This guide provides an outline for managing growth. If we are fortunate enough to experience growth, we face many new issues. I am going to discuss six major areas.
1. Reconfiguring our business processes
A business that grows must change. Running a business means moving through a predictable cycle.
First, you have to figure out one way to do something, say, scheduling new clients. We inevitably find that whatever our method has some drawbacks. Nevertheless, we tend to stay with that method until we find we can no longer keep up with the increasing volume of activity.
Once the old no longer works, we must recreate a new way to do each business process. This process of discovering one way only to confront its limitations is irritating but necessary. The limitations drive us to find new and improved methods for everything. And unfortunately, this process never ends.
For example, in the beginning, I handled all my calls on my own. In truth, there was no money to hire someone to help. But once I had a full caseload, I often failed to return my calls like the business needed. My overwhelmedness was creating holes in my schedule. I was losing opportunities.
My first fix was to hire someone, a part-time person who would answer the calls from her home. That helped. But eventually, I needed more help. Fast forward years ahead. By the time I retired, the company had ten support staff who answered calls plus other duties. And this is one of the more straightforward examples.
Imagine the rebuilding process going on over and over again with each of the business’s primary functions. Countless times, we had to redo how we handled calls, scheduling, billing, collections, and computer software system. My team and I have rebuilt every aspect of how we do everything multiple times over my 40 years of practice. And the transformations are continuing now. That is what it takes to keep a business alive.
One more example. My first management system for tracking billing and collections was a paper/pencil system called a “one-write” system. With one handwritten record, I had each transaction copied onto a ledger card, receipts, and journal. It was the coolest system of its day. (See a sample of the “one-write pegboard system” here.)
A system growing up
Eventually, this system gave way to a computerized practice management system. And then, of course, we upgraded two more times with different computer vendors. Finally, we got to the product we use now. (Read more here about Selecting a practice management system.)
All this effort is just what comes with growth. Here are some posts on some ways to work on these areas:
Considerations when rebuilding your infrastructure (not written yet)
Additionally, one of the most significant issues in this area, in my view, is about managing myself. Here are some posts on that topic:
- The dilemma of success: Do it myself or delegate
- Learning to manage myself: Solving my self-imposed roller coaster
- Considerations when rebuilding your infrastructure
2. Growing our financial understanding
As the organization grows, the size of its financial obligations increases as well. And since most of us do not have business degrees, our knowledge of finances also must expand.
Since I find therapists generally have not thought about the many money issues involved in mental health organizations, I have written quite a few posts in this area.
- Increasing therapist pay in private practice
- Therapist pay in private practice
- Calculating psychotherapist pay in private practice
- Wealth in mental health–Why isn’t there more?
- Wealth in mental health–Where are the good-paying jobs?
- Financial rewards for owners of private practices
- Selling a practice: How practices become assets
- A different language: What tracking numbers can tell us
3. Overcoming our setbacks
As the years go on, all practice owners run into challenges and setbacks. We need a process to work them through and come out on the other side.
Here are several articles about a wide variety of setbacks that plague many owners and managers:
- Growing pains: Overcoming crises–When several clinicians leave
- Walking our staff through a crisis
- Psychotherapy practice finances in a crisis
- Leading during crises: Passing the Coronavirus test
- Matching one’s leadership style to the environment
- Why massive unemployment doesn’t kill psychotherapy
- How mental health businesses weathered the health care storms
4. Solving the issues of expansion
Growth begets growth. Moreover, with growth comes the challenges of hiring and managing more people. Furthermore, we must also find office space to support them.
Here are some posts about some of the issues involved in repeatedly making these decisions:
- Most hazardous practice size? Ten people
- How increased size adds resiliency
- Eight steps to adding office space in psychotherapy practices
- Grow hire, run out of space, repeat . . . forever
- Rent, lease, or purchase psychotherapy office space?
5. Restructuring our leadership structure
And again, with growth, comes the requirement that we change how we manage leaders and redesign one’s leadership structure.
Here are some posts about the challenges of leadership as your organization outgrows it’s old structures:
- Redesigning your leadership structure
- Managing leadership
- Partnership challenges
- The isolating effects of leading
6. Redeveloping our branding and marketing
And the last area of focus is the need to update, expand, and systematize our ongoing marketing. Of course, when we grow, the brand shifts. How we define ourselves, and how we communicate that to our potential customers is always shifting.
Here are some posts on marketing and branding:
- Overcoming stalled marketing
- Growing pains: Outgrowing our brand
- The five best marketing favorites in psychotherapy practice
- Rainmaker lessons: Staying optimistic when marketing
- Developing all aspects of your branding message in mental health practice
The ultimate guide to managing growth
So when we put all these areas together, we see how extensive our efforts must be. We must be attentive to which of our processes is needing attention, stay on top of any financial matters or any setbacks that may be on the horizon. Furthermore, we must focus on our expansion, leadership, and marketing needs. Yes, it is much like keeping all the plates spinning. But it’s that the fun of it?