Entreprenurship Requires Vision and Belief

Many business people well tell you that building a sustainable business a numbers game.

While you do need to run your numbers, you first need to have a vision and the belief that it can come to fruition, grow and succeed.

If we limit our vision, dismiss our belief we stunt growth.

Nothing happens if we can’t envision it happening. It’s impossible to win a game if you never play.

Lots of people have a vision. They can imagine a business that is thriving. They see the service offerings, the products and can even see clients and customers buying what they offer.

Where many of us get stuck is in belief.

Often people will share a big vision and then say, “It’s nice to dream…but it will never happen.”

That statement is a lack of belief in oneself, ones’ skills and one’s agency to get things done that matter.

Believing in the vision means believing we can weather the storm, navigate ups and downs, trust that growth will happen if we are prepared, mindful and willing to work hard.

It’s rare to see a business falter once the owner believes and does the work required to make it succeed.

Where things to awry is when the attempt at growth is half-baked and lackluster.

So if you believe in your vision and care enough to make it as good as it can be, you are well on your way to success.

Ooops, we did it again…

I’m happy to announce that, after much transitional planning, implementing and some angst, we are well on our way at the new Child Development Partners to a full practice!

In less than a year, I went from no clients, no office, no partner, no new referral sources to…

  • New office location (started November 2013)
  • A business partner (thank you, Allison Andews)
  • New website (thank you Heidi Little)
  • Two-three really great local referral sources
  • A full client caseload for myself (and building for Allison)
  • New client inquiry calls daily (this week we had 5)

Since I’m not a fan of attributing business success to any kind of luck or magic, let me give you the low down on how this went down because I think it’s informative to other therapy businesses in development.

Ultimately, it came down to some very solid foundational planning, flexible business modeling and targeted marketing strategy. Let’s take each in turn.

Foundations that Work

You know we work with kids and families impacted by ADHD and autism. There is a huge need for this kind of support in the community where I set up shop.

The foundations are these:

  • Address a real pain point/specialize
  • Articulate it clearly
  • Be where people need you

I see other business coaches trying to sell the idea that you can do whatever you want and a successful business will be the result. This just isn’t true. If I love to knit wool hats and you live in Arizona, are you buying what I have? Of course not.

Your services need to solve a problem that people really struggle with. Issues around parenting, eating, sleep, chronic illness, employment (or lack of), financial counseling, collaborative divorce, supporting aging parents, substance use. These are all areas where people struggle and seek help.

And despite what some coaches will try to lead you to believe, none of us is awake in the middle of the night worrying about self-actualizing or finding our mojo.

You have to specialize in a world where people debate the nuances of the iphone vs the Android. Specializing is required, expected and marketable.

Flexible Business Modeling

When I restarted the CDP engine last November, I tried to go forward with a “no insurance reimbursement” model. It didn’t work.

I was getting some clients, but they weren’t good fit, didn’t stick around and didn’t do the work. It was pretty miserable, actually.

Then in the spring, Allison and I decided to bite the bullet and add insurance to our business model.

We did all the hoop jumping required to get on two insurance panels and things just took off.

Fortunately, the insurance and our fees are in the same ballpark, so we aren’t losing much financially by taking on insurance.

Yes, it can be a pain and yes, we have to pay someone to help us with billing (hence a financial loss)  but our clinical hours are filling up quickly, doctors are referring to us with regularity and clients are happy to pay copays instead of full fees.

We saw the writing on the wall with our payment models. There were some competing “coaching” programs out there charging much less and offering home visits, etc, that we just didn’t want to do.  We couldn’t compete with our credentials alone in the self-pay market. So we shifted to another model without much harm to the bottom line.

Each market is different. Don’t buy into business coaching that is one size fits all and demands you do it one way. If you live in Manhattan your model is different than if you live in Boise. Everything comes into the mix – your specialty, your geographic area, cultural expectations, the insurance available in your community, etc.

Prepare to be flexible. Test out models and shift when things don’t flow.

Targeted Marketing Strategy

Fortunately, I kept my email list from my earlier marketing efforts, so we had a base list to market to.

However, most of our clients are now coming from local referrals and Psychology Today.

We have a free parenting teleclass series we offer every month. We sent a few snail mail letters and postcards about these classes to some potential, targeted, referral sources in the area. Based on these  mailings alone, a pediatrician and a pediatric clinical nurse practitioner are now two of our best referral sources. We’ve never met, but they seem comfortable with what we offer.

Our PT profile is optimized for our treatment specialty and clearly articulates who we work with and how we work.

We have a small ad in a local paper that seems to pique interest.

Honestly, right now our least effective strategy for paying clients is our email list.

We still market programs to them and that is slow to take off.

We’re not ready to throw in the towel on email marketing, as we feel it’s a nice pro bono service to offer our community, but we’ll continue to put more resources into local, community marketing.

This is possible

Building a thriving practice IS POSSIBLE.

The only thing that gets in the way is lack of focus, inflexibility and inconsistent implementation.

People need help and are willing to invest when they know they can get what they need from your services.

Sometimes we need to meet them halfway (in our case this means taking some insurance).

What can you do to ease your practice building process? Where do you need to focus some energy to clarify and implement?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Push Rocks Uphill (and other ways to ease the angst)

Have you ever noticed that sometimes we want something and it is just so hard to achieve it.

Maybe it’s a job or a business or a relationship.

You study up, work hard, try all the things the “experts” suggest and it’s just damn hard.

Sure, there’s baby step progress, but then you slide back. It sucks.

It feels like pushing rocks uphill.

So what’s easier?

Unless we are masochists, there are some areas in life where things aren’t so hard.

Maybe it’s really easy for you to knit a sweater or make kick-ass cupcakes or every accounting job you apply for is your for the taking.

Do more of what’s easy. It makes life much more fun.

“But I want to be a DANCER!”

If I could do any job in the world, it would be that of a professional modern dancer.

The reality is, however, I am not a good dancer.

Sure, I can keep the beat and clap on 1 and 3, but dancing with someone counting out eights and following  choreographed steps…not so much.

I could have studied with the best dancers on earth and just not made a go of things.

So the dream of professional modern dancing had to die.

The Easy

Working with children in a role as counselor/psychologist has always come easily to me.

The work is fun most of the time. It’s intuitive. Kids and I get each other. When I look for jobs in the role as child therapist, I get the jobs. No effort, no angst. I was once 30 minutes late for a job interview as  a school psychologist and got the job. That is crazy when you think about it.

I imagine, my auditions for the Mark Morris dance company would not go as well.

Sometimes we undervalue what comes easily for us. We think, “This is so easy, anyone can do it!” And we seek out challenges. We look for rocks to push uphill.

I can’t dance, I can’t knit and I’m a mediocre cook. I’m so impressed with people who can do those things and I bet a lot of them think their work is no biggie that “anyone can do it.”

If you find yourself living in a state of “hard,” consider pursuing the stuff that is easy. Why push rocks uphill? Running down is so much more fun and rewarding.

Where to Put This Facebook Angst?

Back in the day (2010) I was a Twitter fan and had no use for Facebook.

Over time, my friends and family started using Facebook for all things social, sharing pictures, party invitations, requests for homework assignments. I friended some business colleagues, I shared some of my life and business, too.

But lately, Facebook feels ick.

The combination of endless Ebola updates, talk of crisis and heartache world wide and the endless selling, bickering, debate and disagreement is just too much to bear.

Even something as harmless and potentially helpful as the #icebucketchallenge for ALS has haters.

Actually people I thought were cool and supportive of those in need have hated on this viral project.

And it brings up in me these ambivalent, eye-rolling kind of feelings.

I find myself saying out loud more than I want to admit, “Really?? Really?!”

Because if you can’t take something fun like a charity fundraiser in stride, something isn’t right.

But, that is *my* opinion, I suppose.

And there is the crux of weirdness on Facebook. Everyone is entitled to an opinion that they state out loud.

Now we all have a platform to voice our every thought, sunset experienced, lobster eaten, dog walked, baby laughed with, shoes bought,.

It’s exhausting. I have a hard enough time keeping up with my own life, never mind processing others’ moment-to-moment joys and sorrows.

Through it all, I think we lose a precious opportunity to spread useful information, share our deepr insights and original thoughts, advocate for causes that matter.

Rather than lift each other up, we exist in a parallel process for validating attention for the minutia in our life.

But this is how we are, we humans.

We look at the world through out own unique lens and the focus of all the snapshots are of ourselves.

This is just a fact, not a judgement, nor a calling out. I do it, too. We are self-preservationists. It’s how we survive as a species.

But if we are always trying to manage other people’s problems and vicariously live their special moments, we don’t tend to our own joys, nor care for our own needs.

Early research suggests that teens who spend a great deal of time on Facebook are more depressed than those who spend less time plugged into the platform. Some hypothesize this is due to comparison fatigue. I suggest it may be due to simply exhausting our brains in trying to process too much social information that is irrelevant to our own survival or needs.

After being on Facebook, I’m exhausted, numb, neither happy nor sad. My brain is just fried. What does it mean that so-and-so is on a boat in New Hampshire and who-and-who has a health emergency? What role does that play for me, what role to I play in that reality? I can send a thumbs up. I can offer virtual hugs. But after processing the “other” life experiences for awhile, my brain just can’t keep up.

And I’m over the “debates” from people who just need to disagree for disagreement’s sake. Life is too short for petty, I’m sure we can all agree. Yet somehow, we all take the bait (or set it) once in awhile.

The piece I can control is how much time I spend on Facebook and I have dialed back my time a great deal. I’m not sure how much adding my life to the mix is helpful to any of us.

I do enjoy updates on friends and family, kids and pets, so I won’t disappear from Facebook entirely. But my days of socializing there are shortening and I’m moving all the important updates to share with people in my real life orbit.

I can either focus on life on the screen or life here in my 3D world. I like the real stuff. The hugs feel better.

Consider doing the hard things

Today, Allison and I sat down and discussed a trend we are seeing in our referrals to Child Development Partners.

We get inquiries from families of older teens who want to be more independent, but whose executive functioning life skills are very weak. At the ages of 17, 18 or 19+ these young people struggle to get out of bed on time, do homework, dress themselves appropriately.

Many have had IEPs for years. Many have been placed in special schools. And yet, as they plan to transition into the next step of their development, they are ill-prepared.

Some of this may be due to their neuropsychology. Some may be due to to enabling systems around them.

It doesn’t matter the cause. The bottom line is, they (and their families) are in a tough spot and are asking for our help.

The hard work

When we are asked to coach a young person struggling with basic life skills, we are aware that a 50 minute meeting once a week isn’t going to cut it. Executive functioning training can be painstakingly time consuming and intricate. Knowing what to do and doing it consistently are a constant struggle. Rewiring the brain to work in synch with schedules and routines can feel like fingernails on a chalkboard and we all need big support when we are trying to make that much change.

Clearly, there is a need for folks to help these families navigate the important transition to independent adulthood. And right now, those helpers are few and far between.

So Allison and I are considering if we can be those people. We know we are capable of the work. The decision is whether we want to do the work.

After our meeting, I read this from Seth Godin, in which he asks, ““How do we do something so difficult that others can’t imagine doing it?” (We think Seth may be stalking us…)

Seeing the easy road makes it harder

The truth is, Allison and I don’t have to tackle this problem. There are many less complex cases we can take on, make a good living and leave the complicated difficult stuff to someone else. Except, everyone else thinks the same way. Nine out of ten of us will take that easy road, because why work so hard?

While one reason is to help people in need, if I’m honest, that isn’t my main motivation. All of our work helps people in need. Doing this hard(er) work requires more motivation that that.

For me, to take on this complex challenge meets the following needs in my wheelhouse:

1. A chance to develop something new and innovative.

2. An opportunity to be the “go to” people for a very specific presenting problem.

3. An awareness that this is a ‘ground floor’ opportunity to build our business offerings to an underserved population.

At the intersection of helping and business growth

I’d like to point out that what we’re doing is considering both sides of the professional coin as we consider doing something hard. We are compassionate and caring and want to be helpful. We also are looking at this from a return on investment lens.

The truth is, for families this process will be a significant investment in time and money. We will also invest a great deal of time and expertise in developing customized programs and coaching people up to 5x a week so they can develop the skills they need.

Allison and I have to do our due diligence and consider:

  • Is there a viable need?
  • Will people invest the time required?
  • Will they pay a fair price for the customized intensity of the program?
  • Will the outcomes validate the investment (for us and the clients)?
  • Is it worth our time to even plan this process before we pilot the program?

This is the hard work. It’s more than just setting up a website and marketing for clients. It’s going out of the boundaries of what we’ve been taught our work is and expanding into an area of what it can be. And this is why most people won’t even consider it.

The risk is–it could be successful and lucrative…or not. If we take it on, we risk wasting time and some money (not lots) as we explore the possibilities.

We already know our next steps. It’s meetings with other professionals and parents and asking all the questions we have about viability. As introverts, this is hard work, too.

My hunch is, this becomes a win-win for our future clients and for our business growth.

We’ll just need to take a lot of deep breaths and dig in with all we got.

Building something new from the ground up sure isn’t easy. But the ride is never boring and the payoff, personally, emotionally and financially can be bigger than we imagine.

 

 

Pushing to Play Up

My son is itching to play more baseball.

Since our town doesn’t offer a fall baseball option, we’re registering him in a neighboring town that does things a little differently.

As a 5th grader, he can play up with 6th and 7th graders. Or he can plan with mainly 4th and 3rd graders.

Alex is a good athlete. We are pushing him to play up.

This means (and we have told him this) he will be a lesser skilled player on a team. He probably won’t pitch as much as he did in the spring. In fact, he may be the “little kid,” in addition to the “new kid.”

This position will be new for him. He’s always been one of the oldest in his class, and with the extra time to grow, also one of the better athletes.

On this new team, he’ll need to stretch. He will be out of his comfort zone. He will have to prove himself.

And, while I never want to make things hard for him, I’m glad he will learn to navigate playing up.

My hope is he’ll learn to watch and listen. Learn from the kids a few ticks better, a few steps faster, a few years wiser.

He’ll see what it’s like to earn a place, rather than expect it held for him.

And, he’ll hopefully get a reminder that friends can be the guys you play with, not always the guys who live next door.

The lessons aren’t about baseball.

The lessons are about rising to the occasion, not sitting on stale laurels, empowering oneself to try something new and risk not being the best.

It will be interesting to watch him navigate these new waters. Will he dig in and play up or will he sag with frustration?

I imagine, at 11 years old, he’ll do a bit of both in turns. My heartfelt wish is when he digs in and ups his game there’s a nice reward–a high five,a run scored, a cheer from a new friend. That way, he’ll learn that reaching feels good and he’ll do it again and again and again.

In life, we all have the opportunity to play up. It’s not easy and always a bit uncomfortable, but given the alternatives, I hope you give it a try again and again and again.

Opinion as fact…Don’t let them get away with it

One of the brilliant parts of social media is we can vet people before we agree to work with them (which is why I don’t trust any professional without at least a website).

I want to know what my providers do, how they do it, why they do it and if we share a world view.

I want to see if people work from a place of informed, educated expertise or are just winging it with self-determined confidence.

In other words, does what they say and do actually help, or are they just telling me it works based on their beliefs?

We live in a culture where opinion and fact are constantly blurred.

Science shows us we are in the midst of global climate change, yet a subsection of people ignore the facts, even when their state has unprecedented drought, fires and live stock dying by the thousands.

I understand we all suffer from our own version of confirmation bias. We see what we believe. Everyone is entitled to live by their opinion, rather than react to science and research.

That is, until I’m paying them to help me solve a problem.

Do you want your surgeon to wield a scalpel by intuition? Would you like your physician to diagnose your cancer based on a hunch? Would you prefer the civil engineer ignore the rules of physics when he designs the bridge your car drives over every day because “it feels right?”

Of course not. So when people who are in less-than-scientific fields (like therapy and coaching) tell me they are winging it based on an opinion and ignoring facts, I call it a cop out. Why do we hold ourselves to a lesser standard than the engineer and the diagnosing MD? Isn’t that asking to be dismissed as less-than? For me, it says this person has a word bubble over their head saying, “I’m too lazy (or unintelligent) to critically consider facts/research and don’t care enough about my clients to be open to new data that may help them.”

We have research that supports Reiki and energy therapies and other metaphysical phenomenon. I’m not saying we have to stick to only observable science. What I am saying is that when an intervention is shown over and over to NOT be effective and professionals insist it is so based on their opinion, we’ve walked down the road of weakening our authority and professional expertise.
Worse is when said professionals offer to “discuss” the science vs hunch issue and then take data and simply ignore or dismiss it as not relevant “because in my experience it’s helpful.” Again, they are seeking confirmation bias and anything that negates their view is deemed not admissable to the discussion.

The scientific method exists because the experience of ONE doesnt’ mean it a result of the same experience of many others. For example, eating a certain mushroom may make me grow bigger, but when given to 100 other people, they only got sick. If I go around telling people, “in my experience this mushroom makes you grow bigger!” and they eat it and get sick, I’ve hurt a lot of people based solely on my experience and ignoring data that challenges my worldview.

Opinions have a role. Theories have a place. Honest professionals will tell us when they are working from an opinion and when they are working on a data/research based platform.

But be cautious of those telling you they have facts when what they are telling you are opinions and personal experiences clothed as scientific data. “This has worked for me,” is  a horrible testimonial.

If we want respect and a voice in impacting how people get support and help, we need to respect the people we serve. While data may fly in the face of what “I know to be true,” at some point we need to acknowledge either we are doing our work to confirm our own worldviews or are  open to being available to information that may improve outcomes for the folks we care about.

So, let’s do our work with integrity. Let’s do our due diligence and offer services with a record of being helpful to more than a few, with replicable and valid outcomes. And don’t give your time or money to people who are selling a promise based on an n = 1. If someone is using intuitive work with you, that is cool if they are honest about their approach and authentic in that work. But mixing metaphors of evidence vs personal opinion is the slippery slope that muddies the waters and ultimately confuses our clients who need our focus to be on what we know will work for them.

 

 

 

 

Be So Good We Can’t Ignore You

Often marketers get it wrong.

You need to have something a value to market before marketing can work.

In fact, some awesome people and products barely market or advertise at all and still get great press and many customers.

Why? They’re so good, we can’t ignore them.

My hairstylist. Ed, is one of those people. He’s never marketed a day in his life. But if I want an appointment with him, I better plan 6 weeks in advance.  All his clients are repeat clients. He makes women look great without a lot of fuss. For me, that’s worth a trip into the city and whatever he charges. (I’m pro looking good and very anti-fuss.)

While I am a fan of being seen and telling people about the value you offer, most often, it’s best to be really, really good to the few people you work with now so they,

1. come back again and again and,

2. tell others about you

No one can pull the wool over clients’ eyes with flashy marketing, but crap service.

That is a very, very expensive and exhausting way to run a business.

Do great work. Tell people about it in smart, valuable, non-annoying ways.

You’ll see great things happen.

 

 

Do You Suffer from Overanalysis Paralysis?

My enjoyment of Facebook is fading.

I see too much naval gazing, self-promotion and overanalysis paralysis.

You know what overanalysis paralysis is, right?

It’s ruminating and second guessing and reading all you can about the whys and hows of procrastination.

Honestly, it’s exhausting.

And it is directly correlated to every reason people are stuck and not as successful as they want to be.

I’m sure diagnosing the whys and hows of our limits has some value. I just don’t give myself the luxury to consider it. Because, if I do give hours to answering the question, “How does resistance show up in my work?” I’m not doing any actual, real, income producing work. See how tricky that is?

The only way around overanalysis paralysis is through.

Here are my steps to getting over myself and doing the work that needs to doing.

1. Set a goal. Just set  a goal. Go ahead. No overanalysis if the goal is “good” or “right” or “bringing me toward enlightenment.” Please, child, set the goal.

2. Commit to the goal. Stand up and state it out loud. Raise a fist if it helps. Repeat until you own this goal and want it more than a hot fudge sundae.

3. Eliminate distractions. No excuses. Shut off Facebook (you don’t need to see someone else’s sunset, Sunshine.), toggle down Twitter. Turn. off. your. phone.

4. Get to work. Go. Now. No, you don’t need ice water by your side. No, you don’t need to meditate first. No, you don’t have to do one more load of laundry, or check in with your guru. Turn off the damn word counting, step measuring, “tell-me-how-I-measure-up” app. Because those suck and make us all feel like failures. Just do the fucking work.

5. Accept that there is no “secret.” This work is awesome and hard and anxiety provoking in turns. Flow with the process.

6. Ride all the waves.

7. Repeat.

No one can do the work for you. No one has the answer for you. No comparison or permission granting or check-ins with a friend to debate the pros and cons of the work will get you to reach your goal.

The only way we reach a goal is to take steps toward it every day.

And overanalyzing the process does no good.

It slows you down and wastes the precious energy you need to rock it out.

Now clear your head and get out there. You have goals to achieve!

On this blog we talk about achieving empowered, authentic success. If you’re down with that and want to learn more sign up for updates below:

 

Let’s Talk About Authentic Success

In my work with young people with attentional and organizational challenges, I’ve spent my career promoting the reality that we all have gifts and challenges and need to define success on our own terms.

A brief moment of self-analysis lead me to understand that, as a teen who grew up in a high pressure, high achievement culture, followed the rules, got into the “right” schools, got the “right” degree none of that stuff made me particularly happy or special.

From an objective standpoint, I’ve achieved what we culturally define as “success.” But the degree, prestige and position never made me happy. Success for me is the freedom to choose. I get to choose how I work, when I work and who I spend my days with. It is a freaking rush. Would I be happier as a VP of a “Big Name Company,” or a professor at “Prestige U?” No way.

I chose Authentic Success

Not so ironically, the idea of authentic success comes from Wilma Bowers, a mom and champion of authentic success. I read about her crusade in this piece in the Washington Post about  the high achieving town of McLean, VA, where getting into Harvard is expected and anything less is scorned.

I remember being that teen in that kind of town and how now, 25 years later, it doesn’t mean much in terms of who is “successful” and who is not.

The key, really, is how one defines success. I see friends from high school in prestigious jobs who are miserable and some who decided to be stay at home parents who are super happy. And visa versa. Right?

I figured out a hybrid. I have my own business that allows me to be home with my child when we want and need that to happen.

No one ever offered that to me as a “success formula.” Some people still think it’s whacky or impossible or not a “real job.”

Eh, I shrug off the doubters. Because I’m happy where I am. What others think or feel about my life isn’t my concern.

The truth is real, authentic success is 100% unique. No one can dictate what makes you feel like a success. Not your parents, not your teachers, not your friends.  And success is subjective. Mostly, it’s a feeling and a belief, not a state of being or a position. Because, as much as we buy into this story, when we say it out loud, “She lives in Weston, which means she must be a success,” we sound shallow and immature.

If you have a degree from Harvard on the wall and need 3 drinks a night to manage your stress and anxiety, how is that success?

The outer stuff doesn’t matter as much as we hope it would.

This is both good news and bad news.

The good news is, you get to create your success and define your happiness.

The bad news is, you can’t blame some external force when things don’t work out or feel good.

You have great power, which brings all that responsibility.

Isn’t that awesome?

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