How do you get past the “roof” of your business? What are the foundations of your practice? Are you positioning your business in your ideal clients’ environment?
In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks about Your Four-Step Blueprint for Having a Successful Practice with Zoe Thompson.
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Meet Zoe Thompson
Zoe’s 15-year career has been dedicated to connecting with people and supporting them to grow, learn and develop. A former therapist, Zoe helps other therapists, coaches, and health professionals build brilliant online businesses, supporting and guiding them towards fulfilling their dreams. Through her online consultations, she helps people in the service/helping professions to grow in confidence so they can create a brilliant business that protects their work/life balance and shares their expertise with a wider audience.
In This Podcast
- Foundations and starting with you
- The environment
- Business structure
- The roof
- Zoe’s advice to private practitioners
Foundations and starting with you
The foundations [is] all about starting with you and saying, “if we’re going to build a successful business then it’s got to be one that works for you. What is it that we need to put into that to make it work?” (Zoe Thompson)
Having a sustainable and successful business is contingent on the business owner’s health and overall wellbeing. A business is not sustainable if it forces someone into burnout.
Structure your business alongside your needs and desires as a person. How can you root the foundations of your business to work in unison with your personal and professional aspirations?
Each business works with its ideal clients, but it could work better for your business to find clusters of its ideal clients instead of seeking them out as individuals.
Place your business within the environments where your ideal clients are spending their time.
It’s not necessarily about picking a specific person to talk to but more [asking] who these people [are] that you want to help, what is it that they’re struggling with, what keeps them awake at night? (Zoe Thompson)
Your business structure is the relationship between the products and services that your company is offering its clients, and how these relate to the foundations of your business.
What are the business values – and your values – and how are they being communicated in the work provided by your company?
If something is not working in your business, do not treat it as a limit.
It is worth five minutes to look at the statistics behind your website, products, and interactions with clients to try to find patterns to straighten or trends to encourage.
Be sure every month to check the numbers of:
- downloads of pdfs or documents
- website traffic
- your conversions from marketing
Zoe’s advice to private practitioners
Things take time to build up a successful practice. Have patience and grace with yourself while you put in the work.
Useful Links mentioned in this episode:
- Use promo code ‘JOE to get three free months of Therapy Notes!
- Visit the Build it Brilliant website
- Connect with Zoe on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and LinkedIn
Check out these additional resources:
- Ask Joe: How to Plan Goals | PoP 658
- Apply to work together
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- 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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[JOE SANOK] This is the Practice of the Practice podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 659.
Well, I’m Joe Sanok, your host, and welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast. I hope your new year is going awesome. Hope everything wrapped up well for you for 2021 and 2022 is hopefully off to a great start for you. As you may have noticed, we’ve got some new sponsors that have jumped in including Noble and we’ve got Brighter Vision and Therapy Notes, all sorts of really great things going on. I’m excited about all these new apps and technologies that are coming out that can just help you in the private practice space. It’s really fun to be partnering with a lot of these startups or groups that are just rethinking how we do private practice.
So today we’re actually going to be talking a little bit more about kind of that infrastructure of your business, of how you think about it, how you dive in, how you just really analyze where you’re headed in a different way. We have Zoe Thompson with us, who is a business strategist and founder of Build it Brilliant. Zoe has a 15-year career that’s been dedicated to connecting with people and supporting them to grow, learn, and develop. Through her first experiences, Zoe knows the impacts of stress and anxiety and the positive impact that happens with those in the therapeutic wellbeing space and what they can do to increase health and happiness. Since 2011, Zoe’s been a therapist and helped people to overcome fear and regain their mental and physical strength. Zoe, welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast.
[ZOE THOMPSON] Hi Joe. It’s absolutely my pleasure to be here.
[JOE] Well, let’s just start with your story. Tell us about how you got into the therapy world and maybe how you got into some of the consulting world. It’s always nice to hear how people landed where they’re at now, before we dive into the content that we’re talking about.
[ZOE] Yes, sure. So I was working, before 2011 I was a learning and development consultant specializing in e-learning, so kind of corporate job, corporate space, all that kind of stuff. I had a side interest and trained in all sorts of therapies as sort of side interest really for a few years and then I decided life’s too short. You got to do what you want to do. I quit my corporate job and I set up my practice with £750 English. So it was a bit of a kind of stop talking about it and do it. So, yes, right from the ground up really.
Then I spent 10 years building that business from the ground up. Absolutely loved it, loved everything about it. Then along that kind of time, as per usual, with most things that are people’s passions and most people’s genius, zones of genius I was kind of helping people on the side with my e-learning background, my online technology kind of stuff, my excitement, just like you over apps and tech and all this kind of stuff. I’ve been doing that for about three years and then it kind of got to a point where enough people had said, why are you not doing this? Why are you not kind of helping people with this? You’re brilliant at it. So I decided to then set up, Build it Brilliant. So yes, so unofficially it’s been going for quite a few years but officially it’s quite new. So I’m excited to finally be doing my genius.
[JOE] Well, what I love about it is that you have this four step process, this blueprint. Let’s start there, let’s walk through kind of those four different steps and really dig into what it takes to have a successful practice.
[ZOE] So I think it came about with the blueprint because I was helping so many people and they were asking me questions like how do I market my business? How do I price my business, those sorts things. My sort of point was, hang on a minute. If you’re asking me those questions, then you haven’t really got the strategy in place, the structure in place. Let’s kind of roll that back because once you’ve got those, the kind of questions that you’re asking become obvious to answer. So that’s where the blueprint came from.
So the first step is about the foundations and starting with you. I’ve seen so many people who don’t start from that point of view, and then they end up building a practice where they’re working all the hours, they’re really, really burning the candle at both ends and end up burnt out and not doing the things that they want to do in life or not building their business in a way that really suits them. So the foundations was all about starting with you and saying, okay, hang on. If we’re going to build a successful business, then it’s going to be one that works for you. So what is it that we need to put into that in order to make it work?
So that was step one. Step two then looked at the environment. I mean, so many times I’ve been told about pick your customer and have a look at your ideal customer and those sorts of questions. I really didn’t know where to start because I’m one of those people that likes to make a difference and help people. If somebody wanted help, I’d help them. So it was a bit like, well questions over well, if you suddenly niche down, or if you change your view and you only focus on this customer, then what about all the other people that want help? Am I just not going to help them? So the second step I was talking about the environment of which you want to work. So it’s not necessarily about picking a specific person to work, to talk to, but more saying who are these people that you want to help? What is it that they’re struggling with? What keeps them awake at night, those sorts of questions.
Then the second sorry, the third bit is all around your structure in your business. So looking at, okay, well, in terms of building a business, what we’re going to put into that structure so that your customers are really excited to work with you and excited to work through your business? And how can we match that with the foundations so it starts becoming like a jigsaw, that all the pieces have to all match together? And that might change some of the decisions over the technology that you’re going to use, some of the decisions about what sort of lead magnets you’re going to create, or what things you’re going to do, those sorts of things.
Then for me, the last one, which is the roof, which is about the analytics side of things. So myself, I fell into the trap of creating some amazing things and then two people signed up and I went, oh, well, that’s a bad idea, threw it all out and started again. That’s so much. So the roof for me in this, the full step is about saying, whoa, hang on a minute. We need to look at your stats. We need to look at your analytics. It might just be that you need to change the title or change an image, or change it a little bit. You don’t necessarily have to throw it all out, especially because that is a huge amount of work that you’ve put into it. So the last one is really about the bells and the whistles and just making sure that we’re making everything convert properly and making everything sort of work the best it can be.
[JOE] I love that overview of kind of the four steps. I’d love to kind of drill into each of them individually and talk a little bit more about maybe mindsets or activities people can do. So let’s go back to the found, that first step. Take us through some mindsets or activities that people could do to help with that first part of the blueprint.
[ZOE] So the first thing I think is coming down to kind of how much do you want to earn and how many hours you want to earn it in. I know that that’s a really kind of basic question, but I found from a mindset point of view that that’s a really hard question to answer for a lot of people, especially in our industry. So that really resonated with me when somebody said what is it that you want, a coach and a mentor I was working with, what is it that you want? I sort of went, nobody’s really ever asking that question. I’ve just done what everyone else wants me to do or what I think I should do.
So coming back to, okay, well, how many hours do you want to work and how much money do you want to make, it took me quite a long time to actually be honest with myself with that and put it down on a piece of paper as an actual figure. But I think that’s a really good step because later on when you’re talking about structure you can then almost sense-check it and say, okay, I’m not going to build that because it just won’t fit in my hours. So it just won’t generate the money that I want. So I think that all kind of puts it together.
[JOE] Then what kind of mindsets do you see people run into, kind of when they’re looking at that foundation?
[ZOE] I think permission, permission to be you, permission to do something your way. I think so many people look outwards to what other people are doing and then go, okay, well, I should do that then. So it’s quite difficult in terms of mindset of putting those blocks and those stories in the way of saying, well I’m going to do this because that’s what other people are doing, that’s what’s successful, rather than saying, hang on. What’s my personality. What’s the way that I love working with people and then starting to build that picture for them for that business.
[JOE] I know when I first started Mental Wellness Counseling in 2009, when I was pricing myself, I just looked to see what everyone else was charging in regards to private pay. They were charging $80 a session so I started at $70. And I thought, well, if I’m $10 cheaper than everyone else, I’ll fill up faster. And very little intention, very little thoughtfulness but just, hey, I’ll start at $70 a session versus saying I’ve already got a full-time job. I’m taking time away from my family. Is it worth 70 bucks an hour? At that time it was worth $70 because I was working, I think a $30,000 a year job, $40,000 a year job. So that $70 was a lot of money at the time.
But I think that the idea of saying, well I want to work 20 sessions a week and I want to take six weeks off a year. So what do I need to average? Then that helps with deciding, am I going to take insurance? Am I not going to take insurance? What’s my private pay rate needs to be? If I need to average $125 per session, then I’m on an $80 a session insurance. Like you have to make up that money if you want to meet those goals.
[ZOE] Yes. I think as well, when people are talking about hours worked, it needs to include everything. When are you going to do your accounting? When are you going to do your marketing? Where are you going to get, when are you going to do all those things? So when you are saying, how many hours do you want to work that has to be everything, not just here’s my client facing hours. Because then you end up saying, I mean, I certainly got to a point where I was saying, okay, I was doing all these client hours, but then the money didn’t add up in terms of hours per week and actually doing everything else.
So I ended up in my evenings and weekends kind of trying to catch up with all the paperwork and all the marketing and all this kind of stuff. I think if we start off and say, okay, hang on, how many hours do I want to work in total and how much money do I want to make then, it gives you that really good foundation to then say, well, if I have this many client hours at this much, then it’s okay then to take the same weeks off or to do the admin and the paperwork and the marketing and all the other things that you’re going to do because your rate covers that. Well, that’s not what I did when I started.
[JOE] Now for step two, what kind of mindsets or activities can people go through for the second step in the blueprint?
[ZOE] So I think for the environment it’s very much put yourselves in the customer’s shoes. So here in the UK, there’s a lot of choose your ideal client kind of paperwork. I don’t know if it’s the same around the world, but they’re hugely like, and I sat down and did one and it was like brown hair solicitor kind of stuff. It’s a bit like, well, that’s not really useful in terms of, from a talking to this person point of view and what happens if it’s not a brown hair woman, who’s a solicitor kind of thing? It was just so frustrating as an activity for me. So for me, I kind of changed that and said, okay what is it that this person is thinking? What is it that they’re struggling with? What words would they use? What kind of environment do they live in and kinds of things they like to do? And think of this person far more from an environment point of view than a personal characteristics point of view.
So I think the mindset there for me was, shift for me was instead of it being a single person, it’s more of what is it about this particular client? And that gave me freedom then because I then started narrowing down to say, actually I deal with, for my private practice, I dealt with people with stress and anxiety and fear and chronic pain and the links between those. So because of that, I started coming up with some really good ways of using copy and website things but they came really naturally because I was talking about that person in the way that they are rather than, I don’t know what a brown head solicitor woman wants to hear. It just, it didn’t give me that creativity and that permission then to kind of release what I had in me in terms of that client.
[JOE] So when you were writing, copy first, say someone dealing with anxiety, how would you approach that webpage or sales page or email wherever it was? You said it came easy for you. What made it come easy? What are some tips you can give people to make it easier for them to write copy for their ideal client?
[ZOE] I think the more times that you speak to people who are suffering with the thing that you want to write about the better. So don’t start with thinking that in order to write the webpage, you’ve got to come up with all of that content. I think the more that I, from a client point of view, worked with people who were in that space, the more that they said a sentence that was a GM of a sentence that was like, ah that’s great. Or the more that they asked me a question, I went, ah, so many people want that question answered.
It sort of fed into what I was going to write and the way that I was going to write it, rather than the way around and me saying, okay, I’m going to sit here with a blank piece of paper, trying to think about what I might write to somebody who’s struggling with that. I mean there’s standards in terms of what goes on a webpage in sections kind of thing. But I think for the words, go talk to the people, see what they say, see what they ask, say, “I can help you with this. Ask me questions.” And see what questions they ask you because that’s what they’re going to want on your particular pages.
[JOE] Yes, I think that understanding how they talk about their own pain, how they talk about their own transformation that they want to go through. I mean, even whenever we launch a new product I minimum interview 15 people about how do you describe the pain? So you’re starting a private, when we launched Next Level Practice several years ago, we just had cohort 17, I got on the phone with like 20 different people that were starting practices and the way they described starting a practice was way different than how I was going to write my copy.
They were just talking about how I know that people have done this before, I know that information’s out there, but it’s so confusing. I was starting from a, I’m going to give you step by step, like what I was giving versus, hey, do you feel confused? Like you’re highly educated, you have a PhD and you don’t even know how to start a business. Like how frustrating is that? So to be able to really understand how those clients talk about their own pain, their own transformation, they want, that’s so important. What is step three of the, oh, sorry, go ahead.
[ZOE] I was going to say I’ve seen it so many times where people do almost like beta test opportunities or they bring people into something to help build the something. I think that is a beautiful way of opening those conversations. I’ve also seen people do in forum style and there’s always different ways that you can make that happen.
[JOE] So I know what those things mean, but talk about forum style, talk about beta testing. What does that look like for people just so that listeners know.
[ZOE] So for me, I recently launched my accelerator program. But I started off with, I didn’t design what that was going to be. I got nine people to sign up to it, to design it with me. So the accelerator program became what we designed between all of us. So that’s sort of using beta testers in order to design something. It’s almost don’t design it until you’ve got people to design it for. And forum, I went to, I’ve been to a few of these to help people out, but it’s almost like a few of them have done like a lovely evening where it’s invite some clients who are in that particular thing. They put on some food, they put on some drinks, it’s a bit come and come and chat to me about this. They might give them a voucher for something or a little money off something as a thank you. It’s come along and we’ll have a lovely evening and you can, I can ask you questions and get some information from you. So that would be more kind of forum style.
[JOE] Yes. And obviously looking at your own licensure and code of ethics in regards to what you can do in your particular state is really important too. Because there’s some specialty populations that you may not want to get them together in a group and then there’s others that maybe you would, that aren’t necessarily clients, if you’re launching saying e-course or something like that.
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[JOE SANOK] So then for step three, I think we’re on step three, yes, step three in the blueprint, what are activities or mindsets that we should dig into there?
[ZOE] So I think this is, the biggest thing that I see from working with people is they don’t have things that are sort of lower down in their structure that people can get involved with. So if you are talking about consultancy rates, whether it be psychotherapy, counseling, all these kinds of things, they’re usually quite a big step for somebody to take and to say, oh, actually I’m going to sign up for this service. So having something lower down that people can get to know and trust you is something that I see so much with people saying, okay or having something that can interact with a lot of people but it takes a hell of a lot of time and it doesn’t fit in with said time and money equations.
So I was working with one person who was a counselor and she was doing a Facebook group. Facebook groups are a great thing, but she was a working mom of two and had like 16 hours in a week max. I was like, wrong strategy because Facebook groups take so much time and so much effort. She just couldn’t make that work in terms of what she had. So I think the sort of the biggest advice that I give is linking those steps together and saying don’t, we’ve going to make a business that strategically works or not having anything at the bottom at all. So the first conversation you’re having with people is here, buy my $70, $80 pounds, whatever it is, package. Then they’re like, I don’t know, who are you? Never heard of you before?
[JOE] Yes. I think that it’s interesting how the perception of influence versus actual impact, when I see some of these people that I know have 20,000, 50,000 people in a Facebook group for therapists, but then I know behind the scenes, the actual finances, like they’re not making hardly any money off of that. They’re spending all this time keeping up with these communities, they’re making sure people aren’t trolling each other and they’re being kind. To really think through, would you rather have 500 people that love you and are going to give you a or bucks a year, a thousand bucks a year, whatever it is, or would you rather have 50,000 people and you’re just another group they’re in that they never give money to?
It’s like, it’s one thing if it’s a hobby. There’s things that I would want to create community around that I don’t get paid for. So I’m in improv, for example. Like I’m not doing that to make money. I’m doing it to have fun and to be creative whereas there there’s other things that if I’m going to put time into it, like I going to have a return on investment for that time and into it to actually have it make me money.
[ZOE] It’s going to fit with your client hours with all the all the stuff that you’ve going to do. It’s going to fit in that jigsaw. If you are going to spend, I mean there’s the whole, I think that these communities can also be rather addictive because you feel like you’re doing good work and you feel like you’re doing something really relevant and before you know it, four hours has gone past. Oh, hang on, I’ve got all this other stuff to do. So I think it’s important to keep in mind how much time are you going to spend there so you’re not then rushing everything else or getting burnt out because there’s just not enough hours in a day.
[JOE] Yes. Now when you’re building the roof, for step four, what are some technique, strategies, activities people should do for step four?
[ZOE] A lot of people find analytics boring and they never look at them and they never bother. That for me is the kind of mindset shift, is to say, whoa, hang on a minute. It’s worth five minutes to look at those stats. It’s worth working out. How many people did that actually go out to? How many people actually bought that thing from me? And sit and work those figures out. I know that you look at those figures and go, Ugh, like, no, don’t make me do that. But I’m going to make you do it because you can make some really crazy bad business decisions when you don’t look at those numbers.
You can throw out some amazingly great things and cause yourself so much more work because you haven’t looked at those numbers. So nowhere to find them, there’s so much available now in terms of where you can go and get these figures from the backend of your website, from Facebook, from Google Analytics and all these kinds of places where you can get figures from. So know where you get those figures from and go and look at the things.
[JOE] What would you say are the top, say three to five stats that people should know on say a monthly basis, like every month on your dashboard, you should be checking these numbers.
[ZOE] I think how many people came in like the bottom of your structure. So say you offer a, I don’t know, PDF that they can download. Like how many people downloaded it? I think knowing that bottom end figure of how many people are coming in to that is a really important figure. I think website traffic is another one. Are people actually looking at your website? Are people going there or is it tumbleweed? Because you can have an absolutely brilliant website and think, oh what’s the problem? I’m going to rehash my website. Then you look at a figure and go, oh, nobody’s actually going there. So I think website traffic’s another one.
If you’re doing any marketing, like how many people bought as a result of that particular marketing piece? So if you’re doing, I don’t know, a Facebook Ad or something, like how many people did it go out to, and then how many people actually bought as a result of that ad so that you’ve got your ads stat figure. That’s an important one as well. I think social media numbers are good, but I think sometimes they can be a bit, like you said earlier on just because you’ve got more social media doesn’t necessarily mean that you are doing better. But I think so long as the context behind those numbers, then that’s a good number to have to say, do I have some more followers, some more likers? Because we put a lot of time and effort into our social media management and putting all this content out. Is it worth me actually putting that content out? Are people actually connecting with it? Is another good one?
[JOE] Yes, I think that even that evaluation process, even this morning, we had a team meeting and talking about, okay, so we do all these different things. Let’s make sure that we go back and see is that actually affecting the bottom line? So sure, we’re posting five or 10 Instagram stories a day. Does anybody even care? Does that actually help our bottom line? Does that get more opt-ins? If we stopped doing it for a week, what would happen? Do we see any change and if not, why are we paying someone to create that content? Why not put that into blog posts or other things that people do care about? So yes, I love that idea of making sure you’re testing it, looking at the numbers, looking at those analytics. I mean, it’s the same as looking at your budget for your finances or budget for your time. Those numbers inform you of what’s actually happening. It gives you that data to make better decisions.
[ZOE] I did an event and like I said, I did all the event and everything and then about two or three people signed up to do the event. At the time naively, I was like, well, the event’s rubbish. I won’t do that again. I never ran the event again. I think the time and effort that it goes into setting that event up, setting up the sales pages for it, doing all the marketing for it, all that time and effort, I just been to the lot and then decided to do a different event and had to do all the work again for a different event. Looking back now, I just think, oh, that’s crazy because potentially there’s so many places in that process that I could have looked and gone, okay, the title wasn’t quite what people wanted. The image that I used, wasn’t quite captivating enough. The text just needed tweaking a little bit. The marketing, I didn’t go out to enough people, all these little points that could have transformed that event. And you’ve already done all the hard work of setting it up. So it would’ve been tweaks to make that return on investment work instead of thinking, oh, well it didn’t work because I had low numbers. I’ll just do everything and, or start again.
[JOE] That idea of just not throwing it out because it didn’t work once, such a good point. Well, Zoe, the last question I always ask is if every private practitioner in the world were listening right now, what would you want them to know?
[ZOE] It takes time. It takes time to build up a thriving and successful practice. The beginning, especially if you’re setting up like I did and you’re coming from a completely different profession and you have no background in it at all, it takes time. I think patience, if I could go back to the beginning of my journey and hand myself a huge lesson in patience, I would because I got so frustrated and so alone and so thinking that I was rubbish and I shouldn’t be doing it and I was going to quit. So many times I was doing all the right things. It just takes time. So I think if I was to reach back and reach out to anybody that’s where I was, it’s have some patience and it’s going to work out, but it does take time.
[JOE] Such good advice. Well, Zoe, if people want to connect with your work, what is the best way for them to do that?
[ZOE] So they can visit the website. So it’s builditbrilliant.co.uk. It’s the website. The other way is on YouTube. I’ve got a growing list of what I call AMA videos, which is “ask me anything” videos. So all sorts of tips, hints, and things that you can learn on the YouTube channel. So if you search Build it Brilliant on YouTube, you should find it there and subscribe.
[JOE] Awesome. We will embed a couple of those videos in the show notes to make sure you check out those as well. Zoe, thank you so much for being on the Practice of the Practice podcast.
[ZOE] You are so welcome. Thank you very much for having me.
[JOE] Go take some action. Go do some work with those four steps with the blueprint. Look at those different phases. Think through all the things that you could be doing with your practice.
Also Therapy Notes has been one of our longest sponsors ever. They’ll give you two months for free of their electronic health records if you use promo code [JOE] at checkout. Again, that’s therapynotes.com, the best electronic health records out there. You can do your billing through it. You can do scheduling. They now, as part of it, have your HIPAA compliant video, which is so important. You can’t use Zoom, you can’t use Skype unless you’re using the professional grade with Zoom. That’s just not as streamlined for your business as using Therapy Notes. So make sure you check out Therapy Notes. Also, if you’re on a different platform, like TheraNest or Simple Practice, they will help you migrate your entire caseload over to Therapy Notes. So it’s just incredible to see. Check them out and start the New Year outright.
Thank you so much for letting me into your ears and into your brain. Have a wonderful day. I’ll talk to you soon.
Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music. We really like it. And 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.