Ken Warren wrote about the 10 pitfalls of operating a private practice as a counsellor/therapist. Although targeted at a very specific audience, these points are nonetheless just as valuable for other service businesses to ponder.

Here’re some of the pitfalls, with my thoughts on each:

  1. Operating your business like a charity.

    There is a distinction between giving everything away for free (especially because you feel sorry for your clients!), and operating with an underlying attitude of abundance and generosity.

  2. Doubting your expertise and ability to succeed.

    This is especially a problem for solo or smaller businesses where the isolation of working away from colleagues could lead to more self-doubt. A healthy amount of self-reflection and realistic review is useful of course, but now when it becomes debilitating.

  3. Being just like everyone else.

    It is all too easy to fall into this trap as we still subscribe to more or less one way of doing business. This is even more so in the heavily-regulated medical and legal professions, where compliance leads the way to sameness.

  4. Advertising instead of relationship building.

    Advertising is still seen as a normal course of doing business, and as an instant fix to lagging sales. Many talk about relationship building, but few actually do it. Building real relationships is not possible until we start acknowledging that business is personal.

  5. Letting clients slip through your fingers.

    I am in two minds about this point as I really don’t go for the hard sell approach. I find selling intrusive and one-sided (it is usually less about the client than it is about the seller). Not everyone who knocks on your door will become a client. Indeed, not everyone who knocks on your door will be a client you actually want! I try and treat each enquiry with the same level of care and openness I give my clients. Sometimes things work out, sometimes they come back months or years later, and sometimes they disappear. It’s all okay.

  6. Keeping a low profile.

    There are business owners whose personalities are conducive to getting themselves in front of the spotlight. And then there are those who are more comfortable working away from the spotlight. I don’t believe either personality types would predispose their businesses to success or failure. There are more successful businesses out there you and I have never heard of than there are known brands. This is more about keeping a high profile within your target niche or market.

  7. Putting your eggs in one basket.

    This can apply to servicing too narrow a vertical market, especially if that market is also potentially short-lived. A video cassette rental library for 1970s British sitcoms may not last long given the limited lifespan of video cassettes and the continually increasing availability of movies on the Internet.

    This can also apply to limiting your scope to a narrow service set or skill set. We all have skills that apply beyond the narrow definition of what we have been trained to do.

Download and read the full article, including all 10 pitfalls, from Counselling Australia: Private Practice with Ken Warren