As I work with Rolfers who use my business consulting service to help them develop the size practices they want, I observe a number of common themes in the variety of individual circumstances and backgrounds that Rolfers bring to the practice building task. What follows is a discussion of several of these themes, formulated as suggestions to help you be more effective in consistently and easily having a full practice, at whatever level you define as full.
This is not a how to do it blueprint. While it is possible and desirable to develop a specific plan for practice building the uniqueness of each person’s situation, desires, skills, values, history, goals and so on will lead to differing strategies for each person. Given that uniqueness, keeping the following notions in mind may prove helpful.
Explore Self-Limiting Attitudes
Often I encounter philosophies or beliefs about practice building or the business aspects of Rolfing that get in the way of success. Sometimes they are under the surface and sometimes they are not at all under the surface. Here are several of them.
1. Being of service to others is inconsistent with making a good living.
2. I don’t like to sell myself or my service, and anyway I am not good at it.
3. People will find me when it is time for them to do so.
4. Promoting Rolfing cheapens it and feels somewhat unethical.
5. I’m not very confident about the quality of my work and that holds me back from putting myself out.
6. It is not very easy, and may be impossible, to develop a full practice in my community because it’s so conservative/ the economy is bad/ there are so many competing Rolfers or other body workers.
There is a lot to be said about each of these in sorting out what reflects the way it “really is” versus the parts that rest in yourself that have nothing to do with this particular enterprise but are rooted in your history. My purpose here is not to sort this out, but rather to highlight these commonly occurring background attitudes and to suggest that if they are influencing you, notice if they are getting in the way of your practice building efforts. If they are, and you don’t want them to, investigate them more deeply by reflection, conversation with friends or colleagues and /or consultation with me through my consulting service. I have noticed that these attitudes shift or lighten as Rolfers have more practice building success. So an additional strategy is to notice that you hold some of these views, push yourself into practice building activities anyway, and see what happens to the views.
Be Consistent With Your Efforts
We need to be self-generating in our practice building efforts. It isn’t always easy. If our practices get fuller, the tendency is to become complacent. If our practices are light, it is easy to get discouraged and immobilized. The trick is to be consistent at a level we can sustain.
There are sometimes quick fixes for an ailing practice. But often there are not, and when there are, they are not always repeatable. It is useful to have practice building efforts be an ongoing, sustained part of our professional lives.
As you may have noticed, each aspect of a successful practice building effort is a process, not a single event. For example, you get an idea of a local magazine or newspaper where a Rolfing article might be possible. You call an editor or a reporter who has written about related themes in the past. The reporter is open but doesn’t know about Rolfing. You send literature and follow up with a call. The reporter accepts your invitation for a free first hour to experience Rolfing directly. It goes well. Before you can take the next step, the editor axes the idea. Six months later you see on the masthead of the paper that there is a new editor. You re-contact the reporter and rekindle the idea. The new editor says yes. A year after you first had the idea, an article appears. The same scenario plays out, often times, with efforts to develop referral sources, create demonstrations at workplaces, health clubs, yoga classes, psychotherapy study groups or the local runners’ club.
Further, the conversation that leads to an individual scheduling a first hour is often the last stage of a process that may have gone on for years for that person, from first awareness of Rolfing to a decision to try it. Your consistent outreach may have touched that person several times and made possible a final decision to come in.
To help you stay with it, consider doing the following:
1. Set intermediate goals. For example, how many outreach calls are you willing to make in a week? How many demonstrations will you give in the next six months? How many free first hours to potential referral sources will you give per month for the next six months? How many newspaper or magazine articles, or radio or television talk shows will you generate in the next six months? How many of your brochures will you distribute in the next month? How many former clients will you call per week regarding post-ten work, ideas they may have for places you could make a presentation, or people they know who might like to hear from you? How many conversations about Rolfing will you generate per week with people with whom you come in contact in your daily activity?
2. Establish a number of hours per week you are willing to work on practice building. Stick to it. Schedule these hours in your book. A useful rule of thumb in setting this number of hours is to start with the number of clients you want to Rolf per week. Multiply that number by two hours. A twenty client caseload, with all factors taken into account, probably will mean about a forty hour work week. If you are now Rolfing ten people a week, on average, you are working 20 hours a week directly with clients. That leaves twenty hours of your time that you are prepared to devote to your profession. Use it to practice build. However, even when your practice starts to be full, devote a couple of hours a week to these activities ongoingly.
3. Have a multi-pronged strategy. Some things you do will pay off quickly, others are long term. Some are easy for you to do, some are hard. Some move slowly, some fast. All of this can create a balance for you of your activity level, stress level and in the return to you. Pay attention to all of these activities as the logic of each warrants. In a year, for example, you might generate one media exposure, six demonstrations and fifteen professional networking contacts. Through consistent follow up you might increase the percentage of your weekly caseload that is post-ten work from ten percent to twenty percent. Simultaneously, you might put a gift certificate program for your present clients in place, follow it up consistently with them and see your new client intake from this source rise to forty percent of your total new client intake. This kind of approach puts you in control of your practice and makes it far m ore likely that you will have a consistently full practice.
Follow Up Each Activity
Rolfers sometimes tell me that a particular practice building strategy did not produce results for them, even though it looked promising. As we investigate we often see that what was at fault was not the strategy but a failure to follow through with the strategy in a sustained way.
For example, in our practices at Rolfing Associates, Inc., we make liberal use of a gift certificate, good for one half off the cost of a first Rolfing session, which we give to people who are currently being Rolfed for them to give away. This strategy accounts for about fifty percent of our new clients, and we judge it to be a very cost and time effective way to keep our practices healthy. Some Rolfers have reported to me that they do not find such gift certificates to be very effective. The difference turns out to be follow up.
When we present the gift certificate idea to a client, we ask them if they have anyone in mind who might want to use it. If they do, we ask what that person’s interest is. If they don’t, we ask if they would like to have a gift certificate anyway, in case someone comes along. If they take a gift certificate, we make a note of that and several Rolfing sessions later ask them if they have given it out. If they haven’t, we ask if they have anyone in mind to give it to anytime soon. We remind them that it has an expiration date. If they have given it out, we thank them, ask to whom, and ask if it might be appropriate for us to call that person to see if they have questions or would like to make an appointment. If the answer is yes, we get a name and number and call that person. We also ask that client if they would like another gift certificate. In other words, the specific document called a gift certificate is only the physical component of a process that involves communicating to our client that we are interested in having more clients (clients will not automatically know or assume this), would love to have our clients refer people to us, and take a pro-active stance in having that result in a new client. Handing a client a piece of paper and hoping for the best does not do that very effectively.
Developing a post-ten practice is a second example of the same process. In the ninth session, I give my clients a brochure entitled “Rolfing: a Lifetime of Support, which addresses various post-ten options with Rolfing. I ask them to read it by the tenth session and tell them that I will then discuss with them ways they can use Rolfing over time. At the tenth hour I review those options and make any recommendations I have that are specific to them. That conversation ends with my inviting them to call me anytime they feel they need more work, and that if I don’t hear from them in a year, or in whatever period I have suggested to them looks as though it might be appropriate for next steps, I will call them as a reminder.
I have a recording scheme that keeps me on top of these recall dates, and as each week rolls around in the year, I have a list of former clients it is time to call, and I call them. As I practice longer one place, and have Rolfed more people here, that list naturally grows longer and the percentage of my weekly caseload that is post ten work increases each year. When I do call back a client, if they are not ready for more work I ask if they would like me to call them again later on, establish how long that is, make a note to myself, and start over from there.
In Rolfing class we talk Rolfing with teachers and other students, and before that we talked with our own Rolfer. We get out in the world without a lot of experience in discussing Rolfing with people not already in our community and not conversant with our jargon. Find everyday ways to talk about Rolfing. Tell the truth, tell our story, but tell it in English.
This comes up most commonly when we are asked the hardest question of all, “What is Rolfing?? If the questioner truly knows nothing, you need to orient them with same general remarks to distinguish Rolfing from a sport, a meditation practice and so on. Something like ?hands on body manipulation over a series of sessions that works on the soft tissue of the body” will do. It doesn’t answer all the questions that need to be answered, but it orients the listener. Then move to what the person will be most interested in, which is benefits, or why someone gets Rolfed, and discuss benefits in the terms in which people think. Usually that does not include alignment and structural integration. It does include improving your posture, being more flexible, feeling lighter and younger, having fewer aches and pains, and so on. Gas a learning strategy for yourself, reflect on your next few conversations about Rolfing and review them in this light.
Take the Initiative For Follow Up
Most of your practice building activities involve second, third or even fourth contact before that specific process is complete. This is likely to be true in your interaction with a potential client, an open minded physician you’ve heard about to whom you would like to offer a free first hour, a media representative, and so on. Whenever possible, complete your interaction each tine with an understanding that the other person is invited to contact you to take a next step, and that you will contact them if you have not heard from them.
Even when the people you are contacting are very interested in next steps with you and Rolfing, their lives are complex ones in which Rolfing is just a piece. Your preoccupation with Rolfing and your stake, at least initially, in the outcome of this interaction tend to be larger for you than for the other person. Your rate of successful outcomes is going to be much higher when you initiate activity. People you contact who make it very clear that they do not want you to contact them again, that they will contact you when they are ready, most of the time have already decided that they are not going to pursue Rolfing. When people say yes to you contacting them later, or have no choice because you have said in a letter that you will contact them, they leave open a door of possibility for themselves.
For example, you are writing to someone about Rolfing, and sending literature, either because they called or because you had reason to think they might be interested in Rolfing. You enclose a cover letter, at the end of which you write “Give me a call when you have had a chance to review this material, or I will give you a call soon?. Similarly, you are completing a phone conversation with someone who called the office to inquire about Rolfing. That call does not end with the person making an appointment, but wanting to “think it over.” You might ask if they would like same literature sent to them. Usually the answer is yes. This gives you an opportunity to follow up with another phone call to see if any questions have come up as a result of reading the literature and if they would like to make an appointment at this time. Again, you call a former client about post-ten work. They are not ready to do any work now. You ask specifically if they would like you to contact them again and ask them when. When you do call back in the agreed on time, it is useful to be able to say you are calling back at this time, as they asked you to do.
Develop a Support System For Practice Building
You have a support system in place for your growth in the work itself through the continuing education program of the Institute. For many Rolfers, this is vital to professional well-being. It can be useful to develop a relationship with someone, or several people, for support in the practice building part of your job. It might be a friend, another health care provider or other service provider, and it could be me through my consulting practice. The person you use may be useful even if he or she is not expert in this area, but is creative, insightful about you, and has same skill as a coach. Just the chance to talk it through, brainstorm, and set targets with another person can make a big difference.
Two Practice Building Ideas
This section has basically nothing to do with the rest of this article, but just for fun I will mention two relatively minor practice building activities, both very easy to do, and each of which accounts for two or three new clients for me each year.
Have a decorative gift certificate made up for your clients to buy for someone at the holidays. A month beforehand, tell your clients about it, where it is appropriate to do so, and ask them if they would like to buy a gift of a Rolfing session, or several, or a series, for someone. Through the selection process they use in giving such a gift, the people who receive it are very likely to go on to do the series. I will send you a sample of the certificate we use if you send me a stamped, self-addressed envelope.
If a client arrives for a session with someone else, usually a spouse or friend, where that someone is going to wait in your waiting room while your client has a session, tell your client that it is always fine with you if your client wants someone to watch the session. Remind the client that this will inevitably mean some dilution of the alone time they will have with you, and that on the other hand it can be interesting and even fun to have a close person be therewith them. Often both your client and their companion will love the idea. Keeping your primary focus clearly on your client and their needs, invite questions and observations from the observer if and as appropriate. When your session is over, ask the observer, if appropriate, if they would like to experience five minutes of work, just to feel it. The chances are good that all of this will lead to that person saying yes to your question, “Would you like to make an appointment to be Rolfed?”Suggestions For Success