A recipe for success in private practice
Written by Jodie Brenton, CEO & Founder of Life Resolutions
Running a business is a lot like perfecting a recipe. You have the same core ingredients, yet different ways of assembling them. Finding that perfect recipe requires experimentation, making mistakes and trying different approaches. Sometimes it involves thinking outside the box, sometimes it means learning from what other people have done.
Over the last 16 years I have worked with a range of psychologists, helping them build and grow their private practices by developing solutions based on an understanding of their challenges and issues. I have seen some practices grow, succeed and prosper, and I have seen others struggle, fail, and close. When I reflect on why that is, I often come back to one simple concept. If you don’t have a recipe to follow and improve upon, you will fail.
Running a private practice or any other business requires a high degree of commitment and dedication to succeed, there is no doubt about it. However, hard work and pushing through will not suffice by itself.
A good business has a recipe (or normally called a process or a series thereof) that it follows religiously. These processes exist to facilitate the delivery of services and keep it financially viable.
It is normal to start out without really having a set process in mind, and that is OK. As you grow things get more complicated, and a small mistake or oversight could have a big impact on the business.
There is a correlation between the volume of clients you see (or services you deliver), and the level of complexity involved in delivering those. Therefore, as you grow it’s important to dedicate time to developing a process that works for you. Our 4 stages of growth E-book discusses these levels of complexity and how they compound on top of each other.
In this article I have shared the recipe we have created, so that you can understand what you may require to build your own process. This recipe is the same one we use in our private practices and has been tested and improved over the last 16 years.
So what are the Ingredients for this recipe?
- Attracting Full-fee paying clients: That’s like 90% of the recipe right? That’s not quite correct. It is important but does not guarantee success in the long term. We will explain why later on.
- Engaging Receptionists: Generally, your receptionist is the first point of contact your client has with you. They set the tone, feel, and experience for your client.
- Diary Management tool: This is like the sauce that keeps it all together. Without a diary system, things quickly fall apart.
- Expert Guidance & Advice: Yes, we said you learn from making mistakes and that is true. However, expert advice can save you from making the same costly mistakes as others.
- A psychologist focused on client care: YOU are the key ingredient. That is why your private practice exists, and what it relies on to create value.
Don’t I need to have a room to run a private practice?
Unless you do your therapy in a park or your garden, yes you absolutely do. Think of your room, the furniture and any other items like your computer as the cooking utensils you need. Your pots, pans, spatulas etc…
The quantities of ingredients 1-4 vary depending on the location, set-up, and niche you are in. What is a constant is ingredient number 5. You.
You’re probably thinking this is all very good and nice, but it doesn’t tell me what to do. Give me the recipe already.
The Life Resolutions Recipe to Success in Private Practice
Before I get into any details, my first piece of advice is to keep your recipe as simple as possible. The simpler it is the easier it is to follow.
Step 1 Preparation work
At this stage what you want to do is make sure that you either have all the ingredients available, or know how to obtain them.
If you don’t know where to start here are a couple helpful resources available in the Strive Resource Section.
- Reach more clients using these marketing methods
- Create the right marketing message by using personas
- Make the most out of each inquiry: 3 steps to improving conversion rate
- Save this with these practice management systems
In regards to finding experts we recommend finding consultants (or friends) who have experience in that specific field like marketing or accounting, and preferably have experience with a private practice environment.
Now that all your ingredients are ready it’s time to prepare for what’s coming. No, we don’t do any chopping or mincing at Life Resolutions. What we do is to get our psychologists to familiarise themselves with the basic concepts and functionality involved in their practice. They don’t have to deep dive into each element, just gain a basic understanding of the concepts and how they work.
For example learning about the basics of how online marketing works with concepts such as SEO or social media advertising facilitates discussions around such topics with our experts.
Once you have done this you will see how the pieces fit together and how one thing will impact another. It’s essential to do this at the beginning, when there are not a million different things happening at once. This will allow you to focus on what is most important, your clients when the time comes.
Once you set the wheels in motion in the next step, you don’t want to stop. If you are not prepared, stress levels can get out of control which will impact your own well-being and by association that of your business.
Step 2 Activate your marketing
By now you probably have spent a lot of time building out a website, learning about marketing channels and determining your advertising budget. You should have a strategy in place and be ready to activate it.
This is the time to do it! Set the wheels in motion for your practice. If your strategy pans out clients will start calling you.
As a side note, remember that marketing is one of those things that doesn’t follow set rules as it’s heavily based in social sciences and behaviour. What worked for one person, might not work for you. Therefore, it’s important to see it as a hypothesis that you are testing, and continuously improving. We wrote a blog post about how this works, and created a framework to help you make the most of your marketing efforts.
Having experts around you, who have run similar marketing campaigns, can have incredible amounts of value to add through their experiences and learning. They can also help set-up a system to measure the impact your marketing is having.
Step 3 Convert the Inquiries
The inquiries should have started coming in and you need to start booking them into your diary.
If you have a receptionist or a service that helps you place bookings, make sure they understand your working hours, what your rates are, and any cancellation or rescheduling policies you may have in place. This should have been covered in step one with them.
If you are covering your own reception, this won’t be necessary. However, make sure to have a system in place when clients call you during a session, or whilst you are occupied elsewhere.
It’s important to realise that the nature of the service you are delivering often means that clients need additional care and support as they book in with you. It’s common for clients to have feelings of anxiety, or self-doubt during this time.
Step 4: Deliver counselling services
Your diary should start filling up with clients by this point. You are now ready to start delivering services.
This step is really all about client care. It’s where the skill, knowledge and insight you have gets translated into real value for clients. We won’t get into how you should deliver counselling services as this is not our area of expertise. However, I will mention that each client you see and their experience with you has a huge impact on your business.
As a rule of thumb, 1 happy client will tell about 3-5 people about their experience, where an un-happy client may tell up to 20 people about their experience. You can read more about how word of mouth marketing impacts your business here.
Additionally, acquiring a client has a marketing cost attached to it. On average the cost of one session will cover cost of marketing to that client. When you manage to build a positive rapport with your clients you aren’t just helping them on their journey, but you are also reducing the costs of running your business. This is essential to allow you to make a living and grow your business.
At Life Resolutions we have an average retention rate just a little under 6 (5.9). This means that each client will come in for about 6 sessions. There will be times where you and your client are just not the right match for each other. It happens. There are also times where a client actually doesn’t need more than 3 sessions. However, we have found that about 6 sessions in an average number of sessions per client.
It really comes down to customer service, and the value your sessions bring to your clients. It is the absolute foundation of your business.
As a piece of advice, when you enjoy working with your clients, the rest tends to follow rather naturally.
Step 5 Make Improvements
Any good recipe always ends with some time for reflection, and trying to understand what went well, what didn’t go so well, and what can be improved.
Being able to reflect requires you to have something to measure it by. Just as our sense of taste and smell tells us whether what we made is good, each activity and part of your business needs to be attached to a certain sense. In business they are generally referred to as Key Performance Indicator’s or KPI’s for short. We call them key measures.
Some common examples are;
- The average cost of acquiring a client
- Conversion rate from inquiries to bookings
- Average session rate
- Retention rate
Read more about these key measures here.
Once you have set-up the tools that help you measures these KPIs (which should be done in Step 1) you can create insightful reports that help you review progress. You can do this by yourself or in collaboration with experts.
Remember how creating your own recipe requires you to make a few mistakes? This is where you realise what those are, and plan out how you will fix them. Having the right people around you to support you, be it marketing consultant, or a mentor will allow you to identify the mistakes with a much higher accuracy and develop the right solutions to fix them.
As you identify the solutions you will need to put some time aside to implement these. Think of it as going back to Step 1, however this time with more insight, experience, and direction.
Applying this recipe
This recipe provides the basic four steps you need to focus on. Remember the quantity of ingredients might vary from scenario to scenario, and occasionally you will find yourself adding a new condiment, spice or a twist to this recipe depending on your situation. It’s a process of continuous learning and improvement.
It will take time, you will make mistakes, and encounter difficult times, but it’s simultaneously exciting and extremely rewarding!
A key element in this process is to bring in the right support structure or people who can help you with the various stages of your recipe. There are many available options out there to help you design, implement and improve your own recipe.
Here at Life Resolutions we live and breathe this recipe, and work hard to successfully implement each step for you, allowing you to focus your attention on what’s really important: the clients. This symbiotic relationship creates an environment where growth and learning happens at a much faster pace.
Talk to one of our representatives and find out how we streamlined this process, built support structures around each step, and helped other psychologists like you turn their private practice into a successful business.
You can also learn more about our recipe for success in private practice in the 4 Stages of growth E-book available on the Strive Community. Download it here
There are a lot of elements at play, working together to deliver your success in private practice. Here is a short overview of this recipe to help you internalise it.
Here are the 5 ingredients you need;
- Marketing to full-fee paying clients
- Engaging receptionist
- Diary Management tool
- Expert Guidance & Advice
- Psychologist focused on client care
The 5 steps of the recipe;
- Prepare all your ingredients before you start.
- Activate your marketing strategy and channels pre-opening.
- Convert your inquiries by focusing on customer service, and client care.
- Work closely with your clients to deliver the best counselling service.
- Measure your progress and use that insight to make improvements where necessary.
3 Tips to make the most out of your recipe
- Keep it as simple as possible.
- Find experts or support systems so you’re not doing it on your own.
- Be willing to make mistakes, and learn from them.