It’s funny how I have learnt more about running a business in the last six months than I ever thought I would need to know. I graduated from a bachelor’s degree in applied sciences – occupational therapy in 2009 with a dream to one day own and run a private practice. I wanted to help children achieve more day-to-day without the limitation of policy and red-tape interfering. I was wide-eyed and ready to go just six months after graduation when I co-founded Early Links with Cally Smith, a colleague from university.
We worked hard and we were making a difference in the lives of our clients and their families. We continued our professional development as had been drilled into us at university, and organised mentors and advisors. But until recently, I realised I had no idea about running a business.
My university education was fantastic in terms of teaching me the clinical skills I need but despite the fact that I am legally allowed to start a private practice the day after I graduate, it didn’t prepare me for the realities of business.
Here are the 3 secrets university never taught me.
Change your head-space from student to Therapist
I think this change took me two and a half years to achieve even when I worked part-time in a hospital where there was structure and senior staff to supervise me. I’m talking about the confidence you get when walking into a session and knowing that you are competent, you trust your own judgement and you are in control. I found that seeking feedback from clients and their families was the best method to change my head-space, as long as I was open to listening to their opinions.
Life in private practice is tough
Yes it is! Working long hours with clients “IN the business” to pay the bills and then continuing to work “ON the business” after hours to improve and build a better company, capable of servicing more client and raising the awareness of Occupational Therapy… it’s tough. And now that I have staff, there is HR, WH&S and PR (and many other acronyms) that I need to consider too.
There has to be a balance
If I hear “you’re working too much” just one more time from a friend or colleague, I’m going to scream! They don’t understand that I love my job and building my business is something I am enjoying. I would much rather hear “how can I help you” instead. It’s funny when you realise that one of your friends is a web designer and just what you’ve been searching for.
Without university, I wouldn’t be qualified to practice occupational therapy but without proper business knowledge and guidance, I wouldn’t have a growing private practice still running three years later.