Blog provided by Krista Covell-Pierson, Owner of Covell Care & Rehabilitation, LLC.
If you start a private practice, or a business in general, it’s time to start thinking about your community. You will develop marketing plans and networking opportunities but I recommend you also become an expert knowing who does what in your community. You need to make referrals with confidence for your clients and developing strong community relationships is key to client, and business, success. I meet too many healthcare workers that do not make enough referrals for their clients and have little awareness of additional services and experts in their area that could improve their clients’ lives. This seems like a big injustice to those we serve. All of us need to get our boots on the ground to meet fellow community members. People worry more about people stealing their referrals than they do about collaboration and service.
A great way to develop relationships is remembering that you are still a student. This will never end, even if you hit the 30 year mark as a therapist. Start asking questions and get curious. Pick up local publications and visit places your clients visit. It is easy to focus on what you need for your professional licenses and meeting your annual CEU requirements. Remember that this is just the bare minimum recommended for people to maintain competence in their skill set. As business owners and leaders, we should look to grow our minds beyond the bare minimum, shouldn’t we? I encourage you to reach past your own discipline and learn about topics regardless of the CEU benefits. Dive into the big world of learning. You won’t regret it.
Here are two examples of how I embrace learning outside of my world of OT in the home.
- I primarily work with older adults and knowing that so many people fear aging I decided to go to an anti-aging seminar in Las Vegas. I was blown away. So many things on the market that I had never heard of, doctors helping clients stay young in every way and a line that looked a mile long for people to get a “free” treatment for hair loss. Things I learned at that conference did not directly impact my day-to-day therapy provisions. But, they expanded my awareness about the aging process and I gained an increased empathy for the overall experience of growing older. I am better for it.
- I sign up for various companies’ emails and watch for educational opportunities. For example, our payroll company does 20 minute tutorials online about an array of topics from how to organize your HR files and what to do at the end of the year with your payroll reports. I try to hop on their webinars as often as I can. I usually sign off with a new little golden nugget of knowledge that helps me run my business with more confidence. It also helps me get to know who works in our payroll’s office and when they pick up the phone I can initiate a conversation with them about the great job they did and what I learned.
More than likely you live in (or near) an area that is full of ways to plug in educationally. If you look at community center calendars, your local Small Business Development Center or subscribe to a listserv for your city’s events you will likely see plenty that peaks your interest! Often times events are low cost or even free. The point is to get out there and connect.
On top of getting out in the community, I encourage business owners or managers to consider starting their own education focused group to bring the community to them. I know as a practitioner how hard it is to stay on top of a caseload of clients as well as stay up on all the services in the community. Transitioning from a setting where I saw other practitioners everyday at the SNF to a lonely road warrior doing home visits, I knew my exposure to others’ talents was few and far between. I wanted to continue learning from people in my community so I started bringing folks in to present to my team of contractors and staff. We only brought people in for education and didn’t look at it as an opportunity for people to come in just to plug their business. We wanted to grow as practitioners and as people that could provide quality resources to our clients.
As time went on, I decided we could serve our community in a bigger way by opening the group up to anyone wanting to learn and expand their awareness of services available in our own backyards. So, four years ago, “Clinicians and Comrades” was born. We meet every month for one hour. Our speakers volunteer their time and we request that none of them use it as a platform for direct referral recruitment. This is simply a place to geek out on what they’re really good at like low vision strategies, diabetes management, making homes accessible, hospice care, mental health assessments and other important topics.
If you want to start your own group here are some suggestions:
- Find a location that will allow you to use their space on a regular basis free of charge. Senior housing facilities like the foot traffic and exposure and may be happy to host your group. Or, churches and rec centers may offer space for free.
- Set a routine time and stick to it.
- Start an email list of people to invite. Build on the list every month by using a sign-in sheet for attendees. Send a reminder a day or two before the meeting.
- Name your group.
- Ask people to present in advance. We typically have our entire calendar for the year built out before the end of February.
- Send thank you notes to presenters. They are giving their time away for free so definitely show your gratitude.
- Request speakers stick to the clinical information and don’t launch into a sales pitch.
- End on time.
- Take pictures with permission and share!
- Send certifications of attendance to your audience members.
The sky’s the limit with all you can learn and apply to your practice. Do your best to stay fresh and up to date on industry and community trends and changes. Our clients and patients need us to stay committed to being the most well-rounded and capable clinicians we can be. Plus, staying connected and energized helps prevent burn-out and compassion fatigue.
If you started a community group of any kind, I would love to hear about it! Send me an email about it to firstname.lastname@example.org.