In my many years of interviewing and consulting with private practitioners I have found a common thread when it comes to newbie mistakes. I want to share these with you in hopes that you can avoid them from the get go and begin private practice on the right foot. If you are already in private practice, this list will still help you evaluate where you are and where you want to go.
1. Lack of research
Therapists are such achievers and go getters that they often unconsciously forget to plan ahead. They have great enthusiasm, but when it comes to planning a business, their passion often turns into an overreach. Why? Because amid all of their zeal, they simply fail to plan, which can turn into planning to fail.
Private practice is so complex, so multi-dimensional that it takes stepping back and looking at the entire picture before jumping in. All of the functions and processes of private practice must be considered before a therapist can determine whether a private practice will work. And although each practice has many of the same denominators, each practice will also have a life of its own according to its position in the target community and the type of clients served.
If therapists can turn their desire into an ambition based on logical and sequential steps, they have everything it takes to make it in private practice. Starting with a thorough market analysis and proceeding to a well developed business plan they can start on the right foot.
Talking to people who live in the target community along with medical professionals and referral sources who work there can play big into helping therapists understand if their practice idea is really a viable option. Collecting relevant data on the community and carefully analyzing the competition can help make the picture even clearer. This research in the beginning helps the therapist make realistic and logical decisions about their private practice idea.
Being patient and taking the time to sit back and look at the overall picture will win big rewards later on. I suggest at the minimum 6 months of research, but one full year is ideal. Within this year, the therapist may be looking at several target communities at the same time. It often happens that a “no” in one community leads to thinking about another community that may have been easily missed before.
2. Lack of mentors
I can’t imagine what I would have done without the mentors I have gained over the last 10 years. Going it alone is not the way to go. You absolutely must have a network of willing people to talk to, people who are successful in private practice and want to see you succeed. Check out my list of must follow therapist mentors HERE.
In the beginning, don’t be afraid to call or email private practitioners working in areas that you would not be a competitor to. I have never met a therapist unwilling to offer some advice when asked. Entrepreneurs love to talk shop. One of the reasons I created the Academy of Private Practice membership site was to provide this type of mentorship and networking to therapists. Learning from others is always the best way to plan, avoid mistakes and get ideas that you would have never dreamed of before.
3. Money spent unwisely
One of the big mistakes private practitioners make is spending too much money in the beginning. They feel that in order to start a successful practice they must buy the most expensive equipment, lease the biggest and most impressive building and spend loads of money on marketing tools.
Buying used, renting smaller spaces and choosing marketing materials wisely pays off big time later. When it comes to choosing a spot to lease, consider a small space located in the medical community, next to your referral sources, and close to where your clients live and work. Those considerations are much more important than the biggest therapy gym and the most expensive equipment.
4. No Savings
Operating a therapy practice without savings is like digging a ditch with a garden spade. Making a profit in the beginning will take a long time without some money in savings to back you up. Once your practice is off the ground, savings is still critical. One month may see an increase in profit margins while the next month margins are down.
All of this can be due to fluctuations in billing and referrals and in some sad cases, out of control spending. The smart therapist plans ahead and uses increased profit margins to save instead of spend.
5. Work overload; not delegating work
Therapists who fail to delegate and ask for help will burn out quickly. In my video on systems in the Academy, I talk about the importance of analyzing the functions of your practice and detailing the steps to accomplish tasks so therapists can teach others to do what they do.
Even in the beginning, when you don’t have the funds to hire office staff, you should be documenting your processes so you can hand off the easier but time consuming tasks that fill your day.
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