Nothing brings up trust issues as quickly or as obviously as money! (Except perhaps sex?)
I have had several clients who pay me at the start of the session rather than risk forgetting to pay at the end. I’ve asked about it and the answer is always the same, they don’t trust themselves to remember. They fear the possible shame they might incur if they had to be reminded by me, and make the judgement that it is better avoided. And I feel for them.
I remember my own huge shame when, driving home after therapy one evening, I remembered I had forgotten to pay my therapist. I pulled over to the side of the road and called her. I was sick with guilt, embarrassment and shame, and was ready to drive back (almost 20 miles) to correct the problem there and then, if she hadn’t insisted on leaving it until the following session. Looking back now, I can remember the intensity of those feelings, though they seem curiously out of proportion to the mistake. The underlying fear for me was that the relationship could not hold such a huge issue, and that my mistake could have been the end of the relationship. My fear was on a catastrophic scale. My thoughts ran riot with questions about my motivation for not paying. What was I saying in that? Was some part of me angry with my therapist and refusing to pay? What was going on for me that I had forgotten? How could I have done that? How could I be so stupid? It went on and on.
Nothing brings up trust issues as quickly or as obviously as money! (Except perhaps sex?)
In his classic series of E-Myth books, Michael Gerber speaks of the entrepreneur mind set, and in particular the distinction that he sees between those who succeed in business and those who don’t.
The E-Myth of the title, is the entrepreneur myth, that anyone who starts a business is an entrepreneur. He then goes on to debunk this myth. Everyone who is in business spends time working in the business. In the case of therapists, we spend time working with clients. However, that time is not spent attending to the needs of the therapist, or of the therapist’s business. And there lies the distinction that Gerber draws between those who succeed in business and those that don’t.
Those who succeed spend time, not just IN the business, ie attending to the needs and affairs of the clients, but also spending time working ON and thinking ABOUT the business, ie attending to the needs of the therapy business.
So what does working ON the business of therapy look like? Read more
Ray Pembroke, Chartered Accountant, of Pembroke & Pembroke, Kilkenny, has some sage advice for those starting their own practice:
“So you have decided to set up as a Self Employed Therapist. In order that you can build a successful and viable Practice I would recommend that you follow this 10 Point Plan:-
In his book You2, Price Pritchett tells the story of a fly who kills itself, trying to fly out a closed window, banging its body against the glass till it falls exhausted to the sill, while ten feet behind it, the door is wide open.
The story feels eerily familiar. I can often see where I want to go, it’s just out there beyond the glass, and I keep going towards it and bouncing off. If I turned and looked behind me, I’d see the door is open. Read more
It is estimated that at least one in three practitioners setting up private practice have changed their mind within three years. Shocking isn’t it?
What separates those who succeed from those who don’t?
You might be surprised to learn that it’s not their skill or ability as a therapist, but their business mind set. You don’t need to be a Michael O’Leary or a Rupert Murdoch to run a private practice, but you do need to have at least some business perspective.
Commitment: You need to be committed to running a practice. This means not just learning and practising the skills and mind set of being a therapist, but also the skills and mind set of running a business. You need to be committed not only to identifying and working towards meeting your client’s therapeutic needs, but also to identifying and working towards meeting your own needs, such as earning an income, self-care, and looking after the administrative tasks of the business. Many practitioners are generous in the time they spend IN their practice (ie working with clients) but find it harder to spend time ON their practice (eg looking for new work).
Planning: It helps to have an idea where you want to go! One of the criteria that marks those who survive in practice is their ability to plan. A broad business plan (even if it’s informal) outlining the purpose, vision and strategy of the practice, supports you in decision making, in focusing your efforts, in identifying when action needs to be taken. Without a plan, it’s easy to lapse into apathy and fatalism, blaming external circumstances (eg the financial environment or the competition). A clear idea of financial targets (again, whether formalised into writing or not) is more likely to yield the desired results because it prompts us to take action.
Persistence: Imagine if the first time you stood up as a toddler and fell down again, you had given up and said “I can’t do that,” or “I tried it and it didn’t work.” And yet that’s exactly what many therapists do in relation to their business. Learning the skills of running a small business take time and they take practice. It requires a process of trial and error to discover what works best for you, and to grow into the place of being responsible for ourselves. Particularly in the area of promoting their practice, many are reluctant to persist with any course of action beyond their first attempt. Whatever the reason for this, (and no doubt we could analyse it endlessly) it is not a trait that serves.
There are other traits that support a healthy business perspective, but these three are probably the most important. Curiously, all therapists demonstrate these three traits on a daily basis in their client work, but find it harder to apply them in relation to the business sides of their practice.
I often hear from practitioners that they feel lacking in confidence where the business side of their practice is concerned. Any of you who have ever learned a new skill will know that confidence comes with repetition and support. Practice is so called for a reason! Practice your commitment and your planning, and be persistent in your efforts, and you will find your practice thriving.
Being the one who runs the practice, as well as the one who provides the service, means that sometimes there’s just too much to do in the available time. I’m sure you’ve had the experience, I know I have; the to-do list that just keeps growing no matter how fast or efficiently you clear the items, sometimes it just can’t be done.
There are many time management systems out there, thousands of books, computer packages and apps to help you “manage your time.” They all have in common a process of prioritising – you decide what’s most important, or urgent, and organise your tasks and your time accordingly.
They all work – once you decide what your priorities are. But for some people that’s the difficult piece, that’s the stumbling block, what do I prioritise?
Speaking with a friend this week she identified this problem, the things she should do for her practice, were not the things that were attracting her. Those things that were attracting her were family related and learning something new, both of which are important to her, but neither of which were going to progress her practice.
I’d love to be able to solve the problem for her, to magically slow down time, so that everything she has on her list gets done. But I can’t. I can tell her what I think she should do, but then that would be my priority wouldn’t it, not hers? Because here’s the thing, my friend, and only my friend controls what goes on the list. She and only she decides what to do, what order to do them in, and also what not to do. And while I can help her to be more efficient, I can suggest processes and strategies, I can’t actually decide for her what her priorities should be.
I struggled with this for a long time myself, and some days I still do. The first breakthrough came for me when I realised I never get to the end of the list. There are always more items, more tasks, more ideas to be added to it. And even if I get someone else to do some of it for me, there will still be more on my list than I can possibly clear.
I have to make a choice, and keep making choices, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day about what I want, about what I’m making important for me, right now. I can decide not to choose, or I can sit here looking at my list waiting for the right choice to emerge, or I can just start somewhere. Which leads me to the second breakthrough.
That came when I realised that the point of my life is not to get things done. The doing is merely the road I’m choosing to walk down in order to have the experience. The experience, what I learn, and who I become in the process, they’re the point. So what I do, or say or think, only has the importance or meaning that I give it. I get to choose that too!
My father told me when I was a teenager, “If you want to live your life, you have to get out of bed in the morning.” I’ve long forgotten the context of his advice, but the principle still applies. So I get out of bed. And then I look at the list. I choose, and go from there.
Choosing is painful at times. It raises all sorts of fears about getting it wrong. What if I make the wrong choice and regret it? What if I make the wrong choice and someone else disagrees with me? What about the loss of the things I don’t choose, or the things I never make enough of a priority to do? And so on, I’m sure you could add a few of your own!
Not choosing is also a choice, and a valid one. And it brings up exactly the same fears and feelings. And maybe the most important thing for me to do today is to do nothing, or to do something that isn’t on my list at all, but makes me feel good, like meeting a friend, or playing with a pet, or just sitting on the sofa in my pyjamas. Maybe the most important thing for me today is staying in bed (Sorry, Dad!)
If you struggle to know where to start when it comes to any aspect of growing or running your practice, I’d love to help. Contact me here with your query, or to avail of your free 20 minute consultation.
A Balance Sheet is a statement of the assets and liabilities of a business or entity at a point in time, expressed in money. Assets are things owned by the business. Liabilities are things owed by the business.
Although the contents and layout may vary according to the size and nature of the entity, generally speaking, a Balance Sheet will contain the following sections:
Long Term Liabilities
Owner’s Capital or Investment in the Business
Fixed Assets are assets held over a long period of time (more than one year). They are generally, but not always tangible in nature, such as premises, furniture and fittings, motor vehicles. Fixed assets also include long term investments.
Current Assets are those owned by the business, that are likely to be held for less than one year, such as bank accounts (which change day to day) or outstanding monies owed by clients (known as debtors.)
Current liabilities are those debts due by the business that are payable within the next year, such as outstanding bills for services (creditors) or short term bank borrowings (overdraft or short term loan.)
Long term liabilities are those amounts payable by the business in more than one year, such as longer term bank loans.
The extent to which there are more assets than liabilities, represents the owner’s accumulated capital or equity in the business. This includes any direct investment in the business, through money put in, and accumulated profits, less any amounts withdrawn from the business for the owners own use (drawings.)
Together with the profit and loss account (or income and expenditure account), the Balance Sheet shows a reader how healthy a business is financially at any point in time.
For more information about financial accounts please see my post Accounting 101.
On Thursday, I couldn’t access one of my email accounts. Friday, I couldn’t make payments online.
It could be what a former mentor of mine calls “Mercury Retrograde” which (I think) implies, “Don’t rely on technology today, the Gods are playing.”
After trying all the usual work-arounds (I am persistent!), another machine, another web browser, and so on, I rang the bank helpline and explained my problem. “You need to uninstall and reinstall Java,” she said, “A lot of customers were having problems with the latest update not loading properly.”
I won’t bore you with the details of my travels around Java, Microsoft, Mozilla, and umpteen screens on my computer before the problem got resolved. The point is, it WAS resolved. It took about 20 minutes, at the end of which I could access my email AND make payments online. Read more
Some years ago, one of the financial institutions ran an ad that asked, “Are you ready for the big drop?”
The big drop was, of course, the gap between our income before retirement and after retirement. The point being made was that some people have insufficiently provided for their pension.
Are you one of those? Have you got a plan in place for when you are no longer willing or able to work? Have you decided how you would like your retirement to look, or are you struggling to meet your day to day commitments, with nothing left over to put aside for a rainy day?
The impact of the recession on investments has left some people with less than expected to look forward to in their future, at a time when they would hope to be able to relax and take it easy.
Employers are bound by law to make a pension fund available to you, even if they don’t contribute to it, but there’s no requirement for a self employed person to do it for themselves. When we first set out to start a practice, every cent of costs and income count, so often, there is little left over for putting into a pension fund. Later, we may not make it a priority, and if we don’t, we will find ourselves having to make do with the state pension.
A pension fund will give most return the earlier you start to contribute to it, ideally it is started while you are in your twenties. The later you leave it to start, the more expensive it will be to provide you with a reasonable income when you come to collect.
If you haven’t thought about it before now, maybe this is the time to ask your financial advisor or your bank manager about how you might provide for your future. Did you know that contributions to an approved pension scheme may be tax deductible? That means that it may not cost you as much as you might think. And when the big drop comes, you’ll be glad you were thinking ahead.
A couple of years ago, I was visiting some family members whose barge was moored on the canal near my home. It was a wet, rainy afternoon. The barge was tied up to a mooring post in the grass bank, and to get on and off, we had to walk across a gang plank, four inches wide, and very slippery. As we were leaving the boat to go home, my 4 year old niece slipped and fell into the canal head first. I was closest to her, but was frozen in shock, unable to think what to do. Her mother standing at the back of boat was too far away, and it fell to my sister to push past me, lean over, grab the child by the back of her jacket and haul her out of the water. No harm done. She was wet and shocked, but thankfully alive. We were all hugely grateful for my sister’s quick action.
I was reflecting afterwards how, since training as a therapist, that my ability to act quickly in a crisis had seemed to fall away, where my ability to be fully in the feeling experience had expanded.
In life we walk two journeys, the internal journey, and the external one. The external journey is what we do, and how we do it, the practical piece of turning ideas into action, of turning thoughts into reality. The internal journey is focussed on our experience of our lives, how we think and how we feel about it. We travel both of these roads at the same time, a bit like going both directions on a dual carriageway at once!
In our practices, there are the things we do as a therapist and counsellor, and then there’s how we feel and think about doing them. As therapists we are very familiar with the emotional or mind-set journey. We understand how our past experiences can colour our present. We understand how our beliefs and fears can support or undermine our ability to function in the world. We sit with clients as they explore these aspects of themselves. The therapy session may be the only opportunity in their week where they take time out to visit that interior journey.
Sometimes, though, the opposite applies. I know for me, coming from a background in accountancy (very much in the action lane!), my training as a therapist moved me strongly into that other lane, asking me to reflect at length on my feelings, my motives, and my underlying patterns and beliefs. This process is now so ingrained, that on occasion I can get stuck in the feelings and forget that I need to take action. And the situation on the canal was a great example of that.
At other times, the interior world has been an escape for me. Sometimes it is easier to reflect on how a situation has impacted me, rather than take the courage to act. In other words, I can use how I look at and feel about my life as an excuse not to change it. Speaking to colleagues I know that I am not alone in any of this. On the dual carriageway of working as a therapist, there is a danger that my default response becomes “And how do I feel about that?”
We always have a choice about how we meet the experience of our lives. Exploring how we feel may change our view, our beliefs, or our relationship with our circumstances, but at some stage in the process, life asks of us that we engage with it at a practical level. If we are hungry, we can explore our hunger, we can analyse its origins, we can understand our process around it, but we are unlikely to satisfy it unless we go to the fridge and eat something.
My niece was unlikely to get out of the canal safely without an adult taking quick action. There’s a time when we need to acknowledge our feelings, and there’s also a time to move into action. Both have their place.
Unsure what action you might take to move your practice forward? Perhaps I can help you to get started. Contact me here for a free 20 minute consultation or to make an appointment.