There comes a time in almost every therapist's life when the possibility of going out on one's own comes to mind. Taking those thoughts and turning them into reality is not only daunting but can be unbelievably scary.
All of a sudden, the visualization exercises you have been playing over and over where you see yourself in that role becomes more of a nightmare instead of a sweet dream. What can you do to ease into that new role, the role of your dreams?
There are numerous barriers or obstacles that must be championed before comfortably moving out on your own. Probably one of the biggest barriers is the lack of capital. The lack of finances can create problems within themselves. It is important to realize that access to money does not assure success. There are many companies that have a steady cash flow, but still close. The single key word to any success is management. Management includes all areas: finance, time, branding, expenses, and marketing, as well as customer service.
Time management is another area to be taken quite seriously. In the earliest of stages, you should be writing a business plan. This will be the roadmap on how and when you get to that opening day. It is an essential tool for business success. A well thought-out business plan should project out three-to-five years, outlining where you are going and how you plan to get there. By planning this far out, you should be up and running by the end of the plan and ready to start a growth business plan.
In your business plan, be sure to write down what you want to achieve. Create a realistic timeline that will both challenge you and reward you as you meet your goals. Most importantly, hold yourself accountable. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is by telling everyone what you are doing. Share your dreams openly and verbally. Once out into the open, you will find it easier to not only achieve your goals, but may very well exceed your goals.
Branding has become a buzzword for all industries. Think about the brands that you are passionate about. What do these brands represent that sets them apart from their competitors? If you look down deep, I bet you find these brands are authentic and have a compelling message to their customers. It is time to start thinking of you as a brand today. Your hands, your modalities, and your style all become what your brand will stand for in the future. While logos and snappy sayings get your attention, a true, authentic brand will withstand the test of time.
With the business plan started and groundwork for branding in play, it’s time to avoid unnecessary expenses. If you have excessive credit card debt, now may not be a good time to venture out on your own. Get your spending habits under control so that will be one less thing to worry about. An easy way to get this under control is to set yourself up on a budget. Just like with your business plan and your timeframe, your budget must be realistic and obtainable. After all, you will need to live while your company takes flight and if you have an unrealistic budget, you may come to resent the entire idea.
Advertising can become very expensive. One way to take advantage of advertising is through free advertising outlets. You don't have to look very hard to find great sources. Chances are you already have a network built through social media. Take advantage of free accounts, pages, and blogs offered through various social media outlets. Keep your name out there and in a positive light as much as possible. Don't be afraid to promote yourself!
By now, the ball has starting rolling and it is full steam ahead. Time to put those excellent customer service skills to use. We are not talking about good customer service, but outstanding customer service. Time to set yourself apart. Starting yesterday be sure to service your clients with enthusiasm. While keeping that positive attitude remain sincere to yourself. After all, your brand is at stake.
Speaking of upholding that brand, look and act professional (always). Even at the local market look like you are ready for business. You never know where you next client may come from. Nothing is more of a turn off to a potential client than seeing a shirt advertising a massage practice only to look down and see pants that look like they just came out of a field, complete with dirty shoes and holes.
When dealing with your clients, listen more – talk less. Really listen to what they are saying. Many times, we tune out and miss their concerns. Don't fall into the habit of thinking you know what is best for your clients. At the end of the day, they came to you for their reasons, not yours. Don't be afraid to ask for referrals. After all, they come to you for a good reason.
Have some free time? Enhance and educate yourself. I am not just talking about CEUs here. Look at your menu and your competition's menus of services. What can you do to set your brand apart? Don't limit the enhancements to your menu. How can you fill a void in the community? Community service not only increases your presence, but adds value to your brand and business. Being a part of a community is vital to growth, personally and professionally.
One of the best ways to elevate your self-esteem and pride is to surround yourself by smart, motivated people in the community. Don't limit these positive influences to the professional side of life. A good balance between personal and professional is deeply needed.
As you start to move that dream into a reality, keep your feet firmly on the ground while reaching as high as possible. Start to see yourself as management material. Exhibit that you have management material through smart financial decisions and planning. Keep control of your time both personally and professionally. Start seeing yourself as a world-class brand – today. Market at every opportunity and never lose sight of the reason you are in the industry to begin with. Don't be afraid to review yourself monthly; after all, each of us is a work in progress.
Whether you are ready to start that new venture today or just dreaming of the day you hang that "open for business sign," know that you can do it with a little planning, a lot of hard work, and believing in yourself. Every company starts as a dream.