The case against a business plan

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psychologist private practice

I was recently asked by a reader, “What software did you use for your business plan? Do you have one?”

I also just had a meeting with some business mentors and they suggested I make a business plan. Deep down I have an aversion to business plans. Maybe it is my creative side that feels that my already strong left brain might just take over everything.

Regarding the question, it depends what you define as “business plan”. Do I have a formal document where I outlined my target market, could go to a bank to get money, or that most business folks would see as a “business plan”? No.

Do I write down my ideas, goals, and set very clear direction as to achieving those goals. Yes.

Most people I talk to create business plans and then it sits on their computer. To me that seems like a waste of time. Here is what I knew about starting a practice:

1. I wanted it to provide income, not tie me down or make me hate life. Therefore, I have taken no debt to create this private practice. Instead it has been relationships, connections, and sweat that have helped more than financing. If it is not working, I want to be able to pull the plug.

2. This flows out of the first, I would rather go slow and steady than make a huge jump and put my family’s security on the line. That is why I have kept a “stable” job and build the practice outside of that. At some point I may make the jump, but right now I really like the balance.

3. I wanted the practice to reflect my creative side, while also being a strong business (a delicate balance to find).

With these things in mind I thought about what I COULD do. My first year (I was working full time as a foster care supervisor) goals for my part-time counseling private practice:

1. Have 3 regular clients per week.
2. Spend more sweat than money to market.
3. Build a website that could direct people to my practice.
4. Set up all of the finances (keep track of expense/income, bank account, PLLC)

Each year, I look at what it will take to expand a bit more, while not making a greater impact on family time. For example, this year’s goals:

1. Bring on a 1099 contractor to help with overflow and build passive income.
2. Redesign and add affiliate links for books I am already recommending through Amazon Affiliates.
3. Launch to help clinicians and also build passive income and audience through affiliate links, e-book, and podcast.
4. Go sailing more.

How do I plan for my business?

I start with a blank sheet of paper and brainstorm. You may want to ask these questions:

  • Who are you as a person?
  • Who are you as a therapist?
  • Financially where do you want to be in 1 year?
    What are other clinicians charging per session? How do their websites look? Have friends look at the websites, what do they like, not like?
  • What CAN you do today, this week and this month? Lunch with a referral source? Create more awesome business cards (I love ), build a website click here for my blog on building a website for <$15 ?

Often people push the “business plan”. A business plan is just a map of where you are going or want to go. It can serve a purpose, but thus far notes in a journal, thoughts in my head, actions rather than writing about actions have served me more. With that said, some people are visual people and need to see the plan written out.

My bottom line, don’t let creating a business plan immobilize you from taking action today. I hope that helps.

private practice

Joseph R Sanok is a licensed professional counselor, clinician, and owner at Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. As well, he blogs at where he hopes to help counselors in private practice to improve their business skills that were not learned in graduate school. Through doing this, he hopes to make counseling private practice more awesome.

Photo info: AttributionNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Mathias.Pastwa