Business, Marketing and the Art of the Possible and Probable

Over at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine Facebook page we’ve gotten a rousing discussion about schools and setting up a practice afterwards.   Having just gotten a response from a Canadian acupuncturist, it seems that in general acupuncture schools fail in preparing their students for running a business.

From the perspective of the school, I can see why that happens.   They’re there to teach the medicine and anyone who has gone through acupuncture school knows that there’s a lot of information to absorb and most of us are passionate about learning that side of things so we focus on the medicine and absorb as much as we can.    It’s only as we are getting ready to graduate that we suddenly realize what we don’t about running a business.

I’ve had friend hit the ground running.   It isn’t common, but is has happened.  They had 10 to 15 patients from week one and built from there.   Is this common? No.  Can anyone expect that?  No.  In this economy, I think there is far more planning involved.  Is it possible?  Absolutely!   If it weren’t the people I know who managed this wouldn’t have done it.

It’s easy to get into school and hear nothing but the more common stories of people who really struggle their first year (and even beyond).  I had one friend who never even opened a practice because of financial fears, which is really a loss to the profession.   It is common to struggle, especially at first,  but it’s common because most students are not proactive enough to start thinking about their practice before they graduate.   Typically there is a lag between getting a license and graduation. Many students choose to take this  time off. However, planning a set amount of time for relaxation and rejuvenating from school and then setting to work may be a smarter way to go.  Even setting aside a regular few hours a week can go a long way towards having a business that starts showing a profit early on.

Understanding that things take time in business means you can be more effective and proactive in setting things in motion.  Knowing  what your address is before graduation means you can print business cards with a location and start handing them out sooner.  It means you have more time to start networking with businesses that are close at hand.

Most importantly, if you think about what you want your business to be like sooner rather than later, you’ll be able to be more proactive about what you don’t know.  You may realize that you need time to do some studying in business.  Lisa Hanfileti has the Acupuncture Business Academy which can teach aspects of business new practitioners may not know.   Coaches, like Mark Silver at the Heart of Business and books like Dan Clements’ Practitioner’s Journey can also be helpful to addressing business questions the new practitioner may have.   Talking to people at the local SCORE office (and finding out what it is) can be helpful when navigating the new world of small business forms.

No one can guarantee you success as an acupuncturist.  However, you can do a lot of things to improve your business skills which will improve your chances  of being successful.   While being cautious about your expectations and how fast your schedule will fill is important, it’s also important to keep an eye on what is possible, even if it isn’t very probable.  After all, did Bill Gates think it was probably that he become one of the richest men in the world or did he just see a possibility and take the chance?

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Bonnie Koenig has been a licensed acupuncturist since 1999. She is passionate about helping people find real healing and real health. In the process she keeps asking about our attitudes towards sickness and health. Only by being clear on what sickness is, can we ever find health.

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