When I graduated from acupuncture school, the last thing on my mind was starting my own practice. I planned to work for someone else for a year or two, then move back to Connecticut and start my practice there, using all the wisdom I had gathered from the mentor I had previously worked under. Then an opportunity came up that was too good to refuse, and I stayed here in Massachusetts. And although I feel quite confident in my acupuncture abilities, the business side remains a challenge for me, and likely always will. And despite that (or because of it), I am very proud of being a business owner and having built something from the ground up. I am learning as I go, and everyday teaches me something new. For all of you newbies out there who are contemplating starting your own practices, here are a few things I've learned and would like to pass on: 1. NEVER leave your house without business cards. Ever. I probably go through hundreds of cards a month, and most of my transactions are completely random. In the last month alone, I have had business card requests from a bank employee, my dentist, the guy changing my oil, restaurant managers, and a doctor. In all of these cases, I wasn't just going around handing out cards; I was asked for them. If I didn't have them handy, I would have missed out on all these opportunities to get my name out there.
2. Refer, refer, refer. What comes around, goes around. If you know someone who is really good at their job, spread the word about them. I'm telling you, it always comes back around. Talk up others, and you will have good things said about you. And word of mouth is everything for a small business.
3. Write down EVERYTHING. Lack of organization will lead to bad, bad things. Trust me, I know. I am not someone who is particularly organized, but I force myself to be. Hold on to every receipt, bill, and piece of information that relates to your business. Business owners need to look for every possible deduction when tax time comes around, and there are deductions out there that you would never even think of, so keep those receipts!
4. Talk. A lot. Remind people of what you do, and you may find clients where you never expect. Most people are curious by nature, so if you just mention that you are a small business owner, they will reciprocate by asking what kind of business it is, and then you can let the conversation flow from there.
5. Relax. Seriously, the first year of running a business is exhausting. It seems all-important to focus on nothing but work, but there is something more important-your life. What good is making all the money in the world if you aren't enjoying yourself? Also, you can't devote your full energy to anything if you are completely burnt out (I have learned this the hard way.) So, take a time-out once in a while and breathe...or take a walk...or schedule an acupuncture session!