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Check Your Compass

Strategies to Put Your Practice on a Successful Path

Throughout the life of your business, you will encounter times when it is vital to reassess your direction. Your practice might be on a path you hadn’t planned on going down—or it might be stalled altogether. Have you found yourself asking, “How did I get here?” or “How can I get to where I want to be?”

You might have an elaborate business plan with specific goals, but if you don’t have the self-assessment tools to chart your path successfully, then you won’t get where you need to. Come with me on a journey of self-exploration and assessment to put your practice on a successful path.

Are You Off Track?

It can be difficult to change career direction when you’re experiencing the outward manifestations of success. Some common indicators that point to the need to reevaluate your practice’s growth may include:

  • Working too many hours, yet not having enough billable hours.
  • Developing the practice to where there’s too much work to do by yourself.
  • Outgrowing the physical space.
  • Needing to better serve your clientele.
  • Attempting to appeal to too many target markets.
  • Offering too wide a range of services.
  • Restlessness or vague dissatisfaction.

Refrain from taking action without first considering the ramifications. Before implementing major shifts in your practice, step back and identify what is important to you and determine how you ultimately want to run your business and lead your life. Then evaluate your current status. Once you’ve done these steps, you are in a much better position to decide the best way to take your practice to the next level.

Start this process by focusing on the bigger picture of your life. Are you satisfied in most areas? Are you living the life you choose or have you acquiesced to what’s come your way?

Explore Your Wants, Needs and Values

A satisfying and balanced life occurs when your values are in synchrony with the way you live your life and run your business. Invest the time in exploring your values. After all, they are the major conscious and unconscious influences on the decisions you make throughout your life. Many conflicts in one’s life, both professional and personal, arise because there is a clash of values either within oneself or with others.

Questions to Clarify Your Personal Values

  1. My Ideal Life
    • What would I do with my life if I could do anything? Why?
  2. Happiness
    • The people I know who seem to be happy are happy because…
    • I am happiest when I am…
    • What is my most treasured memory? Why?
  3. Relationships
    • The most admirable things about me are…
    • When I look at my home life, the activities that are of the most worth are…
    • The things I most value in a relationship are…
    • Who and what have been major influences in my values development?
    • Who are the most important people in my life? What could I do to improve those relationships?
  4. Core Values
    • What values are most important to me?
    • What are the character traits I deem essential?
    • What is the greatest accomplishment of my life? What do I hope to do that is as great or even better?
    • If I only had one year to live, I would concentrate on…Am I doing those things now? If not, why?

After you’ve identified the elements of life that are truly important to you, then examine how your career fits into that picture. How does your business support your life vision and how does it detract from it?

Questions to Clarify Your Professional Values

  1. My Work Life
    • My attitudes and beliefs about wellness are:
    • My attitudes and beliefs about my profession are:
  2. Professionalism
    • How do my values enhance my professionalism and affect my work with clients?
    • What are the most meaningful attributes of an effective practitioner in my field?
    • Which of my personal values might conflict with professional rules of conduct?
    • Which of my personal values might conflict with laws or regulations?
    • What is my commitment to customer service?
  3. Core Values
    • What are the most important personal characteristics for someone in my field?
    • What are the key professional characteristics for someone in my field?
    • When I look at my work life in perspective, the activities that have the most worth to me are…
    • What are the key elements I embrace in running a business?

Success Markers

Quite often we have conflicting ideas of what it means to be successful, and our requirements for success may vary greatly in the personal, business and social realms. What does success really mean to you? Are you successful only if you earn a certain amount of money, perform miracles in your work, look a particular way, are in a perfect relationship, drive a great car or live in the right neighborhood? Is success a “thing” to achieve or a way of being? Make a list of your major success markers and assess where you are in terms of achieving those markers. For instance, let’s say that one of your success markers is to work with 20 clients each week. Look over your records for the past month and calculate the average number of people you see each week. Then do the same for the past several quarters and also note the direction you’ve been going. Are you moving toward your goal or away from it?

I recently came across this apt quote from Kevin Smith:

Sometimes the path you’re on is not as important as the direction you’re heading.

Typical Success Markers

  • Gross income a business generates
  • Profit or salary
  • Number of years in practice
  • Number of years in current job
  • Scope of practice
  • Total client base
  • Number of clients seen each week
  • Number of hours worked
  • Amount of leisure time enjoyed
  • Number of associates and employees
  • Office location, square footage or ambiance
  • Prominence on a local, national or international level

What sets you apart is a combination of your training, personality and philosophy.

Evaluate Your Practice

The next phase in determining the best way to take your practice to the next level is to evaluate your practice in terms of overall descriptive factors, numbers, statistics, your personal qualities and professional capabilities.

Summarize the current state of your career or business experience. Include the length of time you have been in this field, your average yearly income, your average yearly expenses, your gross profit, perks, the number of clients you see each week, and your total number of clients. Define your major target markets and how many clients are in each of those target markets. If you are an employee, you might not know all of those statistics, but other pertinent information to include are things such as seniority status, shift, title, and benefits.

Reflect on your personality characteristics that make you good at your job. Consider qualities such as confidence, positive mental attitude, flexibility, maintain healthy boundaries, willing to take risks, determination, focused, caring, and respectful. How good are your communication skills? Do you enjoy having co-workers or prefer to be in private practice? Most importantly, what do you really think about your clients? When you work with people do you feel a sense of honor at being allowed to touch another human being?

Describe what it is that you actually do. What approach do you take to your work? What techniques do you utilize? What is your level of expertise? Do you regularly invest in continuing education? Do you use any special equipment or tools? How do you run the day-to-day operations of your practice? What is your level of business acumen?

Taking in all the information from your evaluation, contemplate on what sets you apart from other massage therapists. Most people claim to be unique, and I can say that from experiencing more than 1,000 massages, I’ve never had the same massage—even from people with the same training. What sets you apart is a combination of your training, personality, and philosophy. Sometimes other key factors in your differential advantage are your equipment, hours and location. So, what makes you unique?

Matching Future to Present

The final step in evaluating your practice is to compare and contrast your ideal vision of your practice with the current status. Once this groundwork is established, you can more easily be objective in your business direction decision-making process. Consider the following questions:

  • What are the three attributes of your practice of which you are the most proud?
  • What is working well?
  • What success markers have you achieved?
  • What success markers are on target of being achieved?
  • What isn’t working well?
  • What success markers have you not achieved?
  • What changes would you like to see occur?
  • What do you want to be doing that you aren’t doing now?
  • What would you like people to say about your business?
  • How does your business support your life vision?
  • How does your business detract from your life vision?

Alter Your Course

The two most common options for altering your course are expansion or contraction. Expansion can include offering new modalities and services, adding more products to your retail line, attracting new target markets, increasing the number of hours worked, enlarging the square footage of your physical location, opening another location, hiring office staff, hiring other practitioners, joining with other practitioners as associates or partners, augmenting your marketing endeavors, and diversifying your practice to include activities such as teaching or doing research.

Contraction can include narrowing your focus to a specific condition or modality, reducing the number of target markets you serve, working less hours, hiring support staff, getting a smaller office, and reducing your overhead expenses.

Stay or Go

Ultimately, there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to making a choice to stay on a path or move to a new one. The only true factor is what is the best decision for you in terms of your overall needs, wants and goals. Keep in mind that bigger is not always better. Also you don’t have to pursue each of your talents or abilities. Note that it is not always easy to see all your options by yourself, as in telling the proverbial trees from the forest. You might consider working on this process with a colleague, counselor, or coach.