I just celebrated a big anniversary for me – 11 years ago, on May 30th, 2003, I started my first business, Kethyr Solutions, and four years ago, on May 11th, 2010, I launched the still highly successful TherapyWebsiteSuccess.com.
It’s hard to believe I actually started all the way back in the summer of 2003. (Actually, I’ve been helping therapists market their practices for even longer, but I didn’t launch a business focused on this goal until 2003.)
I’ve come a long way since then – from incredibly humble beginnings with only a handful of clients to having coached and helped hundreds of mental health professionals, coaches, and other small business owners across the country successfully market their services online and off by using proven Internet and relationship marketing techniques.
The impact has been great… My clients and students have not only brought in millions of dollars in new business but have been able to create the businesses and lifestyles they envisioned.
In any case, since this is both an 11th anniversary and a 4th, I thought I’d combine the two and share my “15 Rules of Business Success.”
These rules have come to me at different times over the years. I was lucky to stumble onto a few of them at the very beginning. The rest are hard-won lessons I learned over the years – some of which I’m still learning.
So, without further ado, here they are…
1. Provide What the Market Wants
I learned this one in the first few months of starting my business, while looking at which pages on my website were getting the most traffic and reviewing the solutions my clients came to me in search of. I realized both of these are easy ways to tell what people are interested in. I also realized that what my prospective clients wanted wasn’t necessarily what I would have expected them to want. Big surprise! This helped me learn to look at the data instead of trusting only my instincts. You need to do the same…
Provide what the market wants, not just what you want to provide or what you think they should want. Another variation on this lesson is to offer your prospective clients what they want and then give them what they need. It’s much easier to sell someone something they want and then give them what they need to achieve their desired outcomes. There is so much data and feedback available in our businesses to help us determine what our clients want, there’s no reason to mess this one up.
2. Take The Long View – Win With Strategy
Many business owners harm their positioning, their brand, and their reputation by continually chasing after the newest tactic or the next dollar. It’s unnecessary. And it’s sad.
The good news is that if you take the long view – meaning planning ahead for the next three to six years as, opposed to just the next three to six months – you’ll instantly stand apart from the crowd.
With the marketplace being so connected (and getting more connected every day), you have to deliver quality, and you have to be congruent. Chasing today’s dollar too hard can cause long-term collateral damage. Unnecessarily discounting your services or giving away last month’s flagship product as a bonus to spur sales this month is horrible for your positioning, and it WILL negatively impact your business in the long run.
3. Always Be Building Your List AND Your Relationship with Your List
This is critical, and most business owners still don’t get it. Your client list, list of referral sources, and your list of prospective clients are the only assets that you can truly own. And they’re indispensable. This is especially true for Internet-based businesses but just as true for therapists and other mental health professionals.
If your office burned down tomorrow, what’s the one thing you’d need to start seeing clients the next day? Their contact information. An office, your furniture, your computer systems can all be easily replaced. But not your client list. What’s the one asset that continues to increase in value? Your list of clients, referral sources, and prospective clients and their contact information. Your list is your business!
And don’t forget that second part – your relationship with your list is just as important as its size.
There are all kinds of things in your business you can’t control, but your list is the one thing that you CAN control. You need to always be building and developing your relationship with your list.
4. Don’t Depend on Any Single Source of Clients
If you’re dependent on Yelp or Google for clients, you don’t have a business. You’ve temporarily won the lottery… but the gravy train will NOT last. This is also true for other sources of clients… you can’t assume any are permanent.
Likewise, if you’re dependent on insurance panel referrals and payments, you’re not in business. You’re a contractor or employee of the insurance company.
You must diversify your referral sources. If you only have one primary way of getting your message in front of people, then you’re living on borrowed time.
5. Sell Your Own Stuff (and Other People’s Stuff)
For therapists in private practice, the idea of selling your own services may seem to go without saying. But, it needs to be said. Especially for anyone who’s wondering whether or not private practice makes sense.
If you’re going to have a business, and have any control over that business, you need to be selling your own products and services. And, if you desire additional streams of income that don’t require you to be in the office each day trading your hours for dollars, you need to create and sell products (CDs, books, self-help courses, workshops, membership sites, and so on) as opposed to simply selling your services.
You should also consider selling other people’s products and services – either as an affiliate or by getting paid to run ads. You don’t have to do both at the same time. And I don’t recommend you cross ethical boundaries by selling products to current psychotherapy clients or even from the same website you use to promote your private practice. However, I do recommend selling products. Especially other people’s products. Selling other people’s stuff is smart because it helps you diversify your revenue streams and because you’ll never be able to create and promote all the products and services your clients need.
6. The Purpose of Getting a New Client or Sale Is to Create an Enthusiastic Fan
When you get a new client or make a sale, your job has just started. You need to deliver a great product or service and a great experience. Your fans will return to buy from you over and over again (which is where the real money is made), and they’ll become your evangelists in this ever-more-connected world and send more clients and fans your way.
7. Relationships in Your Industry Are Vital
I try not to use the word “competitor” in my businesses. Instead, it’s important to think in terms of “partners” and “future partners.” I suggest you try it out for a while… Your net worth is equal to your network.
8. Get to “Dollar One”
I always want to get to my first dollar of revenue with any new product, service, or business. I’ve heard of and seen far too many grandiose plans that never got off the ground… often because the plan was just too big, or because there was no real plan for revenue. The danger in any new business grows exponentially for every day that goes by without revenue. Force yourself to figure out how to get at least some revenue flowing as quickly as possible.
9. Opportunity Cost Is the Most Important Thing (and It Becomes More Important as Your Business Grows)
What’s the most important thing to focus on in your business? The one thing that makes all the difference? I’ve received this question more than a few times over the past decade and, with the benefits of hindsight, I’d have to say my answer is “opportunity cost.” That wasn’t always my answer… though it may have been if I had understood it sooner.
Wikipedia says that opportunity cost is “the cost related to the next-best choice available to someone who has picked among several mutually exclusive choices.” Unfortunately, that’s not the easiest definition to understand. I think of opportunity cost as “what you have to give up when you choose between two or more different choices.”
It needs to be said that “cost” is NOT restricted to financial cost. For entrepreneurs and business owners, the biggest opportunity cost is often time.
When you first start out, you’ll likely have limited capital. And since you’ll be doing most everything yourself, you’ll definitely have limited time. So picking the right opportunity is HUGELY important. Making the wrong choice can set you back weeks, months, or even years.
That’s what opportunity cost is all about. You have to realize that chasing an opportunity has a greater cost than any financial expense it requires.
I don’t want to scare you into inaction. Taking no action has a HUGE opportunity cost. I just want you to realize that when you decide to go down one road, there are several other roads that you won’t be able to go down, or at least doing so will be delayed.
And, once you start enjoying some success, opportunity cost becomes even greater.
You see, the more successful you become, the more opportunities will come your way. This is what’s often referred to as “deal flow” … you start to have success, you build up a series of assets, you prove your worth, and all of a sudden everyone wants to do a deal with you.
Don’t get me wrong. Deal flow is a GOOD thing. That’s how the rich get richer. That’s one of the reasons why it’s easier to go from $100,000 to a $1,000,000 than it is to go from zero to $1,000. But as you get into the deal flow, it’s easy to get distracted. You only have so much time, energy, attention, assets, etc. And every time you make a choice to pursue an opportunity, you are giving up something. Opportunity cost is like having a bookshelf that’s completely full. If you find another beautiful book you want to buy, you can. But that means you have to take one of the other books on your shelf off and throw it away.
So, remember, having choices in your business is great. But those choices have an opportunity cost.
I’ve found making the right decisions around opportunity costs is one of the biggest factors in success.
The bottom line is there are always more opportunities than there is time. You can only do so much. Every time you choose a project, it comes at the cost of another project. Choose wisely.
10. Get Out of the Office and Go to Live Events
My business changed radically after I started going to live events. Live events such as conferences, workshops, and mastermind groups are where connections are made. I know my mother has gotten some of her best and longest-lasting referral sources this way. And so have I.
So, get out of your office and attend live events as often as you can – I suggest at least once a month as a minimum. And don’t just sit quietly in the corner. Introduce yourself to others, ask them questions, and get to know their businesses and them. Remember, people will often be interested in you according to how interested you are in them!
11. The Power of a Mastermind Group Is Enormous
You need to study other business owners – both inside and outside your industry – because at least SOME of them are doing well. And, if you’re doing things right, some of them are going to become your partners.
But your education shouldn’t stop with studying other business owners. You have to go to “school.” And you’re going to have to keep going back to school.
I spend a large amount of my time continually learning and implementing everything I can about creating a successful business, and you should too. This is why mastermind groups are incredibly helpful and important…
Mastermind groups are relatively new to most people, even though Napoleon Hill created the concept around 75 years ago with his book, Think and Grow Rich. A mastermind group is designed to help you navigate through challenges using the collective intelligence of others.
How does a mastermind work? A group of smart people meet weekly, monthly, even daily if it makes sense, to tackle challenges and problems together. They lean on each other, give advice, share connections, and do business with each other when appropriate. It’s peer-to-peer mentoring and if you’re lucky enough to get invited to one, you will most likely see a marked change in yourself and your business. But you don’t have to wait to be invited to one. Seek them out or create a mastermind group of your own with other business owners you respect.
I wouldn’t be where I am today if I weren’t actively engaged in various mastermind groups over the last decade. Get in a mastermind group now.
12. It’s a Lot Easier to Sell with the Human Touch – the “Corporate Voice” Is Death
I’ve always been happy just being me, and not pretending to be some big corporation. I don’t refer to myself as “we” in my e-mails… and that set me apart from the very beginning. Back in the early days, everyone was trying to sound big and important – I was just writing my e-mails like I write to my best friend. It worked. People want to connect with people, not corporations… A corporate voice can kill you. Be conversational. Stick to first- and second-person singular as much as possible in all your communications. And be yourself!
13. Live Below Your Means… Don’t Buy that Mansion Yet
When the money starts rolling, it’s easy to let your lifestyle grow very quickly. Fight that urge. Remember Rule #3 – the long view. It’s a lot easier to do the right things and make the right decisions when you aren’t chasing the next dollar… when you aren’t worried about making the payment on that new mansion.
14. Baby Steps
Your first website will suck. That’s OK. Your first postcard mailing, brochure, or sales letter will suck. That’s OK. Your first e-mail newsletter or public presentation will suck. That’s OK. The important thing is to have a rock-solid plan, and keep moving forward. You’ll get there… just get started. Be gentle with yourself. Forgive yourself for mistakes. Don’t expect to be perfect. Just get moving, and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
15. Success Is All About Creating Value
In the short run, you can use tricks and tactics to create some level of success. But if you’re doing that stuff without delivering real value, then you’re just spinning the karma wheel… and that doesn’t usually work out so well in the long run. The path to long-term success is creating massive value for your clients. And your clients are the ones that will be measuring that value.
This idea is perfectly encapsulated in a message one of my mentors posted to Facebook a few days back: “Don’t try to make a million dollars. Go create a million dollars’ worth of value.”
And, lastly, one bonus rule for success, as I move into my 12th year in business…
16. Invest in Yourself. No One Can Take Your Skills from You
As I mentioned, I spend a lot of time, money, and energy on my knowledge and skills. I’ve been doing that from the start, and I’m not ever going to stop… No one can take that away from me. I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy a good deal of success, but I’ve also had set backs. I’ve had significant revenue streams disappear overnight. But it never slowed me down. In fact, it really wasn’t even very troubling, because I knew I had the skills to bounce right back. Once you’ve developed your chops, you have the ultimate control over your destiny.
So there are my 16 Rules of Business Success… I’m not claiming they are all-inclusive, or that they’re a fit for everyone. After all, I only gave myself 15 to work with and I’ve already gone one over!
However, these are the rules that have been working really well for me.
What’s your #1 rule for creating success? What was the one you learned first? Which one was the most painful to learn? What did I forget? Leave a comment below and I’ll look forward to reading and responding to your thoughts and questions.