Married Entrepreneurs. The audience is entrepreneurs who are married to each other and the struggles that can happen with that when you have two people who want to do all the things. You have to be on the same page, whether you’re doing all the things together or you’re doing all the things separately, but yet you still have to live together.
[ALISON] Yes. That sounds amazing. I’m always fascinated by those couples who are married and run a business together, because I’m not sure I could do that with my husband.
[LEXIE] Well, the first thing we had to decide in doing it was that divorce was not an option. Murder maybe, but not divorce.
[ALISON] Nice. So tell us about, I know you said you’re launching the podcast, so it’s not out yet, but if somebody is listening in the future, after it is launched, how can they find it?
[LEXIE] We will be listed on all of the usual ways that you’re able to find a podcast. So iTunes and Spotify and all of those. You can also find us at themarriedcounselorspodcast.com. We are looking at launching in March.
[ALISON] Okay. Excellent. March 2022. Very cool. Tell us about how we can look at your counseling practice online or how can folks get a hold of you if they have a question?
[LEXIE] Sure. We also have leecounselingservice.net, our counseling practice website. Then we have texasmarriageretreat.com is how we run our intensives. So there are lots of options on either of those sites and to click, to contact us.
[ALISON] Nice. It’s been so great talking with you, Lexie. I really appreciate you telling us about all the things that you’re doing and your experiencing in Group Practice Launch.
[LEXIE] Thank you. I so enjoyed this, Alison. I appreciate you.
[JOE] Thank you so much for listening to this episode today. Such amazing content, all about group practices, launching your group practice. You can read more over at practiceofthepractice.com/grouppracticelaunch if you are interested in learning more about starting a group practice.
Also today’s podcast could not be brought to you without the sponsorship of the Faith in Practice Conference. We are putting on this conference and we are so excited to have so many amazing sponsors that are joining us to support faith-based practitioners of all kinds. The Productive Therapist, Simplified SEO Consulting, Faith Fringes podcast and retreats, Private Practice Elevation, Shrink Think, Christian Disc and Green Oak Accounting are all sponsors of the Faith in Practice Conference.
If you want to head on over to practiceofthepractice.com/faithinpracticeconference, you can read more. It’s the faith-based practice conference that will help you as a unique faith-based counselor to develop your clinical skills, boost your business skills and have time away for quiet and reflection. I’m going to be there. Can’t wait to hang out with all of you. Again, that’s practiceofthepractice.com/faithinpracticeconference.
Thank you so much for letting us into ears and into your brain. Have an amazing day. We’ll talk to you soon.
Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music. We really like it. This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.