When Rich and I started our first Chiropractic practice (wow, almost 10 years ago!) we had a very clear vision of the type of practice we wanted to create. We wanted to build a practice where we would work together, in an inviting and comfortable atmosphere, treating the friends we made in our community, and their friends, families, and neighbors. We wanted to be able to bring our kids to work, as well as, schedule our work around trips and other important events in our lives. What we wanted was a solid Lifestyle Practice.
So, what is a lifestyle practice? It’s a practice that compliments your life instead of controlling your life. At the time, we didn’t realize that’s what we were building, but looking back at it now, a true, solid lifestyle practice is exactly what we were building, and lifestyle practice didn’t just describe our end goal, it described the entire journey we took to get there. We also believe that building this type of practice allowed us to stay engaged with our patients and practice without feeling overworked or burnt out. We always went in feeling refreshed and ready for the day!
There are so many important points about all of this that I’m going to share with you, but one of the most important is to know that we had just as strong of a commitment to our practice and patients as we did to the people and activities in our lives. It’s not possible to build a SOLID lifestyle practice without the commitment to your practice and its growth. By utilizing awesome systems in your office like we did and having a relationship based approach to patient acquisition and treatment like we did, you can create a SOLID lifestyle practice too. A practice that will continue to grow so that at some point you have the freedom to hire an associate and give yourself more free time, or allow you to expand offices and grow exponentially. Our lifestyle practice gave us the freedom to move to another state and start another practice.
The reason we both got into Chiropractic in the first place was so that we could have a career that allowed us more freedom – to work the hours we wanted, the days we wanted, and to have more control over how much of our lives were dedicated to working. At the time, when we started our first practice, Rich had a 7 year old son that he wanted to spend as much time with as he could, and I wanted to travel home often to visit my young nieces and family. For us, there has always been more to life than working, and as much as we love Chiropractic and spreading wellness, we wanted the freedom to enjoy our lives because we value friendships, family, vacations, and time spent together doing other things we love.
What is right for you?
Maybe you’re unsure if a lifestyle practice is right for you, because it isn’t right for everyone. It’s important to assess where you are at in life, what are your priorities, what are your values? A lifestyle practice isn’t right for everyone. If you want a huge office with a gorgeous build out and lots of staff within a few years of graduation, then you need to be willing to work 50+ hours a week marketing, managing, and treating. If you’re looking to build your practice around the freedom to enjoy your family, hobbies, or other activities, then it is definitely for you. We’re all at different places in life and want or need different things.
When we were starting our practice, we moved to Colorado to be closer to Rich’s son and we wanted to spend as much time as we could with him, so it was important to us that we not be dictated by our office. We took lunch at a time so that we could both pick him up from school. We took mornings and afternoons off in the summer to be at the pool. We took Spring Breaks, summer vacations, Thanksgivings, and Christmas trips out of town to be with family. We weren’t willing to miss out on these experiences.
Don’t get me wrong, a lifestyle practice can certainly grow to a larger scale, but it takes time. We were able to hire an associate and move away from our practice after just over 5 years. At the time we did this we were also looking at buying our own office space or expanding to have satellite clinics, so the opportunity is there, it just can be done much faster with other systems. Faster isn’t always better though. What allowed us to step out of our practice and have it run so smoothly was that we had built a solid practice that could withstand bringing in a new person. What makes our approach so solid is that we built our lifestyle practice using a relationship based approach to patient acquisition and treatment. We will talk more about this in another blog, but for now remember that the two aspects, a lifestyle practice and relationship marketing, go hand-in-hand and both play a major role in avoiding burnout.
Many of you have probably experienced burnout maybe in sports as a kid or in college as you were getting ready to graduate. If you’ve experienced burnout then you know it’s not a good place to be. For fun I Googled, “Avoid Burnout,” to see how our lifestyle practice approach enabled us to build a solid practice while avoiding burnout. These are the tips that come up:
- Work with purpose.
- Perform a job analysis, and eliminate or delegate unnecessary work.
- Give to others.
- Take control, and actively manage your time.
- Get more exercise.
- Learn how to manage stress.
Work with purpose –
We were working as Chiropractors, what better purpose is there and what better way to give to others, right? Chiropractic is an awesome profession! Everyday we get to use what we’ve learned to help people feel and look better. In-turn they are able to enjoy life more – their kids, spouses, friends, hobbies, vacations, jobs, etc. There’s an immense amount of gratification that comes from assisting others to be better. There are some weeks when we would work more than 40 hours, but this aspect of the profession made it seem like not working.
Perform a job analysis, and eliminate or delegate unnecessary work –
We actually took this one, one step further. Part of our overall system for running a practice was to avoid unnecessary work from the very beginning, and we believe that starts with one very big key – LOW OVERHEAD! We cannot stress it enough, especially when you are first starting out into practice, low overhead is key. Each month you will have a baseline of money you need to bring in to pay for sunk costs – rent, telephone, trainings, insurance, marketing, etc. The lower you keep this amount, the less you have to work to pay for it.
A great deal of overhead is taken on with opening costs – how much money you spend on your build-out, how much money you spend on large purchases that are leased, staff, etc. The next significant portion of overhead is your rent or lease for the space you’re in. Then there are expenses that you don’t have much negotiating power over such as utilities, malpractice insurance, office liability insurance, etc. Keeping all of these at a minimum will free you from having to work that much harder each month. We believe the rest of this point comes along more as you grow, and keeping your main focus on the management of the practice and treating patients, and delegating the other activities as necessary.
Give to others –
The very practice of Chiropractic is giving to others the treatment and information they need to be healthy and well. We spend our days learning more about the science of optimal function of the human body, so we can give more to our patients. It’s a great profession that we’re lucky to be apart of!
Opening our own practice gave us the freedom to take control of our time and actively manage it to compliment our lives. We could take and pick-up Rich’s son from school everyday we needed to, we could spend days with him at the pool, we could take him on vacation for Spring Break, Christmas, or during the summer. We could head into the mountains with friends, or out of town for a friend’s wedding. We were in control so that we could work when we wanted to and enjoy life outside of work when we wanted or needed to.
Get more exercise –
How awesome is it that exercise is a part of our job? There’s not much time wasted sitting at a desk. Also, as a profession we need to walk the talk, so Rich and I believe it’s important to model a healthy lifestyle for our patients and community by eating right and getting the exercise we need. Rich and I have always had a gym membership. Our kids love the daycare there and we both enjoy lifting weights and running or walking together.
Learn how to manage stress –
Having the balance of work and life with a lifestyle practice gives us the space we need to deal with the stresses of work and life. Stress isn’t avoidable, so it’s more about how you deal with it. As a couple, Rich and I have always focused on the 3 C’s of any stressful situation. Control what you can, cope with what you can’t, and concentrate on what matters. This helps to keep it all in perspective and allows us to enjoy the journey.
After looking at each of these tips for avoiding stress it’s clear how Rich and I were able to avoid burnout by creating a lifestyle practice that allowed us the freedom to enjoy our lives, the ability to live better and spend more time with family, it gave us stability and empowered us to become respected in our community, which allowed us to have the most impact and gave us the greatest joy. By being true to us, and utilizing what we had learned in previous careers and through other education we were able to start a business, use the clinical experience we had learned in school, effectively communicate with patients, market and build our practice, and ultimately succeed
Go All In…
Maybe you feel like you don’t have what it takes to do what we did. We visited successful Chiropractic offices during school and felt that way too when we first graduated. We weren’t sure if we would fail, we feared the long-term commitment of opening our own office, would we get patients, would we know how to treat them and talk to them, would we have the money, would we be able to market effectively, and would we end up being financially secure when it was all said and done? These were all things we asked ourselves too. We were both moving to a new community, almost 700 miles from where we had been living while in Chiropractic school. We didn’t have any friends or family in the area. We honestly didn’t know a single soul. It was a small town just North of Denver that appeared to be growing, but it was January 2009, the stock market had been crashing, housing prices were plummeting and we were scared AF. We weren’t sure we stood a chance, but we were ALL IN!
Rich and I found it within ourselves to move beyond all of that. We had confidence in everything we had learned up to that point and we found the resources we needed to take the first steps. After a few trips to the area we found our office location. We talked to each other endlessly about our vision of the practice and what the steps were that we would need to take to get it open. We made checklists and shopped for everything we would need. Then we diligently researched marketing materials, websites, etc. We utilized whatever information we could find to learn how to market, communicate, and treat in such a way as to continue growing, and eventually succeed at running a solid lifestyle practice.
When it comes to our success, it isn’t any one thing we could pinpoint that got us there. We had both been to different Chiropractic coaching group seminars, but ultimately we didn’t join a program because we didn’t feel like we aligned with any of them. From what we understood coaching programs pushed long-term treatment plans, writing off deductibles and copay, sales scripts, etc. All of these things were a huge turnoff to us. We didn’t want to be bound by contracts, and tell every patient that they needed the same treatment plan. Rich and I didn’t want to barely push on someone’s back and tell them they would be all better. We were committed to our relationship based, referral practice approach, and to enjoying our lives outside of our practice.
Chiropractic is a second career for both of us. Rich had previously been in sales and banking, and I had worked as an office manager in a Chiropractic clinic and in restaurants. We both took what we had already learned from our personal experiences and what we learned in school, and combined it with the resources we could find to build a business. We spoke to friends and mentors about how they were doing things and we spoke to business owners in other fields. Over the course of several years we developed our own systems for efficient office management. We developed our own way of marketing that didn’t include spinal screenings(because that was something we didn’t want to do). We developed our own way of goal setting and record keeping. Rich and I went to seminars to learn more about billing, coding, and documentation. We honed in on the best way to give a report of findings and the most effective way to communicate to the patient.
Create your own Lifestyle Practice
If you are in your final year of Chiropractic school, or just graduating then these might be all of the tasks you’re stressed about when it comes to thinking about opening your own practice. You want so badly to open on your own, you want to have the freedom and flexibility to carry out your own vision of what practice should be, and you are tired of bringing in profits for someone else and you want a practice you can call your own. Maybe you want to build a solid lifestyle practice like we did, that allows you the freedom and flexibility to spend time with your new spouse, or kids. Maybe you want to play semi-pro golf, or be in a band. If this interests you then I recommend joining our email list and getting into our private Chiro Business Mojo Facebook group. We’re going to have a big announcement coming up, but in the meantime we will be producing a lot of valuable content, like the ChiroPlanner, that will help you along the way. Don’t feel like you have to be someone you’re not to succeed in Chiropractic. In fact being the best possible YOU, will ensure your success!
Maybe you’re interested in more than being on our email list or being in our Facebook group. If that’s the case then you can checkout the ChiroPlanner. We developed the ChiroPlanner last year as a resource for students or new chiros, as an extra tool to put in their toolkit. It’s an extremely inexpensive guide to getting started. It will help you clarify your vision of what you want your practice to be, as well as, help you develop a plan for getting started. It will keep you on track as you make decisions and meet people in your community. There are resources in it that will save you money, time, and heartache by shortening your learning curve on the how-tos of starting up. You can incorporate some of our systems, it took us years to develop, at the beginning and possibly be profitable within a first few months.
We didn’t create the ChiroPlanner as a get rich quick scheme. We developed it because we see so many students plagued with the same questions. The ChiroPlanner is our way of answering some of those questions. Opening a successful practice isn’t rocket science, however, there are certainly better ways of doing things depending on the results you are looking for. Although we didn’t join any coaching groups, we still talked to mentors, colleagues, and friends. We had many years of combined experience in sales and working in and being around Chiropractic offices. We also didn’t succeed at every turn. Lots of things didn’t work, but we evolved, and changed for the better. We created better systems, better ways of treating, of communicating, etc. The ChiroPlanner is a little bit of how we did things to be better and have better results. We wanted to provide a valuable resource that would encourage anyone looking to open a practice, regardless of your Chiropractic philosophy, regardless if you use Activator, Diversified, Gonstead, or upper cervical to create, plan, and act towards success.
Maybe you already own the ChiroPlanner and you’re on our emailing list or in our Facebook group, and you want more, then I recommend listening to the podcast. We recorded over 100 episodes and counting. Some of the episodes feature Chiropractic guests, others feature business owners succeeding in their own fields, and others feature Rich himself talking about different topics regarding starting and running a Chiropractic practice. We are getting ready to record more episodes and would really love your feedback! If you have any topics you would like us to cover more in-depth then we would love to hear from you. We would also love to interview chiros who are doing well in practice, so drop us a line if that’s you.
Fill-out the contact form below if you are intrigued by the possibilities of starting your own, extremely solid, lifestyle practice. There will be a special offer for those who sign-up early. We’ll also email you with more valuable information, notifications when we drop new podcast episodes, and all other things Chiro Business Mojo.
Thank you for taking the time to read through this post. If you made it this far then it’s clear you are dedicated to succeeding at this, and we want to be apart of that. Please let us know how we can help you. We will email you back!