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My #1 Business Mistake (Don’t Do What I Did!)

by Kimberly on June 16, 2011 · 9 comments

Part of learning to become a good therapist is learning how to self-evaluate. What worked during a session? What didn’t work? Why didn’t it work? What would you do differently next time?

These same skills are important for business owners. We need to evaluate our programs, services, and marketing plans. Did that brochure work and attract new leads? How was the title of that sales page–did it attract more clicks? Are people re-registering for this new program? So I didn’t meet my goals of getting 5 people to sign up at the end of my talk–why not?

I’ve had a lot of time this year to think through what went well with my clinical business in Colorado, what didn’t go so well…and why.

One of my major frustrations at the time was that I wasn’t getting enough new clients. I felt I was working SO hard booking speaking engagements, setting up workshops, and creating brochures. But my business wasn’t growing like I felt it should.

In hindsight, I realize my mistake: I was thinking like a general practitioner and not like a specialist.

What’s the difference? As a “general practitioner MT,” I was taking any client who came my way. I booked speaking engagements with any group I could. The wording on my brochures and website was broad, so that almost any clinical population was covered. I figured that, since music therapy could work “from cradle-to-grave,” why not offer all that myself? One of my big fears was that if I focused on a particular population, I’d be turning people away.

In contrast, as a “specialist MT,” I would have specialized working with a particular clinical population (or, better yet, a particular problem. But that’s for another post). This is a mindset shift more than anything. But if I had made this shift in thinking a couple years ago, I could have brought more focus and more business to my practice.

I could have been clearer in how I talked about the services I offered. People reading my marketing materials would have an easier time understanding how I could help them. Instead of talking to a rehab groups, parent support groups, and medical teams…I would just have one area and do that workshop really, really well. No need to tailor a bazillion talks for a bazillion different types of groups!

At this point in my career, there’s not much for me to do about this. Except share it with you, of course! 🙂 But rest assured, when I’m ready to re-open my clinical practice, I’ll be doing it with my specialist hat on.

P.S. I admit that I didn’t reach this “ah-ha” moment on my own. I heard it from Dr. Laura Dessauer, an art therapist in Florida who last summer started the International Association for Therapists in Private Practice. I haven’t talked about this group a whole lot, but there’s a wealth of knowledge provided through the calls and forums. If you’re a therapist in private practice…it’s worth checking out!


{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Natalie Mullis, MT-BC June 16, 2011 at 9:44 am

AHH KIM You are in my BRAIN! Part of my editing on my website here lately (and spurring the launch of a new project) is that fact that I’ve been WAY TOO BROAD. The past few weeks I’ve been tightening my belt to focus on one ideal customer and as such, have been pursuing speaking engagements and opportunities ‘laser focused’ on that particular client. Thanks for sharing this! It is some seriously valuable information!

JoAnn Jordan June 16, 2011 at 12:49 pm

You are correct on specializing and the resources of Dr. Laura Dessaur. I have been following her about a year and have learned a lot!

Kimberly June 16, 2011 at 12:56 pm

@Natalie Great idea! Hope that works out for you–let us know 🙂 @JoAnn Laura has a lot of great materials and info, doesn’t she? ~Kimberly

Jaycie Voorhees June 21, 2011 at 8:30 pm

This couldn’t have come at a better time! I am in the process of building my private practice and have thought of the many different populations on which I could focus when my business is my only source of income (I currently work at a school as well but will be doing the ‘mom’ thing after this next school year…and a private practice will be much more flexible!) I was trying to think of how to market to so many different populations and feeling slightly overwhelmed at the thought, but now I see that my time and energy will be better spent on focusing on a specialty. It’s almost a relief to make that decision! As time goes on I may decide to add other populations, but I’ll focus on this one area for now and hopefully watch it grow over time. Thanks for the tip Kimberly!

Kimberly June 22, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Wonderful @Jaycie! I hope you revisit this site in a few months and let us know how your practice is growing 🙂 ~Kimberly

Meghan July 2, 2011 at 2:21 pm

I must echo everyone else’s comments – I’m now in the midst of learning how important this is in building a successful practice! My friend/business consultant just emphasized to me how beneficial this can be for growing a business. I am however SO grateful that I worked with every population under the sun in my early years. I developed a range of skills, know what my strengths are, and have a better idea of where I want to specialize now. Great post Kim!

Kimberly July 5, 2011 at 9:22 am

Good point! Best of luck to you Meghan as you continue to grow your practice! ~Kimberly

Laura Dessauer July 28, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Thanks Kimberly for the shout-out. You are on the cutting edge pulse of practice building and it is refreshing to hear of other CAT’s exploring how to promote their work in innovative ways so we can help reach more people! The thing I struggled with (and still do ) is the bright-shiny object syndrome, or as I like to refer to it as entrepreneurial ADHD 🙂 It seems like there are so many great creative ideas and it’s hard to stay focused at time. Thanks for the amazing work you do to keep us on the path towards success.

Kimberly July 29, 2011 at 11:10 am

“Entrepreneurial ADHD”–that’s great! I’ve found that, for several software programs and other “shiny new objects,” I’ve tried them once, then put them away, knowing they’re there for later use or to refer to someone else. But I’ve always tried to make sure I’m using them to meet one of my project goals 🙂 I appreciate your continued support Laura! ~Kimberly

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