Valuing Your Work

I’ve been working on pricing some items.  I know I undervalue what I do.  It seems like that’s a common theme for those in the helping professions.

Consider that if you are self-employed, you need to be making a certain amount to survive with your overhead.  Certainly insurance companies have been slow to keep up with cost of living but that doesn’t mean that acupuncture rates don’t need to go up.  It doesn’t mean you can’t ask for what you are worth.  Ultimately each practitioner can figure out what they can agree on as far as the amount they need to make per patient.  Someone seeing several patients per hour can leverage their time such they can charge a lower rate per patient than the practitioner who sees only one person per hour.

The fact that the second practitioner sees fewer patients may be a selling point as to why they charge higher rates.

If you, as a practitioner, honestly feel you are worth the money people will come in and pay you no matter what you ask.  It helps to be clear about exactly how much you think you deserve. If you don’t think you can charge enough to live on, it might help to consider why you don’t value your time.  Sometimes that discomfort is about issues around personal value that may not even be realized.

Choices: Is it Too Little or Too Much

Making choices in your acupuncture practiceI’m thinking about a number of things in my life.  In growing my business I had some resistance to doing some stuff suggested–adding products and the comment was that it sounds like you’re afraid this could get to big.  And yes, that is true. I have other things I want to spend time on too.

On the other hand, I realized as I was slow to find space in my new larger home that I have a lot of space and that creates its own indecision.  No longer to have to stuff what I can where I can in the closest to the most useful place, but I can plan where I want things to be organized. I can plan how I want to use the space.  It’s an unusual feeling.  This means that I have so many decisions to make about those small things, like extra light bulbs and batteries (which my husband purchases at Costco regularly) that my house still is not quite home.  But it’s getting there.

I don’t have to have things done perfectly.  There are places that will need to be re-arranged.  There are things that I might swap out at a later time when I re-organize and know where I’ll be using things most.  This is far easier to work with than the fear of something being too much.

Again there are decisions about where do I want to focus my energy.  What is it exactly that I want to do.  In an acupuncture practice it seems like we take on all of it without choice because there isn’t enough money to not do it all.  Some people find others who will work as contractors for percentages, like insurance billers.  Others hire employees.  It’s important to set up your business so that you are doing that which you love most of the time.  There will always be tasks that need to be done by you that aren’t as fun, aren’t as enjoyable.  However, really get in touch with those tasks that you dislike the most and get someone to help you with those.

Warming Foods: The Good and The Ugly

Winter Sugar CravingsYang deficient patients need to eat warming foods.  We think of foods like chicken or ginger or perhaps garlic to help warm their spleen yang.  These foods help digestion.  It will warm the body and increase the energy.

I mostly eat okay.  This winter, after having a little too much extra food over the holidays I was starting back on a decent diet and limiting my intake of simple carbohydrates when we were hit by a winter storm.  At first, as it snowed outside I enjoyed watching.  I had some lunch.  I decided to treat myself to a kombucha.  As the snow continued for the next two days I found myself with the increasing urge to bake.

I grew up in a home where my mother offered baked goods on a daily basis.  They were always homemade and she used the best ingredients possible.  By best, I do not mean the most healthful, but the best ingredients that would make the best food.  At some point in my childhood she discovered that Crisco was easier than lard.  By the time I was a teenager a chocolate cake might come out of a box. I remember sitting in the kitchen watching her or at times helping with things that needed extra hands.

The snow brought that back.  After fighting the urge for most of a morning and into the late afternoon I baked some simple cookies.  And I ate.  And ate. I found that I couldn’t get enough of them.  I’m yang deficient. I was cold.  After feeling badly and wondering what was off on my hormones and how could I correct this, it occurred to me to wonder, as I shivered under covers when the power out later that I was surprised at my chill given the sugar I had eaten earlier. It then occurred to me to wonder, was the sugar craving my body’s way of trying to warm itself when there was cold outside?

This didn’t make the sugar binge okay with me, but it gave me an aha moment.  Perhaps our cultural love affair with all things sugar is really our body’s attempt to balance an imbalance. The cold, quick foods so often eaten and the heavy carbohydrates that further inhibit the spleen means that most people in my office were, to a great or lesser extent, spleen qi deficient and often spleen yang deficient.  While there are far better foods that would warm my body, sugar is a food my body has found earlier than it has found many of the other warming foods. Perhaps therein lies the craving.  Maybe my body is taking its limited knowledge of balancing and attempting to make a balance, despite the fact that sugar will cause so many other problems.

Certainly I know to avoid sugar.  Certainly I mostly do.  But sometimes something comes up with a strong craving and I give in.  This gives me another question to ask myself before giving in.  I can consider why now?  Maybe it’s the weather.  Fats are often helpful to manage sugar cravings.  Fats are also very warming.  I wonder if that’s one of the reasons they work to limit sugar cravings.  Although sometimes, fats just aren’t as good as sugar!  Oddly, my choice was peanut butter cookies, so I guess I had some of both!

When your Goals Conflict

When Goals ConflictI’ve often struggled with success in many areas of my life.  One idea that often comes up as I try and work with that issue is that are the conflicting commitments.  How many patients come in and want to lose weight but also want to eat the sugary carbohydrate rich diet that made them fat in the first place?  The foods taste good.  We’re committed to enjoying our food.  We may be more committed to that than to losing weight.  Recognizing the commitment inherent in overeating (it could be anything from enjoying food to emotional self soothing) and then working with that to see which is more important–the commitment to be at a healthy weight or the commitment that allows the overeating–can be the key to getting to where you want to be.

I was thinking about this again while reading the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson.  When staring Apple, Jobs wanted to do a number of things.  He wanted to change the way people thought about computers.  He wanted to put computers on the desk of every person.   He wanted to make a computer that anyone could afford to have.  There were some other goals, but it was interesting to me that he wanted to be the computer of the masses.

I love Mac products.  I’m of an age to have been a geeky techy person when the Mac was new.  I remember being there when a friend got the first Mac and everyone gathered as he removed the cover around to look at the signatures embedded there.   The Mac is a good machine.  It is not a cheap machine.  I can get a PC with a bigger hard drive, more memory and an equally fast hardware loaded with software for about 60% of what I would pay for a new Mac.   Office software is typically $10 to $30 less on a PC than on a Mac.  Back when you purchased PC games for use on your computer, Mac games were often $20 higher and took an extra 6 months to come out.

The Mac is a good machine.  Jobs did that.  He made a great machine.  I’ve had Macs still run after 10 years of hard use.  One of the ancient Macs was at an office where I worked.

Macs, however, are not affordable for everyone.  This was one commitment that Jobs couldn’t keep.   His main commitment was in building new and innovative machines that worked and worked well.   The commitment to being a machine for every man fell by the wayside.

The question becomes, does this make him less of a success?  I doubt anyone would say it did.

As we step back from our conflicting commitments, perhaps it’s time to take a look at those we kept to ourselves and how we can make ourselves proud rather than focusing on where we failed.  I doubt Jobs ever looked twice at the fact that at one point in his life he wanted to make computers for “the masses” and instead turned out a high-end product that not everyone could afford.  He went with what was a priority to him and didn’t question when something was not aligned with what he really wanted.

 

Acupuncture Lessons Learned from My Cat

The Water Type CatI have a young cat who has not done well with the two moves in three months that we went through.  He mews constantly at night.   I’ve had him to the vet, the animal communicator and a friend of a friend is doing some shamanic work with him from a distance.   The general impression is that this cat is terrified.  He is afraid to the core of his being.  He doesn’t even know what it is to feel safe, although since I have had him he has always been a safe and loved indoor only cat.  One of my other cats is very easy-going and my Siamese was more into withdrawal from him than any aggression when she was upset by his presence.

Clearly, he’s a water type cat.  I have no idea how he will come into his wisdom but I am working with him to feel safer.  It’s hard to watch him, knowing that many of his problematic behaviors stem from fears.  I’ve leaned a few things to remember in working with him.  First, he might be fear based, which suggests kidneys, a good play time workout does wonders for him for the next evening.   My husband has been doing some clicker training with him and I think this builds some self-confidence and does wonders for him.  I’d tend to think of those as more liver related but it seems to help the kidney fearfulness. Perhaps because the liver is stronger and can feed back to the kidneys the needed energies to handle what is going on.

I think we all need to remember to treat the whole body in any patient.  It’s important to remember how even the smallest changes in organs that don’t seem part of a diagnosis may change the whole picture.   Very often in diagnosis, we try so hard to only treat what is really necessary without seeing that building up another organ that may need just a little attention can be the key to healing the whole body.

The issues this young cat have are great but I have hopes that something will work for him. I am incredibly grateful to the wonderful people who have just stepped in and offered their assistance to me.

Resolutions

Acupuncturist's Resolutions.Sometimes it’s good to put your resolutions in writing so you can go back and find them again at the end of the year.  Sharing online means you have a reason to stick with them as well.  It creates accountability.

My resolutions and goals for 2012 are:

  • To settle in and make my new house a home (hopefully this will be a fun and easy goal to keep!)
  • To finish up at least three books and get at least two of them self published.  My long-term goal is to write four a year but this is my first year, so I’ll start there.
  • To finish up a picture book I’ve been working on.
  • To grow my Art of Acupuncture Business and make it a presence online with acupuncturists.

My resolutions are in no particular order.   I’ll have to remember to go back and see how I did in December of next year.  What are your resolutions?

How to Lose a Customer: 4 Tips from Adobe

I’ve been using Photoshop elements on my iMac on the Windows side for several years. I think the first version I purchased was Elements 6 and I now have 9.   The other day the editor stopped opening files.   After my experience with Adobe’s customer support, I’ll probably be changing my photo editing software to Corel.  Why is that?

First, it was tough to get any answers from their website.   As acupuncturists, you don’t need to have pages of frequently asked questions and troubleshooting tips like Adobe should have, but did not.  However, you should have a phone number that’s easy to find. If you like emails, then make sure you have a contact form or an easy to find email form for patients as well.    You should also have invites for your patients and potential patients to contact you with any questions no matter how small.

Second, make sure that the contact information doesn’t work correctly.  Adobe’s support line is supposed to call you back when a technician is ready.  I was hung up on twice.  Chances are a small acupuncture office doesn’t have that sort of automatic response.  However, make sure your receptionists know how to use the phone system and get numbers to minimize problems with dropped calls.  Not everyone will call back.  Keep potential patients (and current patients) phone wait times to a minimum.  If you know it’s going to be awhile, ask for a number to call back.

Third, make sure your office staff is knowledgeable about what you do.  Adobe had a big fail on this for several reasons.  They didn’t ask me  to perform obvious problem solving tips (that when I realized I hadn’t done then did indeed solve the problem.  This could also have been on their website) and later on their technician wasn’t familiar with something and gave me patently wrong information about my system.

Office staff in an acupuncturist’s office should always know what acupuncture can treat and understand the specialties of the practitioners.  If they aren’t comfortable explaining something, then having the practitioner call someone back is important.  Anyone answering the phone should be confident that sometimes uncomfortable things happen with acupuncture (a flare up of new symptoms for instance) and should be able to immediately reassure the patient that their process is normal.  They can then be referred to the practitioner for a call back if the patient needs more. Sometimes someone just wants to know if it’s normal and they aren’t worried.   Good front office people can assess that.  However, it is always better to have a call back when none is needed than not have one.

Front office people should never ever give out information that might be incorrect.  People are talking about their health. As a healthcare provider, they need to trust that your information is accurate.  Make sure you staff appreciates that.

Finally, make sure that all office staff are on the same page.   Adobe’s technical support told me Adobe didn’t support Elements on Bootcamp on a Mac.  Adobe Sales insists they do and had never heard such a thing. Why would I trust Adobe sales if they assure me that it runs but Technical support won’t assist me when it stops?  If one person in the office says something, make sure that they understand that it was a mistake.  If a patient is told the wrong thing, making sure they get the correct information and understand the steps taken to avoid the miscommunication again can go a long way toward fostering trust.

I may be a small user of Adobe now, but I was considering upgrading to Lightshop as well and perhaps at some point even Creative Suite.  I doubt that will be happening at this point in time.  I’ll be using the free software by Gimp that does much the same.  To open RAW files, I’ll use other free ware and Corel Paintshop, which has come a long way and uses a better organizer for an interface.   Yes, it’s more work but it does what I want.  I like the organization techniques better and I don’t have to deal with a company that doesn’t care about their customers.

Planning for the New Year

Planning for the Next Year

In the last couple of years I’ve been working on really promoting the acupuncture art business.  I have retooled this blog a few times so that now it focuses on acupuncturists.  I’ve found that I really love writing up the interviews of people.   I’ve also been looking around for great products and people that I can recommend as well as writing about ideas that come to me about health and acupuncture.

I’ve been doing a lot of listening in on the free calls from Mark Silver over at Heart of Business.  I was very close to taking his six month course last summer but something held me back.  The weekend after the first tele-class my husband decided he wanted to move.  That has taken up most of the last six months in random ways.  Some weeks, I could wish to have a course to keep myself occupied.  Other weeks I’m swamped trying to figure something out.  Of course there was the inevitable changes from one cable company to another and not having a land line for the first time.   In about two weeks we’ll be settled in the new house (we’ve rented an apartment while waiting for the house we purchased to close) and I can focus on the business.

One thing that moved to finally sign up with the class is that I want to move this business forward.   That’s scary but it’s also exciting.  I realized that I see my business through two lenses. When I think about the ordering process I see it as very busy, making me think I need a third-party like Zazzle to keep up.  When I see profit, I see minimal profits even through Zazzle.  Mark asked some very good questions during our application phone call that gave me some clarity that if I’m doing such a small volume of business, why don’t I keep the cards in-house so to speak and work with a local printer?  I make more money. I lower prices for other practitioners.   Given the amount of orders I expect, I should still have time to create  while still doing the mailings.  I can keep Zazzle and Greeting Card Universe for everything else.

As I drove home after talking to someone about the decision, I was listening to the radio about how people aren’t using the mail as much any more.  I’m working on a way to send e-cards.  At first they’ll be free e-cards but I’m thinking about a way to open that up to a membership or else a pay per card or even per mailing.  I’ll see how that works out.   I’m also going to focus more on the artwork side of things.

I’ve been working on putting together a stock photography site.  I’ve finally found something that seems to work.  It will also allow for people to order prints as well as let them send e-cards.

My husband had this idea that I could offer services to schedule and send cards electronically for people.  He thinks the service shouldn’t just be that you can add in your addresses and send electronically. I could plan and send out the regular cards or newsletters for you.   It’d be rather like farming out the insurance billing and the cost would probably be in that range.  I am hesitant about the marketability of such a service but it couldn’t hurt to find a way to offer it.

Are there other aspects of staying in touch with your clients that you’d love to have someone do for you?

Chinese Medicine Quarterly.

In the last several months I have become very clear that part of what I want to do is write.  As I became clear about the Eric at Deepest Health needed another editor for Chinese Medicine Quarterly.  The first issue that I got to help out with is now available.   The writers have so much information to share about the topic of Wind, I highly recommend it.

Editing has always scared me.  I have edited my own work and I always find something that needs to be improved. I always miss typos no matter how often I edit.  It surprised me how enjoyable the process of editing was on the magazine.  It was like chipping away at a sculpture and making it perfect.  It surprised me what I could see in someone else’s work.  The writers had so much to say that I learned a lot about wind while doing the editing.  To me, it was a win win situation.  I hope that I can continue on this path as I’ve rarely had so much fun working!

The newest issue is now available.  You can get it as a pdf or even a print copy (though that is expensive).  Please go by and check it out.

 

 

Choosing Quality over Quantity

Like so many other computer users, this week I was saddened to hear of the loss of Steve Jobs.  I got to play on one of the first Macs in the mid 1980s.  Hanging out with the techie geeks, we opened the back and saw all the signatures of everyone who had worked on it. While everyone loved the interface I was frustrated that I had to use icons instead of talking more directly to the OS like you did in DOS (PC DOS as well as MS DOS as not everyone had MS DOS although everyone wanted it!).  As time went on, I started to get the hang of the icon thing and now I can’t imagine computers with out them.  I’ve had a Mac Classic, a Performa 600 (which had that new thing called a CD ROM drive and I could even play music on my system!). I’ve had Mac Laptops and desktops and I am typing this on an iMac.   My husband works for Microsoft so I’m using the Windows side of BootCamp.

I want an iPad, will probably have a new iPod coming up and while the iPhone is cool, I’m not a real phone person and the carriers don’t work well in the cell phone hole in which I currently live. What would Steve Jobs have come up with next?

I think of all the things that Steve did and I think of a bonfire burning too brightly to be sustained.  He made a choice to live his life to the fullest, choosing quality over quantity.  As a healthcare provider I can talk about balance but we must all find our own balance.  We make choices.   There is no perfect balance.  We, as a community of people, balance each other with some using strength and endurance and others using speed and still others using their ability to turn and change quickly.  We must understand our needs and listen to our intuition to live each of our lives the best way we can.  As one Steve Jobs quote that is going around says, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking.”  Find your own balance.  Look at what one man created when finding his own path and his own balance.