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