Posted: August 17, 2011
Four tips for growing your health care business
Here's how to create strong partnershipsBy Teri Karjala
You're familiar with these lines, "Only the strong will survive," or "It's a dog eat dog world." Many step into the business world under the misconception that true victory only comes by working alone, relying solely on self, in order to stay ahead of the competition.
Wrong. I believe, "Two heads are better than one" and "Iron sharpens iron." Creating partnerships in the mental health care field is a necessary foundation for success. We must to shift our mindset from being purely competitive into a mindset incorporating collaboration. This is accomplished by understanding how businesses compliment one another and how working together can provide clients with excellent service, by producing win-win relationships that birth referrals.
Bob Burg, one of the gurus of networking said, "All things being equal, people will do business with and refer business to those people they know, like and trust." Referrals build business, and a large percentage of referrals in the mental health field come from word-of-mouth, so it is important to establish strong referral sources. Referral sources must be knowledgeable of your services, trust you as a professional, and truly grasp the characteristics of your target client.
One key element in gaining referral sources is trust. Trust doesn't come over night and is a continual effort that requires time, money and energy, similar to dating. Statistics show at least seven contacts with a particular business, agency or individual are required, before they will even think about referring to you. Each one of these contacts opens a door for you to observe and study one another by building rapport. Your continual interest in the relationship ignites sparks and chemistry arises, therefore transforming mere rapport into trust.
There is no exact science in building partnerships and, depending on the agency or business, the steps may vary, but here are some great starting points for someone in the mental health care field.
- Set up one-on-one meetings over coffee or tea or any other casual environment. Some professionals in the private practice world do not have time to escape from the office, so as a courteous alternative, bring breakfast or lunch to them.
- Follow-up-follow-up-follow-up! Put in place a system to keep in touch. A system might include newsletters, thank you cards and/or a prompt follow up to schedule your next meeting. Take a visit to their office; invite them to your office. Conduct an open house. Keep them in mind when you come across a great article or resource they would find beneficial and email it to them. Add them to your social media networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc.). Become a guest blogger for them. We've created a business highlight section in our newsletter to enhance and further branch out our partnership relationships. The intent of our highlight is to give other small business owners a chance to introduce themselves and expose the value of their services and products to our readers.
- Think in terms of problems and solutions verses hard-core sales. During your seven- contact mission, your potential referral partner will reveal subtle things about themselves as well as their business. Take that time to participate as an active listener. By filtering through the small talk, you can pick up on queues for problems for which you can provide solutions.
- Relax and simply ask if a potential client will give you a referral. Most importantly don't always look to receive referrals from other people; seek out occasions to give referrals as well. I think Bob Burg put it best when he used the term "Go-Giver." Have confidence in knowing if you put forth the effort, you will receive referrals. Don't forget to show appreciation, stick to your word and you will receive the abundance you're in searching for.
Once you have established referral partnerships, the work doesn't end there. You will quickly be able to discern your level of partnership by those who refer to you often, those who refer occasionally, and those who have yet to send anyone knocking on your door. Based upon the number of referrals, you will know who needs more or less of your attention. By building a business on a foundation of partnerships only the sky is the limit!
Remember, hard work always pays off. A wise man once said "Leaving referrals to chance is a crime against your business." (Roy Shepard).
Teri Karjala, owner of Creative Counseling center, LLC, maintains a private practice that not only provides counseling services; but also offers training in the community. Teri has worked in the field for the past 10 years servicing children, adolescents and adults who have experienced trauma. Teri's passion is to inspire and empower clients to live a life of hope, harmony and happiness. Teri loves spending time with her family, being outdoors in the beautiful Colorado weather, taking part in new adventures, listening to books on CD, and celebrating life. To find more about Teri, visit www.creativecounselingcenter.com.
Teri Karjala is owner of the Creative Counseling Center, LLC, as well as Talking With Teri, LLC. Teri’s passion for the business aspects of owning and maintaining a business has made her a sought out coach by others in the helping fields. She is a regular columnist for ColoradoBiz Magazine and speaks to therapists across the nation in building their thriving practice. Recently she has released her “How to Live Deliciously” Creative Journal Series to help inspire and empower adults, teens, and children. These are available in print at www.talkingwithteri.com.