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Apr 20, 2015

Time Flies: Is Your Practice on Track to Reach its 2015 Goals?

It’s hard to believe that we’re already a quarter of the way through the year. It’s time to pause, take a step back and review your progress. Ask yourself, “Has the first quarter of 2015 gone the way I expected? Is my practice keeping pace with the goals I set for the year?”

If you’re ahead of the curve, congrats! Perhaps it’s time to revise your expectations. If you’ve had a slow start, however, it’s not too late to make 2015 a success. Below are a few ideas for getting back on track.

1.  Get back in touch with your client base

McDonald’s has just experienced its fifth consecutive quarter of declining in-store sales.[i] Why? McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson said, “We’ve lost some of our customer relevance.”[ii]

McDonald’s hasn’t changed. Their consumers, however, have changed: some are demanding healthier options (e.g., Chipotle), others higher food quality (e.g., Five Guys Burger and Fries) and others a more customized experience (e.g., Subway).

McDonald's traditional strength — consistency — isn’t enough anymore. Said one analyst: "Its competitors have gotten better, but McDonald's has stayed the same.”[iii]

But don’t count the Golden Arches out yet. They’re making the difficult pivot: releasing new premium items (e.g., Bacon Clubhouse Burger), improving breakfast offerings with “more of a coffee culture,” and McDonald’s is beta-testing a “build your own burger” touchscreen on which customers can customize their orders with a new selection of breads, toppings, and sauces. Regarding the later, while rolling out the concept across its 14,000-plus U.S. locations will require considerable kitchen upgrades, McDonald’s executives say they’re up for the challenge.[iv]

If McDonald’s, the quintessential monolith, can change with the times, so can your practice. Don’t be afraid to evolve along with your client base. Clients today aren’t the same as they were 20, 15, or even 5 years ago.

For example, more persons are opting for extended or lifelong singlehood. Internet addiction is a growing problem issue. Self-mutilation/cutting has increased among adolescents, along with ADHD (and how people want to treat ADHD), bullying is exposed and better understood, there is a growing demand for medication management, online counseling is becoming more attractive to patients and the list goes on and on.

To help get back on track, you may need to start by asking yourself: “How is my practice staying relevant — even cutting edge — to the needs of today’s clients?”

2. Quit what’s not working

It’s time to cut the parts of your practice that aren’t working, even if you’re emotionally attached to them.

Here are a few statements I’ve recently heard from practice owners clutching to an inutile aspect of their businesses:

  • My vision was to differentiate our practice by running groups and workshops
  • My vision was to be cash only
  • My vision was to also sell books, DVDs and supplements

You’ll notice that each statement begins with “My vision was to … .” Almost always, however, the actual vision (or mission) statement of the practice won’t mention the concept at hand.

Be careful not to confuse your practice’s “vision” with a “preferred approach” to executing the vision.

I know first hand how difficult it can be to cancel something that’s not working, especially if you really believed in it, and really wanted it to catch on. Sometimes offerings we think are going to succeed simply fail to thrive. When this happens, we can sit down and eat a “wish sandwich,” hoping for a miracle, or we can get up and try something else.

The old adage that successful people never quit is false. Successful people quit things all the time. They just quit the right things at the right time, and refocus their attention on what has the best chance of success.

3. Prepare for the summer slump

A third way to get back on track and finish 2015 strong is to be prepared for shifts in business. Summers can be slow: kids are out of school, 20-somethings are out of college, individuals are feeling happier and families are on vacation. Review the number of new client leads your practice received in Q1 (January-March), and then cut those numbers by about 15 to 20 percent. For many practices (mine included), this is what you can expect June through August.

With preparation, however, your practice can still grow during the summer months. Increase marketing and community outreach early, and consider a focus on services that are likely to maintain a strong (or increased) demand during the middle of Q2 and Q3.

4. Prepare for the fall frenzy

In the same way that summer months can be slow, the fall can bring with it a strong flow of new clients. Make sure you’re prepared for the rush.

For example:  Are you thinking about hiring a new counselor? Give yourself enough time. It can take months to locate, interview, contract, train and get a new provider on insurance panels. Similarly, are you starting to maximize your current office space? Anticipate the growing needs of your practice early.

5. Take a flyer, but don’t bet the farm

If you’re not keeping pace with your 2015 goals, it might be time to take a flyer. To “take a flyer” is to take a chance on something new for your practice, such as an advertising spend or a new service offering.

A flyer is a measured risk: If it fails, you can handle the cost. A word of caution though — don’t bet the farm. If you don’t take any flyers your practice is likely to become stagnate. But if you keep betting the farm, you’ll eventually lose it. 

Bottom line: Don’t wait until the end of the year to reflect on your progress. Periodic assessment, coupled with action, is an effectual way to make sure 2015 is your practice’s strongest year yet.  



Anthony Centore, Ph.D., is private practice consultant for the ACA, founder of Thriveworks Counseling (with locations in 9 states), and author of the book, How to Thrive in Counseling Private Practice. Anthony is a licensed counselor in Massachusetts and Virginia. Find him on Twitter at @anthonycentore or@Thriveworks.

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