I have been discussing my perspective on business vision, especially as it relates to solo or small acupuncture practices. I believe that vision is not extraneous, but fundamental, and that the failure to fully embrace a robust visioning process (and revisiting it regularly) is behind a lot of lackluster, stressful and failing acupuncture practices.
Vision, as I’ve described in three previous articles, is how the executive, the fire, the Heart comes in. It’s how we stay passionately attached to the work that we do, even when patients are few (or difficult), paperwork is mighty, and the world is just TOO MUCH. It’s a way for us to stay oriented towards the greatest purpose we can see for our clinics and other businesses.
Vision is helpful not only as an inspiration point and feel-good retreat product, but as a regular participant in your day-to-day clinic operations.
It’s not an extra – it’s the center! But, I’d like to describe in a little more detail what I mean by this. How can a statement of vision be an integral part of not just business planning, but also business operations? How can a vision come off the conference room wall and into the day-to-day flow? And why would that matter?
Vision in thinking about products & services in an acupuncture clinic
One of the most obvious decisions you need to make when starting up a Chinese medicine clinic is what sorts of work you’ll do for patients. What can they get at your clinic? Acupuncture, probably – but how? Group acupuncture? Have you considered how many patients you will see in an hour? Will you offer Chinese herb consultations without acupuncture being in the picture? How will you price these things – ala cart, as part of packages or something else?
Will you have a medicinary – and if so – will herbs be included with treatment, or a separate expense? Will you teach classes or do other education as a SERVICE (as opposed to as marketing) – taking registration fees? What other products & services does your unique training, background and connections make possible?
These questions are meant to help you see that acupuncture clinics have flexibility in defining what they offer – and how. While you may want to have some familiar options to help potential patients find comfort in the consistency, there’s really no limit to how creative we can be with what we offer out of our clinics. After all, many of us are multi-potentialites, and allowing our practices to express our fullness as humans makes some good sense!
Starting with the knowledge that flexibility can and does exist – what then should you do? Try something new just to try it?
Maybe. Try something new only when five nearby clinics have tried it? That’s one approach. But, what if you had engaged in a deep visioning process for your clinic? What if you actually believed in that vision as it is written down? If the vision is rich, and if you know how to work with it, you can easily ask yourself questions about what products and services make the most sense given your situation.
For instance, imagine that as part of your vision you say, “Our clinic contributes to ending the plague of hopelessness and apathy that is impacting so many in our country.” Big vision! Important contribution! How might your products and services relate to that? Is just doing acupuncture and herbs enough? Or maybe, with a vision like that, you might get some mental health professionals on staff, or focus your own training in that direction.
Perhaps you would consider having meditation and de-stressing classes free for patients. Maybe you would get start creating and promoting packaged herbal formulas, foods, or music designed to help people have treatment extending effects in the comfort of their homes. Regardless, looking at products and services through the eyes of vision helps you to make a deeply rooted decision that you can depend on as you grow and develop your business.
Vision in employee hiring & training
As a new acupuncturist looking for a job in an existing clinic – what qualities do you want to look for? Most people are attracted to businesses that seem to have a real vision driving them. It’s in the way people talk about it, it’s in the way the CEO or founder describes the vision, it’s how you feel like you’re working towards something bigger than yourselves – as a team. If you’ve not had that experience, look for it! It’s a great feeling. Vision driven businesses are dynamic, they adapt to meet changing needs, they seem to come from a deep well of hidden support, their messaging and actions hang together.
Further, this dynamism usually attracts clients – everybody is attracted to a business that is passion filled, active and executing on a vision that is clear for all to see. Think of TOMS, Apple, Google and the medium sized businesses that make products that line the shelves of natural food grocers. These companies live vision forward, with their values guiding them every step of the way. That’s compelling! This can result in a bustling clinic that obtains and sustains momentum. Good for you, as the practice owner, in a number of ways. More importantly for this point, this state of affairs is also good if you’re hoping to attract top talent and grow your practice into a multi-practitioner type space.
Your vision can also help you to make hiring/partnering decisions
Let’s say your vision requires a collaborative environment where a small team of people works closely together to create something larger than themselves. Can you see how that leads you to seek out particular types of people when looking to add to your team? Or, consider the vision I described in the previous section concerning helping to shift the hopelessness that many people feel. I already mentioned some folks you might want to bring on board as a result of that vision – but how might you train your existing employees with this vision in hand? What type of qualities might you look for in every member of your staff regardless of the role they play in your business?
Why does it matter?
I could list hundreds of examples of how vision can influence practical features of any Chinese medicine based business – no matter the size or focus. But, when I really sit and think about it – why does it matter so much to me? Why am I so completely bent about talking obsessively about vision in acupuncture practices? Because I believe we can do even more than we are doing, as a Profession. I believe if we were to free the creative, spiritual & innovative energy in the thousands of acupuncturists around the world, we would be amazed at the result. We’d be stunned, really.
I believe that really paying attention to vision – doubling down on it, in fact, can help us get there. Paying attention to those higher levels of understanding of our business, while not the ONLY thing a person needs to do to have a successful acupuncture practice, will almost certainly direct it to bigger, bolder, and more resonant heights. It’s an added bonus that focusing on a vision can have so many positive practical benefits – even increasing profits.
So, what to do?
Of the hundreds of students & practitioners I’ve talked with, a minority have an inspiring vision for their acupuncture practice. Of those who have a vision, relatively few have taken the time to revisit it, nor can they say how they use that vision on a day to day basis. Those who do have a strong vision, even when that isn’t written down, seem to be more fulfilled in their practice, they tend to adapt better to changing circumstances, and are generally more financially successful.
If you’re interested in being part of that minority (eventually making it a majority) and really want to dig deep and create an actionable vision for your Chinese medicine business – what should you do?
There are lots of programs out there that help you look at aspects of vision. I like : Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map, and some foundational courses available through organizations like Mercy Corps NW (in Portland). None of those resources address vision explicitly, or if they do, it may be slightly off purpose for an acupuncture practice vision. While theoretically, a business vision is a business vision (no matter the actual type of business), I do think there are ways we can make the idea of vision more relevant to the whole project of creating a successful acupuncture practice.