Are you interested in growing your group practice? What are some of the foundations of a successful group practice? What are some important aspects to consider?
In this podcast episode, Alison Pidgeon speaks about 10 lessons she learned from running a group practice for the past 5 years.
In This Podcast
- Taking calculated risks
- Surround yourself with people who support and encourage you
- Not letting excuses get in your way
- Investing time and money into business coaching and consulting
- Writing down values for the business and creating a positive workspace for staff
- Not thinking of failure
- Creating self-sustaining systems and processes
- Letting go of distractions
- Treating staff well
- Following through on what you say you will do
1. Taking calculated risks
Sometimes you have to take a leap of faith and take a risk for the sake of your practice. Allow yourself to try new things and take calculated risks without putting too much pressure on yourself. Recognize that it is a scary process, and then do it anyway.
2. Surround yourself with people who support and encourage you
You may have people in your life who support you by cheering you on, and then there may be others who want to support you but bring in doubt into the situation. Move past them and get to the people who will give you encouragement and who will believe in you, because you may be giving yourself enough doubt as it is.
Seek out the people who push you towards your goals because it is an incredibly powerful force, sincere encouragement.
3. Not letting excuses get in your way
It is easy to say that you do not have enough time or that you lack the necessary funds to expand, or that you do not have the resources to take on more clinicians.
Excuses provide you with the perfect smokescreen to hide behind when in reality, you may just be doubtful and afraid of the risk.
If I ran into an obstacle, I’d just find a way to make it work and I know so many people who, when they run into an obstacle, they’re like ‘oh, this is the sign that I’m not meant to do this’ or ‘this is proof that I shouldn’t keep on following through’, and I think the opposite. How badly do you want this? How badly are you willing to work to make it work for you?
If you encounter a problem, keep asking questions and looking for a way around it. It may take some time but you can find a way.
4. Investing time and money into business coaching and consulting
Business consulting can greatly assist you in scaling up your practice. Since I started my business consulting in 2016, it has helped me immensely and enabled me to upscale my practice and expand it. Business consulting can help you to look at the structure of your group practice and find ways in which to improve it and then expand it further.
5. Writing down values for the business and creating a positive workspace for staff
Businesses usually have mission statements that serve as their underlying goals to achieve. Writing down values is similar to how a person has principles that they live by, and physically writing them down and having them on hand to remind you of how you want your business to run, and what you want to accomplish, will assist you in your decision-making process.
Then when you need to make big decisions, you can check yourself and see if what you are considering for your group practice aligns with the values that you have set out for it.
You can also use these values during your hiring process, to see if a new clinician that you are considering hiring would be a good fit and can live out these values within your group practice. By hiring people that align with the group practice values and treating them with respect and care, your practice will grow.
6. Not thinking of failure
When I started my practice, I did not consider the possibility of failure and worked with a growth mindset. When you encounter an obstacle or you need assistance, ask for it and keep trying to figure out how to move around the problems that may come up. There will be fear involved but do not stop working just because fear is present, push past it, and keep going.
7. Creating self-sustaining systems and processes
When you create systems that are self-sustainable and can be easily replicated, your group practice will move forward like a well-oiled machine that you need only tinker on here or there.
Work out the kinks and make the mistakes early on, but learn from them, so that when it comes to hiring more clinicians or expanding the office, your system stays secure and can simply be replicated in another facility.
Delegate work and have people in your group practice keep certain responsibilities so that everyone works as a team, and so that you do not have an exponentially increasing workload that falls on your plate.
8. Letting go of distractions
Do a time study throughout a week and track where you spend your time and how much, for whatever you do, whether its social media, watching the news, dealing with emails or family responsibilities, and so forth. Take a hard look at them and see what you can eliminate to free up time.
This will give you an idea of where you place most of your efforts, and where you are perhaps mismanaging some time that you can potentially free up for yourself or redirect into your other priorities.
9. Treating staff well
When you care for your staff and make them your top priority, they will deliver excellent services and care to their clients and when the clients appreciate the service they send referrals, so the practice can expand – this is why it is important to treat yourself well.
Do kind things for them that show you are thinking of them, allow some perks with no strings attached that they can enjoy in the office. Give them responsibility and autonomy to allow them to be comfortable while functioning under your group practice and the values that you have laid out as guidelines.
10. Following through on what you say you will do
Respond and do not leave things hanging. Even if someone asks a request of you and your answer is no, it is still important to get back to them promptly. In doing this, your clinicians and clients will trust you and will know that you actually want to help them and take their concerns to heart.
Books mentioned in this episode
- 5 Mistakes Made By Group Practice Owners | GP 33
- Group Practice Boss – sign up on Oct 6 & 7th for a discounted rate of $129 per month then open for a further two weeks at $149
- Killin’It Camp
- Move Forward Virtual Assistants – Scale Up Summit
- Email Alison: [email protected]
- PoP Group Practice Owners Facebook Group
- Free resources to help you start, grow and scale
- Work with us
- Consult With Alison
Meet Alison Pidgeon
Alison is a serial entrepreneur with four businesses, one of which is a 15 clinician group practice. She’s also a mom to three boys, wife, coffee drinker, and loves to travel. She started her practice in 2015 and, four years later, has two locations. With a specialization in women’s issues, the practices have made a positive impact on the community by offering different types of specialties not being offered anywhere else in the area.
Alison has been working with Practice of the Practice since 2016 and has helped over 70 therapist entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, through mastermind groups and individual consulting.
Thanks For Listening!
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You’re listening to the Grow a Group Practice podcast. Whether you’re thinking of starting a group practice, are in the beginning stages of a group practice, or want to learn how to scale up your already existing group practice, we have lots of great content for you.
Hello, and welcome to the Grow a Group Practice podcast. I’m Alison Pidgeon, your host. Today we are talking all about the ten lessons that I’ve learned from running a group practice for the past five years, and I’m excited to share all of these things with you. But first, I’ll just give you a little update on what is happening in my world. So my family and I decided that we were going to spend a month in the Outer Banks, North Carolina. We rented a house close to the beach, and we figured we would make lemonade out of lemons that has kind of happened out of the COVID situation. And so we’re all working from home or going to school online. And so we figured why not go to the beach? It’ll be warmer than it is here in Pennsylvania, and it will be a fun adventure. So in a few weeks, we are leaving to go there. And I’ve never really traveled since we’ve had kids for that long of a period of time before, so it’s a new challenge and I’ll let you know how it goes. I’ll be podcasting from that location. Since we’ll be there for so long – have microphone, will travel. So I’ll definitely let you know how that goes. I think it’s a cool opportunity to travel and experience living close to the beach, which we don’t now.
So it is September, and this is the five year anniversary of my group practice. So I actually started a solo practice back in February of 2015. And then pretty quickly decided I wanted to start a group practice and so officially launched the group September 2015. And it has been the best thing I’ve ever done outside of having my kids. I just love owning a group practice. I’ve learned a ton about myself, I’ve learned a ton about being an entrepreneur, I just have found my stride with being a business owner and I get asked a lot, how did you grow your practice so large in such a short amount of time? I have seventeen clinicians right now, and actually in the process of hiring quite a few more, so like four or five more over the next few months. So there’ll be at least twenty clinicians, I have two full time admin staff. And I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned and kind of how I respond to that question when people are like, oh, wow, how did you make this grow so quickly in such a short amount of time? So I’m going to let you in on the secret sauce today. And I have ten different things that I’ve written down and I hope that you find it helpful.
So number one is that I took calculated risks that helped me to scale my business. And even though it was scary at times, I pushed through it and did it anyway. And so let me tell you what I mean by calculated risks. So if you run a business, or if you’ve run a business for any length of time, you know that sometimes you just have to sort of take a leap and make your best educated guess that your plan is going to work because we have no guarantees that things are going to work out how we think they’re going to work out. And so I knew that if I hired people, and it didn’t work out, I didn’t really put that much money into hiring, I didn’t go out and rent a new office space. I just thought, hey, I’ll add a couple people into this already existing office that I have and like we’ll see how it goes. And if it’s great then maybe down the line I’ll rent some more office space. But it allowed me to try it without feeling like there was a ton of pressure for me to make it work. And yeah, that feeling would have sucked, but I felt like I knew enough of what I was doing, what the plan was, that it was a risk but I knew how to make it work.
And the second part about I knew it was scary and I pushed through and did it anyway, I think there’s so much of that that comes up for people at various points along the way that you know, maybe you are at that point where you want to go out and rent that bigger office space and that feels like a big sort of push. And it makes you feel uncomfortable to take on that level of financial responsibility, or managing that amount of space or whatever. And you just have to recognize that like, this is normal that I feel scared about this and I just have to push through and do it anyway. There’s so many points at which I felt scared with expanding my business, and I knew that I just had to learn how to tolerate it.
So number two is I surrounded myself with positive people who supported me and encouraged me when I was doubtful about what I was doing. I would say my biggest cheerleader is my family, my husband, especially. And my parents have always been very supportive of what I’m doing. And I know sometimes people have the experience of people they care about telling them like, oh, why are you going to start your own business? It’s not a good idea, you’re gonna be working all the time, or they point out all the bad things that could happen. But I always had people in my corner who were like, yes, this is amazing, you should definitely do this. And that helped me to feel supported. And it helps me to work through when I have my own doubts, you know, to have a cheerleader in your corner just sort of encourage you to keep going. So if you don’t have those people in your life, I would say definitely find them. Go get new friends, or tell your spouse or whomever that they need to start being more supportive, because it’s so important to have that support in your corner.
The third one is I didn’t let excuses prevent me from making progress. So it’s easy to say, oh, I don’t have time, I don’t have the money, I can’t expand, or I can’t start a group practice for this reason, or that reason. I’m a big believer in, you just find a way to make it work. I know I’ve talked before about the Marie Forleo book called Everything is Figureoutable. I am a total fan of that concept. If I run into an obstacle, I just find a way to make it work. And I know so many people who run into an obstacle, and they’re like, oh, this is a sign that I’m not meant to do this, or this is just sort of proof that I shouldn’t keep following through. And I think the opposite. It’s like, well, how badly do you want this? How badly are you willing to work to make it work for you? And I think I don’t have time, and I don’t have money, is just an excuse because maybe you’re scared, or maybe you’re afraid of failure, or whatever the case might be. But there’s always a way to figure it out. It may take you a while. When I wanted to buy a building, I didn’t have any money at all to buy a building, but I really wanted to do it and I found a way to get the money to buy the building. So no matter what your goals are there, there is a way to figure it out.
The fourth thing is I invested time and money into business coaching and consulting. And so that is something that I started out doing in 2016 and now, looking back on it, I wish I had done it sooner. So Joe Sanok was my first business consultant. And it was so helpful with helping me to scale the practice. And then I realized that that kind of support is just something that is so invaluable to myself as a business owner. And so I have always since then had some form of business coaching or consulting, or been in a mastermind group because the value of the support I get to build my business is so huge. So I have for the past four years been involved in some kind of business coaching or consulting for myself. Obviously, I work as a business consultant, so I help other people, but you can’t always help yourself. We know this from therapy, right? You can’t do therapy on yourself. So I have found it so helpful to have an objective person sort of look at my business and help me see things in a different way. And depending on what I’ve been working on, I’ll hire people or join groups for different reasons. I really wanted to focus on scaling my group practice this year in 2020. And so I hired a business coach who runs a $7 million business. It’s not a healthcare business, but it’s similar enough that she’s able to help me sort of think through like, what does the structure look like once you get to be this big, and that kind of thing. So if that’s something that you have been thinking about doing, definitely find a way to make it work because it’s super helpful.
Number five is that I wrote down my values for my business and I was intentional about creating a positive culture for my staff. So what I mean by values is typically a business has a mission statement, a vision statement, and values that they operate by. So if we think about values, you might think about your values as a person, like, my value is to be kind to everybody or something like that. Well, you have values in your business too, like, what are the values by which you run your business? And so for me, those are things like I value finding win-win solutions for problems as they come up in the business. So for example, when I worked in community mental health, a lot of times when they made decisions, it was good for the therapists but bad for the clients, or good for the clients, but bad for the therapists. And so when I left and started my own practice, I decided that I’m going to make business decisions that are win-win for both parties. And if they’re not, then I need to go back to the drawing board and figure out what is a win-win solution to this problem. So I have taken those values, and I use them in so many different ways. So I actually use them during the hiring process to let potential candidates understand this is what the practice is all about. This is how I run things. These are my values. And I also use it for how am I living out like the culture of the practice. So it’s one thing to have it written down on paper that, you know, I’m going to respect everyone in the practice, it’s a whole ‘nother thing to live it out. And so it helped me to create that positive culture to actually write it down and then figure out and think through, how am I actually going to demonstrate this? So I think that has been super helpful for me. And I know in the beginning, when my business coach told me, oh, you really need to write down your mission and your vision and your values, I was like, what, why am I doing this? Seems like a lot of busy work. But now I really use that too as a filter to help me decide when different opportunities come up in the business, if it’s something that fits with the mission, vision and values or not. And that helps me to not have shiny object syndrome and get distracted by things that I don’t need to be paying attention to.
So moving on to number six. When I started the practice, I didn’t ever think the business would fail – and this kind of goes back to what I was talking about with ‘everything is figureoutable’ – I decided at the beginning, there’s no possibility of failure. If I’m running into obstacles, if things aren’t going well, that just means I need to keep going, and keep finding solutions, and keep asking for help, and keep figuring it out. Because I think it’s really easy to get that in your head and get that fear in your head and have that fear really hold you back from jumping in with both feet into running your business and making it a success. And so I just didn’t think about it, I didn’t think it could possibly fail. I don’t know why. But I remember clearly having that mindset of like, this is gonna work because I don’t want to go back to working for anybody else. So we’re just gonna figure this out.
Number seven is that I created systems and processes that were easily replicated. And then once they were established, it was easy to scale. So a lot of times people say, oh, wow, you have like seventeen therapists, how do you manage them all? It seems like it’d be so much work. And actually what I tell people is, hiring the first person was a lot of work. And there were a lot of kinks we had to work out and obviously made a bunch of mistakes. But then once I had that first person hired, and we figured all of that out, hiring the second and the third and the fifteenth and the sixteenth is just like rinse and repeat. It’s just like, oh, we know what to do, we have this all written down, there’s a process for it. And it doesn’t feel like that much more work to add another person now because it’s like a well oiled machine, it’s running itself. There’s other people doing various tasks related to when a therapist joins the practice. So it is awesome to have great processes in place, systems in place, have things delegated, and it doesn’t necessarily add any more work to your plate.
So number eight is I let go of things in my life that were distractions from accomplishing my goals in my business. I think something that’s super valuable to do is do a time study. So track your time for a week and see how much time do you spend scrolling on social media, or watching the nightly news, or just wasting time in some form or another, or getting distracted by thinking you have to get involved in all these other things outside of your business that may be fun for you, or maybe nice things to do, but is taking time away from you really maximizing and reaching the goals in your business. So I would say maybe take a hard look at what those things are. I know, for me having three little kids at home, I don’t commit to a whole lot else, besides taking care of my kids, and doing what they need, you know, taking them to sports or helping them with school or whatever they need, and working in the business. And obviously, we have some semblance of a social life and once while I go out on a date with my husband, but pretty much everything else is time that’s either spent working or with my family, and I don’t get into doing a bunch of other things or meddling in a bunch of other people’s business or whatever because it ends up being a distraction. I actually don’t watch the news anymore. I haven’t watched the news in several years, because it just felt like it was weighing me down, and then it was like, you know, the news is always bad news typically. And so I was just like, this doesn’t help my mental, emotional health, and it’s just becoming a time suck and so I’m just going to turn it off. So I haven’t watched the news in four or five years. So I think that’s just really important, because I think that you know, especially when we’re procrastinating, or, again, maybe we’re afraid, it’s easy to say, oh, but I need to go do this thing over here. But you really don’t. It’s just a distraction.
So number nine is something that a lot of people find pretty interesting. So definitely one of my big focuses in the practice has been treating my staff really well. And I actually tell my staff this, I say you are my number one priority because I know if I treat you well, you’re going to treat the clients well and take care of them. And so I then really just need to focus on taking care of you. So I don’t necessarily don’t think about the clients. Of course, I do think about the clients, but there’s six hundred of them and there’s like twenty of my therapists. And so I know that if I make them happy and make them feel valued and respected, and they’re feeling passionate about the work that they’re doing and they are then going to give really good care, which in turn is going to have a great effect on not only improving people’s mental health, but word of mouth, and it just kind of extends out from there. So I really focus on making sure that they have a flexible schedule, I don’t even know – they’re W-2 employees now – I don’t tell them when they have to work or not work, I let them pick their own schedule, because I know that’s very important to them. I don’t have a very strict dress code. Like, if they want to come to work wearing jeans or sandals or whatever they want to wear, that’s totally fine. And I have perks for them, like when we were working out of the office pre COVID I had snacks and drinks for them in the staff kitchen and I try to do fun social things for them. A few months ago, I sent everybody like packets of wildflower seeds and just said, hey, I know it’s a tough time right now – because the pandemic just started – and I’m thinking of you. Hope this brightens your day. And it’s amazing how much those little acts of kindness really help them to feel positive about where they work and that I care about them because I do. And so again, I’m trying to live out those values.
So the last topic that I wanted to talk about, so number ten is one I really find very important for building trust. So I am very cognizant of following through on what I say I’m going to do. So if somebody asks me like, hey, would you pay for this three thousand dollar training? And I say, I’m not sure if I can do that this year, but I’ll definitely look into it for you and I’ll get back to you, I will follow through in giving them an answer. I follow through in what I’m saying I’m going to do. So even if the answer is no, I’m sorry, I can’t afford to pay for this three thousand dollar training, at least I am responding and not leaving it hanging. And I think that helps the staff, and other people that we interact with in the business, to learn to trust me that they know, I’m not just gonna give lip service to something that they bring up. Like, if they bring up something that I know it’s important to them, and even if I don’t have the answer right then, I want to find out for them and respond at some point. Because that way they know I’m valuing their concerns or their questions. And it helps to build trust that they know I’m going to follow through on what I say I’m going to do.
So I think that’s really important, especially when you’re working with maybe other businesses in the community. Like recently, I set up a EAP contract with an employer in the community. So instead of us sort of being the provider for an EAP company, we just contracted directly with that business to provide EAP services to their employees. And so, in that conversation, and there were several conversations obviously, as we were sort of negotiating back and forth of what do you want this to look like, and all of that kind of stuff, it’s really important that I follow through on what I’m going to say, because that other business owner needs to see that we’re trustworthy, and that we’re somebody she wants to do business with, and somebody that she would trust to send her employees for counseling. So I think there’s just so many examples I see of business owners, practice owners, that kind of get, you know, obviously, we all get busy, but it’s so important to follow up. Even if the answer is no, or even if you don’t necessarily have good news for them or whatever. Like, it’s so important to follow through with what you say you’re going to do.
So those are my ten items that I wanted to talk to you about today. So I hope that was helpful. I know that sometimes when you’re in the middle of your group practice journey, it can be hard to think about these things or kind of take a step back and think about a broader level of what you’re doing or how you’re demonstrating your values in your practice. But these are really important things to think about. So if you can take away a couple things from this podcast episode, I hope you can think about maybe making some changes in your practice that will help you.
And a couple reminders – if you haven’t checked out Killin’It Camp, that’s a virtual conference that we’re having all about practice building, October fifth through the seventh, and it’s at www.killinitcamp.com, tickets are only $95. There’s tons of great speakers. I’m one of them, I’m going to be talking about how you can scale up your practice while reducing your work hours. I think after the fact, maybe I’ll try to have the talk be a podcast episode, but if you want to hear it live and ask questions then show up to Killin’It Camp. And the other cool event that’s happening is at the end of October, it is called the Scale Up Summit and it’s being put on by my virtual assistant company called Move Forward Virtual Assistants. We are having a four day virtual event talking all about different types of tools and software and services that you can utilize as a group practice owner that will really help to streamline things and scale up your business. So if that’s something you’re interested in, it’s totally free. It’s moveforwardvirtualassistants.com/scaleup and you can get information about that and sign up and I will be there as well, speaking about what business consulting is all about and how I can really help you grow your business. So hopefully you check out one or both of those events coming up very soon in October, and I will talk to all of you next time.
Grow a Group Practice is part of the Practice of the Practice Podcast Network, a network of podcasts seeking to help you grow your group practice. To hear other podcasts like the Imperfect Thriving podcast, Bomb Mom podcast, Beta Male Revolution, or Empowered and Unapologetic, go to practiceofthepractice.com/network. If you love this podcast, will you please rate and review on iTunes or your favorite podcast player.
This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regards to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, Practice of the Practice, or the guests are providing legal, mental health, or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one.