Recently, I met with a friend who was having trouble with his boss and was considering quitting his job to start a company of his own. After a long day of talking, we came to a firm decision: starting a business isn’t for him. Not because he’s unable, but because he would hate it. When we parted, he was thrilled to know that he didn’t “have to” start his own business, and he was enthusiastic to apply for a new job with a better company.
In the 1950s-60s, you were considered nuts if you left a good job to start a company. Today, the pendulum seems to have swung, as the idea of getting a job is often seen as inferior to making one. Of course, neither paradigm is right.
I often write about the benefits of starting a counseling private practice. However, owning your own business isn’t for everyone, and being employed as a clinician is not an inferior option. Listed below are 10 statements of preference. If any apply to you, starting a practice might be a bad fit.
1) I like being part of a team
If you’re starting a company, for a while it will probably be a one-man/woman show. Then, when you do start to build a team, there’s still a qualitative division between CEO/Owner and everyone else. It’s lonely at the top.
2) I like knowing what I’m supposed to do
As an entrepreneur, every day begins with uncertainty. An entrepreneur is asking him/herself “Where should I focus my attention? Am I making the right decisions?” As an employee at a good company, there are clearly defined objectives, and success is a direct outcome of one’s good effort and skill.
3) I hate to fail
As employees in clinical practice, we will certainly make mistakes. However, if we’re good at our jobs we probably won’t fail often. Entrepreneurs, in some way, fail on a daily basis. Whether it’s a contract negotiation, a marketing campaign, a customer service issue, or any plethora of business matters.
4) I hate selling myself
Regardless of industry, a substantial component of starting a business is selling yourself and the business. This includes whether you’re selling your product/service, or selling the concept of your business to a new team member.
5) I want an income / I don’t have any money
If you’re under-capitalized or need a full-time income right away, starting a practice might not be the best choice. I’ve written that a licensed counselor can start a practice for just a few thousand dollars. However, one shouldn’t expect to bring in much profit in year one.
6) I desire stability
Businesses, especially new ones, are likely to have both thick times and lean times, and there’s little certainty about when either might occur.
7) I desire healthy balance
Being an entrepreneur is all consuming. Those who do it are driven to work. It’s a compulsion, and admittedly not always a healthy one. Years down the road, for either health or family reasons, most entrepreneurs will start “working on balance.” Employees tend to be wiser to begin with. They know what a healthy work-life balance is, and they value their ‘life’ time as much as their work.
8) I want to keep my work at the office
Due to the nature of the job, counselors often struggle with leaving their work at the office. If you own the office, multiply that struggle by 10. For the small business owner, work is intertwined with life. It follows you home.
9) I dislike business
I’ll sometimes hear from an aspiring entrepreneur the statement “I’m not going to run my practice like other businesses.” Sometimes this means that they’re committed to running their business very ethically, which is great. But sometimes aspiring entrepreneurs hate capitalism in total, and aspire to create something that breaks the mold. Attempts of the latter usually fail quickly and thoroughly.
10) I want to focus on being a great therapist
Running a private practice has little to do with direct care and a lot to do with operations (billing, staffing, etc.). If you’re starting your practice longing for the day that you can focus exclusively on providing direct care to clients, stick with the employment route.
What’s Right for You?
Over the last decade, it seems the prevailing wisdom has been “you’re such a great provider, you should open your own practice!” Yet, this isn’t always good advice. More and more often, I’m seeing clinicians in private practice, and even some who own group practices, making transitions back to employee so that they can regain life balance, and focus on their passion of direct client care.
What are your thoughts and experiences re: venturing into private practice? Let me know online @anthonycentore or @thriveworks.