Avoiding Pitfalls – Manage Your Business Like a Pro!

by Barbara Rodgers, NC, BCHN®, NANP President

If everyone is naturally a terrific, effective, and well-organized business person, then why are there so many webinars, courses, books, and presentations helping us to be an excellent business person?

Unfortunately, we have to consider the possibility that it is because we need help.

We all consider ourselves Holistic Nutrition Professionals, but let’s face it, in reality, we are sole proprietors – we own and run a business.  You may not think of things this way, but you are the “boss” of your most important commodity — you.  

How you manage your business and all the various functions required of you on a day-to-day basis is critical. (Keep in mind, I didn’t say it is “easy,” I said “critical.”)

I had the good fortune to work with a lot of businesspeople in my past, many of whom were sole proprietors – doctors, dentists, plumbers, lawyers, etc.  The pattern I often noticed with these individuals is they were excellent at being a doctor, dentist, plumber, or lawyer but lousy at managing their business.

It’s no secret that in our industry, the more people we have ‘out there,’ like you, the more people are being helped from a nutritional perspective.  We need you, and they (your clients) need you. By extension, we need you to be successful in what you do.

So I would like to tell you about a few pitfalls people fall into as sole proprietors you can try to avoid. 

Here is pitfall #1:

Thinking you can do it all yourself.

You can’t.  Ok, maybe, in the beginning, you have to.  But long-term, if you are trying to do everything yourself, you are not doing anything very well.

In the beginning, when your practice is getting started, it’s simply impossible to cost-justify even a part-time employee to help out.  So we do everything ourselves – the analysis of client data, scheduling appointments, researching protocols, checking supplements and ordering, and lots of time listening and talking to clients. We also do the invoicing, handling client communication, managing either a paper-based or online practice management system, preparing workshops or speaking outlines and presentations. 

As your client base and business grow, you need to slowly shift your worktime to the things no one else can do, which is the clinical work.  Time is money.  At some point, it will start to become less costly for you to hire a part-time assistant to do the administrative work that allows you to stay focused on the clinical side.

Do the math.  Figure out your hourly rate.  Then make a list of which functions are administrative.  Lastly, how many hours per week do you spend on those administrative duties? (an estimate will suffice)

Admin Hours  X  Hourly Rate  =  Your cost to Perform Admin Functions

Now ask yourself, if you didn’t have to spend your time on those admin functions, how many new clients could you potentially bring in with the same amount of time?

Look, you have worked long and hard to build your reputation, credibility, and education.  Your goal is to use those valuable skills to improve people’s lives and health, not just redesign your business card. 

When the time is right, reach out to resources who can help you, and be willing to let them in.

Pitfall #2:

Thinking you don’t need a business plan

I’m sure there are a lot of eyes rolling right now — people hate business “plans.”  Most would rather read a boring prospectus on life insurance. 

But look at it this way:  having a business plan for yourself is not different from a written affirmation or a visualization board.  You are imagining what you can do with your talents and education. 

In what way can you help your clients or the industry? How many clients can you help in a year?  What income do you hope to achieve, and in general terms, what is the source of that income (e.g., 60% supplements, 40% counseling fees)?

Most of us believe firmly in the mind/body connection.  That is what a business plan is.  You are documenting your emotional and mental commitment to your practice.  You are steering the Universe into manifesting what you want – what you EXPECT your business to be.

And a business plan does not have to be a huge, detailed document.  You don’t need to have revenue expectations similar to Exxon.   

There are many resources online for small businesses where you can read about the types of sections a business plan will normally include.  Check some of them out and decide for yourself what should be included, but below is a start of what I think the basics would include: 

  1. A business summary (brief, 1-2 paragraphs)
  2. Primary business objective (e.g., what your practice focus will be)
  3. A 3-5-year projection for gross income and expenses (Be reasonable with your income projections. Too low can suggest doubt in yourself; too high will frustrate you and may be unattainable)
  4. A brief description of who or what your competition is (don’t forget:  changing state laws is a competitive risk factor)
  5. What outside relationships are important for your business?  For instance, will you forge a relationship with several key supplement manufacturers?  Is it important to join an industry association?  (More about that below).  What about having your eye on a post-educational course or program? (More on that as well).

Pitfall #3:

Not investing in yourself

This is a big one and often overlooked.

Roy Bennet in The Light in the Heart says it well,

“There is no more profitable investment than investing in yourself. It is the best investment you can make; you can never go wrong with it. It is the true way to improve yourself to be the best version of you and lets you be able to best serve those around you.”

Yes, you must be judicious about expenses—set priorities for yourself.  But make no mistake, every time you invest in your business, you are investing in your passion and yourself.   

While I was a school student a few years back, I took my first available opportunity to obtain the student registration with NANP.  When I graduated, I was eager and proud to upgrade to professional membership.  I knew that being a part of my “community” would ensure that I surrounded myself with like-minded people and mentors.  Attending as many of the free webinars and annual conferences was a given.  This was a priority for me and not a frivolous expense – it was an “investment.”  

The other valuable step I took immediately upon graduating was getting geared up for the HNCB board certification exam. There are numerous angles one can take to set yourself apart from your competitors, but a big one is education and credentials.  For me, the board exam was a logical first step and foundational to anything else.  From there, I went on to other targeted educational modules.  I will always make time to further my education and stay on top of trends in my industry.

Pick and choose what is right for you and your business focus.  Be strategic in your decision-making.

Remember, you are a businessperson, a sole proprietor, and a Holistic Nutrition Professional.  You are out there helping your clients do the hard work.  Be proud of what you do!

At NANP, we couldn’t be more proud of our flourishing industry and each and every one of you out there making it happen. 

Keep spreading the message……  nutrition matters.

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