What is considered a good return on investment? How can you develop and stay on brand in your new private practice? Which great lessons have you learned that you can build on from today?
In this podcast episode, LaToya Smith speaks about the three key takeaways from Practice of the Practice membership communities with Chris McMullen.
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Chris is a licensed professional counselor and the group practice owner of Anew Counseling.
Early in his adolescence, Chris was keenly aware of the suffering around him. He quickly realized that people needed real skills and tools to help them overcome life issues and painful problems, and he could not wait to offer help. Since committing to the call of being a counselor, Chris has looked forward to the day of opening his own practice. He is now living that dream.
A good return on investment is not only true for money, but also for time and energy.
Great ROIs help you to see that the value that you put into something is not only relevant in one area, but across multiple.
Work with clinicians and consultants that help you to develop and stay on your brand. The authenticity of your practice comes from you working directly with your passions, so find people that encourage you to do so and show you how to do it best.
Staying on brand is key to creating a great culture, and this culture will be appreciated both by your clinicians and your clients.
Develop the culture that you want to have present within your practice and hire people that identify and embody the values that support this culture.
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 outcome.
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. You know that when we are on pair, we talk about all things group practice, so whatever’s going to help you build, grow, scale, what you need to implement, and just practical stuff just to chat about when it comes to being a practice owner, things we all need to learn, need to know need to implement. I’m excited today, usually I say, okay, I met somebody on social media, but this person I already knew. It’s funny because I don’t remember what came first. I think we, our guest is here today. We work out together in the mornings, and we certainly used to work out together and I thought I would show up late, but he always showed up later than I did. So I felt bad about when I arrived to the workout, but even though he showed up late, he was always the first to finish every exercise. It really didn’t matter, and I was chatting or laughing or doing something else, but we both worked out. Anyway, today my guest is Chris McMullen, and I’m excited to have you on here today. So thank you so much for being a guest.
Hey, thank you. I’m really excited. I think it’s the first time I’ve done a podcast where I really know more about the host, so I’m, I’m looking forward to this one. Not that I didn’t look for the other ones, but it’s different knowing the person that I’m talking with today so I’m looking forward to, LaToya.
Yes, it is good. You know what else is funny is that we could have, Chris and I actually passed each other by before we hit record in the parking garage. We may see each other leaving the building in the parking garage. We really could have sat in the same room and did this podcast, but it’s fine, you go to your office, I go to mine and we did. Chris, welcome. Why don’t you introduce yourself to the audience, the name of your practice, everything like that, because I really want them to know more about you?
I’m Chris McMullen, like LaToya said. My practice is Anew Counseling DFW. We work with those dealing with trauma and addiction and related services connected to marriage and trauma, couples counseling, trauma, depression, anxiety things like that. So it’s like under that, like that larger umbrella is the population that we serve.
I think you’re one of the first people I knew that, well, I guess personally, I know that really focus on like addiction when it comes to sex addiction and pornography. That’s part of your niche too, right?
Oh, yes. Oh, yes, yes. I believe in, like one of my brand values is vulnerability and I practice that in session. So as appropriate and I feel like it’s pertinent too is that I chose porn and sex addiction because I dealt with porn addiction. I felt like going up, the resources that I had available as a team, even though it’s not as widespread and easily available as it is now is, I felt like there wasn’t a lot of tools out there. So I began to journey when I was 15 or 16 to really understand what those things were out there or looking for ways to create that for the community and as I’ve grown as a counselor professionally seeing what’s in the landscape that addresses it in different ways. So like figuring out like how I want to also present it to the population that I serve and taking the best from the different people that have already led the way in different areas. That’s a big passion of mine because of my own experiences and stuff. It helped that I didn’t feel with really available back when I was a team.
Thank you for sharing that because I know self-disclosure is important in sessions sometimes, especially if it makes somebody else, if makes them feel comfortable with a client that’s in here. And do you find that you see more when it comes to like the pornography sex addiction, is it more men that reach out or is it women, or is it a mix?
It’s a good amount of men. If there is women, it’s usually more sex-related but it may not present itself as that originally. It may just be relationship stuff or trauma, a difficult relationship and then it may show up inadvertently, like just by the longer that we’re working together but so more or less tend to be more men, probably 90%, 95%. Then with the sex addiction stuff with behavioral things like that and things related, there may be like 70, 30 regarding that.
Okay. Well, thank you for sharing that. I know you got a very special niche and always like hearing about it when you talk about it. You have grown a practice. I know that you’ve recently, I think what within the last year and a half have said, hey, I’m going to launch into this group practice thing, and I look back at your website, you got like four or five other therapists in there. I was like, okay, Chris, I didn’t know you was moving right along. I know you were in Group Practice Launch, at a time you were in Next Level Practice so I really want to spend some time today talking about the key takeaways that you got that helped you get to where you are now in your group practice. I know you got maybe about 3.3 tips, like, yes, listen from Group Practice Launch, these are definitely things that I’m taking away. Help me get who I am. So let’s start breaking that list down then. What’s one key thing that hey, this really, really helped me?
We’re trying to invest and it’s touched on, and it’s a big, I felt like a part of like Next Level Practice with individual practice, but I felt like it bled into, for me, into Group Practice Launch and like it’s throughout it. But I think that it probably has been a key component of growing my practice is when I’m looking at return on investment, I don’t think of it solely in terms of like money. I think of it terms of like my time, my counseling skills and so if I’m trying to learn, say, CBT and to implement it better in a session and stuff I don’t also need to be like looking at or looking at like how to becoming better at EMDR because then my return on my investment goes down, I’m distracted because I’m strain myself too far or if return on investment, my time, if I schedule I’m still working on this one.
if I blocked out like seven hours of counseling, six hours counseling, five hours of counseling, and for a particular day, and then I can’t fit someone in during those times in my schedule, and then I push them outside of that, my return on investment goes down because now I’m worried about am I going to get my notes done? How am I going to adjust because I’ve moved my schedule around and everything? So the practices that I have or those rhythms and stuff get thrown off so I’m not as efficient in that, or even continue to look at branding and like what we’re putting out with marketing and stuff is it consistent on brand. Because that all affects the return because if it’s not, I guess, continuing, like evaluated not in terms of just like money as far as like if I say do Google Ads and I see like four people sign up for X amount of money that is one way to look at it.
But I think, for me, I’ve internalized it in a way of how it doesn’t just affect like a dollar amount, but also how it affects like, different areas of my life or even how it affects the client as far as what am I doing? Like one of the things that I do a lot in sessions, and I did it before I really began to internalize return on investment, is I would tell people to three or four years ago, is that you’re giving me an hour of your time from your kids, from your work, from whatever, something else. I would tell people is that like, you could choose someone else, but you chose me and everything, and I would hate for you to feel like you’re coming to counseling and you’re not leaving better.
So helping to find better, helping to find their goals, not simply because I’m like solution focused, but that, like, if I’m helping them realize what they want and helping them form that and everything, then they’re more motivated because it’s something that they’ve internally created and that they’re moving towards, so like educating clients on your return, on your time and money is that I don’t want you to feel like you’re coming in here and you’re not getting your money’s worth or you’re not getting better or you’re not seeing tangible changes. So how can I best communicate that and join you in the process and so that you feel like this is a good investment for you as well? That’s where I try to generalize it and that works for me, is not to just, again, relegate it to, in terms of money but how it infiltrates all areas of my practice, if that makes sense.
No, it does. That’s something I’ve been saying to people, whether in the groups where we meet or individually, like there’s a difference between being effective and efficient. I can do it, yes but this efficiency, am I doing it without little waste of time and resources? Resources can be money, resources can be, again, my personal time and making good use of my team and what I’m doing, like you said, the brand marketing, is it working or am I just doing it to do it? But I love that. I think that’s important. That’s an excellent takeaway, especially when it comes from consulting. That’s the things you want to get out of it. Even when you do consulting, you want to know that you’re getting something back from it and that you just didn’t sign up for something.
Yes, oh yes. A hundred percent, a hundred percent. And I think that goes, it also goes into my next like area that I got is that like, being on brand, being connected to your niche or your ideal client. That ties into return on investment because my observation is, if you don’t know your ideal client well then it affects everything else. I mean, if you don’t know your market well, if you don’t know your niche well and stuff, and then you get muddied and like the marketing messages, I think that for myself and witnessing the landscape of counseling at least locally sometimes, is that we put out a shingle and I mean, myself included and I had a little help because I started reading stuff or before I got on Next Level Practice, things about like how important, it’s to be niched and really know that, and I’ve continue to try to define that.
But if that those things aren’t clear target market, ideal client and niche, then it affects where you market, like for in a magazine on the radio, doing TikTok, doing Instagram, doing Psychology Today, doing networking events, doing presentations in the community, going to doctor’s offices talking to colleagues and everything. If you’re not clear on that, then you don’t stand out. If you’re not clear on that, you fade to the background because what you end up marketing is the issues that you work with versus what makes you different, what makes you stand out? When you sound the same as everyone else, then you’re not memorable, not because you’re not a good counselor, but because figuring that out sets you apart.
It says that I like this type of client, not because I don’t like these others, but I really have thought about who I work with best and what I do and when I’m connected to that, it makes my decisions for that marketing for who I refer to, all those things. Because if I’m connected to that, I’m, again, more genuine. I’m more connected to the clients I work with. I’m more, again, that goes back to return on investment, I’m more excited about coming in to my sessions and stuff. It affects like counselors you bring in, it affects who you partner with for services, like SEO or say a marketing company or an admin. It affects all things.
When you’re really continuing, evaluating that and looking at that and everything, it becomes clearer and clearer and you get better and better at the marketing, your counseling, all those things. I mean, they’re interrelated. So as you’re continually like working on that it really becomes better defined over time as you figure out for yourself but it attracts those people and it increases your return on investment with the clients you work with. So, I mean, it’s circular. I mean, it is like, if one affects the other and then those people that are your great, your ideal client and stuff in that market because your skills are so good. I think it was Joe on another podcast I listened to not too long ago, like two months ago, is if you’re really good with working this client with the counseling skills you have, and someone that’s not your ideal client, but they saw the results from their friend, they saw the results from their family member, their coworker, they’re like, I know that I may not be exactly my fit, but it works for me. I want those results.
Because you’re so narrowed down and you’re so focused on what you’re good at and everything, and that client that you work best with, then it inadvertently affects those other things, those other people that may not exactly quite fit in there. It actually helps you be better. So the clients that come on may not be as good a fit or not the great fit, you’ll still help them to a degree because you’ve practiced over and over and over and over again, connecting to that ideal client, connecting to that market, connecting to those things and stuff. So you’re very on brand or very, what’s the word, congruence with who you are, clients you work with, your marketing messages, all those things, and you’re speaking their language and they fill that because otherwise then you know I think, Whitney and Alison say it somewhere in there is like, if you’re speaking to everyone you’re speaking to no one
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Yes, that’s a good point. Actually, I love that. It goes with your first one, so this is a good return on my investments, this is a good place to place my time and my resources, people or money as resources. But then the other part, stay on brand, which is exactly with your niche, you had to. If you want to build a practice that focuses on this, you bring in therapists that understand this trauma, understand addiction, understand the importance of recovery, understand porn addiction because you want to build and place yourself, which I think you’ve done a good job of doing it, establish yourself as experts in this niche that, hey, I got to stay focused because like you just said everywhere, that I’m really nowhere. That means there’s a lot of things, not that you can’t treat the 10 year old young person in the school who is having social anxiety. Not that you guys can’t do that, because if somebody calls and you’re available, you will but it’s like saying, hey, this is what we’re experts in, and now the word, like you just said a minute ago, the words being spread to the community and hey, you’re staying on.
Yes, I love that. Rather than, I mean, I was guilty of it, is that like in the beginning, before I knew marketing, got exposed to Joe and stuff and others, I just thought like marketing is like identifying my issues I want to work with and then doing back, before I got exposed more to the marketing back in 2015 or 16, I think I came across Joe in 17 or 18 was just I’m going to go and meet some people. I’ll go to doctor’s offices. I’ll go to Psychology Today, and then I’ll just be someone that’s focused on sex and porn addiction. There’s only like total, the Fort Worth like area, there’s only like maybe 12 that deal with aspects of that. Even though that’s not a lot, say if like, versus marriage counseling or trauma, kids or whatever, play therapy it still doesn’t make me stand out.
So the more that I realized even within that how you stand out is becoming clear on that ideal client, becoming clear on those things and stuff, and narrowing down because it refines your message. It makes you stand out. It makes you different in a crowded marketplace. So that’s where it’s like Google, no one else thinks about like Ash Gs now, or Alta Vista or any of those other search engines. It’s because they didn’t, they were maybe trying to copy and versus what is it that people want? Who are we appealing to? Who is that really going to use this? So thinking in those terms really helps you address those clients well.
Yes. I say that to people too. Whatever that thing is that helps you stand out, like blow it up no matter how small it is or what it is, blow that up so big. That’s a part of your brand, that’s a part of your niche. What would you say is the final thing, like I know it was a lot you learned from groups that you were in, Group Practice Launch, Next Level Practice, but what’s the next thing that you say, hey, this was really one of my key takeaways from being a part of that?
Like culture. This doesn’t necessarily come from totally Group Practice Launch, but some of it does material like you do, I think Whitney was like, do you do Enneagrams or the strength finders or Myers Briggs or different things like that to get to know who’s working with you or whatever. But also like, looking at the landscape of companies that are on brand that are consistent in the things that they do. They’re not trying to be spread out. One of the things that I really took to heart was creating a culture that is connected to the practices values, like what drives us and everything. Because without laying that out, then the day defines you, the client defines you, versus you defining it. Like when I look at like chick-fil-A, their brand is consistent with the cleanest of the environment, the people that, it’s my pleasure. Like always there’s always a smile on their face majority of the time. It’s bright. The food quality is consistent. Amazon, it’s consistent with as far as the website, the pricing, ease of use and stuff, I mean, nothing is perfect in these things but it’s on brand or it’s a culture.
Or Apple. Apple is a big culture of like, they challenge the status quo. Because of that, because of what they’re connected to their why, why they exist, it allows them to define so many different arenas. Like in computers, in phones, in music, in tv, in whatever because their culture is connected to their values, their identity, their vision and so with that vision, people are just wandering. So casting vision, connected to that and stuff helps people I think, join in that. And again, it goes, these things are interrelated. It connects to the return of investment, connects to the ideal client and market because when those are in line and everything there’s a lot of congruence with those different things and it moves you forward and it informs your decisions for like all aspects of your practice, of your group practice.
So it’s not something like, I’m not, means have figured this out, but I think one of the things, it’s not like a fourth point, but like an overall idea that I got from Group Practice Launch is that we’re always continuing, like evaluating and growing, like the word that I really, I think begin to conceptualize is we growing, us growing as practice owners, us growing as a counselor, and expanding the idea of growth, not just in terms of like counseling skills, but in terms of how we do a business and continually evaluating, continuing, looking at it and stuff. Because someone says it better as if you’re not growing, you’re dying. In different ways I want to keep growing because I can control that.
That’s exciting. I can always get better. I can always control that in small ways, in big ways. So if I’m making those small steps every day toward growth and everything, man, I have, the sky is the limit. But if I look at, well, that’s not connecting, that’s not connecting, I’m not lining up, I’m not thinking back about my culture and growth is one of my values for the brand, for Anew, is that, like, how are we always focused on growth as a practice in our counseling with the clients we work with, how are we promoting them? How are we promoting being vulnerable, is one of ours too? How are we promoting, I mean being bold and putting ourselves out there both in terms of like whether we’re counseling, whether we’re marking ourselves, whether with our clients and challenging them or not, like necessarily, I’m thinking about this stall therapy or directive therapy, but more from a place of internal and that this happens to affect the counseling that we do, we perform and how it affects the different arenas. Because as those things are connected and everything, it all flows.
It doesn’t mean that everyone may be perfect line up, but when you see those things and that’s important to you and you can connect to that you’re in line with your, I mean, it’s overall consistent and it like creates growth for the practice, for the individual, for the clients and stuff, because it’s all consistent. That would be my third thing is that culture idea. What are you building? So when people walk in the door with whatever it is I’m not, I don’t just have like coffee and sparkling water because. It’s cool and I want to stand out, but because if I’m in value, creativity, curiosity, collaboration, excellence and stuff, I want to treat my clients excellently and that this all happens to be something that we provide? It’s just connected to the values.
No, I think this is great. I know we’re focusing on what you’ve learned from the consulting with Practice of the Practice, help grow your practice. These are key things, things that, yes, when you set up shop and get going without support from anybody, a lot of times you just do what we know. But what I hear you saying, look, listen, some of the stuff I learned in the beginning as far as developing, yes, the mission, the vision, but also the values that are important, and then constantly going back and evaluating to see where I’m at not just doing stuff to do it, but yes, when I create this culture and this is who we are, it helps me to stay on brand. Now I’m also getting a great return on my investment because I’m not wasting time in places I don’t need to be in.
So all of it really ties in together. All of this has also helped you grow and establish a healthy, strong, vibrant growing group practice. I mean, I think this is great. I love how you broke it down. I love where you’re at. I remember when you got the office over here and it was just you and now a short time later because you, I mean, how’s it going, the saying says, trust the process because you trusted the process you’re where you’re at. Chris, I just appreciate you even being on here. I appreciate you sharing these things and hopefully those that are listening can hear what you’ve learned and realize what, I need to be a part of that as well, I need to jump on.
Yes, I hope to motivate and encourage others and stuff because I think it’s what it’s about, sharing it and passing along, like Practice of the Practice does so well. He’s sharing that wealth of information and experience, so we don’t have to struggle as much. So hopefully some someone’s story or anything that I shared today can help someone else not make those same mistakes or not struggle like that.
Yes. Chris, anybody who’s listening and they want to know how to get in touch with you, maybe they have questions, maybe they have a niche that they want to start that’s similar like yours, how can they reach out to you and just connect with you?
The best way would be through my email, [email protected]
, and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Then I’d love to, if you have any questions or thoughts or I want to process stuff I would love to help you any way I can.
Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Chris.
You’re welcome. Thank you so much, LaToya.
Man, I really loved that podcast interview this episode, especially with Chris. Like I said, in the interview, I remember when he got his first office and he was just a solo practitioner and now to see him grow to all the therapists he has with them, to really understand his brand, his niche, and really understand where he wants to put his energy and how he wants to grow, is amazing. These are the things that you can get out of consulting. I’ll say it all the time in the groups I’m in, man, when I started my practice, I really didn’t hey, I just started to start. I didn’t have somebody there to help me, to guide me along the way. So if you listen to the interview, you love the things that Chris said he learned and you really need some support, make sure you head over to practiceofthepractice.com/apply and you can really apply to work with any of the consultants, myself, Ashley Andrew, Joe, or join one of the membership communities: Next Level Practice, if you’re a solo practitioner, you’re just getting started in private practice for yourself and you want to learn things, all things business as it relates to your practice; Group Practice Launch, if you’ve been in private practice and are ready to take your practice to the next level, which will be a group practice.
We’ll give you the tools, will provide you with a framework of how to grow, how to start a group practice. Then of course, Group Practice. Boss. That’s when you have a group practice, you have a few clinicians with you, but really want to begin to just scale it to a totally different level. There’s so much to learn, such great community with other therapists, practice owners that are a part of it. Make sure you head over to practiceofthepractice.com/apply.
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