Well, we did it - we wrapped up 2020. As we put a bizarre and trying year behind us, we have the chance to look ahead towards 2021 with fresh vision. Part of starting a new year means setting goals, whether that’s for yourself, your family, or your business. As the owner of a therapy group practice, the start of 2021 symbolizes the opportunity to reflect on your business and develop new skills for the benefit of the practice.
We’ve collected the 15 most important skills to develop to benefit your group practice! As you think ahead towards what you want 2021 to look like, consider these ideas.
1. Process Building
Whether you’re a new owner of a group practice or have maintained your business for many years now, there’s always room to build upon your processes. There are many processes that occur at group practices: intakes, billing and invoicing, documentation, and hiring (just to name a few!). By reflecting on what’s working well for your team, you will be able to pinpoint the strengths of your business. Taking these strengths the extra mile means increasing efficiency, decreasing clinical burnout, and hopefully making more money too!
It’s also vital to reflect on what’s not working so well. Ask yourself where you and your team spend the most time on a weekly basis. Perhaps you noticed that you’re spending a disproportionate amount of time on one process over the others. If this is the case, you can ask yourself the following questions:
- What is this process for? Do we absolutely need this process? If the process is mandatory, are there parts of it that we can adjust or get rid of?
- Who is involved in this process? Do we need more (or less) people to handle this task?
- How do we communicate about this process? If we promote more effective communication practices, will this process become easier/quicker?
Thinking through the reasons behind the process may show you the bare bones essentials, in hopes that you can break it down into smaller pieces and adjust each as necessary. The goal is to make the administrative work minimal so everyone can focus on the practice’s main mission - helping the clients. Not only does this benefit your clients, it also lessens anxiety and workload for yourself and your staff.
Here are a few tips for three important processes for all group practices:
- Intake and discharge processes: Take the time to revisit (and revise!) your policies and procedures around intakes and discharges. Update the paperwork and handouts for clients and consider hiring an intake coordinator to assist.
- Documentation: This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of running a practice - for both your team’s liability and for insurance reimbursements. There are some elements of documentation that cannot go unwritten, but there may be ways to make documentation easier or more accessible for your therapists. Perhaps you could work to alter the fields available on your electronic health record system (enabling single-click buttons instead of free text answers goes a long way!). However you can make the processes smoother will make it less of a time burden for your therapists.
- Invoicing or payments: If you’re still using a paper system for invoices or payments, you will not feel comfortable when it’s time to scale your business. Finding accounting software (or hiring an accountant!) will make it easier for you day-to-day and especially at the end of the year when taxes roll around. Because payments are inherently vital for your business, making a smoother process ensures less room for error.
One of the major benefits of running a group practice is that you have teammates to lean on, especially if you become swamped with the administrative components of the business. As the owner, you are responsible for many things, but you don’t have to be the only one working on the administrative tasks of your practice. Consider hiring a clinical receptionist to answer your phone calls and emails (think of how much time that will save you!), or maybe an office manager would benefit the practice. Or perhaps an administrative assistant would suffice, someone to help you through various tasks and stay organized.
Delegating becomes ever important for your own well-being. Becoming burnt out with running the business may lead to feeling less passionate about your work. Hiring additional support staff or asking your team to help out builds sustainability in the long run, both for you and the practice.
3. Get your group practice marketing strong
Now that there are multiple therapists at your practice, it’s time to show your community that you’re accepting new clients and that you’re ready to support their mental health journeys. You can do this through intentional, savvy marketing. When you were in private practice, you may have relied on your personal network and connections to interest prospective clients, however with more therapists comes larger caseloads to fill.
Here are a some tips to improve your practice's marketing:
- Include social media in your marketing. With many people turning to social media to learn about mental health these days, having the appropriate social media channels becomes a huge benefit towards marketing. Investing time and effort in sharing your brand with the outside world will attract prospective clients and encourage them to reach out for an intake session. Keeping your accounts active by posting facts about your practice, blogs written by your therapists, or shared articles on therapy are great ways to engage your community.
- Make a profile on a therapist network. Using websites like Zencare to make a profile raises your visibility. As prospective clients search for the right therapist, they’ll be able to see your profile (including your professional headshots!) and watch your introductory video. Even as a group practice, you’ll have a page dedicated to sharing what makes your services unique and how clients can reach out to learn more.
3. Team management and communication
Especially as many practices move online, staying connected to your team is absolutely crucial for the work that you do. Communicating clearly with your team also increases the opportunity to feel close to one another and boost morale. As the leader of the team, you’re responsible for maintaining contact with your therapists and creating a motivated atmosphere where everyone understands practice policies and procedures while also feeling connected to the mission of the practice.
Using messaging services - like Slack - can be helpful for in-the-moment communication between teammates. However, everyone has different communication styles (some might prefer phone calls), so be sure to gauge what works best for everyone.
Hiring is a process that can be lengthy and arduous, but - unfortunately - you cannot outsource it. By creating a streamlined process for hiring, you’ll be able to follow a step-by-step procedure and cut back on the amount of time it takes to fill an open spot on your team.
Here are a few examples of procedure-building when it comes to hiring:
- Come up with an ideal candidate profile to quickly refer to when reviewing resumes or reading cover letters
- Standardize your interview process by picking a few key questions to ask. Come up with ideal answers to refer to when scoring how the candidate did during the conversation.
- Include other team members in the hiring process. This takes a load off of your plate and allows your therapists to contribute to the practice in a way outside of therapy.
- Construct compensation structures to make it easier when negotiating with your chosen applicant.
- Build an onboarding process ahead of time to ensure a smooth transition into the role.
Do financial spreadsheets and taxes make you want to hide under the bed? You aren’t alone! This is one of the most stressful aspects of running a business, however it’s not something you can hide from. By coming up with ways to stay organized when it comes to the finances of your group practice, you’ll be able to keep track of where you’re at and hopefully reduce any anxiety you have about the money. Hiring an accountant is a great way to make sure you stay on track. If this isn’t accessible to your practice at this time, consider finding bookkeeping software to help you manage your accounts.
Remember, burning yourself out by stressing over the accounting will not resolve any issues and may lead to you losing your motivation for the practice. It’s in your best interest to face your fears and find a bookkeeping process that works for you (and the future you).
6. Practice management tools set up
Alongside bookkeeping software, finding additional tools to manage your practice will save you the headache of inefficiency. Here are our recommended tools:
- SimplePractice - For billing, notes, and documentation. Use our referral link for a 30 day free trial!
- NirvanaHealth - For out-of-network reimbursements. Use our referral link for $29 off the monthly subscription indefinitely!
- Slack - For team communication
- Google Workspace (formally known as Google Suite) - To sign HIPAA BAA forms and stay organized with your team
- Zencare - For marketing, including a group practice profile where you can feature all your clinicians, professional headshots for all clinicians that you can use on personal websites without breaking the bank.
- Gusto - For payroll, contractor payments, and more. This tool makes taxes and other paperwork incredibly easy.
- Moo - For business cards, flyers, pamphlets. They make it super easy to design (and order) nice looking cards! Use our referral link for 25% off!
7. Revise your mission or core values as an organization
At the heart of your practice is the mission statement and core values, which guides your work and purpose. While generally core values remain constant, you may review your practice’s mission and decide to revise due to a change in focus, a change in branding, or simply a desire to make the practice more inclusive. Workshop your statement with your team and get therapist input and buy-in for the changes. You might also take this as an opportunity to market your practice by announcing the changes on social media.By revising your mission or core values, you refocus your practice around the important goals of your work.
8. Celebrate your wins, review your losses
The start of a new year is always the best time to look back. How did 2020 go for you? For your practice? In reflecting on what happened within the practice, you may find that you won some and that you lost some (as we all do). The good thing is is that both wins and losses contribute to growth!
Here are some thoughts to consider for your practice’s wins:
- What happened that was particularly effective? This might be a process, a specific client case, or a team event.
- How do you know that it was effective or impactful? What makes this a win?
- Who was involved in this win? Do they know how important their roles were in the event?
- How can you celebrate your win in a way that brings your team together and promotes your practice mission?
And here are some thoughts to consider for your practice’s losses:
- What happened that didn’t go according to plan? Was there anything that occurred that was particularly harmful or inconvenient for your practice?
- Why did it turn out this way? Was there anything you could have done to avoid this situation?
- What lessons did you learn from this event? How will you change your practice moving forward to demonstrate what you learned?
9. Put education at the forefront
Group practices are never stagnant, they change constantly. With multiple therapists in the mix, the opportunity to specialize in certain modalities becomes more available to your practice. Not only do continuing education courses and specialized certification courses help your therapists become better clinicians, they also position your practice as a leader within the field.
To put education at the forefront of your leadership, you might offer to pay for your therapists to attend trainings or conferences. You might also find courses for yourself in business leadership, finance, or management to better your skills as the owner of the practice. Learning new skills or bettering already-existing skills will boost your returns - both in your practice and in your relationships with your team.
10. Revisit your business plan and check in with your business model
Similar to revising your practice mission and core values, checking in on your business plan at the start of every year helps you notice any deviations from your business model and consider how to stay on track. You may have written your business plan back at the start of your practice, perhaps even before you started building up the business. It’s probably safe to assume that many elements of that business plan have changed since then!
By evaluating how closely you follow your business model, you have the chance to either adjust your workflows to land closer to the desired model or change the model altogether. If it doesn’t seem to be working, don’t be afraid to revise and start in a different direction!
When revising your business plan, it might be helpful to work with a consultant or trusted colleague to add extra perspective. There may be things you know about your practice that aren’t explicitly clear to an outside eye! By having another person involved in the process, you’ll ensure that your business plan makes sense and follows whichever business model you chose.
11. Check in with your team about census (and avoid burnout)
Many businesses host annual reviews for their employees at the start of the year. This is a time to review each therapist’s work and offer feedback. It can also be a time to check in with each member on your team about how they feel about their workload.
By asking your team about their client census, you’ll be able to gauge if your practice should continue to add clients or take a break from admitting new clients. Avoiding clinician burnout is perhaps one of the most important ways to sustain your business. If a therapist starts to feel overwhelmed or disconnected from their work, it negatively impacts their clients and the practice as a whole. Incorporate questions about caseload and comfort levels into your annual reviews, or use one-on-ones to check in about how each person is doing.
12. Take a vacation
Another great way of avoiding burnout is taking time off! Even as the owner of the practice, taking a break from the office or from the workload is important to do at least once a year. Allowing yourself space to set your work aside will give you the breather you deserve and time to recharge!
You may consider asking another member of your team to take on some of the key responsibilities that cannot wait while you’re away from your office, or you could hire a temporary assistant. Having a high amount of responsibility can feel daunting to let go of (even for a few days!), but your business will definitely benefit when you return from your vacation with a clear, relaxed mind.
13. Collaborate with other organizations in your community
If things are going well within the practice, it may be time to start looking outside of the practice for opportunities and partnerships. If there are organizations in your community that have similar missions as yours - or organizations that you particularly respect - they might be great partners for collaborations.
Some ideas for collaborations include:
- Webinars - Host a public webinar with your partner organization and speak on a relevant subject (such as mental health)
- Speaker series or trainings - Offer to meet with your partner organization’s staff to speak to them about a specific modality or therapy service. Invite them to speak with your team and train them on something they know a lot about.
- Social media posts - Start a social media project and share similarly-branded posts. This could be for an awareness event or for the public’s education on a certain topic.
- Donation events - Host a donation event for your partner organization to support their cause.
- Workshops open to the public - Build curriculum for public workshops on a topic relevant to both you and your partner organization.
14. Position yourselves as leader in your community
By taking the lead on collaborations with other organizations in your community, you position your practice as a leader. You’ll both spread your name across your community (which will perhaps attract more prospective clients!) and you’ll become a larger stakeholder in community matters. As the mental health or therapy leader in your community, your thoughts, ideas, and reactions will have weight, which will allow you greater opportunities to impact your community for the better.
Being a leader in the community is different from leading your own team, so be sure to reflect on what you want this role to look like!
15. Plan ahead for future years
Even though we’ve asked you to consider your plans for 2021, it’s never too early to start thinking ahead to future years! For each one of these skills we've presented, you can strategically plan ahead for years past 2021 and start to really work towards major goals.