In a previous blog post, I mentioned a formula for success that many successful companies use till this day to get the ball rolling—and they stay rolling. However, once you’ve hung your shingle over your door, now what? What is it that I need to do to make sure I can keep my doors open?
As the answer to this is not so cut and dry as we want it to be, but what we can do is put these three key steps to the test as many enduring businesses have done so for decades.
Remember back in the day as a grad student: you may or may have not heard of private practice; you were concerned about what you were going to do after getting a master’s degree, and so many other nuances. Certainly you are interested in this private practice stuff now since you are in the thick of it. But back then, entrepreneurship may have been completely unbeknownst to you.
Many great businesses start this way, with hindsight of course. But, just like choosing a major in college, much exploration is required before choosing something that feels right. Like opening a practice or not.
You may have chosen to become a therapist because others said you’re a good listener, an empath or a combination of other amazing feats. The important thing is that you chose this path eventually, and sometimes it feels like this path chose us, and we are just along for the ride.
This is the exploration phase of business, and for some of us, we’re still exploring what it means to begin or run a practice.
Let’s keep nostalgia going by thinking about how the company Apple began. They filled a real need in the industry, computers. Sure, there were other companies who also fulfilled this hole in the market, but think about what made Apple so different. Now, take a moment and think about your practice and how it could be unique, too. Perhaps, there’s a certain specialty or niche you’re currently exploring and you’d like to go deeper.
But before you decide to fill a need or go further in your niche, you’ve got know what’s missing or what could be done differently in your local market. This requires some exploration. So whether you’re starting a practice, growing a practice or trying to figure out what’s next for you and your community; here’s a shorthand of beginning the exploration process:
- Research your local area
- Figure out needs
- Find the holes in the market
- Find out who else does what you want to do
- Remember, take action in what you value
Just like how many of us explored certain majors in college, so many never knew they’d end up being a therapist in the long run, let alone a private practice owner. The point of exploring is trial and error, and not just once. Trial and error means to explore often.
So, explore what you enjoy, explore what you’re good at, explore what you’d like to work on and explore what others even say about you. You never know what you could find if you in constant search for what fills your ever changing values.
Once you’ve explored the potentials in your area, now is the time to exploit it. Now, so often the word exploit has gotten a bad rep, but not anymore I say.
When it comes to exploiting your business, what I mean by this is to take what you’ve built and extending those services to other areas. For example, after some time, Apple became more well known for selling computers, that was their thing. Just like treating social phobia, trauma or anxiety was your thing, niche or specialty.
Soon, Apple shifted into a new direction, while keeping their computer products intact. They exploited another vision much similar to computer products and something that was missing in the market—music. Thus, the iPod was born and everything else that followed. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to say anything about where Apple is now with other exploited areas.
Private practices that steadily maintain often exploit what they’ve previously explored. Here are a few examples to help grasp this concept:
-A couple therapist who works with couples, pornography and internet addiction regarding infidelity.
-Therapists that specialize in OCD and social phobias using different exposure treatments.
-Group practices that treat the entire spectrum of anxiety disorders rather than generalized.
-A solo practice growing into a group practice.
-A full-time agency therapist who begins to see private paying clients part-time.
-A successful private practice owner offering consultation for running a business
Exploitation is another way of extending your explored business ideas or niches to newer, yet similar areas. Doing this the first time can be uncomfortable, so it’s going to take some practice to create newer approaches in what you’re interested in exploiting. And hey, if the first idea doesn’t go over well, it might be time to try another. Remember, trial and error is key.
With this in mind, exploit what you already know, exploit what you’ve explored, exploit ideas related to your brand and exploit in a way that is unique to you and what you value.
This might seem obvious, but in life we’re meant to grow. Our biology literally forces us to grow up from a child to an adult whether mentally, physically, intelligently and so forth. Our private practice is just the same.
As the last ‘E’ in this post, many businesses have the potential to reach this; however, it’s a difficult journey because at this point many of those same businesses have reached a certain peak, and for some this is okay, but for others it’s devastating. So, how does one expand in the business world of private practice?
What could expanding mean?
Well, expanding could mean exactly what Joe does in his monthly mentor program, check it out if you haven’t! It may mean moving your group practice to multiple locations. It could also mean expanding your niched areas from individual to group psychotherapy. The expanding goes as far as your creativity does.
My point is to realize that there is always room to grow. As mentioned before, this process is very uncomfortable because we are deciding to step into unknown territory, purposely I might add. So it makes complete sense to stay put in an area that makes you feel warm and cozy. Unfortunately, that comfortability is the arch nemesis of progress, and expansion.
Now, for the sake of uniformity, I bring you Apple, again. I don’t need to say much, but for a company that’s now worth over 1 trillion, I’d say they’ve expanded pretty generously. They’ve actually stretched in ways that we can replicate in our own practices. Think about it, when you hear the word Apple, most of us no longer picture a fruit. Ask yourself: What do people picture when your practice name is mentioned?
Though Apple is doing well in the stock market, expanding is not just about net profit, though that is important. Expanding could be about building a legacy that could last a lifetime. It could also be about having more freedom and financial independence. And don’t get me wrong, expanding is definitely not for everyone, like choosing a home, some prefer minimalist avenues over larger estates.
Definition of expansion
There is no wrong answer in how you define expansion.
If you’re 100% satisfied with where you’re at, perhaps you’ve already reached your ideal level of expansion, and for that I applaud you. If you’re not satisfied, keep stretching, there’s more room to grow in your future.
In order to make this process less scary, you’ve got to have a plan put into place so you’re at least taking calculated risk rather than making random choices and crossing your fingers.
Here’s a fantastic idea I’ve learned from a great mentor, write down:
- Where you see yourself and your business 5 years from now. Make it big.
- Write down where you need to be 1 year from now to achieve that 5 year plan.
- Where you need to be 3 months from now to achieve that 1 year plan.
- Write down what you need to get done this week to achieve your 3 month plan.
- Do what you need to do today to achieve your goals for the week. Take action.
Be flexible with this plan because things will change. As therapists, we love shiny objects and gravitate to new things we feel will be good for us and our business. Write that idea down, but keep doing what you’ve been doing. If that new idea you wrote down is pulling at your heart strings long enough, add it to the plan and take some action.
My hope is that you can take the time to explore what you love, exploit it creatively and expand it to fit your ideal lifestyle. Good luck!