Ready to throw in the needle? Not so fast! Getting patients and filling your practice is easier than you think. According to chapter 44 of the Tao Te Ching:
"Love is the fruit of sacrifice Wealth is the fruit of generosity Be content."
The fact is, with over $2.5 billion being spent each year on alternative health, there is plenty for everyone!
In a recent survey of acupuncturists, the number-one challenge facing acupuncturists was how to get patients.
This response was unanimous from all acupuncturists completing the survey. The number-two challenge was how to generate referrals.
This makes sense. Obviously, to run your business successfully, you need clients and referrals. There's nothing mystical going on there. What further research from the survey showed, however, is that this "need" actually inhibits your ability to attract clients.
The law of attraction states that what your mind dwells upon, expands. This desperate, depleted, "I need the patients" viewpoint actually has a tendency to expand, making you even more desperate, depleted and needing patients even more. In effect, the focus on your "need" actually creates more of this same need. You find yourself chasing the money, and when you chase the money, you are no longer building a successful practice.
As the cycle continues, you are forced to work longer hours with diminished returns, and feel even more desperate in needing patients. The result is that you do not get patients, or enough patients, easily enough. The more your consciousness is concerned about needing patients, the less successful you will be.
The Chinese have an expression: "You cannot make the grass grow faster by pulling on it." You cannot get patients that way, either. You can, however, cultivate a garden, till soil, plant seeds, fertilize and water the garden, then get out of the way. Nature will do the rest!
In order to grow your patient load, you must grow a community much the same way you would cultivate a garden. This is the garden that you serve!
Growing your community of patients is a five-step process.
1. Know your treasure.
Chapter 38 of the Tao Te Ching says, "The great master follows his own nature and not the trappings of life." Your treasure is not acupuncture. Acupuncture is a tool - one of many that you have.
Your treasure is the te of Tao Te Ching. Te, written in Chinese, is a combination of "upright" plus "heart" plus "stepping out." Te is the upright heart stepping out! It is a special quality, unique in every individual. It is not merely being good or just. It is about discovering that quality, accessing it, and sharing it with others! This provides the majority of value. Your nature is what others may call your purpose and your vision. Without having a clear understanding of your treasure, it will be impossible to share it with others.
2. Be compelling.
Do you articulate what your treasure is to others, including prospective patients, in a meaningful and compelling way?
Articulating your treasure to others creates the context in which others can find themselves and connect with you. The more compelling it is to you, the more compelling it will be to others.
3. Share your treasure often.
Do you share your treasure often? Sometimes? Never? Communicating often about your treasure means that you are revealing and sharing this essential part of yourself with others. This in not done with words alone. Your actions and non-actions speak volumes to the world about your treasure.
"When we live our life fully, our life becomes what zen Buddhists call 'the supreme meal.' We make this meal by using the ingredients at hand to make the best meal possible, and then by offering it." - Bernie Glassman Roshi, Instructions From the Cook
Do you give your treasure away, volunteer, give your treasure to those in need? Do you offer your services to those who clearly could not give you anything in return, except the opportunity practice your art? Do you demonstrate your te?
Many are making the mistake of trying to educate everyone around them about acupuncture. This activity will not attract patients to you; it will simply educate the public about acupuncture. Find ways to communicate in words and actions your treasure.
4. Say no when it is not your ideal client.
Just as there is yin and yang and heaven and earth, there is a yes and no. Many acupuncturists fear turning away clients. You need the money, right? You already know these clients will be a drain rather than a source of inspiration, clarity and revenue. This fear comes from believing you "need" this client. Saying yes to these kinds of clients means saying no to more energy, more inspiration, and more ideal clients.
One of the most important shifts you can make toward attracting the right patients fast is to begin saying "no" to the wrong ones, and cultivating the ability to serve them by offering them referrals to others who may be able to help them.
There is a saying in business: "In order to be effective, you must be selective, and in order to be selective, you must say no." You must remember that with each no also comes a yes - a yes to more energy, more time and, yes, ultimately, more revenue.
It is essential that you not try to fit square pegs into round holes. You cannot be all things to all people. Your success depends on being selective. People will come to know you for what you choose, and refer people to based on that!
5. Deliver WOW service each and every time!
This is the key to endless referrals. What you want is what Ken Blanchard calls "raving fans!" Chapter 48 of the Tao Te Ching states:
"One who gives freely and without attachment gets a full life in return, One who gives with the secret hope of getting is merely engaged in business."
This is about your patient and their experience of you, the environment you work in, and consistency of their experience. This is about your patients' journey into your practice - you, your image, your voice, your phone message, your business card, your office.
It is essential that you be a class act! You must cultivate your te. Remember: Most people go to acupuncturists because of the recommendations of friends! Make it easy for people to recommend you.
Make the effort to implement these five steps, and abundant success is a natural consequence!
"Your virtue is the foundation of your professional work; no house frame ever lasted without a solid foundation. Your mentality is the root of your prosperity; no branches and leaves ever flourished without a well-planted root."
- Back to the Beginnings: Reflections on the Tao by Huanchu Daoren, translated by Thomas Cleary