`I just want to heal people, how did I end up in business?" That’s the question that business coach Megan Oltman often hears from clients who are in the business of healing people, particularly the area of holistic wellness.
Oltman holds a seminar designed to help holistic practitioners with their business issues on Thursday, August 23, at 7 p.m. at 4418 Route 27 in Kingston, the office of by Ed Feldman, a chiropractor who specializes in the Feldenkrais Method of movement therapy. Feldman is the sponsor of the free event. To make reservations call Oltman at 609-466-6592 or Feldman at 609-252-1766.
"I often find that people who are in the business of helping others feel slightly uncomfortable about getting paid for their services," says Oltman, whose own business, Team Nimbus, consults to small business. Oltman opened her Team Nimbus franchise in 2005 and worked as a business coach for several years prior to that. "I’ve worked with a lot of people whose business is healing, and often times they feel a little guilty when it comes time to ask for money," she says.
One of the ways to ensure that you are enjoying your business, she says, is to make sure that you are making the money you need. "People in helping businesses often have a very good natural ability with the intuitive side of life," says Oltman. But those left brain people still must deal with the right brain issues: the money and the marketing, she says. In fact, there is nothing that says a person can’t be strong in both areas. "It is just a different set of skills you need to develop," she says. "You can be nurturing and also have a successful business. You can do both."
Get over the guilt. There is nothing wrong with earning a living while doing something you are passionate about, says Oltman. "When your professional focus is on giving, it can be easy to lose track of taking care of your own needs." But no matter what the business, there are costs involved. "To be successful you need to have a business that is geared to supporting the life you live in."
You have to be honest with yourself about the life you want and how much it costs. "A successful business is a platform to build your passion on," says Oltman. "If your goal is to help people, the more successful you are, the more people you can reach." Be clear about the fact that you are in business, she says. "Tell the truth to yourself and be clear about your goals."
Look at the numbers. No matter what service or product you provide, the first step in making your business more successful is to "be honest about the numbers," says Oltman.
"Money is an issue. If you are a massage therapist, you have oils that must be replaced. If you are a chiropractor, you have equipment you must buy." No matter what the business, there are costs and one of the biggest mistakes many people make is to "mix the business money with the personal money."
Oltman mentions one holistic practitioner she knows who did not factor in the cost of her materials in the amount she charged her clients. "When she looked at the numbers, she was actually losing money."
Spend money to make money. Many holistic therapists do not have an office, but instead drive to see their clients. With the rising cost of gasoline, it is particularly important to look at the costs of transportation. "You may have a person who wants your services in northern New Jersey, but can you afford to go to them?" asks Oltman.
Time spent in the car has several costs, not just the cost of gasoline. If you drive an hour each way to see a client, that one hour appointment takes three hours. That is two hours when you are not earning money with another client. It may be more practical, in the long run, to find an office where clients can come to you. Sharing office space with other holistic therapists is one way to make the rent affordable, says Oltman.
Monitor your company’s finances. "You have to look at the numbers. What does it cost for you to get up every morning and open the doors of your business? Know what money is coming in and what is going out. If you are clear about your numbers you have the ability to choose what is best for you and your business."
Learn to market. "The law of attraction does mean that just because you need clients the universe will provide them. If they don’t know you’re out there, they can’t use your services," says Oltman. There are many ways to market your services. "You have to find the people who need your services and connect with them."
Often holistic practitioners are most comfortable talking with other people who are in similar fields. But that, says Oltman, is "just preaching to the choir. If you want to have a full business you have to go beyond the people who already know who you are. You have to reach out to the people who don’t know what you can do for them."
"Many holistic practitioners I’ve talked with love the process they are working with. When they market themselves they talk about the process, not the benefit to the client," says Oltman.
She gives an example she recently heard.
"The person said, `I use this technique to teach people to be fully present in their bodies and to relieve chronic pain.’ That statement doesn’t connect with anyone. But what if you heard, `I can teach you to sit at your computer all day so that when you stand up you’ll feel just as good as when you sat down.’ That statement means something to people! You need to be immediate and emotional. You need to speak to people’s concerns."
Ask for referrals. The only thing that can make a holistic professional more uncomfortable than asking for money is asking for referrals. "There is no dichotomy between helping people and being in business. If you have done something good for your client, there is no problem with asking them to recommend you to other people," she says.
Then make sure that you are the kind of professional to whom others want to send their clients, family, and friends. "Make your office a place where people enjoy being," suggests Oltman. "Host workshops, be available for people. You are in a personal service business, be personal."
She mentions a chiropractor who personally calls each of his clients to wish them a happy birthday. "Isn’t that better than a postcard with a coupon?"
A holistic business should make a commitment that everyone will prosper, says Oltman, "not your clients, but you, too. The more your business thrives, the more people you can help."