I began compiling a list of things about group practice ownership that I wish someone had told me before I started. Guess what, the list is way longer than I thought it would be! Check out my first two blog posts: 3 Things About Group Practice I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Starting a Group Practice and 3 More Things About Group Practice I Wish Someone Had Told Me. Now here are 3 final things that I wish someone had told me before jumping headfirst into group practice ownership.
Marketing, Marketing, Marketing
When I was in solo practice, I did minimal marketing to get my own caseload full. Soon I was getting word-of-mouth referrals and other referrals that required minimal marketing. Switch to a group practice, where you’re not marketing your own skills, strengths, and specializations anymore – the marketing gets harder. You have to do more marketing, to more diverse referral sources, to fill up your therapists’ caseloads.
You may be marketing a specialization that you don’t know much about.
For me, one of my first therapists that I hired was a trauma specialist. Not being a trauma therapist myself, I found it challenging to figure out how to market this therapist and fill her caseload.
So not only is the type of marketing you’re doing different with a group practice, the amount of marketing may double to triple. Being primarily a private-pay practice, I spend up to 50% of my time on marketing or planning my marketing out. You’ll need to set aside more time in your schedule than you did in solo practice for marketing. You’ll also have to learn as much as you can about the process. I’ve read multiple books, researched different types of marketing, and gotten business consulting on different areas in marketing. All of which have paid off, but if I hadn’t, my therapists’ caseloads would not be filling up.
You Will Care More About Your Business Than Your Clinicians
This one hit me hard. When you’re the boss and the driving force behind the group practice, your investment regarding time, energy and motivation into your business can be endless. But, reality check here. Your clinicians (and/or your admin staff or whoever else you hire) will NOT be as invested in your business as you. They won’t work as hard as you, and they won’t care as much as you do about the success of your business. Knowing this ahead of time will help adjust your expectations for those that you hire.
Of course, you want to hire hard workers, but no one will work as hard for someone else as they will for themselves.
Start Outsourcing – Before You Need To
There are many things that you can outsource in your group practice. The most obvious job/responsibilities to outsource in the beginning are for administrative work. Answering phones, scheduling new clients, and billing for insurance are all typical administrative tasks that can – and should – be outsourced as soon as you’re able to.
Maybe you don’t have the money yet to hire someone to answer your phones. But at your hourly clinical rate, you’re a very expensive administrative assistant, biller, or scheduler.
You could be paying someone a fraction of your clinical hourly rate to respond to emails, phone inquiries, or call insurance companies to check on benefits, at the same time you see a client at your clinical hourly rate – and still not lose money.
My suggestion is to outsource, or hire for tasks you don’t want or know how to do ASAP. Don’t wait until you’re working 45 hours a week and have no time to hire or train someone. Bring someone on slowly, increasing hours weekly and giving that person more tasks little by little. You will be so happy that you aren’t doing the small detail work anymore. You’ll also now have time to focus on building your practice. Your schedule (and family!) will thank you for it, and you won’t be solely responsible for the fate of your group practice anymore.
I hope this blog series on things about group practice I wish someone had told me before I began was helpful. In retrospect, had I known these things, my group practice journey would have gone a lot smoother. My wish is for you to grow your group practice the way you want to, in the timeframe you want to, with getting the success you desire.
Further Resources to Consider
If you’re about to go from solo to group practice, here are some more resources to help you work better with your time – and money:
5 Systems That Save You Time in Mental Health Practice Management
How an Office Manager Helps Your Thrive
Live Consulting with Gennifer Morley on Responding to a Negative Practice Review
How to Add a Marketing Director to Your Practice
Common Questions From Group Practice Owners
Shannon Heers is a licensed professional counselor in Colorado. She owns the private-pay group practice Catalyss Counseling in the Denver metro area, focusing on helping adults manage their anxiety, grief, and trauma. Shannon is also an experienced clinical supervisor and manager who offers business consultation services to other therapists. She balances working with raising her two young children.
Group practice ownership is daunting but can be done easily if you do your homework, prepare, and learn all you can about the process!