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Recession-Proof Your Practice - Page 3


I knew from experience that this first step—setting up a process for tracking her practice, even as she felt it was falling apart—would be both informational and motivational. A therapist I was already coaching had just reported that tracking clients on a spreadsheet allowed her to see, in black and white, that she'd been shifting the balance away from managed-care clients, toward private-pay clients. Without keeping track, she'd have been too anxious to follow a plan that might cost her any clients, especially during the early months, when the ratio between managed care and private pay was barely moving.

At Dina's next session, she reported her financial news, much of which proved distressing. Her income, client count, and referral base were all seriously down. I saw the full picture of her problems, but I needed to help her define her business strengths. As with most therapists, she protested that she had none: "I'm awful in business, and I hate marketing! Please don't ask me to make any cold calls."

I quickly put her at ease. "Great! I'm glad you told me that. Please don't do anything that gets you out of your comfort zone. Let's just look at what you're good at, in regard to your business."

With questioning from me about a range of ordinary business activities, Dina began to identify strengths. She liked to have her office clean and well-organized, enjoyed tidying her desk, and took pleasure in paying attention to detail with her calendar and files. "I've written thank-you notes to every referral source over the past 10 years and kept track of them all," she added. Aha! I thought, an untapped resource we'll use later! By the end of our second session, we had a clear snapshot of her challenges and strengths as a business owner. We were ready for the next step: developing a custom-designed turnaround plan to which she could commit herself.

Recommit: Formulating a Turnaround Plan

Before playing with the nuts and bolts of the plan, I wanted to be sure Dina had the energy and commitment to execute it. Clearly, she was exhausted: she'd been working for more than 17 years and had just come through a discouraging year. Was she really up to carrying out a comprehensive business-turnaround plan? or would it be better to find another career? Before we ended the second session, I asked, bluntly: "Why do you want to be in private practice at this point? Is it for the money? your clients? your mission? or fear of doing anything else?"

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