The meeting, of the Liverpool Independent Practitioners (LIPs) group, was at ...
Now, we all know that private practice IS hard ... when you step into this world, you are taking total responsibility for your work and income; YOU have to be the one to take responsibility for finding the clients to allow your business to continue to run, next week and next year; YOU have to pay the bills and YOU have to make the connections that will allow you to be successful in your practice. You are not just turning up and "doing therapy' with the conveyor belt of clients placed in front of you by your employing organisation. No, you have to do the therapy, chase the unpaid invoices, even answer the phones, write the letters, make the appointments, plan ahead ... do you know what ... it can actually feel like a FULL-TIME job being self-employed - even if you are doing it on a part-time basis!
So why would anyone want to do all of that? Why put yourself under all of the stress that goes with that all-encompassing role? Usually, it is because you want more than what a job offers. You want more freedom to choose your hours, to earn what you are worth ... to work with the clients YOU want to work with (not just those that your employer says you should) because this is the work that excites, stimulates and rewards you.
But what I heard a number of times at that meeting was a mis-match between what people were finding themselves doing in their private practices and what they actually wanted to be doing in their private practices. Certainly, personal circumstances came into it, and this is understandable, as life pressures need to be managed too. But I was struck by how, as they spoke about what they loved doing, the clients they felt they could really make a difference with because of their specialist skills and training, the work that fired them up, the energy that they were filled with was exciting to me just sitting there listening to them. But some of that energy seemed to drain away when they spoke of the daily challenges of private practice. The priority for everyone was understandably to make enough to be able to live on - that is the bottom line after all. But it seemed that that imperative had had the effect of causing some speakers to lose sight of their reason for taking this path in the first place, or maybe feel it was too great a step to take just now.
Now, we all know what that is like and I am certainly not suggesting that any of the speakers at the meeting have given up on their ideal practice dreams; I've been where they are now also, I know the bottom line is important in business and if we are not hitting that, well, we won't last long in business. But I know too that if we get so caught up in focusing our energies just on that alone, we are at risk of losing sight of our original dreams, the reason we made the break from a job to being our own bosses: to be able to build the practice that we want to work in.
Each speaker at that meeting knew what their ideal service looked like; their dreams for this came across in their descriptions of what they wanted to do, but some just couldn't seem to see how they were going to achieve this because of all these other pressures on them. But there are things that they, and all of us, can do ...
For me, the first step towards getting beyond the bottom-line is to be found in planning and goal-setting for your business. Not in a wistful "wouldn't it be nice if ..." kind of way, but by making space to step back, even a little, from the pressures of the bottom-line activities, to free up time to structure your vision for your business in such a way that you can lay out a plan of action that will, in time, move you towards your ultimate dream practice.
Try this: Identify an interim end-point (e.g. in 6 months, I will be spending a day a week working with my ideal client group), then lay out the steps that you will need to take to move you closer to achieving this goal (e.g. I will identify referrers who work with this group and begin developing a relationship with them so they recognise me as a potential referral option - offering talks, information guides, etc., to give me name-recognition within their circles; I will make connections with fellow professionals who might be able to cross-refer; I will promote this specialist service through my website and elsewhere). Set realistic but challenging dates by which you will have achieved these interim goals (e.g. I will have written an Information Guide to my therapeutic approach for referrers within the next 2 weeks), and keep sight of what it is you are working to achieve.
Make yourself accountable for this activity - put reminders in your diary and maybe tell someone what it is you are going to be doing by that date, giving them permission to ask to see your efforts. You could, perhaps, work with a coach directly (*waves*) to help keep focused on what you are looking to achieve, but whether you choose to do so or not, what is important is that you take time to formalise your action plan and know that you are committed to working through it; once you make that commitment, your dream practice has just become a little more real.
At that meeting in Liverpool, I heard lots of dreams being described. I know, from speaking with several of those present (about getting clarity about what they aspire to and goal-setting to move things on), that their understanding of what they need to do to achieve this shifted just a little bit more towards their making these dreams a reality for them. It was exciting being a part of that.
So, what changes can you commit to today to do the same? Why not tell me about these in the comments box below?
Go on, be accountable :D