Superman…the pillar of strength, the man of steel. He is the perfect representation of power and altruism…using all of his superhuman strength for good. But even he…has a weakness.
Glowing Green Kryptonite.
It immediately cripples him and most of the time, he doesn’t even see it coming. Mental health professionals actually have a lot in common with Superman. We are strong, we use our powers for good…and we also have a Glowing Green “Kryptonite” that renders us weak before we even see it coming. You might be wondering what is this one thing that can render mental health professionals weak in the most unexpected of ways?
Counselor Kryptonite is Money.
Money issues show up often in our field…especially when we make the leap to build a business. Our thoughts and feelings about money, coupled with our behavior patterns causes more trouble for counselors in private practice than we can readily admit.
Once you are in private practice you will really need to be proactive and professional about how you manage money. Not paying enough attention to the fiscal matters of your practice can absolutely mean trouble. This is a BIG topic, one that certainly can’t be fully addressed in a blog post.
But it’s worth the time to take a look at a few quick things to consider.
1. First things first…You must have a Business Checking account. My accountant Joye Sistrunk CPA of Premier Group Services would be so glad to hear me talking about this one. Having a separate account for your business income is an important step in developing maturity in your business. It is not wise to deposit practice payments directly into your personal account for a variety of reasons. Ask any accountant and they will concur.
2. Pay attention to the numbers. Track your financial progress and observe the patterns in your business. This was one I was so resistant to in the beginning, but it makes a huge difference in your ability to know how healthy your business is. Even if you don’t like what you see at first, being aware will help you to make more conscious choices about how you are growing your business. Read The Top 5 Numbers to Know in Private Practice for more insight.
3. Technology can be a real asset. Merchant Services Accounts, Online Check Deposit and a Financial Management Software. These three handy tech tools can streamline your business operations and help you build a practice that really makes sense/cents!
*Merchant Services--Having a merchant services account connected directly to your business checking makes receiving payments convenient for both you and your client.
*Online Check Deposit--In our practice we receive checks from clients, insurance companies and contract vendors. Spending time running to the bank in order to keep cash flowing through your business is not the best use of your time. Before online check deposit, we had days where checks lay in my top drawer undeposited because I hadn’t made it to the bank. Online check deposit makes that a thing of the past.
*Financial Management Software- I know plenty of practice owners that swear by using Excel to keep track of the numbers in their practice. That may work when you are small, but as your business grows, you will need the infrastructure to help you efficiently keep track of your income and expenses. Do yourself the favor of starting with the right system now and let them grow with you.
4. Prepare your financial policies in advance and in writing. Have all of your financial policies clearly laid out for clients to read and understand. Really think through what is fair to you and what you can realistically manage. Clients will respect your policies if you state them clearly from the beginning. Ask yourself questions like…How long will I continue to see clients that are accruing a balance? It saves you time on having to make individual decisions on every case. It helps you to be fair and it makes it easier for your to have conversations with clients about money, because there is something in writing that everyone can refer to.
5. Lastly and probably much more important is to explore your thoughts and feelings about money. Tech tools, budgets and policies won’t make much of a difference if there is a part of you that is still uncomfortable with approaching and managing money in your practice. Your Money Mindset will cripple your practice and put a lid on the growth of your business.
Do you feel uncomfortable setting fees or holding clients accountable for balances?
Do you know there is something not working financially in your practice, but have not researched it and established a plan to address it?
I know how challenging it can be, especially in a profession where we are so focused on being helpers. It feels awkward to even put a price tag on the work we do. But the truth is, if we don’t embrace solid business principles for helping professionals, we won’t be able to sustain the businesses that are here to serve the people that need us the most.
New for Spring 2016, I have created a new half day training entitled Counselor Kryptonite: How Money Mindset Can Cripple Your Private Practice. This is the beginning of a conversation to heal your relationship with money and then equip you with the skills needed to help your practice grow!