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What is the next step from launch to growth? How can you reframe self-doubt on your private practice journey? How do you balance your personal and professional life?
In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks about when to start a group practice with Emily Runyan.
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Meet Emily Runyan
Emily Runyan is a therapist in Gallatin, TN, and the Founder and CEO of Tennessee Mental Wellness. Taking what she learned from the traditional model of mental health care, Emily set out to create something different when she started her private practice. Her attention to detail to the whole client experience and treating her staff exceptionally well have built a reputation of excellence that is recognized by the community.
Emily has been working in the mental health field since 1997. She started as an instructor at a wilderness treatment program for at-risk youth and later became a therapist in community mental health, a Christian-based counseling clinic, and finally opened her own practice in 2017.
Visit Tennessee Mental Wellness and connect with Emily on Facebook, Instagram, and Psychology Today.
In This Podcast
- Lessons learned from hiring clinicians
- Going from launch to growth
- Develop your lifestyle outside of work
- Emily’s advice to private practitioners
Lessons learned from hiring clinicians
When you are shifting from a solo practice to a group practice, it is normal to feel daunted by the number of things that need to get done.
Help yourself out by joining a mastermind group or finding an accountability partner that can help you in the process.
I still felt overwhelmed but it helped just to plod away at it, so I would set aside time … in the week and just force myself to sit down and do something related to the group practice.
Emily’s first hire went well, a pre-licensed clinician that reached out to her. What Emily learned with the hiring process is to lean into her authenticity, and to trust her instincts.
Be aware and intentional of what you are looking for in a new clinician instead of hiring people just to tick off boxes.
I [wanted] to build a practice that is a reflection of me in that I want the clinicians to be genuine, and I want them to have had some transformational experience because I feel like my life experiences have helped shape me, and helped me be a better therapist.
Going from launch to growth
Once you have settled into your new group practice with one or two clinicians, your focus may change and shift toward growth.
Where is your private practice now regarding capacity? What is the space capacity of your current office? Is there room to add more clinicians?
For marketing, I’m really focused on connecting to my local community because my practice is private pay [with] a boutique-like feel … I want to be ingrained into that community.
Develop your lifestyle outside of work
Where do you find satisfaction and empowerment?
What gives you energy, refreshes you, and makes you feel excited to work on?
As a group practice owner and an everyday person, you need to find ways to get to everything in your life – professional and personal – without burning out.
To really scale and grow and get the kind of income that I want … I do need to delegate. I had to confront fear and take some leaps of faith to, for example, hire an assistant and take some time to train her.
Emily’s advice to private practitioners
There is no way that you can have it all figured out. There will be times of overwhelm or self-doubt, but know that it is just part of the journey. Use self-doubt as an indicator that you may need extra compassion and support, and not to stop entirely.
Books mentioned in this episode:
Sponsors mentioned in this episode:
Useful links mentioned in this episode:
Check out these additional resources:
Meet Joe Sanok
Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.
Thanks For Listening!
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You’re someone with a vision for your practice, for your side hustle, and for your personal journey but when it comes to establishing your path and how to get to where you want to be with your practice, things get a little messy. You’re also someone who’d prefer to go in person instead of to groups and listening to everyone else’s story. To me, it sounds like you could benefit from one-on-one consulting with our experienced Practice of the Practice consultants from $595 a month and up, you can work with a consultant that will give you more direction and practical tried and tested tips matched to you and your goals. For more information, visit practiceofthepractice.com/apply. Again, that’s practiceofthepractice.com/apply.
This is the Practice of the Practice Podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 851.
I’m Joe Sanok, your host, and welcome to the Practice of the Practice Podcast. I hope you are doing amazing. Throughout February, it was start a private practice month where we interviewed a ton of people that were in that solo phase of private practice that were just doing amazing things. People like Brandon, who had a solo practice as a side gig, or Benita who had to start a new practice three times because her husband’s in the military and she kept having to move states so she became an expert on starting new practices so all sorts of really cool, interesting people that just shared their stories. For the beginning part of this month, we’re going to be talking to folks that have started a group practice. So this is all around launching a group practice, and it’s in preparation for Level Up Week, which is coming on the 20th of March, right around the corner, in just a few weeks where we’re going to be having over 20 webinars that are totally free over at practiceofthepractice.com/levelup, where you can learn about every phase of practice of starting, growing, scaling, getting to that next level totally for free. So part of this is just sharing voices and stories from people.
I’m so excited that today we have Emily Runyan, who is someone that I got to hang out with in person at Killin’It Camp 2022. She got to hang out with me the week before I got salmonella when I was in Mexico, which at the time, this recording, I’m still recovering from. Who knew salmonella could last this long. But Emily, I’m so excited to have you here on the Practice of the Practice Podcast. We’re hanging out again. Really glad that you’re here with me.
Thanks, Joe. It is so great to hang out with you and I am again, so sorry that you’re struggling with that salmonella. It’s sad.
Thank you. It’s, I feel like my life is just a series of ridiculous events and this just adds to it. So, hey I get to have a front row seat to quite an interesting movie of Joe Sanok’s life.
Yeah, it sounds like it.
Well, Emily, tell us a little bit about your private practice, on a few sentences, what are you interested in outside of your private practice? Like who are you as a human?
Okay, so I started my private practice in 2017 as a solo practice, and in 2022 I started or converted it to a group practice. We’ll get into the details of that I’m sure. Then human Emily is I’m a single mom of three boys, who are all teenage ages, and I’m very outdoorsy, so my foray into therapy was being a wilderness guide in my undergrad years. So I fell in love with both the wilderness and therapy so I sense, anytime I can be in mountains or water I love it. I live in Tennessee right near a lake, so I paddleboard a lot. Then there’s some good hiking trails around here so that’s a lot of what I do and. Love to read, walk my dogs and hang out with my boys, which is really the joy of my life. They’re such interesting and fun humans so I love just getting to hang out with them when I can.
Ah, that’s so great. What are you reading right now?
I am reading Profit First and also reading, oh, I’m going to be starting the, Jennette McCurdy memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died, something like that. I gravitate towards biographies, memoirs or nonfiction or business books and once in a while I will find a fiction that I can get into.
Yeah, I’m similar. I feel like fiction is good for vacation reads, but I don’t really seek it out. Yeah, it’s usually nonfiction. I tend to lean away from some of the business books just because I think about it all week and that, but I lean towards some like, self-development books and stuff like that. So it’s funny you said wilderness guides. All through grad school anytime I had to write a paper, it was through the lens of like being a outdoor therapist, a like backpacking therapist, wilderness instructing therapist. I’ve always been drawn to that experiential approaches to therapy and even ran a therapeutic sailing program for five years where we took kids out sailing on this huge like, wooden sailboat that looked like a pirate ship. So, sounds like we’re cut from the same cloth in a number of ways.
So how did you, when you were starting your practice did you incorporate some of that love of nature into the practice or did it become just separate from maybe some of that stuff that you were interested in during college?
Yeah, I did actually. That was one of the big reasons why I wanted to start a practice in the first place was being able to be more my authentic self. When I started in 2017, I was, I literally had just graduated from grad school. The week after I graduated is when I opened a practice because you can do that in Tennessee as a pre-licensed clinician. So I just felt this pull to be able to be my authentic self. I knew that I wouldn’t enjoy my career if I had to do it, follow all these protocols. And of course I try, I want to use good treatment modalities, but infusing myself into that. So in my solo practice I did walk and talk therapy. We have some good trails around Nashville that are very natural and so I just, with my supervisor since I was pre-licensed, I made sure that my informed consents were good and covered some of the additional things that you wouldn’t have to cover outside of an office setting as far as confidentiality liability and stuff. So I did walk and talk therapy and it was really, really fabulous. It worked great for certain clientele who needed that movement or that nature as a part of their healing.
Now really, because the focus of today’s episode is around transitioning from a solo practice into a group practice, when did you start thinking about I think I might want to add more clinicians to my practice?
I’ve tried so many different things, being entrepreneur minded. I tried a lot of different avenues of ooh, how can I bring more of more joy to my practice or more of my authentic self, trying different groups or, oh gosh, I’ve tried partnering with physicians in the community. I’ve had these little campaigns or things that I’ve tried. So group practice started out being another thing, like I’m going to try this. Oh, I also tried doing psychotherapy, what do you call it, ketamine assisted psychotherapy. I did that for a year and a half trying that niche. Anyway, so at first I thought, oh, group practice might be another thing that I tried that may or may not pan out so I signed up for Group Practice Launch in, I think it was March of 2022 that it started and it just so happened that right at that same time, this building came for sale, that was an incredible deal and doing a little real estate investing on the side, I decided this was like my sign from Heaven that I had the opportunity to buy this little cottage house thing and make that my group therapy office. So I went in wanting to learn, and then it turns out it, the more I learned with , I felt like this was such a good fit for me. It enabled me to combine my love for therapy, my love for business and entrepreneurship and helped me develop it is helping me develop more of leadership than I’ve been able to develop in previously my career.
Now, what were some things in those first couple hires that were difficult for you and what would you say was easy for you? Like everyone has their own journey. What was difficult? What was easy?
Okay, we could be here all day with the difficult stuff. So I think that the biggest thing is just, it’ss so daunting, the amount of things to learn and things to take care of in setting up a group practice on the business side of things. So it felt really overwhelming, but having something like, and I’m not trying to, you’re not paying me to advertise, but Group Practice Launch was so, so helpful to help break down the massive tests into here’s some, like here’s a template to follow some step by steps. So the over, I mean, I still felt overwhelmed, but it helped just to plug away at it. So I would set aside time, I had some set times during the week where I would just force myself to sit down and do something related to the group practice.
My first hire fell into my lap again, and that was probably another reason why I felt like this is the thing I need to pursue. It was somebody who reached out to me, a pre-licensed clinician who liked my website, felt like I was the therapist that she would want to go to and so she wondered if I could, if she could join my practice to complete her pre-licensed hours. I talked to her a lot, interviewed her over the phone, met with her, and felt like she would be a good fit. She’s also, this is her second career, like it was for me. She’s seasoned in life and things like that and has some life wisdom so I felt like that would be a good fit. So she fell into my lap in May of 2022, we shared an office space and then my little cottage house place was finished with the rehab in November of ’22.
I started interviewing, I got probably in September of 22. That part was really intimidating because I had never been a boss before and hadn’t interviewed. But I felt like, again, leading with, I think that’s the theme of the podcast for me is my authenticity, really leaning into that trusting, trusting my instinct, my gut sense about somebody, but also leaning into, hey, I want to build a practice that is a reflection of me to an extent in that I want people to be, the clinicians to be genuine. I want them to have had some transformational experience because I feel like my life experiences have helped shape me and helped me be a better therapist.
So there was certain things that I’ve wanted to look for. As I’ve leaned into that, instead of just like, what checks the boxes on the resume. It’s become pretty easy to filter through the applicants. Then I’ve just recently hired three applicants or clinicians, but that was after interviewing dozens and dozens. I found ones that really felt like a good fit and I was not in a hurry. I’m still seeing a lot of clients, so I felt like I can pay my overhead and I don’t have to be in a hurry to hire people and I want them to be a good fit.
So I mean, you’re talking, you went from zero to five in less than a year though. I mean that’s pretty rapid growth. Even though they’re not necessarily full and everything just to onboard that many people get that many people through the system that’s amazing. Like, look at you. A little bit ago you said you set aside time to work on building the group practice. What would you recommend in regards to time? How much time should people set aside to really work on the business if they’re making that transition from solo to group?
Depends on their other life constraints. As I’m building my career, I want to lead with my lifestyle so I want to be able to be very balanced physically and mentally healthy. So those are my priorities so making sure I get in a paddleboard or a walk or whatever it is, the things that really make me feel a lot of joy in my life. So that’s first when I create my, when I’m thinking about my weekly schedule and then client hours are, that’s next. Then I would make sure I had a few spaces, so gosh, probably spent up to five hours, I’d say two hours in the beginning. Then when I started interviewing, I was spending maybe four or five hours a week and then on the practice and then now it’s a lot more because I’m onboarding and all those things., but I’m able to start backing off on my client load as I’m hiring people to do what I do
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So as you think about the next year how are you framing out how much to grow, how much to fill up the people you already brought on, how to do marketing? Like when you think about going from the launch phase, which clearly you’re out of at this point, you’re definitely a group practice boss, what are you thinking about in regards to how you’re conceptualizing the goals, keeping yourself accountable, getting the support you need? What are you thinking through in regards to the next year?
Well, I have, my little office cottage place has five offices so I feel we have the capacity for 10 full-time therapists. Two will share an office. If we have part-time therapists, we can have more but, so 10 is capacity. At some point I thought I might want to expand to multiple locations and I gave my practice a generic name that could be in multiple locations. But as I’m getting into it, in considering my lifestyle, I feel like I’d like to be able to have the passive income of a group practice, see clients as much or as little as I’d like and just really get to enjoy my lifestyle. So I think I’ll stay with this one location and this upcoming year, I grew to five clinicians faster than I thought I would so I decided I’ll set the goal at getting 10 clinicians.
I’m okay if I don’t, but I have that goal for marketing, I’m really focused on connecting to my local community because my practice is a private pay, a boutique like feel. For me, I want to be really like ingrained into the community. So one thing that I did was I connected to the local, the county, let’s see, it’s my county’s health committee. I was able to I guess invite myself to be part of their committee focusing on mental health betterment for our county. Then we’re trying to get into schools and sports teams, sponsoring local sports team, oh, this is a big thing, I forgot about this, because we’re private pay, I know that limit. We don’t take insurance so that limits us to, limits accessibility to some people.
So I’m trying to find other ways to give back to the community because I want my therapist to be paid well, that’s why I’m choosing the private pay option and to have a good work-life balance. But we’re going to start offering weekly free workshops to the community so it’ll be known that every Monday night our therapy office has some sort of free workshop to the community in addition to outreaches with churches or schools. So I have a part-time assistant and she’s been doing a lot of work to help reach out to the community. She’s doing a lot of the initial contact with churches and schools and stuff and then set up like a, some sort of coffee day or meeting for me. I’m wanting to just strengthen our relationship with the local organizations. So that’s the main focus with marketing. I haven’t even had to do much paid marketing actually, except for, oh, also working on my website, but paid marketing, I haven’t had to do a lot because I think word’s getting around enough where it’s a small town-ish suburb of Nashville. So it’s one of those things that work can travel fast.
I think when you’re good at something and you have a good system even if you just call people back, it’s amazing how you stand out in the therapy world. Like it’s sad that it doesn’t take a whole lot to really stand out, but the reality is if you have your basic systems down, then usually you fill up pretty quickly. Cool. Well, how do you frame out how, you had said your, the way you do your lifestyle is really important to you outside of work. And I know that when, especially when you have a group practice and you know that there’s other people that you’re responsible for helping get money into their family or be their sole income or whatever their financial situation is, there’s a lot of pressure there and there’s always more to do. So there can be a tendency with some group practice owners of only I can do it. Their kids are in bed and they’re jumping on their computers and they’re just working a million hours and instead of a business giving them freedom, now it’s become even more of an anchor. How do you make sure that doesn’t happen where you can enjoy your life, you can paddleboard, you can read, you can have time with your kids and you can have an amazing business?
A couple things come to mind, one is that just like I like to, I find so much satisfaction in empowering my clients, helping them heal and helping them have the inner resources to navigate their challenges in life. I have so much joy in empowering my clinicians and my assistant wanting them to feel like wow, they could do anything they want to do. I think I can relate to the, like only I can do it because there was a lot of fear, I guess last spring or summer when I was launching the group practice but I just, I guess I’ve done enough learning, reading about business in general that in order to really scale and grow and get the income that I want, that I do need to delegate. So it’s, I definitely had to confront fear and take some leaps of faith to, for example, hire an assistant and take the time to train her and hire a bookkeeper and things like that.
Gotcha. Yeah, that makes sense. So the last question that I always ask is, if every private practitioner in the world were listening right now, what would you want them to know?
Well, as therapists, practice owners who are also human, there’s no way that we’re going to have it all figured out or be able to figure it out. I remember listening to your podcast Joe and other business ones and hearing ideas and feeling overwhelming, like self-doubt, like, oh wow, that’s great for so-and-so that they’re able to do this, but I could never do that. So I think my biggest perspective is if you confront self-doubt, which I imagine we all do at some point, get the support you need. So I’ve done a lot of therapy in this whole process related to personal stuff, but also related to just the self-doubt, the fear, the overwhelm that being a practice owner has brought up in me. So I know that when I feel self-doubt, that’s not a stop sign. It’s actually an invitation for me to heal something and then, and be very gentle with it and kind with myself. And I’ve learned not to try to push through self-doubt, like force myself. Like, come on, you just do it, just do it. But like, oh, be very compassionate with it and get help and therapy support. That’s my main thought for other practice owners.
That’s so awesome. And Emily, if people want to follow your work, check out your website, where’s the best place for them to learn more about you and your practice?
Well, being a local focused on my local marketing I don’t have a social media, well I have accounts but I’m not very active on them yet. So my website is tnmentalwellness.com that stands for Tennessee. My contact info is all over the place on that.
Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being on the Practice of the Practice Podcast.
I got to say it is a boost to the ego when you don’t even know someone’s going to be bragging about your program and they brag about it. So it was great hearing Emily’s experience in Group Practice Launch. We actually have another cohort coming up in March and if you want the early bird for that’s going to be opening up in just about a week over at practiceofthepractice.com/grouppracticelaunch. You can read all about that. Also, we’re going to be having a ton of webinars March 20th through 23rd for Level Up Week. We have over 20 webinars we’re going to be doing all on growing a solo practice when you jump into a group practice and once you’re in group practice, how do you rock that out, even some that are on passive income, public speaking, things like that. We have a bunch of our friends coming to help with some of those. I’m going to be doing some. Ash and LaToya and Andrew are going to be helping with it so it’s going to be an amazing week of leveling up. If that sounds good head on over to practiceofthepractice.com/levelup to register for any of those webinars that sound interesting to you.
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Thanks so much for letting me into your ears and into your brain. Have a great day. I’ll talk to you soon.
Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music.
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