Why Business Planning is
Essential to Your Success

by

Joe Bavonese, PhD

Many psychotherapists do not understand the need for systematic business planning. Partially this stems from a lack of knowledge about what business planning is, and how to incorporate it as a regular aspect of your business practices.

Business planning is a standard practice that has existed for many years in the business world. While you can achieve moderate levels of success without business planning, it's very difficult to achieve a high level of success without business planning. The reason for this is that you are competing in the marketplace against other psychotherapists whose level of clinical competence may be similar or greater than yours. The only thing which distinguishes mediocre from excellent performers is their level of business acumen.

Most professionals think that "business planning" and a "business plan" are the same thing; they are not. A Business Plan is a formal document used for new businesses to organize their plans for the future and also to apply to funding new ventures. Business planning is an ongoing practice that helps you avoid the inevitable changes, problems and breakdowns that occur in any business existing in a fast-changing business climate.

A major problem for many psychotherapists is that they don't expect problems or breakdowns to occur. Yet change is constant in the business world we work in, and we must learn how to anticipate changes and problems before they occur, and turn them into new opportunities for growth and success. Business planning helps us to do this. Without business planning, when changes occur we may go into panic mode and do something impulsive without being clear about the reasons or consequences of our actions.

For example, in the 1990s you could have a very succcesful psychotherapy practice without any reference to the Internet. In the 21st century, however, with each passing year you are at more of a competitive disadvantage if your practice does not utilize the Internet in some consistent manner. Without business planning, you may get anxious about this and feel a need to do something quickly. You may throw together a web site but not have an overall plan of what to do with the site or integrate it into your existing services or marketing. I've worked with many psychotherapists who spent time and money to create a web site, only to feel frustrated and disappointed that no one seems to know the site is there and it's not generating any referrals.

Regular business planning is like regular exercise: we stay fit, in shape, on top of our game, aware of where we stand. We know that things can and will change quickly in today's marketplace, and we plan for the inevitable problems and breakdowns before they occur. We don't engage in the fantasy that nothing will change, that our current referral sources will always be there, that our caseload will somehow magically maintain itself or grow to a higher level without our orchestrating the growth.

Psychotherapists who don’t or can’t plan, lack direction and focused purpose. They will tend to make business decisions based largely on their feelings, opinions, beliefs, and desires. Yet none of these factors are very conducive - by themselves - for effective decision-making and growth in the future.

Business planning is a learned skill, a set of related practice which enables us to make sense of our past accomplishments and failures, and invent the future that we prefer. It is a necessary component for achieving the highest levels of success and service.