As a business grows, it passes specific business tipping points. If we can capitalize on these thresholds, we can gain momentum and push on to the next level.
Let’s begin by defining momentum thresholds and then giving examples of these naturally occurring business tipping points. Then finally, we will examine how to capitalize on them to springboard to the next level.
Table of contents
- What are momentum thresholds?
- Commonalities of momentum thresholds and business tipping points
- My career as an example
- How to capitalize on these business tipping points
- Delegate maintenance of the old spinning platters
What are momentum thresholds?
A “momentum threshold” is a business tipping point where the enormous effort that was required to get to this point is no longer necessary to preserve the gains. After passing that momentum threshold, maintaining the gains is relatively easy.
Let me give you several examples. I have put them in a sequence from the early stages of practice to later.
We spend years learning how to do psychotherapy. We get a graduate degree along the way. But at a certain point, the effort to manage a caseload diminishes. Like going to the gym, the more we do it, the easier the task is. In the case of psychotherapy, the more we do it, the stronger our therapy muscles get. This pattern of enormous effort, followed by a leveling off to maintain the gains, is a sure sign of a momentum threshold. I’ve written several posts about psychotherapy here: What it is like to do psychotherapy.
Acquiring the tools and developing the processes to accomplish the daily tasks of scheduling, billing, collecting, and marketing is another area that takes enormous effort to get rolling. (See: The boss’s boss–Unrelenting business demands in practice.) But once we have the systems in place, then maintaining them seems more straightforward. Of course, the tools and processes need updating (see Considerations when rebuilding your infrastructure and Overcoming bottlenecks in mental health practice), but the energy required is much less than when starting up.
I have written elsewhere on how to do the marketing required for success. (See: A community-based marketing method: Community Connection Plans and Overcoming stalled marketing in mental health.) In most of my posts about marketing, my emphasis is on consistently and persistently connecting with referrers. We get much further with a high frequency of small activities than big events.
Additionally, I want to highlight how the marketing effort gets easier as time goes on. With consistency, connections multiply and we gain momentum. Eventually, there are so many ways that referrers hear about us that we become part of the community’s fabric. And once we get there, then the effort to maintain those connections is much smaller.
Recruiting and hiring staff
Early on, we worked hard to position our organization to be noticed by therapists looking for a position. We would advertise with local universities and other places to get the word out. Additionally, we had a long term strategy that we knew would take years to bear fruit.
For example, we added a practicum program, taught courses in local grad schools, and did presentations at state conferences. And yes, we continued the standard listing on alumni listservs at local universities. And as with other efforts, with time, all these efforts paid off with new employees coming without much effort on our part: another example of a business tipping point. (See more here: Recruitment methods for finding excellent staff and Growing pains: Hiring new clinicians.)
Developing a training program for onboarding staff took many years of experimentation. I ran a 2-hour long monthly meeting for the newly hired clinicians for about 18 years. Each month I planned a two-hour meeting tailored to what the group needed. As the years went on, I had quite a file of previous topics, handouts, and discussion starters.
Furthermore, a pattern developed in our meetings. The first hour was checking in and sharing experiences. The second hour would center around a theme or topic. The planning for the meetings got more manageable as we went along. (Also, see Staff development in mental health practices.)
Positive workplace culture
The last of the business tipping points I am highlighting is about developing a positive workplace culture. As I have mentioned here, early in my career, I did not realize the importance of workplace culture. By my retirement, I was making a significant effort to develop a culture that would capture the values that seemed important in our organization.
Like the other momentum thresholds, workplace culture is an area that requires lots of beginning energy only to reach a plateau that requires little ongoing effort. (Also, see How to use meetings to build your workplace culture.)
Commonalities of momentum thresholds and business tipping points
As I am defining it, momentum thresholds have some common characteristics. First, they require substantial effort to get consistent results in the beginning. Second, with time, they reach a hardly-noticed threshold, a leveling off stage, which seems to require much less energy. Third, yet, further along, the work required to maintain the gains turns into “just the way we do things.” Once over the hump and past these momentum thresholds, maintenance seems quite effortless.
My career as an example
This list of momentum thresholds, i.e., business tipping points, played out in my career in interesting ways. As I reflect on my 40-years of practice, I see some themes in each decade.
My first ten years focused on figuring out what psychotherapy is and how to be successful in the therapy room. I hired supervisors, went to workshops, and read the latest book and articles. I immersed myself in the therapist culture.
In the next decade, I decided what sort of setting I wanted to work in and how to do the business side of psychotherapy. My reading shifted to business books. In this decade, I had far more conversations with attorneys, accountants, and financial planners than at any other stage.
The third ten years was spent developing ways to recruit, hire, & train staff while building a distinctive culture. By this stage, I understood that we had excellent systems for doing the therapy work, but now we needed the team to implement and maintain what we knew. Finding and training staff became my primary focus.
And lastly, in my fourth decade, while we continued to grow, I was fine-tuning everything. Additionally, I was prepping my staff and myself to sell the practice and my retirement in 2019.
How to capitalize on these business tipping points
How can we utilize our understanding of these momentum thresholds to springboard our organization into a stronger position? Here is the trick. I contend that gaining momentum is about using these momentum thresholds to readjusting your leadership’s time and energy. In other words, once the organization has passed one of these momentum thresholds, others need to be trained to take over the maintenance of that area.
We want our leadership team to concentrate on two things:
- Attending to the platters in crisis, and
- Getting any new platters, i.e., initiatives, going smoothly.
Like the person trying to keep all the platters spinning, the energy required to keep the old plates spinning is not as high as getting a new plate started. Respinning the old plates should be delegated to others.
For example, the leadership team needs to attend to the quality of our psychotherapy, marketing, and ensure all the infrastructure pieces are working correctly. But the organization does not grow if the leaders’ attention is fixated there. Recruiting, hiring, training, and developing the workplace culture also need energy.
No one leader has the energy to attend to each of the dimensions mentioned above. Therefore, the wise leader(s) picks which areas to prioritize. Re-allocating where energy is put helps recapture that energy and gain momentum springboarding growth.
Delegate maintenance of the old spinning platters
The following are some guidelines that summarize what I mean.
- Leadership should create a standardized process for handling an area before delegating it to others.
- Then train your staff to handle the areas that you have figured out.
- Leadership should develop a “monitoring” but not a “doing” position toward those delegated areas.
- Leadership should stay focused on the horizon of what is coming that will become an issue if ignored.
- Leaderships’ attention and energy should be on strengthening the organization’s weak areas that will create trouble if they do not get in order soon.
- Finally, notice the sequence of momentum thresholds listed above. Each builds on what came before. Your situation will likely be the same.
In all likelihood, your organization with experience many of these momentum thresholds as mine did. By readjusting the focus of your leadership team you can gain momentum to the next level.