Deciding to go into private practice is no small feat for a wellness practitioner. The initial excitement of getting started and meeting new clients can fade as you realize how much more work private practice is than being an independent contractor or employee.
Clarity. Connection. Commitment.
Having a clear vision for your business will help you to be more determined and committed to succeeding. The support of peers who are on a similar journey and have similar values can keep you inspired, accountable, and disciplined.
After 18 years in business and working with other wellness professionals in private practice, these three lessons that I’ve learned along the way to stay on task should save you time, energy, and money.
Lesson 1: Break up larger tasks into smaller manageable chunks. Set smaller goals that take you in the direction of your larger goal or vision. Accomplishing smaller goals gives you a boost of dopamine that will inspire you to complete more of your goals.
I spent much of my youth laughing with my dad, who was quite the comedian, at the absurdities of life and sometimes utter nonsense. One of the sources for his comedic material was popsicle sticks (or lolly pop sticks as they are called in the UK, where I grew up).
This one still makes me laugh, probably because of how much we snort-laughed at it the first time:
What do you call a woodpecker with no beak? A headbanger.
And I still remember this one making me roll my eyes and groan:
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Even though it is a corny joke, it somehow stuck with me. On the surface, it’s just plain silly, and if I overthink it, it makes me sad for such a beautiful creature. But, on a philosophical level, I realize just how much this popsicle stick gem has helped me in running a business. It turns out that this ‘joke’ is a variation of a quote that has been attributed to Desmond Tutu and originates from an African proverb.
As someone who has had a lifelong battle with procrastination, perfectionism, and overwhelm, applying this principle is often the only thing that keeps me moving forward when I feel stuck.
When my vision feels too big or my to-do list too long, this principal has taught me to Just. Start. SOMEWHERE.
Lesson #2: Schedule regular meetings with a professional, a mentor, or a group of people to discuss your projects or goals, to keep you accountable to your deadlines and the tasks that you tend to avoid.
As a solo business owner, it is easy to kick the can of important but non-urgent tasks down the road when you are busy or feel overwhelmed. How many times have you set an arbitrary deadline for yourself only to continually adjust the date to a week later when something more pressing comes up?
Tribe co-owner Cari Rogers & I realized the power of accountability when we were first working on Tribe’s business plan and had weekly meetings with a mentor from SCORE (Senior Core of Retired Executives) through the SBA. Each week we had homework to do before our meeting that would inform the decisions we made in the meeting. Admittedly, we would often meet at 8am the day of the meeting for a 2-hour huddle to get it done, but the point being, we did it, and Tribe became a reality!
More recently, we started working with a financial advisor and wouldn’t dream of wasting her time by not having all our facts and figures together before the meeting. In 2022, for the first time in Tribe’s 10-year history, our bookkeeping was completed at the end of every month. That is the power of accountability.
Lesson 3: You can learn far more from mistakes than from getting something right the first time by chance. Don’t let perceived failures keep you from achieving your goals, and don’t be afraid to ask for outside input.
As adults, we often won’t take action because we are convinced we won’t be successful, something won’t turn out how we envisioned it, or we are afraid to fail and look foolish. Perfectionism is the enemy of creativity and innovation. Where would we be as a species if we began life this way? We would never have walked! Choose persistence over perfectionism.
In most successful businesses, you only see the tip of the iceberg. What lies beneath is the 90% of decisions that were mistakes, dead ends, and f*ck ups that the owners made. Cari & I frequently sit back and laugh at the non-starter ideas we’ve had and attempted to implement over the last decade. It just takes an outsider to ask ‘why are you doing it that way?’ for us to re-evaluate and say ‘Duh. What were we thinking?!’ But the best part is, if we didn’t do it the wrong way first, we would never have come up with the newer, better way. Eventually, you’ll make fewer mistakes, but in the beginning, it’s best to fail fast, and fail often to get ahead!
Written by Ellen Letten. Brain Health educator and co-owner of Tribe. In addition to her own practice, Ellen supports other wellness professionals in private practice.