Follow-Up Interview: Year Two in Practice with Michelle Grasek

Here is an update about Avenue Acupuncture with Michelle Grasek. Michelle is a writer and educator about Acupuncture Marketing! I found it fascinating to read through my past interviews to see just how much my practice has evolved! Thanks again for this opportunity, Michelle!

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Full link: Follow-up Interview Year Two in Practice

"Hi everyone, welcome back! Today I’m excited to interview Danielle Talley, acupuncturist and owner of Avenue Acupuncture in Plattsburgh, New York. I originally interviewed Danielle as a third-year student at the Finger Lakes School of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in Upstate New York (my own alma mater too!). You can check out Danielle’s previous interviews here:

I love taking a look at how different acupuncturists run and manage their businesses, as well as following their journeys in the years after graduation. Everyone’s path to success is different but it’s fun to take a peek at where others are in the journey, what works for them in marketing and bringing in patients, what doesn’t work, etc.

Today Danielle and I talk about:

  • How she built her business to 30-40 patients/week
  • Raising her rates and those tricky money conversations
  • Why she takes Wednesdays off for self care (love this!)
  • Collaborations with other businesses in her community that are expanding her practice

Let’s dive right in!

Can you describe your practice for us now that you’ve been in business two years? How have things changed since our last interview?

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The practice is thriving. I see between 30-40 patients a week and I started a wait list for new patients in January. So much has changed since the last interview. I recently moved to a new office space and I’m now sharing space with two chiropractors (also New York Chiropractic College grads). Last year I started collaboration with Melissa Light of Luminous Living offering monthly Restorative AcuYoga classes. I’m getting ready to launch, “The Community Acupuncture Project” in order to spread my services further and allow those with strict financial considerations to still receive treatment. I have more experience under my belt and am more confident as a businesswoman.

So glad to hear business is booming! I love that you’re branching out and making such great collaborations with other business owners in your area. I’m always encouraging my students to work with others to expand their reach. Can you tell us more about Restorative AcuYoga classes?

I was approached by Melissa Light of Luminous Living last year to collaborate on a workshop. Melissa is a well-known and fantastic yoga teacher and health coach. We decided to combine the healing effects of Acupuncture and Restorative Yoga. The workshop is three hours long and the first two hours consist of restorative yoga where participants are guided through 5-7 postures. The next hour is a glorious savasana where participants receive auricular acupuncture. Each workshop is themed a bit differently depending on the season, mood, collective, etc. We have found that most people LOVE this workshop and since we only offer monthly, it is usually sold out! Melissa and I love to hold such a healing space for people!

That sounds amazing. What a perfect collaboration. I’d encourage everyone reading this to consider something similar with a yoga teacher in their area, to get their services in front of a new audience.

Last year when we chatted, you mentioned running a business was your least favorite part of practicing. Is this still the case, or do you feel like you have a handle on it now so it’s less intimidating/less effort?

I would say the business side of things is still my least favorite. I’m a clinician and I enjoy working with and treating patients. Filing taxes and monitoring expenses is still boring and can sometimes be overwhelming on top of my patient load. I have better habits and systems in place to help alleviate the daily stress of administrative work. It is less intimidating now that I have more experience. I have reached out for help and support when needed and I am getting the hang of the business yearly cycle. I am considering hiring part-time help and have been pondering that for quite a while.

Last year you weren’t accepting insurance. Is that still the case? Why or why not?

I’m still not processing insurance claims on my side. I do send patients superbills upon request. If their insurance covers acupuncture they can then submit to their insurance themselves. Almost all patients with the proper insurance coverage have had success getting reimbursed. Since the business is still just me, I do not have the resources to process insurance claims on my own. Most patients do not mind the superbill process. It’s all done electronically on my end – quick and easy for both of us.

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What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of being in practice?

My favorite part is helping people. It has always been my favorite part, in fact helping others is the entire reason I went into this field at all. I would say my least favorite again is the business side. I recently had to increase my prices and even having those conversations with my patients was a challenge for me. Money is an uncomfortable topic for me. It’s hard to proclaim my “worth” and justify the value. I’m proud to say that I have remained firm in that regard, explaining that if the patient has financial considerations preventing them from continuing care that I’d be happy to provide them with a list of practitioners that may better fit their financial needs. I have found that boundary setting has helped. I originally set my prices in the mid-low range when right out of school. I didn’t want to set them too high as a brand new practitioner. Now that I have two years under my belt and a list of people waiting for appointments, I felt like it was time. In addition, I moved my physical practice location to a place that was more expensive, and I don’t believe anything is getting less expensive these days. I would rather raise my prices more substantially every few years rather than five dollars here and five dollars there.

I appreciate that you’re willing to talk about money issues. You’re not alone with having difficulty charging what you’re worth or dealing with money matters in general. The more acupuncturists I speak to, the more I learn that it’s a difficult conversation for many of us. I’m so glad to hear you stuck to your guns and went with the higher prices. You’re right, nothing out there is getting cheaper!

Do you still have mentors for running your business, like you did last year?

Absolutely. I think having the right resources can make all of the difference and I still have people I reach out to and ask questions when needed. My twin sister, who has a background in marketing, communications, and administrative work, has been instrumental in helping me navigate some of the more confusing aspects of the business world. I’m blessed to have such a resource that is literally a text message away. She’s an honest and upfront fountain of information about administrative aspects that I’m not sure about.

What advice would you give to acupuncture students regarding starting their practices?

Start making a business plan early. You have to put in the time and effort to lay the groundwork for a successful practice. The success of a business should not be on a wing and a prayer.

Agreed! Successful businesses are most often built with a plan in mind; sporadic marketing efforts result in sporadic income. Can you outline your marketing game plan for us? What marketing do you engage in to keep your practice full?

My marketing game plan is simple: Provide great service that makes patients want to spread the word. I haven’t really paid for marketing besides sponsored posts on Facebook. Most new patients hear about the practice through other existing patients. I have recently had t-shirts and hats made featuring the Avenue Acupuncture logo but otherwise I have focused on solid communication via appropriate channels and providing great service.  I absolutely love having merchandise, even though that may seems silly to some. Seeing my shirts worn around town gives me such a sense of pride.

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Which marketing efforts are bringing in the most patients for you right now?

The most successful thing I ever did was an open house right after the business launched in 2015. I think the most important part of that open house were the live demos. It was important to show the community that these are thin needles that do not cause the type of discomfort that a shot or blood draw causes. In addition, I showed cupping, tui na chinese massage, and facial rejuvenation. I decided to be open and honest – allowing any questions to flow in real time. I also offered a small discount on gift certificates – $10 off per every $50 spent. The patient numbers doubled the week after the open house it has been busy ever since. After the open house I have simply done maintenance. Since the wait list was started in January of 2017 I have really scaled back any marketing efforts. I have to think about longevity too. I can’t just take a zillion patients in a week for the foreseeable future. Even though it was uncomfortable, I had to do experiments around what number felt best for me both for each day and for the week. I could see why burnout is a real thing. Scaling back was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made for my mental health. Some could argue that it would be a great time to hire someone, but I like being a sole practitioner right now. I’m not ready to hire yet.

Are there marketing efforts you’ve tried that really fell flat?

I haven’t had anything fall flat. However I would caution any person new to marketing that traditional print media (white pages, newspaper, magazines, etc.) can be quite costly often with a little return on investment (unless extremely targeted). Grassroots and word of mouth are often more effective.

Agreed. Print ads (or ads of any kind) need to have a very specific target market to be effective.

What has been the most important advice you’ve ever received about running a business?

It’s okay to ask for help. You don’t have to do it all yourself.

In your second year in practice, do you feel like you’ve “made it?” Why is that? Or, what do you feel like needs to happen before you’ve made it?

I feel like the term “made it” means that the work is over and you have reached your full potential. For me that’s not really the case. I’m not sure I will ever feel like I’ve “made it.” I’m trying to have more of a mindfulness-based approach where moment to moment check-ins with about how life and the business are right now is a priority. I’m trying to put less emphasis on some fictitious end and more about the journey. I do know how cliché that actually sounds, but that is true for me. I am unable to put into words how grateful I am to have the wonderful patients and community support. Two years was the amount of time I gave myself to sink or swim in Plattsburgh and I would say that thankfully, I am swimming.

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I agree that taking time to stop, check in, and focus on mindfulness is enormously important. What goals and plans do you have for your practice in the next year?

As mentioned above, I am adding community acupuncture to my offering. This Fall I plan to have some open hours for patients and new patients to walk in and try mini acupuncture treatments in a group setting. This is something I have wanted to do for a long time so I am excited about the opportunity.

In the future I have big dreams and goals to open my own larger office (with more acupuncturists) and studio space for yoga classes, workshops, and other offerings. I have recently been certified in Buti Yoga, which is a mix of vinyasa yoga, tribal dance, and plyometrics. Buti yoga is a high intensity, fun workout done to upbeat music. I have found a great deal of healing for myself with yoga. I can’t wait to offer it to others.

Buti Yoga sounds like tons of fun. If you could go back and do anything differently in the past year, what would it be?

There are not any actions I would do differently but I would tell myself is okay to say no, it’s okay to ask for help and it is okay to know and ask for your worth.

If you don’t mind sharing, how many patients are you seeing a week?

I am seeing about 30-40 patients a week. I decided to cut down my schedule to only 4 days per week that I am in private sessions. My Wednesdays are still a work day, but more for administrative work and self care. I find that carving out time during the workweek is actually best because I have no excuse to not get my work done before the weekend comes. In addition, the integration of self care has been crucial in order to continue caring for people. I think it’s important to have a healthy work-life balance. This is something I’ve had to really fight for because I tend to let work bleed into other aspects of my life. I mean I have had to literally keep my work phone completely off on weekends and refrain from checking e-mails. Boundaries are key. I am still a work in progress.

Self-care is so essential. I think you’re providing a great example of how to fit self-care into a busy practice. Glad to hear you took that leap! 

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Thank you for an awesome interview, Danielle! I appreciate that Danielle is willing to share the steps she’s taking to build a business that is an important and integrated part of her community. And I love traveling along that journey with Danielle in these yearly check-ins. Can’t wait to see what awesome new plans she has in the works for next year. Don’t forget to check out Danielle’s previous interviews:

Have questions for Danielle? Can you relate to her experiences as a new practitioner?  I’d love it if you left a question or comment below!"


ONWARD.

Moving is part of life.

 

Rivers run downstream, oceans tides shift based on the location of the moon. Our hearts beat in our chest and air flows through our lungs. Movement is necessary for life. Our cells at a microscopic level carry out the tiniest of movements that repair muscle and literally heal us. In fact without movement life would cease to exist.

 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is no different. It’s all about getting things moving. TCM teaches us that the healing comes from bringing qi and blood to an area to facilitate healing. This begs the question: if moving is so good for us and literally gives us life, why does it feel like hard work? Getting off the couch, going for a walk, or even moving on from a good book, all of these things can be hard.

 

We can also look at moving as a fresh start, a new beginning, a chance to move forward and grow. But that doesn’t make it any easier. Putting all of our stuff in boxes and loading it in a truck just to unload it 2 miles down the road. It feels exhausting and daunting. Then we must rearrange all of the items we have moved. Once the dust settles and the moving is complete we slowly forget the pain of the process. It’s what I can only imagine it’s like for a mother after she delivers a baby, the pain vanishes at the sight of new life. We forget how much moving sucks until we are in the middle of it and then when we see the rewards of our labor -  it’s all worth it.

 

"For now I put those great memories of my first practice in a little box and I will carry them with me imprinted on my heart forever." 

 
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I never thought I would be here. Two years ago when Avenue Acupuncture opened, I could have never predicted the success and growth. It was a well-laid plan fueled by hopes and dreams. At times I seemingly have to pinch myself. Is this real life? Do I really have so many patients to care for? How wonderful this journey has been and truly I am just getting started. Onward I go to a new space, one I hope will hold as many dear memories as the one I leave behind.

 

Life is about change. Regardless of the circumstances, change is a constant. You can choose to embrace it, or you can go kicking and screaming, but change is inevitable. As I reflect on my practice and the last two years, I feel a sense of appreciation, gratitude, and wonder. How did it all happen like this? Looking back it feels like beautiful pieces of the great cosmic puzzle aligned to unite me with so many of my patients. I know my new space will allow me to continue to be part of your journey to health and healing.

 

For now I put those great memories of my first practice in a little box and I will carry them with me imprinted on my heart forever. This was where the dream started and I will always remember that. The next chapter is upon us, for now I put the bookmark in to take some time to rest up before we start the next chapter.

 

As always I close with gratitude. Thank you to my patients, to my family, and to my friends. The next chapter will be sweeter with all of you in it!

 
 

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Shout out and special thanks to Morgan Gordon - shadow writer, photographer, manager, mover & sister extraordinaire 

...without whom I could not make it through this life <3

Antiperspirant vs. Deodorant: Don't Pity Your Pits!

As an acupuncturist, I’ve come to know a few things about how to treat my body. I’ve learned that it’s never a good idea to suppress my natural body processes. For example, whenever I get a headache, it is never my knee jerk reaction to pop some ibuprofen. I’ve learned that there are simple acupressure points I can press in order to help alleviate the symptoms. Additionally, using hormonal birth controls to suppress my body’s natural menstrual cycle is a no-no for me. ANY action taken in order to suppress the functioning of the body’s natural state of being may have serious consequences. These consequences may not be immediate, however, it’s important to start linking these small behaviors to how they affect the body – not how convenient our lives are now that we can get rid of sickness immediately and plan for our periods. This is especially the case with armpit care!

Why is antiperspirant bad?

Next time you’re in the grocery store, take a look in the deodorant isle. Make sure you bring a tiny magnifying glass. The majority of the products are called “antiperspirant deodorants,” which means just that – they stop you from underarm sweating. What could be more undesirable than sweating profusely from your armpits…I can think of a few things – illness being one of them. Also, check out the warning label. Did you know you’re recommended to speak with a doctor before using an antiperspirant?

Clogging and/or shrinking the pores in your pits creates a build up of toxins, which would generally be excreted in your sweat, however, are now trapped. Many of these products are made with aluminum, which (although effective in helping to stop underarm sweating) has also been shown to cause DNA mutation – a requisite for uncontrolled cell growth [i.e.: possibly pre-cancerous cells!]. Now a days, there have been many studies linking antiperspirant to breast cancer in woman. Another startling fact – 60% of breast cancer tumors are found in the axilla, aka: the ARMPIT! It is mainstream now – for women who have breast cancer or are getting a mastectomies to refrain from using antiperspirant (DOCTOR’S ORDERS!), however, I pose an important question. Why stop using a product that may cause cancer after being diagnosed with cancer? What ever happened to preventative medicine?

What is the difference between antiperspirant and deodorant?

Deodorants don’t actually stop underarm sweating; they combat the stench when you do sweat. In order to understand this further – a quick anatomy lesson on armpits is necessary. After puberty, there are two types of glands found abundantly in the armpit – eccrine and apocrine. Eccrine glands are responsible for “cooling” the body down via perspiration. This sweat is not responsible for foul underarm odor; it is mainly water and salt. Apocrine glands produce foul odors because they carry fat, protein, and sweat to the surface of the skin, which interacts with bacteria on the armpit surface and viola: body odor. Deodorants are not made of compounds to stop underarm sweating, conversely they contain products that combat the bacteria found in the armpit – cutting down its ability to mingle with the fat, protein, and sweat excreted by apocrine glands and therefore, no stench is produced.

Do I have to stink?

Making the switch from antiperspirant to deodorant is no easy task. The first thing to take into consideration while making the switch is – YOU WILL STINK HORRIFICALLY for at least the first 3-5 days. Why? When your glands and pores finally begin to unclog and function properly, there is a transition period where the build up of toxins are released – causing a spike in body odor. The good news – this too shall pass.

I decided to make the switch from antiperspirant to deodorant about three years ago and am happy with the overall decision. The first challenge was finding a reliable deodorant – one that was neither gel based nor filled with other chemicals such as synthetic colors. I asked around and found a recipe that is all-natural and organic. Ingredients include: cold pressed organic coconut oil, arrowroot powder, naturally procured (mined instead of chemically created) baking soda, neem oil, mango or shea butter, lime essential oil, tea tree essential oil, sweet orange essential oil, and a small amount of beeswax to help the cream retain its consistency. Many of these ingredients are naturally antibacterial, healing, refreshing and smell absolutely delicious!

Ingredients to avoid!

If you do not want to go the “crunchy way” and are looking for a product available in grocery stores (they are very limited!), here is a list of ingredients to avoid:

  • Propylene Glycol – penetration enhancer that breaks down your skin’s protective barrier to enter your blood stream. This has the potential to bring other harmful chemicals along with it.
  • Fragrance containing phalates – known disruptors in hormone balance – affecting the way estrogen works in the body (for men, women, and children!)
  • Tetrasodium EDTA – made from a toxic salt and known carcinogen: sodium cyanide and formaldehyde.
  • FD&C Yellow and D&C Green – made from coal tar and can be hormone disruptors, skin irritants, and formaldehyde donors.
  • Diazolidinyl Urea – immune system and skin toxin that (in some studies) has been shown to cause cancer (common source: an extract in animal urine – GROSS!)
  • Triethanolamine (TEA) – made from a known carcinogen: ethylene oxide
  • Parabens – hormone disruptors that can cause skin irritation and allergies.
  • Quaternium-15 – formaldehyde containing preservative and known carcinogen.
  • Octoxynol and Nonoxynol – hormone disruptors and should be avoided by children and pregnant women.
  • Triclosan – shown to cause liver damage and hormone disruption.
  • Ceteareth-20 (or 12) used as a thickener: can be contaminated with other carcinogens. Also, a skin irritant, neurotoxin and has been deemed unsafe to use on injured or damaged skin.

Keep in mind, people; healthcare is not really for the healthy – it should be called “sick care!” Think about it: most people don’t go to the doctors until they are sick! Prevention is key and it’s important to use our noggins and treat our bodies with care. Preventing disease is much easier than going through the rigmarole of being treated for a disease after diagnosis!

Happy 18 Month Birthday Avenue Acupuncture!

My name is Morgan, and I have the good fortune of being the twin sister to Danielle Talley, Acupuncturist Extraordinaire.  Over the last 18 months, Danielle has grown her business, Avenue Acupuncture, at a blistering pace. She went from seeing roughly ten patients a week back in September of 2015 to presently treating over 40 a week with a wait-list that is growing by the day. 

This kind of growth does not come from dumb luck or even smart luck. Rather, Danielle has skills that reach beyond inserting needles at the right spot. My sister would call herself a vehicle for the medicine, saying “It’s not me, it’s the medicine,” but she is only half right. Chinese medicine is amazing and to us Western medicine folks, it is also kind of like magic. You place a needle the width of a human hair in my ear, and my stomach feels better? What?! Magic!! In all seriousness, though, Danielle is sharing Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with the North Country and let me tell you, the North Country loves it.

As I reflect on the success of the practice a few thoughts cross my mind. As Danielle’s publicist, bookkeeper, PR person, Sales & Marketing person and sister I would like to be able to take some small credit for her success but truly I cannot. She has done the work that has allowed her to complete over two thousand treatments. If you have ever met Danielle then you know her demeanor is such that it allows her to bring both tough love (stop eating junk food that makes you feel sick) and at the same time empathy (I’m sorry you are feeling sick, let me try to help you). However, Danielle has other skills that set her apart. She takes the time to educate her patients on the medicine, and she takes her time with each appointment. Each treatment is tailored to individual needs on that day which means the treatment could be different every time for every person. She takes detailed notes so she can track her cases and ensure progress with each patient. 

Her practice is holistic in the sense that she looks at the body completely. She looks for the root cause of the problem and not just at the symptoms. Sometimes this can be a challenge especially, with a chronic condition.  She explained it to me once by describing it as a stream. Think about how a blockage upstream can cause the stream to stop running. We have to identify the root cause of the blockage. It makes complete sense when you shift your mindset from a more symptom-based Western medicine approach. Western medicine absolutely has its place - you would never visit Danielle for a compound fracture or a ruptured appendix as she would not have the tools to support that type of medical issue. However, post-surgery she could apply techniques to help increase blood flow and accelerate healing time. The two types of medicine work together in harmony.  

Danielle has shared some remarkable patient success stories with me. She has had infertility cases achieve pregnancy, she has been a key contributor to jump-starting labor in overdue pregnancies, and even more remarkable, Danielle has helped restore clear hearing to a patient with an unexplained ringing in the ear! She has successfully helped dozens of patients achieve significantly reduced pain and overall improved well-being.

I am a patient of Danielle’s (I would assume her least favorite one because she has taught me so much that I think I know how to treat myself – so that you know, I do not). She calls this patient-directed care, which in my case is sort of like thinking I can drive a tractor trailer just by watching some else drive one (so that you know, I also cannot do that). She makes sure to tough love me into remembering I did not study Chinese Medicine for three years (including an internship in China) and I am not qualified to self-diagnosis. 

Acupuncture has changed my life. With Danielle's help, guidance, and care I was able to stop taking a medication I was on for 9 years which was a huge accomplishment. My digestive issues and chronic headaches have also dramatically reduced with a combination of acupuncture and herbs. Finally, and most importantly she has taught me the value of self-care.

As much as we want to care for everyone else in our lives, we must care for ourselves first. Whether you are the tired mom that hasn’t slept for years or whether you are the busy professional that puts work first always, you need to care for you first. For me, sometimes self-care comes in last, after work, walking the dogs, cleaning the house and just about anything else. Ok, so it pretty much always comes in last.

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It’s hard for me to look in a mirror and ask myself, “Hey Morgan, what do you need?” It some cases, it makes us feel guilty, or maybe we truly don’t like what we see in the mirror. Maybe we don’t want to give up chips or soda or beer. I get that, but if TCM and Danielle have taught me anything, it’s that you will not get better without adjusting course. Your actions contribute to your overall well-being, so sometimes you have to turn that ship around. The more open minded you are about changing course, the more successful a new type of medicine may be for you.

Whether you are reading this as an enthusiastic patient of Danielle’s or newcomer to Chinese Medicine, I invite you all to step back, reflect and open your mind to the possibilities that Chinese Medicine can add to your self-care routine. Lastly, huge congratulations to my baby sister (yes, by 6 minutes!) on the early success of your business, I have, without a doubt, hit the sister lottery!

Morgan Gordon

Vice President of Sales & Marketing

Avenue Acupuncture

Follow-Up Interview with Modern Acupuncture


I had the pleasure of doing a follow up interview Michelle Grasek, author of Modern Acupuncture! Here I talk about my experience so far in private practice!

Full link: Acupuncture Student to New Practitioner

“Today I’m excited to chat with acupuncturist Danielle Dupell about her first year out in practice. Danielle  graduated in 2015 from Finger Lakes School of Acupuncture in Seneca Falls, NY. I interviewed Danielle when she was a third year acupuncture student, and I’m so excited to follow up with her now that she’s in practice. (Check out Danielle’s initial interview as a student here!)

Danielle opened Avenue Acupuncture in  her hometown of Plattsburgh, New York right after graduating with her Master’s of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine degree (MSAOM) in August 2015. Avenue Acupuncture is a bustling practice located in the ADK Wellness Alliance. In her free time Danielle enjoys cooking, exercising, reading, and spending quality time with her family.

Today Danielle shares with us:

  1. Which marketing efforts have worked for her so far, and which ones haven’t?
  2. Danielle’s top advice for current students.
  3. What one thing would Danielle do differently if she could start her practice over again?

(All photos were taken by Morgan Gordon and edited by James Montefuesco.)

HI DANIELLE! THANKS SO MUCH FOR COMING BACK TO MODERN ACUPUNCTURE FOR A FOLLOW-UP INTERVIEW. LAST TIME WE TALKED, YOU WERE AN 8TH TRIMESTER (THIRD YEAR) ACUPUNCTURE STUDENT AT FLSAOM  WITH ONE SEMESTER LEFT BEFORE GRADUATION. YOU GRADUATED LAST SUMMER, IN AUGUST OF 2015, AND HAVE BEEN IN PRIVATE PRACTICE FOR ABOUT SIX MONTHS NOW. HOW DOES IT FEEL?

It feels absolutely amazing to be out in the real world in private practice. Seriously, school was a very difficult chapter in my life. I am happy that I’m done with school and actually out practicing. I’ve come to realize just how important it is to get a quality education as an acupuncturist. I realized quickly that FLSAOM has given me all the clinical tools I need to succeed and be a quality practitioner.

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PRACTICE FOR US?

My practice is a small one in a very busy massage therapy clinic. I have two treatment rooms, a small office space, shared waiting room and shared bathroom. I am located in downtown Plattsburgh, New York (basically the most northern point in New York State without reaching Canada).

Currently I work five days per week and I am seeing 20-25 patients per week. This doesn’t quite equal five patients per day because I tend to be busier in the beginning part of the week. The most patients I’ll take in a day is eight to nine. Anything more than that tends to feel a little overwhelming. This amount of patients feels like a good number for me; I am able to pay my bills and still save a little bit of money.

I also don’t feel too overwhelmed although some days do feel slow. Sometimes (as strange as it sounds) I am thankful for those days because private practice involves a lot of other work besides treating patients. It’s nice to have that downtime to keep up with my books, order supplies, do research on cases, etc.

IN OUR INITIAL INTERVIEW, YOU MENTIONED THAT YOU WERE WORRIED ABOUT RUNNING A BUSINESS. YOU SAID THAT IT MIGHT BE A CHALLENGE TO GET INTO THE ENTREPRENEURIAL MINDSET. HOW IS THAT ASPECT OF PRACTICING ACUPUNCTURE GOING FOR YOU?

That part of practice is my least favorite. I’m definitely growing myself in that aspect though. I truly underestimated the amount of work it would be to start and run my own practice. It’s super rewarding and lovely to not work for “the man,” but truly my patients are my bosses.

It’s lovely to call the shots, but there’s a lot of extra work when it comes to running a business. At times, I feel like I’m stumbling through the “firsts” of doing things. For example, the first time I had to file my quarterly income and sales tax, I fumbled for sure. There is a learning curve overall, but I’m super proud of myself.

DO YOU USE A PRACTICE MANAGEMENT SOFTWARE? PROS AND CONS? COST?

Good practice management software is key. I cannot imagine my life without it, to be honest. I use Unified Practice and Quickbooks Online. Unified Practice is a smaller company based out of California and New York City. They are useful for practice management and electronic charting.

United Practice has an iPad app for charting that is specific to acupuncturists. I’m so happy I took the plunge with them. I have the ability to utilize online scheduling which is a godsend for me. Since I’m a sole practitioner who does everything, including scheduling and reminders, this has saved me so much time, energy, and effort. In addition they have excellent and prompt support who know me by name and help as best they can! Their software is very easy to use.

I also decided to invest in Quickbooks Online because I needed some further organization. With Quickbooks, I can easily track sales and expenses. I can file taxes much easier, keep inventory, and generate various reports such as profit and loss. My total cost for both of these is roughly $65 per month. (This is about the price just of just ONE patient appointment.) Highly worth it for me. In the grand scheme of things, both of these are a must for someone who is apprehensive about organization or keeping everything straight.

DO YOU TAKE INSURANCE? HOW DO YOU STAY ORGANIZED WITH YOUR INSURANCE BILLING?

I do not outright take insurance. I supply my patients with a superbill, which has all the necessary information for the patient to submit the insurance claim themselves. Since insurances are so variable, I decided that it would be more cost effective for me to run a cash practice. I don’t have the extra income at the moment to hire someone to do my billing. Maybe in the future, if I become busier, I would consider hiring a front desk person to help me.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF BEING IN PRACTICE SO FAR?

I just love what I do! I love making people feel better. Sadly, oftentimes people seek out acupuncture after trying every other therapy imaginable. It is frustrating at times for me as a practitioner since I do know that I could probably make a more substantial difference if I saw that person years prior, but even if I can make some difference to someone who is suffering, it’s very rewarding. I also can’t lie about the fact that it’s nice to finally be making a living!

LEAST FAVORITE?

My least favorite part is surely the administrative part of things. I sometimes find myself in a pickle trying to be organized. While I do strive to be better each day, it’s still not something that I love. Luckily these days, there are good technological options out there to help. I love being a clinician and diagnostician, so I will do whatever it takes to do what I really love. Unfortunately for me, that does mean struggling through some occasional paperwork.

YOU ALSO MENTIONED IN OUR PREVIOUS INTERVIEW THAT YOU HOPED TO FIND A MENTOR AFTER GRADUATION. WERE YOU ABLE TO FIND SOMEONE? HOW DOES THAT RELATIONSHIP WORK? WHAT KINDS OF DISCUSSIONS DO YOU BRING TO HER/HIM?

Yes, I have many mentors. Mostly they are professors of mine from school, but also older students, and even students that I graduated with who are now colleagues of mine. I reach out to them via phone or e-mail when I have questions. It’s important to have honest people who will help at a moment’s notice. I ask them all kinds of questions, especially questions about business or their clinical thoughts on a case and how to proceed. Off the top of my head I have about five people that I could reach out to if I need support. It’s important to recognize that while I don’t have all the answers, I do have tools to find answers when I need them.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ACUPUNCTURE STUDENTS WHO ARE IN THEIR THIRD YEAR OR ABOUT TO GRADUATE?

I would say to work on your business plan and ask tons of questions in your last year. Overall, my education was very clinically based, not super heavy in the business aspect in the grand scheme of things. It’s always easier to ask questions when you are around your professors. Do as much as you possibly can while in school and you have many people to support you and give you feedback. I also advise third year students to do research on the place they are setting up a practice. Make sure you set yourself up to succeed. It takes a lot of legwork, but it’s always better to go in with an idea of what you’re getting yourself into.

SO FAR, WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST IMPORTANT OR RELEVANT PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE RECEIVED ABOUT RUNNING A BUSINESS?

The most relevant thing someone told me was to make sure to put myself out there, network, and do trades with other practitioners. I started doing trades with massage therapists, chiropractors, and mainly anyone who will trade with me. Not only do I get a chance to find out what services they offer and how to refer to them, but it also helps them understand better what I do. It seems like a win-win.

The other important piece of advice is to not get too cranked up or worried about making rent or paying your bills (to the point where it starts to interfere with your practice). While, of course, those things are super important. Slow times are bound to happen. But it doesn’t mean you are going out of business. This is just the natural ebb and flow in business.

WHAT IS THE MOST EFFECTIVE MARKETING TACTIC YOU’VE USED SO FAR IN YOUR PRACTICE?

The most effective marketing tactic I’ve used is to just do good work. Plattsburgh is very word of mouth-oriented. People here talk a lot and if you do good work and are getting good results, my experience is they will talk to other people for you!

Another tactic is to not be afraid to ask your patients to write testimonials. Those who are skeptical or thinking about trying out your services want to hear from other people that you are a good practitioner.

In addition, don’t be afraid to educate your patients. I try to educate my patients as they are getting treated. This makes them slightly more knowledgeable about what I do and better able to talk about my services to others.

LEAST EFFECTIVE?

Google Adwords. I always ask where my patients have heard about me. Most are referrals, some from social media, but I have only received one patient who said they saw my Google ad. I think that may be just the area I’m in; when people are looking for quality service, they ask their friends, not Google.

ANY BIG PLANS COMING UP FOR YOU? CHANGES IN PRACTICE LOCATION, OPENING ANOTHER OFFICE, ETC.?

A couple people have offered me office space. Mostly, I think they are interested in adding acupuncture to their existing businesses and offering a different service to their patients. As of right now, I’ve decided that I’m staying put. I don’t have anything to complain about. I’m currently running a decently busy practice with just one location. Plus, I love this studio space! I enjoy being here. I’m not sure what will happen in the future, but I’m staying put for now!

WHAT WOULD YOUR DREAM PRACTICE LOOK LIKE? OR, WHAT WILL YOUR PRACTICE LOOK LIKE ONCE YOU’VE “MADE IT?”

I kind of feel like I have already “made it!” In terms of looking forward, I’m not sure, but currently I’m taking things day by day right now. I think that it would be nice to be consistently at 25-40 patients per week. Other than that, who knows! We will see what the future has in store for me!

IF YOU COULD GO BACK IN TIME AND DO ONE THING DIFFERENTLY IN OPENING YOUR PRACTICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

I would have done more in school. I would not have underestimated the amount of time and work it would take to get my practice off the ground. I would have said to my previous self: “Self, it doesn’t get any easier, it just gets different. Opening this business will be very difficult and time consuming but you will do it – and be successful!”

ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?

Self-care is really important! Don’t think that just because you’re busy, you can’t take time for yourself. I would encourage anyone who is in a medical or service industry to take the time to care for yourself. For me, that means weekly to bi-weekly massages and regular chiropractic appointments. It’s not selfish because you cannot pour from an empty cup! It will essentially make you a better practitioner with a better ability and more space for other people’s suffering.

Thank you Danielle! I hope new and seasoned practitioners alike are inspired by your good advice and how far your practice has come in such a short time.

Hopefully all the students reading this will take your suggestions to heart and start thinking about the future of their practices now, instead of waiting. I personally agree with you; it’s never too soon to start planning for your practice, and your future self will thank you for being so proactive!”