Streamlining Your Private Practice to Increase Your Bottom Line
*Guest blog post by Katie Vernoy, LMFT, owner of evolvetothriveconsulting.com*
This article is part of Brighter Vision’s Fall Into Cash Promotion, a month of giveaways, promotions and invaluable content to help you and your private practice fall into more cash this fall season. Click here to see all of the available giveaways you can enter!
Streamlining Your Private Practice to Increase Your Bottom Line
When I started doing full-time private practice, I figured out pretty quickly that I wanted to have more than one business. During my work in community mental health, I found that I loved the variety of tasks: taking on leadership and management roles, developing programs, and mentoring the next generation. I knew that I wanted to support my community in a number of ways, so I added consulting to my already full plate of activities.
To do this effectively, I knew that I’d need to ruthlessly manage my time, create efficient systems to make sure nothing got dropped, set limits, and take really good care of myself so I wouldn’t burnout again. (That’s a whole different story.)
Along the way, I found that by creating more efficient systems and essentially streamlining the tasks in my private practice, I was opening up new avenues for myself to undergo new business ventures and thus, increasing my bottom line, my revenue. It was a win-win for me! I was making more money all while spending less time on tasks.
Here are my tips to do this yourself:
Ruthlessly Manage Your Time
As helpers, we often think about others before ourselves. It’s in our giving nature, but it usually means that we’re reacting instead of planning. Instead, ruthlessly manage your time.
- Clarify what’s most important. Don’t lose sight of your highest priorities. Steven Covey calls these your “big rocks” to schedule first before adding the decreasingly important “pebble” and “sand” activities that fill in the rest of the time (like mindlessly scrolling through social media). Don’t let unimportant activities steal time from the things you value most.
- Chunk or batch activities to be more efficient. Transitioning between different tasks across different businesses can be super chaotic. It makes it difficult to focus and loses you time. Put the same activities together in your calendar to increase efficiency. For example, set aside dedicated time for email rather than hopping back and forth. Have set days for therapy clients, so you can build larger chunks of time to work on your second business.
- Work on your business as well as in your business. As therapists, we know how to provide therapy. That’s working in the business. As business owners (especially when we’re launching something new), we need to set aside time to plan and develop our business. If we keep grinding out client hours, we won’t move our second business forward (or even do justice to our therapy business, really). Lock down time for strategy and creativity every week.
Create Efficient Systems
When you first start out, there isn’t the urgency to systemize what you do. You can have a general process in your head and have time to pick things up when they drop. When you’re adding stuff, you can’t keep doing that. It’s important to create systems to keep things efficient and to make sure nothing gets lost in the cracks.
- Identify what you do over and over. Look at the tasks you do for every client or that you do every day, week, or month.
- Create the most efficient way to do these things. Think through all the steps to complete these tasks. Make the system smooth and efficient, with steps in logical order, so you’ll remember them and things will run seamlessly.
- Look for opportunities to automate or delegate tasks. Injecting an electronic solution (like an Electronic Health Record) or adding a team member (like a bookkeeper or assistant) can also help you create more time and keep your systems running. Look for tasks that you don’t like to do or that someone else (or an app) can do better. Add those pieces into your process.
- Write out the process and keep refining. Don’t just keep it in your head. Put it down on paper, so you make sure you don’t miss anything while implementing it. Also, assess whether your system is working and add or remove steps to improve it.
- Say “No” as much as you can. I’ve heard many of my colleagues lament how hard it is to say “no” when someone needs their help or there’s a new opportunity to consider. You can’t do it all. (But there are days I wish I could!!) Instead, identify what you can do, what’s most important to do, and say “no” to everything else.
- Don’t get caught in false “emergencies.” As helpers, we can be the go-to when people are overwhelmed. This can be a problem if we derail our whole schedule for something that really doesn’t warrant it. My benchmark: if it’s not life-threatening, I’ll schedule time in an hour or a day to handle it (depending on how urgent it actually is). I stay on task, so I can accomplish what I need to accomplish. It may feel harsh, but I’ve found that it often helps people seeking my help to have time to calm down, soothe themselves, and feel empowered to take next steps they may not have thought of, had I handled it for them.
Take Care of Yourself
Burnout, compassion fatigue, and what I call “Sacrificial Helping Syndrome” are far too common for helping professionals. It doesn’t matter if you’ve put everything else in place, if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t make it.
- Be realistic with your time and energy. Too many helpers underestimate how much down time they need. If they can fit one more client in the calendar, they do. Be realistic with your time and your energy. Make sure you know how many clients you can see back-to-back, how much buffer time you need in between, and what activities you need to re-energize yourself.
- Don’t be a Sacrificial Helper. Stop feeling guilty! You don’t have to sacrifice your own well-being or financial stability to serve your clients. Set limits on what you do for low or no fee. Cap the number of sessions you do in a week. You can’t keep helping others if you’re broke or exhausted!
- Take breaks and vacation. Taking breaks and vacation can be hard, especially when you’re running not one, but two businesses. But that’s when it’s even more important. If you haven’t recharged, your business will soon be “running” on a dead battery. Creativity and entrepreneurship die in the grind. Take time away to get inspired.
Setting up your work life to support more than one business (especially when at least one of them is to help people), can be tough. But it’s really rewarding. I so enjoy the variety of tasks I get to do and the different people I can help. If you’re called to do more than one thing, you can do it! With planning.
Getting another perspective and having time set aside for accountability and strategy can really help in getting a second business started. If you’d like to talk this through, I have a special offer for Brighter Vision’s customers! Please don’t hesitate to reach out, I’d love to help!