Susan Doak, Group Practice Owner Has Great Tips on Hiring | GP 11

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Susan Doak, Group Practice Owner Has Great Tips on Hiring GP 11

What should you consider when starting a group practice? How can you refine your hiring process? Why should you hire someone who is humble, hungry and smart?

In this podcast episode, Alison Pidgeon speaks with Susan Doak about great tips for hiring in a group practice and the lessons she learned along the way.

Meet Susan Doak

Susan M. Doak is a licensed professional counselor and the owner of Newberg Counseling & Wellness, a group private practice in beautiful Newberg, Oregon. She has a passion for empowering and inspiring people to reach their full potential in their personal and professional lives.

When she is not with clients, she enjoys dancing with her kids, hiking the sites in Oregon, gardening and going on walks with her Springer Spaniel.

Visit Susan’s website and connect with her on LinkedIn, Facebook and Pinterest.

In This Podcast

  • What to consider when starting a group practice
  • Refining the hiring process
  • Meeting the humble, hungry and smart criteria
  • What to look for when hiring
  • How to find qualified licensed therapists
  • Using a virtual assistant in your practice

What to consider when starting a group practice

  • Consider finances
  • Locate an ideal location for the business

Refining the hiring process

If it’s not the right kind of person then it actually doesn’t matter what their skills are.

After hiring someone who was not a good fit, Susan realized that she needed to refine her hiring process and came across the Ideal Team Player book to get some guidance. She decided that she first needed to add an administrative assistant to help her, and hired this person based on the criteria she learned in the book.

Meeting the humble, hungry and smart criteria

  • Humble – someone who is secure in themselves but is able to take feedback and can listen
  • Hungry – someone who loves their work, interested in bringing in income, wants to succeed and move forward in their profession
  • Smart – someone who can hold a good conversation and relate to their clients and coworkers

What to look for when hiring

  • A clinician with great clinical skills and references
  • What skills and techniques they make use of in therapy
  • Someone who is fully licensed and can operate independently
  • Must display a great level of professionalism in how they answer emails and phone calls too
  • Whether they fit in with the team

How to find qualified licensed therapists

  • Leverage your LinkedIn connections by posting on your profile and networking within groups
  • Check what other employers are offering on Indeed and use this to make an enticing offer

Using a virtual assistant in your practice

Virtual assistants can do a wide variety of things but one person can’t do everything for you so you may have to get a few people on your team dependent on your needs. You could delegate things like email management, answering the phone and marketing, etc

Books mentioned in this episode

Useful Links:

Meet Alison Pidgeon

Alison Pidgeon | Grow A Group Practice PodcastAlison is a serial entrepreneur with four businesses, one of which is a 15 clinician group practice. She’s also a mom to three boys, wife, coffee drinker and loves to travel. She started her practice in 2015 and, four years later, has two locations. With a specialization in women’s issues, the practices have made a positive impact on the community by offering different types of specialties not being offered anywhere else in the area.

Alison has been working with Practice of the Practice since 2016 and has helped over 70 therapist entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses, through mastermind groups and individual consulting.

Thanks For Listening!

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Podcast Transcription

[ALISON PIDGEON]: Starting a group practice can be really overwhelming. So, if you’re wanting some help to figure out how to start and grow a group practice, please go to and click on Work With Us. There you’ll find information about everybody on the Practice of the Practice team, including me. I specialize in helping people grow a group practice, and I would love to work with you. So, please fill out the contact form on the website or email me,
Hi, I’m Alison Pidgeon, your host of the Grow a Group Practice podcast. I’m really excited that you have decided to tune in today. We’re talking to Susan joke, who is a group practice owner out in the state of Oregon. We’ll talk about kind of how she got started and her sort of initial first steps that she took when she started her group practice and then we get into kind of the nitty gritty of the hiring process. So, she initially made some mistakes with hiring, hired someone who was a bad fit and then figured out from that experience, how to refine her hiring process so that she could obviously hire somebody who was a better fit. And we talk about the book, The Ideal Team Player. So, if you haven’t heard of that book, we talk about that in some depth. So, if you’re looking at hiring staff or if you’re realizing that you really need to clean up your hiring process and make sure you’re hiring the right people definitely listen to this episode because I think it’s going to be super helpful for you.
[ALISON]: Today on the podcast I have with me, a group practice owner, Susan Doak. She is a licensed professional counselor and the owner of Newberg Counseling & Wellness, which is in beautiful Newberg, Oregon. She has a passion for empowering and inspiring people to reach their full potential in their personal and professional lives. When she’s not with clients, she enjoys dancing with her kids, hiking the sites in Oregon, gardening and going on walks with her Springer Spaniel. Thank you so much for joining us today, Susan.
[SUSAN DOAK]: Thanks, Alison. I’m so excited to be here and talk with you today.
[ALISON]: Yeah, and I know we sort of met briefly at Killin’It Camp.
[SUSAN]: Yes.
[ALISON]: I was very busy juggling a four-month-old. So, unfortunately, we didn’t get as much time to talk as I’d have liked to.
[SUSAN]: You know, those tiny ones get in the way of conversations sometimes.
[ALISON]: They do.
[SUSAN]: But it was such a fun time Killin’It Camp. We had a great time. I met so many wonderful people and have just seen so many changes in my practice since then; positive changes. So, it’s been wonderful.
[ALISON]: Oh, great. Awesome. So, I was hoping you could tell me a little bit more about your group practice, like how many therapists you have and what you specialize in.
[SUSAN]: Yes. So, I have a smaller multispecialty group practice and we are located in Newberg, Oregon, which is about 25 miles to the West and South of Portland. And at this point, in our growth we’ve been around for about, I guess I’ve been around for two years, total. First, I was a solo practitioner and then I started a group practice a little bit more than a year ago. We have five therapists counting me. They are 1099s and we’re multi-specialty. And so, we live in a smaller community, a more rural area, and so it made sense for us to be a little bit more broad. And so, we see children, teens, adults, couples. We have therapists that specialize in a variety of places. And so, we can kind of cover a lot of bases here in the community.
[ALISON]: Oh, great. Wonderful. So, what made you decide to start the group practice?
[SUSAN]: That’s a great question. So, I was working for a group practice as a contractor in Portland and I was so tired of commuting. So, we have a terrible traffic problem and the Portland Metro area. And I was just tired of driving back and forth and I also was really keenly aware of that there was a concentration of providers and therapists in Portland, but the people in my area were having to drive about an hour, at least to get to services. And so, that just sounded like way too much, especially if you’re someone who has anxiety. So, you have even anxiety about driving, you’re not going to do a once a week appointment and that takes two full hours of driving. And so, even though we’re not super far from Portland, we’re kind of separated geographically by a mountain, a small mountain and so it just made sense for me to try to work a little bit closer to home.
And then I was just really called to bring some really experienced therapists to our area. We had a shortage of providers and still do. And I was just hearing from so many people in my town of Newberg and the surrounding area that they have just been looking and looking for a counselor. They can’t find someone, no one will call them back, and I just felt called to bring some really great providers in to really help the people that are really in great need in our area. And we’ve started kind of see that come to fruition, which has been really exciting.
[ALISON]: Yeah. That’s great. So, you sort of figured out your ‘Why’ is that you wanted to bring those services to the community where there really were very few, if any at all?
[SUSAN]: Yes, exactly. And I think the other side to why I wanted to start a group practice has to do with wanting to make a place to work for therapists that was just like fun and enjoyable and somewhere where they could really do their best work and kind of be free to concentrate on their specialty and also have time for self-care and also have people to consult with; and so to really make a good work environment for therapy.
[ALISON]: I’m glad you brought that up because that’s something I’m really passionate about too. I think unfortunately, you know, in many, many places there’s just so many mental health environments that are so toxic for the employees and you know, even just to have these little perks as part of your practice, or even just to like treat people with respect and like recognize like, oh yeah, you have families and you want to spend time with them. Like, that goes like such a long way.
[SUSAN]: Exactly, exactly. And I think as younger therapists, or, you know, when we’re starting out, we often are in like an agency setting or community mental health when it’s just like, the focus is really on that productivity and seeing a lot of clients and it’s not so much on like taking care of the therapists. And so, I just wanted to change that model a little bit and also make a way for therapists to work part time. So, I have several people that, you know, they do a limited number of hours. I have one person who’s, she’s working on her [inaudible 00:07:52] and another person who is about to have a family. And so, just like to create a flexible environment where people can still work and do wonderful work and actually make a great living, but not have to have that grind that we were really familiar with from agency work.
[ALISON]: Yeah, definitely. And I think there is a way to kind of make it a win, win situation for not only us as the practice owner, but also for the therapist to create that kind of environment.
[SUSAN]: Absolutely.
[ALISON]: Yeah, that’s great. And we’ll probably get into that a little bit more in a few minutes. But I’m curious, what were some of those initial steps that you took when you knew you wanted to start a group practice? Like where did you start?
[SUSAN]: So, the first thing that I started with, and this is going to sound a little funny, it was space. So, we live in an area that just has very limited office space and so finding a space that was accessible, was ADA accessible was, that was just, that’s important for the insurances that we serve. So, I needed a space that could work for at least a few therapists. And I actually looked at the commercial rental spaces available for at least a year before I actually found something that was suitable. So, there was, I could have rented a barn or a garage, but that wasn’t the vibe I was going for. And so, it took a while and then this space popped up that was just in the perfect location, really, to be honest and I just jumped on it. I went and saw it and I said, “I guess if I was serious about starting a group practice, I guess we’re doing that next month.”
[ALISON]: Wow.
[SUSAN]: And so, go ahead.
[SUSAN]: Yeah, I was just going to say, so what was it like to make that leap? Because I know when I work with consulting clients, it always feels like a big stretch for them to go from like one office to now I’m renting this suite with multiple offices and it can feel very scary. So, like, how did you manage that whole transition into the bigger space?
[SUSAN]: You know, it’s yeah, I was actually subletting at the time. I think I was subletting three days a week and then jumped to leasing my own three-office suite with a waiting area and a bathroom. And so, that was kind of a big financial leap and so I, what I had done in that year leading up, I had just really been putting money away and making sure that I was actually banking a decent amount of money from my own solo practice, so that when the time came to make that leap, I could do so with a little bit more confidence and also give myself a little bit of time, not knowing who I was going to be able to hire. And so, I actually was, you know, overall, the process, the other funny thing is that when I was interviewing first therapist, I had to do that at a coffee shop because we weren’t actually in our space yet. And so, I was like pitching this whole idea that actually didn’t really even exist yet.
[ALISON]: Right. Which is not uncommon that that can happen, especially when you’re in your situation where you have the space but you haven’t yet moved into it and you can’t sort of show the perspective clinician like, “Hey, this is what your office is going to look like.” It’s like, they are just sort of trusting you.
[SUSAN]: They were really trusting me and then we had, you know, like everyone does probably, we had this Epic IKEA trip where I brought my whole family and we just push these giant carts of boxes of desks and office chairs. And then, I had a couple of friends that came in and really like put together all of the chairs on my, that are currently in my waiting area. You know, like it really takes a village. So, and it was a big leap, but I think then once this, you know, when we had the space and we actually were really thoughtful about what that space looked like and what it felt like and we wanted it to be a really peaceful place, and then we were able to bring on a couple of therapists pretty quickly who I think came along with our vision really well. And you know, just found some wonderful people that seem to really care about the same things that we cared about. And so, in that way, we actually got pretty lucky. I mean, there were definitely some bumps along the way.
[ALISON]: Yeah, I know again, the hiring process is kind of another big leap to make when you’re ready to do that. So, what were some of your kind of initial thoughts around hiring or like those first couple of people you brought on? Like how did you find them and how did that process go for you?
[SUSAN]: Yes, great question. So, I had really never hired a person before. So, even though I’d worked in a lot of different environments, I’d even worked in an agency setting where as a group, we hired some people, but it was never really my sole responsibility. And I did not know what I was doing. So, I think I was trying to go with this guiding principle of like, “Okay, you know, maybe if you don’t know what you’re doing, try to hire yourself.” And, you know, there was a lot of, maybe there’s a lot of good aspects to that of thinking, “Okay, what are the kinds of skills that I have and I think that I’d bring in my experience that I would want to find, in my case in a contractor?” But I was overall, I was pretty lost and I was doing a lot from just my intuition.
I was just thinking, “Okay, I’ll just meet these people. I’ll see if I like them. I’ll see if we connect and if I think they’re good people and they answer their phone and they can write a decent email, I’ll ask them about their clinical skills and their specialties.” But I was really kind of flying blind to be honest and I think I actually, you know, I got pretty lucky overall but then I also, I mean, hired someone who ended up just really not being a good fit at all. And I think I thought, “Oh, you know, this person. Okay, sure. Maybe he’s a little bit awkward, but it’ll be just fine.”
[ALISON]: Yeah. It’s kind of easy to like, rationalize that to yourself when you have rented this big new space and you know you need to fill it to cover the overhead.
[SUSAN]: Exactly. And you think, “Oh, you know, you have great skills on paper. I’m sure we’ll overcome this kind of weird social thing. It’ll be just fine.” And I don’t know if you’ve ever known that or noticed that Alison, that, you know, if you were at a place where you feel more desperate to hire someone, then it puts you kind of in a weaker position.
[ALISON]: Oh, absolutely. I’ve made the same mistake for sure. Like feeling that pressure of like, “Oh, I need really need to fill this space. You know, I just made this commitment to take on this much bigger, you know rent and not knowing how long is it going to be before somebody else potentially viable comes along.” And then it’s just really easy to say, “Oh yeah, that seemed kind of not right. But I’m sure it’ll be fine.” Like, yeah, I’ve totally been there and then it blew up in my face later.
[SUSAN]: It tends to do that, yeah.
[ALISON]: Yeah. So, obviously you hired somebody who was not a good fit. So, what did you learn from that whole experience like if like, obviously you probably then thought to yourself, “Well, now I need to go back and like sort of refine my hiring process or do something differently.” So, like what was that experience like for you? What did you do?
[SUSAN]: You know that after I hired therapists, I really needed a lot more admin support. And so, I was really able to first start refining my hiring process when I hired my first administrative assistant. Up to that point, I had actually a friend who was helping me, who was, you know, I was, she just, she came along at the right time and said, “Hey, I know you need this right now. Can I help you?” And I was like, “Great.” And we already knew each other and I knew her skills, but then I really needed to hire someone who I didn’t know. And I came across The Ideal Team Player book with Patrick Lencioni, Lencioni’s book. And so, I was just desperate to get a little bit of guidance on what are some criteria.
Like, I know that I know the skills that I’m looking for, and even with the admin role, I know the skills that I’m looking for but the thing that, that book really drove home with me is that if it’s not the right person, if it’s not the right kind of person, it actually doesn’t matter what their skills are. And so, I think the criteria are humble, hungry, and smart. And so, I was just able to grab a hold of that and use those basic principles to find someone. First, I did it with the admin, and then you know, as I was hiring therapists, this sort of second round, I was able to bring on even some of my other staff members, so one of our counselors and our admin person to actually interview with me and really like look at that humble, hungry, smart criteria while we were meeting people.
And that was really helpful to have other people who were a part of the interviewing process and not just doing it on my own. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in that situation, Alison, where you could, you know, we get in this pattern of like, maybe it’s the bootstrap mentality of, “Oh, I’m just going to do this on my own.
[ALISON]: Right.
[SUSAN]: And when we don’t have to do that anymore, it’s kind of, it’s nice to just to be able to spread out some of that responsibility.
[ALISON]: I think I’m glad you brought up that book because I also am a big fan of that book and we can put that in the show notes. So, if people want to find it and read it for themselves, they can do that. But I think for any listeners that maybe haven’t heard of that book before, or don’t know kind of what humble, hungry and smart means, can you give us like a brief definition?
[SUSAN]: Sure, sure. So, humble, I really like the definition that, you know, humble is not the same as insecure, but we’re looking for people who are secure in themselves, but they’re also people who are able to take feedback and who are listeners, who are able to listen and who don’t think they have it all together all the time. So, that’s something that really came out in even the mistake that I made in hiring. I think I ended up hiring somebody who was more on the insecure end, and so that humble piece became really important to me. Hungry has to do with how much, and in this case, it was our, you know, hiring a contractor, how much that person was interested in.
First, for me, it was like, are they actually interested in bringing in income? Do they do they really love their work? And are they passionate about seeing clients and doing really wonderful work and maybe even getting their name out there a little bit? Do they have other things that they want to do? So, for example, do they want to do some writing or what they like to do some blogging? So, people who are just hungry to move forward in their profession and to collaborate and then — go ahead. Go ahead, Alison.
[ALISON]: Yeah, I was just going to say, I think too, hungry is somebody who’s willing to go the extra mile and also like the example of, let’s say they have a cancellation in their schedule. Like, are they like, “Oh, okay, great. I have a free hour now.” Or are they like, “Oh, okay, great. Let me see which one of my clients I wasn’t able to fit in this week and get them scheduled so that I can maximize my time,” and ultimately your pay as well.
[SUSAN]: Yes. I call that massaging the schedule.
[ALISON]: Yes.
[SUSAN]: Every week we need to do a little massaging of our schedule. People are going to cancel, but we need to fill in those slots. Now, I love that. That’s absolutely true. And then smart, so smart, it has to do with socially smart. So, is that person someone that can hold good conversations without it being too difficult or too awkward? Are they able to relate to others well? Are they able to relate to their coworkers well? And so that’s, you know, and to their clients, and so that’s something that definitely came up even in my mistakes; is that okay, I had someone who for, I tend to get along with everyone, you know, I tend to get along with most people, but that might not be true for everyone who’s on my staff.
And so just thinking about the combination of people that are there and that, you know, I definitely want to bring in people who are able to be more gracious people, who are more forgiving, who are people who can admit mistakes and say they’re sorry. And so, that was really important to me and became more important to me as I really saw some mistakes that I made in the hiring process.
[ALISON]: Yeah. I think that those are all great definitions, I think too. With the smart piece I’m amazed at, you know, considering the industry that we’re in and how such a big piece of doing therapy work is like relating to people and teaching people about communication skills, I’m amazed at how much, like, when it comes to like interpersonal, like workplace issues, how like poor some people’s communication skills are.
[SUSAN]: Exactly, yes.
[ALISON]: They either avoid having those conversations or they just like get passive aggressive or like, whatever it is, but I’m just like, “You’re a therapist. You know better.”
[SUSAN]: It’s true. Isn’t that interesting? And I think that, you know, in order for us to function maybe in that, you know, socially smart capacity, a lot of times that means that we need to have done some of our own work or a lot of our own work, because I’ve definitely seen that play out in those like co-worker relationships, and also it’s something that I’m working on too. Like as the business owner, like, am I conflict avoidant? You know, am I not addressing things that I should be addressing because I’m trying to be nice? And so, those are all, I think always like growth areas for us but some people, you know, I think when we’re looking for people to join our team, I want to see at least a good baseline there.
[ALISON]: Right? Yeah, that was a huge growth area for me, as well as a boss. Like that was probably my preference to sort of avoid and hope the problem went away and then realizing that that rarely happens. And so, you have to sort of address these things before they become big problems and so I I’ve learned, I kind of have to model that for the therapists. Like, you know, if something small happens and I can see, “Oh, wow, this could really snowball into a big problem and bringing it up to them, I’m modeling for them.” Like, “Hey, we have difficult conversations here. I can bring things up to you and we can have a nice collaborative discussion about it and hopefully work out a solution.” And so that way, if there’s ever a problem with me or something that’s happening in the practice, they’ve seen me model for them. “Yeah, absolutely I want you to come and talk to me about it.”
[SUSAN]: Yes. And those uncomfortable conversations, they just have to keep happening. Otherwise, you know, our practice is not going to keep growing and there are going to be like issues that end up coming between us and they will affect client work. You know, I think that’s something that I’ve noticed that sometimes we can brush things off and think like, “Oh, that’s just between therapists.” Like, you know, no big deal, but what I’ve seen is that it will play out with our clients in one way or the other. And you know, we’re responsible as the practice owners to try to address those things as they come up. Yes.
[ALISON]: Yeah. Or even, I think clients can pick up on if there’s some tension there.
[SUSAN]: Exactly.
[ALISON]: Right. So, it sounds like when you had made that one hire that wasn’t a good fit, you went back and you read The Ideal Team Player book, and then you maybe had some other people kind of sit in and have them be a part of the interview process just to get their opinion as well. Did you do anything else in addition, when you realized you needed to change your process?
[SUSAN]: Yes. So, one thing that came out in my process is that I really wanted to cast a wider net. So, the first round of hiring, I really didn’t have that many candidates to choose from. And I think part of that has to do with our location. You know, it’s not like we’re in a really big urban area, but I realized that the second time around, I realized that I really needed to change, first of all, change my job ad. So, my job ad was very technical really, and it looks like a job description but it wasn’t really trying to pull in a really hungry, excited contractor. And I also realized I’m actually competing with deep, I’m competing with other practices that are, in my case, in Portland, even though I’m not in Portland to get good therapists. And so, while my client base is super local, I get tons of word of mouth referrals. That’s wonderful. My actual net for getting therapists needs to be actually much broader. And I need to make that more attractive so that they would actually want to come out to where we live.
[ALISON]: Up to where we practice.
[SUSAN]: Yeah.
[ALISON]: I’m glad that you brought that up because I see that happen a lot with my consulting clients, they like put up this job ad that’s like, ‘You must be able to do blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” you know? And it reads like a job description and it’s like, “Well, why would anyone want to come work for you because you made it sound like super boring? And what are the good parts about working for you? You didn’t mention those.”
[SUSAN]: Exactly. I’m just talking about HIPAA compliance and confidentiality. Those are important things but I think, you know, I think my language was almost like saying no where my language, what I wanted to change my language to say yes. Like, “Yes, you really want to be here. You want to work at this wonderful place with these great therapists. We have a great vision.” Like, you know, I wanted to really change the attitude of the job ad. And what I saw is that the next, is that when we put that out there, we had a much better response and we, you know, we used Facebook ads. And then we also used Indeed. There are probably some others that that people use in other locations. That’s something that we’re still working on; is what are the best places to advertise for a therapist? That’s something that we’d still like to broaden even more. I tried to use, I think I try to use LinkedIn, which might work for some people really well, but it really didn’t work very well for us. And so, you know, we’re still kind of fine tuning that piece.
[ALISON]: Right. And I think in a couple of minutes we’re going to kind of do a little mini consulting session and maybe I can give you some ideas about that?
[SUSAN]: That would be great.
[ALISON]: So just to kind of finish up our conversation about your hiring process and what you learned just from the experience of doing it and building up your group practice, is there anything else that you think would be helpful for people to know?
Speaker 3: You know, I think that what I’ve taken away from my hiring process is that I’m, you know, I’m pretty certain that I can find a clinician that has really great clinical skills. And we do our due diligence to make sure that that’s the case. We check references, we do background checks and we really talk with those therapists and ask them lots of questions about their approach and what kind of techniques they use in therapy. And that’s very important to us to make sure that they have those solid skills mostly because I’m also not a clinical supervisor. I am hiring fully licensed people. And so, looking for people who have more experience and can really operate pretty independently. So, that’s been actually a great part of our learning process; just bringing in people who have great clinical skills, but at the same time for me, I really want to focus also on the personal aspect of how do they interact with other staff in our office? How are they at customer service?
So are they the kind of people, even in our interactions when they’re just a job candidate, I’m really paying attention to how they answer emails and how they answer phone calls. Do they get back to me pretty quickly? Do they know how to write an email? You know, even just the simple thing of like, there needs to be a salutation. We need to say hi, hi Susan, and just paying attention to things like that. I know I’ve had people email me back as if we were having a text conversation and that just kind of wasn’t good enough for me. I was really looking for people who professionally, even over email were able to show me, “Okay, I’m a professional. I have professional skills here in my writing and in my communication.”
And, so communication was important as well as just finding people who really fit with our team in a personal way. Are they fun? Do they enjoy doing some of the same things that we like? Are they, our practice also really cares about you know, some of the people, or at least a lot of the people in our practice are very spiritual oriented and it just tends to be something that we have in common. And so, that was just something that we were looking for people who are at least kind of just open with that, and maybe even incorporated some of that into their therapeutic work. And so, we’ve just, this time around, I’ve been so pleased with the people that we hired because they’ve really just, they’re already fitting in really well and doing really great work.
[ALISON]: That’s great. So, it sounds like you got clear about what was important to you, and then if people were applying and were kind of fitting those values, it was an easy to see, “Okay, this isn’t a good fit.”
[SUSAN]: Exactly.
[ALISON]: And you moved on right to the right person.
[SUSAN]: Yes, exactly.
[ALISON]: Yeah. That’s one thing that I always recommend to my consulting clients, to get really clear about what your values are in your business, because I think the more clear you are about that, and you putting that out into the world about what you want, the better you’re going to be able to attract the right people and repel the wrong people.
[SUSAN]: Yes, a hundred percent. Yes. And you do want to repel the wrong people, right?
[ALISON]: Yes.
[SUSAN]: Like I think as therapists, sometimes we want, you know, we have this value of kind of being able to talk to anybody and anybody in. Like, you know, but I think we want to actually, as practice owners, there are some people that we need to exclude sometimes like, “Oh, that might not be the best person to work with us in our practice.” And that’s actually okay. It’s okay sometimes to repel the people that aren’t going to fit.
[ALISON]: Right. Yeah. It’s actually going to probably be much better for you as the practice owner.
[SUSAN]: Yes, absolutely.
[ALISON]: Saving you a lot of stress. So, let’s switch gears here a little bit because I thought it would be helpful for you and also maybe for the folks listening, if we could kind of do a little mini consulting session around maybe some challenges you’re facing. It sounds like you know, you might have some specific things related to hiring or if you have other things you want to bring up, we can certainly talk about those too, but what are, at least one challenge that you’re facing right now that you’re maybe wanting some help with?
[SUSAN]: Sure, sure. So, I think the first one that I brought up there was just like how to find qualified licensed therapists. And we had so many people apply who didn’t, even though we listed the qualifications they really didn’t meet them and that might be partly due to our area. But you know, Indeed is, I guess I have a love, hate relationship with Indeed.
[ALISON]: Me too.
[SUSAN]: I don’t know if you feel that way too, Alison, but what have you used Alison or what do you recommend for your consulting clients?
[ALISON]: Yeah, I think I’m probably in a little bit of the same predicament that you are in that I don’t live in a super populated area. There is a shortage of mental health clinicians here and so when I run an ad on Indeed, it was really a struggle for me to get anybody to apply. And most of the people who applied were unlicensed, which I was not interested in. So, what I started doing was really trying to leverage my connections on LinkedIn. So, over the years I have been just connecting with people in the mental health field, in this area over LinkedIn. And you know, really started doing a lot of like posting, like, “Hey, we’re hiring. Here’s what we’re offering. Here’s the link to the page on the website if you want to read more.”
I also started like cold emailing people. So, if they had like initials behind their name, I was like, “Hey, so and so I’m hiring, are you interested? Do you know someone else’s interested?” And I actually got a lot of good responses that way, because what I found was people who were somewhat content in their job maybe weren’t on Indeed looking through the ads, but if something better like literally fell into their lap, they were willing to explore it.
[SUSAN]: Oh, that’s a great point. Oh, I like that.
[ALISON]: Yeah. And so, you can even do searches too on LinkedIn where you can search for, like, let’s say there’s a big like community mental health agency in your town. And I get a lot of great candidates from CMH because, you know, they go there right after they get out of school, they get trained, they get licensed, and then at that point they’ve been through the ringer and they want to get out of community mental health because they’re being worked to death. So, I’ll start like, I’ll type in the name of the community mental health agency and like just start connecting with like anybody who comes up, again, who looks like they’re licensed. So, then they start seeing my posts about, “Hey, we’re hiring. This is what we’re offering.”
[SUSAN]: Great. I see, because I was just thinking about LinkedIn, you know, like job ad function and that’s not at all what you’re talking about. You’re really talking about really like networking with people in your community and those known places where you know that people might not be completely satisfied. Yeah, that’s brilliant.
[ALISON]: Yeah. So, it definitely is more time consuming than just putting up an ad on Indeed. But like I said, I felt like it was worthwhile because Indeed wasn’t really yielding me anything fruitful. So, that might be one thing to try. I don’t know too, how much you are connected with other professionals in the area, but that’s one of the best ways that I found people like word of mouth, like, “Hey, we’re hiring. This is what we’re looking for. Do you know of anybody?” One of my first hires that was somebody who ended up being very excellent and great to have as part of the team was somebody who like a friend of mine had supervised when she was at an agency and she had left and gone into private practice, but she knew, you know, they had kind of kept in touch and she knew this person was still at this agency. And she was like, “Oh yeah, I supervised her. She’s great.”
[SUSAN]: And those are the best when you have a little bit of insight information. We ended up getting lucky like that this time around just having, yeah, having someone even, you know, it wasn’t even someone that I knew personally, but it was one of my contractors who happened to know a clinician that was available and someone who would fit our practice. And so, that was, that more local networking with other professionals makes a lot of sense.
[ALISON]: Yeah. Something else too, that might be helpful is if you go on Indeed and look at what the other employers are offering in terms of like benefits or maybe they’re offering sign-on bonuses you know, we could probably debate how effective a sign-on bonus could be, but that’s just sort of an example of like something that may make it more attractive to come work for you or maybe even offering like your current staff a referral bonus like if they find somebody who comes to work for you. So, then maybe they’re a little bit more motivated to do that word of mouth networking for you.
[SUSAN]: Oh, I like that idea. And you know, I think it just also says, thank you. Like, “Thank you. Like I appreciate you looking out for practice and bringing in someone who’s a great job candidate.” That’s a great idea. Awesome. Thank you.
[ALISON]: Right. So, any other challenges that you’re facing right now that you wanted some help with?
[SUSAN]: You know, one area, which is switching gears a little bit, but something that I know that you know about is virtual assistance. And so, I was just wondering, we’re starting to think about expanding our admin support a little bit. And I was just wondering really like what are people using virtual assistants for? Like, are they, what, and you might even know from all of your consulting clients, what do people tend, what kind of tasks do people tend to give to their virtual assistants? We’re just trying to get creative about how we can utilize someone in that role.
[ALISON]: Sure. That’s a great question. So, virtual assistants can do a wide variety of things, but you’re probably not going to find one person who can do all of the things for you. So, one of the first things people tend to look for is somebody to like answer their phones for them, manage the initial client emails, maybe input data into the EHR, those types of things, because that’s typically the thing that the owner feels like they’re sort of drowning in, especially when they have a group practice already. So, that tends to be like the low hanging fruit of the first thing that they want and then you could find a VA who maybe does more marketing type tasks for you. So, they may put together an email newsletter, write blog posts, post to your social media for you, you know, all of those types of things.
[ALISON]: There are VA’s who can do almost anything. So, I guess it sort of depends on what you have on your plate that you really want to get off your plate and what I recommend to people, especially you as the owner, like you shouldn’t be doing any of that administrative work because it’s keeping you from doing what you should be doing and what only you can do, which is see clients and also be the CEO of the practice. So, I tell people, write down absolutely every little task that you can think of that you do on a regular basis in the practice and then start to mark off what is something that I myself do not have to do because I think it’s really easy to rationalize like, “Oh, well I stop on the way to the office and buy stamps once a month. Like it only takes five minutes. It’s not a big deal.” But then pretty soon you have 30 things on your list that only take five minutes.
[SUSAN]: An example of that is that this week for me, I was hanging out with my kids on a Wednesday night and realized, “Oh, I think we’re running out of paper towels at the office.” So, I ran to the store, it’s like 7:00 PM, I’m with my kids, so I can bring paper towels to the office so that they’re not without that in the bathroom. But those are things that, right, I’m probably, I think I probably shouldn’t be holding that in my brain.
[ALISON]: No, you shouldn’t. You shouldn’t.
[SUSAN]: I think someone else could hold that in their brain and maybe that’s something for my person who’s actually in the office. Maybe a virtual assistant can’t necessarily help me with the paper towels, but my in-office staff support can. And so, it’s, yeah.
[ALISON]: Yeah. So, that’s definitely something that I have my assistant do because she kind of works partly at home and then she does come to the office because she’s local. So, she’s in charge of supplies, keeping track of if running low. She has, you know, the card to take to the store to buy the stuff we do. We do Instacart now, so it just gets delivered to the office, which is nice.
[SUSAN]: Oh, that sounds great.
[ALISON]: Yeah. So, again, you’re then eliminating them having to take the trip to the store so yeah, kind of just streamline those types of things.
[SUSAN]: Yes, absolutely.
[ALISON]: So, it was so great talking with you, Susan. If people want to get ahold of you to learn more about your practice or what you’re doing there in Oregon, how can they get in touch with you?
[SUSAN]: Sure. Thanks so much, Alison. It’s been so much fun to talk with you. If they would like to get ahold of me, the easiest way is probably through my website that is My email is listed there and it’s always easy to just connect also through our contact function on the website. It’s really been a pleasure Alison to talk with you. You have so many great suggestions and I’m just really looking forward to a great year here.
[ALISON]: Great. Thank you, Susan, so much for your time.
So, I hope you enjoyed the interview. I’m really glad Susan brought up The Ideal Team Player book by Patrick Lencioni. That’s a book that I’ve been recommending for a long time to my consulting clients. It’s really helpful just to kind of give people a framework for what to look for when they’re interviewing and think about when they’re hiring staff. So, thank you again, Susan, for joining me on the podcast, it was really fun. So, Susan and I, since we met at Killin’It Camp, we’re actually Facebook friends now and she has the cutest dog. It is an English Springer Spaniel. If you’re familiar with what those dogs look like, they sort of look like Cocker Spaniels, but have sort of dark brown or black spots and white on their coat. And I had a dog like that growing up. And so, I just love seeing Susan’s pictures of her cute new English, Springer Spaniel puppy. So, I didn’t tell her that in the interview, but so maybe she’ll be pleasantly surprised that I brought it up now, but Susan, your dog is adorable and hopefully one day I’ll get to meet him. So, thanks so much for listening and we’ll see you next time.
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This podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regards to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, Practice of the Practice, or the guests are providing legal, mental health or other professional information. If you need a professional, you should find one.