Selecting your team of practice advisors is critical to your success. No one can build a practice alone. The team we select will be in the thick of things with you as you move along. And should you be audited by the IRS or have legal issues with employees or clients, having the right advisors is critical.
Furthermore, we have gaps in our knowledge of marketing, design, and websites building. Therefore, we need help from those who are talented in the areas of our weaknesses.
But before we dive into each type of professional that we may hire for our team, let’s consider a few of the most important criteria that apply to all practice advisors and teammates.
General characteristics of excellent teammates
The first characteristic that I look for in any of my practice advisors is the ability to communicate with me in language I can understand. We have all run across people who clearly have a deep understanding of a technical area but are poor at communicating with mere mortals. I need practice advisors who can help educate me about their area of expertise. How else will I become competent to make the best decisions for my practice?
Second, I look for teammates who can clearly show me competency in their work. I am hiring a person to get a job done and done well. I want to see it in the finished product–i.e. in the legal, accounting, marketing, design, or website advice that I receive.
And third, I prefer to have likable people on my team. I might put up with disagreeable people for a time due to their technical expertise. But I am going to keep looking until I find a person with the required technical skills and a pleasant personality. They are out there in all professions. We just have to persistently search.
What do my practice advisors to do?
Both attorneys and CPAs will offer advice on questions like:
- What type of legal entity do you recommend for my mental health practice? Limited Liability Corporation, Professional Corporation, or something else? (There are pros and cons to each and your state may have different options available.)
- How do you start to organize financial data, so you are prepared to manage the taxes involved in ownership?
- What local, state, and federal requirements do I need to be aware of for my new business?
These are technical, local, and we do want to do things correctly. Mistakes can be costly down the road. We are ready to look more specifically at some practice advisors.
Many of the images that our society has of attorneys are entirely inaccurate. Most attorneys do not spend the bulk of their days in the courtroom. Of course, some do. For our purposes, we are looking for an attorney that knows something about both corporate and healthcare law.
So how do we find one with that skillset? You can, of course, search online. That approach will get you some leads. You can read their bios, carefully looking for the places they have worked. Any hospital background is a definite positive.
The other approach I have used is to ask other practice owners about attorneys they have a good experience with. Usually, practice owners are generous with this info and do not see it as competitive. This approach has the advantage of a review of the attorney’s work.
Once you have your list of prospects, interview them. Most attorneys are glad to meet for an initial conversation without charging a fee. You may feel some obligation once you have met but if something feels off, move on. There is no reason to settle. And on the other hand, there are probably more than one professional who might competently do what you need. You want to be comfortable with your choices on all your practice advisors.
Your Accountant and Tax Advisor
We will want to regularly consult with an accountant and Certified Public Accountant (CPA). At first, it will be simple things like setting up a separate business checking account. And then they will help you with thinking ahead about how to manage the tax obligations that are accumulating as income comes in. They will advise you about payroll and about what is tax-deductible and what is not. And then eventually will prepare your tax returns. For most of us, we never faced these questions before. We need the help.
So how do we find the right accounting help? Again, my main two strategies are internet searches and checking with other practice owners. You will want a local accountant as there will be times you want a face-to-face conversation about new transitions.
And again, you will need to depend on your gut as you interview prospective accountants. You are depending on them to guide you through the maze of regulations that apply to financial matters. You want practice advisors you have confidence in.
Website designer/Branding consultant
In most cases, your website designer will also be your primary branding consultant. You will work together on both your messaging and the images and design that support your messages. And of course, when you are looking for a website designer, you are evaluating both their technical abilities and their artistic and creative skills. Most are stronger in one area than the other. That will doubtless figure into your selection.
This relationship can be fun, creative, and over the year, develop into a significant relationship. You will be working on content as your designer is working on the structure and creative aspects of your website. Consequently, an excellent collaborative relationship is vital.
Furthermore, your website is the “front porch” of your practice. Your content and your designer’s designs are giving an impression of what is inside. There is a symbiotic blending of your two contributions that impacts those looking at your site.
One of the advantages of evaluating designers is they can show you their work. Look at the range of your designer’s websites. See which ones you like and try to understand why you like the ones you do. The more guidance you can give your designer, the more likely it is you will like the end result.
Finding a supportive network of peers
The practice advisors listed above are your “paid friends.” But we need real friends too, preferably empathic ones who get you. As I was running my practice, I prioritized meeting regularly with other practice owners and managers. I met with a fellow practice manager every month for over a decade. We still get together in friendship.
These fellow practice owners and managers became friends. I could call on them when I had any new challenges or needed a resource. Owning and managing is inherently a lonely task.
Have supportive people who were outside my practice was grounding and freeing. We could share at a level that would raise the accusation of favoritism if with someone inside the practice. I needed safe and supportive relationships in my life.
Putting the team of practice advisors together
As my practice grew, my practice advisors took on greater importance to me. These were the people I shared the more troubling situations that came up in the course of running a business. For that reason, having a good strong team of practice advisors gave me strength. I needed what they could offer me as I got into unfamiliar territory.
In the end, when you have an excellent team, everyone in your organization benefits.