How to Grow Your Practice During the Pandemic: Part 1

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How to Grow Your Practice During the Pandemic: Part 1

How is everyone feeling about their businesses right now whilst there is a global pandemic? Should you be slowing down and not making drastic changes? How can you turn your weaknesses into strengths?

In this podcast takeover episode, Alison Pidgeon and Whitney Owens do a 3 part series about how to grow your practice during the pandemic and they discuss what a SWOT analysis is.

In This Podcast


  • Where everyone’s at
  • Don’t blow up your business
  • S.W.O.T

Where everyone’s at

It’s through disruption that we have creativity – Rob Bell

People are uncertain and emotionally not in good space. There are questions about how they handle their family life, how to work, how to move their practice to telehealth. It also seems that there are a fair amount of people who are trying to look at the silver lining of the situation and coming up with some creative ways to earn multiple streams of income and work on big ideas.

Don’t blow up your business

Sometimes those ‘what if’s’ can be paralyzing.

Right now, more than ever it’s so easy to live in the ‘what if’s’ and asking questions like what if this happens to my business, what if this doesn’t work and what if I don’t make enough money? Instead of living in what we could be and what we could be doing. Rachel Rodgers says ‘don’t blow up your business’. Even though things are starting to get a little strained financially, don’t lay people off, because to re-hire people will be even more expensive.


This is an acronym that stands for:

  • Strengths – what are some things you do well in your practice, do you have any unique resources you can draw on
  • Weaknesses – areas you can definitely improve
  • Opportunities – are there trends right now that you can take advantage of (i.e telehealth)
  • Threats – change in the mental health insurance landscape

It really is helpful to do this as it is a nice way to evaluate things and to make some goals around how you can amplify your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.

Schedule an appointment with Alison here!

Schedule an appointment with Whitney here!

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Meet Alison Pidgeon and Whitney Owens

Alison Pidgeon, LPC is the owner of Move Forward Counseling, a group practice in Lancaster, PA and she runs a virtual assistant company, Move Forward Virtual Assistants.

She is also a business consultant for Practice of the Practice. What started out as a solo private practice in early 2015 quickly grew into a group practice and has been expanding ever since.


Whitney is a licensed professional counselor and owns a growing group practice, Waters Edge Counseling in Savannah, Georgia. She is also a business consultant for Practice of the Practice.

Along with a wealth of experience managing a practice, she also has an extensive history working in a variety of clinical and religious settings, allowing her to specialize in consulting for faith-based practices and those wanting to connect with religious organizations.

Thanks For Listening!

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Podcast Transcription

[WHITNEY]: Welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast. This is Whitney Owens.
[ALISON]: And this is Alison Pidgeon.
[WHITNEY]: And we’re doing a podcast takeover. So the next three episodes we’re going to help you figure out how to grow your practice during the pandemic. Alison, how are we going to do that?
[ALISON]: That is an excellent question Whitney. I’m hoping we come up with some answers while we’re talking today.
[WHITNEY]: Yes, yes. I think we have some great ideas and over the past week or two, just a lot of conversation in Facebook groups and through emails and with our consultants asking us lots of questions on how to do this. So we thought, let’s get our heads together and let’s give a ton of information in three episodes to really help you really kick you in the butt to get you moving forward. So want to go ahead and introduce ourselves. I’m Whitney Owens. I am one of the consultants with Practice of the Practice. I have a practice in Savannah, Georgia, which is on the coast. It’s called Water’s Edge Counseling, an appropriate name. I’ve got six clinicians and two assistants. We’re a cash pay practice. We’ve been around for five years now and still like day to day going through it, right?
[ALISON]: Yeah. I’m Alison Pidgeon. I’m also a business consultant with Practice of the Practice. I have a group practice here in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. We’re about an hour and a half West of Philadelphia. I have 15 clinicians and we specialize in women’s issues. I have three different locations in the County and since things really heated up with the coronavirus. We have been doing all telehealth for about the past week and a half. So I never thought I was going to own a 100% telehealth-based practice, but here I am.
[WHITNEY]: That’s right. Yeah, I’m feeling the same way. I was listening to a podcast the other day and, it was Rob Bell and he said, “It’s through disruption that we have creativity.”
[ALISON]: I totally agree.
[WHITNEY]: And I love how we created something. We created telehealth therapy practices, something we never thought we’d do.
[ALISON]: Yes. So what have you been hearing from people, Whitney about what they’re doing in their practices or just sort of how they’re viewing like this time? Like are people just sort of like hitting the pause button, are they still business as usual or are they pivoting and doing something different?
[WHITNEY]: All kinds of stuff. I feel like we’re all over the map and it’s not only in our practices but like emotionally kind of trying to figure things out. Personally, first of all, like how do I run my family life? How do I actually work? Then thinking how do I move my practice to telehealth and getting into all the details of that. So that’s a big part of it. But yeah, it does seem like people are getting kind of stuck a little bit in this idea of the coronavirus. Not that we shouldn’t like be focusing on it because it is a big deal, but I’m also a little concerned about are we taking our practices to the next level? Like there’s a fear that we’re going to look back at this moment and have just gotten stuck in the virus and not really moved our practices to the next level. And I think when we slow down like this, this is the opportunity to make big changes in our practice. What do you think?
[ALISON]: Yeah, I totally agree. I think there’s like a few different sort of populations of practice owners that I’ve talked to in the past couple of weeks. You know, there’s definitely like that group of people who’s just like, “Oh my gosh, like this is terrible. I don’t know what’s going to happen. Everything seems so uncertain, so I’m just going to like press the pause button and not do anything and just sort of wait and see what happens.” And then I think there’s a population of people who’s like, “Yep, I’m just going to keep doing what I was planning on doing.” And they’re, you know, expanding their practice or they’re still building a group practice or whatever they had wanted to do two months ago. And then I think there’s another group of people who are seeing this as like an opportunity. Like they’re really trying to look at it like the silver linings in this whole situation and like really starting to come up with some creative ways of maybe multiple streams of income or maybe expanding or just sort of taking the lemons and trying to make lemonade out of them.
And that’s something I’ve been trying to do in my own practice as well. So I think what I’ve been encouraging people to do is like, “Yeah, I totally get it. This is really scary, but don’t let this sort of like paralyze you,” because some of us do have some downtime now because maybe our whole sort of client population has shifted, maybe we’re not getting as many calls as we were and so like don’t fritter away this time. Like, we definitely need to be figuring things out so we can keep growing our business or maybe just keep it alive for some folks, for sure because they’re feeling the financial strain of everything that’s happening.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah, for sure. And I think a lot of us are living in the ‘what ifs,’ instead of living in what we could be and what we could be doing. Like, well what if this happens to my business or what if this doesn’t work or what if I don’t make enough money? And sometimes those ‘what ifs’ are kind of paralyzing in a lot of ways. Like I’ve even had some people reaching out to me asking about small business loans and I’m like, this has only been a week or two. Like push forward, don’t shrink back and be scared but push forward and motivate yourself to like let that help you get more streams of income or let you grow a group practice or let you do some extra things instead of not thinking that you’re going to make it already, you know?
[ALISON]: Yeah. I know. I’ve had some consulting clients like, “Should I, like I just hired this VA and she’s great, but like maybe I should just tell her I can’t use her anymore because it’s money that I could be saving?” And I think like I heard a really great podcast if anybody’s interested. It’s one that I listened to, it’s called Hello Seven podcast and the host is Rachel Rogers and she teaches other women how to build up, you know, seven-figure businesses and she did this whole episode about how to sort of survive, you know, your business and obviously yourself to like survive this whole upheaval that we’re going through right now. And she said something really funny. She’s like, “Don’t blow up your business.” She’s like, don’t, you know, lay people off and freak out just because things are starting to get a little strained financially. She’s like, because it’s so much more expensive to lay people off and then have to hire people later, you know than it is to try to just figure out a way to keep them and sort of like, you know, push through this time even if it’s like financially tight.
So I just keep sort of thinking about that phrase like ‘Don’t blow up your business.’ Just hold steady and you’ll probably be okay. I think there’s just such that knee jerk reaction to like, “Oh my gosh, this is, you know, the ship is going down and we got to like throw everything overboard.” No, that’s not what’s happening here.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah. I love that you just said that the idea of blowing up your business. That’s going to stick with me. Yeah. I think the line that keeps coming to me is making this moment count and I just don’t want to look back and feel like I didn’t do some awesome things in my practice. Like I would really regret that.
[ALISON]: Yeah, for sure. Yeah. And I think like for me too, the whole issue with all the barriers coming down with telehealth. I mean it’s incredible to see like that whole thing shifted. I know you’re self-pay so you may not have been as aware of what happened. But like every insurance company that we deal with just like in the blink of an eye lifted all their restrictions for telehealth.
[WHITNEY]: Yes, yes. That’s so cool.
[ALISON]: It was incredible.
[WHITNEY]: It really needs all the things that we can do to help serve the population, like things we’ve never done before.
[ALISON]: Yeah. And like I saw an article about, I think the headline was like, you know, remote work has advanced like 10 years in like one week.
[ALISON]: You know, like, because so many people now are working from home and I’m interested to see too, like, are employers going to be like just much more flexible about you’ll work from home or work from home, you know, half the week and come to the office half the week or whatever. And I think the same thing with telehealth, you know, like telehealth advanced 10 in a week.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah. I told my assistant today it might be hard to get me back at work when this is all over because I’m like getting so used to. Oh I just stand up from my desk and I go eat my lunch. I don’t have to pack it. Or I’m wearing my workout leggings and a dress shirt and no one knows the difference. You know? So it’s like really comfortable to be able to just say hey to the kids and do those things. So yeah, telehealth is not as odd or different as we once thought it was or so difficult.
[ALISON]: Yeah, for sure. There are exciting things happening.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah. So we were talking before the show about, you know, what can we be doing during this time as we are working on our telehealth and getting that all set up, but also looking at our practices and it’s a really good idea to kind of do an analysis of where your practice is at. And so Alison was talking to me about SWOT. Can you kind of share what SWOT is with everyone?
[ALISON]: Yeah. So, SWOT is an acronym and it stands for strengths, the W is weaknesses, the O is opportunities and the T is threats. And so this is something you could do periodically on your business. You don’t just have to do it when there’s a global pandemic going on.
[WHITNEY]: Wow. Yes.
[ALISON]: Yeah. And I was actually telling Whitney before we started recording that Jeremy’s Zug and I, who’s another business consult with the Practice of the Practice. We did this whole webinar back in January about like sort of mitigating your risks in your private practice and just sort of touching on various things that might be a risk to your business. And I was telling Whitney that we didn’t include global pandemic in that webinar, but now yeah, we’ll definitely have to revise those slides and put that in there.
[WHITNEY]: Wow. Taking it to the next level.
[ALISON]: Yes, taking it to the next level. So to give you some examples of what those, you know, the different sort of acronym stand for. So the strengths would be like what are some things you do well in your practice? What would other people see as your strengths in your business? Do you have any sort of unique resources that you can draw on? The weaknesses would be areas that, you know, you could definitely improve, maybe you have fewer resources in one area than another. You could also ask other people what they see as a potential weakness in your business. The opportunities would be like thinking through what opportunities are open to you. Are there trends right now that you could take advantage of? Like obviously telehealth right now as a trend, you could take advantage of. How can you turn your strengths into opportunities? And then threats would be that, you know, maybe the mental health insurance landscape is changing. Maybe one of the insurance companies drops their rates or thinking about, you know, what is your competition doing, are they going to move in right across the street? And then what threats do your weaknesses expose to you? So it’s just a nice way of sort of like taking, you know, a pause and sort of evaluating things in your business and you know, maybe making a plan and making some goals around how do you maybe like amplify your strengths and your opportunities and kind of minimize the weaknesses and the threats.
[WHITNEY]: Oh, that’s great. And sounds like it’d be a good exercise to maybe even do with your group practice.
[ALISON]: Oh, for sure. And I think too, like, especially because so much is changing right now, I would probably definitely do it now and then even plan like to do it two to three months from now just because it seems like things are happening so fast. Normally, I would say, you know, maybe once or twice a year would be sufficient to kind of look at those different aspects in your business. But I think because things are happening so fast, you might want to do it a little more often.
[WHITNEY]: Well, when we have something like this happen, it really brings out the weaknesses in our practice and the strengths.
[ALISON]: Yes, for sure. Yeah. So what do you think have been in this whole situation with dealing with Covid-19 what do you think some of your strengths and weaknesses in your own business are?
[WHITNEY]: Oh yeah. I think the biggest strength has been my team. Like, I mean, I just, I even feel a little emotional, honestly talking about it. I’ve just felt so honored to be working with these people that are really coming together and caring for one another. And not even just in my practice, but even in the consulting community, like the way the consultants have come together from all over the nation to be able to help people in their practices or even one of the consulting groups I was doing today, the way that someone was trying to help someone in the group, it was just beautiful, you know? And so I think the way that we’re coming together and caring for one another is a huge strength that we have as therapists and as a practice that I feel like I have, actually, it’s interesting when this all started happening because Savannah’s prone to hurricanes.
I have actually evacuated three out of four years from Savannah and, well, I’ve lived here five. So the first year we didn’t, and it’s always a big hit on the practice. Like when we have to evacuate for a hurricane, it feels like the world’s going to end and you’re gone for a week or two. You don’t know if your house is going to make it. It’s a scary thing. Of course, now that I’m going through a pandemic, I’m like, “Ah, what’s a hurricane?” I guess, you know, it’s interesting to look back and be like, “Wow, telehealth. Like I had such a weakness that I’d close my doors for two weeks.” Like now I’m excited that I get to use telehealth for the next hurricane, because I’m sure there’s going to be another one, and being able to offer that to people. And so yeah, that definitely showed one of my weaknesses, which was I’ve never really been all that open to telehealth and now I’m seeing how effective it is with my clients and all the assets that come out of it. It’s been really cool.
[ALISON]: Nice. Yeah, that’s great.
[WHITNEY]: Are you seeing some strengths and weaknesses in your own practice or in other practices?
[ALISON]: Yeah, I think, I mean I would absolutely say like my staff has been wonderful through this whole thing. Like I had no idea how they were going to react and they were just like, “Yeah, let’s do it,” you know, and just, literally in 48 hours we switched all our 500 clients over to telehealth and they were very supportive of my decision and that was great. I think too, just we’re so sort of like, I don’t know what I’m trying to say. Like our systems and our processes are just so, like we’re just so organized and like my assistant is so on top of things that like that’s why it worked. That’s why we were able to like change everything over in 48 hours because we already had like that really good foundation of, you know, things were running smoothly and so it wasn’t like chaos and then we were trying to make a huge change on top of that. So I think one of the weaknesses, I don’t know, I think like, I don’t know, is it lame if I say the same thing as you?
[WHITNEY]: No, it’s okay, because there’s probably a lot of practices that feel the same way we feel.
[ALISON]: Yeah. I mean I think that I, also maybe I was unprepared for, you know, kind of like coaching or like hand-holding clients through that process. Like we tried to explain it the best we could, but because it was such a quick transition, I think some, and then also like we did it the same day that the governor like closed all the schools, which is sort of like the first thing to kind of drop in terms of the restrictions that were coming down from the state. So I almost wish I had done it earlier because I feel like people were already sort of swirling because the governor had just come out and closed all the schools and then on top of that we were like, “And this thing you have come to rely on is now totally changing and you have to learn how to get onto you know, video chat to meet with your therapist.” And I think for some people it was just like, “Whoa, there’s just like too much going on.” And they were just like, “Nope, I’ll just come back when the office is open.” And so I think like if I had to do it over again, I would have started sooner and I would have maybe been a little bit more prepared with like, you know, maybe making a video that showed them like step by step how to get on so that there isn’t that big sort of barrier to entry so to speak.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah, I suspect that in the coming weeks that a lot of those people that are saying, “No wait,” are going to realize, “I don’t want to wait that long,” and they’re going to be coming back.
[ALISON]: Yeah. I think, yeah, that’s already started to happen for sure. Yeah, because in our state the governor just came out again and said school’s closed for two more weeks, so now we’re into four weeks.
[WHITNEY]: Yeah, and we don’t really know where we’re going, but so I love this SWOT and I think it’s really effective, it sounds like, but I love that through this disturbance we’re having a lot of awesome creativity and I think that we’re going to look back on this moment and have a lot of growth. And so that’s what these three podcasts we’re going to do. It’s a series. It’s going to come out every day. Alison and I are going to be kind of talking about how do we go from taking the SWOT analysis and then we’re going to go into our short-term goals and then get into our long-term goals so that we as therapists can really make this moment count.
[ALISON]: Sounds awesome.
[WHITNEY]: All right, well it’s good to be with you Alison and I’ll talk to you tomorrow.
[ALISON]: Yeah, you too. Alright, bye. Whitney.