How to Build the Perfect Practice

Carpenter hands with hammer wood and nailHow many times have you heard the popular advice to “build your practice around your ideal lifestyle” if you want to prosper financially and emotionally?

Perhaps more important, what does that mean and how do you do it?

Let’s dig back into some family history for a minute.

Sixteen years ago, my father was living alone in the house he had shared with my mom who died the previous year. At that time, I was living in California – he was in Ohio – and I decided to head back to visit him. I hadn’t been at the house since her death and wanted to see how he was faring all by himself.

When I arrived, I discovered that the house was an absolute mess.

For example, my dad had turned their TV room into an “art studio,” which had tubes of oil paint, turpentine, dirty brushes and rags scattered all over the floor; crusts of dried oil paint splattered all over my mom’s favorite Oriental area rugs. He had sloppily jerry-rigged the kitchen cabinets and drawers to accommodate his arthritic fingers. Every knob, surface and crevice was smeared with grease and hardened food schmutz.

Room by room, I took inventory of the chaos. But one thing I discovered was particularly bizarre.

I went to use the bathroom and noticed that I could barely shut the door. An area rug (a pricey Oriental runner) was lying across the threshold, halfway in the bathroom and halfway out of it. I bent down and couldn’t move it out of the way. Upon closer inspection, I noticed that dear old daddy had affixed the area rug to the bathroom floor on one end and onto the hallway floor on the other, using a commercial-grade staple gun. The door was permanently open.

When I asked him what that was all about, Dad calmly told me that he was tired of the area rugs moving around so he stapled them to the floor. Since he lived alone, he didn’t worry about shutting doors because no one could see him.

“Rugs?” I thought. Sure enough, he had stapled all of my mom’s treasured area rugs to the floors in the house. I was speechless.

Dad solved a problem with no forethought as to the other problems that it might create. His thought process probably went something like this:

  1. The area rugs move.
  2. I don’t want the area rugs to move.
  3. I will make the area rugs stop moving.

But between steps 1 and 3, there are other things to consider. What if a guest visits and needs to use the bathroom? What if stapling the rugs impacts their value? What if your daughter is walking through the hall and sees you naked in your bedroom because an area rug prevents your door from closing (yes, this happened. Eww.).

Let’s get back to the importance of building a practice around your ideal lifestyle.

I know practitioners who dream of building a booming brand like Mark Hyman’s and think, “Wow, wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of impact?”

But I’m guessing that Dr. Hyman lives in airports. His work is closely scrutinized by masses of people, he spends hours of time managing his brand and his team, and likely does a boatload of non-clinical business activities that steal his weekends. No one accidentally creates this type of brand. It takes a massive amount of work and you must be committed to it 24 x7.

Or maybe you envision opening a large wellness center in your own hometown that includes multiple practitioners, therapies, and the square footage to go along with it. Perhaps set up a concierge practice and offer group programs?

Many practitioners who have opened large wellness clinics like this have told me that you’ll spend about 60% of your time running the business, meaning you are more of a Business Manager than clinician. Your days are spent hiring, firing, managing financial and legal issues, and maybe once in a while seeing a patient. It’s why many practitioners sell their big clinics and go back to being solo practitioners in an executive suite with zero employees.

It’s great to dream big, but there are a lot of aspects to take into account when you create your lifestyle-based practice.

For example:

  1. What are your top 3 priorities outside of your work and how might the time you spend on them be impacted by your practice model? Consider family, faith, sport, hobbies and interests for starters.
  2. What type of work gives you joy and, maybe more important, what steals your energy? Think patient consults, managing a clinic, teaching classes, research.
  3. What are your primary strengths? What kind of work feels like no effort at all? Clinical care, writing, program creation, public speaking, networking, making videos, and managing teams are some possibilities.
  4. What burning desire do you have? What must you accomplish in order to feel that your life has been fulfilled… and how will your practice model support (or take away from) it? Write a book, travel the world, go to culinary school, and get another degree are some I’ve heard.
  5. How many days off per week, per month, per year do you want?
  6. What fills your soul with purpose and how will your practice model contribute to it? This is an area where you want to identify the ideal patient you wish to serve, how you want to help them and – don’t forget – how you want to make money doing it.
  7. Who else will be impacted by your decision? In what ways?

I’m sure there are other questions, too.

Like my staple-crazy dad, without thinking ahead to the downstream impact of your decisions, you risk creating more problems with the choices you make. The ideal practice model should be designed to bring not only joy and prosperity, but also freedom to change course – to move the rugs around – as new outliers present themselves.

There is only one perfect practice model. It’s the one that’s custom-made for the life you want.

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Comments (6)

  • Ruth

    Great questions Miriam! Doing what we love can only make us better practitioners. As alway, I appreciate the great guidance.

    • Miriam

      Thanks for your support, Ruth. I’m glad you are finding my posts helpful.

  • Lyssandra

    Thank you, Miriam!

    This is exactly what I needed to read this morning. I am in transition in trying to launch my Holistic Nutrition practice and although I love the progress and recognition of now being seen as a holistic nutritionist, I’m still not seeing any potential clients knocking at my door. It makes me feel like maybe I need a different perspective at how I see myself in this field. I love doing research and sharing the information, ha, that’s kind of as far as gotten with reaching out to people. I am definitely looking forward to digesting these questions with answers that come from the heart.

    Thank you, take care.

    • Miriam

      Thanks, Lyssandra! I’d love to hear what sort of awareness the answers will bring to you and your direction. Let me know.

  • Cynthia

    Such a timely post…I’m an NP, wellness coach and certified in functional nutrition….this resonates so much as I’ve resigned from my NP job to really concentrate on my coaching/nutritional therapy business….I just purchased your book and look forward to reading that, too. Many thanks

  • Eric Grasser

    Great post, Miriam. I needed these reminders today.

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