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When to Reassess Your Practice
Throughout the life of your business you will encounter vital times when to reassess your direction. Businesses tend to take on a life of their own. So yours may be going down a path you hadn't planned One day you look around and ask yourself, "Just how did I get here? This wasn't exactly what I had in mind."
Even though you may have an elaborate business plan with specific goals, sometimes things snowball. Consider the following scenario.
Robin Smith is a massage therapist who has been in practice for 18 months. The majority of her work is deep-tissue and sports massage. She decides to get training in chair massage so she can diversify her practice and because she sees it as a way to increase her visibility in the community and thus enlarge her clientele base. After a while, she secures a corporate account to do chair massage for a ACME, Inc., one day a week.
All is going well, and after several months, the company s director asks her to come in 2 days each week. Smith is ecstatic! She enjoys the change of pace of working part time at the company and is relieved to have a steady income source.
Soon Acme, Inc. expands exponentially. Smith finds herself working more and more there and less and less at her own practice. A year passes and she is in the position of needing to hire additional therapists to fulfill the massage needs at Acme, Inc. The prospect is exciting to her, yet she is also experiencing a vague sense of uneasiness. At first, she dismisses her discomfort as fear. Upon further reflection, she discovers that the uneasiness stems from the fact that although she is very "successful" with her corporate massage, she isn't really doing much of the type of work she truly enjoys.
Often, changes are so subtle you don't even notice them until something forces you to evaluate your situation and life. In this scenario, Smith was able to easily adapt her practice to include the corporate work when it was part time. Not until she was required to make a major shift did she even question the direction her career was taking.
At this point Smith has many options. Her choice need not be an all-or-nothing proposition. The following ideas cover her major options. Many sublevels of activities can be developed within these four career positions.
Devote herself completely to managing the corporate account. This includes hiring and managing staff, directly working with clients, marketing the service within the corporation and overseeing all aspects of the operation.
Do most of the steps above and hire enough staff so she can still work on private clients 1-to-2 days a week.
Manage the account, not do any chair massages, and work on private clients 2-to-4 days per week.
Sell her corporate contract to another therapist, invest the money, and go back to working on private clients. She might include a clause in the sales agreement that she be retained as a consultant.
It can be difficult to change career direction when you are experiencing the outward manifestations of success. Traditional markers for assessing business success include:
- gross amount of income a business generates
- profit or salary
- number of years in practice
- scope of practice
- total client base and the number of clients seen each week
- number of hours worked or the amount of leisure time you enjoy
- number of associates and employees
- location, square footage and ambience of the office
- your prominence on a local, national and/or international level
My personal definition of business success is simply being able to do what I love and earn a decent living doing it. The challenge arises when one enjoys a wide variety of activities and is able to do them all well. At some point, choices need to be made.
Several pinnacles common to this profession point at the major decisions which need to be made regarding the practice's growth and direction. These 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
- Needing to change your focus
A thorough evaluation of your wants, needs, and values will assist you in determining the best course. Start this exploration process by putting aside your career. Focus 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?
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? Once this groundwork is established, you can more easily be objective in your business direction decision-making process.
Before making any changes, it is essential that you have a clear picture of the current state of your business. Write a business description that includes the following:
- Brief history of your practice with date opened, major achievements and mission statement
- Facilities description
- Summary of services, products sold, and fees collected
- Client overview, including their profiles and their total number
- Financial statement, including the average number of sessions per week, gross income, and net profit
- Staff and associate job descriptions
- Activity synopsis of a typical week
After you've composed your business description, compare it to your original business vision. If you don't have a written business plan, take a few moments to remember why you chose this career and recall your aspirations. Then compare your original vision to your current status. Notice your feelings and thoughts during this process.
Ultimately there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to making the choice of staying on the path or changing paths. The only true factor 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 of your options the proverbial trees from the forest so you might consider working this process with a colleague, counselor or coach.
Ultimately, there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to making a choice to stay on a path or change. 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 proverbisal tres from the forest. You might consider working on this process with a colleague, counselor, or coach.
When to Alter Your Course
- Need to learn new techniques or bring in associates
- Not making a sufficient profit for the effort expended
- Your client base has expanded
- Physical space has become too small
- Spread yourself in too many directions
- Bored and need a new direction