As your practice grows, you’ll be faced with challenges and critical choices that can make a huge difference in your success over time. When these junctures arrive, though, you’ll make your best decisions if you’re not hampered by fear. Here are some of the most common practice fears and tips on how to avoid them.
Fear of Debt/Spending
Top of the list for many alternative health practitioners is the fear of incurring debt. For most, it would be more accurately described as more debt – by the time they get out of school, many CAM professionals are heavily debt-laden.
Not wanting more debt is healthy and normal, but while bootstrapping your practice is a valid way of operating without racking up your credit cards, it can also slow your growth if you’re not careful. Fear of debt manifests itself in your practice in many ways, such as not having reception when you really need it, holding a second job, not accepting credit cards, and not having a business line of credit. And while these may seem like money saving efforts at the time, the results become visible five years down the road in the form of fewer patient visits and lower revenue.
The solution? First, be aware of your cash-generating potential. When you look at a new expense, for example, ask yourself how many extra patients you have to see to justify it – it may be fewer than you think. Second, accept that it may take time and money to grow your practice, and just as you invested in your education, you’ll likely need to invest in your practice at least a little.
Lastly, be on top of your numbers. Master the financials of your practice, instead of avoiding them. Learn to spend wisely. Make sure you think through large expenses carefully, and review small, recurring ones at least annually. The better your financial IQ, the easier it is to know when to spend and when to save.
Fear of Billing
While you were at school, a strange transformation occurred: you became more valuable. The odds are, however, that no one told you that. Many practitioners enter school at minimum wage student jobs and leave as doctors, unaware of the true economic value of everything they’ve learned. And because CAM / holistic health is so diverse, there are often no clear benchmarks for what things are worth.
What this means in practice is that it becomes emotionally difficult to charge people appropriately for your services. In the back of your mind is a little voice saying, “Whoa. That’s a lot of money. My patient is never going to pay that.” The result? You underprice, offer excessive freebies, and do pro-bono work beyond your comfort level.
Does this mean that you should happily charge everyone a small fortune? No. But it does mean that you should own your fees – be comfortable with them, whatever they are, review them annually, and make sure that you know you’re profitable. And accept that indeed, some people never want to pay, regardless of how inexpensive the service may be. For the most part, you’ll discover that excellent service, particularly in health care, is readily rewarded.
Fear of Competition
Here’s a scenario. A new chiropractor sets up shop down the street from you – instant competition. Do you cry in your pillow at night and find a new route to work so as not to pass their office? Step up your advertising and send spies to their office to check their fees?
Hopefully your answer is no to both of those. Competition is good for business, but it’s easy to be a little shaken when a new naturopath or acupuncturist hangs out their shingle on your turf. Fear of competition will keep you fighting over the same slice of pie, and in the end, bring better health care to far fewer people.
The solution? Recognize that every other practitioner is thinking the same thing you are. They’re afraid of competition, too. So whether you’re first in the market or last, make contact with them as soon as possible. Treat them as partners in creating a healthy community, not as competition in a scarcity game. They’ll be just as relieved as you are, and the synergies of collaborating will help your practice far more than turf wars and avoidance.
Fear of Status Quo
As the term alternative suggests, CAM therapies tend to exist outside the status quo. As such, you’re going to face critics who won’t approve of your practice simply because it’s different.
All the best changes in the world were first perceived as crazy. Remember that your fear of the status quo exists because the status quo is afraid of you, and the change you represent. It’s an unproductive spiral – if you find yourself worried about what the allopathic community thinks, or your neighbor, or your banker, you’re going to take energy out of your practice, and you’re going to worry even more about what they think.
A solution? For every person who dismisses your modality, consider first that they’re simply afraid, or ill-equipped to deal with a changing health care environment, and as such, need your help. Every criticism contains in it a cry for help – you can choose to respond to the criticism, and worsen the problem, or respond to the cry for help.
Make your decisions based on good care and good business, and the status quo will follow your lead.
These are a few of the most common anxieties in growing a CAM practice, but for any fear, try using this two-question system. First, ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Once you’ve established that worst-case scenario, follow up with, “Why is this the best thing that could happen?” You’ll find this approach of debating the opposite side of the scenario a real eye-opener and fear-dissolver.
There ain’t room enough in this town for both…oh, wait, yes there is.
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