As acupuncturists, many of us, some without realizing it, are entrepreneurs - or more accurately, "acupreneurs." An entrepreneur is defined as one who organizes, operates, and assumes the risk (and reward) for a business venture.
Many of us may have become acupuncturists in order to catalyze the healing process of our patients, but it is equally important to understand and become fluent with the various aspects of the business of an acupuncture practice in order to run and grow a successful venture. This series of articles is designed to probe some of the most important aspects of "acupreneurism."
What ultimately makes any business successful is that it offers a quality product or service at an exceptional value. One of the basic definitions of quality is superiority of kind, while value is classified as something that is highly regarded. Simply put, offer your clients an awesome treatment with wonderful service in a pleasant environment. The most basic way to build a great practice is to make sure your clients have such a great healing experience that they want to come back for more treatments and tell their friends about the benefits of seeing you.
There are many important concepts to discuss when it comes to building and running a successful practice, but possibly the most important one is to offer an exceptional product and service. If this first, most crucial piece of the puzzle does not fit, it will be difficult to do much else. Here are a few suggestions on how you can increase the quality and value you offer.
Make sure your office is clean and well organized. How your office looks and functions says a lot to the patient about what you have to offer. Remember: Feng shui is simply the external sibling of TCM, so practice it as well. You may want to paint your office, or have some well-placed plants and flowers. Don't forget to adorn your walls with soothing art and acupuncture charts, and cool graphics. Offer comfortable, clean sheets, candles, and treatment rooms that are heated or cooled to the perfect temperature. You may be the best acupuncturist in the world, but if you practice in a cold, dirty office with papers all over the place, it will be hard to do your best work, and your existing patients will be unlikely to refer anyone to you. Remember: When one of your patients refers someone to you, they are putting themselves on the "hot seat" for you, and they need to know that you are going to perform accordingly.
Come to work dressed professionally and looking sharp. Whether you opt for a suit and tie, a white coat, or a more creative outfit, make sure your clothing is clean, pressed and presents a strong image. It is vital that you are clean and well-groomed. How you look speaks volumes.
While everyone has his or her own personal preferences about smell, deodorant and antiperspirants, when you come to the office, make sure you don't smell bad or are overly perfumed. A gentle, nondescript scent is best. Offensive odors or excessive sweating are a surefire way to lose patients.
Be sure your fingernails are well-groomed and that your hands are warm and soft. If you have rough skin, use lotion. If your hands are naturally cold, put warm rocks in your pockets and hold them before you touch your patients. These little details go a long way.
Another important part of offering quality and value is to pay for your patients' parking. Even if you have to charge a little bit more, it's worth it. When patients come to see you, it is important that they feel like invited guests and are well taken care of while they are with you.
Offer your patients a glass of tea (made from the herbs you sell) while they wait, or to drink after they finish their treatment. This is great way to introduce your patients to your herbs, and to let them know you are generous and that you genuinely care for their well-being.
Learn new treatment approaches and refine your skills. After many years of practice, it is possible to get bored or burned out, but by researching new methods, you keep your treatments fresh and alive.
Cultivate your inner self. Your internal cultivation is one of the main reasons why a patient will be drawn to you. It is important that you are working through your issues and that your chi is vital and flowing. It is often the body-to-body relationship where your most powerful healing is done, so teach and heal by example.
Keep in mind that you hold the key to your own success. Offer your patients something special and be a support for them, and they will be happy to pay your fee and refer others to you.
Rory Lipsky, LAc, is the author of One Trip Around the Sun: A Guide to Using Diet, Herbs, Exercise and Meditation to Harmonize with the Seasons. He practices in Los Angeles, California, and can be reached at