Conquering the “Just Tell Me What to Do” Mentality as a Private Practice Owner

  • a couple of weeks ago
  • / By Chad

“Just tell me what to do.”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had PT owners say this to me. They want an exact blueprint of how to level up their practice—something they can follow, step by step, without having to put much thought into it.

It’s logical enough: We look for advice from people that are farther along than where we are today. We want to know how they got there and what they’d do if they were in our current situation.

However, this type of mindset is not conducive to owning a successful private practice and growing your business. It’s not enough to go through the motions without understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing and how it’s going to contribute to your future success.

There are always ups and downs involved with owning a business, and any entrepreneur will tell you that they had to deal with many failures before they finally achieved success. 

This tenacity is key to long-term achievement, but it’s not something you can “tell” someone else to do. Instead, let’s take a dive into how to use this knowledge to help you make progress on your goals even when there isn’t a clear path to success. 

Exposing the Flaws of the Typical PT Journey

The PT journey follows a path that’s similar to learning how to drive a car, speak a new language, or develop any new skill. We start at the bottom of a learning curve that gradually trends upward to our goal. And while it might look like a straight line, we know it’s anything but.

If you zoom in on that curve, you’ll actually see a bunch of smaller transition curves, these little “Aha!” moments that show growth and development and will take you closer to your goal. Here’s what those smaller curves look like:

Think back to when you were working for another PT private practice or company, and you thought to yourself, “Wow, I’m going to open my own practice and change the world.” This is uninformed optimism; you see tons of potential in owning your own practice but don’t have the experience yet.

Then, you finally decide to set out on your own, and something happens: you realize you don't know how to build a business, or you realize you can't answer your phone and schedule a patient while treating somebody else. You’ve made some sort of error or incorrect assumption and you’ve hit a roadblock. Now, you have informed pessimism. You might be thinking, “This is a lot harder than I thought. I have to do everything. I have to be the marketer and the clinician. I have to do the billing and the scheduling, and not everybody respects me.” You didn’t know what you didn’t know, and now you’re having a crisis of meaning. 

At this point, you can take one of two paths. The first is the path of informed optimism. You realize this is how things work, and you can start learning to overcome these challenges and position yourself for growth. 

Or, you can decide not to change, and you end up crashing and burning. You close our practice because it’s too overwhelming or become that jaded therapist who’s barely hanging on and adamant about remaining small. The “just tell me what to do” mentality is a symptom of this path, and it severely limits your potential to learn how to develop sustainable, predictable, and repeatable success.

Why “Just Tell Me What to Do” Is the Wrong Path

Finding a PT or Business Mentor

It is a good idea to seek advice and mentorship, especially from people who know more about a subject than you do. But if you are expecting someone else to solve all of your problems, you are in for a bad time.

The “just tell me what to do” mindset takes away your power and the role you must play as a leader if you want to achieve a high level of success.

Think back to the uninformed optimism that caused you to go out on your own in the first place. Maybe you left because you had a lackluster experience working for someone else. You didn’t like how things were done. You were passed over for a promotion, or perhaps the owner did something unethical. Regardless of your reason, you wanted to do things differently—your way. You didn’t want people to tell you what to do—you wanted to be your own boss

But once you’re in that position of ownership and start encountering things you didn’t know before, you begin to experience that crisis of meaning. You didn’t realize you had to be good at answering phones or scheduling patients. You didn’t realize you had to be a marketing expert or financial genius. You don’t know what to do, where to go, or how to get to where you want to be. 

Most PTs want to focus on being exceptional PTs and don’t want to invest in learning the other areas of a successful practice. But failing to do so is setting the stage for a disaster.

Successful PT private practice owners are those that can step out of the clinician mindset and into the role of a business leader. Doing this requires an ongoing commitment to learning. And to learn and grow, you must be willing to experiment and fail. These are investments in your private practice, both in the short and long term, that will ultimately help you feel more confident about your practice’s future.  

The Real Blueprint to Success: Learn, Implement, Iterate

The PT Blueprint to Success

If you’re reading this, you’ve already decided you want to learn. You could be doing a million other things to “fix” your practice, but you see the value in learning that will eventually pay off in the long term. 

There are several ways you can create a pattern of growth in your practice:

First, we’re in the information age. There’s a ton of free information floating around on the internet and at the library. You can take out books for free (I’ve shared a list of books I recommend that have helped me). 

You can also find mentors that can act as sounding boards and learn from their experiences. Don’t rely on them to solve your problems, but rather work with them to gain inspiration and insight (plus accountability) that you can apply to your own unique situations. 

Don’t resent the fact that you have to learn. Growing your knowledge and skills is a valuable opportunity that defines real, sustainable success. 

Remember, everyone goes through the transition curve. Keep working and learning to come out on the other side. If you need help getting started or want to take advantage of high-value resources, visit our PT Marketing Resources and start growing.

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