Some start a mental health business to avoid having a boss. They want to answer to no one. This is a myth. In truth, every owner must make peace with a very serious and unforgiving overlord: what the business demands. I met my boss, the practice demands, within days of starting to practice independently.
Unrelenting business demands
The details of what business demands vary from industry to industry. Additionally, the demands can even change at different stages within a particular business. Yet these demands have some common features across all businesses. For example, all businesses have ways of creating and producing a service or product. Furthermore, that service or product must attract purchasers.
1. Creating a product or service
The foundational business demand then is the requirement to consistently maintain a system for creating the business’s services or products. Usually, this is called “Production.”
2. Potential customers must know about your service
In order for a business to succeed, it needs to create regular and consistent ways for potential customers to learn about the service or product. We want potential customers to acquire enough details to decide if they are willing to pay for the service. This is usually called “Sales and Marketing.”
- To see a listing of all the posts on marketing click here.
- I have also written here about our marketing favorites.
- And here about a system we used for teaching all our clinicians about how to connect with referrers in our community.
3. Scheduling clients for our service
Once potential clients know we exist, and they find themselves in need, we need to make it easy for them to find us and schedule an appointment with us.
- To read more about how to set up your scheduling system, read here.
- And if you are wanting to learn about how to use a practice website to aid in scheduling, read here.
4. A systematic method of billing for our work
Of course, in our case, we attach a fee for our service. And we must develop regular ways to send out our billing. For us, that usually means a billing system for clients and a separate system for insurance companies.
- Read more about the process of setting up a billing system here.
- And if you are interested in reading about selecting a practice management system, check this out.
5. A regular system of collecting our fees
And of course, we must create systems for collecting the fees that we are owed from both clients and insurance companies.
In summary, all of these business demands bow to no one. The owners who thrive are those who become willing servants to all the demands required of us. In some ways, success is about finding ways to manage all these demands without paying too high a personal price.
Specific demands in mental health practice
There are core daily and weekly tasks (business demands) that occur in all mental health practices. If they are not met, things come to a halt pretty rapidly. The daily or weekly core activities are these:
- Scheduling appointments
- Providing therapy
- Billing for therapy
- Collecting for therapy
- Planning marketing
Every mental health practice must develop consistent ways to accomplish all these tasks or the business will fail. Of course, each of these can be done in many different ways and still work well. In fact, the methods will vary quite a bit depending on the organization’s size and structure. They must be done well and done consistently or the business will not succeed for long.
Another metaphor: Doing the chores of business
All of these can be thought of as the chores of keeping a practice afloat. Like household chores, the more systemic we are about doing them, the easier they are.
Chores are easiest when we do them in small chunks, regularly and consistently. For example, cleaning up after a meal is easier if I do it right after dinner. Waiting until I am in the mood makes the chore more difficult and maybe overwhelming. Somehow the clean-up-the-kitchen mood seems to arrive less frequently than my meals do. That is why we call them chores. We know we need to do them but are not always inspired to take them on.
Unavoidable mental health business demands
Everyone would love to hire out all chores, domestic and business-related. In most cases that is too expensive. And even then hiring out does not get you off the hook. There is still work that must be done.
The more orderly we are about the daily chores (scheduling and therapy) and the weekly ones (billing, collecting, and marketing) the better our business will flow. Delaying or procrastinating will only make them more of an ordeal and probably cost you business.
If you hire, you still have to manage the people and processes. I remember talking with a practice owner about how he had hired a billing service. Sadly the service made so many mistakes that he created a second process to check on all the claims. Too many errors occurred. The situation was not what he had hoped for.
And no matter what we do, the unrelenting chores, i.e. business demands, require our attention. I have several posts on managing myself. Turns out, I am one of the key ingretients of my business’s success or failure.
It is possible to develop your business systems, i.e., do your business chores, to the point that the owner’s experience is a “business running itself.” That, of course, is hardly the case. But if doing these business activities can feel more effortless, then we truly have arrived. And inevitably the result will be business growth.