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How can you proactively stress-test and stabilize your practice? Are you working with a process or often winging it as change occurs? Do you have a vision that’s guiding your decisions?
In the first podcast of this two episode series, LaToya Smith speaks about how to stabilize and scale your practice with Shaelene Kite.
Podcast Sponsor: Blueprint
Providing great therapy day after day can be challenging – even for the best of us!
At Blueprint, they believe that nothing should get in the way of you doing your best work, which is why they created a platform that provides therapists with an array of clinical tools – things like therapy worksheets, intervention ideas, and digital assessments – that are designed to help you and your clients can stay connected and confident throughout the care journey. Even better, Blueprint helps streamline your documentation so that you can spend less time on your notes and more time on the things that matter.
To learn more and request a free 30-day trial, visit blueprint-health.com
Meet Shaelene Kite
Shaelene Kite is a DBT-LBC Certified Clinician, Registered Yoga Teacher, Approved Clinical Supervisor and the owner of DBT of South Jersey. She leads a group practice of 20 that has continued to grow rapidly since its opening in 2018. DBT of South Jersey hit its first $1 million plus in revenue just two short years after opening its doors and continues to grow and thrive.
Shaelene is also the owner of Rebelmente, her impact brand where she trains others in the areas of DBT, mindfulness, yoga and trauma. She also hosts T-Talk Podcast, where she shares the therapy tea related to all things healing.
Visit Rebelmente and listen to the T-Talk Podcast.
FREEBIE: Check out Shaelene’s free Organizational Checkup List
In This Podcast
- Work out a process
- What’s your vision?
- Track your progress
Work out a process
Being busy and getting the work done is great, you need to do it to get everything completed and moving.
However, just working on whatever lands in front of you can only get you so far. When you want to reach your goals, you need to be reminded of them and be intentional with working toward them instead of simply just working on whatever is around you.
While trying to scale [the practice] you can’t wing it in that way for so long, you need a process, so I started feeling the growing pains of that last year when I was trying to grow.
What’s your vision?
Winging it when you’re starting out is a process that many entrepreneurs are familiar with. After a while, there comes a point where you need to sit down, take a pause, and figure out your direction.
What is your vision? What is your mission? Where do you want to take your practice and what do you want to achieve with it?
I gotta think about what my long-term vision is [because] if I’m going to get there, it’s not going to be by accident, you know, [because] people who do really well in business don’t get there because they’re likable… you need to back that vision up with work and with people who are going to follow that, and for that to happen you have to be clear and you have to have a plan.
Track your progress
Check in regularly with your practice, your team, and also yourself. Get into the habit of assessing and keeping an eye on things, and consider:
- What is working?
- What can be improved?
- Are the numbers averaging, getting higher, or lower?
If you think about [what] it means to stabilize, it’s like, “Can we get this strong? Can we get this structure and foundation to be solid? Because we’re about to put more pressure on top of it … [because] if there’s a weak link or there’s moving pieces then everything’s going to fall down”.
Stress-test your business. Does everyone who works in your practice know what their role is in the business? Are they accountable for that?
Useful links mentioned in this episode:
Check out these additional resources:
Meet LaToya Smith
LaToya is a consultant with Practice of the Practice and the owner of LCS Counseling and Consulting Agency in Fortworth Texas. She firmly believes that people don’t have to remain stuck in their pain or the place they became wounded. In addition to this, LaToya encourages her clients to be active in their treatment and work towards their desired outcomes.
She has also launched Strong Witness which is a platform designed to connect, transform, and heal communities through the power of storytelling.
Visit LaToya’s website. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Strong Witness Instagram, and Twitter.
Apply to work with LaToya.
Email her at [email protected]
The Grow A Group Practice Podcast is part of the Practice of the Practice Network, a network of podcast seeking to help you market and grow your business and yourself. To hear other podcasts like the Practice of the Practice podcast, go to www.practiceofthepractice.com/network.
You are listening to the Grow A Group Practice Podcast, a podcast focused on helping people start, grow, and scale a group practice. Each week you’ll hear topics that are relevant to group practice owners. I’m LaToya Smith, a practice owner, and I love hearing about people’s stories and real-life experiences. So let’s get started.
Welcome back to the Grow a Group Practice podcast. I’m your host, LaToya Smith and you know we talk about all things group practice, how to start, how to grow, how to scale, and I love talking to well group practice owners and those that I know that can come along and support us with our group practices. So today I have a guest on and I was just chatting with her before we hit record and I’m like, woo, there’s so much great stuff to talk about, as far as her group practice, how she built it, various streams of income, her niche, but also about stabilizing and scaling. So I’m going to give her space to introduce herself. I’m going to ask all kinds of questions, but I also just really want to hear more about her story. Shaelene, please introduce yourself to our audience and tell us a little bit about yourself.
Sure. Hello, I’m Shaelene and I am in South Jersey. I own DBT of South Jersey. We’ll be five years old this summer. It’s a group practice specializing in, you guessed it, DBT. We have about 20 employees there and we’re in two locations now and online everywhere in New Jersey. I also own a mental health training and consulting company called Rebelmente. Rebelmente focuses on training other therapists, but also other educators and wellness professionals on DBT, trauma and yoga and integrating those things. I do speaking events through Rebelmente and I also am the host of the T-Talk Podcast where I share the therapy tea, trying to normalize just that number one, like therapists are humans who are also going through their own healing, what that looks like and that healing doesn’t have to look just like therapy, that there are all kinds of therapies, so just trying to create more access for people to know different ways that they can heal themselves. I’m a yoga teacher, I’m a mom, I have a three-year-old who kicks my butt every day, and yeah, two dogs, a husband and those are the things I think for now.
Yeah, those are a lot of things. You got to lot of hat juggling, but it’s dope. I mean that’s all like, this is all so amazing. I didn’t want to, I don’t want to skirt over any of it because I think what you’re doing and what you’re building is great. But tell us about, so you started your practice in 2018. When you started, it was a solo practice.
Well, no, so in 2018, DBT, well, let me go back, so in 20, as soon as I got my license, like my junior license, my LLC know it was called different things in different states, but as soon as I got that I started doing private work for another group practice. So I was always, and I was working at a community agency so I was hustling and at one point I had three jobs. I was doing community agency work, I was doing private work private practice style with a group practice and then I was teaching yoga. And I was dying because I had three jobs and there was only so long, I was going to be able to keep all that up. Along that time in around 2014, I was working at this agency and doing DBT and I had a lot of clients who were getting better and but they kept coming back because there was nowhere for them to go and trying to find somewhere for them to go was like impossible.
So when I found a referring provider at one point to do a group, I had made contact with her and I said, “You’re the only one in this area that’s doing DBT groups.” She said, “Shaelene, I drive over an hour to come here to do these groups.” I was just like, “Okay, well I’m going to do the groups now.” So I started my first DBT group then, this was in like 2014, and in that time I just kept building because there was a need for DBT. Within like a year I was running four groups by myself outpatient. I had dropped down a part-time at my job, I stopped teaching yoga and then I left all of that and then I was solely working as a someone in private practice. I knew, I always knew that DBT of South Jersey was going to be a thing. I bought the like LLC for it and the domain in 2015 before I was even licensed, before I even, I didn’t have space or employees or anything like that.
So I just had it sitting there and then when I was able to make the jump to private practice and just do that, I just started making my plan for it. I had a wedding to get through, so I was like, let me get through this wedding and then once this wedding is done, I will start this business. That’s what I did. I like interviewed people and had them, like I was training them in my living room because I didn’t have an office or anything yet and then when I found my space, I had one unit, I had a lot of therapists because I was working at an agency and a lot of people wanted to come over, so I was scheduling like down to the hour because we probably had like four offices and we probably had like eight therapists. We were scheduling down to like every 15 minutes. You got a 15-minute window and then someone else is going to come in your office, whatever, whatever.
So that was 2018. 2019 we expanded into the office next to us so we got one big unit with eight offices and a group room and a yoga room, a break room, a waiting room, all that good stuff. So really filled out, but then I got pregnant and so I was like, let me have this baby. I had a baby and I was like, I’m going to come back and I’m going to get the yoga part of this all going and stuff like that. Then I came back in January, 2020 and then it was Covid and so I was like, let me deal with this pandemic. So I did that and did all the virtual stuff, came back, and then we expanded to our second location last year. But I’ll say last year when we expanded in that time, that’s when I started hitting like some growing pains that I wasn’t expecting. Like I knew the second location was coming, I knew it had five offices, so I was like, all right, I’m going to hire five people.
I hired five people and then I was like, oh, money feels tight and it hasn’t felt like this before. Let me look at what’s going on. I realized that only like 30% of my team was actually hitting their full-time targets and so, I know we’ll talk a little bit about stabilizing scale, but I needed like, help running the business because being busy, being a niche, being like the main person in the area, that got me really far without knowing anything. But it only got me so far while trying to scale it, like, you can’t wing it in that way for so long. You need a process. So I started feeling the growing pains of that last year where I was trying to grow in the way that I knew how it was just organic and then things hit a wall because I hired a bunch of people at once. I started holding people accountable, people left, like there was all this like icky growth hurt that was happening last year. So now we’re in a different place. I feel like the cruise ship is turned and hopefully we’re setting sail into the sunset. We’ll see but yeah.
Providing great therapy day after day can be challenging even for the best of us. At Blueprint, they believe that nothing should get in the way of you doing your best work, which is why they created a platform that provides therapists with an array of clinical tools; things like therapy, worksheets, intervention ideas, and digital assessments that are designed to help you and your clients stay connected and confident throughout the care journey. Even better, Blueprint helps streamline your documentation so that you can spend less time on your notes and more times on things that matter. To learn more and request a free 30-day trial visit www.blueprint-health.com.
That’s a growth quick
No, and that was amazing. So when you hit that growth spur, I love that you said growing pains, that’s a phrase that I use too because it’s a real thing and it happens but it’s like par for the course. But it helps to get through and to level up. I think going through that is part of the stabilization process. So you got support and that part is that when you went back and you got business support, then, so you did all the other stuff. It sounds like you were very focused, like you bought the domain, you knew what you wanted before you reached, visionary, it seems like, like, listen, yes, I’m going to go there one day. I’m going to get it now.
Yeah, it was very it was all a dream. Like I saw the thing and the steps we’ll figure this stuff out later. I think of that a lot when I think about training my first hires. Like, I hired people and I was like, I don’t have an office to show you. I don’t know where you’re going to be working. I think it’ll be something like this. Here’s what I’m doing. And they really trusted me. I mean, one of them was an intern, so I knew her, but one person was like, “off the street.” Like she didn’t know who I was at all. Yeah, it was like, come sit in my, like, we’ll have meetings in my, at my house. They weren’t licensed yet, so it like worked out but yeah, I was changing them in my living room and my living room was like, my house was full of desks.
I knew that I was going to have an office. I didn’t know where it was going to be. Then my husband found these desks at like a Habitat for Humanity. I lived in a smaller house at the time, so like, you walk into my house and I had eight desks, like stacked on top of each other. like in my living room, in my dining room, in my kitchen. So I’m bringing these therapists in and I’m like, “Okay, sit down. Don’t mind those desks. They’re going to go wherever the office is.” There was a lot of like trusted and let it go and just, I don’t know, it’s weird because I’m so controlling that I’m like, I can’t believe I tolerated that. I was just like, yeah, I’ll hire you and I don’t know where you’re going to go. But I don’t know, I just like deeply knew that something was going to work. I wouldn’t recommend that to people, but I just knew it was going to happen but yeah, I would say it wasn’t until like the last year I got really serious with I need to come up with another plan because I don’t like how this stuff feels like the not knowing and the organic growth, which really translates to like winging it.
Yeah, yeah. So I’m more of the winged person, like, hey, —
I’ve been it, I’ve been it. Yeah, it worked for, it worked, it worked for a while and it probably would’ve kept working. But like, if I’m going to grow and I got to think of what my long-term vision is, if I’m going to get there, it’s not going to be by accident. People who do really well in businesses, they don’t get there because they’re likable and because you know that one person was a good therapist, you now have like 20 people that you need to back that vision up with work and with people who are going to follow that. In order for that to happen, you have to be clear and you have to have a plan. So there’s only so far I was going to get with that?
I like that, back the vision up with the plan, actually like that a lot. Let’s talk about like the stabilizing part. So you realized you had to wait a minute, I have to slow down, take a good look at things when you reached the second location and realize it ain’t flowing like it was flowing the first time around.
It was not flowing, it was cut and dry. What, yeah, basically like we’re doing what we always did, like, okay, we’re full, we’re going to grow, we need a hire therapist, let’s do it. So that’s what we did and yeah, I just, like every two weeks I was, I’m doing like a profit first. Like I don’t follow it strictly, but every two weeks I’m going in there, I’m looking at the money that’s there and then I’m moving that into all of the different accounts and I was like, man, there used to be more money in here. When I moved over, there’s not that much left over. So I was like, let me see what’s going on.
When I looked my, I think like most full-time therapists are probably doing about 25 direct clinical hours. That’s my expectation. It’s never been something that I’ve really had to follow up with people on or at least I didn’t think I did because things were always flowing. So when I stopped and I charted it all out, only 30% of my entire team was hitting that number. So now at this point, what’s different from when I first opened is now people they have PTO, they have health insurance, they get a stipend every month, there’s trainings on. So I’m spending all of this money thinking that everyone was going to bring, the way I explained it to a therapist one time was like we all agree that we’re going to go to dinner together and everyone was going to bring a pie, but all of a sudden everyone showed up to eat and there were only three slices of pie and everyone’s hungry. Like, I still got to feed everybody.
So it wasn’t until I really looked at everything that I realized, oh, okay, like this isn’t happening. Then it’s like, okay, well, why is, why aren’t things happening? Are people clear on this? Do they understand this? Is there any system of accountability? There really wasn’t for any of those things. So, yeah, I mean if you think about what does it mean to stabilize, it’s like, can we get this strong? Can we get the structure of the foundation to be solid because we’re about to put more pressure on top of it and if we put more pressure on top of it and there’s like a weak link or there’s moving pieces, then everything’s going to fall down. So yeah. I would say that was probably like the first big part of that is knowing within this business, what is every person accountable? Do they know what they’re accountable for? What number is that?
For therapists it’s 25 direct clinical hours. For the intake coordinator it’s a 40% conversion rate, 20 calls a week. Like does everyone know that they have a number that they’re responsible for? They didn’t. Then once they know how are they kept accountable for that. So we started making it so that way supervisors now know what to say, when to say, what the process is going to be if somebody doesn’t hit what their target is, and all of the things that are associated with that and to make the therapists aware of what those numbers are each week as well. So just to try and be like more transparent. We’re going to hold you this expectation, we want to support you in it. In order to do that, here’s everything that you need to know.
So that was like a six-month process to where I think this week I just looked, it was like my team’s at like 90% of hitting their targets. But it was a long slow because now instead of having everyone, so let’s say, now 75% of the team is under, and I’m like, hey, you need to get to this number, they’re all trying to get to the number now while I just hired five people. So those intakes coming in, it’s not intakes for just filling up a couple of people, it’s intakes for filling up everyone because now every, so now it’s taking longer for people to get full. So it took about six months to correct everything and in that time some people left.
So when you say stabilized for those that are listening, they say, okay, I really want to get my practice stable, is this a thing where you’re growing, growing, growing, like you did and you hit that growth, growing pain, like, oh my goodness, I got to do it? Is this something people need to be doing like as soon before they open their doors, make sure you have that solid foundation? Or like, is this an ongoing thing where you’ll get, it’ll get rocky and then get stable? So what is it?
Yeah, I think that it’s, I mean it’s hard because like on the one hand I want to tell people to have as much of their stuff together before they get started and at the same time, if you’re trying to perfect something before you get going, you’re never going to do it. I mean I can give you a bunch of examples of ideas that I thought were great, but they just never went anywhere because I’m like, it’s got to be like this, it’s got to be like this. So, you want to find the balance of like enough to get you right to where you can get going. I think it’s, I consult to a lot of group practice owners and through stabilizing scale, it’s a program that my partner and I are, that we have for other group practice owners.
So it’s like people are going to come in at any stage in owning a group practice. There’ll be people who have one, I just hired my first employee to like, I have a $3 million, 30 something employee practice and all of them need help with the same concepts. So stabilizing doesn’t necessarily need to some be something that you have right perfect from the beginning. However, the more tight that you can have that foundation, the less you’re going to have to course correct in the future. So even though moving forward, there are always going to be points where we need to like look, come back to basic and try and work on the foundation. If it’s strong, that’s not going to take as much time and effort moving forward because now you and all of your team know what it is that you’re doing. You’re speaking the same language and everyone’s rowing the boat in the same direction as opposed to everyone doing their own thing.
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