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How can effective management grow a business? What benefits come from effectively managing your staff? Do you want to learn how to best utilize the skillset of your supervisees in a group setting?
In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks about managing employees to maximize your business with Aaron Potratz.
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Meet Aaron Potratz
Aaron is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Oregon, the owner of Discover Counseling, and co-owner of Life Discovery Counseling Services – two private group counseling practices. He maintains his own client caseload while also managing and supervising his counseling staff.
Aaron also does private practice consulting for therapist business owners and just started a podcast with his business partner called Shrink Think, where they discuss being therapists, business owners, and everyday people. Aaron has been married for 17 years and has two boys.
Visit his website and connect with him on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Listen to his podcast here.
In This Podcast
- Tips on how to structure supervising for the most beneficial results
- Clinical and business supervision
- Tips on supervising
- Important takeaways from Aaron’s presentation
Tips on how to structure supervising for the most beneficial results
I think there’s this like passion of training up the next generation of people to know who they are and to be comfortable being themselves. Not like the cliché ‘believe in yourself’ but to believe that you are enough as a person and that’s what people are connecting with and what they want.
Aaron recommends having a regular structure and sticking with it across your supervisees. It is similar to how to structure therapy with a regular person, perhaps once a week or every other week but the necessity is the consistency:
- Each person works on something individual and different from the next within the group that the supervisor also oversees.
- The effect of having regular meeting intervals acts like a road-map to keep the goals in sight and everyone on the right track to completing them.
- Pay attention to recurring themes that may come up with your supervisees, perhaps about their clients or issues that they run into.
Clinical and business supervision
Encourage a growth mindset and consistent attitude about what is going to help your supervisees and yourself grow into better clinicians and business people.
- Encourage further education and continual training throughout practicing.
- Keep track of how your supervisees are going in order to ascertain what people are struggling with and succeeding at. Keeping track of occurrences will help you see how many clients your supervisees are retaining, how many referrals are coming in, how many people keep scheduling appointments after long periods of time etc.
Tips for supervising
I am a firm believer in making the implicit, explicit.
It comes highly recommended to make sure that all the information is available and is as transparent as possible.
Keeping your staff informed will make sure that everyone works off the same information to limit small confusion that could lead to bigger mistakes. It also helps to keep the overall focus on the same goals and everyone on the same page, encouraging people to work together.
Important takeaways from Aaron’s presentation
- To see the value in different ways of looking at the benefits of proper supervision, and that when done efficiently, it can have a big impact on client retention and employee satisfaction.
- Management can learn skills to help employees to identify their skill sets and strengths and to build on these.
- Ultimately, it will lead to a better company and your staff will enjoy working there.
- Our Guide to Starting a Conference with Therapy Reimagined Co-Founders Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy | PoP 485
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- Apply to work with us
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.
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This is the Practice of the Practice Podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 486.
Well, today’s episode is part of a series all with Killin’It Camp speakers. So, this year Killin’It Camp is going to be completely online. We have over 20 speakers, we have it all getting recorded – assuming the technology doesn’t act silly on us – and we have some killer deals from TherapyNotes, Brighter Vision, and other folks during Killin’It Camp. So, in early October, we’re going to be having Killin’It Camp and you can come live to those or if you get a ticket and you want to just pop in pop out, they’ll all get recorded for you as well. And so, for only $95 you can get access to all of these speakers, all of the recordings, all the bonuses. Gotta head on over to killinitcamp.com. These are just a couple of the speakers that I’m having here on the podcast, but we’re having over 20 speakers, it’s gonna be amazing. We have three tracks… One track is called ‘Pillars of Practice’ – these are short-form, TED Talk-type talks that are 25 minutes long, they’re around very clear, particular things of private practice. The other types are 55 minutes long, and those are ‘How to Scale a Practice’ – so that’s gonna be all around group practices, and expanding, and scaling your practice – and then we also have the ‘Multiple Streams of Income’ track. And the thing about this is, you don’t have to choose between the tracks. We’ve set it up that only one session is going at a time. We have one login that you can pop in, pop out wherever you can catch the talks, so we really want it to be accessible to you. Again, it’s only $95, so head on over to killinitcamp.com and you can learn all about the speakers that will be there. We can’t wait for this. So, without any further ado, here we go.
Well, today, on the Practice of the Practice podcast, we have Aaron Potratz. Aaron is a Killin’It Camp speaker and today, we’re going to be talking about managing employees to maximize your business. Aaron, welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast.[AARON]:
Hey, Joe. Thanks for having me. [JOE]:
Yeah, I’m so excited to have you as a speaker this year. Last year, you came to Killin’It Camp, and so we’re doing this whole series that you’re kicking off. You’re our first speaker that we’re interviewing for this. So, let’s just start with… you came to Killin’It Camp last year – what was that experience like? We’ll start there before we even kind of jump into your topic today. [AARON]:
Yeah, I would say it was transformative and eye-opening. Probably two good words to describe it. It was eye-opening from the standpoint of attending this conference with other like-minded therapist professionals who care about doing good clinical work and that side of things, but also are really passionate about the business side, and maybe don’t have a ton of experience, or maybe just haven’t had those resources. For a lot of people, you are like our main resource amongst maybe a couple of other people, but really, there’s not a whole lot out there. So, getting together in a conference like this with other people that are like-minded, wanting to learn the same things, was really eye-opening about what I didn’t know but also what I did know. So, it was really encouraging and also inspiring at the same time, like, I want to keep learning more. But then it was transformative because all these things that I realized I didn’t know that I needed to know and I wanted to know to get to where I wanted to be, all that information was there, the people were there, the support has been there, and I’ve leaned on those people, really for the last year, in a lot of ways for advice and encouragement and support with my business. So, it was just an overall fantastic experience. [JOE]:
Yeah, you know, it was interesting for me as kind of the facilitator; I just wanted to like eavesdrop on everyone’s conversations, because I’d see these exciting, like, website conversations or marketing or, like, “what if I did this?” and it just… I felt like everyone around me was having the conversations that I just wished to have with other clinicians but, you know, you go to a typical local counseling meetup – when you could do meetups, not during COVID – and, you know, a lot of times it’d be clinical conversation, but that business side was often missing, and it just felt like, these are my people. [AARON]:
Yeah, exactly. And I think maybe one of the only downsides was, I would overhear some of these conversations as I was talking with somebody and I would be thinking, “Oh, I want to talk to that person, I’m kind of hearing something that’s relevant, but I’ve got to stay focused on this one I’m in right now.” [JOE]:
Yeah, hundred percent. Well, so, this year, I mean, you’ve been really involved with being part of the Killin’It Camp kinda planning committee, you got really involved in just kind of making sure that we all talked about the pivot with COVID, and you’re speaking about managing employees this year. We’d love to just start with, tell us a little bit of your story of kind of managing employees and kind of your story in owning a practice. [AARON]:
When I started in private practice, like, back in 2007, I just had a small private practice and I was working in a community mental health organization, I had the opportunity to become a supervisor, like, not too long after that. I liked a lot of that, but I felt really, like, inexperienced. I didn’t necessarily know what I was doing. I felt a bit insecure, like, I’m supervising these people that had a whole lot more experience than me. But at the same time, I felt like this is kind of similar to doing counseling, just in a in a slightly different way. And so, I dropped that after maybe a year or so and just got experience doing private practice. And then after, I don’t know, seven, eight years or so, I decided I actually want to start a group practice and that means I’m going to supervise again, I think it’s time to hit this.
I did a training with a woman pretty well known here in Oregon; Lisa Aasheim. She is fantastic and she really, I think, really connected with me about what supervision is really all about. It tends to be kind of boring, I think, for a lot of people. I’ve heard from a lot of clinician supervisees, since being a supervisor, that it’s hard to find a good supervisor because a lot of them are either burnt out or they’re just trying to check a box or just cover liability issues, they’re not really trying to grow the therapist as a person or help them become their best therapist self or do the best clinical work. So, Lisa really ignited that part of me. Of course, she covered all those other bases, but after that class, I was – what do you call it – like, approved in the state to be a supervisor, and I started taking on my own supervisees and doing this work. Well, I hire Lisa to supervise my supervision, and I’ve stayed with her for, like, the last five years or so because it’s so awesome to have somebody like that overseeing.
And there’s this this passion of, like, training up the next generation of people to know who they are and to be comfortable being themselves, not like the cliché, “believe in yourself”, but, like, believe that you’re enough as a person, and that’s what people are connecting with and what people want. So, there are some other tips and tricks that I’ll get into, you know, about supervision, but, really, that’s the heart of it. It’s not just covering the legal/ethical bases, but it’s this other, like, doing good clinical therapy with people and being your best self.[JOE]:
Yeah. I remember… So, in Michigan, I’m a supervisor – I no longer supervise – but we did a group supervision where people would come for four and a half hours once a month. And so, in Michigan, there wasn’t any kind of, you’d have to do a weekly, they say “regular” intervals, so we would do it once a month. And I loved doing four and a half hours, because you could really dig into things, and you could kind of break up into small groups, and then we could kind of watch a TED talk, or we could discuss a book, and there was just so much that we could develop in that four and a half hours, versus if we just did an hour a week and you kind of “How’s life?”, “Okay, it’s good” … Now it’s time to schedule the next one, you don’t really have the time to get into it. How have you kind of structured the ways that you supervise? What are some of the just, like, scheduling sides of it, so that you don’t just kind of go down your other path? Like, I know that for me, I have so many interests that, you know, when I had 1099 contractors, they didn’t need the supervision side as much, but they still needed encouragement. Sometimes I’d get so excited about other things I was working on, I’d probably just, like, forget about them. So, how do you make sure that, in your schedule, that when you’re supervising, like, what’s your rhythm of how that looks? [AARON]:
That’s a great question. You know, I think probably the best metaphor for me is really a lot like I do therapy. I’ve got maybe, like, a regular schedule, whether it’s once a week or whether it’s every other week. I’ve got a functioning group that meets once a month, it’s only, like, I think, an hour and a half or two hours or so, but within that regular structure, just like I do therapy with people, we’ve got somewhat of a treatment plan with each person, everybody knows what they’re wanting to develop at maybe every six month interval. We’ve talked about that and fleshed that out and agreed on that together. So, each person is developing or working on something different in themselves, and I’ve helped to identify what those things are. And then, over the course of those regular intervals, that’s kind of our roadmap for what we’re trying to do every session. Every client that comes in, we’re kind of trying to touch on those same themes, just like when a client comes in and they might be talking about some random story at work or with, you know, with some family member, it’s usually the same theme that’s coming up over and over again. So I’m paying attention to those and really trying to highlight those to bring my supervisees into awareness about what these issues are, whether it’s something like imposter syndrome, like, I just feel insecure to be here, or whether it’s somebody that’s just over and over again, trying to fix a client’s problems, that’s not really getting to the heart of what’s really going on, it’s probably not helping them to fully see what’s going on. So, I think that, just, a regular interval, in terms of a schedule is what keeps us from… they’re like guardrails on the road; they don’t keep you on the road, they just keep you from falling off the road. [JOE]:
Right, right. Now, how do you kind of parse out the difference between clinical supervision and sort of business supervision? And so, you know, like an employee, there’s more than just the clinical side that goes into being a supervisor of an employee. So, how do you kind of divide that out in your mind? [AARON]:
Yeah, I’ve got this idea here in my practice that I want everybody to be, like, as good as they can be as, as good as possible on the clinical side. And so, on one hand, I’m really trying to encourage growth and learning and just a constant attitude of like, “Hey, what’s gonna help me better progress as a therapist or deal with more issues that I’m facing?” you know, that’s going to evolve over the course of your career. So, on one hand, like, I encourage a lot of education and continued training. And then from the management side, I guess I’m looking at, “And how’s that going? Like, are clients retaining with you? Are they scheduling and then following up? Or are they, you know, you’re getting a bunch of one to three sessions, and then people are quitting?”. And then also, “Are you getting a lot of either repeat clients, you know, people coming back over time?” If somebody has been with me for a long time, or “Are they giving good referrals to their friends?” Those are some of the ways that I know that you’re doing a good job, in terms of your performance. So, I guess, in that sense, they’re connected. They’re related, but they are kind of separate. [JOE]:
Okay, and then, when you kind of are advising someone around specifically employees and that type of supervision, what tips have you kind of learned along the way? What do you think are maybe typical mindsets that we need to undo? Or just things that can help in regard to that employee plus clinical supervision combination? [AARON]:
Yeah, I’m a firm believer in making the implicit explicit. I say that all the time with my supervisees. And I think it’s so important, in any relationship, to try to make as much transparent as possible. So, I talk about this with my clients as well, we do a ton of informed consent, and I talk with my supervisees, my employees, about informing people as much as possible so that the information is out there, we’re all sort of working off of the same information, because I think that helps to set and correct or adjust expectations, helps us to get on the same page, and it also helps us to work together toward the same goal. So, if I’m talking with somebody about “Hey, you know, what are your goals? You know, how many clients do you want to see? What days do you want to be here? You know, what do you need from me?” and then “Here’s what I’m looking for. These are the things that we require here.” If all of that is shared information and we’re on the same page about it, even as it’s evolving over the course of time – you know, because people’s lives change and things like that – but if we’re communicating about that all the time, then if something changes in somebody’s life, I’m aware of it and we can address it right away. And it’s the kind of thing where, you know, this happens in my marriage, as well, where, if we don’t talk about something, it’s going to create a problem, and then we’ll have to go back and say, “Hey, what happened?” “Oh, I didn’t realize I had these expectations. And I didn’t communicate them with you. If I had only told you, you would have known what this thing was, and you could have spoken to it.” I actually lost an employee one time, because of that. It was probably one of my, like, second or third employees, just early on when I was figuring this out. I just wasn’t communicating enough about what was going on and wasn’t asking her what was going on, and she decided to bounce and to start her own practice, and during that process when she had already made that decision, I had said, “Well, hey, what about if we, you know, we were able to adjust and flex and do this? Would that keep you here?” And she said, “Yeah, that would have, but I’ve already committed elsewhere.” So, that really solidified for me that, just, “We need to talk.” [JOE]:
Yeah. I remember, there was a time when I had an employee – and I’ve probably told the story before – and she would get really bent out of shape around, like, really little things. And so, for example, like, she would leave her scissors on her desk, and people shared offices, and I had another clinician who saw angry teenagers and so she would put the scissors away. And she would send the scathing emails to everyone, like, “Where are my scissors? Why do people keep moving my stuff?” And it was like, there’s a lot of those little things. And finally, I just went in to let her know that she wasn’t a fit, and she, like, broke down crying. She’s like, “This is my dream job. And, you know, I know, I’m sorry, I haven’t got any feedback from you.” And I realized I had been feeling these things for a long time and saying, like, “Come on, you’re freaking out over scissors or, you know, printer cartridge” or whatever, but I didn’t give that feedback. I didn’t communicate that with her. And that kind of wasn’t fair to her because, you know, she didn’t realize how she was coming across to the team. And so just that idea of that communication, those hard conversations well ahead of time, I think is so important. [AARON]:
Yeah, it’s amazing how much we find out we don’t know when we actually start talking about things. There are just so many experiences I have where I address these things and come to find out there was something maybe that had come across from me or something that I just didn’t know about from the other person that, now that we know about it, it makes all the difference in the world. [JOE]:
Yeah. And oftentimes, it’s just two different points of view that, on the surface, seem like you disagree, but it’s just a matter of kind of understanding that. [AARON]:
Now, as you think through kind of your talk with Killin’It Camp, what are some of the – and I know that you’re kind of putting it together and, you know, we’ve got, you know, two months or so until that at the time of this recording – but what are some of the kind of big takeaways that you hope people leave your talk with? [AARON]:
Yeah, I want to help people to see the value, I guess, in some of these different ways of looking at supervision that, I guess, a lot of people don’t tend to address, that I feel like have a huge impact on client retention and employee satisfaction and even effectiveness. So, there are certain things that we can do, as managers and as supervisors, to identify people’s strengths and their skill sets to really build on those and to help them to see and believe in those things, and then to use those most effectively with only the clients that really bring them life or they’re passionate about seeing. And of course, I understand that there’s always going to be, you know, sort of a fringe, like, yeah, this is okay or, you know, this issue is okay, but this is what I’m really passionate about. I really want to help supervisors and managers know what those things are, and to be able to bring those things out in their staff, because I believe that that’s going to, ultimately, make a better company, make a, you know, sort of a better reputation for your company, your brand, it’s going to help you to do what you do more effectively. And I think, overall, your staff are going to really enjoy working where they work, because, you know, all other things being equal, like the pay and all that kind of stuff, if you take away all those variables, if you’re giving them the kinds of clients that they want to have, and you’re helping them to be their best and to do their best, and they’re seeing those results, why would they want to go somewhere else? [JOE]:
Right, right. Oh, there’s going to be so much that you’re going to unpack in this talk, Aaron. I know that this is kind of one of our shorter interviews, but just want to give people kind of a taste of what some of our speakers are going to be talking about at Killin’It Camp this year. It’s going to be 100% virtual, but in early October, we’re gonna have three full days of Killin’It Camp speakers. So, we have 25-minute talks, that are sort of like TED Talks, all around Pillars of Practice, so things that apply to everybody. We’re going to have 55-minute talks for How to Scale your Practice, so different things like this that will teach you to scale, and then 55-minute talks that are all about Multiple Streams of Income. You’re not going to get this kind of business advice anywhere else. We’re going to have one link that you log into, and you can pop in, pop out, just as if it was a session that you were at a conference, and you’re also going to get access to all of the recordings as well. So, even if you hear this after the dates of the live event, make sure you sign up over at killinitcamp.com where you can get access to those tickets and to the e-course that goes along with it. Aaron, if people are… Actually, I’m gonna ask you first – If every private practitioner in the world were listening right now, Aaron, what would you want them to know? [AARON]:
I want you to know that you are doing incredibly important work, especially right now, that the world needs. And please don’t underestimate your value. [JOE]:
That’s so important. And Aaron, if people want to connect with your work, they want to kind of learn more about your practice, where can they go? [AARON]:
Yeah, my practice is discovercounseling.com. I’m on Facebook and Instagram @discovercounseling. And then, my business partner and I actually just started a podcast, the Shrink Think Podcast, and that will be www.shrinkthinkpodcast.com. Thanks to you and Podcast Launch School. [JOE]:
Awesome. Yeah, I love when clinicians are launching podcasts, that makes me so happy. So, tell me a little bit about that podcast and what you guys are going to cover on it. [AARON]:
Yeah, so Nathan is my business partner. He actually just works down the hall from me. He’s got his own separate company and then we started a third one together. So, I actually run two companies here; one I work out of, the other one I just supervise. But we started this podcast as sort of a behind-the-scenes of what it’s like being a therapist, but then also, like, how do therapists deal with, like, everyday issues? How do we handle relationships and think through our own struggles? So, it was a way for us to, I think, give people sort of a behind-the-scenes look at, I guess, what therapists go through and how we think about things, and also a way for us to kind of talk through some of our own personal things. Not, like, therapy on a podcast, but he and I are good friends, we work together really well, and we don’t get a chance to talk as much because we’re busy, you know, seeing clients and supervising, but we get along really well, so we can share a lot of the same ideas from two completely different perspectives but both as therapists. I think that’s just really fascinating for a lot of people. [JOE]:
I love it. Can’t wait to listen. Well, Aaron, thank you so much for being on the Practice of the Practice podcast. [AARON]:
Thanks for having me, Joe. [JOE]:
So, so awesome. Thank you so much for just hanging out with us and signing up for Killin’It Camp. This is going to be an amazing year, despite having this COVID thing and social distancing and online stuff going, we’re still gonna have an exciting time together at Killin’It Camp. Make sure you get your ticket; it’s only $95 over at killinitcamp.com.
Also, thank you so much Brighter Vision for being our sponsor. Make sure you head on over to brightervision.com. Use promo code Joe – you’re going to get a discount that way. Thank you so much for letting me into your ears and into your brain. Have an amazing day.
Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music; we really like it. This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.