OTs in Successful Private Practices Do THIS

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When Occupational Therapists transition from just being a therapist to now owning their own private practice, a stumbling block can be embracing your new title: CEO.  It is critical to learn early how to focus working ON your business instead of just working IN your business.  This one difference in thinking will enable you to ensure the RIGHT THINGS for your OT private pay practice get done instead of just being busy.


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Being an occupational therapist doesn't mean that you can't step into the role of an entrepreneur as a private pay practice owner. But it does mean that there is a new job title you must embrace: that of the CEO.

Embracing this title means you will go from working IN your business to working ON your business. This will lead you to build the private pay practice of your dreams by focusing your attention on the things that will actually lead to success in your private practice.

Luckily, none of these things are overly complicated - they just can't be ignored.

In this video, Doug Vestal, Ph.D., discusses how occupational therapist can embrace their CEO hat, the power of working ON your business and the critical questions to ask yourself when you are facing a never ending to-do list. 

This video is not intended as professional or legal advice. Be sure to seek the services of a professional and understand the risks you are undertaking.

Transcript of Video:

There's a difference between working in your business versus working on your business. So let's talk about what the difference is between working in your business and working on your business.

Hi, my name is Doug Vestal and I help occupational therapists just like you start and grow thriving, private pay practices. And I create these videos from mistakes and lessons learned from when my wife and I started our own OT private pay practice in the hopes that you can shortcut your path to success.

Now, today, I want to talk about a new role, a new job that you've given yourself. Once you become a business owner, and this is something that most therapists don't necessarily plan for or think about, but it is a critical distinction between whether or not you're going to create a private pay practice that's going to support you, that you're going to be able to thrive in, and that you're going to be able to grow versus one where the phone doesn't ring.

And what I'm talking about is really stepping into that new role as a CEO.

Now, a lot of therapists may be a little bit reluctant to call themselves CEOs. You really think first and foremost with your OT hat on, with your therapist lens on, but once you become a business owner, you do in fact, become the CEO.

You are responsible for steering this ship. Your list of duties have greatly expanded, which we're going to talk about. Now these things are not impossible to do. They just can't be ignored. And with you at the center of it, you have to take control of this responsibility so that you are growing your business as you want.

So let's talk about the power of wearing two different hats and the two different hats that I'm referring to is there's a difference between working in your business versus working on your business.

So let's talk about what the difference is between working in your business and working on your business.

When you are working in your business, you are busy, you are answering emails, you are providing the treatment to your client. You are answering the phones, scheduling them. You are writing the documentation notes. You are answering any follow up questions that they may have.   That is working in your business.

Working on your business is something totally different.

Working on your business is setting that strategic direction, that vision working on those larger scale projects, that's going to allow customers and clients to hear about you, for them to book with you and for you to be able to grow your practice.

So what's an easy way to know if you're working in your business versus working on your business?

Well, there's a simple question that you can ask yourself.

And that question is, can I hire someone to do this task?

So let's think about that question. And let's go through a couple of examples. Let's say you are treating someone.

Is that working in your business or working on your business?

Well, you may not be at a place of hiring someone yet, but you, even, if you are the world's best OT, you could still hire someone to see your client for those 60 minutes or however long your session is.

So you physically providing the treatment session that is working in your business. Now let's take another example. How about community workshops? If you go and you give a community workshop, would that be working in your business or working on your business?

The answer in this case kind of depends. I would say if you are just giving a one off workshop at a particular location, that's really working in your business because you could go and you could hire a really great student, a really great therapist to provide that workshop on behalf of your business.

But if you were to take a step back and say, actually community workshops are the way I want to grow my practice, and I am going to research all of the best places to provide community workshops. I'm going to make sure that the one community workshop I do isn't isolated, but it repeats itself.

Maybe every two weeks, every month, I'm going to go out and I'm going to have a plan so that my referral sources are automatically sending new potential clients to my workshops.

And then after the workshops, I have a way to follow up with those attendees to provide them with some free education. So hopefully they book.

So in other words, you're working on the plan around how to move people into your community workshops, how to nurture them inside of your workshop and provide a really great experience and then move them from being just a workshop attendee to an actual paying client.

If you're working on that structure, that's working on your business because you are working on the things that are going to move the needle for results.

So it really depends upon your mentality going into these individual tasks. And that really is a key distinction between being just a therapist versus being a CEO.

Now, a therapist is so deep down into the trenches of the treatment session that they don't really take the time to stick their head out and see what's going on outside of the treatment session.

And that's where you, as the CEO comes into play, you are able to, and you should be taking that 30,000 foot view to look and monitor the overall health of your business to be looking at what are those strategic things that you need to be working on to grow, not just the nitty gritty of how the treatment sessions are being provided and not just how the progress of that one individual client is progressing, which is important, but really taking a step back and going, okay, what is the most efficient and effective use of my time as a CEO?

What are the skill sets and vision that I have for my OT private pay practice and what are the big initiatives and big goals that we need to accomplish over the next three to six to 12 months so that this OT private pay practice is on stable ground and has a variety of clients coming into the door who are more than happy to pay, who stay with you through the entire treatment plan and then who ultimately refer to you.

That is the job of a CEO. That is the job of stepping into that entrepreneurial mindset to make sure that you're really focused on those tasks that only you, as the CEO can perform.

And as the CEO, you're going to have to start to develop the muscle of deciding what's important for your time. And one of the biggest pieces of advice I can have is, do not mistake being efficient with being effective. So efficient just means that you're really good at crossing off everything on your to-do list, right? You move from one task to the other. You're working very efficiently. Things don't take long. This is the manner in which most people operate. When they have a mile long to do list, they just think about how can I get through this more efficiently and faster.

But your job as the CEO is to ask more effective questions such as is this task even important to do?

Because the worst thing to do, is to do a task that doesn't need to be done, faster. So your job as a CEO is to ask those questions.. You know, maybe that particular activity is not something that I need to be spending my time on.

And to help you with this, we have three questions which are really, really powerful so that you can spend your time in the most effective way.

And these three questions are: So will this activity bring in new clients?

 And how do you know really?  Really critically ask yourself the question, how do you know this activity is going to bring in new clients? And what is the proof that you're going to be measuring over time to make sure that activity actually does?

now, number two is, will this activity keep my current help, keep my current clients?

So will this activity lead to more client retention, more rebooking for them, more completions of the entire standard of care that you are laying out for the client?

And again, ask yourself, how do you really know this is the case? And then finally, the third question is, will this activity lead to more client referrals? And again, ask yourself, what's the measurement that you're going to have for this, because the things that get measured get managed.

So you can see these three questions are all around the client experience, how to bring in new clients, how to keep existing clients and how to turn existing clients into new clients, through referrals.

And those are the critical tasks that a CEO obsesses over and has plans over. And as you take on this new role, the best thing that you can do is demarcate your time during the week to work on these tasks.

We've found that it's incredibly difficult to switch from to task.

So what we've done is we've dedicated just one day a week, where we are working on our business. And during that day, we're not answering emails. We are not providing treatments. We are not meeting with referral sources, but we are reviewing goals.

We are setting goals and we are reviewing the plans that are in place to see how the progress is being made. And look, this is not a hard exact science, so you're going to plan. You're going to have to iterate. You're going to fail a little bit. And then using those days for those CEO days, you go back and you readjust your plans, and then those other days are when you are actually executing.

So let me give you an example of what this would look like. So let's say that we see a provider who has not provided us any referrals recently.

What we would do on this CEO day is we would take a look at the situation and ask some questions. When was the last time that we did any outreach to this particular referral source?

 When was the last time that we dropped off marketing and materials? When was the last time that we provided them with notes or a thank you and a follow up letter and more important than that, do we actually have a robust plan in place to reach out to existing and potential referral sources to nurture them, to provide them with value so that we are not always constantly playing whackamole when someone doesn't give us a new client, you know, after five weeks.  But we have a system in place so that we are automating our reach out to them, either through customized notes, dropping off marketing materials, sending the front desk flowers, whatever the case may be.   

Inviting them as a practitioner to attend workshops that we're offering, you know, once a quarter to keep up that professional dialogue, whatever the case may be, making sure that we actually have a plan in place so that we are not going out, you know, constantly fighting fires.

Right? If you find that yourself constantly fighting fires, the saying is, you may actually be the arsonist.

 So you want to develop these plans in place on those days to set a robust referral strategy in place.

And then my final piece of advice is get good at failing, right? Which sounds very strange, but the more you fail, it means the more you're learning. And it means the more that you've been trying, and a lot of this is trial and error. You have to put yourself out there, you have to engage with people. You have to work on CEO task and put a plan in place.   

And then you are constantly evaluating either how that plan is working. If it was a good plan, or if things have gone wrong, why have they gone wrong? And what do you need to fix? And the only way that you can grow, the only way you can learn is by failing.   There is a gift to failure and it gives you the critical feedback to improve. And without doing, without failing, there is simply no way that you can improve. So I say, embrace failing, fail faster, fail, fail quicker so that you can get on the road to success in your OT private pay practice.